The Tower of Babel Revisited - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonApologetics - A Reasoned Defense of the Christian Faith
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The Contemporary Trend of Post Modernism Displayed in the Reformulation of Fictional Characters in Modern Film Making by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon
In Genesis 11:1-9 we read the account of the people of the world coming together to build a tower. The historical narrative reads as follows, “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” The people of Babel had a problem with an incorrect view (a depraved view) of self-worth. Their vanity expressed itself in the building of a tower that reached up into heaven, even imposing on the dominion of God’s Himself. They desired to “make a name” for themselves and show themselves as superior in every way. God’s interception of their plan resulted in a confusion of their languages cast upon them (the babbeling referred to) which hindered their work, and scattered them over the face of the earth. This was the very thing they set out to defeat, but were overtaken by the power of God. Without entering into a lengthy discourse on root etymologies and the interesting use of the Hebrew words of “Babel and babble,” or the importance of the location of Shinar, I want to progress directly into the application of this passage to the modern day media, especially seen in contemporary film making.
Throughout the writings of the past (novels, plays, etc.), God is, at the very least, respected to some degree, even if that means he is simply acknowledged. I am not speaking about the last 200 years (though there are exceptions). I am referring to the time period of classic writers from 200 years ago and before. At least writers such as Shakespeare respected, to some extent, the God-centered religion of his age, and quoted extensively from the Bible. There are thousands of references to Biblical characters, places and direct quotations all through his plays and writings (I am aware that it may not have been Shakespeare himself who wrote his works, but Francis Bacon under the pen-name of Shakespeare). However, in antithesis to this, modern day movie makers are continually removing God from the films they produce as much as possible. They seem to think that the Post-modern mindset does not need the God of the Bible at all. This does not mean post-modern America does not need spirituality. There are many movies which deal with new age ideas and concepts which the public seems to thrive on. But the God of the Bible, the Creator of the Universe is often no where to be seen.
Not only is contemporary film making banding together in a war against God, but they are reformulating previous fiction to accommodate their way of thinking. Post-modernity has already laid its clutches into reconstructing historical events and happenings in world history (like Disney’s Pocahontas which never mentioned Christ, where Pocahontas was the first converted Indian woman), but even the world of fiction cannot be expressed as the writers intended. I would like to use two examples which seem to fit this bill quite nicely. One is an old story (1670’s) which has been reconstructed, and the second is relatively new (1950’s).
In the year 2000 release of Cast Away Tom Hanks plays a FedEx employee named Chuck Noland, who, through a series of circumstances, becomes stranded on a desert island. It is amazing that with all the time Chuck has on his hands while living on this desert island, the Lord God is never mentioned, meditated upon, or contemplated except to use His name in vain. (Sounds like the same disposition of the entire cast of Gilligan’s Island who live on their island for a number of years but never mention God once.) In Chuck’s resourcefulness his attempt to escape captivity on the island fails until some years later. Then, upon a final attempt at escaping and being rescue, he does in fact enter back into society a changed man from the experience.
In contrast to Cast Away Daniel Defoe’s 17th century work, Robinson Crusoe, is completely different. Robinson Crusoe is man who rebels against his parents to become a sailor. Crusoe rejects God and decides to disobey his father’s wishes, joining up with a ship to set out for the seven seas in search of adventure. He no doubt finds much, and begins to make a little money through these adventures, but finally becomes the sole survivor of a shipwreck to live out his days on a desert island. Though Chuck Noland and Robinson Crusoe have the same circumstances (stranded on a desert island) in direct dissimilarity, Crusoe admires the island and begins to contemplate what “providences” had been afforded him by God. The Providence of God is seen through the entire book, and is inescapable, except of course for revisions which delete this information. Through a series of thoughtful meditations, and very frequent at that, Crusoe ultimately reads one of three copies of the Scriptures from the wreck he had taken, and began to read the Bible daily. Crusoe was constantly referring to God’s goodness and providence in all that befell him, and ultimately became a Christian as a result. Later in the book, we find that the varied providences of Crusoe’s shipwreck give way to the conversion of many different ethic people, even some of the savages on the neighboring islands. Chuck Noland, on the other hand, is such a hateful individual, that he contemplates suicide as a means of escape. We do not see this directly, but thoughtful Christians must read between the lines which the world paints for us. And the only time we ever hear anything of God is when he profanes the Lord’s name and swears mid-way through the movie concerning the kind of island he is shipwrecked on. Chuck Noland, the successful American businessman with a future at FedEx, is not worthy of such a providence. Is this not the typical post-modern man? No thoughts of God, only an appeal to his own strength and wisdom in escaping the island. When reading Robinson Crusoe, after you find Crusoe has been on the island for a great number of years, you want him to stay there, and he seems to desire to stay as well. The providences of God were so good to him in all that God accomplished in and through him, that, in part II of the book, Crusoe returns to the island to help those he left behind to manage his “castle” and land there.
