In Genesis 6 God learns mankind’s unlimited potential for wickedness. In Genesis 11, God learns mankind’s unlimited potential for innovation. After the flood and in an act of defiance, the people of the earth band together to build a large waterproof tower that reaches into the heavens. God responds:
Gen 11:5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.
Gen 11:6 And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.
Gen 11:7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
Gen 11:8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.
Here God says that mankind can do anything that they desire. He was impressed by their architectural talent and angered by their defiance. To confuse the people, he instantly cuts their communication by confounding the languages.
God’s assessment of mankind reminds me of the late economist Julian Simon. Simon, ever the optimist, stated about mankind’s limit to the resource of “copper”:
Even the total weight of the earth is not a theoretical limit to the amount of copper that might be available to earthlings in the future. Only the total weight of the universe.. would be such a theoretical limit.
To an Augustinian Theologian, that would mean man is omnipotent. Mankind really can do anything. This is God speaking. God says: “nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” He then takes measures to impede our progress. Because with great innovation, often comes pride, hubris, and rejection of God.
On a side note: when an Augustinian Christian sees statements like “nothing” or “anything” applied to God, they will not even listen to anyone say that the statement is a generalization and does not mean literally “nothing” or literally “anything”. Those Christians have a second standard for when statements of the same type are made about people.