Monday, August 22, 2005

A Modern Babel

So I'm reading Genesis 11. Fascinating stuff, especially the first half of the chapter. Okay, only the first part of the chapter - the 2nd half is all lineage. But the first 8 verses tell a now-famous story of God confusing the language of a group of people:

Genesis 11:1-8 (NIV):
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 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."

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.


Men decided to build themselves a tower, to make a name for themselves, to replace God. Extreme hubris, thinking they could take God's place - that was the sin of babel. God didn't cotton to this, and stepped in to show them their folly. Nobody can take God's place.

We didn't learn our lesson. While not a perfect match to the Babel story of Gen. 11, our modern love of all things science is leading us down an eerily similar path. As it was with the Babel tower builders, the tools we use are not bad. Bricks, and mortar are morally neutral. So is science. Bricks and mortar have been used to great effect, and to great aid. So has science. I don't by any stretch mean to diminish or denigrate the useful application of the tools.

But the attitude with which these tools can be used may be quite evil. Bricks and mortar were used to build a tower in a vain attempt to replace God. Science is now being used in what will be a vain attempt to replace God. God gives life - we tell God we don't need Him by using test tubes to create babies and clones. God created each of us uniquely, gifted in different ways. We use genetic engineering to make designer offspring. God takes life, yet we decide that we can decide to take the life of another via euthenasia or abortion. God raises up the humble, yet we determine in our pride that we don't need God, and will someday defeat all illness.

Science is a wonderful gift, but we take it too far. Instead of using it to discover the glory of God's handiwork, we use it to attempt to replace Him. Instead of marveling at God's creativity, and enjoying the proper use of intellectual gifts, we rationalize how we can decide life and death matters. Instead of using it to help people live better lives, and cure illness, we use it to persuade people that God isn't there - or that we no longer need His services.

Making someone well is not a sin. Thinking our ability to do so is independent of God, well that is a sin.

I fear for our future if this pride continues unabated. As the husband of a scientist (and a computer scientist my own self) I appreciate the gift of intellectual inquiry in pursuit of truth. As a servant of a jealous God, I am appalled at the misuse of this good thing God has given us. At the original tower of Babel, God scattered a people. With our current prideful misuse of science to determine life and death questions not given to us I fear the penalty may be much, much worse.

Our motives need some attention. We can't let the technology get ahead of the ethics, and we need to return a sense of "why" (as opposed to "how") to scientific inquiry. God's patience is awesome, but as those building the tower found out, He doesn't choose to make it infinite.

God bless!

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