I wrote 'Rocking the Boat: The Value of New Ideas' for the May 2011 issue of the ABR Newsletter. It stirred up a surprising number of comments! It is gratifying to see people actually read and thoughtfully consider the information ABR provides. Such comments encourage us to believe our labor is not in vain in accomplishing two goals: first, strengthening the faith of those who already KNOW they are God's people, who trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins; and second, addressing the doubts that plague the minds of those who would LIKE to believe, but find their understanding of the Christian faith clashes with the concept of reality our culture has instilled in them. Living in a society that continually bombards them with a worldview which denies the existence of absolute Truth and objective moral standards, some have honest trouble giving unreserved mental assent to the Bible's teachings. We want to help these folks see how reasonable and satisfying, both mentally and spiritually, the teachings of the Bible are when properly understood, by clearing up the distortions of the media and secular academics.
Having reviewed the comments from my previous article, it seems best to write a follow-up article instead of addressing individual comments, particularly because some people expressed a sense of being “left hanging” by the first one. Hopefully this will clear things up a bit!
The Foundation of Biblical Authority
First, I wish to address a comment which goes to the foundational issue of biblical authority. After all, if the Bible as we have it today does not accurately reveal things from God and is just a motley collection of Jewish religious thoughts and history, there is no point in worrying about exegetical issues in the first place! One commenter wrote:
It seems to me that the Bible as we know it is an assemblage of stories, chronicles, arguments and poetry that is a human construct edited and finally approved by a committee. At what point does a book become a singular act of God that trumps all other information -- including empirical observations from nature itself. Truth is truth.
The Bible is indeed an assemblage of various types of writing, from different times and places. Yet instead of regarding it as a “human construct,” the Bible itself teaches that the words of its various books, encompassing various types of writing, are endued with a unique quality that makes it proper to call it, as a whole, the Word of God. In fact, the phrase “the word of God” comes up 47 times in the Bible, mostly in New Testament references to the Old Testament in its entirety. There are 20 additional places in the New Testament, many of which are the words of Christ Himself, where the books of the Old Testament are called “Scripture.” This amounts to the same thing as calling it the “word of God.” Only if God Himself is the source of the words which fill the books of the canon of the Old Testament, do these words of the Apostle Paul make any sense:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In saying “all” Scripture, Paul has EVERY book of the accepted Old Testament of His day in view – the very same books in our Old Testament today. Jesus Himself went on record as accepting the text of the Old Testament as God's revelation, calling it “the word of God” in Matthew 15:6 and its parallel in Mark 7:13. He also taught that not the smallest stroke of a pen – the little “jot” or “tittle” that distinguishes certain Hebrew letters from closely similar ones – would pass from the Law until all was accomplished (Matthew 5:18). For a more detailed article about Christ's view of Scripture, see: Jesus Christ on the Inerrancy of Scripture.
Since Genesis 7–8, an Old Testament passage, was the focus of my previous article, I think I have made my point. Nonetheless, what about the New Testament? The words of Jesus in the Gospels need no defense as the Word of God. For the rest, for brevity I will simply let Peter address the words of Paul, which make up the bulk of the New Testament: “and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15–16). The emphasized phrase shows Peter clearly viewed the letters of Paul as inspired Scripture, of equal rank with the Old Testament. So must we.
For those who want to dig deeper on this subject, see this article on the doctrine of inspiration: Inspiration: The Oracles of God. I also addressed this issue under the section “Striking a Biblical Balance” in my article at The Influence of the ANE on the Book of Genesis.
Before moving on, I want to make a couple more remarks about the first comment. Calling the canon of Scripture a "human construct" clearly places the emphasis in the wrong place – on men's decision-making ability, not on God's direction. It was not as if a group of scholars made an ad hoc decision that certain books were Scripture and others were not; this is a humanistic viewpoint that ignores the role of the Spirit of God in guiding the recognition of what books were inspired by God and were authoritative. Scholar F.F. Bruce stated it well: "When at last a Church Council – the Synod of Hippo in A.D. 393 - listed the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, it did not confer upon them any authority which they did not already possess, but simply recorded their previously established canonicity" (The Books and the Parchments, p. 113). A similar process of recognition was behind the canon of the Old Testament. Josh McDowell's book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, includes a chapter about this that I commend to you.
