About that flood, Mr. Noah …

March 12, 2014

In preparing a talk  for the recovery meeting at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Little Rock, I started playing around with the theme of coping with the difficulties that are part of dealing with addiction. Of course, there is also a need to widen the scope to include the rest of us who are in trying circumstances.

The story of the flood has many of the characteristics faced by those who are being treated for substance abuse. One feels isolation, for example, and a sense of being deep in unfamiliar territory. During the preparation process, there was a question that hit me hard. Can I really expect to be taken seriously if I talk about a universal deluge? Good question.

Th editors of the 1928 American Prayer Book were so concerned about the same issue that they dropped Martin Luther’s “flood prayer” from the Baptismal rite. My goodness, one cannot expect modern educated people to believe such nonsense. But what would one expect from people who do not believe in miracles?

There is no expert opinion here, and that is part of the purpose of this little note. Yes, God does what he darned well pleases and the worldwide flood covering the tops of mountains is possible. If you can’t tell, I am having trouble with this one. Resolving this issue will demand serious reflection.

To begin, Noah’s flood is a part of sacred scripture. It is an ancient tale that is handed down to us. For thousands of years, believers have accepted this story as part of God’s word for man. That counts for something. The biblical account found in Genesis informs us about the character of God and a bit about man too. The text is very rich with important information. For example, Noah and his three sons each had a single wife. Worth noting.

A much larger question enters the mind. Who are you or I to question the biblical text? Of course, careful students and scholars are always looking for the messages locked inside the Bible, but the text is the text. One of the greatest scholars of all time, Jerome of Jerusalem, observed that some texts are difficult because the scrolls have been damaged or we cannot correctly understand the language, but back there somewhere is a message from God. The great mystery is that God does not reveal himself, or his truth, all at once.

The modern mind believes that it sits in sovereign judgment over everyone and everything. I am sometimes guilty of the gross arrogance. Humans are not the final judges. It would be better to observe that humanity is in rebellion against God and his ways. We are broken and without his generous gift of grace, hopelessly lost. None of us have nay business nitpicking the Almighty. Without making the sacred page into an idol, one must take it as is.  Take the hard along with the easy, and the pleasant with the unsettling.

The serious reader approaches the Bible with humility and open ears. One prays for divine guidance and learns as much as a small mind will permit.


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