Review by Ruben Baron
First Published February 2009
Chapter 6 continues the discussion of the extent of the Flood of Noah by examining the responses of those who support the idea of a local Flood rather than a global Flood. This chapter mainly responds to the writings of Dr. Hugh Ross and Prof. Davis A. Young. Most of this chapter repeats the same arguments used by YEC’s that have already been dealt with in this review of previous chapters, especially on questions of Bible interpretation in Genesis.
1. What is a “Universal Flood?”
This section deals with Dr. Ross’ definition of a universal Flood to mean that it was universal in its judgment of mankind, but not in its extent over the entire planet earth.
The question of Antarctica is brought up as an example of depending upon science instead of Scripture. The relationship of science to Scripture has already been dealt with in reviews of the previous chapters. The YEC position is to totally dismiss science if it does not agree with their preconceived interpretation of passages in the Bible. As mentioned in the review of earlier chapters, it is not so clear cut to distinguish interpretation of Scripture from the background knowledge that we bring when we interpret Scripture. Both YEC’s and OEC’s do bring background knowledge in their understanding of the text, but YEC’s deny this by use of the expression “plain reading of the text.”
On the bottom of page 94, we are told “Remember, the Bible clearly teaches a world wide catastrophe” as if to totally dismiss any support for Dr. Ross’ comments. This statement asserts as proof the very thing that chapter 5 and the rest of chapter 6 are attempting to prove! This review of chapter 5 showed that this statement has not been proved, so Dr. Ross’ points cannot be so easily dismissed.
The end of this section briefly reviews the question of the effect of sin on nature. It is interesting that the statement is made that “old-earth theology has a tendency to minimize the effects of sin.” However just as easily it could be said that YEC theology has a tendency to maximize the effects of sin. Romans 8:22 is cited to demonstrate this, but there are some problems with the use of this verse:
This verse does not say anything about the source or even the reason for the “groaning” of creation. It does not say that this groaning came from the Fall of Adam, but rather it simply focuses on the spiritual redemption of people as sons of God (Romans 8:19). In fact this passage does not even say that creation itself will be redeemed, but rather that the creation anticipates and awaits the redemption of the sons of God.
The primary effects of sin are the separation of man from God. This is the focus of the entire epistle to the Romans, as well as in many other places in Scripture. Sin deals more with man’s relationship to God than it does with the effects on nature. This is the main point of the entire chapter of Romans 8.
So the question is not whether OEC’s minimize the effects of sin or whether YEC’s maximize the effects of sin, but rather what the Bible teaches about sin and salvation.
2. A Limited Curse?
This section begins by accusing Dr. Ross of limiting the curse to just the Garden of Eden and not the entire world. This is based upon comments made in the 2006 John Ankerberg debate. However when quoting Dr. Ross here, it is stated that he claimed that Adam had to know what death and thorns were before the Fall, presumably in order to understand the implications of God’s commands in the Garden.
It is not clear at all that this comment in the debate justifies Dr. Ross’ alleged view that the curse was limited just to the Garden of Eden. No other citation from Dr. Ross is mentioned, except for the comments in the debate. Perhaps Dr. Ross meant that its effects would be most obvious in the Garden of Eden, since that was where Adam initially lived. So this may be a case of misrepresentation of Dr. Ross’ views as interpreted from comments in a video debate.
The rest of this section goes on to show that the curse was not limited to the Garden of Eden, but applied the entire world. It is true that the cited verses Genesis 3:17-19 describe the effects of sin on the world. However, looking at all Scripture, especially in the New Testament, we see that the curse is mainly described in terms of its effect on the relationship of man with God.
Regardless of one’s view on the extent of the curse, the main point is still that the Flood was primarily a judgment on mankind, without regard to the extent of the Flood.
