Speak the Same Thing: The Tower of Babel in 21st Century American Churches

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

I Corinthians 1:10

Man has often attempted to reach God, to be God and to do so on his own terms. Among the more notorious attempts was the one in which man thought to build a tower so great that it would reach to heaven. Moses records the observation of our Creator,

“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…”

Genesis 11:6-8a

Man was united perhaps in a way that has never been before. And why? Because they were of one mind? Yes, but they were only of one mind because they were of one language and one speech (v. 1).

But it was not their one language or one speech for which God scattered them in judgement. Nor was it their unity. No, He scattered them because they had their hearts set on something contrary to the revealed will of God which was to subdue the whole earth and not merely their neighborhood or immediate locale.

Turning to the NT, Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10 declares a redemption of the Tower of Babel. The Church in Paul’s time according to Acts 2 was composed of many languages as was the whole world – a sign of God’s judgment upon mankind for their disobedience. Again, the multiplicity of languages is not part of God’s original order and the rise of multiple languages is a direct result of divine punishment.

So Paul declares not a redeeming of the time because the days are evil but a redemption of language itself and he does so in that place which is to be a piece of heaven on earth, the Church. Saints are to be a glimpse into the Kingdom to come. They are citizens of a Heavenly Kingdom which must shortly come to pass. Among these redeemed Paul calls for a redemption of that which was lost at the Tower of Babel, unity of language.

To do this he first invokes the name of the source of all language, Jesus Christ – the Word. And from the Word he implores his Christian readers to “speak the same thing.” He is reversing Babel. Babel went from speaking the same thing to speaking divergent things. Now in the New Testament Church the call is to go from speaking our own thing or divergent things and to speak the same thing in the name of He who is the Word.

And why? Because when you speak the same thing then ecclesiastical division is mitigated. Paul says “…that ye speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you.” The two go hand-in-hand. When the Church is saying the same thing then the potential for division decreases. Here he speaks negatively but Paul being a Hebrew of the Hebrews can’t seem to resist the temptation of a Hebrew couplet and so he repeats himself but in the positive and writes, “that ye be perfectly joined together.”

And what is the character of this joining? Well, of course, it is in Christ and specifically as Paul herein states, in mind and judgment. Elsewhere Paul rights, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 12:1) and “…we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). Regarding judgment, Paul tells the Christian to think on those things which are “true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report.” (Phil 4:8).

Where do we find the mind of Christ? How are we to judge what is good, true, lovely etc.? From the word of God, of course.

In Paul’s time though all the Church had was the OT and perhaps a few of Paul’s letters. So what was the version debate in Paul’s day? No, it was not versions of the Bible. Rather it was, “I am of Paul; and I am of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12). This is the Tower of Babel relived in the first century Church and it was a version issue.

The 21 century Babel version is: I am of the ESV; I am of the NIV; I am of the LSB; I am of the KJV. How does Paul respond to the Tower of Babel in his time [i.e, I am of Paul and I of Apollos etc.]? Did he say, Paul is sufficiently reliable and so is Apollos and while we are at it so is Peter and even Jesus Himself. No, Paul does not pull the sufficient reliability card. Instead, he asks a rhetorical question,

Is Christ divided?

And so I put it to our multiple version only brothers and critical text brothers, Is Christ divided? Would you have us return to Babel? Must you insist that the judgment poured upon those at the Tower is a good thing for the Church to continue to emulate with her multiple versions?

Or ought we to speak the same thing having the same mind and the same judgment? Ought we not to cast off Babel and redeem that which was lost in that place? How might we accomplish this? In a word, a standard sacred text.

One Greek text and one Hebrew text from which all the Bible translations of the world are translated. And so long as the aftermath of Babel remains with us then we must have one translation for one language.

In this way we as an English-speaking Church will speak the same thing is responsive reading, public reading, family devotions, personal devotions, college studies and on and on. And with this will come greater unity and less division which will lead to sameness of mind and judgment.

With so much to gain, how about you join us on the side of a standard sacred text, truly a belief to change the world.

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