Review: Babel, Genesis of Kosmic Thought I, Gen 10,11
Starting in Romans 1:17 and going into the beginning of chapter 2 Paul almost gives us a historical perspective on what has happened historically, and we see the dynamics of what is going on as a consequence of human depravity. Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." The term "wrath of God" is a technical term for the outworking of the justice of God on rebellious humanity. It is not a statement of His getting literally angry, He is simply demonstrating His justice toward man because of rebelliousness. The "men" is this verse are tose who "suppress the truth in unrighteousness." This is an adjectival statement describing men and giving content to the meaning of ungodliness and unrighteousness. The word "suppressing" in English has the idea of holding something down, but the Greek word here is KATECHO [katexw] which does have that idea but it also has the idea of simply holding something. The verb ECHO [e)xw] means to have or to hold, to hold on to something; KATA [kata], the preposition that is prefixed to this word making it a compound verb intensifies the meaning of the main verb. So it means to hold something, to hold something, and sometimes to suppress something; but here it is talking about holding on to certain truths by means of, and this is the Greek preposition EN [e)n] plus the dative which has the idea of instrumental means. Mankind in ungodliness and unrighteousness is holding on to truth [lower case true] by means of unrighteousness. They have taken something that is true and have redefined it. It is like putting a new spin on the truth until it is completely different from what it was originally understood to be. Every human being is a good spin doctor on God-consciousness. That is what is happening to them. They are taking truth that is evident to them in creation, that God makes evident within us, and they are holding this truth by means of unrighteousness. They take this truth and spin it so that man is not as bad as Scripture says he is and God is not the creator that the Bible says He is. Here Paul is reflecting what happened historically in that post-flood civilization. They very quickly kicked into gear their sin nature in terms of reinterpreting truth.
Romans 1:19, "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them." In fact, every individual knows that God exists. Romans 1:20, "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." The revelation of God is so clear and so precise that every human being who reaches God-consciousness have no excuse before the judgment of God. They can't say they needed more evidence that He existed. Romans 1:21, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." What happened historically was that they knew God. They had the evidence from the flood. When they came off the ark and for the next few generations they were still seeing the reverberations of the flood in terms of both geology, earthquakes, and also in the weather. Those men who were eyewitnesses to the flood were able to give testimony to their great, great grandchildren. What those great grandchildren did was reject that testimony, they rebelled against God, and they tried to redefine what had happened in terms of these various mythologies. And that is what the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 is really all about. Genesis 10 gives us a description of how the descendants of Noah scattered over the face of the earth. Then in Genesis 11:1-9 there is a description of the tower of Babel and the human race under the leadership of Nimrod and how they sought to build this tower to heaven, they sought to make a name, a reputation, for themselves that is superior to God's reputation. What the writer is indicating is that they are seeking to set themselves over against God. They are worshipping the creature instead of the creator. There was no gratefulness and grace orientation for what God has done in destroying the antediluvian situation, and after the flood antagonism sets in with the arrogance of man's soul, and they are reinterpreting the flood as God making war against man. So now they have to protect themselves from God, which is the reason for building the tower. That becomes the historical basis, even though it gets lost over time, throughout the ancient near east for why they established their worship sites in high places. They saw these as a place of refuge from the judgment of God.
So rather than being grateful to God and worshipping God they rebel against God and blame Him for what happened in destroying the ancient civilization. "Their foolish hearts were darkened," which indicates that their thinking begins to be clouded, they can no longer think according to reality, and the result of this is not simply spiritual, which is Paul's point, but it also impacts the knowledge that they had. The early survivors of the flood carried with them the knowledge of the antediluvian civilization and its technology. Paul's comment is that anyone is spiritual darkness, though professing to be wise—they may have a Ph D from Harvard or Cambridge, written various erudite books—they are fools. They may have a high IQ and great education but they have rejected the creator God of the Bible. Romans 1:23, "And exchanged the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." This is a picture of primitive idolatry. There are examples of this that have survived in time. As time went by those idols became less concrete and more abstract until there were men worshipping ideas rather than images made of stone or wood.
