Humanity Degenerated: Creating an Alternative Story

It seems God is a realist when it comes to humanity. The power of sin is deeply entrenched in human hearts. Even when God rebooted the creation through a flood, it did not cure the human heart of its ancestral sin. God knew violence would reappear because of sin’s strong grip. God, therefore, issued a warning: whoever sheds blood, their blood is at risk as well. Jesus offered a similar caution: whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword. Violence is a dead-end. No one wins.

But violence continued in many forms. Ham raped his father Noah. Civilizations rose and fell, and empires emerged. Babel is one of those ancient empire stories. The people decided to build a monumental city with a tower reaching to the heavens in order to establish their reputation.

The tower is no military lookout. It is a Ziggurat.  Many still exist in modern Iraq. They began to appear no earlier than the fourth millennium before Christ and were continuously built into the first millennium before Christ. The great city of Babylon, Babel’s namesake, featured a massive Ziggurat dedicated to the god Marduk.

These structures were religious sanctuaries. They were temples for the gods where earth touched the heavens. The problem with the Tower of Babel is neither its technology nor the unity of its people. Rather, they erected a new sanctuary for the gods, gathered themselves around that sanctuary, and divested themselves of the divine mission to fill the earth. They replaced Eden with a Ziggurat. Babel stays put, builds an empire, and stokes its own ego. They committed idolatry, and God, therefore, ended their cohesive civilization.

Humanity hit rock bottom. They reversed the divine mission to serve their own interests. Whereas God’s words were “let us make humanity in our own image,” Babel said, “let us make a name for ourselves.” Whereas God’s mission was to fill the earth, Babel wanted to fill the heavens with its own presence. Humanity moved from violence to overt idolatry, from destroying fellow-imagers with the sword to substituting themselves for God. They progressed in their depravity. Sin did its work, and humanity tumbled further east of Eden until it hit its nadir.

We all live east of Eden. Death reigns over us, and sin lurks in our hearts. Violence continuously erupts, empires still rule the earth, and idolatry is pervasive. In some sense we are still tumbling as violence and idolatry are perpetually invigorated by the power of sin in our lives. We stumbled out of the Eden and tumbled from anger to violence, and then from violence to idolatry. We find ourselves mired in the muck of our own moral chaos despite God’s persistent presence, coaxing, and mercy.

Due to God’s mercy, however, hope is not lost. God’s mission is still in play, and we create art and literature as well as new technologies, build cities, marry, bear children, domesticate animals, grow crops, and spread across the globe. God’s grace still empowers us with gifts and tools even though sin often distorts them.

The mercy of God persists, and the story is not yet finished. God’s mission has not reached its goal. By God’s grace, the creation will realize its full potential, humanity will flourish, and the glory of God will fill the earth. That is the rest of the story, and it has only just begun.

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