Today we’re at the end of the ‘mythic’ pre-Abraham bit of Genesis, with Gen. 9:18-11:32.
We’ve got the end of the Noah story, and the beginning of binge drinking … Then lots of names, in a passage that it’s probably best not to try to read aloud if you’ve tried Noah’s great invention a bit too freely. Pronouncing ‘Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim and Caphtorim’ should only be attempted by trained vocal practitioners after a good warm up and no alcohol.
Then we get to the last big pre-Abraham episode with the Tower of Babel in 11:1-9. Noah’s descendants decide to use their advancing technology to build their own tower to heaven, so that they’ll be able to manage without God. God has other ideas, and the end result is that humanity is scattered and no longer able to understand one another.
It’s not an anti-technology or anti-science story. It’s an anti-pride story. The first sin back in Genesis 3 was rooted in humanity trying to take God’s place. So is this one. I passionately believe that our ability to grow in understanding and technology is part of God’s gift to us, maybe even part of his image in us. When we use that technology in the service of God and others, then it brings blessing. When we use it to set ourselves up as God, then it all goes horribly wrong.
I remember a wonderful line from ‘Jurassic Park’ when Jeff Goldblum’s mathematician challenges the genetic scientists reviving the dinosaurs, ‘you were so busy being excited that you could do it that you never stopped to think whether you should do it.’ And of course by then it’s too late – it’s an idea that comes up from Babel to Faust to Frankenstein to – well, to Jurassic Park. Science without conscience, knowledge without wisdom, leads to disaster.
And perhaps a danger for more of us isn’t that we make dangerous scientific advances that threaten the whole world. It’s more that we accept it too easily when those who know more about science than we do tell us that we no longer need God. Calling Richard Dawkins…
Science and technology are amazing. Science without God is adrift. Science in the service of God is a blessing.