This series has been covering the story of Babel and its application to modern-day technology. In Part 1, we find how God has created all of us as creators and inventors. In Part 2, we explored how our sinful hearts have tainted our purpose as creators. In this blog post, we will establish what we lose when we fall prey to our sin.
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.”
Note the consequence that the people here wanted to avoid. They didn’t want to be dispersed. This is a direct disobedience against God. Instead, they rather unite under their own name.
We have to think critically about this desire. We are created to be united under the identity of God, or as God puts it in Gen 1:27—in His image. But God’s command to us was never to gather in one spot under His name. God commanded us to spread His name across the span of the created universe. His desire was to have His image cover the earth.
The people building the tower of Babel didn’t care for God’s name being spread across the world. They wanted to stay put and work on building their own brand. But God got His way. He cursed them with various languages and dispersed them across the world. Make note here how important language and communication are when it comes to building identity. God confused their languages, making it difficult for collaboration. As a result, the people dispersed.
In a multilingual world, the different people groups naturally formed their own identity. While we cannot say definitely that nations and ethnicities originated from Babel, we do acknowledge today how one’s language is tied deeply with one’s identity. Instead of uniting mankind under a singular identity, humanity is now divided. As much as this modern culture is trying to celebrate diversity, the pains of misrepresentation, miscommunication, and misunderstanding still disrupt our hearts. God created us to be a united under His name; our sin has divided us not just from God but from each other.
This identity crisis is profoundly evident, especially online. The problem with the Internet is that man again believes he can unite people together through this common channel of communication. People’s voices need to be heard. Their lives need to be shared. Online communities will fix loneliness. Online dating will find your soulmate. Wikipedia will be the encyclopedia for the peoples of the world. Everyone will come to communicate and understand each other better.
This is the false hope behind the hearts of those who want to use the Internet to reform the world. It isn’t that the Internet can’t do it; it’s that the content being promoted cannot solve real human problems. Finding one’s voice does not fix broken hearts. Being better educated does not produce better morals. Building your own interest communities does not represent fellowship. Don’t get me wrong. These things can help, but they do not tackle the core problem: sin. Only the gospel can fix that.
But the gospel is more than just information being passed around as bytes. The gospel is about a restored relationship with God. In the gospel, God undoes the division of culture, nationality and languages by uniting all saints under the identity of Christ. In Christ alone, the church is able to sing with one voice. Moreover, the church is given the task to fulfill our God-created purpose — to spread His name across the world as His ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20).
The Internet has provided for us a platform to engage the world. We cannot deny that the online community has clearly impacted our lives today. The world has become a smaller place. Our friends and family are just a Facebook message away, no matter how distant they may be. We can join channels and interact with like-minded individuals or go on a date with a stranger whom we’ve never met in person. More than that, more and more people are being molded and shaped by their online platforms.
As Christians, we struggle to engage with this online world. We don’t know if we should avoid it or if we should leverage it. On one hand, the Internet distracts us from doing missions well. On the other hand, the Internet is a mission field where the lost are desperately looking for hope. We cannot plug ourselves in without first seriously considering these things.
We must remember that when we are engaging online, the world’s philosophies are lurking to capture our attention as well. I’m not just talking about news articles or social media. It’s how we use the Internet, whether we are just shopping online or doing our finances. These technologies are created with the intention to persuade you that your personal identity matter. They advertise merchandise they know you want or offer solutions that fit your lifestyle. The Internet can easily consume our minds, our hearts, and our souls — leading us to fall prey to our own pride and selfishness. Ultimately what we lose when we allow the world dictate how we use technology is the identity the gospel gives us.
I truly believe that the Internet, software, and technology can be used for good. God’s kingdom can be advanced through these platforms. But we have to watch our hearts. The allure of sin is too enticing, and our sin whispers to us that we can make our own name and find our social identity online. We can be as great or greater than God. These lies must be silenced. Let Scripture reform your mind (Rom 12:1). Store the words of wisdom in your heart (Prov 22:17).
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3–6 that our war against the evil of this world is spiritual. We are not battling technology. We are battling the content being promoted online, the purpose of the applications being developed, and the temptations that the world wants us to pursue. We cannot escape the digital world; it is part of our everyday culture. But we can still “take every thought captive to obey Christ” as we consider our usage of technology. Let Christ be the social identity we want to follow and promote.