Wednesday, December 31, 2003

 

WILL THE REAL TOWER OF BABEL PLEASE STAND UP?

Here's a can of worms for you. I've often heard the statement, "Pentecost undid Babel" spoken and written when folks are arguing race issues. I'm no expert on the subject, but for the last few months I've been studying and writing on the topic of biblical race perspectives, and so I thought I'd address this issue for a bit. The question is: Did Pentecost reverse and/or undo the judgment that the Lord performed at Babel?

The answer- Yes... and no.

Lemme clarify that for you. No, Babel was not undone by Pentecost. To understand this, we need to go back To Genesis 11, and read the Hebrew texts, as well as strive to place the event in a holistic historical context.

Genesis 11:1 reads as follows: (I tried to put the Hebrew text here, but Blogger wouldn’t allow it)
…Which is commonly translated as: “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.”

If we only look at the various English translations, this sentence would seem redundant- Duh, if y’all got only one language then y’all got only one speech. However, in the Hebrew, there is more here. Saphah is the Hebrew word translated as language, while Dabar is the term for speech. Saphah, which is derived from caphah, describes unity and togetherness. It is more than merely language. Also, the way that it is used here when compared to Dabar is very significant. Saphah is given in the feminine form, while Dabar is masculine. On the surface, this may not seem significant, but this is an important distinction. With the unity of humanity being feminine, this ties it to the whole world (Colerets in this verse) which is also feminine. To put it simply, the unity here is of the flesh- one race. If you compare this with the Hebrew terms used in Genesis 4:1, you’ll find a similarity- Eve acquired a man from the Lord, and the same kind of sentence structure is found here. This is a flesh issue. Speech, however, is given in the masculine form, and Dabar is far more succinct than Saphah. Whereas the language; which here denotes physical unity, is from God, Speech is of men. Genesis 4:17 shows this well, in the establishment of the city of Enoch.

So what’s the point of all of this? Simple. All of mankind at this point was only a few generations removed from Noah. To assume that at the time of Babel there were Asians, Blacks, browns, reds, purple or plaids is logically nonsense. The text of Genesis 11 strongly implies that when the Lord changed the language of man, the flesh of man was likewise changed; the unity was destroyed. This, in turn, caused the changes in speech. (Gen 11:9)

Now when we compare this to Acts 2:1-13, we see a different picture. Persons from all over the Middle East and the Mediterranean came to Jerusalem, and the Spirit of God came upon them with tongues of fire. There, they understood the speech of one another. However, the language, in the manner that it is used in Genesis 11, was untouched. The Jews, Galileans, Parthinians, Libyans, etc… were still Jews, Galileans, Parthinians and Libyans. Their ethnicity was not changed at Pentecost. Also, the miracle at Pentecost was not permanent. The oneness of speech enjoyed that day did not continue indefinitely. It was a sign from God for the day. So, no, Pentecost did not undo Babel.

However, Pentecost did undo Babel. Babel scattered the world, the operative word there being world. Pentecost unified the Church; which is not of the world but of Christ. Ephesians 2:11-13 is a good description of what happened, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh- who are called the Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands- that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

From Babel spread many nations, but through Pentecost many nations are made one in Christ. Unity is re-established. This unity has two dimensions: heavenly and earthly.

Before I go further, I’d like to address a pet peeve of mine. I hear preachers using the terms worldly and earthly interchangeably, and it bugs the heck out of me. Worldly is of the world of fallen man, but earthly is of creation as a whole. To put it another way, I am Christian, and therefore I should not be worldly, but I am and should be earthly, for this is where He has called me to exercise His dominion. So, when I say worldly, I refer to the world of darkness and sin from which Christ did rescue us. When I say earthly, I refer to the land that our King has commanded us to conquer and occupy.