"Empirical observations from nature itself" never exist apart from an interpretive framework. The data itself IS truth, at the simplest level. But the data is useless until we have ascribed meaning to it – meaning that cannot be disconnected from the presuppositions one brings to the data. It is not the data that is the problem, but whether it is viewed from a scriptural point of view or from a humanistic one. That is why evolutionists are in error. Both they and creationists can see the same raw data in nature, but they interpret it from preconceptions totally divorced from and conflicting with inspired Scripture.
Allow Scripture itself to testify to you that the words preserved so carefully by meticulous scribes through the ages are indeed the Word of God, not the mere work of an editorial committee of imperfect human beings.
The gist of your article is very good. Regardless of your level of education you must strive to remain humble. The more education you have the harder it is to remain so unfortunately. It's extremely true that even Christians, when possessing the PhD, tend to become too dismissive of the boat being rocked. The only thing I wish you had done in the article was to follow through and be more explicit about what you objected to on the issue of pre-Flood mountain ranges. You pointed out that other scriptures talk about permanent boundaries. Ok, then elaborate on that and discuss how that would impact current creationist models. You kind of left us hanging there! Even though I love the ministry of AIG I do find myself getting intellectually incensed from time to time at some things. E.g. the contention that in Genesis, when God limited Man's days to 120 years, it does NOT mean that he limited Man's lifespan. To me, it's eminently obvious that he IS talking about lifespan, not about how long it was going to be before the flood. But what do I know! I don't have a PhD. I'm sure that others may have objections on different issues. But your overall point about remaining humble is very true and I think it is a major problem throughout the church. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
Since I had limited time to give to my first article (the May 2011 Newsletter deadline), I purposely steered away from going into detail on how to understand the mountains in the Genesis 7–8 passage, and about the pre-Flood boundaries. The mention of that passage was meant to serve as a general illustration of the main point – which I am thankful you grasped! – not as a detailed exegesis of the verses. That said, I have discussed the issue of the boundaries elsewhere; see: Creation or the Flood: A Study of Several Passages of Scripture. And I will elaborate further on problems I see in most treatments of Gen. 7–8, and how I would resolve them, below.
Marine Fossil-Containing Sediments on High Mountains
You have good comments but I think you may want to investigate your claims further. For instance you state that there is no way a mountain range could exist through the propsed events during the flood. Yet there is ample evidence of mountains with marine fossils all over and high level sediment. Are you not doing the same assuming that you are complaining about? We also find the same sediment layers on many different continents. ti seems to me the models offer the best answer for all the ecidence. And I agree with you that no one should point to the 120 years as when God limited man's age. I don't know of any that really say that so maybe you need to qualify it better (although i could have missed it somewhere).
I am confused! As far as I can tell, I did not state, and hopefully did not imply, that I myself hold the view that "there is no way a mountain range could exist through the propsed events during the flood." I wrote, "the bulges which make them mountains in the first place would, in the absence of a hypothetical complete restructuring of the Earth's surface, exist both before and after the water onslaught." This is my view: that pre-Flood mountains DID go through the Flood largely intact, and that at least some of the mountains of Ararat mentioned in Genesis 8 were included among them.
I completely agree with you about marine fossils and sediments at high elevations. But because there has been obvious mountain-building tectonic activity since the Flood – smoothly folded sedimentary rock layers can be seen, for example, in the Canadian Rockies (a dramatic picture was included with my article, "Making Sense of the Days of Peleg," on page 57 of the Spring 2009 issue of Bible and Spade) – there are excellent reasons to believe that many mountains are purely post-Flood mountains that were uplifted due to continental collisions, years after the Flood had ended and the sediments comprising these mountains had a chance to partly solidify before being deformed. (The sediment layers have remained distinct in these mountains and did not slump or slough off, so the mountain-raising collisions that caused them probably could not have taken place during the year of the Flood, when their waterlogged sediments were very unlikely to have firmed up enough to remain intact.) This process of post-Flood mountain building would also have raised marine fossils and sediments to high levels, so by themselves the high fossils do not tell us if a mountain was pre- or post-Flood.