3. A Different Approach
This section on page 96 discusses the views of Prof. Davis Young, by showing that he not only disagreed initially with Dr. Ross on the extent of the Flood, but now disagrees with Dr. Ross on its extent of judgment on mankind. He is accused that “he abandoned one bad idea for another one.” Then the charge is made in the following sentence “This is a common practice among those who insist on allowing man’s fallible teachings to be their guide rather than the unchanging Word of God.” Following this sentence are quotations from Prof. Young that show his current views on the extent of the Flood. Then what follows are refutations of his views on the Flood, with a focus especially on the Flood traditions from several different cultures. There are several responses that can be given to this section:
First of all, Prof. Young or anyone else, including OEC’s or YEC’s, have the right to change their views on a particular subject in light of further study. Some YEC’s have done the same thing on the details of YEC.
The same could be said for OEC’s disagreeing with each other on details of their view. There are various details of YEC that not all YEC’s are in agreement with. Just because two of OEC’s advocates do not agree on certain details is not enough to dismiss the entire OEC viewpoint.
Even worse is the use of the usual emotionally-charged tactic that has been used repeatedly in this book. That is, to formulate the question as an issue of “man’s fallible teaching” versus the “unchanging Word of God.” This formulation has already been dealt with several times in this review, and it is simply illogical to keep repeating the same point as if repeating it enough times will prove it.
Finally the issue of a Flood tradition in many parts of the world simply reinforces the OEC contention that the Flood was a judgment upon all mankind, not relevant to the issue of a local versus global Flood. Even if Prof. Young does not agree with Dr. Ross on the extent of the Flood’s judgment, both of the OEC advocates do agree that a local Flood is most consistent with an understanding of both Scripture and science.
This section also quotes Prof. Young as saying “These New Testament writers clearly assumed the historical existence of Noah and the deluge, and they viewed the deluge as a unique event.” From this statement it is assumed in the book that Prof. Young is acknowledging that the New Testament writers believed in a worldwide Flood. But this is not what Prof. Young is saying, and is yet another example of the many misrepresentations of an OEC view found in this book. Prof. Young does not even use the words “global” or “world-wide” Flood, but simply says that the New Testament writers assumed that these were unique events in history. OEC’s do believe in the historic existence of Noah and the deluge, and they view the Flood as a unique event. They simply do not accept the view that it was a global Flood.
This section concludes with the same condescending language used in many other parts of this book with the statement “Sadly, while claiming to uphold biblical inerrancy, Young soundly rejects it in his writing.” Prof. Young does not indicate his rejection of biblical inherency at all in any of the statements quoted in this book. Yet again we have here an example of YEC’s formulating this issue as an issue of inerrancy rather than an issue of interpretation of the text.
4. Redefining Words and Phrases
This section on page 98 deals with the interpretation of words in the Bible such as “hills,” “every”, “face of the earth,” etc. The claim is made here that Dr. Ross is reinterpreting these words to be in the author’s frame of reference. It is then claimed that other verses that use similar ways of expression are seen as hyperbole, but in the case of the Flood it is not hyperbole.
All of the points in this section were already dealt with in detail in the review of the previous chapter. To force the viewpoint of Genesis to be from outer space (a common modern day assumption), rather than from the perspective of the author on earth, is much more of a YEC “redefinition” of the words than anything that Dr. Ross has done.
One does not have to accept Dr. Ross’ idea of a “small vocabulary” in Hebrew to come to the same conclusions about interpretation. Nor does one have to agree with the comment quoted from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament about the meaning of “hill.” Both of these are simply attempts to discredit OEC without dealing with the basic issues of interpretation.
The greatest irony though is expressed on page 100. Here OEC’s are accused of influence by their own presuppositions on questions of interpretation. Yet YEC’s have the arrogance to imply that they are not influenced by their own interpretation of the text? The whole YEC viewpoint is built upon a few basic presuppositions about Genesis 1 that influence their interpretation of the rest of the entire Bible.
Finally at the end of this section the question is asked how Noah could release a dove and it could return with an olive branch near the end of the Flood. An attempt to answer this point is given from the classic YEC book The Genesis Flood, but is this answer really that serious or adequate? An olive tree is a relatively slow growing tree that would in no way have had time to grow even a small amount in a short interval near the end of the Flood. In addition the topsoil needed to sustain it would very likely not be present immediately after the massive effects of a global Flood. To use the language of the YEC’s, the “plain reading of the text” for this passage points much more to a local Flood than a global Flood.
