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Posts Tagged ‘Babel’

Genesis 11:  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

The Babel builders sought on the plain of Shinar absolute and eternal security.  How?  Spiritually, by making a name for themselves and physically, by building the world’s first skyscraper.  This is still the lust of the Old Adam because he turned his back on the Lord. 

Years ago, I preached on the tower of Babel and as an example of “making a name for ourselves”, I used Trump Towers, named after it’s builder Donald Trump.  At the time, in Virginia, the response to my illustration was from a couple of members: “Who’s Donald Trump?”  We can not say that any longer. 

Genesis 11: 4 has become a commonplace tag on the lust for security:  I’ll make a name for myself, even to the point of crime.  This contrasts sharply with the next chapter in Genesis, verse 2, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”  The Lord’s Word came to Abram as sheer promise and gift without any asking on Abram’s part.  “Gifts are given to be received, not to be repaid. They thereby establish and define relationships”(Mark A. Seifrid).  The Lord graced Abram and thus He established and defined the relationship.  Abraham could never repay the gift of walking with the Lord in his journey.  When presidents, prime ministers, tyrants, dictators are forgotten, the name of Abraham is remembered on account of his descendent according to the flesh: Jesus Christ.

We are easily awed by the rich and famous and all their works and ways. If we did not want what they have, then the lottery would not exist. Remember:  the rich and famous exact from the ‘gift’ of their largesse more than you and I could ever give.  It is never a gift.It’s the devil’s deal and his deal is always the art of the deal. The hold they have over us is our own fears, like the Babel builders: not to be scattered and supposedly  have in ourselves eternal security but it has never worked that way:  see the pharaohs of Egypt, the Caesars, the Hitlers, the Mussolinis and the like.  All dust but who we remember  is Abraham and his name is on no tower.  It is better to follow a presidential candidate who at least has a veneer of humility and  knows what he/she can not do as the President of this most powerful of all nations: offer eternal security in wealth and power. No skyscraper can ever touch  God and reach heaven, only the Lord who has touched us, the beloved and only-begotten Son of God.  Only the Lord does that by His Son Jesus Christ by sheer grace for the haughtiest of men, that is, for us all.

Let us pray…Almighty God,   our heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every morning;  and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children and provide for all our needs of body and soul.  Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness, give thanks for all Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience;  through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

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                                                                           Pride goes before destruction,and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16: 18

1oo years ago yesterday  evening, at 11: 40pm, the HMS Titanic struck an iceberg.  Then 100 years ago today, April 15th, the Titanic, the ship considered to be “unsinkable”, with not enough life boats sunk at 2:20am into the icy North Atlantic waters, killing 1,496 people.  The Carpathia saved 712 passengers.

In an excellent article, Titanic Presumptions by Allen C. Guelzo, in the National Review and on NR Online, he begins his piece this way,

  • The Titanic, name and thing, will stand for a monument and warning to human presumption.” That was the judgment of Edward Stuart Talbot, the Anglican bishop of Winchester, in the sermon he preached the Sunday after the fabled Atlantic passenger liner Titanic took nearly 1,500 lives with her as she sank after striking an iceberg in mid-ocean on April 14, 1912. “When has such a mighty lesson against our confidence and trust in power, machinery, and money been shot through the nation?” Talbot could not have known it, but an entire cascade of mighty lessons was about to be visited on human presumption in spades, in the form of two World Wars (Talbot would lose a son at Ypres) and the genocidal sacrifice of millions on the altars of Fascism and Communism.

Mr. Guelzo cites these interpretations of the Sinking of the Titanic:

  1. Nobility: In both Britain and America, it was an example of Ango-Saxon nobility.  People extolled the heroes who had “sacrificed themselves in obedience to the rule” of “women and children first”. “…and quietly ignoring the greater likelihood that those cigar-lighting gentlemen were motivated instead by the bizarre confidence that, as one of them remarked, ‘no matter what we have struck,’ the Titanic “is good for eight or ten hours’”
  2. Governmental:  The next interpretation was to blame a lack of regulation.    “…to pillory the White Star Line for mismanagement, something that played into the hands of progressive politicians such as Senator William Alden Smith of Michigan, who conducted the U.S. Senate’s inquiry into the loss of the Titanic and who called for more of the regulation that had done so little to prevent the disaster in the first place.”
  3. Class Warfare:  “But the most popular narrative to wrap itself around the Titanic has been that of class. The disaster has increasingly become a parable for the evils of callous upper-class wealth, (the ship’s manifest included some of the most famous of the upper class of the time) saving its precious hide while honest and authentic immigrants are locked away in steerage to drown. (There is actually no evidence that anyone was “locked away” in third class, or that the sort of folding metal gates that appear so prominently as the immigrants’ prison bars in recent movie versions of the Titanic were even installed on the ship.) James Cameron, who joked that his bloated Titanic fell “just short of Marxist dogma,” pressed the class-warfare fable to the point of caricature.”

