Genesis and the Flood: Introduction

(system) #1
We need to remember that the Bible, while written for us, was not written to us.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


I certainly agree. But I think a lot of people would strongly object. I know so many people who would say that Genesis 1 was written equally to every future audience so that they would know exactly how the world was created, step by step.

(Brad Kramer) #3

Thanks to @tremperlongman for this great contribution. He’s available to respond to questions and comments. I’ll try to chime in as well, when necessary.

(Brad Kramer) #4

I totally agree that this is a paradigm shift for a lot of people. It certainly was for me. I think this is a big gap between evangelical scholarship (at least, of the sort Tremper represents) and the average Christian in the pew.

I think a big reason why people want the Bible to provide this sort of information is for apologetics purposes. People want to know how and why they can have confidence the Bible is true, and thus Christianity is true (for lots of people, that’s the logical flow, although I now that’s backwards). And if Genesis has a step-by-step description of creation that accords with modern science, that’s evidence that the Bible is a supernatural document, and so on.

The president of a major origins organization once told me that it was absolutely necessary that Genesis was scientifically accurate because “otherwise, atheists won’t come to Christ because of Genesis.” Which pretty much proves the point above.

What made the difference for me was seeing how giving up the search for science in Genesis actually made the text much more coherent and understandable. This involves seeing the text in pre-modern cosmological terms, for starters. I also found it eye-opening to discover how many different interpretations of Genesis (especially chapter 1) Christians have had over the years, and how many of these ultimately boil down to ambiguities in the text itself that defy any easy resolution. Thus, if God really wanted us to get scientific data from Genesis, he went about it in a very strange and difficult fashion.

Changing a paradigm is extremely hard, and bound to be misunderstood. That’s why I’m grateful for the work of scholars like Tremper.


Yes, I’ve had those same conversations. I marvel that such people don’t seem to notice that nobody in the scriptures came to faith in Christ in that manner. The Bible is so emphatic about the fact that nobody comes to God unless the Spirit draws them. Nobody is described as coming to faith through the debate skills and logic of a Christian. How could anyone miss that fact?

Of course, this becomes all the more apparent when one reads the Bible passages about divine election. If we were selling a product, our persuasive skills would be very important. But if God’s people are ELECT, chosen “from the foundation of the world” and nobody comes to the Father unless the Holy Spirit calls them, then all “scheming” and manipulation should go out the window.

I keep hearing Ken Ham saying that the millions of dollars spent on the Ark Park are justified because they will bring many to Christ. The Creation Museum was justified on the same basis. So does salvation depend upon more tourist destinations? Of course, I can’t imagine how seeing a big building that has little in common with the Genesis ark, and doesn’t even float and which doesn’t even attempt to house a lot of animals, is somehow a more persuasive presentation of the Gospel message. (Personally, I think the ark park will leave most non-Christians baffled, and plenty of Christians as well, especially if they didn’t grow up in a young earth creationist environment.)

We know from history that again and again the power of the Gospel message was in the love demonstrated by God’s people, especially in times of great suffering when people saw impressive displays of love and wondered what could possibly motivate that. Thus, Roman bureaucrats complained that “the Christians care not just for their poor but for our poor, their non-Christian neighbors.” During the great plagues of Europe, many families died in their homes simply from lack of food and water because everybody was afraid to enter and help them, and felt no motivation to do so. Yet the followers of Jesus Christ did, even though they never owned a Bible, couldn’t read it if they had been so fortunate, and most didn’t even know much doctrine. What they did know was how to live out the love of Christ in a simple way. People can easily argue with silly claims about the earth only appearing to look old and about how evidence allegedly tells us nothing about what happened in the past. But if a Christian demonstrates a selfless love like nobody else, that sets the stage for the Spirit of God calling sinners to faith in Christ.

Surely the great failure of Christian culture in the USA in recent generations has been the emphasis of BELIEVING the right things instead of ACTING UPON the right things. Faith without works is dead. Yet, based on the emphasis of many ministries organizations in our day, you would think that “If you loudly affirm the following list of beliefs–including the “correct” age of the earth and rejection of sufficient science—you are a good Christian who will go to heaven!”

I even had a young earth creationist friend tell me that “the good news” of the Bible was that “The chronological account of events over the course of the six days of creation as recorded in Genesis 1 can be trusted!” (I didn’t ask him, but he’s probably among those who read and said “Amen!” to the ICR claim that Jesus referred to the Book of Genesis more than any other Old Testament book.) Does anyone truly believe that if only someone can be convinced of a 6,000 year old earth, the last obstacle to faith in Christ will be removed and they will fall on their knees in repentance?

Meanwhile, a Roman Catholic friend argued quite similarly with me that “if only” people can be convinced that the host wafer from the Holy Communion truly turns into the flesh of Jesus the moment it is consumed, a wave of salvation will sweep America. I was nearly rendered speechless, but it is not a mindset all that different from AIG’s and that of other believe-this-list “persuasion ministries.”

Perhaps we prefer affirming the right things to doing the right things because (1) it’s easier, and (2) we can assess the us-versus-them categories of people with a few simple questions. Tribalism loves simplicity. People love simplicity! And nothing is simpler than a thirty-second Q&A which divides the good guys from the bad guys.


Thank you Socratic_Fanatic for making the true power of the gospel so clear.

Isn’t this the 'narrow gate that Jesus spoke of? But this requires true conversion, transformation, and humility… in other words, holiness – a price that so few of us who call ourselves Christians today are willing to pay.

On the other hand, having ‘right beliefs’, or orthodoxy, whether regarding Genesis, Eucharist or any of a number of topics, in contrast might be the ‘wide gate’ that so many of us prefer because it costs so little and appeals to our egos.

Such pretentiousness to think that a model of Noah’s Ark can save us. And such corruption of the true Gospel.

(Christy Hemphill) #7

Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that false choice proposed here on this forum…

@tremperlongman It is really quite thrilling to read Bible scholars who throw in lovely allusions to current linguistic theory. (“signals” and shared “cognitive environments” :heart_eyes:) And since you are probably too well-mannered to be shamelessly self-promoting, I will mention for everyone else’s benefit that those Story of God Commentaries are great. I have only read the excerpt from Genesis that Zondervan put up on their website, but I have the Sermon on the Mount and Philippians and they have been excellent. So kudos to you and the rest of your editorial and writing team for pulling together such an ambitious and timely series. I keep watching my Zondervan Academic e-mails for their one-day sales to see if they will put the Kindle editions of Genesis and Mike Bird’s Romans on sale, but it looks like I might have to get them from the library.

(Mat Painter) #8

SF, etc.:
“Yet the followers of Jesus Christ did, even though they never owned a Bible, couldn’t read it if they had been so fortunate, and most didn’t even know much doctrine. What they did know was how to live out the love of Christ in a simple way.”

…so if we truly know this, why aren’t we all going out and living out the Gospel instead of spending a lifetime focused on Westernized, reverse-engineering the meaning of Biblical passages based on our own paradigms?


But it sure can hold a lot of money.

(Christy Hemphill) #10

Who do you think is doing this?

(Wookin Panub) #11

The book of Genesis and the biblical flood is repeated in the New Testament. Was the New Testament written to us?

(Christy Hemphill) #12

Nope. It was written to, among others, Theophilus, Timothy, Philemon, the churches in Asia minor, the churches in Rome, the church in Thessolonica, the church in Phillipi, the church in Ephesus, etc, etc.