An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me....And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou has polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon
...[L]et us build us a city and a tower [of Babel], whose top may reach unto heaven...
No two tenets of faith could be more opposed to one another than those presented above. On the one hand, we have God's rejection of any human effort to buy salvation or His favor. If man is to come to God, it must be solely by His grace and His provision, not by any human work. On the other hand, we see man's flagrant repudiation of God's prohibition against self-effort, and his arrogant attempt to build a tower that would enable him to climb by steps of his own making into heaven itself.
God's instructions were explicit. If the ground was too rocky to gather up a mound of earth for an altar, stones could be heaped together—but they could not be cut, fashioned or polished with a tool. Nor could the altar be elevated. Not one step must be climbed to reach it. There must be no illusion that man could contribute anything by his own efforts to his salvation. God himself is the only One who can save man, and salvation must be a gift of His grace. Such is the gospel consistently presented from Genesis to Revelation. Consider the following:
I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour (Isa:43:11); For unto us a child [the Messiah] is born...[He is] The mighty God, The everlasting Father (Isa:9:6). ...thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins (Mat:1:21)....they that are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom:8:8). For by grace are ye saved....,not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph:2:8-9); Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us (Titus:3:5); Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom:3:24); And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work (Rom:11:6).
It was the incredible act of rebellion in Eden against the Almighty that separated man from his Creator. No less astonishing is the fact that man continues his defiance in his very attempts to be reconciled to God, and so persists in his self-righteous resolve to contribute something toward his salvation. Thus, amazingly, man's rebellion against God is seen most clearly in his religions, all of which are but mirror images of Babel—ingenious and persistent attempts to "climb up some other way" (Jn:10:1) instead of entering through the door (Christ) which God has provided.
Babel may be traced from ancient paganism, to the "high places" (elevated altars) of heathen worship adopted by Israel (Lev:26:30; 1 Kigs 11:7; 2 Kigs 23:15; Ezek:16:24-39, etc.) and on to every religion on earth today. The ornate temples or mosques and elaborate ceremonies found in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism and other cults and the occult are obvious continuations of Babel. So are the magnificent cathedrals, lofty steeples, exalted and gilded altars, luxurious vestments and impressive rituals of today's "high church" Anglican, Orthodox, Catholic and other denominations. Such pomp turns off many non-Christians who rightly want nothing to do with a "God" who is influenced by fleshly enhancements.
Was not Solomon's temple most magnificent? Yes, but it was uniquely designed and commanded by God. Both the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple which succeeded it were "a figure [picture]...of good things to come [i.e., of Christ and heaven]" (Heb:9:9-11). God said to Moses, "See to it that thou make all things according to the pattern which I showed to thee on the mount [Sinai]" (Heb:8:5). No such pattern or approval was given by God for any other religious structure.
Protestantism retained some Catholic heresies, such as the error of attaching virtue (or evil) and power to physical objects and rituals. While Protestants reject relics, statues and icons, they often refer to their places of worship as "sanctuaries," as though God dwells there. In fact, God inhabits the Christian's body ("your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" - 1 Cor:3:17; 6:19), which is therefore to be kept holy. Paul reminded the Athenians,
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;...(Acts:17:24-25).
Jesus explained that God does, indeed, desire our worship—but it must be "in spirit and in truth" (Jn:4:23-24). Affectations, whether in physical adornments, props or ceremonies, appeal to the flesh and, far from enhancing worship, deny both the truth and the Spirit, by which it alone can be offered to the God who created and redeemed us. Sacramentalism, which is the heart of Roman Catholicism—the belief that liturgy's form and formulas transmit spiritual power and that salvation comes through the sacraments—too readily creeps into Protestant thinking as well. (Many Protestants still believe that baptism saves, taking the bread and cup brings life, etc.) Alas, we are all Eve's children by nature and still prone to follow the ways of Cain and Babel.
