How could a loving God send a global Flood?
A writer from the U.S. asks:
How do we reconcile a God of love with Noah’s flood? What about all the innocent people (adults and children) that drowned?
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
Thanks for writing in.
Meta-question: how do we ground the notion of love without the God of love? We can’t. God is the ultimate Good, and thus is the standard for what is good and loving (What is ‘good’? (Answering the Euthyphro Dilemma)). Therefore, before we even try to show why a God of love is consistent with Noah’s Flood, we have to realize that apart from God we have no grounding to gripe about Him being less than moral because morality ultimately has to come from God. See Can we be good without God?, Is God a ‘moral monster’? and Why did God allow sin at all?
But of course, God is also just. The people at large in Noah’s day were highly wicked; that was clearly the main reason for the Flood judgment (Genesis 6:5–7, 11–13) (Noah’s Flood—why?). And God also had purposes for the Flood in history that went beyond the individual human and the event itself (Questions about Noah’s Flood and Why did God choose just Israel?).
As to innocent people; were there any innocent adults? Genesis 6 takes a very dim view of humanity’s morality at large in Noah’s day. And this seems to go beyond the simple theological affirmation that we’re all sinners (Romans 3:23); it describes the world of Noah’s day as corrupt and full of violence (Genesis 6:11).
What of children? Let’s assume that they’re innocent, or at least not old enough to be held personally culpable for a part in why God sent the Flood (like e.g. God didn’t hold anyone under the age of 20 accountable for Israel’s disobedience in the wilderness: Numbers 14:29). OK, how would they survive without their families? God didn’t suspend the regularities of human relationships in the context of the Flood; humans are social animals, and live together in connected communities. Children are also dependent on their families for much of the basics of life. Moreover, God didn’t simply strike down the specific individuals who caused the problem; the problem was systemic throughout the entirety of human culture. God deemed the culture irredeemable (which, since humanity at the time had one language, was likely one broad culture), and thus the culture had to go, as per Genesis 6:11–13:
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.’
This is similar to the situation with Jericho during the Conquest; the whole city had to destroyed (Joshua 6:17–21), or with the Amalekites in Saul’s day (1 Samuel 15:1–3). These are examples of corporate punishment, which was a common issue in the Bible, as Dr Sarfati explains in Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?:
The Western culture is very individualist in thinking, but the Bible was more collective, as are most cultures even today. This explains the frequent corporate punishment in the Bible.
I hope this helps,
Creation Ministries International