In my Spring 2009 Peleg article, I mentioned likewise that we find the same sediment layers on different continents. This is one of the reasons (including the non-slumped but deformed mountain sediment layers discussed above) that I favor the idea that the earth's surface underwent a literal division in the "days of Peleg" (Gen. 10:25), after Pangaea had been blanketed with sediments during the Flood.
A Few Miscellaneous Comments
Rocking the boat is a good thing and I thank you for your article, however I also found that you weren't specific enough about your point to really make a point. Regarding the comment about the scriptures that indicate the land/sea boundaries are unchanging, clearly if all the mountains were covered in the flood the land/sea boundaries did change during that event. Since the scriptures you referenced were written after the flood, they must be speaking of post flood boundaries established by God.
Please see my article at Creation or the Flood: A Study of Several Passages of Scripture, where I discuss the evidence that these references, though WRITTEN after the Flood, reflect God's insights that go back to the time Creation took place. So the time of writing does not matter.
Psalm 104 does more than just rock the boat. For most flood interpretations, it overturns it completely. In Psalm 104:7 God said the waters of creation would not cross continental boundaries and "never again will they cover the earth," which tends to kill the global flood interpretation altogether. I can see why you did not take it to its logical conclusion, since the article would probably have never been published on this site.
I partly agree with you. I addressed Psalm 104 similarly at the just-referenced link, saying the Creation-set boundaries discussed there apply to the Pangaean coastline. But I disagree that Ps. 104 "kills the global flood interpretation altogether." The waters of Creation were the earliest stage of development of the Earth – they are called in Hebrew tehom, the "deep," and initially contained no dry land to disturb their formlessness and voidness, since the dry land was not separated out until Gen. 1:9, the third day. But the Flood was a temporary punitive event that for just one year transgressed the sea/land boundary separating Pangaea from the world ocean, which afterward was restored. That the waters were different during the Flood is signified by the different word used in Hebrew, mabbul. God promised to never again send a mabbul to cover the earth. He was not talking about the tehom in Genesis 7–8, and in Psalm 104 it was not talking about the mabbul. This is an excellent illustration of the value of knowing how to use Hebrew word study tools.
Related to this discussion is the idea of a local flood, unfortunately common in some Christian circles where compromises with modern science are made in an effort to be "respectable." But the repeated universality seen in Genesis when it discusses the Flood (for example, "Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy ALL flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; EVERYTHING THAT IS ON THE EARTH shall perish," Gen. 6:17; "ALL the high mountains EVERYWHERE UNDER THE HEAVENS were covered," Gen. 7:19) proscribes the local flood idea. Even common sense tells you there would have been no need to put animals on an Ark to save them if they could flee from a local flood, or they had cousins far enough away to carry on their line. The universality of Flood traditions all over the world likewise militates against the local flood idea. The common sedimentary rock layers, laid down by water, seen on the east coast of South America and west coast of Africa, as well as the congruent shapes of their continental shelves, indicates they were joined, so that entire huge area was under the same sediment-depositing Flood. There are MANY reasons, both scriptural and scientific, demonstrating that a universal Flood is the only one that both makes straightforward sense in reading the Bible and at the same time fits the raw scientific data. One has to resort to all kinds of interpretational gymnastics in order to make a case for a local flood – a case driven mainly by trying to force Scripture to conform to evolutionary science. For such people, a particular kind of science is their god, not the God of the Bible. It is shameful.
The Hydrological Model of the Flood
Now we come to my first formal elaboration on an alternative approach to the usual creationist treatments of Genesis 7–8. It is not fully developed, but I believe the following will help understand how I am trying to use a combination of straightforward Scripture interpretation that takes into account the original Hebrew, plus some insights from science.
It is fine and necessary to include all the related Scripture passages to this issue. However, you did not include Genesis 7:11, which says (NASB), "...on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened." This must be included in the discussion and conclusion to whether there were great geological changes. It seems obvious that with such upheavals from the subterranean parts there would be gross geological changes, wouldn't it?
As mentioned earlier, I did not aim to present a complete exegetical analysis of Gen. 7–8 in my first brief article, so Gen. 7:11 was not touched upon. But I am not unaware of it, and indeed it has been a key reason keeping me from feeling comfortable with the most common Flood models.
