Sexuality and Our Public Lives: The Tower of Babel and the Kingdom of Christ
Genesis gives a fascinating account of fallen man’s collective attempt to define their own name themselves; a name that is very different from what God had already decreed. That uncompleted project was known as the Tower of Babel, a monument to mankind’s own self-exulted will and autonomous ability to define self.
It seems that perhaps the project is again under reconstruction, but this time beginning with the Tower’s bathrooms. This makes quite a bit of sense, if, at a foundational level, there’s nothing more self-defining then picking your own gender. Yeah, we remember somewhere in our suppressed consciences that God created man distinctly man and woman distinctly woman, but that was then (myth, fairytale, ignorant religion), and this is now (we’ve evolved, we’re smarter, “love” wins). Sure, God said it was “very good” for man and woman to be distinct yet equal, but under current project management, God isn’t allowed to speak - equality can only be reached when we get to define self (pay no attention to the lying serpent behind the curtain).
Enter into the picture our public education, because how else are the future builders of this new tower going to learn the rules of autonomy? Yes, they’ll still learn things like math and arithmetic, but numbers are only numbers and have nothing to do with things like truth, order, and logic. They’ll still learn to read per se, but absolutely nothing which can stir and engage the imagination. No, the education of the public will only be to the end that the “educated” can serve and live in our newly defined public. Oh, and everyone will live by the motto, “You Can Be Anything You Want To Be”, which of course isn’t really true, but it’s really good for moral.
This is the brave new world in which we live - a world where anyone and everyone can “make a name for themselves”, even despite the name they were born with and given. But unlike Genesis where God, in judgment, came down and confused their languages, perhaps now God is doing something far worse: letting us do what we want.
Of course, since the coming of Christ, and specifically His Spirit, that first judgment has been reversed - the gospel is going out to all peoples and being spoken in many tongues and languages. And it’s precisely through this that God saving many from His second judgment: not everyone is being allowed to follow after their own hearts. No, in God’s saving grace they’ve been restrained, they’ve been freed from sin, freed from redefining their own identities according to their own autonomous image. And now they’ve been given a new name, a new identity, in Christ.
And yet, the world still keeps on building its sacred tower into the heavens in affront to God. How then are we to respond as we live under the shadow of this ever growing tower? How are we to live in a culture that increasingly denies God and rejects the good, the true, and the beautiful? Here are three brief avenues.
First, go into the Tower. Or, as Paul put it, be in the world but not of it. Fundamentalism, for all the bad press is gotten in Reformed circles, was quite right and brave to hold on tightly to the fundamentals of the Christian faith in the midst of a liberalizing church, a church that looked more and more like the world. But where fundamentalism perhaps went wrong was it’s isolationism from the world. They were clearly not of the world, but it was pretty clear they weren’t interacting with the world either. That effected them negatively and it effected the world negatively. We should interact with, confront, love, and call out all the people in the world around us. Don’t retreat into a holy huddle; go into the Tower.
Secondly, invite the Tower workers into God’s Church. Let them know, there’s another house being built, a house that can not be overtaken and will exist on into eternity. One way to love those who hate God and hate his people, is to warmly and sincerely invite them to church. It allows them a chance to see what life is like outside the Tower they live in. Or, so it ought to. Our churches really are outposts of the eschatological kingdom; a place where the world can glimpse what living with God might be like. It’s not perfect, no one’s pretending that, but church should be a foreshadow. Lovingly invite you’re friend Tiffany (who grew up with the name Timothy) into church to see what real life is like; where real identity can found in Jesus Christ. Invite your neighbor Greg and his partner Brian to hear God’s word proclaimed. You may be surprised (they may be surprised!) at how God’s word really changes their outlook (and their lives).
Thirdly, be the temple of God. The church of God is made up of God’s living saints, people who have been called to represent Jesus to the world. This is why the apostle Peter himself calls us “living stones... being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). And then, out of that very truth, commands Christians to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” and to “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:9,12). Be the church and in so doing, be a bold witness to the reality of Christ’s kingdom.
We can know for sure, the gates of the Tower shall not prevail over and against Christ’s church. But Christ’s church can sure enough go into the Tower, invite people out of the Tower, and even within it’s very midst, be God’s living Temple as we represent Christ, the true and better and living Temple himself of God’s everlasting Kingdom. Indeed, “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).
Stephen Unthank (MDiv, Capital Bible Seminary) serves at Greenbelt Baptist Church in Greenbelt, MD, just outside of Washington, DC. He lives in Maryland with his wife, Maricel and their two children, Ambrose and Lilou.