Every place of worship, Catholic or Protestant, which has been adorned for the purpose of hallowing it or gaining God's favor or making worship more acceptable, violates Exodus:20:24-26 as well as the rest of Scripture. All such "sanctuaries" are monuments to man's rebellion and his proud and perverted religion of self-effort. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to fall into the error of imagining that belonging to a church and periodically "worshiping" in its "sanctuary" makes one a Christian and compensates for one's lack of consistent, personal holiness.
Of course, no one in the 1990s is under the illusion that one can climb a physical tower to heaven. Yet the folly of today's religions is every bit as monumental, and the anarchy against God which motivates those beliefs is just as obscene, as was the Tower of Babel. Billions continue, in the spirit of Babel, to pursue equally futile do-good and positive-thinking, self-help religious programs to earn their way to heaven.
Norman Vincent Peale's "positive thinking" and Robert Schuller's "possibility thinking" replace truth. It doesn't matter what or in whom one believes, but only that one be positive. Biblical doctrine, Schuller argues, may have communicated to people in the past, but to our generation it seems so "negative" and offensive that it turns people off. What is needed now is a "positive" gospel that everyone can accept. In a recent article in The Orange County Register, Schuller berated preachers "who spew forth their angry, hate-filled sermons of fire and brimstone." (Isn't he judging hearts? Didn't God create hell? Didn't Jesus repeatedly warn about hell?) Explaining that the way to "tell the good religion from the bad religion" is whether it is "positive," Schuller exhorted "religious leaders...whatever their theology ...to articulate their faith in positive terms." He then called for a "massive, united effort by leaders of all religions" to proclaim "the positive power...of world-community-building religious values." (Emphasis added) Antichrist himself couldn't improve on that New Age, one-world-religion doubletalk!
Sadly, for Schuller and Peale, et al., "faith" is a power of the mind and "God" is merely a placebo that helps one "believe" and thereby activate this mind power. "Prayer is communicating with the deep unconscious....Your unconscious mind...[has a] power that turns wishes into realities," writes Peale. On an Amway tape, Schuller exults, "You don't know the power you have within you!...You make the world into anything you choose." It is Babel again in a more sophisticated form. The power of "thinking" becomes the magic stairway that leads to the paradise where all one's wishes can be fulfilled.
Similar to the above is the "positive confession" of Hagin, Copeland, Cho, Hinn, et al., which is embraced by much of the charismatic movement. Kenneth Hagin, Jr. calls God "the greatest Positive Thinker that ever was!" To these "faith teachers," faith is a mind power which even God uses—a force contained in words and released when one speaks forth "the word of faith." Cho writes, "By the spoken word we create our universe...you create the presence of Jesus with your mouth...through visualization and dreaming you can incubate your future and hatch the results." Here we have an evangelical form of Christian Science or Science of Mind! On TBN, with Paul and Jan Crouch nodding approval, Copeland declared, "Faith is a force just like electricity or gravity...we are a class of gods."
Many Christians have unwittingly believed a similar lie. They imagine that faith is believing that what they are praying for will happen. Of course, if believing something will happen causes it to happen, then who needs God? Men have become gods themselves. The power of belief becomes one's tower of Babel, the magic steps by which one climbs to that "state of mind called heaven."
Biblical faith, however, is believing that God will answer one's prayer. That changes everything! I could never truly believe a prayer would be answered—nor would I want it to be—unless I were certain it was God's will. Faith is not a magic power we aim at God to get Him to bless our plans, but "the obedience of faith" (Acts:6:7; Rom:1:5; 16:26; 2 Thes:1:8, etc.) brings us into submission to Him as the instruments of His will. Yet Benny Hinn says, "Never, ever, ever, go to the Lord and say, 'If it be thy will....' Don't allow such faith-destroying words to be spoken from your mouth." Why? Because "man was created on terms of equality with God," says Hagin. Behold Christianized humanism!
