Review by Greg Neyman
© Old Earth Ministries
John Whitcomb explains in the Answers Magazine article Universality of the Genesis Flood that the issue is critically important to the age of the earth.1 He claims that for 18 centuries nearly all Christians understood the Flood to be global, and I believe that he is correct in this statement. (This article was also the featured article on the Answers in Genesis website on 27 April 2009)
What changed during the last 200 years is that the field of geology has cast serious doubts upon the global flood model. Whitcomb claims that Christians have been “swayed by secular ideas and have abandoned the clear hermeneutic of Scripture.” Is such a claim accurate? Not really. We have been swayed not be secular ideas, but by science. You may be saying, “Isn’t science secular?” I do not believe that it is. Think of it this way…if God created the earth, then we should be able to look at His creation, and examine it. It contains a record of what God did throughout creation. Thus, when we observe creation, we are not looking at something that is secular. God is the author of the science that we are observing.
Did we leave the clear hermeneutic of Scripture? Scripture, like science, is supposed to be examined by the reader, and interpreted. By claiming that the earth is old, and that God created over billions of years, does not require us to “abandon” Scripture, but it does require us to interpret it differently. Fortunately, we can do so while maintaining the integrity of Scripture, completely inerrant and infallible.
Whitcomb gives several points that he claims cannot stand up to the scrutiny of Genesis 6-9.
The Depth of the Flood
The line of reasoning that Whitcomb gives in this section is sound. I agree that the 15 cubits probably refers to the draft of the ark, and thus it led Noah to believe that the waters covered the earth at least this deep. This reasoning also works within the local flood scenario proposed by old earth creationists, however. A local flood would have covered all the local area around Noah and the Ark, and he would have thought the waters were at least 15 cubits deep, since the ark did not hit any underwater objects. If he were in the middle of this flooded basin, and could not see over the horizon, then he would conclude that the waters covered all the land, including the mountains. From Noah's perspective, it appeared that the world was flooded. And it was...his world, that he had known, was flooded. (For an interesting article on the Local Flood theory, see Where Was the Flood of Noah?.)
The Duration of the Flood
Whitcomb notes that the flood lasted 371 days, and claims this is in agreement with a global flood, but not a local flood. I disagree. If the entire world were flooded, and the waters had to return from where they came, as the Bible claims, it would have taken a lot longer than 371 days for the flood to be gone from the earth. It also makes you wonder where the water is today. If it returned to where it came from, it is still here on earth. But the earth does not contain enough water for such a flood. In addition, if the earth were covered in water, and water seeks its own level (as Whitcomb pointed out), then the flood waters would have nowhere to drain to! The earth would still be flooded today.
To answer this problem, YECs point to rapid plate tectonics. They claim the land did not have gigantic mountains prior to the flood, therefore the water requirement for the flood would have been less. It was during the flood that rapid plate tectonics changed the face of the earth, and created the tall mountains we now see. However, there is a serious problem with this. If the land were lower prior to the flood, they still have a water problem. If there were enough water to flood the earth, it would have already done so, and we would not have any land masses for Noah and his ancestors to live on. Just as Whitcomb mentions, “water must seek its own level—and it must do so quickly!” The only answer they can turn to is the “fountains of the deep.” The only problem is that there are no vast underground water reservoirs of the size that is needed by young earth creationism. The YEC theory has many problems, but no solutions!
Further examining the water issue, it is impossible scientifically for it to be raining everywhere on earth at the same time. The problem is that once the clouds have expended their water, they would have to replenish to rain again. To put it another way, if it is raining somewhere, then water has to have evaporated from the surface into the atmosphere, thus the surface is losing water somewhere. Even if the entire globe were to have rain clouds, and it rained at the same time, it would only do so for a short period, perhaps hours, until the moisture was expended from the clouds, at which point there would have to be evaporation of water on earth to replenish them, so that it could rain again.
Therefore Whitcomb’s claim that the duration of the flood is contrary to a local flood is incorrect. It is possible to have heavy rainfall for days on end in a specific location, but not globally, since evaporation would have to be feeding the rain system.
The Need for the Ark
This is a common young earth argument against a local flood. Sure, Noah could have went on vacation, as Whitcomb suggests. However, others could have also went with him, and thus escaped the flood. Picture this...Noah tells the people they are going to die in a flood, and then he leaves when it starts raining. What are the other people going to do? They are going to follow Noah! We must also recall that the ark was a testimony against the people’s sin. It was a sign to the people that judgment was coming, although they obviously did not heed the warning.
It is also important to remember that from the time of Adam through the Tower of Babel, people clung together in a close geographic region. Therefore, a local flood was all that was needed to remove every man from the earth.
The repeated use of universal terms such as all, every, etc, also works well with a local flood theory. Remember, the flood account is written from the viewpoint of mankind. Thus Noah, looking out of the ark, could see nothing but water, and thus he would conclude that all the earth was flooded.
The Rainbow Covenant
Whitcomb claims that the rainbow is God’s covenant never to send a global flood again. He states that if the flood were local, then God broke his promise, since there has been many local floods. However, the actual covenant says “Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” No flood since Noah’s time has killed all human life. Humanity has suffered floods, but humankind has never been wiped off the face of the earth in the way that the people of Noah’s day were. We can rest assured that God's covenant is still good. (For more, see God's Broken Promise)
As much as Whitcomb would like the flood to be global, there is no biblical evidence that requires it. The language works just as well within a local flood scenario. One must remember that just as in the creation account, the account of the Flood is written from man's viewpoint. It is based on the observations of Noah on the ark.
1 Universality of the Flood, by John Whitcomb, Answers Magazine, Vol. 2, Number 2. pp. 40-42. Available online here.
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