This is because Genesis 7:11 focuses only and exclusively on the action of WATER. It mentions the fountains of the "great tehom," which we already know is water. It mentions "floodgates" of the sky, which must also be water. What "bursts open" (Hebrew baqa') and directly causes the Flood are these "fountains," so the word "fountains" refers not to jets of water (which can't "burst open"), but to vast reservoirs of subterranean water under pressure, which can. There is NOTHING in this verse speaking plainly about horizontal tectonic activity, nothing about volcanic eruptions, nothing about magma outpourings. All of these details originate in the imaginations of those with a Flood model requiring them, not from the Bible. We know from Genesis 2:10 that "a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers." This sounds like a description of an abundant artesian well, of upwelling water under pressure from an underground reservoir. Tying everything we actually have in the text together, we have a water event, and only a water event.
So, let us start with that. Can we build a workable scientific model with this water-only limitation, involving no tremendous tectonic activity and magma-related earth movements? I think so. Here, in brief, is the sequence of events I see taking place during and immediately after the Flood, with an eye to avoiding conflict with Scripture.
- The lunar maria are the result of impacts where a meteor bombardment punctured the thin lunar crust in multiple places and allowed molten rock to seep onto the surface, creating the smooth, round areas we call maria. Evidence for this was presented by Dr. Ron Samec at the 2008 International Conference on Creationism, and I think it makes sense. Nearly all of these are only on the side facing the Earth, so the Earth must have been tremendously impacted too. (My observation: God seems to have a propensity for bringing judgment from the sky; recall the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the future Wormwood disaster of Rev. 8:11.)
- I think Genesis supports the idea that the primeval Earth had vast reservoirs of water under pressure beneath the Earth's crust (my above comments about Gen. 2:10). Such impacts would puncture the crust and release not molten magma, as in the case of the Moon, but would rupture those reservoirs – those "fountains of the great tehom" – all at once, releasing huge quantities of pressurized water.
- Both liquid water and abundant water vapor (the underground water was likely very hot, perhaps even superheated) forcefully escape into the atmosphere. The water vapor and impurities within it would have been forced far higher into the atmosphere than the liquid water, seeding the atmosphere for the first time in Earth history and causing torrential rain. Water simultaneously overflows from the ruptured "fountains of the great deep" onto the land, and thus by these two means the Flood begins. Like a waterbed stabbed with an icepick, the release of the subterranean waters causes the Earth's crust to begin subsiding into the resulting void.
- The land surface, supported at the margins of the original Pangaea continent by God’s primordial “doors” on the sea (the continental shelves, set up at Creation by “an eternal decree,” Jer. 5:22), goes concave after the subterranean waters vacate their chambers. This causes the direction of Pangaea’s rivers to reverse, allowing the world ocean to begin pouring in. The resulting increased sagging of the land surface into the ruptured “fountains of the great deep” causes tension on the rigid continental shelves, pulling them downwards and allowing the world ocean to overwhelm the land at full force, bringing along with it its marine life that gets embedded in the lowest sediments on the land.
- The water influx was also a massive erosional event that began at the continental margins (where the land-collapse concaving was shallowest) and got worse as one moved inland. Assuming the largest "fountain" was centrally located under Pangaea, approximately at the point where the Americas would have joined to Europe and Africa, the heaviest sedimentation would have occurred toward the center of the continent, at the point of greatest concaving. And the integrity of Pangaea would have been weakest there as a result, since the weight of sediments and water would have exerted their greatest stress there.
- The release of the subterranean waters not only opened a void that the land surface initially sagged into, but set in motion gradual isostatic rebound of the asthenosphere below. (The “fountains of the great deep” resided between the original land surface and the asthenosphere.) With the concentrated weight of the subterranean water chambers upon the asthenosphere gone, after the initial collapse of the land surface the upper mantle began to deform upwards, causing the lower-density land surface to rise.
- This upward deformation continued until the land surface began to turn convex again, and the river flows reversed and started the waters running back to the sea, 150 days into the Flood. This rebound was gradual, the torrential rains of the early Flood no longer played a role, and ionic binding in some layers of sediment helped hold them together, so the reverse erosion of the water running off the land was not as widespread, but locally severe in the main channels of water runoff, such as the Grand Canyon.
