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1 THE GENESIS FLOOD By Duane Warden. 2 THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE FLOOD NARRATIVE TO THE MESSAGE OF GENESIS  Genesis 1-11: The prologue. Mesopotamia is.

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Presentation on theme: "1 THE GENESIS FLOOD By Duane Warden. 2 THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE FLOOD NARRATIVE TO THE MESSAGE OF GENESIS  Genesis 1-11: The prologue. Mesopotamia is."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 THE GENESIS FLOOD By Duane Warden

2 2 THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE FLOOD NARRATIVE TO THE MESSAGE OF GENESIS  Genesis 1-11: The prologue. Mesopotamia is the setting.  Genesis 12-38: The main body. Palestine is the setting.  Genesis 39-50: The epilogue. Egypt is the setting.  Conclusion: The author’s world appears to be Mesopotamia, Palestine and Egypt.

3 3 “These are the generations”: A clue to the author’s purpose 1)2:4, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth.” 2)5:1, “These are the generations of Adam.” 3)6:9, “These are the generations of Noah.” 4)10:1, “These are the generations of the sons of Noah.” 5)11:10, “These are the generations of Shem.” 6)11:27, “These are the generations of Terah.” 7)25:12, “These are the generations of Ishmael.” 8)25:19, “These are the generations of Isaac.” 9)36:1, “These are the generations of Esau.” 10)37:2, “These are the generations of Jacob” Conclusion: It appears that the author wanted to establish continuity from Creation to the descendants of Jacob.

4 4 Indications of the Author’s Method and Purpose in Genesis 1-11 Half of the occurrences of “these are the generations” are before or in the context of the flood. There are ten generations from Adam to Noah. There are ten generations from Noah to Abraham. The author hurries past the primeval history of humankind in order to bring us to the father of Israel. Conclusion: Genesis 1-11 is not disinterested history, but the factual recording of events is hardly driving him to write. The narrative is stylized and serves the purposes of the author.

5 5 What Statement Does The Author Want to Make in the First 11 Chapters of Genesis? When God created there was harmony between God and people, God and creation (Gen. 1-2). The harmony was broken because humankind was unwilling to be innocent; driven by pride, people rose against God. They did things their own way. The narratives in Genesis 3 (first sin), Genesis 6-9 (flood), and Genesis 11 (Babel) illustrate the dis- harmony that results when people want to be like God. The call of Abraham introduced the path to a restoration of harmony (Gen ).

6 6 The Flood Narrative Supports the Theme That Unites the First Eleven Chapters of Genesis  God governs the world of humankind consistent with moral principals that are inherent in his Being.  God is angry when people rebel against the moral order by which he governs the world.  Men and women are moral beings. God holds them morally accountable.  These are the concerns of Genesis. Whether the flood was universal or local has little relevance for what the author wants to communicate.

7 7 Genesis 6:5: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” God took note of the extensiveness of sin. God took note of the intensity of the sin.

8 8 Genesis 6:9: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.” Genesis 6:18: “I will establish my covenant with you.”

9 9 Questions We Bring to the Flood Narrative Was it a universal flood? Was the entire earth covered over by water? However we answer these questions, the messages of God’s sovereignty and his judgment remain the same. The question isn’t whether God is able to bring a universal flood. The question is whether the data, biblical and non-biblical, demand this conclusion. Most will grant that the biblical data allows for a literal reading. The question is, Does it demand a literal reading?

10 10 Where Does the Data Lead Us? Was The Entire Earth Covered by Water? A literal reading of the Genesis account suggests a universal flood (Gen. 6:7, 17; 7:19). Before the development of modern science, there was no question. Readers of the Bible accepted the flood as universal. The great majority of modern geologists, seemingly with no ax to grind, deny that the geological data point to a universal flood. Therein lies the problem. Despite claims that geological evidence points to a universal flood, the viewpoint is not widely accepted.

11 11 For All that Can be Said in Its Favor, There Are Serious Reasons to Doubt That the Earth Was Even Inundated by a Universal Flood  For the most part only non-geologists believe that a universal flood occurring some 5-6 thousand years ago best accounts for the geological data.  Elaborate theories of vapor canopies and such for the antediluvian world have the appearance of being born of desperation.  We don’t want to argue that God could not have brought a universal flood. It is a matter of the evidence. Has a universal flood left its print on the planet? The answer appears to be no.

