You said in your heart, "I will ascend into heaven! I will exalt my throne above the stars of God! I will sit on the mountain of assembly, in the far north! I will ascend above the heights of the clouds! I will make myself like the Most High!"
Isaiah 14:13-14 (WEB).
The serpent said to the woman, "You won't surely die, for God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil..." The eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked...
Genesis 3:4-5, 7a (WEB)
They said, "Come, let's build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top reaches to the sky, and let's make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth." Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. Yahweh said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do. Come, let's go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there on the surface of all the earth...
Genesis 11:4-8a (WEB).
In building the Tower of Babel, the people of the place called Babylon were motivated by a false doctrine which is prevalent today: namely, that by acting collectively we can supplant God. This is the ancient origin of the modern notion that human collective bodies are more important than their individual members. Thus, it has generally been thought since the time of Babel that an individual's nation, his or her king as representative of the nation, and his or her racial, religious or ethnic group are more important than the individual. Therefore, the individual must be sacrificed to serve the self-defined interests of these groups, if need be. In more recent times, more formally organized corporate bodies such as local and denominational church organizations, constitutional governments and business corporations have also been added to this list of collective entities for which individuals must always be sacrificed.
How did this doctrine arise? As shown in the scriptures quoted above, the original sin of Lucifer, spiritual prince of Tyre, was to believe he could ascend above God. When he failed to achieve this in his own power, he sought, through deception, the aid of Adam. Where Lucifer was only an angel, Adam (male and female) had been created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27. Lucifer therefore deceived the woman into believing that, by eating the forbidden fruit, she could become like God without Him -- that is, that she could do exactly the same thing the devil had tried and failed to do. But after Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit, they learned immediately that they had failed to supplant God. Instead of discovering Godlike power, they discovered only that they were naked before Him.
However, even in their fallen state, Adam and Eve were still able to fulfill one of the commands God had given them when He created them -- the command to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Genesis 1:28. Therefore, there followed a period in which, with some help from the devil and his agents, men resisted fulfilling this divine purpose. First, Adam and Eve denied their oneness and their willingness to reproduce freely by covering the parts of their bodies used in reproduction and hiding from each other as well as from God. Genesis 3:7-8. God answered this, in part, by confirming to Eve that, though her sin would result in great pain in childbirth, she would still desire her husband. Genesis 3:16. Next, the evil one introduced murder into the human race -- attempting to thwart God's command to fill the earth by moving men to kill each other. Genesis 4:6-8; I John 3:12. God dealt with this attack by openly providing for the murderer Cain, pronouncing both a judgment and a promise of protection. Genesis 4:9-15. He also gave Adam and Eve another son, Seth, in place of both Cain and Abel. Genesis 4:25. Then the devil attempted to directly contaminate the human race by sending "sons of God," quite possibly fallen angels, to have sexual relations with "the daughters of men," resulting in the birth of part-human giants. Genesis 6:1-4; compare Job 1:6-7. God ultimately answered this attack by sending a flood to destroy the contaminated human race, which had become so bad that "every intent of the thoughts of [man's] heart was only evil continually," while saving the family of Noah, a righteous man who was "perfect in his generations." Genesis 6:5-12; compare 2 Peter 2:5.
Immediately after the flood receded, God reminded Noah and his family that they were made in His image and twice confirmed his command that people should multiply and fill the earth. Genesis 9:1, 6-7. Satan was, at this point, forced to accept that, at least for the time being, people would reproduce and so at least partially fulfill God's one remaining command. Although satan has never abandoned his efforts to interfere with and contaminate human reproduction (see, for example, Romans 1:18 ff.), for a time after the flood he shifted his major efforts into moving men to resist God's expressed will that, in multiplying, they should fill the earth. He did this by tempting them to think that, by staying together and working together, they could make themselves collectively like God.
Recall that satan's original sin had been declaring that he intended to exalt himself above God and make himself like the Most High. But this fallen angel had failed; God had already banished him. Recall also that his original temptation was that, by eating the fruit and thereby coming to know evil, Eve could become like God. But when they ate the fruit, he first man and woman learned not that they were gods but that they were naked. Instead of rising up to challenge God they hid from Him. The devil had also deceived men with the offers that they could individually become gods by usurping God's authority over life and death and that they could have gods as offspring by giving themselves sexually to fallen angels. All of these temptations, when acted upon, had led to God's judgment rather than divinity. It was obvious that humans were not individually going to make themselves gods, although to this day we keep trying.
It was at this point that our enemy came with the false hope that, by working together on a project to challenge God, mankind collectively could become like God. Therefore, humanity, which was supposed to be filling the earth, instead remained together on the plain of Shinar to build their "tower to reach unto heaven" and to defy God's command that they scatter over the face of the earth. Collectively they believed themselves equal to God, though individually they were not. God understood this, noting their unity and then saying "now nothing that they purpose to do will be impossible for them." He dealt with this challenge by confusing their languages so that they would be unable to work together on their project and would be forced to scatter. So this effort to become like God through collective effort failed.
Unfortunately, fallen men as a group have learned nothing from these failures. Though most of us do not openly claim to be gods anymore, we still tend to make gods in our own image who will receive the sacrifices we wish to make and will let us do what we want to do. See, Romans 1. And we still believe that our collective institutions are more important than the individuals who comprise them, because they seem to confer upon us collectively godlike powers. However, Jesus died to save sinners -- individually -- not institutions, and he calls us individually his friends. We err when we place institutions above individuals.
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© 2000, 2005 Ian B. Johnson
A warning against the idolatry of dependence on human institutions
God Appoints Individual Rulers
God is love manifested toward individuals.
on God Reaching Out
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