Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tower of Babel

Genesis 11 opens with the well known story of the Tower of Babel. Basically, it tries to explain why people all over the world speak different languages. It seems that at some point between Noah and Abraham, the people tried to build a city with a tower that would reach up to heaven.
But rather than snickering at the impossibility of this feat, we then have God becoming seriously concerned that they might pull it off. And thus deciding that it would be a bad thing, he sets out to screw up their plans by “confusing their language” and scattering them to the four corners of the earth.
I find the quote from God to be particularly interesting:
The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
First off, that sounds like a heavenly endorsement of a one-world government. If we all cooperate and work together then nothing will be impossible for us. Wow. But for some reason God didn’t like this and takes steps to prevent it from happening.
Today, the story is seen as a warning against man becoming too arrogant and trying to be too much like God. But Biblical literalists and creationists have taken the story at face value even though it flies in the face of everything we know about linguistic history.
University of Texas Professor Robert Pennock has authored an excellent book - Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism - that shreds most of the creationist musings on this subject.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting parallel to the Tower of Babel is Pentecost. On that occasion, the Holy Spirit descended from above and the opposite occurred: everyone could understand the disciples in their own different languages.

    Lesson being: man, in his pride, trying to build things from below by himself without considering God, inevitably creates division and disaster. But when man accepts grace from above, all things are made possible through God.

    cf. Psalm 127: "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."