Noah's flood: Local or worldwide?

James wrote…

But what I’m not seeing is why local flood advocates imagine that the global view is controversial. Is there some serious problem that local flooders see with the global approach? It seems like local advocates are fighting an uphill battle, and I don’t know why. Is there a reason we should all reinterpret what we heard as children? What’s the underlying motive here? What’s so difficult about the global view? I cannot identify the problem that local flooders think their alternate view is solving.

That is an excellent question. Why is the global view seen as controversial?

The problem for some believers, such as Hugh Ross, is that they think the idea of a worldwide flood (and also a young earth) ends up creating unnecessary intellectual roadblocks for nonbelievers considering Christianity. Hugh Ross has bemoaned that in the past.

One might say, yes, but what about all the miracles of the New Testament—walking on water, raising the dead, healing the sick, etc.? But there is a difference. A miracle, by definition, does not follow the normal day to day way things happen. If one is going to accept that Jesus is God and died for our sins and rose again then one must accept some miraculous events. Science has no data against quick miracles like multiplying the loaves and fishes. One can say “That isn’t how things work!” but has no data remaining today against the event.

However, when it comes to both the age of the earth and the question of the extent of the flood, there is actual data to be considered.

Age of the earth (and the universe):

U-Pb dating is used to claim an age of the earth greater than 4 billion years

Red shift and parallax are some of the methods of measuring distance to stars. If the calculated light-years distance is great (say >50,000 lt-years), then how did that light reach the earth since the time of (a recent) creation?

Extent of the flood:

Although virtually the entire earth shows evidence of extensive flooding, many claim that animals repopulating the earth in the pattern we have today from just the pairs on the ark only about 4000 years ago is not possible.

Now, please realize I hold to a young earth and also a worldwide flood. So I do not think those issues are insurmountable. I posted a number of times earlier in this discussion concerning a worldwide flood. But old earth and local flood folks are not happy with Christians claiming the Bible teaches things that the scientific mainstream position rejects based on their understandings of currently available data. Especially for someone like Hugh Ross, who is an astrophysicist, a worldwide flood is problematic and a young earth is untenable.

God bless!

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@jlyons Not necessarily, no - a translation has to use the best words available in a given language to convey the story. I actually think translators have done a fairly good job of conveying the words themselves. I don’t think the confusion occurs at a word level, but rather at a worldview level.

The story is told from Noah’s perspective. We modern readers bring to the text our knowledge of the earth and the universe, which ancient people lacked entirely. Our assumptions are fundamentally different than theirs.

@kenyamel Thank you for your thoughts :slight_smile:

I would like to point out that accusing local flood / old earth proponents of believing what they believe only because of modern science is an ad hominem attack against these individuals’ integrity. It would be the same as if I said all global flood proponents hold their view because they don’t know how to read ancient literature, which isn’t true. There are intelligent people who love God and His Word on both sides of the debate and we should not resort to ad hominem arguments.

Sean, I’m sorry. I had no idea what I wrote would be considered an argumentum ad hominem. But I know how it feels the other way around so again, sorry.

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@kenyamel Quite alright :slight_smile: On this particular topic, some of the common arguments are, unfortunately, ad hominem, so it is not surprising you may have encountered them.

Hi, thank you, an interesting question indeed! When I first became a Cheistian, I asked the Lord about this, and He said the waters were His tears! Researching about the planet Venus, I found it has a water covering the whole planet. I assume this was true of the earth at the pre- flood time, giving lovely restful pink sunsets and beauty for hours. I’m not a scientist but my son is and we debate these things often. I simply wonder where all the salt on the mountains which flows into the streams and rivers came from, other than the bottom of the ocean? May God bless us all with a sweet joy in His presence today!

@awebsterg May Christ grant you wisdom as you share His love with your son and as you study. There is more than one explanation for how marine fossils came to be on mountaintops. As Hugh Ross points out below, if the mountain was formed by geological activity pushing the sea floor up, then it would make perfect sense you would find fossils and minerals / salts there…

Certainly some form of geological activity is the cause of such a phenomena, but it does not require a global flood.

Thanks for your kind thoughts! God bless you too!

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Sean –

I have been puzzling some more over your post:

“I would like to point out that accusing local flood / old earth proponents of believing what they believe only because of modern science is an ad hominem attack against these individuals’ integrity. It would be the same as if I said all global flood proponents hold their view because they don’t know how to read ancient literature, which isn’t true. There are intelligent people who love God and His Word on both sides of the debate and we should not resort to ad hominem arguments.”

In my post I was answering James’ question, which was… “why is the global view controversial?”. I answered it by saying that since it appears to some to be clashing with standard interpretations of data known to science that it thereby might cause problems for nonchristians (and especially ones with science training) who are considering Christianity.

I did NOT speak to the issue of why people like Hugh Ross hold to a local flood and old earth. Rather, regardless how he came to his views, he objects strongly to the worldwide flood and young earth views because he believes they may impede those seeking the truth in Christianity from accepting it.

So we have 2 different issues.

  1. Why do local flood / old earth folks hold to their views? Is it based on theology or science or both or …?

  2. Why do (some of the) holders of those views object so strongly to persons holding the opposite views?

Sean, I don’t see how answering issue 2 causes an ad hominem with respect to issue 1. I do NOT think my post ended up “accusing local flood / old earth proponents of believing what they believe only because of modern science.”

Further, when local flood / old earth proponents support their views from the Bible, I find that they are always saying things like… “the word translated mountain could also mean a hill.” In other words, they never (at least that I have ever seen) say a passage MUST mean that the flood is local. Rather they seem to say that it does not have to be worldwide but that passages could instead be interpreted as local based on the range of meanings for the Hebrew words used.

