I’ve been doing some reading about Daniel (from the Bible) in a book by the great Oxford University mathematician, philosopher of science, and Christian apologist, John Lennox entitled, “Against the Flow, The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism.” While studying the history, it is pointed out that in order to draw parallels with the Babylonian society of Daniel with today’s Western society, we must first understand the worldview of the ancient Babylonians.
Ancient Babylon was an ultra-modern, polytheistic, yet secular society. The people found meaning and salvation through science and technology, much like many people do today. After all, the Bible says there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc 1:9). At this time of great prosperity and ultra-modern secularism, Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. He ordered many of the young men of Jerusalem back to Babylon to be stripped of their old way of life and be socially engineered into being a Babylonian and serving the king in various capacities. Daniel and three of his friends were just a few of the young men who were ripped from their families and taken to a foreign land to learn a new language, new literature, and all new customs.
Daniel found out real quick that these people did not believe in Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Daniel believed that Yahweh was the one true God, creator of heaven and earth. But after studying in Babylon (think about being away at college) he obviously had to study their gods. While they had many gods, the very beginning of the long line of gods began with a goddess named Nammu. She was the goddess who gave birth to all other goddesses.
I have three points I have learned about the time period, Nammu, and the view the ancient Babylonians had about her. I’ll share them and parallel it all with today’s world.
- Nammu was dubbed the “Primordial Sea Goddess.” This name for her gives us some great clues related to how the ancient people viewed their gods. In all of ancient Sumerian and Greek mythology, the gods all seem to be dependent on a pre-existing form of matter. These gods seem to originate inside an already existing cosmos (in this case, the sea). This is hugely important in drawing the distinction between these phony gods and the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible clearly exists outside of the cosmos. He created the cosmos and therefore He transcends it altogether, just as the Bible teaches. This leads me into my next point.
- The most vocal and militant evangelist of the New Atheism movement, Richard Dawkins, has been quoted many times saying this line: “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” The problem with this is that Judeo-Christian monotheism is not some streamlined version of pagan polytheism. Christians believe in a God that cannot be compared to the gods Dawkins speaks about. They are two totally different categories and I’ll show why this is the case.
John Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the UK puts it nicely when he says, “We make a great mistake if we think of monotheism as a linear development from polytheism, as if people first worshiped many gods and then reduced them to one. Monotheism is something else entirely. The meaning of a system lies outside the system. Therefore the meaning of the universe lies outside the universe. Monotheism, by discovering the transcendental God, the God who stands outside the universe and creates it, made it possible for the first time to believe that life has a meaning, not just a mythic or scientific explanation.”
So this argument that atheists simply believe in one god less than a Christian sounds very clever but fails miserably to make its point. While all the other gods that humanity has ever believed in which Dawkins speaks about are products of heaven and earth, our Christian God actually created heaven and earth and exists wholly apart from them.
- The third point I want to make draws a connection between the mythical goddess Nammu and the idea of macro-evolution. Remember from above that Nammu was called the “Primordial Sea Goddess.” Anyone with a basic familiarity with macro-evolution probably has ears that perk up when they hear the word “primordial.” Today’s evolutionists will use this word to form the term “primordial soup.” According to Webster, primordial soup is a mixture of organic molecules in evolutionary theory from which life on earth originated. Today’s evolutionary theorists, despite all the advances in science, et al, are still thinking the same way the ancients of Babylon thought thousands of years ago! Like today’s evolutionary theorists, the Babylonians thought life itself emerged from a primordial sea as evidenced by the primordial sea god, Nammu. Their old philosophy was much like that of today’s evolutionists in that they deified the basic forces of nature without ever knowing how to explain how the basic forces of nature could possibly originate on their own. While they derived all life from somehow pre-existing matter, the Christian God created the matter, it did not create Him!
Lennox notes in his book that “this idea that mass-energy is primitive, and all else derives from it, is the essence of the materialistic reductionism that tries to dominate Western society. On this view, mass-energy is subject to the laws of nature…and must have latent capacity to produce all we see around us…”
Isn’t it amazing that there truly is nothing new under the sun?
“History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” –Ecclesiastes 1:9.