Faltering on the Flood
Evading the Bible’s clear meaning is disastrous
Published: May 18, 2017
Originally published in a CMI newsletter, July 2016
Does it matter whether Christians believe that Noah’s Flood encompassed the entire globe? Sadly, a recent video featuring well-known apologist and radio talk-show host, Greg Koukl, answered ‘no’. When asked, “What is your view on Noah’s Flood?”, Koukl responded, “… it could be a localized Flood. I don’t understand even what theologically rests on one or the other.”1
But, far from being theologically inconsequential, our understanding of the Flood (Genesis 6–9) reveals whether we are approaching Scripture with the proper hermeneutic. The secular world pressures Christians to deny the catastrophic judgment of a global Flood. Instead, they interpret the evidence of rock layers and fossils as having formed over millions of years. Yet, because the Bible clearly teaches that the Flood was global (as shown below), it serves as a touchstone to see whether we will remain faithful, “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Avoiding the obvious
According to Koukl, “There is nothing in the language of those passages that requires something like a global or universal Flood,” and he has offered arguments in defense of a local Flood on his radio program.2 For example, Koukl noted that in Genesis 8:9 Noah’s dove returned because “the waters were still on the face of the whole earth” (emphasis added), but earlier in verse 5 the text says that the waters had already receded enough so that “the tops of the mountains were seen”. So, Koukl reasoned, if “the whole earth” was still under water after some dry land had already been exposed, then “the whole earth” cannot refer to the globe.
However, this argument is flawed. If the planet was surrounded by water with some peaks poking up here and there, one would still be accurate in saying that the globe as a whole was covered. It wouldn’t mean every square inch of land, but rather that the land, broadly speaking, was submerged.3 The words are perfectly consistent with a global Flood, which the wider context demands.
Clarity of the text
- The narrative piles up terms like “all” and “every” to emphasize the universal nature of the Flood.
- The Flood killed all but eight people (2 Peter 2:5). How could a local Flood accomplish this? Local-Flood advocates generally accept the old-earth dating system, which has human bones already distributed around the world long before the biblical date for the Flood.4
- A local Flood would not accomplish God’s purpose of destroying all the land animals in addition to all the people on the earth (Gen. 6:17).
- Because water seeks its own level, the Flood must be global for “all the high mountains” to be covered by 15 cubits (Gen. 7:19–20). A local Flood could not cover high mountains.
- The purpose of the ocean-liner-sized Ark (Gen. 6:15) was to preserve life (Gen. 6:19) but, if the Flood was geographically restricted, God could have told Noah to move to another location instead.
- God promised never to send another such Flood to cleanse the earth (Gen. 9:8–17), yet, there have been many local floods since.
- Peter contrasted the pre-Flood “world that then existed”, which “was deluged with water and perished,” with “the heavens and earth that now exist”, which “are stored up for fire” (2 Peter 3:6–7). Since the latter is universal, the former must be as well.
Is the scope of the Flood a central issue?
Since the Bible’s teaching is so clear, the importance of this subject comes down to whether the Bible really means what it says. Unfortunately, Koukl’s video hardly engages with the biblical text—something an apologist is actually supposed to do. But this is a common problem with those who compromise on Genesis—they are failing to treat the text as the final authority on such matters.
The local flood view only became widespread in the church once the concept of millions of years was popularized around 200 years ago—an indication that these ideas are being imposed on Scripture even though they don’t fit.5 This violates Sola scriptura—the Reformation principle that CMI has advanced for many years in published literature like Refuting Compromise (RC). One member of our staff personally gave Mr. Koukl a copy of RC years ago, but he seems to have ignored the strong Scriptural arguments it highlighted.
A consistent message
When Christians dance around the clear meaning of the text, non-Christians are unimpressed. As Thomas Huxley once wrote concerning the local Flood idea, “a child may see the folly of it.”6 We take no joy in pointing out such ‘folly’. But we do rejoice when fellow Christians take God at his Word, and defend a global Flood along with the rest of Genesis because that message has power. CMI has even published testimonies about wavering believers whose faith was rescued upon seeing that both Scripture and scientific evidence support a global Flood.7
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References and notes
- Greg Koukl, What is Your View on Noah’s Flood?, STRvideos, 7 March 2016, youtube.com/watch?v=6yQj6vPzzaw. Return to text.