Rather than accepting the “plain reading of the text,” Dr. Ross is accused of accepting uniformitarianism, which is really not relevant to this point. YEC’s are also uniformitarian when it comes to “scientific” proofs of a young earth discussed later in this book.
5. Poetic Considerations . . . Again
Just from the title of this section with the use of the word “Again,” it is implied that OEC’s are repeating the same arguments already dealt with earlier in chapter 3. The irony here is that YEC’s repeat their same arguments again and again in this book, hoping that the argument will be convincing if it is repeated enough times.
The whole issue of using Psalm 104 as an alternative account of the creation, rather than just dismissing it as “poetry,” has already been dealt with in detail in this review of earlier chapters and will not be repeated again here. Poetry has its own genre that requires an interpretation that needs to be weighed together with non-poetic books and not just dismissed because it is “poetry.”
Ironically Psalm 104 does seem to be accepted as an account of the Flood by several YEC’s including Dr. John Whitcomb. So is it just “poetry,” or is it an account of creation, or is it an account of the Flood, or is it all of the above? One cannot dismiss the text of Psalm 104 as just “poetry” when it is convenient to a YEC viewpoint, and yet at the same time accept Psalm 104 as an account of the Flood. This again seems to be a case of picking the verses that best suit the cause that the interpreter is trying to prove.
6. Misrepresenting the Other Side . . . Again
Here the irony of YEC’s defending themselves from misrepresentation is again demonstrated. They have continually misrepresented OEC’s throughout this book. On page 103 it is even stated that:
“Misrepresenting the position of one’s opponent may be effective, but is not a proper debating procedure — especially for Christians. We are followers of the One who called himself the Truth (John 14:6).”
One would really wish that YEC’s would follow their own advice with all of the misrepresentations of OEC’s demonstrated in this book.
Following this are two examples of alleged misrepresentation of YEC’s from the writings of Dr. Hugh Ross on:
Smoothing of the earth surface by the Flood
Ultra-efficient biological evolution after the Flood
Of course both sides of this debate should not misrepresent the other side. On the other hand, as pointed out in an earlier chapter, there is also the danger of misrepresenting the alleged misrepresentations. Whether there really is a misrepresentation here or not does not really affect the conclusions or the strength of the other arguments for a local versus a global Flood.
As expected in this book the conclusion is obviously that “We have seen that the local flood arguments simply do not stand up to scrutiny.” However as shown in this review, this is simply not the case.
The rest of the conclusion repeats the assertion that the “language of the Genesis account makes it [a global Flood] abundantly clear …” The reviews of both chapter 5 and 6 show that the global Flood viewpoint is not clear at all, with both the Biblical and scientific evidence pointing more to a local Flood.
Following this statement is a summary of the same arguments already dealt with in the review of this chapter and in the review of Chapter 5, such as “limited extent of sin,” “redefinition of words and phrases,” etc. These alleged OEC positions are in themselves misrepresentations of the OEC viewpoint. The reader of this book may recall that misrepresentations were strongly condemned just a few pages earlier.
Finally, the last few sentences give a rehash of the usual arguments for the global Flood, which have been dealt with many times by OEC’s. The most preposterous is the assertion that “old-earth creationists must hold to a local flood, because a global flood ‘washes away’ the supposed evidence for an old earth.” This is an outrageous statement to make from a book that claims to not misrepresent the other side. The reason OEC’s hold to their position is because of the evidence, while YEC’s hold their position in spite of the evidence.
Furthermore to say that “The rock record is exactly what we would expect from a yearlong, global, catastrophic flood” is simply delusional. No geologist, Christian or secular, would accept this statement at face value, except for those few geologists who force their own YEC presuppositions on the geological evidence.
The next to the last statement is very revealing as to why a global Flood is so important to YEC’s. YEC’s must hold to a global Flood to avoid the obvious conclusion that rock layers were deposited over millions of years. To be honest, it would be easier to simply say that God created the rock layers in place as we see them today rather than insist that a global Flood had to do it.
The final concluding statement says that “The biblical evidence of the global flood is further strong confirmation that the world is young.” As shown in this review, the biblical evidence does not indicate a global Flood at all. To the contrary there is significant biblical evidence for a local Flood.
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