Thing #3 – Noah’s Ark
The above illustration is a typical depiction of what many think of as a children’s story. But actually, “Noah’s Ark” is a story of terror that is probably not appropriate for children. For me, that Christian parents would decorate nurseries with images of rainbows and a jolly Noah on a pleasure boat brimming with smiling animals is one of the bizarre aspects of Christian subculture. According to the Torah, the Genesis flood was YHWH intentionally destroying all of life on a global scale because it had become so corrupt and violent. It’s a nasty story of judgment.
Cheery or nasty, making this story sound ridiculous is like shooting fish in a barrel. Believe me, I’ve been in a lot of lively discussions on the topic. My atheist/skeptic friends LOVE critiquing the Noah story: How’d he keep the penguins and polar bears cold enough?…What about venomous snakes?…How’d he fit the dinosaurs on the ark?…How’d he fit millions of animal species on the ark?…What did they do with all the excrement?… How did they keep the lions from eating the zebras?…Wouldn’t it be risky bringing skunks along?…How could it rain non-stop for a month when there isn’t enough moisture in the atmosphere for this to happen?…There isn’t enough water to on the planet to cover earth’s highest mountains…etc. I get it! Rather than spend this post answering the same old million assumed objections, I recommend interested readers visit >here<. The CMI site’s search bar can take you to articles written by qualified PhD scientists who actually believe the Noah story could’ve happened.
Instead, for the remainder of this post, I think the best service I can offer is to draw a clear line between two different ways of looking at the world. The story of Noah, which I once found embarrassing, I now find to be endlessly fascinating with profound implications.
First, as is often the case with “well known” Bible stories, there are quite a few misconceptions that must be corrected. Whether or not you believe the story of Noah’s Ark, let’s at least be clear as to what the Torah says about it.
The pre-flood world was significantly different than ours:
- The earth’s population spoke one language (Gen 11:1)
- Dry land may have consisted of a single continent (Gen 10:25)
- Animals did not fear humans until after the flood (Gen 9:2)
- YHWH did not allow humans to eat meat until after the flood (cf Gen 1:29-32; 9:3)
- It had not rained until the time of the flood. (Gen 2:5-6 implies the earth was watered by a mist, but we can only speculate about what this means.)
- This all sounds pretty paradisiacal so far, except that sin and death had entered the world, and human beings had corrupted themselves. The Torah states, “YHWH saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence…(Gen 6:5,11.)
The flood as described in the Torah:
- The flood was designed by God to wipe out every air-breathing creature, except for Noah and the inhabitants of the ark (Gen 7:22-24.)
- The Torah does not say that it merely rained for 40 days and nights. It also says the “fountains of the great deep burst forth” as well. It is likely that the flood was a violent cataclysm involving volcanic activity and crustal plate movement (Gen 7:11-12, 17-20.)
For me as an artist, one of the fascinating things about life is how two different people can look at the same thing and see a completely different picture. Hand in hand with this goes the human tendency to see what one wants to see. In the interest of clarifying two very different ways of looking at the world, I’d like to show you two pictures that may widen your perspective.
Here’s the first:
You’ve seen the geologic column before. Each era represents a span of millions of years. The strata show the accumulation of millions of years of sediment built up through the ages, telling the story of the evolution of life. Older rocks on bottom, newer rocks on top. This is the hard evidence for evolution. While it’s true that 77% of earth’s surface has 7 or more of the strata systems missing, still, generally the marine creatures are at the bottom, with land-dwelling life forms appearing as one moves upward through evolutionary time.
Is there another reasonable way to interpret the geologic column? You decide.
