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Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 01 April 2015

THE MODERN TOWER OF BABEL

By Jim Jordal

 The serpent said to the woman, "You won't surely die, for God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."                                                                                              Genesis 3:4-5 WEB

They said, "Come, let's build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top reaches to the sky, and let's make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth." Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. Yahweh said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do.                            Genesis 11:4-6 WEB

And so it began---humans seeking to become God and to gain knowledge enough so that they could avoid doing his will. Back then it was arrogance and stubbornness; today we call it the innate perfectibility of humankind. Whatever it was, it would become near-fatal to human aspirations for justice, truth, and peace. 

The biblical account of the ancient tower of Babel is not just a quaint myth elucidating some principle of Scripture. There really was a tower of Babel, the ruins of which are located in the present city of Babylon in the modern country of Iraq. The area was excavated beginning in 1898 by German archaeologist Robert Koldewey. In his explorations he dug up the ruins of a great tower estimated to have been 288 feet high (about 28 stories today) and about the same distance on each of four bases. It was more like a pyramid than a tower, and had seven terraces or levels, the lower ones being reached by steps. At the top was the Temple of Marduk where the priests gathered to worship the best-known god of Assyria.  It was built of some 58 million fired bricks of a bluish color, and could be seen for many miles in the clear desert air.

The original tower described in the Bible (dated 2247 B.C. by C. I. Scofield) was destroyed and rebuilt many times over a period of perhaps 1800 years as new rulers conquered the land, destroyed the tower, and were then re-conquered by new monarchs who rebuilt the tower. The physical tower changed slightly many times, but one thing did not change---the supreme arrogance of the people who built it. They---and possibly many others over the centuries-- thought they could rise to the level of God if they got high enough into the air.  As new gods, they could then accomplish anything they could imagine. As Scripture says: “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,” and  “nothing will be withheld from them, which they intended to do.”

That form of hubris could well be entitled, according to classical history professor Rufus Fears, as outrageous arrogance. Dr. Fears maintains that we do not profit as we should from cultural advancements because the new ideas get thrown into the same old bag of unchanging human nature. So we keep repeating the same errors, never seeming to learn from history. They had outrageous arrogance; we today have a worshipful belief that technology will somehow rescue us from our arrogant stupidity and flagrant disregard for God’s principles of justice, truth, and mercy regarding humankind and creation. They believed they could aspire to God by building towers; we attempt to approach God by building giant cathedrals, creating soaring melodies, and devising cunning religious philosophies and statements of faith. But God can best be reached, not by human effort, no matter how magnificent, but by humble obedience to his word and faith in his promises.

That’s what we’re inexorably being driven toward---faith and obedience. As the various negative outcomes of our arrogance flow together into one giant funnel of systemic collapse, we are faced with the choice between our way and God’s way. We won’t choose God’s way until the pressure becomes greater than we and the earth can bear, and even then only as God’s new Spirit descends on us as described in the New Covenant of Hebrews chapter eight.