Part 1 – Brick and Mortar
Is the Internet the modern-day Babel?
Being a software programmer for 7 years, I think about technology a lot. But people who are close to me also know that I am old school in the way I think and behave. I just have a natural suspicion against technology, even though it is ingrained in my everyday life.
Technology isn’t inherently bad. I truly believe that technology can help us. But what I am wary of are the consequences technology does to our human psyche and culture. And a major player in shaping our behavior and thinking today is the Internet. There are many articles out there already speaking about the benefits and harm of the Internet age—from the convenience of communication to the danger of depression.
My goal with this article is not to get us to stop using the Internet. The Internet is a tool, just like a hammer. It can be used to do great things, but it can also be used for evil. It all depends on the user and his/her intentions. In other words, I want to challenge us to look into our hearts as we engage with tools like the Internet.
As I meditated upon the development of the Internet and its consequences, I started to find similarities to the story of Babel, found in Genesis 11. This story is a fascinating study. And as I studied it more, I began to see how the events at Babel provide a warning that we should all heed today.
I have three lessons that we can learn from this biblical account and apply to our view of the Internet today.
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
The people journeyed to a plain and decided that this was a good place to build a city. So they did. Then notice what happened in verse 3. They made bricks and tar! This was a technological advancement. Now they can build cities and buildings and many other great things. The pyramids of Egypts were made of these same materials.
These people did exactly that next. They saw what they created, and like anyone who discovered a shiny new toy, they wanted to use brick and tar to build a city. Up to this point, we have no warning signs that what these people were doing is wrong.
I want us to think for a moment just how incredibly awesome this is. God places us here to subdue the earth (Gen 1:28). I believe part of that command includes discovery and creation. It is discovering the wonders of God’s creation and be in awe of our Maker. The other part is to also build, using the materials of this world, as a way to display God’s image as a Creator in each one of us.
Consider now the Internet. The creation of software is the modern-day brick and tar. We can now build virtual cities and worlds with just several lines of code. More than that, with the Internet, we can now share our mini creations with everyone! Keep in mind that the central purpose of the Internet is to share data. It was first created as a way to deliver packets of information from one location to another. Today, information is scattered everywhere like dust kicked up in the air.
The Internet is an amazing human achievement. We can now send and receive information across the world in a blink of an eye. We can build connections, community, tools, education, and businesses without leaving our beds. Joel Spolsky, CEO of StackOverflow, says that he enjoys programming because it gives him control over what he creates. It works because you built it to work that way. It breaks because you made a mistake.
More than that, the Internet has now given all people the opportunity to build their own identities. From blogs to YouTube videos, each person can create, produce, and publish at a faster rate than ever seen before in history. Even consider shopping online: customizing shoes and shirts have never been easier. Each person today can create something new, something individual, something unique to their style and taste.
As human beings made in the image of God, we all have this creative gene implanted in us, and God’s world is our playpen. But let us remember that we are created in God’s image and not our own. We fall into sin when we forget that our creativity, this world, and everything we do is supposed to magnify and glorify God.
The people at Babel discovered brick and tar. With that, they found that they can build great civilizations. This is God’s gift to them, just like how God gave all of the garden of Eden to Adam. Today, the internet presents itself as a great gift from God. How will you plan to use it?
This is Part 1 of 3. We will publish part 2 soon!