This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/flooding-the-world-with-creationism
The ark was a simple box shape
As Paul Seely has argued (to cite just one of very many similar opinions), the story of Noah’s flood does not recall a literal series of historical events.
You can only use this line so many times before these things happen.
Someone asks you to provide evidence that the narrative was never intended to describe literal historical events, and that the original audience did not read it as a historical narrative.
Someone asks you if you really believe the Bible is reliable.
The more that strategy is used without a robust substantiation of its applicability, the less effective it is.
I take your point, Jon, but a fair reply is ask whether you’ve read any of Seely’s scholarly articles on early Genesis. We don’t have them at BL and they are not all available freely on the web, though one or two might be. An academic library is probably needed to access them.
The most pertinent article is from Westminster Theological Journal in Fall 2004’ “Noah’s Flood: It’s Date, extent, and Divine Accommodation.” I strongly recommend that one to any readers who want to see a careful argument making points such as those I mentioned in this column.
For your specific discontent, SEELY’s emphasis on a robust notion of accommodation is key.
We have a series by Paul Seely at BioLogos, on the Flood: http://biologos.org/blogs/archive/series/the-flood-not-global-barely-local-mostly-theological. It’s very readable.
I’ve read Seely’s articles. He does not argue that the flood was not a historical event. He argues that there is evidence it was a historical event. His argument is not that the flood is a myth, but that the flood is described in global terms to accommodate the ancient Hebrews’ limited worldview.
Exactly so, Jon. My less specific wording was not as clear as yours. You’ve done our readers a service, for which I thank you. Again, readers who want to see the details should consult the article I cited.
“derives from Seventh-day Adventist sources”. This is not true. Even The Bible, Rocks, and Time acknowledges this.
So I suppose you are comfortable with the idea that the Bible’s discussion of the flood is factually flawed - - but for a good reason, yes?
Nice article series!
[ A … ] “line of evidence is from the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 ice core. The very close agreement of three independent, seasonally based, non-radiometric indicators of annual layers makes the age of the ice sheet on Greenland indisputably 11,000 years old, and the agreement of two of those indicators adds another 100,000 years.”
“Close examination shows that the ice core is composed of fresh water from top to bottom. There is not a single layer of ice in it or in the ground under it composed of seawater nor any silt deposits such as a flood would leave. Not a single layer gives evidence of having melted and refrozen. This means no ocean water has ever stood over it or under it. Consequently, this ice core falsifies the idea that there was a global flood in the time of Noah.”
[Footnote 5: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2003/PSCF12-03Seely.pdf]
A fundamental plank of evidence that unavoidably mars the YEC platform that the words of the Bible are inerrant as to historical facts.
The fact that modern YEC has roots in 7Day Adventists does not come from the Bible, the rocks or time… it comes from comparing two books-
Vs. Morris and Whitcomb’s famous book that ignited YEC movement in 1961, The Genesis Flood.
In case you don’t want to ready both and compare, here are several articles that sum up the main points…
The Birth of Scientific Creationism (A Nice Timeline of Events)
The Roots of YEC
and one posted on BioLogos for good measure.
Funny enough in 1954, 7 years before Morris and Whitcomb, Bernard Ramm noted that: (emphasis mine):
“The gap theory has become the standard interpretation throughout hyper-orthodoxy, appearing in an endless stream of books, booklets, Bible studies, and periodical articles. In fact, it has become so sacrosanct with some that to question it is equivalent to tampering with Sacred Scripture or to manifest modernistic leanings”.
A bonus for you (and I’ll buy you a copy if you like, just PM me on the forums), regarding the Rocks… it’s a pretty cool story of a skeptic who sought out to disprove Noah’s Global Flood 4,000 years ago and was surprised at what he found: https://www.amazon.com/Rocks-Dont-Lie-Geologist-Investigates/dp/0393346242
And here is the “heart” of Prof. Giberson’s article:
Ellen White, Millerite Turned 7th Day Adventist
Ellen White (1827-1915) was an [Millerite] prophetess [who] …
experienced the “Great Disappointment” on October 22, 1844 when Jesus failed to appear as predicted by William Miller, the leader of her sect. Shortly after, she began receiving visions and was soon at the heart of a new branch of Christianity that now boasts more than 14 million followers in 200 countries.
