Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Building the Ivory Babel

The number of historical spin-offs from original biblical dramas is really quite something when you think about it. Take almost any biblical story and you could find a modern equivalent, replete with similar characters, story lines, and outcomes. It's almost as if humans were predisposed to act a certain way. I think it's also one of the reasons why we have such melodramatic stories in the Bible: we ought to be able to recognize the similar plots and story lines in our own times. And when we recognize these themes, we won't be left saying "how could this happen?" with the progressive demigods when things go down the toilet. We're already circling that drain anyhow...

One of the current narratives we should pay attention to is how this nation endeavors to educate our children. I believe it follows closely the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.

After the great flood, God told Noah and his descendants to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Gen. 9:7). But the residents of the land of Shinar had other plans. They said "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its tops in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth" (Gen. 11:4). They wanted to be on par with God, to make a name for themselves, and to defy God's creation mandate for the people. In short, they wanted one government, one religion, and one name—all centered on the glory of man. If Genesis 3 is any indicator, this plan is a recipe for disaster. And so it was. God saw the attempted usurpation of divine authority and therefore confused their unity and scattered them among the earth.

It wasn't the building of a city and a tower per se that incurred God's judgment; it was the heart behind the whole thing. The idea of the built environment had been turned on its head. Man decided that he would be his own god—that building a tower to the heavens would establish and save the society. That through unity of government, (false) religion, and name, the people would be an indestructible power.

The same mindset pervades the culture of education today. Education is seen as the way to eradicate poverty, crime, and bigotry. (See, for example, the NEA Mission and Vision Statement). The federal government spends billions of dollars every year attempting to inculcate our children with a worldview that exalts the intelligence of man as our great savior and our great good. Parents are no longer seen as the primary (or even legitimate) means to give our children a worldview and education. (Why?) Universal preschool is pushed as national policy so that kids can be educated and inculcated away from their parents as early as possible. I could go on and on. All this is in the name of progress. But progress to where? To the top of the Tower of Babel? No, thanks.

I don't think it's too tenuous to connect the dots here. They're all there; we just have to draw in the lines to see the full picture. And when we do, the idolatry is glaring.

Much like Shinarites and the Tower of Babel, we have perverted the purposes of education. Education is not an evil to be avoided. Quite the contrary; a man (or woman) made in God's image is designed precisely to be intelligent. In this way we imitate the intelligence of our Creator. God graciously gives us a knowledge of this world so that we can have a greater appreciation of him and an acute realization of our need for him. Thus, education is a tool, to be used for something. That something is the worship of God, not the worship of man. A well-educated mind is like the conductor of an orchestra. The conductor knows how each instrument works, how the notes flow together, and how the individual instruments cooperate to make beautiful music. He has the score in front of him, and he knows when to cue the piccolo solo and when the timpani should be at full thum-dum-thum-dum. But the conductor didn't write the score—he merely possesses the faculty to arrange for others to say "what beautiful music!"

And so it is with proper education. Education gives us the musical score; it allows us to interact with the environment of knowledge in such a way that people say "what a beautiful God we have." That's the purpose of education. Don't be blinded by what is going on around us. It should be no secret to a discerning person that the aim of our current system of education is not to glorify God. Quite the opposite; we are training our people to believe that education is the ticket to salvation. We are building our own ivory Babel in hopes that we can make an everlasting name for ourselves, a factoid-saturated people that will last for generations behind the veneers of unity and progress.

So, in the end, it should come as no surprise that this enterprise is (and will be) a spectacular failure. We have established an educational regime that is guided by a principle of one government, one religion, and one name—that we are gods. "Yes we can!" is our battle cry and our creed. But it will not last. It cannot last.


  1. Kyle, this is awesome. Thank you for being so honest on a subject that I think many believers have not thought deeply about. After MANY conversations with MANY people I completely agree that the majority of people believe that education will save kids from the slums, from the gangs, from poverty, and that might be true. But no one tells these kids that they still might be unhappy and discontent once they reach their college, their careers, their various successes if Christ doesn't reign in their hearts.

  2. Beautifully written. And what a great post Jenai.