I recently had a heated e-mail exchange with a professed Adventist (a minister!) who had been publicly mocking Noah’s flood. His argument was, essentially, “no flood model” could be scientifically construed, therefore no flood occurred.
He’s not alone. Who knows how many, perhaps millions, of Christians reject the universality of Noah’s flood for one reason: science (the self-proclaimed final arbiter of truth) says no evidence for it exists. End of discussion.
This isn’t the first time the world’s wise have denied the flood, however. In Patriarch and Prophets, Ellen White talked about how, prior to the deluge, “the men of renown—the wise, the prudent”[i] argued that the laws of nature were fixed, consistent, steady, and therefore nothing so extraordinary could happen. “The world before the Flood reasoned that for centuries the laws of nature had been fixed. The recurring seasons had come in their order. Heretofore rain had never fallen; the earth had been watered by a mist or dew. The rivers had never yet passed their boundaries, but had borne their waters safely to the sea. Fixed decrees had kept the waters from overflowing their banks.”[ii]
No “flood model” existed before the flood; therefore, no flood would occur. No “flood model” exists after the flood; therefore, no flood did occur.
How much simpler could it be?
For the pre-flood intelligentsia, the mistake was assuming that what is now, the current physical condition of the world, would be the same in the future; for the post-flood intelligentsia, the mistake is assuming that what is now, the current physical condition of the world, was the same as in the past. In both cases, the assumption of continuity was—and remains—wrong.
No flood model exists because no model could exist. How could science, premised on two assumptions—continuity (the present is the same as the past) and the rejection of the supernatural—model a supernatural event based on a past different from the present?
To accept, at face value, the Scriptural depiction of the flood is to believe in a supernatural event of catastrophic proportions unique in history. Numerous local deluges have wreaked devastating havoc in relatively confined areas, but to Noah’s flood these were but puddles compared to the ocean. Only a power and phenomenon now unknown to us could have done to the earth what Scripture says God did through this flood.
“The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive” (Genesis 7:18-23).
Nothing in human history, or experience, has come to anything remotely close to this event.Our best guesses, even scientifically-based guesses, are just that—guesses.Theologians have seen in the flood, which was God’s judgment upon the earth, a destruction of the old creation, in a sense of the world being cast back to the primeval state of tohu vbohu (“without form and void”) of Genesis 1:2 before another, greatly changed existence, emerged.
How could scientists, then, working from two premises, i.e., ontological naturalism (which rejects the existence of the supernatural), and of the past resembling the future, get it right about a supernatural event in a past radically different than the present?
What’s not surprising, then, is that many scientists deny a universal flood.Given their assumptions, they have to. What’s surprising is that many Christians, based on this science, do the same, despite the stark testimony of Scripture.
On the other hand, it’s not so surprising.Ellen White also wrote about some of the deniers prior to the deluge: “The men of that generation were not all, in the fullest acceptation of the term, idolaters. Many professed to be worshipers of God. They claimed that their idols were representations of the Deity, and that through them the people could obtain a clearer conception of the divine Being. This class were foremost in rejecting the preaching of Noah.”[iii]
These professed believers became foremost in opposing Noah’s story, just as today many professed Christians (even Adventists) are the most vocal opponents of the same story. Professed followers of God, before the flood, denied that it would come; professed followers of God, after the flood, deny that it came.
[i] Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, (Mountain View, CA:Pacific Press Publishing Association), 97.
[ii] Ibid., 96
[iii] Ibid., 95-96