We see the affects of post-modernity in Cast Away in juxtaposition to Robinson Crusoe. When confronted with a problem that affects the entire life of a person, where do we turn? The movies tells us to turn to ourselves, not to God.
Another example of this may be seen in the hit movie Independence Day. This movie is set over a period of three days while the president of the United States (played by Bill Pullman) a computer wiz (Jeff Goldblum) and an Air force pilot (Will Smith) do battle with invaders from outer space. It seems a large colony of locust-like aliens have invaded earth’s space in order to harvest the planet’s resources. The alien civilization travels together on a large mother ship and so they decide to conquer earth for the water, vegetation or whatever else they may need. Through a long series of battles the stars of this movie realize that they are defeated. They do not have the technology to defeat the powerful aliens with their advanced weapons and impenetrable shields. As a result, Jeff Goldblum’s character comes up with an idea to implant a computer virus in the mother ship, disabling the smaller ships and their shields, and to give the Air Force around the world a fighting chance to win the battle – and so they do. In contrast to this movie, which is also a remake of Orson Well’s War of the Worlds, the 1950’s classic has an ending which is God-honoring in comparison to Independence Day. In the 1950’s version the aliens still attack, they do great amounts of damage and the world simply does not have the technology to defeat them. However, the aliens die off quickly as a result of exposing themselves to the air and being infected by the bacteria which their alien bodies cannot handle. The narrator of the movie then appeals to the sovereignty of God’s wisdom in putting such bacteria in atmosphere, and gives the victory to God, not human beings. Independence Day again, shows that when disastrous situations arise, we turn to Air Force pilots for help, not God. The victory was not due to God in Independence Day, but to the ingenuity of a computer virus and the integrated help of other Air Force squadrons around the world working together for one purpose. Again, we see the affect of Post modernity in reformulating the way hero’s are made. Does this sound like Babel?
The trend in which America film making is moving should be unappealing to the Christian. Not only ought the Christian be very aware of what they watch, but they should be sure to understand and filter the messages which movies are heralding if they do in fact see something at a theater. It used to be said that Christians ought not see Rated “R” movies. This still holds true. But PG-13 movies, as well as a great amount of garbage shown on TV fits the same category as anti-Christian. They should be boycotted. But the Post-modern man, Christian or not, loves to be entertained, and thus, the Christian world continues to fall perilously into the adventures of people like Chuck Noland. They leave the movie with a sense that they have just seen something worth while simply because the movie was made well. There is more to contemporary film making than accomplishing a quality product. These stories are messages to the mind and heart of people. When people see Ghost or The Sixth Sense they become enamored with the supernatural, but a supernatural without God. Or if they experience a castaway’s adventure, they become charmed with a man who hates God, but its covered up so well that the character’s quest for freedom wins over their hearts.
Babylon is here again; it really never left. Men love to love themselves. But there is nothing new under the sun. Whether the same dispositions of self-love are evident in building a tower of mortar and mud, or uniting people over the world through the movie screens and influencing their thought with anti-Christian ideas, the result will always be the same. In the end, God will scatter them to the winds, whether now (like in the huge scare of the y2k bug which “could have” been a real problem) or in the judgment to come. God will be victorious in the end. (cf. Rev. 20-21)