Digital Babylon

Babylon, through Christian history, has represented the amalgamation of ideas, confused communication, social breakdown, community division and ambivalent postures about God and life itself.

Some have referred to our current season as post-post modernism, a time when reality is only in the eye of the beholder.

Edwin Freedman says, “Those who wish to disrupt leadership will always frame the problem in terms of liberty and order, while those in position of leadership will always see the problem as one of power and chaos.”1

Does this sound familiar?

Paul foresaw our time, " ... a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths" (2 Tim. 4:3).

The Greek word muthous is best translated as “myths”, which are widely held but false beliefs or ideas. 

There was a time in history when doing proper research was the route to draw sound conclusions. The process of research would produce empirical evidence which would lead to the drawing of objective and defendable conclusions. Subjective myths seem to undergird, however, our days thinking; and philosophical postures are drawn, it seems, from a vacuum.

The Barna Group calls the times we are living “digital Babylon”2 referring to the cognitive dissonance of our times. People are acting and behaving in erratic ways motivated for by false ideas, conclusions or ideologies, based on myths.

When embraced myths are not accepted, anyone who doesn’t embrace them is seen as an adversary, as a dangerous foe that must be silenced.

John Mark Comer in his recent book, Live no Lies, says, “Every day can feel like war on our souls. A spiritual assault on our faith. A fight to just stay saved. Or at least to stay orthodox, to stay faithful to Jesus, and to stay sane, much less to stay happy and at peace”.3

One cannot help but ask, how can rational people believe in so many irrational myths?

Well, according to Paul, people need to believe those myths because they fit well with their lifestyles, philosophies, and desires; their ears itch to hear what they so desire to hear so they seek out like-minded people and communities.

Gilbert Murray suggests, “The great thing to remember is that the mind of man cannot be enlightened permanently by merely teaching him to reject some particular set of superstitions. There is an infinite supply of other superstitions always at hand; and the mind that desires such things, that is, the mind that has not trained itself to the hard discipline of reasonableness and honesty, will, as soon as its devil are cast out, proceed to fill itself with their relations.4

Paul had said it, “The time will come when people won’t want to listen to healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desire, they will accumulate teachers for themselves ... ” (2 Tim. 4:3).

This is how a psychological community effect is set in motion. A group of individuals accept an erroneous belief, support each other, attract others to their movement and once the number is significant, the movement becomes legitimate.

John Mark Comer asks a series of provocative questions, “When you are a cognitive minority under constant pressure to assimilate, you can’t help but think, Am I crazy to believe what I believe? To live how I live? When these questions come to mind, remember Orson Welles. It’s easy to laugh at The War of the Worlds fiasco now. Hindsight is 20-20.

But it’s harder to admit that countless intelligent, educated Americans were swept up in a lie. Or to realize that across the Atlantic, just as intelligent and educated Germans were rounding up Jews and feeding them into incinerators in concentration camps.

Or that politicians in the American South were forcing a young Rosa Parks to the back of the bus just because she was black. Or that the Hollywood elite were smoking dozens of cigarettes a day because big tobacco companies paid them to endorse their products.

Not to mention the many Americans who honestly thought there were aliens on Mars. It’s tempting to think what fools they were. So gullible and naïve. Caught up in the fervor of lies.

Not like us.

We’re far too sophisticated to ever be fooled, far too enlightened to ever get that confused.

We would never let people in power like, say, politicians or the media, prey on our emotions, playing to our desires and fears to manipulate us to their desired end.

And we — individuals that we are — would never do something just because everybody else is doing it.”5

Well ... what are we supposed to do with our cognitive dissonance? 

Paul offers practical and relevant advice, “You though keep your senses in all things” (2 Tim. 4:5). “But you keep a clear mind in every situation” (New Living Translation). In other words, do not discard your senses. Do not deny your senses the right to justify what you believe.

Cognitive dissonance and the ensuing confusion and chaos is here to stay.

As never before in history, it is imperative that as spiritual leaders we stand firm and avoid being deceived (James 1:16). Dependence on heavenly wisdom is essential. James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Then he shares the litmus test: “Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

Our planet is rapidly digressing into social, political, geophysical, cultural and spiritual chaos. We truly are living in the middle of a grand battle playing out between God and the father of lies.

Jesus followers will continue to demonstrate that they are His disciples by displaying Jesus’ teachings, and the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus said, “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:17,18 NKJV).

Individuals may deceive themselves all they want in regarding what they profess. However, if Jesus is not in the mix, the possibility that we may draw incorrect conclusions is great and the adoption of myths will continue to be popular.

The apostle John reminds us: “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20 ESV).

  1. Edwin H. Freedman, A Failure of Nerve (New York, NY: Church Publishing, 2017) 1
  2. “ Digital Babylon: Our accelerated, Complex Culture,” October 20, 2019, www.barna.com/research/digital-babylon.
  3. John Mark Comer, Live no Lies (Canada: WaterBrook, 2021) XXVI
  4. Gilbert Murray, “The Five Stages of Greek Religion” as quoted by Edwin Friedman in “A Failure of Nerve”. (New Yor, NY: Church Publishing, 2017)1
  5. John Mark Comer, XXVII-XXVIII

Author

César De León

North Pacific Union vice president for Hispanic ministries and ministerial director
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