Her Book: "Conflict of the Ages"
Her literary output exceeded 5,000 articles and 40 books. Among White’s influential writings is Patriarchs and Prophets in her series “Conflict of the Ages,” first published in 1890. In this text White offers an expanded vision of Bible stories such as the Genesis creation accounts, the fall, and Noah’s great flood. In a curious twist of history, modern young-earth creationism can be traced to her visionary expansion of the Genesis flood narrative.
The Origin of Flood Geology
By mid-19th century, when White’s visions began, geologists, almost all of them bible-believing Christians, had concluded that Noah’s flood was confined to the mid-east. Its effects had been largely erased over time. This interpretation of the story, which Hebrew scholars have determined is a faithful interpretation of Genesis, was uncontroversial and accepted by most educated Christians. White rejected what she thought were geologically motivated “compromises” as inconsistent with the plain account given in the Bible, though she read this in English without consideration of the context in
which it was written.
God gave her a ‘Global’ Vision of the Flood
She insisted Noah’s flood was global and that it had produced all of the geological layers, a claim that even the most conservative Christian geologists had rejected as impossible, based on the evidence. The flood, argued White, reshaped the surface of the earth and the fossils testified to the cataclysmic nature of the flood, even though the fossils are stacked in such an orderly way that it is impossible to imagine how a chaotic flood could have deposited them like that. Earth history prior to the flood was obliterated, but the flood itself left the clearest evidence imaginable.
Excerpt of White’s vision:
The entire surface of the earth was changed at the Flood…As the waters began to subside, the hills and mountains were surrounded by a vast turbid sea. Everywhere were strewn the dead bodies of men and beasts. The Lord would not permit these to remain to decompose and pollute the air, therefore He made of the earth a vast burial ground. A violent wind which was
caused to blow for the purpose of drying up the waters, moved them with great force, in some instances even carrying away the tops of the mountains and heaping up trees, rocks, and earth above the bodies of the dead… At this time immense forests were buried. These have since been changed to coal, forming the extensive coal beds that now exist and yielding large quantities of oil.”
Limited Influence of Her Visions
White’s interpretation of the biblical narratives attracted little interest outside Adventist circles, but within the Adventist tradition her writings acquired a stature comparable to scripture. Her interpretation of the Flood became widely known outside Adventist circles through the writings of George McCready Price (1870-1963). A self-taught geologist with limited education beyond high school, Price was a gifted writer, amateur scientist, and tireless crusader in the cause of anti-evolution. His 723-page The New Geology, published in 1923, was catapulted into relevance by William Jennings Bryan, who prosecuted John Scopes at the famous trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925. But even Bryan, the most important anti-evolutionist of the first half of the 20th century was not a young-earth creationist, seeing no reason to interpret the Genesis creation account as taking place over a literal seven-day week.
John Whitcomb & Henry Morris Revive White’s Vision
Because these creationist ideas were basically limited to Seventh-day Adventist biblical interpretation, most Christians outside that group paid no attention to them, and were fine with the idea that evolution was simply God’s method of creation. A few decades later, however, all this would change when respected fundamentalist scholars John Whitcomb and Henry Morris joined forces to move Price’s ideas from Adventism to mainstream evangelicalism.
Whitcomb & Morris Book: The Genesis Flood
They co-authored The Genesis Flood, the book that launched the modern creationist movement and convinced millions of Christians to accept White’s vision of earth history. But what is not widely known, because the authors of The Genesis Flood left it out of their book, is that the arguments in the book are really just Price’s arguments, updated to provide a more scientific presentation.
Note: Subheadings modified and/or inserted by @gbrooks9
Footnote: “Morris was born in Dallas on October 6, 1918, grew up in Texas in the 1920s and 1930s, and graduated from Rice University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1939.”
Ironically, Karl Giberson received his PhD in Physics from Rice University about 45 years later.
