Can we be trusted with a modern Babel? (@TheAlethiophile)

The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 is a bit of an oddity when we consider the surrounding narrative. Like a tower itself, it stands alone; if one were to excise it from scripture, it might hardly be missed. We would move straight from one description of the family of Shem to a slightly more detailed description of the same family. There are few references to Babel throughout the rest of the books of the bible. So why might it be there?

Though its historicity in terms of explaining the multifarious nature of languages may be questioned, the allegorical baby ought not to be thrown out with the bathwater. Most sermons I’ve heard on this always link it to Pentecost, where the latter is seen as the reversal of Babel. Interestingly, I could find no such reference in any commentaries I looked at, though a quick Google search of ‘Babel and Pentecost’ will yield a plethora of results.

At the heart of the story, though, is a slightly worrying idea: that God didn’t want humans to understand one another. Worse than that, the underlying motive seems to be a concern that humans will find that, “nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” One could interpret this as a kind of fear on God’s part, though this would seem to me to be out of kilter with God’s character in the rest of Genesis, let alone the other books of the bible. It seems more reasonable, to me at least, that it is the action of a loving parent who doesn’t wish for their child to be too arrogant in their own abilities at such a young age.

If the notion of Pentecost reversing Babel is correct, does this mean that humans have reached an age of maturity whereby we can be trusted to communicate freely? I’m not so sure; maybe it’s more to do with the spreading of the gospel. Even so, in his letter to the tribes in the dispersion,  James still warns us about how we use our tongues; I don’t think it’s too heretical to suggest that his warning extends to our pens, keyboards and touchscreens.

Today’s world is fuelled by communication. Whatever means we use, and technology can certainly help, the transfer of ideas is what makes our modern world move as swiftly as it does. I wonder what would happen if all electronic communication were stilled overnight, once more having to rely on messages passed by paper or by word of mouth. It would almost certainly be humbling.

Given the ease with which we can now communicate, more of our energies can be directed towards honing what that message is and how to ensure that it is heard. I cannot help but think of Luke 12:48

“Much will be required from one who is given much; if someone is entrusted with much, even more will be expected in return.”

With communication now so simple, is there not an imperative for more wisdom than ever in choosing what we say and how we say it?

All of this is quite tentative musing. I’d be interested what your thoughts are:

  • Might the ease with which we can communicate be considered a modern tower of Babel?
  • How do you keep your “tongue” in check when the Send button is so easy to press?
  • For those we find hard to understand, do we make an effort to understand them?

About TheAlethiophile

The Alethiophile is a blogger, bibliophile and accountant. Constantly looking for truth, he is quite often wrong. Having grown up in an evangelical baptist church in Bedfordshire, he is currently part of an Ichthus church in London. He is also fond of wearing stripey socks.