OPEN BOOK, Views & Reviews, No. 39
Copyright (c) 1998 Biblical Horizons
Part 4: The Nephilim Factor
Western Civilization partakes of what I call "the Nephilim Factor." The Enoch Factor means that the pagans get there first. This is both a blessing and a danger. As a blessing, it means that they work out techniques of dominion over the lower creation that we can learn, and that they lay up an inheritance for us and our descendants. As a danger, it means that the high culture of Enoch becomes a temptation, so that we adopt not only dominical techniques but also social and even religious thinking from the wicked.
Left to themselves, the wicked always self-destruct rather rapidly. Each man wants to be god, and so there ensues a war of every man against every man. Lamech, the seventh generation from Adam in the line of Cain, was already killing the young people of his own day (Genesis 4:23-24). The supposedly wonderful civilization of Greece never amounted to anything for more than a generation, because the cities fought among themselves. We are told by the idiots that Athens was the cradle of democracy, but the supposedly democratic period of Athens only lasted a few years. (By democracy I don’t mean mob rule, but a society in which the people have a real say.) The real root of liberty and democracy is Israel under the Bible. Israel had a kind of democracy at least a thousand years before Athens did. It operated in the days of the Judges. It operated in the Kingdom when the northern tribes decided not to follow Rehoboam. It operated in the Restoration in the synagogues.
Unlike Athens, slavery was suppressed in Israel, the average landowner had a say in affairs, and women were honored and listened to (e.g., Deborah, Abigail, the wise woman of Tekoa, Huldah, Anna). In point of fact, many "primitive" tribal societies in the world are quite democratic, a point made by Chinua Achebe in his two fine novels Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God. The strain of democratic and republican thinking that we find in the European early middle ages, which came to flower in Protestantism, has complex roots, but is mostly to be traced to the tribal governance of the Europeans as modified by the Bible; it had little if anything to do with ancient Athens.
But we were considering the short-lived nature of non-Christian civilizations. The Bible shows us a series of nations and empires around the near east, none of which lasted more than a century or two. China lasted as China for a long time, but through how many dynasties? Egypt went through upheavals and dark ages. Rome underwent two major revolutions, at the founding of the republic and then at its foundering, before becoming a world empire, and then would have fallen completely apart except for Christianity.
High culture naturally self-destructs apart from true faith. Lacking a true sabbath context, the increase of leisure time in high cultures eventuates in high amounts of psychic stress, decadence, and homosexuality. We see this in America today. Unless a high city culture is founded in the Biblical principles of true worship and free labor, it will collapse under its own decadence.
Paganism naturally self-destructs. That self-destruction was happening in the seventh generation from Adam, in the days of Lamech and of the prophet Enoch. Then something happened that galvanized and strengthened the pagan civilization: The believers began to intermarry with them. The Spirit-given strength and cultural discipline of the righteous were transferred to the culture of the wicked.
Genesis 6:2 says that the "sons of God saw that the daughters of men were good, and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose." A variety of curious ideas have been set forth regarding this event. It has been argued that the sons of God were angels, or demon-possessed men, or tyrants, since "son of God" can be used for angels and rulers as well as for believers. In context, however, there is no support for these ideas, even if they are to be found in some Jewish fables. Genesis 5:1–6:8 is one unified narrative. We begin with the Godly line of Seth, which is traced to Godly Lamech the father of Godly Noah. At the end we are told that only Noah remained of the righteous in the entire world. The question that is obviously raised is this: What became of the rest of the righteous? The answer is clearly given: They joined with the wicked.
This began to happen in the days of Enoch. We know this because Jude 14-15 quotes a prophecy of Enoch, a prophecy that is directed against the same kind of people Jude was speaking about. Jude was not writing about (Cainite) unbelievers, but about (Sethite) Christians who were apostatizing from the faith. Jude makes it plain that Enoch was speaking to and about the same kind of people in his day.
Enoch was born in Anno Mundi 622 and was translated in am 987. Suppose that the great apostasy began around the year 700 after the creation. At that point, in the seventh generation, the wicked were about to self-destruct. Instead of letting the cities of Enoch destroy themselves, however, the righteous decided to help them stay afloat. As a result, this evil civilization lasted another 956 years!
The sons of God (the Godly culture) saw that the daughters of men were "good," just as Adam and Eve saw that the forbidden fruit was "good." Pretty they may have been, but they were off-limits. The Spirit strove to prevent these marriages, for He is the Divine Matchmaker, but men resisted Him (Genesis 6:3). The result of these mixed marriages were the Nephilim, mighty men-of-old (Godlike men), men of renown (glory) (Genesis 6:4). The social mixture of believing and unbelieving thinking produces monsters. (It is not known what "Nephilim" means, but it may mean "Wonders," according to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.)
Now, we must not doubt that such intermarriages took place exactly as the text literally states, but in terms of Biblical imagery and teaching, we should be open to a wider meaning as well. Although Cain named his city for his son, cities in the Bible are feminine (Daughter Jerusalem), and the wider meaning of the fall of the Sethites is that they became enamored of the "high" culture of the cities of Enoch. They decided that the Cainitic culture was worth saving, and lent their strength to that goal, just as far too many later Christians have decided to try and preserve Greek and Roman culture.
This is not mere speculation on my part. We see repeatedly in the Bible that the people of God are tempted by the luxuries and high culture of surrounding pagan civilizations. Throughout the book of Judges we see such envy operating. Many Israelites preferred to hang around Saul’s court than go out into the wilderness with David. It is a very tricky business to be a Christian in a pagan civilization with a high degree of artistic culture.
It is one thing to live in such a civilization, and even to serve it as Obadiah did (1 Kings 18:1-16) and as Joseph and Daniel and Nehemiah did (though their pagan kings converted); but it is another thing to try and preserve such a civilization from a just destruction. Christians need to ask themselves seriously whether they should be lending strength to conservatives who want to preserve the semi-pagan culture that is Western Civilization. My own belief should be clear by now: We should not do so.
Why has this mixed civilization lasted so long and been so impressive? Because of the admixture of Christendom in it. The intermarriage of Christianity and Greco-Roman paganism has indeed produced "mighty God-like men, men of glory," but many of these have been great monsters. The vicious pharisee Andrew Jackson still adorns the American 20 dollar bill.
To be sure, there have been a few Godly "mighty men" in our history, but very few. With the connivance of the Eastern and Roman Catholic churches, and too often with the connivance of Protestants as well, scores of wicked monarchs and brutal warriors have oppressed the poor for centuries.
What amazes me is how much strength Christianity provided for this civilization when the Christianity that existed was so attenuated. One need read almost any pre-Reformational Biblical commentary to see how little the Bible was understood. People seldom went to church for centuries at a time, and when they did, they weren’t fed the sacrament. When they did get the sacrament, they only got the body and not the blood of Christ (as is the case in evangelicalism today, where wine is pointedly not served). Pagan practices like image veneration abounded. Perverted views of food and sexuality were commonplace. The teachings of a faithful Bible-fanatic like Martin Luther (hurrah!), who recovered the gusto of Biblical religion (food, wine, music, marriage, family life), were soon compromised by mysticism on the one side and intellectualism on the other. Yet, in spite of all this, Christianity has had a profound influence in "Western Civilization."
The valid parts of that Christian history, especially the very early Church, the early middle ages in Europe, and the best of Protestantism, need to be preserved. But the Nephilim culture of Western Civilization does not. It is collapsing today, and we should say "Good riddance!"