Mr. Guelzo then concludes that the Anglican priest has the correct interpretation.

He also points out that the Master of the Carpathia was one of the stand-out heroes of that “night to remember” because of his quick thinking it was his ship that saved all who were saved, 712 people.  Mr. Guelzo quotes Captain Rostron’s recollections of that cold evening:

“The Carpathia arrived to retrieve the lifeboats just after 4 a.m. Arthur Rostron, standing on the bridge-wing of his ship, his lips moving in silent prayer, was the hero of heroes that night. As the sun rose, he saw that “all around us were dozens and dozens of icebergs, some comparatively close, others far away on the horizon, towering up like cathedral spires.” It made him shudder, and he could “only think that some other Hand than mine was on that helm during the night.'” (emphasis my own)

 I think there is a causal connection between Captain Rostron praying and the people he and his crew were able to save.  I think there is a difference between a talented man, humble to pray and those who built the Titanic who had not prayer.

Just as in Babel, this is a narrative of pride and humility and I think it begs the question:  Why is there such overweening pride in our day and time?  Oh, it’s always been there, from the tree to  East of Eden to the  plains of Shinar, to the base of Mt. Sinai and Golgotha and to the arrogance of our species to think an unsinkable ship was built with the unthinkable lack of lifeboats.  But why has pride taken on such incredibly destructiveness?  One reason:  pride has been couple with overwhelming technologies.  But it has been unfortunate that historically the total lack of inhibition of hubris has been unleashed in such a technological advanced era. It is grim to know that during World War II the Nazis greatly improved the technologies of mass extermination in just a several years.  But why is pride so un-contained?

In 1924, the Nazis promised religious toleration in their party platform.  In paragraph 24 of that platform, before it talks about the German fight against, “…the Jewish -materialistic spirit”, they wrote, “we demand freedom for all religious confessions in the state, so far as they do not endanger its existence or conflict against the ethical and moral feelings of the Germanic race.”  The faithful conservative Lutheran pastor, professor and historian, Hermann Sasse, “…perceptively wrote as early as 1932 that on the basis of section 24 a conflict was inevitable between Christianity and Nazism because the doctrine of original sin and unworthiness of the sinner would offend the ‘ethical and moral feelings’ of the Germanic race.” (Emphasis my own) Later the German-Christians (i.e. the Nazi-front ‘church’) declared, in fulfillment of Sasse’s prophetic statement:  “The (Christian) doctrine of (original) sin and the guilt of mankind is an insult to the Germanic people”, and ” We do not believe we were conceived and born in sin. We do not believe that God became man in Jesus.” Instead of speaking of “fallen mankind”, one should speak of “ascending mankind.” (quoted from Lutherans Against Hitler:  the Untold Story by Lowell C.  Green, CPH Publishing)

 Why is pride so un-contained and unleashed in it’s full Adamic rage?  Answer:  the utter denial of original sin and sin in general.  For instance:  the famous televanglist, Joyce Meyers, who was Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, left the Lutheran Church because she said she became tired of being a “a lost and condemned creature” and all the talk of sin. At one time Lent was about fasting but it’s now about the way to the “purpose-driven” life. The Mormons do not believe in original sin and I think this is what is frightening about their doctrine.  I would dare say that both Governor Romney and President Obama do not believe in original sin.  Then notice the talk is always about the future that someone will deliver to us for our deliverance and the still unbounded faith, yes, religious and spiritual faith in our own abilities to save.  An unsinkable ship.  The Reich to last a 1,000 years.  A Roman Catholic theologian denied the doctrine of original sin but taught his doctrine of “original goodness” (I give credit: that the Vatican booted him) This piece of a poem by Francis Thompson (1859-1907), British poet,  states it well:

…all man’s Babylons strive but to impart
The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart.

The founders of our republic and the especially the framers of the Constitution so wrote our law because of their profound understanding the capabilities and culpabilities of man to utter power.  James Madison in his federalist paper #51 wrote:  “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”  President Madison caught well the blessed Reformers understanding of the politicus usus, the political or first use of the Law: restraining our sinful propensities.  Once that is denied, then the lie that we can do everything good is unleashed.  We do not want to build a tower to reach God, we think we are God and the serpent’s lie is now at it’s maximum destructive power:  to be like God.

We must fight and we must resist temptation.  In popular culture, Lord of Rings caught well the temptation of saying we have no sin, thus deceiving our selves (1 John1–2: 2)  and what unbounded good in the hands of a sinner could unleash and the necessity of the fight to do so, even to do good:

The Church has the message of remedy of original sin in our original salvation in the man from heaven:  Jesus Christ.  We must proclaim both law and Gospel.  We know our limitations and in that limitation the true power to serve.

Read:  Matthew 4: 1-17;  Hebrews 4: 14-16;  1 Corinthians 10: 12-13 and pray the Our Father, Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (or the evil one).

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