The YE view includes the global flood as part of its paradigm. In fact, it demands that the flood be global as a way of both accounting for every major geological feature on the earth (mountains, canyons etc.) and of bearing responsibility for all fossil evidence. This Global Inundation view is primarily based on a single Bible verse: Genesis 7:19 -- "[The waters] rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains (Hebrew: har) under the entire heavens (Hebrew: shamayim) were covered …"
Before I offer an alternate view, let me say that, unlike the YE view that requires adherence to this Global Inundation Model, there is no such monolithic demand for "orthodoxy" among OE supporters. The OE view is certainly consistent with it, but it also allows for evidence from science and from Scripture that goes against the Global Inundation Model. There are several points that seem to buttress the idea that the flood could have been a more localized event. Let me explain ...
There are actually four models for the flood that have been proposed
- Global Inundation
- Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Persian Gulf
- Mesopotamian Plain
- Black Sea Overflow
It is not just scientific doubt about the model that weighs against it. There is also positive evidence that the Global Inundation Model does not hold water (pun intended). The geological record gives us ice cores in northern Greenland and central Antartic as well as sediment cores in New Zealand, that reveal annual layers of deposits of sediment and ice stretching back several hundred thousand years. The age of the layers in these cores is not "assumed," we can count them. Not only that, we can check them against one another by locating global impact events such as the volcanic eruptions of Krakatoa and Vesuvius, along with elliptical variations in the Earth’s orbit. These kinds of events are recorded in the layers and thereby allow us to calibrate them with one another. If there was a global flood, the evidence for such an event would show up in each of these, yet, in those hundreds of thousands of years of calibrated evidence, there is no evidence for it.
That said, scientific skepticism can never be allowed to stand alone. As always, it must be weighed in conjunction with what the Bible has to say about it. In fact, the debate about this topic is not primarily scientific. It is biblical. And, once again, what the Bible has to say is debatable.
First, the Bible gives us ample evidence of "worldwide" events that we know were not global. Examples of this type of hyperbole include:
- Genesis 41:56-57 (Joseph and Egypt's famine)
- 1 Kings 4:34, 10:24 (“the whole world” visited Solomon)
- Acts 2:5 (“Men [were present] from every nation under heaven")
- Romans 1:8 (“your faith is proclaimed in all the world")
- Colossians 1:6 (“…as indeed in the whole world is bearing fruit”)
• har: hill, mountain, hill country, mount
• shamayim: heaven, heavens, sky, visible heavens
- Job 38:8-11 -- "[God] shut the sea behind doors… fixed limits for it … [and said] this far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt.")
- Psalm 104:9 -- "…[God] set a boundary [the waters] cannot cross; never again will they cover the Earth."
- 2 Peter 2:5 -- "… [God] brought the flood on its ungodly people …"
Also, the authors of Old Earth Creationism on Trial want to claim that Psalm 104 cannot be referring to the originally created water world, but to the waters of the flood. They defend this idea by invoking Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible and Dr. John Whitcomb's, The World That Perished, claiming in part that this is the proper hermeneutic to use because "Psalm 104 was written long after the flood." The fact that the entire book of Genesis was written "long after the flood" or that the book of Job was most likely written before Genesis does not seem to have any bearing on the issue.
YE proponent like to refer to alternate views as "local flood" models. This suggests that the extent of the flood was small, not unusual, and therefore not in keeping with the obvious catastrophic nature of the biblical account. But this is a gross mischaracterization of alternate views. No "local flood" proponent believes that the flood was not a massive, one-of-a-kind event. But a more accurate description might be "regional." But this type of flood would be catastrophic and would also include the complete destruction of mankind (except for the 8 members of Noah's family on the Ark). Why do I say that? Because mankind had not yet spread over the entire Earth. In fact, that was part of the problem with man's disobedience.
Concerning the third passage (above: 2 Peter 2:5), we know from Scripture that God’s judgment is always limited to the extent of man's reprobation. Therefore, it would be perfectly within the bounds of interpretation to say that the flood, even if it were regional, would be capable of destroying all humanity and every living thing that had been affected by human sin. But it also reveals the fact that all animals would not have to be destroyed simply because all animals had not had contact with humanity and were thereby unaffected by sin. There would be no moral reason, for instance, to destroy penguins in Antartica, polar bears in Canada, Chinese pandas, or kangaroos in Australia.
Here, another agonizing problem with the YE paradigm comes to light. YE scholars themselves have estimated the ark could have held about 30,000 pairs of animals. Yet the record shows that since the time of the flood there have been more than 7 million species of animals identified as having lived on the Earth. Today, we still know of about 5 million different species. We also know that God rested from the work of His creating after the 6th creation day. In other words, an unintended consequence of the YE view entails not just evolution, but some kind of hyper-evolution beyond anything Darwin could have ever imagined to account for the number of species of animal we find on the Earth today.
More educated men than I have debated this for a long time. Whether it was a regional or a worldwide flood is still up for debate, but I am prepared to announce that I can state unequivocally here on the True Horizon blog that I know the precise extent of Noah’s Flood. Here it is:
The Flood covered exactly as much of the Earth as it needed to cover to achieve God’s purposes.
That is one thing we know for sure. Again, the OE view does not depend on either model. I only offer these points to demonstrate that there are other ways to understand the flood that are biblically based … even if they do not fit the paradigm we all grew up with.
Update to this topic ...
One question that came up during the Q&A to challenge the idea of a regional flood model, was to say a regional flood removes the need for Noah to build an ark. If the flood was only regional, Noah and his family would not have had to spend so many years wasting their time with such an project. They could have just moved out of the area the flood was meant to destroy. I thought it was a good point ... until a friend of mine (Procter and Gamble scientist, Greg Miracle, PhD, who is obviously wiser than me) made the following points (which I will provide here as a quote from an email instead of trying to improve upon):
As for why Noah didn't just move, the basic thoughts I had were: (1) Because his presence among the people over the span of years was a continual witness that increased their eventual culpability at the point that the judgment (flood) came, and, (2) it also aligns with God being merciful and giving the unrepentant every opportunity, over the span of many years, to respond to His warning issued through Noah.
In many ways this models our own opportunity to respond to the gospel, which is frequently received as an unwelcome/ridiculed message presented to us more or less continually over a period of many years. Just like the flood, which came without warning, so it is with our final breath. We don't know when it will come, but it eventually does. And at that point the opportunity to repent is removed. He who stands firm to the end (Noah, for example in this narrative) will be saved.Well said, Greg. Thank you. I wish I would have thought of that myself. In the future, however, I will blatantly steal this response and pretend it is my own. :-)