- The gradual rebound continued. The same mountains which were covered by the waters of the Flood (Gen. 7:19-20) began to reappear (Gen. 8:5). The Ark got snagged on Mount Ararat.
- Men and animals left the Ark, were fruitful and multiplied, but men did not stray far from the Armenian highlands. Crops and animals were domesticated in this area, as numerous studies have shown. The center of civilization became Mesopotamia after Nimrod came on the scene. God directed the kangaroos and other marsupials to the deep southern area of Pangaea.
- When men refused to fill the earth, God stepped in to force the issue, and confused their languages. No longer able to cooperate with each other, they finally dispersed to the four corners of Pangaea.
- In the "days of Peleg" (Gen. 10:25), there was another disaster (literally, a “bad star”). This altered the earth’s axis very abruptly. The globe moved more quickly than the atmosphere, creating hypercane winds. The combination of being abruptly shifted into frigid Siberia, together with the tremendous wind chill factor, spelled the demise of the mammoths, which literally had their breath taken away. The shock to the globe fractured Pangaea, especially at the Mid-Atlantic Rift, which was the main point where the "fountains of the great deep" had ruptured and the underlying rocks were weakest (they were brittle, and had first been deformed downward, then upwards - like a piece of metal or plastic that is repeatedly flexed on the same line, they became prone to a later split as a result). The crustal plate (of lower density than the Earth's mantle, and thus able to "float" and stay largely above the ocean surface) carrying Australia, with the Babel-dispersed aborigines and the marsupials along for the ride, slid off over the asthenosphere toward the southern ocean. The Americas similarly split away from Europe and Africa, opening up the brand-new, sediment-free Atlantic basin, with the accompanying demise of the Atlantis civilization. It also caused some Pacific sea floor to subduct into the mantle, not only helping to pull the Americas to the west, but also forcing up the Andes and Rockies when the west coasts of the Americas slammed into the unmoved Pacific plate. (The sediments of those mountains had some time to solidify since the end of the Flood, so the integrity of their layering was not disrupted.) The ancients recorded this event in their myths of warfare in the heavens (Tiamat and Marduk, etc.). Egypt, deep in the interior of essentially undisturbed Africa (Eurasia likewise was moved but little), came out of this time of turmoil relatively unscathed, and able to retain their level of civilization and the records later used by Moses when God led him to compile Genesis and the other books of the Pentateuch. Flooding took place as the crustal plates of the Americas and Australia slid rapidly over the asthenosphere, but was nowhere near as severe as the Flood, being on the order of coastal tsunamis from which people and animals could flee inland to escape. Since Africa was hardly disturbed by this event, many dinosaurs were able to live through it, such as "Mokele-mbembe" reported by the pygmies in the Congo even today.
- The tectonic and mantle activity of these “days of Peleg” put an influx of heat into the oceans, reflected in such stories as the Conflagration of Ovid, with tales of boiling seas. The warm oceans then gave rise to what can be termed, to follow the ideas of Oard, “an Ice Age caused by the Peleg event,” of which the cave men were unfortunate victims. The plate movements of this time did not violate the original creation earth/sea boundaries, because the earth surface simply separated.
Such is the short form of my model, which I hope to give a fuller treatment someday soon. Only water, in unimaginable quantity, was involved in the Flood. No magma. No Ring of Fire volcanoes, which were a byproduct of friction and plate subduction during the horizontal tectonic activity I see taking place during the “days of Peleg” that immediately preceded the Ice Age. No violating of the eternally-decreed land-sea boundaries set up at Creation (which were restored when isostatic rebound caused Pangaea to rise again and the Flood waters to flow off, like sealing the waterbed punctures and reinflating it). I think this Hydrological Model allows for the straightforward sense of multiple Scripture passages (not just in Genesis) to be accepted at face value. Limited vertical tectonic activity takes place from the subsidence of the land and its later isostatic rise, but all magma-driven tectonic activity takes place at least a couple hundred years later, during a separate event occuring during the “days of Peleg.” What instigated THAT event is something I cannot begin to cover here.
That's all for now! Thanks again for everyone's comments, and please do not feel slighted if I did not directly address something you said. I do not claim to have all the answers, but I CAN say I am trying very hard to start with and stay with Scripture as I try to understand what God has done in this world.