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The Journal

The Towel of Babel and Cultural Diversity


Dear Friends,

The problem at heart of the tower of Babel is people trying to assert independence from God. In 11:4 the people want to build a tower to reach to the heavens and make a name for themselves. They want to find their identity in their own achievements. It is the sin of the garden of Eden repeated - to be like God and run their own show. This is expressed in v4 come let us build a city. They fear being scattered over the earth. What is the problem with remaining in the one place ? After the flood God had commanded Noah and his family to increase in number and multiply on earth - 9:7. Further in 10:31 (it is not chronological) we are told that Noah’s descendants spread out throughout the earth. Cultural diversity through filling the whole earth is God’s plan for humanity.

In Genesis 11 and the tower of Babel people are resisting God and want everyone to be the same. That is the attitude which breeds racism. Miroslav Wolf, theologian says that this resistance to cultural diversity tries to enforce conformity that everyone must be “like us”. God’s plan is cultural richness and diversity as people spread throughout the world. The attitude that everyone has to be like us can carry over to churches who think that their style is the only valid one and that we should all be the same. God comes down 11:5 and the tone is laughter by God - it is hubris to think you can become like God - see Ps 2:4, 37:13. God judges people and scatters them and in this act we must see his mercy. God is not threatened by our plans but rather he sees how they will destroy us. You only have to look at totalitarian regimes who try to enforce conformity to see the danger. For us the great hope is Pentecost and everyone speaking their own language with Christ at the centre. The great hope of humanity is Jesus at the centre and this is expressed in the church in all its cultural diversity and fulfilled in the new Jerusalem !

God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara