Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tower of Babel parable bothers me...

The Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel relates how God introduced multiple languages because mankind was building a tower designed to reach Heaven. Traditional Biblical teachers explain that this is a parable designed to be a lesson about too much pride. As one website says, “God came to see their city and the tower they were building. He perceived their intentions, and in His infinite wisd...
om, He knew this “stairway to heaven” would only lead the people away from God.

Genesis 11:16 reads, “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.”

This bothers me. If taken literally, it’s a manifesto call against exploration, against scientific inquiry, against anyone having a probing mind. While I’m a man of faith, I’ve also come to see that not every passage, especially in the Old Testament, should be taken literally. This sounds very much like the effort of some old-school Temple priests in ancient Israel to squash the thoughts of philosophers and their inquiries into how things work.
Why study how tornadoes form? It’s sufficient to know God dwells inside them and powers their whirlwinds for his own reasons. Why try to understand the nature of lightning? It’s enough to know that God hurls lightning bolts down to the mortal realm. Why seek reasons for diseases? It’s enough to know that God uses diseases to punish people.

The modern equivalent of the Tower of Babel are the rockets, satellites, space probes and telescopes that allow us to learn more about our universe. I saw the last Saturn launch in 1975 and around a dozen space shuttle launches – and I felt pride every time they thundered away from their launch pads. I refuse to believe that God finds space exploration unacceptable.

In the movie “October Sky,” Quentin says to Homer after the last homemade rocket launches, “Look at it go, Homer. This one’s gonna go for miles.”

I says let’s keep going for miles and miles and miles ….

1 comment:

  1. Your interpretation - ref bossy priests - is probably spot on. I still see a difference however between curiosity and overwheening pride. Your pride in seeing those rockets thundering off is natural and sound. Doubt over the existence of God is equally understandable and sound. Arrogantly declaring his non-existence or seeing our own achievements as God like, is an alternative interpretation of Babel