12 12 Geological Considerations Aside, Is There Archaeological Support for a Universal Flood? In the early 20 th century archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania found thick layers of sediment at sites in southeastern Mesopotamia. Data from this excavation are still widely cited. On closer examination, the sediment at different sites dated from different periods. Outside Mesopotamia, very old sites in the Near East such as Jericho had no layers of water laid sediment. What is true of the Near East is true world wide: Archaeological data for a flood of world wide scope is virtually non-existent.

13 13 There Are Many Flood Stories in the Traditions of Ancient People.  Some argue that the stories are residues of the remembrance of a worldwide flood, but there are problems.  Flood traditions are almost entirely lacking in the old traditions of Africa and Europe. They are absent from most parts of Asia.  Flood traditions are common among the indigenous peoples of America and the Pacific Islands.  Many of the flood traditions that exist bear little resemblance to the narrative in Genesis 6-9.

14 14 The Most Interesting of Ancient Flood Stories Comprises a Part of What Is Called the Gilgamesh Epic. The Story Itself Dates from the Early Second Millennium B. C. Though the Oldest Surviving Copies Come from the 8 th Century B. C.

15 15 A portion of Gilgamesh Epic. The clay tablet is from the 8 th century Assyria period, but the epic itself is much older. In his quest, Gilgamesh found a story about a flood.

16 16 The Gilgamesh Epic Offers Likenesses and Differences to the Genesis Flood The hero was warned by the gods that a flood was coming. He constructed a vessel that was cube, 120 cubits in each direction. It had 7 stories and 63 compartments. He deceived his neighbors about the purpose of the boat so they wouldn’t suspect a flood. He loaded his family, skilled craftsmen, and “the seed of all life” into his boat. At the end, he sent out birds to find dry land. The raven didn’t return. He offers a sacrifice around which the gods gather “like flies.”

17 17 Question: Does the frequency of flood traditions testify to a historical flood of universal dimensions? Answer: In the end the traditions seem to have more to do with floods and their near universal experience than they have to do with testimony to a world wide flood event.

18 18 There Are Enough Geological Obstacles to a Universal Flood to Drive Us Back to the Text  Does the narrative in Genesis 6-9 demand that we read it as a universal, world-wide flood?  Does faith in God and faith in the Bible as his revelation require the conclusion that a universal flood inundated the earth some 5-6,000 years ago?  How we answer these questions will depend to some degree on the way authors of the Bible addressed their contemporary world.

19 19 A Set Of Assumptions Lie Behind Our Understanding of The Flood Narrative  People speak and write within the context of the world they know.  The world described in the Genesis narrative was the one the author and his readers knew and experienced, just as ours is for us.  Stated negatively, ancient people knew nothing of a spherical earth and distant lands.  The world that mattered to the author of Genesis and his readers was inundated. For the ancients, the flood was universal. The language is universal language.  Genesis may describe the flood in the only way that would have been meaningful to them.

20 20 Was There a Flood? Is the Genesis Narrative a Mythological Description?  The flood is presented as a real event that took place in real time in Mesopotamia. There is no reason for us to take it otherwise.  The Genesis Flood is free of capricious acts of gods. It is about God’s expectation from his creatures; it is about justice.  A just man, Noah and his family, took the animals of their world and through obedience, saved themselves from God’s indignation, God’s wrath against sin.

21 21 A parallel to the universal language used of the flood can be found in the New Testament when Paul says of the gospel: “…just as in all the world it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing…” (Col. 1:6) Surely Paul means that the gospel was bearing fruit in the world known to him and his readers.

22 22 Do We Have Problems with a Universal Flood Because It Would Be Miraculous? Moses led Israel across the Red Sea on dry ground. Jesus was born of a virgin. We believe these events literally occurred. We have no problem with the miraculous. Are we to reject the miraculous because it is non- repeatable and hence non-verifiable? The message of the Bible is often tied up in the truthfulness of the historical witness. To believe in God at all is to believe that he intervenes in the world at his will. The way one interprets the Bible becomes an issue when the observed world offers hard evidence that contradicts the way the Bible has been interpreted. The observed world calls into question a universal flood.

23 23 Some of the more spectacular claims about the flood are about Noah’s Ark A television production called “The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark” aired on CBS in It has replayed on the History Channel, Discovery, etc. The primary source for the documentary turned out to be a fabrication. Events such as this often turn out to be more of an embarrassment than a help to those whose faith is in God.

