Another Pentecost theme of course comes with the Tower of Babel (Gen 11). The confusion of the languages was in order that ‘what they propose to do will not be possible for them’… if Pentecost is in some way a reversal of the confusion of languages, then there is an intended release through Pentecost for true imagination and collaboration. Yet Pentecost does not reverse Babel. They do not all speak the same language, but something richer and more diverse takes place – they hear them speak in their own language. There is an honouring of the diversity and cultural differences, but each can experience heaven in their own setting.
In Babel there is the humourous element. The people say ‘let us build a tower with its top in the heavens’. God’s response (who is in heaven) is to ‘come down’. Apparently the tower was not that impressive! Perhaps it was such a pimple on God’s landscape that he could not see it from the heavens? Babel / Babylon will always rise up with ‘wonderful’ aims and promises. But it rises up, and is always unfinished (‘they left off building the city’). With chapter 11 we finish a kind of ‘OT of the OT’. It is to the story of Israel what the OT is to the story of Christ and those in him. We have then the backdrop to Israel’s (sadly failed) royal priestly journey for the nations (Gen. 10). We end the series of falls: the series of alienations through failing to live within boundaries. Hence salvation has to have a core theme of reconciliation, finding the boundaries, releasing others to live within their boundary.
Every aspect of life is deeply impacted with the ‘falls’:
- God and human relationship, with the primary element not knowing who God is. ‘I heard you… I was afraid and I hid’.
- The intra-human relationship, beginning at the gender level as shown by the Adam / Eve fall out. Patriarchy is a result of the fall: hence I see Jesus as necessarily male and Jewish (the two primary ‘sinners’).
- The intra-human with family breakdown, murder; the building of towers, nations etc.
- The human and resultant thorns and thistles of creation. The whole environment is polluted as a result of sin.
- There is human and demonic warfare. Whatever and whoever the devil and demons are they are not somehow the equal and opposite of God. They might though be the equal and opposite of humanity. (Hence dehumanisation is demonisation in the extreme.) They are there for us to overcome: hence again the necessity of Jesus’ humanity.
- The pride of nations rising up in conflict. Diversity gets turned to conflict rather than mutual edification.
- And whatever the strange chapter 6 deals with of ‘the sons of God’ and the ‘daughters of humans’ it indicates somehow the wrong alignment of the angelic and the human.
Every aspect of human life is affected. And every aspect of the above is lived out in right alignment in Jesus, the only true human.
I am agnostic if there was ‘a’ historic fall, as I am also agnostic about a literal Adam and Eve. But a fall, or series of falls there certainly was and this seems to culminate with the corporate desire to ‘make a name for ourselves’ (Gen. 11: 4). What a contrast to the work of God who promises to make Abraham’s name ‘great’.
Gen. 1-11 sets the scene.
- A creation that God is committed to (hence no burning up in the end – but the new heavens and new earth, with the Greek indicating ‘renewed’ rather than having no relationship to what has gone before).
- A creation that is good, and with everything within it to release potential for perfection. Perfection is not the beginning, but the end. The beginning is potential.
- A series of falls are described – seemingly to indicate what needs and will be redeemed.
- A creation that humanity was to steward. The image in the garden is strong temple type language. Let your kingdom come on earth (or at least the garden) as it is in heaven.
- Creation is to be the place where heaven is revealed. Humanity is deeply honoured by heaven. Materiality is where spirit is made visible; humanity is where divinity is to be revealed.