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The BBC and the Tower of Babel

This weeks article in Christian Today – you can read the original here ,

The BBC and the Tower of Babel

Genesis 11 tells us the fascinating story of the tower of Babel. Humanity was setting itself up against God and as part of that decided to build a skyscraper. God’s means of frustrating this is revealing – “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” The plan worked. Humanity was divided and scattered.

Melvin Tinker, an Anglican vicar, uses the imagery of the tower of Babel, together with that of CS Lewis’s brilliant and prophetic That Hideous Strength, to demonstrate the particular route our culture is going down. Tinker’s book, That Hideous Strength, How the West was Lost, is an important and essential work of for understanding our culture. It is just being republished in an expanded edition.

He shows how the tower of Babel remains a pattern for human rebellion against God. Chronological snobbery (the latest is the greatest etc) can blind us to insights from previous generations. Tinker argues that communalism (where group rather than individual identity reigns), constructionism (using language to deconstruct God and create our own gods) and connectivity (using one language to connect to one another and enable their rebellion against God) are typical of that rebellion.

I think this statement does need some qualification, however. There is a communalism (the church) that is good, a constructionism (building the Kingdom of God and caring for the earth), which is constructive, not destructive, and a connectivity (the tongues of Pentecost which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus rather than the tongues of Babel) that is positive. But Tinker is right to argue that Babylon tries to imitate Jerusalem.

“What we have in the Tower of Babel episode is in effect a rival cosmology to that of God’s; it is an unmaking and a remaking of the world, a blasphemous human ‘let us’ over and against the Holy ‘let us’ of the Triune God,” he says.

I thought of this when I saw the BBC’s latest propaganda for school children. In one question-and-answer session a young boy asks: “What are the different gender identities?” He is then praised by a head teacher for asking a “really, really exciting question”. The film cuts to a PSHE teacher called Kate Daniels, who explains to two other young children: “We know that we have got male and female, but there are over 100, if not more, gender identities now.”

Why does this matter? The temptation is to shrug it off as more PC madness – no one really believes that young boys in sex education classes have the different gender identities as their main question. And no one really believes that that there are over 100 genders….that is just a made up number and yet it is taught to children as truth. And therein lies the problem. The BBC are teaching queer theory as scientific fact when it isn’t. They are dismantling the whole idea of truth. But it is also inhumane and harmful to children. Why?

When we lose belief in God we also lose any rationality for belief in humanity. We are created in the image of God. When we try to remove or replace that image we end up creating a distorted humanity. Yes there are people who suffer from Gender Identity Dysphoria and have a disconnect between body and mind. They should be treated fairly and with compassion. But we should not use them to try and reconstruct both God and humanity in our own image. That way there is only confusion. My colleague Steve McAlpine summarised it brilliantly:

“Perhaps there are eight billion genders and each of us is simply an atomised, lonely individual, floating ever further from other people, cut off from the possibility of ever knowing what is solid and where to stand on anything. That’s the way it’s going at least.

“And of course, that’s the picture of hell that CS Lewis paints in The Great Divorce, a town in which the inhabitants move further and further away from each other, doomed to the splendid isolation of their own interiority for eternity.

“Lewis, that prophet whose work is even now coming into its own, broadcast an introduction to The Great Divorce on that self-same (but completely different) BBC back in 1948. I wonder if he could even imagine that the very institution that allowed such searing wisdom to flow over the airwaves would reduce itself to such pitiful foolishness some seven decades later?”

What is God doing in this? I think he is letting us follow the way of Romans 1, where humanity thinking it is wiser and better than God, just decides to go its own way. God then lets us have it our way. And the chaos, confusion and disorder are a disaster. The biggest threat facing humanity just now is the hubris and hypocrisy of those who are seeking to recreate humanity, using that hideous strength, in order to have a Brave New World.

But Christians should not despair. There is One who came down to earth as a human being in order to recreate humanity in his image – in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. No matter how much humanity seeks to destroy itself – God is here to redeem, restore and save. We are being constructed into the new Jerusalem and do not need to go the destructive way of Babylon.

David Robertson is Director of Third Space at the City Bible Forum in Sydney, Australia. He blogs at The Wee Flea

Quantum 59 – The one with Mugabe; Northern Ireland Abortion; Lisa Cameron; Bercow; Fireman Sam; Attwood; Finland; Gender Neutral Penguin; 100 Genders, Jarrid Wilson; Benny Hinn and Emmaeus

The Noble Liar – The Influence of the BBC and the Meritocracy



  1. “What is God doing in this? I think he is letting us follow the way of Romans 1, where humanity thinking it is wiser and better than God, just decides to go its own way. God then lets us have it our way. And the chaos, confusion and disorder are a disaster. The biggest threat facing humanity just now is the hubris and hypocrisy of those who are seeking to recreate humanity, using that hideous strength, in order to have a Brave New World.”

    I think that is exactly correct. And there is a further point worth making, which is this: a Christian society that turns its back on the God made known in Jesus Christ does not simply lose the faith it had – it also loses the humane virtues and graces that it had possessed before its conversion, and that had “put on Christ” as a result of its conversion. Its latter state is worse than its first. Post-Christian Britain is not in the position of those societies which had never known Christ and His Good News. The thesis that one can have the Christian graces, virtues and morals, without having faith in Christ Himself, is being tested to destruction.

    ISTM that one of the reasons that Brexit is necessary, is that the EU – however Christian the original attentions of its first architects – has now become a Tower of Babel.

  2. I had no idea that you were a trained and experience child psychologist. After all, only such a person can make judgement about about gender in children. maybe you should look into the science a little before sounding off?

    Oh, a great idea – why not pray over each child troubled with gender identity and cure them. That would not only solve a problem you seem to have but show the power of you and your god. Up for it?

    1. What a weird and wonderful world you live in – only trained and experienced child psychologists can know if a boy is a boy or a girl a girl…poor parents, teachers, doctors, scientists and anyone else with an ounce of sanity! And thanks for the snarky remark about prayer – again showing how often ignorance and prejudice are combined….

  3. Very helpful article, David. Thank you. Once I marvelled at the astonishing arrogance of those scientists who thought science alone would unlock the mysteries of life, the universe and all that. Now I marvel at the astonishing arrogance of those “social scientists”, who imagine that through language and obstinate persistence they can construct their “reality” – and impose it upon the rest of humanity as if this new thing were objective and indisputable truth. They are simply producing and promoting fuzzy-thought selfies. (And I have Post Grad qualifications in both Sociology and Psychology – as if that mattered!)

  4. I really like ‘That Hideous Strength’, it’s a wonderful book. More people should read it.

    The problem with people using CS Lewis’ brilliance in spin-offs (Keller has done this as well) is that the net result is fewer people reading the Lewis, and yet sort of thinking they have because they’ve read something about it.

    Tinker’s book might be a good one, I would have thought Lewis is better placed to fire the imagination and get us thinking.

    For further thinking: ‘The Abolition of Man’ is the sort of doctrinal-basis for That Hideous Strength, being a treatise of ideas rather than a work of fiction around those ideas. Everyone should read that too.

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