24 24 Modern Attempts to Locate Mt. Ararat Lack Credibility 1)Over the centuries many mountains have been identified as Mt. Ararat. The current one be- came the mountain of choice in the 5 th century. 2)The Bible does not say that the Ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat. 3)Ararat is a region. The Ark rested on the Mountains of Ararat, a region mentioned in Isaiah 37:38 and Jeremiah 51:27. 4)The mountain called Ararat in modern times has popular ski resorts. The local people enjoy all the publicity brought their way.

25 25 From the mid-5 th Century a Mountain in Eastern Turkey has been identified with Mt. Ararat

26 26 Mt. Ararat, Eastern Turkey

27 27 Enthusiasts Who Search for the Ark of Noah Have Long Had the Goal “Just Within Reach” Wood that was supposed to have been from the Ark has been carbon dated. Carbon dating has shown the wood to come from the mid-5 th century, just the time when Christians began to identify this mountain with Ararat. Stories and witnesses, on close examination amount to little. Pictures taken from space are not convincing after careful examination. See Lloyd Bailey, Where Is Noah’s Ark? (Abingdon, 1978) for more information.

28 28 New images of Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat surface regularly. This one was captured by a commercial satellite in 2003.

29 29 The Flood Has Become a Gateway for Projecting an Entire Interpretative Scheme on Genesis 1-11 By means of “Flood Geology” assertions are made that the flood was universal and that it happened in the relatively immediate past. From there, the assertion is that Genesis 1-2 describe a relatively recent earth. The “young earth” theory has been driven by a way of reading the flood narrative, and only later a way of reading the creation narrative. All of this would be fine were it not for the additional implication or assertion that anyone who believes differently doesn’t believe the Bible.

30 30 What is popularly called “Flood Geology” is set forth in John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications (Philadephia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1961)

31 31 History: The Extremes One extreme: The biblical creation and flood narratives partake of ancient Near Eastern mythology. As such they have no bearing on history. The other extreme: The narratives are literal descriptions. They are intended as nothing but history.

32 32 A Better Way: The Creation & Flood Narratives are Interpreted History. Using Metaphors and Poetic Imagination the Author Sets Forth Real Events in Terms of God’s Sovereign Rule Over Against the Alternative of Idolatry. The Author of Genesis Presents Humankind as Moral Beings Responsible to God.

33 33 Why Would God Use Poetry & Metaphor to Speak of Creation and the Flood? Why are they in the Bible at All? 1)The stories speak to universal points of curiosity and interest. They teach important truths. 2)Poetry and metaphor use universal language. The language speaks across culture and history. 3)Poetic devices engage listeners or readers on a level where narrative alone fails. They tease our minds for new levels of understanding. 4)Poetic devices set forth universal truths in memorable, striking ways.

34 34 CONCLUSIONS 1)For those who have no trouble reconciling scientific data with a universal flood in Genesis, we respect the viewpoint. 2)To those who believe the scientific data cannot be reconciled with a young earth and a universal flood, we maintain that the Genesis narrative does not demand such an interpretation. 3)The historical testimony of Genesis is to be taken seriously. There was a flood. The narrative is not to be dismissed as mythological, hence with no historical claim. 4)The flood narrative is about God’s moral governance of his world. He judges the world as he wills.

35 35 Creation/Naturalism; Young Earth/Old Earth How We Got Here Before the Renaissance and the 17 th -18 th century Enlighten- ment, theology and science were happy allies. Science supported dogma; theology was the queen of the sciences.

36 36 First Signs of Tension Late 16 th, early 17 th century Galileo clashed with the church. Baruch Spinoza (17 th cent.) and subsequent scholars, particular in Germany, challenged the privileged position of the Bible. The Bible is to be interpreted like any other book, no special pleading.

37 37 Early Christian Response to Scientific Revolution American Restoration Movement was young. First educational institution was Bacon College, Late 19 th century conservative Christians were more concerned with “higher criticism” than with challenges from science. Many conservative Christians argued that evolution was the means God used to create.

38 38 In Spite of Tension as the 19 th Century Yielded to the 20 th, Theology Considered Science its Ally New scientific data added to the perception that the world was a place of design. The teleological argument was evidence for God’s existence. The publication of Origin of the Species in 1859 did little to fragment the alliance.

39 39 Science/Church at the beginning of the 20 th Century Some were concerned because evolution required an old earth, but it was no big problem. Appeal to the geological record to support a universal flood had little if any support. Some understood Genesis 1-2 on a day-age model. Others held some variation of a “gap theory.”