Here’s the same picture with one small addition – a water line:
Think about the ecological zones where animals live. Marine invertebrates live on the ocean floor, swimming fish live above them, amphibious animals living near the water line live above the fish, and land-dwelling and flying animals live above them. If there were a catastrophic, global flood that buried everything under huge layers of sediment, wouldn’t we expect to see life forms buried roughly in the ecological zones in which they lived? 95% of the fossil record consists of marine organisms such as corals and shellfish. The remaining 5% are generally found above them. Is it so unreasonable to entertain the possibility that when we look at the vast sedimentary layers covering the planet, we are not looking at billions of years of evolution, but the grim result of the great global catastrophe described in the Judeo-Christian scriptures?
If it really happened, the flood described in the Torah would’ve been the most destructive and unforgettable ecological disaster in recorded history. It would’ve permanently altered the face and climate of the entire planet, as well as the course of human history. It would’ve left lasting evidence worldwide, burying everything under layers of sediment. According to the Torah, every human being living today is descended from the 8 people who survived on the ark. Coincidentally, there seems to be a collective memory of a great flood worldwide. We know of at least 500 flood stories from various, unrelated world cultures, many of which share elements of the Genesis story. Furthermore, the best alternative – evolutionary theory, says that modern humans have been here for some 200,000 years, yet it appears that humans acquired the ability to write language only 5000 years ago. It appears that humans didn’t develop agricultural practices until only about 10,000 years ago. Why? Nor does the current population of the earth fit if we have been here for 200,000 years. And if humans have been burying their billions of dead for 200,000 years, there’s scant evidence of it. Apparently there are hard questions for scientists and anthropologists on both sides of the debate.
I want to conclude by spelling out the implications of these two views regarding the nature of life and death. The biblical view and the materialist view are ridiculously divergent and irreconcilable:
The biblical view:
A loving, relational Creator created a good and unified world, including humans with free will. Man chose to break relational unity with his Creator, introducing sin, death, and corruption to creation. This spiritual separation from God (death) also resulted in relational separation between man and man, and man and nature. For human beings, life is defined as relational unity with our Creator, while death is defined as an “enemy” that our incarnate Creator defeated for us at His resurrection. In Him the consequences of separation/death will eventually be done away with – suffering, disease, fear, hatred, oppression, imperfection and physical death.
The evolutionist view
There is nothing beyond material reality. Free will is an illusion. There is no eternal soul. Biological life exists with the sole aim of passing its genetic information to its offspring. That’s it. Life forms unable to do so die out. All of life, humans included, exists as a result of blind, mindless, impersonal processes. Biological life exists by a process of natural selection involving mutation, disease, carnivorous predation, suffering, violence and death. Nothing that exists has any transcendent or objective worth since what exists is only here by accident. Of course, we do value people and things subjectively, but others may value them differently, or not value them at all. We are worthless and ultimately alone in the universe.
So there you have it. One view says life is companionship with the loving Creator who conceived us (see previous post), the other says life is merely one accident in a pointless and impersonal universe. One view says death is a corruption and an enemy (1 Cor 15:26), the other sees death as part of the natural selecting process that defines nature’s winners.
What is an ark?
A Fort Collins, Colorado pastor, John Meyer, recently made a side comment that struck me. He said, “An ark is not a boat. An ark is a vessel that holds something of value to protect and preserve it.” I thought of other arks. I could only think of two: 1) Israel’s ark of the covenant that carried the stone tablets of the Law, Aaron’s rod, and a jar of manna. 2) Jewish synagogues have something called a “Torah Ark” which contains the congregation’s Torah scrolls.
Out of curiosity I did a search to see if there were other arks in the Bible. I found one, hidden by the English translation, but the Hebrew word is the same. This ark was made of wicker, covered in pitch, and placed in the water. It carried an infant who was under a death sentence. This baby was preserved, and grew to deliver the children of Israel from slavery. His name was Moses. He prefigured the Messiah.
Noah’s Ark tells the story of a loving God who must also judge His creation. In judging a corrupt and violent human race He also preserved, protected, and saved something of value in the ark. Whether or not you believe this crazy story, my hope is that you can believe that you are valuable and loved by God, and that He invites you into spiritual rebirth, life, and relationship with Himself.