Ask Pastor Matt: “Was the Biblical Flood Necessary? Wasn’t It Cruel?”
by Matt Rawlings
Every week I receive great questions via social media. Here is one sent via Facebook message few weeks ago:
“During the great flood with Noah’s Ark, God wiped out virtually the entire human race to “purge” the earth of evil (at least that’s the story as I’ve come to understand it.) If this was the case I have a problem believing that a merciful, omnipotent God would kill millions of innocent people around the world to achieve this goal. What’s worse, these innocents (men, women, children and babies) not only died, but needlessly suffered a horrific drowning death! This seems extremely inefficient and malevolent to me.”
This is a great question and one I had as a young skeptic who eventually spent ten years as an atheist. What I failed to grasp at the time was the theology behind the historical (possibly worldwide) flood that spared only Noah and his family. In fact, I missed a number of theological points that are crucial for understanding Scripture at all. Here they are:
(1) God is Holy. In other words, God is absolutely pure. There is no fault within Him.
(2) God is independent. He did not need to create anyone or anything. He had perfect fellowship within the Trinity. He created the universe and all within it purely out of love.
(3) We are made by God. Each person is “knit together” by God Himself in his or her mother’s womb. Thus, we all have a relationship with God whether we want to or not. We owe Him everything and are accountable to Him.
(4) We are sinful by choice. Even though God freely made us, we choose to rebel against Him every time we sin.
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(5) Sin is always first and foremost a crime against a Holy God. Because we are all in a creator-creature relationship with God and this relationship is primary, when we sin our sin is first and foremost a crime against God.
(6) Justice requires payment for sin. Because sin is a crime against God and God is the purest being, justice requires the greatest punishment, which is death–both immediate and eternal. Look at it this way, humans naturally are repulsed by crimes against children because we view them as more pure than adults. Yet, God is infinitely more pure than any child. He is more pure than we can imagine. Thus, justice demands the highest punishment imaginable.
(7) Because God is not only just but loving He provides a remedy for our punishment via the cross of Christ. But God provided a means of grace even before the cross by passing over the eternal punishment of sins and, often the immediate punishment as well, for those that placed their faith in Him.
It is also important to know that God is omnipotent, or all-powerful, and this includes the ability to see the future. All of this is necessary background information for understanding the flood recorded in Genesis 6-9.
Now, the flood narrative is introduced with these words…
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