Humanists also have their Babel-like, do-it-yourself religion. They call it science. It, too, reflects man's continued rebellion. Modern man hopes to conquer the atom, space and all disease and thus to become immortal master of the universe. The materialist's "heaven" is a peaceful cosmos populated by highly evolved, space-traveling civilizations which have restored paradise through super technology. Such was the dream ("to join a community of galactic civilizations ...[is] our hope in a vast and awe-some universe") which President Carter, a professing Christian, expressed to anticipated extraterrestrial contactees on the gold record carried into space by Voyager in 1977.
Pure materialism leaves the soul empty, but adding a touch of religion to science seems to fill the void while keeping faith "rational." There is no more deadly delusion than a scientific religion. It is the delusion of Babel all over again, with advancing knowledge building the steps that both lead man to "heaven" and open to him the very powers of God. One of Christian psychology's major appeals to evangelicals is its false claim to being scientific. It fails, however, the litmus test of Exodus:20:24-26. Its altars are built of the cut and polished stones of human wisdom; its rituals are not found in Scripture; and self rather than God is the object of worship. Moreover, on its altars burns the strange fire (Lev:10:1; Num:3:4) of humanistic theories unacceptable to God.
Religious science is a major element in the environmental movement, where the earth is increasingly viewed as sacred. Ecotheology, says Georgetown University professor Victor Ferkiss, "starts with the premise that the Universe is God." Carl Sagan exemplifies today's scientific paganism. "If we must worship a power greater than ourselves," intones this high priest of cosmos worship, "does it not make sense to revere the Sun and stars?" Here we go again! To draw closer to, and thus better observe and worship, the heavenly bodies was a major purpose of the Tower of Babel. The environmental movement is a humanistic attempt to restore the lost paradise of Eden without repenting of rebellion against the Creator.
Such is the message that is being seductively presented to America's children in the public schools. Lamar Alexander, former governor of Tennessee, was appointed by President Bush as U.S. Secretary of Education. He says the book that most influenced his thinking in the last 10 years was A God Within by René Dubos. In it Dubos declares that a "truly ecological view of the world has religious overtones....Our salvation depends upon our ability to create a religion of nature...suited to the needs and knowledge of modern man." That's New Age.
That religion is being purposefully promoted in the public schools through such programs as America 2000, initiated by the Bush administration. We can expect even worse under Clinton. As governor of Arkansas he initiated a school reform which had little to do with academic excellence and much to do with remolding the students into planetary citizens alienated from parents. Former students at the "Governor's School" testify that foul language was encouraged as part of a brainwashing procedure designed to strip students of biblical morals. There was blatant promotion of gay lifestyles, free sex, rebellion, and New Age beliefs and practices, including the worship of self and the universe as God.
Exodus:20:24-26 is a foundational passage which makes it clear that the earth is neither to be honored nor worshiped, but to be used as an altar. Sin brought a curse upon the earth, a curse which could only be removed through the shedding of blood (Lev:17:11). Animals were sacrificed upon an altar of earth in anticipation of the Lamb of God who would, "by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb:9:26), once and for all obtain "eternal redemption for us" (v 12).
It is for man's own good that God visits sin with death. How horrible it would be for mankind to continue forever in its state of rebellion, thus perpetuating ever increasing evil, sickness, suffering, sorrow and death. Only out of death in payment of the full penalty for sin comes resurrection (not reincarnation's amoral recycling of evil) and a whole new universe into which sin and suffering can never enter. Such is God's desire and provision for all mankind. Those who reject the free gift of eternal life offered by His grace will experience eternal regret.
The "gospel of God," as we have seen, is very specific and must be believed for one to be saved. "[S]trait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Mat:7:14). That "narrow-minded" statement was not the invention of some dogmatic fundamentalist, but came from our Lord himself. "The faith" for which we must "earnestly contend" (Jude 3) has definite moral and doctrinal content and must be believed for salvation. All else is Babel. TBC