Note from @gbrooks9: I have wondered if the reason this Canadian-born, Boston-based scholar investigated Rice University as an academic option (deep in Texas) partly because Henry Morris graduated there!
No, I don’t think it’s flawed. I believe it describes a local flood which actually happened. I don’t see that as flawed.
The Bible, Rocks, and Time is a book by a geology professor at Calvin that disputes YEC claims.
I have read The Bible, Rocks and Time and it is a great book. Here are a couple of quotes.
“Also significant were the teaching of Ellen Gould White (1827-1915), the founder of Seventh-Day Adventism, who claimed to have visions from God about the creation of the world in six literal days as well as a global Deluge that buried all life and produced the fossils. White’s teachings and attitudes toward geology profoundly shaped not only Seventh-Day Adventism thought but also the twentieth-century young-Earth creationist movement that is introduced in chapter five.” The Bible, Rocks and Time by Davis A . Young and Ralph F. Stearley, pg 115.
“…much of the impetus for the resurgence of Flood geology can be traced to the influence of Seventh-Day Adventist founder Ellen Gould White (1827-1915).” pg 158
While the belief in a literal 6 days of creation does extend back in time the modern YEC movement does have it’s roots in Ellen White’s visions. This is exhaustively documented in The Creationists by Ronald Numbers (have but have not read).
But since there appear to be many modifications to the story line … leading the average leader to conclude a global event is being described… that would be a flawed text.
That’s like saying there are numerous modifications to the theory of evolution leading people to think the theory is flawed. The fact is that there are no internal revisions of the Genesis flood narrative which remove the indicators that it’s local. They would have been easy enough to remove, but they weren’t removed.
I would say, yes and no, and why would they?
The two forms of knowledge are quite different. In science it is a very good thing if your original ideas are greatly modified as we get closer and closer to reality. But in the theological, divine revelation sense this works the opposite. You can’t just update the original as new knowledge comes in and any changing of it distorts the original message.
And why would they remove the global indicators? Certainly nobody dreamed of people being able to actually measure around the entire Earth (which they thought was flat) - it was after all, a story which just showed how powerful their God was compared to all the others. Local flood? They knew others had legends like that and since their god was the god of gods- they went global. Thoughts?
This would apply to the eternal unchanging God. But should it apply to our understanding of the Bible? I think it has been a long-standing fallacy (one I think I remember helping to spread) that science glories in its changeability while religion glories in its permanence. There is a grain of truth to this, of course --in the former assertion mostly. But it fails on the latter. There is no reason why religion (including our theologies and interpretations of sacred texts) should be denied the same opportunities for growth and change that we allow for everything else. It aspires to help us connect with the Eternal and Permanent, yes, but given that we never fully arrive at that in the flesh, it should be seen as entirely false that religious understandings cannot be updated – even corrected. Most of us here I think would agree that the entirety of science lies within our Christianity, and that alone should help us see this.
I’m responding to the claim that they did, and pointing out there appears to be no evidence for the claim.
But we’re talking about editing of the text, and it’s completely uncontroversial in Biblical studies that later scribes edited the text precisely for theological reasons. Yeah, you can update the original as new knowledge comes in, and that’s what was done.
I need to see evidence that they “went global”. Most of the earliest actual expositions of the flood (including Josephus and Philo), interpreted the flood as local.
So maybe we went global when we started to read the text literally?
I just kind of wonder, and while I agree with you (thanks for clarifying by the way) why does this not lean validity to Ellen White or Joseph Smith. They sought to update the original with new revelation. So it was okay for Jewish scribes to do such, and then the New Testament writers/documents (i.e. Mark’s Gospel didn’t really contain the resurrection at first. A skeptic could argue that isn’t it suspicious that the earliest Gospel likely doesn’t even have the resurrection in it originally and it was edited it- as some suggest this was written before early Christians mythologized Christ). I haven’t found a happy medium in these regards as it seems one extreme or the other is problematic.
I agree with you, but I think the problem here is that Creationism does just the opposite. It rejects every other form of knowing, is the complete opposite of science, and is the image of Christianity that many think of and this image is easy to reject.
What do you mean by this? I think most Christians could agree generally but to a non-Christian this seems silly.