To repeat-- To my knowledge, they NEVER say the verses in Genesis CANNOT mean the flood was worldwide. Instead, they say that the verses COULD be interpreted either way (local or worldwide).

When I see that done repeatedly by Hugh Ross and others, I conclude that their choosing the local flood view is NOT based solely on their interpretation of the Bible. Rather, they see the Bible can be interpreted either way. Then they ALSO look at modern science.

You MAY decide that my view stated in the last paragraph is another ad hominem. However, if you think that, you need to clearly elucidate why you see it as one.

Well, Sean, I hope we are still friends, and I await your response.
God bless!

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@kenyamel I’ll trust your own understanding of your motives in making the argument, since I am not privy to them :slight_smile: That was what your words communicated to me, even in context, but part of communication is clarification and I am thankful you did clarify.

Do you think it is inappropriate to look at modern science in addition to Scripture to decide between two possible interpretations if the evidence for both is equal?

I suspect if you sat down and had a coffee with Hugh Ross he could clarify his position as well. This whole business of communicating—both ways—can be difficult. Even for two people both in the modern era. Which highlights the difficulty of understanding ancient documents!

Sean - If the theological evidence for the 2 views “is equal” then looking at modern science in addition to Scripture makes sense. For that matter, it is always worthwhile to consider science. But note…

  • I do NOT think the theological evidence for each is equal. I am convinced the verses easily support a global flood and only with difficulty can they be considered to be allowing the possibility of a local flood.
  • Interestingly enough, I am strongly convinced that looking at the geography of the area around the Ararat mountain range (since the ark came to rest on one of them) gives great support to the worldwide flood position and provides great difficulties for the local flood position.

So I see BOTH the Bible AND modern science (geography of the region) supporting a worldwide flood and NOT supporting a local flood. Of course, other aspects of science such as current biodiversity in the world may be seen as providing support for a local flood.

To review what was mentioned in an earlier post, the local flood position posits a large area (at least 200 miles across) that can maintain water for many months at a depth of at least a few thousand feet. [See Hugh Ross’s video posted earlier for his speculations on this.]

The local flood view requires a “ring” of hills or mountains with no gaps lower than a few thousand feet in elevation completely surrounding the ark. Hugh Ross says the ring of mountains (to hold in the water) must be at a distance of at least 100 miles in each direction from the ark so that they would not be seen from water level at the ark’s location.

Given the fact that current geographical formations in the Middle East do not provide any suitable location for such a local flood, science (or at least geography) is on the side of a worldwide flood.

God bless!

Thank you for sharing those thoughts :slight_smile: While we disagree about the evidence, I am thankful for your commitment to be faithful to God and honor our glorious Savior. The peace of Christ be with you.

Okay - I suppose I can see how you could take some key phrases in a more figurative way that would justify a local flood view. Phrases like:

I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh wherein is the breath of life from under heaven.
All the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered.
The mountains were covered.
All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land died.
Every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground…they were destroyed from the earth.
(As the waters abated) the tops of the mountains were seen.

But now this raises a question. Humor me for a moment and suppose that God actually did cover the globe from pole to pole with water. Suppose He wanted to convey this in the Genesis story. What more could He have said? How should God have dispelled all controversy? Is there any wording that could have made a global view undeniable?

In other words, is the local view falsifiable?

I can see how God could have clarified that He meant a local flood, had that been the case. He could have said something like, The flood destroyed all life in the inhabited regions of the world, for example.

But is there any wording that could have conveyed that God actually did mean a global flood that you would have considered undeniable?


@jlyons Those are good questions. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t really think God’s main purpose in sharing the story of Noah was so that we would know whether the flood was global or local. I think God’s main message was about the reality of judgment, His graciousness in providing a means of salvation, and in sharing the great narrative of salvation history.

Imagine with me for a moment that we were studying World War 2 and we were trying to determine the exact positions of the infantry during a battle. Now let’s say the source documents we have are a letter between a soldier and his family back home in which he describes the battle. Sure, we may get a rough idea of what happened, but because the document’s purpose is not tactical we should not expect to find all of the details we would like…

For me, reading the Noah story with the intent of determining the amount of land covered by the flood is kind of like that — I just don’t think that’s the point of the story. You have to ask the questions the story was intended to answer; not the ones that it was never intended to answer.

I am not denying that the flood narrative is historical—it certainly is… I am also not saying my analogy is perfect—I am sure it falls apart in several places.

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Thanks James - you set my mental juices flowing furiously!

In line with this thinking about the actual complete meaning of “all” : I and am sure others do too…now get a question about and doubt the Bible, [the hermeneutics of every word causes ambiguous confusion rather than unify and clarity].

So too much knowledge and study says the King Philosopher : is in vain or (useless). Or is that subjective too. What about Revelations talking about God’s judgement being on all mankind or are there people who make up what their itching ears want to hear that His overwhelming love will forgive “all” ? When Romans indicates that only those who recognise the miraculous creator and give Him glory according to their knowledge will enter into that bliss He promises, I wonder if people disbelieve this too?
Where “outta of this world “ will these doubts stop? I do hope in Faith and Trust and Hope in THE TRUTH!

I agree, Sean. It is sad that we focus on Thomas’s doubting to the exclusion of everything else God used him to do. I would personally hate to be characterized forever by one instance of doubt in my own life. There have been too many, to be sure! Good thing the printing press and internet weren’t around then!

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@Cindi1 Yes indeed :slight_smile: Learning to walk with Jesus is a journey for all of us; a journey of spiritual growth with falls, recoveries, glories, and struggles. But thankfully one that is headed in the right direction - from glory to glory!