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A disaster of ‘biblical proportions’1

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Published: 24 June 2014 (GMT+10)
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In mid February, referring to the havoc caused by excessive winter rainfall and widespread flooding across England,2 The Economist (UK) commented: “‘BIBLICAL’—that is how David Cameron3 described the floods spreading misery through southern England. … yet his recourse to scripture also invited the uncomfortable question of who, exactly, is to blame.”4 It is now quite commonplace to hear politicians or journalists say that a freak weather event or natural disaster was of ‘biblical proportions’. By this they mean that it was something unusually great, enormous, epic, or even apocalyptic.

It is obvious that the biblical event referred to is ‘Noah’s Flood’, something that they usually concede is supposed to have destroyed the whole world. It’s ironic, therefore, that many professing Christians who have been influenced by evolution and ‘millions of years’ argue that Noah’s Flood was not global, affecting only a relatively small region of the Middle East (but see here).

Noah

In fact, that a truly global flood is plainly taught in Genesis is rarely questioned at all by non-Christians, even though they themselves usually deny that such a catastrophe actually happened. For instance, take “Noah”, the big-budget Hollywood movie released in cinemas and movie theatres earlier this year. As the following extracted quotations show, the trailers leave no doubt whatsoever that the “Great Flood” depicted in the film is geographically universal: “The World’s most epic event”, “… annihilate this world”, “This is the end of everything … the beginning of everything.”5

A ‘local flood’ simply isn’t in view! And for that matter, neither is there any doubt about this in the mind of actor Russell Crowe who plays the part of Noah. Interviewed a few months before the film’s release, he scoffed that people “consider Noah to be a benevolent figure because he looked after the animals. … are you kidding me? This is the dude that stood by and watched the entire population of the planet perish! He’s not benevolent. He’s not even nice” (emphasis added).6 So, when it’s convenient to do so, people readily acknowledge that the Bible describes a globe-destroying Flood—whether to draw comparison with natural calamities, for the sake of entertainment, or even as an axe to grind against biblical characters or God Himself.

Casting blame

The Economist writer also drew attention to the human tendency to apportion blame for our problems. What or who is responsible? Someone must be to blame! It’s interesting to see the reference to UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s “recourse to scripture”. This indicates that the Economist author knows full well what Scripture unambiguously teaches (as do the scriptwriters of Noah): God Himself sent the Flood in the days of Noah as a judgment upon human wickedness (Gen. 6:5–7); in other words, humanity’s sin was ultimately to blame.

The damaging 2013/14 UK winter storms have already been eclipsed by worse flooding across the Balkans—associated with over 2,000 landslides and leaving some one million people without fresh water in Bosnia-Herzegovina.7 Such ‘Natural disasters’ are a perennial challenge for human communities globally in this fallen, sin-cursed world, prompting the usual ‘Why?’ questions—and there are answers.

Coming back to England’s appalling winter flooding, the identity of the culprit depended on whose opinion you listened to—the government or another political party, the Environment Agency, the European Union, Global Warming, or perhaps just the exceptionally wet weather!8 Ironically, the Economist article, in blaming natural causes rather than man, had another allusion to Scripture: “Even if Mr Cameron had the wisdom of Solomon … he could not have prevented the flooding.” While some people may continue to debate that point, the rebellious people of Noah’s day certainly were powerless to prevent or even forestall the Flood—something which has sobering implications for our own generation as people increasingly reject the Creator God. Jesus compared the days before His second coming with the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37–39).

New for old

Even among church people, there is often profound ignorance of the true magnitude, extent and duration of the biblical Flood, an event attested to by numerous flood legends worldwide. That event was a geological and atmospheric cataclysm, the like of which the world has never come close to witnessing since, nor will do again (Genesis 9:11), The reason why God deemed such obliteration necessary is as disagreeable to modern readers as it is clear. Those antediluvian people had reached such depths of depravity—their thoughts being “only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5) and their violence unchecked (Genesis 6:11)—that a fresh beginning was desperately needed. So it was that God determined to wipe the slate clean, destroying that former world with a catastrophic Deluge (Genesis 6:17, 2 Peter 3:5–6). Just as a dilapidated old tower block (though home to many people) must sometimes be demolished in order to make way for a brand new building, the rotting corpse of that old world had first to be buried. Only then could the occupants of the Ark start over again, spreading out and filling the new world (Genesis 8:15–17).

Contrary to the insinuations of Russell Crowe, the real story of Noah is truly inspirational. Though an ordinary human being, God favoured Noah. He was a paragon of virtue in his generation, someone who walked with God (Genesis 6:8, 9). Being God-fearing, he obediently built the Ark, thereby saving his family and preserving representatives of each kind of land animal for the new world. True, the former godless world was condemned, and deservedly so, but the remarkable faith of Noah is a shining testimony and example to us all (Hebrews 11:1–2, 7).

He preached righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) and coming judgment so that the people of the day could have the opportunity to be saved on the Ark. So must we (John 16:8). The Ark provided a safe refuge from the judgement of the flood waters and wonderfully pictures salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as people and animals needed to go into the Ark to be saved, so a person must be in Christ in order to receive forgiveness and escape God’s judgement. He alone can save us from sin and death. This requires genuine repentance and faith (Romans 10:9–13) but, for those who have called upon the Lord, the good news is that “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

References and notes

  1. Modified version of an article that first appeared in Prayer News (CMI-UK/Europe), April 2014. Return to text.
  2. Winter storms of 2013–14 in the United Kingdom, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_storms_of_2013%E2%80%9314_in_the_United_Kingdom; accessed 21 May 2014. Return to text.
  3. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2010. Return to text.
  4. Britain’s Floods: Canute Cameron, The Economist (print edition), 15 February 2014; also at www.economist.com/news, 13 February 2014. Return to text.
  5. The trailers can be viewed online, e.g. at www.imdb.com or www.youtube.com. Return to text.
  6. See www.cineworld.co.uk/blog/noah-darren-aronofsky-russell-crowe, 17 September 2013; accessed 21 May 2014. Return to text.
  7. Balkan floods: ‘Quarter of Bosnia’ without clean water, 19 May 2014, www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-27477593; accessed 21 May 2014. Return to text.
  8. As well as torrential rain, there were record waves and storm surges. Atrocious weather and storms continued to batter the country through much of February too. Return to text.