My family and I had a great conversation about the flood this morning. We concluded that there are three basic responses that we can come to when it comes to unexplainable events like the flood that we find in scripture. To illustrate these three responses we considered an example of a clock.
Imagine looking at a clock face before leaving a room. You make note that it says 6:30. You return to the room about five minutes later, but the clock face says 7:15. The minute hand has moved 45 minutes! Now, you know about the internal workings of a clock. You know that they click and turn and move in a predictable motion. You know that the minute hand should not (and your gut says could not) move a three-quarter turn about the clock face in just five minutes.
Your three responses are as follows:
- That shouldn’t have happened. That couldn’t have happened. So that didn’t happen!
- That shouldn’t have happened given my understanding of how that clock should work. But something tells me that if I peeked inside the clock I would find something about this clock that is different than my understanding of clocks in general. Perhaps it was wound too tight. Perhaps it has a gear that is a different shape than I was expecting. The bottom line is that there is something that I did not know that led me to observe something that I did not expect.
- Clocks just don’t move like that on their own. There must have been someone outside of the clock that moved the minute hand a three-quarter turn while I was out of the room.
Response one is only possible if we can’t trust the account that our eyes are giving us. (Or as my son pointed out this morning, we are just wrong in our estimation of time and we were actually out of the room for more than five minutes.) We surely ought to ask of the flood account, is this account trustworthy to begin with? Is it a reliable account of what actually happened? I think the best way to test the reliability of the Bible is to read the whole thing and see if it seems to ring with truth throughout the rest of what it has to say. If it does then the more difficult accounts grow in their likely reliability.
If, by the time we are done reading, we find that the Bible is reliable and rings with truth throughout, we are left with response two and three. In the flood account it appears that both of these responses are at work.
As to the second response, the world just wasn’t in the same shape that it is now. For example, there was a mass of water under the ground (“the great deep”) that isn’t there any longer so we have no context by which to study or understand it.
The third response is the most important. The context of creation is that there is a Creator outside of creation who works in creation in ways that simple wouldn’t happen if he wasn’t there. There are things that we cannot explain inside creation unless there is a Creator outside of creation.
Where does this leave us? I am challenged to continue to read the story and ask this question when I come to the difficult to understand parts of the story such as the flood: Does the rest of the story hold together in a trustworthy manner so that I can trust even the more difficult parts? Let us continue to read while admitting that there is much about creation that we do not know or understand and that the context of the Biblical story is that there is a God outside of creation that works in ways that cannot be explained apart from Him.