- Miscellaneous Thoughts on the Flood and Creation, Stand to Reason podcast, 14 August 2011, str.org/podcasts/weekly-audio/miscellaneous-thoughts-on-the-flood-and-creation#.VvPkCxIrJTZ. Return to text.
- Also, Kulikovsky argues that verse 9 refers to habitable land where a dove could build a nest and find food, for example, and so would not include mountaintops or ocean basins. Kulikovsky, A.S., Creation, Fall, Restoration, p. 229, Mentor Press, Scotland, 2009. Return to text.
- Why would a loving God allow death and suffering? creation.com/why-death-suffering#_Human_death. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Refuting Compromise: Updated and Expanded, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, p. 241–245, 2011. Return to text.
- ‘A child may see the folly of it’ creation.com/a-child-may-see-the-folly-of-it. Return to text.
- How I became a Christian creation.com/becoming-christian-geo. Return to text.
Ron H., Australia, 17 May 2017
“the tops of the mountains were seen”. Have you ever seen land disappear and then reappear with the high and low tides. The TOPS could be seen at low tide and then disappear as the tide rose again. Scripture is no problem to me
King T., South Africa, 18 May 2017
Mmmmmhhhhh, Dear Ron H,
I find your statement somewhat ambiguous. Are you saying that your analogy perfectly illustrates that local flooding is what is meant in scripture and that it supports your point of view that millions of years apply? As stated your statements could be interpreted either way.
Keaton Halley responds
Seems to me he was suggesting an alternative way the Flood could be global and cover "the whole earth" even after the mountaintops were seen.
Richard L., United Arab Emirates, 19 May 2017
Capture (Col. 2:8) dynamics:
-The rock-history side of geology is weak, with delicate signals easily over-written by researcher bias.
-The 1700s (Mortensen data) geological thinkers were deist or atheist. None wanted to see Noah’s Flood in the rocks! STRONG researcher bias!
-They interpreted (1780s-1790s) newly discovered, deeper (fossil-bearing) rock layers in a long-timeframe way, NOT mentioning the scientifically STILL-viable Noah’s Flood as an alternative scenario for those deeper layers, WRONGLY PRESENTING THEIR OWN WORLDVIEW BIAS AS SCIENTIFIC TRUTH.
-Then-current church leadership failed (cf. 1 Thess. 5:21) to spot this misrepresentation. Much of evangelical sub-society chose to keep faithful in spite of that vast-timescale interpretation—but wrongly thinking (Col. 2:8) that they had an intellectual-integrity obligation to that timescale.
-A generation later, theologians—almost certainly from that false obligation—wrongly rejected scriptural geologists (as detailed by Mortensen).
-Predictable consequences: (1) label Biblical-data, science-corrective-level timeframe / geological discussion as “unnecessary controversy”, (2) avoid within-Bible discussion of timeframe (pre-Abraham), (3) degrade perceived clarity of Genesis 5 & 11, (4) desensitize to resultant theological crises.
-Since a worldwide-scope flood does an inescapably HUGE amount of geological working QUICKLY, leading to standard-thinking error about stratigraphic timeframe—but with timeframe discussion ‘disallowed’ for those theologians—a further consequence: decouple scope of Flood from “theological importance”.
This dynamic is operating in dear Brother Greg. He wants to do right—evidenced by his overall apologetics ministry—but 200 years of wrong theological tradition is tripping him up.
Grahame G., Australia, 21 May 2017
It's sad when Christian abuse language and engage in eisegesis as much as skeptics. Very, very frustrating.
I pray that God will awaken great apologists like Koukl soon. And SO many others who are so destructive on origins but so good on affirming the historicity of Jesus. I wish they would employ their skills on investigating the truth of Jesus to investigating the truth of Jesus the Creator. Strobel, Wallace, Craig, etc.