…But I digress. The Heavenly dimension of unity is the spiritual reality of our being bound by the blood of Christ. Amil and postmil arguments aside, we can both agree that the Lord does reign in Heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and that we are part of that heavenly kingdom even now. The earthly part of this unity is found in Ephesians 4:1-3, among other places: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Well, that whole chapter is a good read on the subject. Anyhow, Notice that it is a walk that we are called to. This requires us to act, here on earth, in accordance with seeking that unity; united as a single Church of our Lord.

To conclude, I’ll just say this. Those folks who say Pentecost undid Babel are correct. Those who say that it did not are correct. But to claim that only one of those is correct will most likely lead to error.

Theognome

Thursday, December 25, 2003

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I've been very infrequent as of late, which is due to two things- first, that this is my busy season and second, that even when I am available, I can't get mama off of the computer (she's really addicted to that bespelled game). I should buy her her own computer, so she can play that fool game to her hearts content.

But it is Christmas day here in Southron California. It's raining rather profusely right now, which is peculiar for this place. But, the mountain communities are getting a white Christmas out of the deal, so they are happy- it will cover up all of the burnt trees from the firestorm of two months ago.

Okay, let's talk Christmas. I've been a reformed snob for many years now, so I've written and read more than a few Christmas articles. Most of them are either sappy, or they're railing about what the real Christmas origins/principles are, vice the worldly use of the season. Well, here's my take on the reason for the season...

As a reformed Christian, I could write pages and pages of drivel about what Christmas is really about. Oh, I could either take the 'It's a Romanesque holiday made only as a counter to the pagan Saturnalia' route or I could take the 'We have liberty in Christ to declare this day set apart' or I could even take the 'Christmas is so commercialized that it has no meaning' route. But, I think what I'd like to scribble about is this- What is right about Christmas in the world.

Here's a list of those things that I think are spot on; things about Christmas that the world has right.

1. (If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11) Be you Christian, pagan or atheist, on Christmas you give gifts. Giving is a principle that the world embraces at this time of year, and even the unbeliever gives generously at Christmas time. Charity also is in vogue right now, and pagans give the most at this time of the year. This is evidence of His gospel having impact upon the world, whether the world proclaims Him or not.

2. (For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6) Listen to the radio, and you'll hear Christmas songs that sing of the birth of Christ. Here's a statistical fact- More persons become Christians during the holidays than at any other time of year (I did). Why? Perhaps it is because the liberal media plays traditional Christmas carols at this time, and many of them contain the gospel. Maybe it's because Christ is on our tongues more freely during this time of year. Whatever the reason, the Lord grows His Church by leaps and bounds during the holidays, and that is truly a reason to rejoice.

3. (...as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as a whole month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to holiday; that they should make then days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor. Esther 9:22) There is an attitude that coincides with the holidays. Christian or pagan, the principles of giving, receiving and forgiveness are more pervasive. Some folks have a hard time with giving gifts, others have trouble with getting them, and most persons struggle with forgiveness. True, all of these things are essentially fruitless outside of Christ, but a society that seeks them for their own sake tends to be more joyous. Simply put, there is a spirit in the air that comes from rejoicing, rejoicing that, in this case, is to the Lord. Just as Baalam could not curse the people of God, so does the world at Christmas time rejoice before Him, be it for their salvation or damnation.

To sum it all up, let me say this- that for us Postmillenial folks, Christmas time is proof of His gospel overcoming all nations. The name of Christ is fashionable, discussible and desirable for all peoples, Christian or otherwise. When we hear the songs about sleighbells ringing, we also hear the songs about the Holy night and the Lord Jesus. These do minister to all nations, and, little by little does bring them under His feet. My prayer would be that the Zeal for His name that is so prevalent during the holidays would be just as strong all year long- that Christians would make a total commitment to praise Him wherever they are for the whole year, and the whole of life. Let us make the Christmas season simply the way of life for all; that in June or March or August we can turn on the radio and hear praises to God in Christ from any station, or see His truth presented on any TV broadcast. Now that's Christmas- the world as His table.

Theognome

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