40 40 The Conservative Search for Fundamentals Between 1910 & 1912 church leaders associated with Dwight Moody published a series of tracts called “The Fundamentals.” About 1919 an organization appeared on the national scene called “World’s Christian Fundamentals Association.” On the whole, the leadership was well educated and moderate. Most, including its most public figure, William Jennings Bryan, conceded that the earth was vastly old.

41 41 The Growing Divide Pre-WW II conservative Christians continued to hold the scientific enterprise in high regard. At the same time, an anti-evolution voice was galvanizing. Conservative churchmen increasingly attacked evolution as “unscientific,” speculative, untrue. At that, many conceded that the earth was old. The “gap theory” of Genesis became more widespread.

42 42 FROM THE FUNDAMENTALS TO FUNDAMENTALISM During the 1920s and 30s popular spokesmen arose, wielding quasi-scientific credentials and data to attack “Darwinian Evolution.” Within many conservative religious communi- ties, evolution became the embodiment of a secular, godless world view that wanted to shut God out of public life. The popular press coined the term “fundamen- talism.” “Fundamentalists” were caricaturized as “Bible bangers,” ignorant and barefoot, living in small southern towns.

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44 44 From Tension to Warfare  In the 1920s spokesmen Harry Rimmer published many books. About 25 are in Harding’s library.  Rimmer was not a scientist, but founded the “Research Science Bureau.” He became a popular anti-evolution lecturer.  William Jennings Bryan built political fame opposing evolution.  In the early 1920s several southern states outlawed the teaching of evolution in public schools.  The famous or infamous Scopes Trial got underway in 1925 and quickly disintegrated into a media frenzy.

45 45 The Roots of Hardening Positions Ellen White ( ) founded Seventh- day Adventism. Her followers consider her inspired. She found support for seventh-day doctrine in the Genesis record. White maintained that the days of Genesis 1 were literal 24 hour periods. Further, she maintained that the flood was universal. Her “revelation” included the declaration that the fossil record, geological formations, etc. were placed there by the flood.

46 46 “Flood Geology” Comes to Life  In the 1920s and 30s, a follower of Ellen White, George McReady Price, popularized “Flood Geology” in two dozen books.  The viewpoint was that in a year or less strata, geological features, fossils, etc. had come into being.  The earth was less than 10,000-years-old. Evolution was false. The time span it required was not to be found.

47 47 “Flood Geology” Becomes Dogma In the 1950s “Flood Geology” received new respectability from a civil engineer at Rice, Henry Morris. Morris teamed up with John Whitcomb, an OT scholar from Grace Theological Seminary (Indiana). The result was the 1961 publication of The Genesis Flood. It was an instant success. In 1995 it was in its 35 th printing. “Flood Geology,” literal 24-hour days in Genesis, and “intelligent design” came to be popularly identified. It’s become a straw man for those who made light of religion.

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49 49 Extreme views tend to gain adherents Controversy has been stirred because of extreme positions and inflammatory rhetoric of some in the scientific community and some in the religious community. Richard Dawkins: “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane.” Henry Morris: “Now the most amazing thing about this whole state of affairs is the absurdity and impossibility of the very concept of evolution.”

50 50 Facile representations of contrary viewpoints is not the exclusive domain of religious adherents

51 51 Faith, Creation, and the Natural Sciences: Refusing the Wedge Tension between the scientific and religious communities is of recent origin. All along, there have been people from the sciences and people of fundamental religious persuasion who have refused the polarization. Many scientists with impeccable credentials and noteworthy accomplishments have been people of piety and deep religious faith. Leaders in the religious community have dared to allow the sciences to explore in ways that have challenged their interpretations of Scripture.

52 52 Other Developments in the Science-Religion dialogue In 1970 the University of Chicago Press published a small volume by Thomas Kuhn called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. And Post-modernism was born. It has become increasingly apparent that science and religion cannot live each in its isolated universe. We people of science and religion are together in this thing called life.

53 53 Further Considerations:  How does the church stick to its own faith without becoming impervious to truths made known from outside its field?  It is said that the driving forces behind science are prediction and explanation. Which of these do you think is the more powerful factor?  Is it true that the definition, purposes, and justification of science are philosophical presuppositions about science that cannot be validated by science?

54 54 Discussion Continued:  If natural theology does not “prove” that God exists, may we at least say that natural theology is an important plank in a coherent view of the universe?  Can science by itself address subjective experience, e.g., “I think I am worried about the safety of my child. Could you run a few tests to see if I really am”?

55 55 Final Thought “False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.” --J. Gresham Machen


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