Broaching the EC topic to family members

(James McKay) #42

I wouldn’t teach that it’s not necessarily true, for the simple reason that it’s not necessarily false. As I understand it there are plenty of scientists – and not just in creationist/ID circles – who believe that the Flood narrative is at the very least based on some historical event or other. (I believe that the Black Sea deluge hypothesis is the most popular among academics who are that way inclined.) I would merely add a rider that the Bible only gives a broad-brush outline of the story, that many of the details are lost in the mists of time, and that we don’t know exactly where, when, or how extensive it was. But you don’t have to write it off as entirely myth or fiction.

I would only have a problem if I was expected to teach that the Flood was global in extent, that it created the fossil record, or that Noah had dinosaurs on board the Ark. These views are not in the Bible; they are a thick layer of science fiction plastered on top of it.

(Phil) #43

Randy, I have come up against that issue a bit when we taught 5th graders, and the literalistic typical children’s Bible story was presented to the large group that included 1st through 5 th grades.
I did not oppose or contradict the story as given, and justify that by feeling children who are younger see things very literally and black and white with good and bad guys. Once in the smaller group of 5th graders, I added and expanded by giving the basic interpretation that Augustine proposed (let’s see them argue with him, as I appeal to authority) about how our sin isrepresented by the world depicted in the story, and how God is angry and disappointed in our behavior, but how he provided the ark to make a way for our salvation, with the ark representing Jesus, ultimately wiping out our sin and allowing a rebirth and a new start. ( I think I left it there rather than going on to show we quickly mess that up at times…)
I think the biggest disappointment I have had with evangelical Bible teaching in general and Baptist teaching in particular, is not what they taught, but what they leave out. With my kids growing up, I And my wife have tried to help them see the deeper meaning behind the stories of the Old Testament and how we can apply it both practically and spiritually in growing as Christians.
Hope that helps.

(Randy) #44

Thank you. I like that idea!

I didn’t want to sound divisive; it’s something I really struggle with. Thank you for all who commented. Certainly, as we grow, we can learn more from the Bible and from each other.


You could also throw in 1 Peter 3:20-21 and mention how the flood story symbolizes baptism. :slight_smile:


This is such an important point, and something I keep coming back to every time I’m tempted to just avoid huge chunks of the Bible with my kids (I do avoid the R-rated parts for now, but I mean more than that). I know that the only way I even have the ability to raise the questions that I do now is because I was schooled in the Bible from a young age – even the long, tedious read-throughs of the “law and the prophets” and out-of-context memorization of verses from the epistles that used words I didn’t understand – all of it has helped me to know what’s in the Bible in one way or another.

One difficult part about teaching kids is that I often feel like things are so incomplete – that I’m only giving them part of the story and therefore I’m failing them somehow. But I suppose that’s just the nature of education. It’s not (or shouldn’t be) just me trying to pour large amounts of data into their brains – it’s always a work in progress, and if I can approach it that way, I would like to hope that will give them permission to do the same as they grow. It reminds me a bit of the approach to “classical education” – not that I understand it all that well, but the focus in the early years is often on memorization, but the things that are memorized in those years will come in handy later on, regardless of whether the child can grasp the full picture just then. That’s what I tell myself anyway! :smiley:

(Darek Barefoot) #47

Start with the fact that floods do, in fact, kill people all the time, and that nature is in God’s hands in some meaningful sense (unless you don’t believe that Jesus actually stilled the Sea of Galilee). I would argue that nature is not yet where God intends it to end up, and that sin has something to do with the past and present vulnerability of earthly creatures to suffering and death in all kinds of ways–including floods.

All people who have died in floods and other natural disasters have suffered because of God’s judgment on human sin. Jesus died so that such deaths need not be the end of the story for anyone, and God’s mercy will prevail in ways we can only dimly glimpse. But judgment on sin as a concept and a reality cannot be excised from the Bible without tearing loose a lot of muscle, and even an artery or two, if you know what I mean. Jesus himself issues a lot of dire warnings in the gospels.

Noah’s flood seems to be based on an old Mesopotamian story, which might go back to the experience of an actual Mesopotamian family. If that story has been told in hyperbolic terms to embody some universal spiritual truths, well, welcome to the world of the Hebrew Bible. Colossians 1:23 says the gospel in the first century was peached to “all creation under heaven,” so there’s a touch of that expansive tendency even in the New Testament.

As for genocide and general brutality in the early stories, it is the equivalent in historical narrative of self-mutilation and cannibalism in the ethical teachings of Jesus. Jesus throws those brutal, shocking images out there–without further explanation–and invites his listeners to grapple with them to find the message they are conveying. Likewise, the narrative carnage of OT conquests is there to underscore God’s condemnation of certain cultural practices he wanted his people to avoid.

One approach in teaching is just to read the accounts and let listeners grapple with them, and go into more detail for those who approach with questions. However, sometimes even that strategy is not practical. I wish I had easy answers for those situations.

Studying the Bible with serious intent is not for the faint of heart, and many would, understandably, prefer to skim the surface of the thornier parts and move on. Those who are willing to wrestle with the text will have the experience of Jacob with the angel; they will emerge blessed, though not unscathed.

(Darek Barefoot) #48

One other thought: the deluge narrative in Genesis also serves roughly to divide history from prehistory for a prescientific audience. The real story is immensely complicated and messy, occupying thousands of years, but the Genesis narrative preserves a historical truth when it says that the prehistoric world was a rough time to live. In his book Before the Dawn, Nicholas Wade cites research to the effect that one in ten Neolithic skeletons bears signs of death by violence.

(system) closed #49

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