In a somewhat surprising turn of events, sectors of the Christian world are teaching that the great Flood of Genesis is a poetic story. Because the story does not coincide with Darwinian evolution, theologians have found the historicity of the story to be problematic. Now modern thinkers are calling on all Christians to embrace their viewpoint. Because, “The exact nature or date of this historical flood is not important to the meaning of the Genesis account” the creators of the website Biologos believe Christians should move on and claim the academic high-ground of science.
By writing off Noah as a fantasy, theologians believe they are strengthening the Christian faith. The co-producer and director of the Russel’ Crowe’s Noah, Darren Aronofsky said, “If you look at it as poetry and myth and legend, then you can actually use it to understand your world and who you are.” Doctor Joel S. Baden agreed writing that, “The power of the Flood story…is in what it tells us about humanity’s relationship with God.”
The beauty of Noah is not found in the historical story but in modern man’s interpretation of the story. By leaving the history of the story behind, theologians, producers, and academics are not strengthening the Bible, they undermining its very foundation. The theologian that can freely deny the flood can and will freely deny the power of the cross. The salvation depicted in Genesis parallels the salvation depicted in Matthew. If one has to be jettisoned for moderns to find the Bible useful, then the other will quickly follow.
When the history of the Bible sinks beneath the surface, people can draw any and ever conclusion from the Noah narrative. They are free to paint happy pictures of salvation complete with cute giraffes poking their heads out of the Ark. They are also free to create storylines from the narrative that demonize humanity complete with images of Noah doing drugs.
Instead of casting off the historicity of the Bible, Christians should embrace the Genesis account as historical fact. Ken Ham has recently demonstrated with the creation of the Ark Encounter that Noah cold have built and survived a worldwide flood on an ark built according to the dimensions of Genesis. Moreover, Christ pointed to Genesis as historical fact in Matthew 24:37-39. Christians must follow their savior. They must embrace the Ark narrative as true because it proclaims the gospel.
The Bad News
We must affirm the story of the Ark because the story proclaims that all men and women are evil sinners worthy of judgement. The story of Noah begins with a great sense of foreboding.
After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, humanity devolved into chaos. Men and women went from lying to murdering and then to boasting of their murders. The great grandson of Cain boasts , “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me” (Gen 4:23). Not surprisingly God looks down and declares,
“I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and bird of the heavens for I am sorry that I have made them.” And a little later on God tells Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.” (Gen 6:5-13).
Humanity divorced from God is not evolving. Society is devolving into a violent chaos and deserves death. The story clearly proclaims that the wages of sin is death. Men and women are not autonomous. They are not self-sufficient. The people in Noah’s day perished for their sins.
But modern men and women should not suppose that they have evolved past the evils of Noah. Jesus tells his audience in Mathew 24:37-39
For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
The hard hearts that were present in Noah’s day are present now and will be present when Christ returns. According to 2 Peter 2:5, Noah preached the gospel just as Jesus did and as thousands of faithful men and women continue to do. People reject God not because they lacked access to truth. They rejected God because they did not want to follow him.
Modern people find the doctrine of sin and judgement troubling. Commenting on the story of Noah and on the Ark Encounter, blogger Alexis Misra wrote,
I do not believe that the story of Noah’s ark happened as depicted in the Bible, but even so, the story makes me almost nauseous. The staggering death toll that occurred according to the Bible was enough to make me, a certified skeptic, ill.
She finds the Ark troubling because she cannot imagine why God would subject the world to this holocaust like event. Consequently, she must deny the Ark because she wishes to affirm the goodness of humanity. To admit that God was a righteous judge would be to admit that humanity is sinful and in need of saving. She denies the flood as fact because she denies the gospel.
As redeemed sinners, Christians must affirm the truthfulness of the Flood account because the Gospel is true. Jesus has come, died, and risen. Noah built an Ark, the flood came, and Noah walked out on dry land. If we deny the Flood, we justify sinfulness.
The Good News
Thankfully, Christians do not have to do this. They do not have to be ashamed of the story of Noah’s Flood. The narrative does not begin with sin and end with death. The story is not defined by images of “desperation and horror.” The great news of the Noah account is that God made a way of escape for his people. God created a covenant with Noah. God told Noah to build an Ark (Gen 6:14-18). He provided Noah with the dimensions and with the animals necessary to preserve life on earth. God saved humanity.
The specifics of the plan reveal that God did not view the Ark to be metaphorical. God judged real men and women and saved real men and women and animals on a real boat. God saved Noah faults and all because his son would one day perish for Noah.
Although Noah was a righteous man who faithfully followed God even when the whole world was quite literally against him, Noah was not the perfect savior that humanity needed.
Shortly after God sets the rainbow in the sky, Noah gets drunk (Gen 9:13-23). Noah fell into sin. He is not alone; his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and so one continue to make a mess of things. Sin once again begins to dominate the world. Although humanity is perilously undependable, God is faithful. He never reneges on his promise to flood the world again. Rather, he does an even greater thing. He sends his son.
Jesus comes as the perfect savior to rescue us from our sins. Though we deserve to die in the floodwaters of eternal judgement, Jesus dies in our place. He goes to the cross; he jumps out of the Ark and takes our place in the waters of death so that we might have life in the kingdom of God. This is the great news of the gospel and of Noah: God saves. The salvation that was available to Noah is available to all of us because God has paid for our sin.
If Christians write off the Ark as a fanciful tale for children, they will essentially write of the gospel. They will deny the reality of humankind’s sinfulness and of God’s free offer of salvation based on Jesus’s work on the cross. A humankind that did not perish in the flood is a humankind that is still self-sufficient, that is still able to work their way to heaven, and that is still free from submission to their creator. But this is not the message of the gospel. To maintain the integrity of the Bible, we must believe that Genesis is a true historical book. There is no other way forward.
Are you ready to stand by the Ark revealed in scripture?