Then we see that as a result of this there is a progression in time. Romans 1:24, "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves." The more they want to rebel, the more God restrains the evil that they are able to do. So there is a gradual deterioration among these Gentile nations in the ancient world. Romans 1:25, "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.' So we see there is a certain progression that takes place once there is a worship of the creature rather than the creator. Romans 1:26, "For this reason…" For what reason" Once you do away with the God of the Bible something moves into that vacuum. The something else that dominates, that becomes god, is something in the creation. You are going to deify something in the creation—matter, energy, some element of philosophy, some abstract ideal. "God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature." This is sexual lust. There is a connection here that Paul is showing between sexual depravity and spiritual rebellion. Rejection of God as creator leads in a straight line deterioration in terms of sexual perversion and sexual depravity. Sociologists today will challenge that, but this is what the Scripture says.
All of this introduces us to the basic elements of what we have defined as cosmic thinking. The Greek word for "world" is KOSMOS [kosmoj]. It can refer to the world, the earth, to a system. Usually it has the idea of some sort of organized system. It may refer to any kind of organized system but primarily in the Scripture it is talking about an organized system of thought, and the word KOSMOS is used to refer to all of those thought systems that man develops that are hostile to God. As we have seen many times, on one side we have the divine viewpoint which is the unified viewpoint of Scripture. The Bible expresses one and only one unified concept. Over against this man has developed his own viewpoint, so we have human viewpoint. Human viewpoint isn't monolithic, there are all kinds of human viewpoint; at least it looks like that on the surface. But when we boil them all down they are all basically saying the same thing. Another word we use for human viewpoint is paganism. Paganism is not a pejorative term, it refers to non-biblical thinking. Anyone who doesn't think according to the Bible is a pagan, according to Webster's Dictionary. Paganism is also demonism, demonic thought, according to James 3:13-15. It is that which has affinity with the soulish person, i.e. the unbeliever. So this is a way of thought that is promoted by man against God.
So we have to ask the question: What are the basic elements of human viewpoint thought? The first element is arrogance, man's assertion of his own authority. Man thinks he is somebody when he is nobody. In arrogance we talk about the basic arrogance skills. Arrogance skills are self-absorption where we are completely absorbed with ourselves. Then we give in to ourselves—self-indulgence. We give in to our thinking, there is no self-discipline, we just go with the flow of our own lust pattern. Then there is self-justification, where we are justifying all of our basic wants and needs and why we have done what we have done. This leads eventually into self-deception. We are divorced in an extreme way from reality and are just living in a false understanding of the world. This leads to the fifth which is self-deification. All that is a part of arrogance. So the first characteristic of arrogance is human self-assertion against God. It is man elevating himself over against the creator God of the universe; it is the rebellion against the authority of God—minus authority orientation toward God. The more man rebels against the authority of God the more there is going to be rebellion toward other elements of authority which God has legitimately set up in the world. Man replaces God as the ultimate determiner of value. So man becomes the center of the universe: How do you know what is right and wrong? It is whatever society determines, or whatever a sub-group of society determines. This kind of thinking is demonstrated today in sociology text books, in history text books, in literature; so for one going off to school this is going to hit left and right and that one had better be prepared.
The tower of Babel is the real point in Genesis 10 & 11. The dynamic is: "They became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened." This is what sin does, it makes you think that somehow you can escape God, and through this process of carnality and rejection of God you are reducing God to something that man can control. So the second dynamic in cosmic thinking is fear and dread of God which becomes the underlying motivation to try to escape God. What happens when there is this fear and dread of something? It promotes a hostility toward that which threatens you. The whole cosmic system has its historical source at the tower of Babel. This is the prototype for the development of the cosmic system. The characteristics of the cosmic system and cosmic thinking grow out of what happens in Genesis chapter eleven. One of the things we should note is that at the end of this narrative in Genesis 11:9, the end of the toledot, there is a note of judgment, of hopelessness and despair. There is no note of hope at the end of the episode at the tower of Babel. It leaves us hanging, and this is what the writer under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wants to do. Where is the hope? And this is the introduction to Abraham because the hope for mankind now is going to be what God does through Abraham and the seed of Abraham. It is through the seed of Abraham that redemption will come, the curse will be reversed, and it is through the seed of Abraham that there will be the establishment of perfect environment in the Millennial kingdom, the curse is rolled back, and eventually the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth. But the tower of Babel gives us a foreshadowing of what man does throughout history under the guise of the city of man in conflict with the rule of God in history.