And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:1-10
I received an email today about how David Kinnaman and the Barna team have adopted a phrase to describe our accelerated, complex culture that’s marked by unlimited access, profound alienation and a crisis of authority: digital Babylon. The trilogy of access, alienation, and authority struck me as accurate and insightful; and a dangerous combination.
We have such extreme access to all kinds of information, experiences, opportunities, knowledge, and influence. Not only can we access information and learn of opportunities through the Internet, we can have great influence through social media of all kinds. We can have many vicarious experiences through these same media. It’s enough to seduce people to self-worship. We think we’re kings and queens of our own universe.
But we’re not. We are in digital Babylon. Kinnaman and his co-author Mark Matlock express it this way:
[We] are convinced that the biblical concept of exile is the right way to think about Christians’ relationship to the current culture, which we call “digital Babylon.” Furthermore, when we talk with young adults they resonate deeply with the concept of exile—they feel like exiles, being torn between the expectations of the Church and challenges of the world.
We sense that there is something wrong in the world around us. We may even be angry or afraid of all the evil and meanness in the world around us. We realize there are people who are living such evil and rebellious lives. We fear for our children and our grandchildren. We hate the influence of the world. It erodes the faith we hold dear. It eats at our culture, churches, and families.
We are in Babylon. Much of it is digital to be sure. But a trip to the high school cafeteria or into the darker corners of our cities reveals a very real Babylon. It’s not just digital. But it is Babylon: a place of exile, godlessness, faithlessness, and hopelessness.
Babylon is not our home. It is a place of idolatry. It is a place unkind toward faithfulness. It is a place of persecution and even of God’s judgment. It was a place to which God sent Israel because of their rebellion and faithlessness.
But Babylon is not a place removed from God’s redemptive reach. Even when we “were dead in trespasses” God saved us. This is what God does. He reaches into Babylon and rescues his people. He brings them back.
God saves us who are exiled. By his grace. In his kindness, mercy, unmerited love, and goodness he has saved us. He has called us back from Babylon. He has provided a way for us to live. He is working on us, fashioning us into people who are more and more like Jesus. We do good works that he has prepared in advance.
How will we follow Jesus in our personal Babylon – digital or cultural? How can we help others follow Jesus in their own digital Babylon? Questions worth asking and answering.