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From Babel to Babylon

Unfortunately for mankind, you will not find a detailed prescription for how best to organize a national government or a country’s economy in the Good Book. It’s not in there. I’ve looked. If you’re looking for specifics on what the United States’ tariff policy toward Finland ought to be, you’re plum out of luck.

If you want canonical guidance as to the precise degree of control the filibuster should have over legislative proceedings in the U.S. Senate, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Now of course there are many things that the Bible is clear about. In fact, that is largely the point of this series of essays I began a couple of months ago.

Let’s be clear about what the Bible is clear about, and from there we can begin to prayerfully consider a Christian’s place in their nation’s cultural, political, and economic dealings. For example, if mankind is required to have both dominion and stewardship over the earth, then radical environmentalism is out of the question for the Bible-believing citizen. If we were “made to work” by a working God, then for able-bodied people to live off the forcibly re-distributed fruits of others’ labor is a sinful (however well-intentioned) disruption in His divine order.

But aren’t there still so many other specific issues and moral quandaries which we face today that deal with the law and with politics and with our economy that directly impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people? How are we to navigate the murky waters of trying to find work, food, shelter, and education for millions here in the United States, let alone billions of human beings world-wide?

My humble suggestion: Let’s continue to piece together what we do know from Scripture before we allow our emotional responses to dictate what policies and practices we will adopt as individuals, families, and as a nation. The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11is a very important piece of that “What does God have to say about politics/economics?” puzzle that Christians have wrestled with for thousands of years. I’m going to quickly take a look at the parts of this section before briefly analyzing it as a whole. Verses 1 and 2:

1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

Up till this point in human history (pre-Flood), God had been explicitly clear that humans were supposed to “fill the earth and subdue it.” His plan was for mankind to use and utilize all of creation for their benefit and His glory. They were to depend on Him and follow His lead. But as soon as sin entered the world, so did death, worry, and anxiety over life’s many trials and tribulations. Human beings naturally feel a sense of comfort and security when we’re in a group, and that isn’t a bad thing. Our Lord himself taught that where two or more Believers are gathered in His name, there He is also. However, there is a flip-side to that coin. When fallen people get together, there rampant and amplified sin can be found as well. The very fact that the people talked about in Verses 1 and 2 traveled from other places to congregate in one central location was a sinful act. Things immediately went from “bad idea” to “blasphemous mistake.”

3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

The heart of the problem with what these people were attempting to do is this: their intention was to flaunt their perceived independence and self-sufficiency (as a whole) apart from their Creator. They specifically challenged God’s “fill the earth” decree, and their challenge emanated from the notion that if they could just collectivize their resources, talents, and intellect they would be able to cheat the realities of a fallen world. Their technological development and advancements in social engineering seduced them into believing that “the state” could replace The Maker.

5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

There is a lot to unpack there, so for the sake of time and the purposes of this piece, let me simply point out that God thinks so lowly of mankind trying to form itself into one governing body that He is willing to confuse the world with different languages just to prove His point. The same pride that compelled Satan to abandon the glories of heaven for the false and empty hope of “making a name” for himself is fueling the hearts of those spearheading the Babel initiative in this passage. God gave these people a chance to obey Him and when they didn’t there was punishment.

9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

God is going to have His way, in spite of our best intentions or worst behavior. The word “Babel” is the same used for the city of Babylon referenced in both the Old and New Testaments. In that context it is always used to depict and/or describe humankind’s longing to dethrone God and establish a heaven-on-earth here without Him. From Babel to Babylon, Genesis to Revelation, the satanic obsession with setting up global, governing entities to supplant God (and his ordained institutions like the family, the local church, etc.) and bring glory to ourselves is simply (and sadly) a reality of life.

Karl Marx was right, in a way: We do know where history is headed. Putting aside the fact that the book of Revelation is harder to decipher than Lil’ Wayne lyrics after he’s had far too much “Purple Drank”, the anti-Christ will eventually rule over a one-world government that will exert its control over the earth’s population via economic means (i.e. the mark of the beast). Human governments and systems of economy have been, and will be, used by God as part of His unfolding plan of salvation, judgment, and renewal.

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If God is, let us say “leery,” of centralized power and control in the hands of a handful of people who wish to re-make the world in their own image – an image that rejects God’s authority, undermines His sacred institutions, and corrodes human society – shouldn’t we be leery as well? I am, and because I am I cannot in good conscience support modern American progressive liberalism (or anything to the Left of it, here or abroad).