What his colleague Howard Van Till did to the revelation of creation in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 by his book, The Fourth Day, Calvin College professor of geology Davis A. Young has now done to the revelation of the flood in Genesis 6-9. In the new book,The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church’s Response to Extrabiblical Evidence (Eerdmans, 1995), Young denies that there ever was a universal flood that destroyed all humans and animals that were outside Noah’s ark
In addition to the wealth of geological evidence opposing the possibility of a global deluge, a variety of biogeographical evidence also counts conclusively against such an event…. There is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that human or animal populations were ever disrupted by a catastrophic global flood at any point in the past. Indeed, all the evidence indicates continuous occupation by these populations of points around the globe into the exceedingly distant past (p. 311).
The reference of Scripture in Genesis 6-9 is merely to a local flooding in the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys.
The flood account uses hyperbolic language to describe an event that devastated or disrupted Mesopotamian civilization—that is to say, the whole world of the Semites (p. 312).
The Reformed professor of geology pulls the plug on the Genesis flood. What is left is a puddle.
The reason for the rejection of Scripture’s teaching of a universal flood is the alleged testimony of science. This is the “extrabiblical evidence” of the book’s title. Young advances his rejection of the flood of Genesis by means of a thorough study of scientists’ increasingly vocal insistence that a universal flood never occurred, indeed, is an impossibility, and of theologians’ corresponding surrender of the church’s faith concerning the flood of Genesis 6-9.
The justification for allowing science to set aside Scripture (Young prefers to speak of science’s forcing the church to “re-interpret” Scripture) is that science is God’s general revelation, General revelation is the authority by which holy Scripture must be judged.
When so many scientists of such a diverse array of worldviews are able to achieve a virtual consensus regarding a given body of evidence, we had better pay attention. When for the past two centuries thousands of geologists from around the world, including numerous Bible-believing Christians, insist from a lifetime of experience in looking at fossiliferous rocks that those rocks are extremely old and had nothing to do with a global deluge, then the church must listen (p. 310). Reformed theology has also stressed the value and importance of God’s general revelation of himself through his creation (p. xi).
The scientific evidence that Young appeals to is largely geological. The rocks do not prove a universal flood. On the contrary, they conclusively oppose the possibility of a global deluge (see Young’s summary of this “extrabiblical evidence” on pp. 309-312).
Science is the authority over the faith of the church: “sola scientia!”
Attack on Scripture
Scripture must give way.
The book is an attack on Scripture—its clarity, its reliability, its authority, and, thus, its inspiration by God the Holy Spirit. Scripture teaches the wonder in history of a flood of water that covered the entire world of that time, destroying all men and animals except the eight souls and the animals that were in the ark. At this point, every reader ought to re-readGenesis 6-9.
Davis Young resists the Word of God, not only inGenesis 6-9 but also in the New Testament. For the New Testament affirms the flood as a universal deluge, thus underscoring the historicity of Genesis 6-9. Upon this awesome historical event, the New Testament bases significant doctrine.
In Matthew 24:37-39, our Lord Himself accepts Genesis’ account of the flood as historical. He explains it as a type of the destruction of all the wicked at the end.
In I Peter 3:19-21, the apostle asserts a real Noah, a real ark, and a real flood by which only eight souls were saved in the ark. This historical flood was a “figure” of the washing of baptism.
In II Peter 2:5 and II Peter 3:5, 6, the apostle clearly teaches that the Noahic flood destroyed the entire old world (the “world that then was”). God saved only Noah and his house (see also Heb. 11:7). II Peter 3:5, 6 brings up this historical, universal flood as the refutation of the scoffers who challenge the reality of Christ’s coming and as the type of the destruction of the present world with all its ungodly inhabitants in the Day of Christ.
Un-Reformed Interpretation of the Bible
The book is an attack upon the right, Reformed interpretation of the Bible. Scripture no longer interprets Scripture. Scripture is now interpreted by science. This is not a whit less serious than the rejection outright of the Bible’s clarity, reliability, and authority, that is, its inspiration. What good is it to profess Scripture’s inspiration when its meaning is determined, not by itself but by alien authorities, in this case a horde of mainly unregenerated scientists?
Young claims to be urging, not a rejection of Genesis 6-9but a “reinterpretation” of the passage. The claim is false. Denial of a flood that covered all the earth of that time in favor of a local overflow of some river of other—replacing the deluge with a puddle—is not re-interpretation of Genesis 7:19, 20 but flat contradiction of it. Denial of a flood that destroyed all humans and animals except those in the ark, in favor of a local catastrophe that destroyed only those in the immediate area, is not re-interpretation of Genesis 7:21-23but flat contradiction of it.
Even as regards the plea for reinterpretation, Young errs. First, he is mistaken when he identifies human analysis of rocks and other physical phenomena with God’s general revelation. To put it bluntly, Davis Young’s reading of the rock strata is not general revelation.
Second, genuine general revelation—God’s making Himself known in His creation—is not an authority over Scripture, or even an authority on a par with Scripture. The ungodly, it must be remembered, including the ungodly scientist, always holds under in unrighteousness, and can only hold under in unrighteousness, the truth that God makes known to him in creation (Rom. 1:18ff.). Seeing creation, he writes learned books in defense of evolution. Knowing the cataclysm of the universal flood, he argues strenuously that all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation (II Pet. 3:4-6). Ungodly scientists are as unreliable in their witness against the Bible’s testimony to a universal flood as the men of Romans 1:18ff. are unreliable in their witness against the existence and nature of the true God.
Of course, the ungodly scientist suppresses the truth of the flood. The biblical flood condemns the ungodly scientist and warns him of the coming judgment of universal fire.
Even as regards the believers, general revelation does not control Scripture. The godly do not interpret Scripture in the light and according to the standard of general revelation. Much less do they interpret Scripture in the light of a general revelation that is completely divorced from the truth of Scripture. Rather, they interpret Scripture in the light and according to the standard of Scripture. Every passage of Scripture is interpreted according to the “rule of faith.” Believers know and understand general revelation only in the light of and in accordance with Scripture.
Davis Young may not interpret Genesis 6-9 in accordance with the prevailing opinions of unbelieving scientists, or even in the light of general revelation. But he must explain his rocks, as well as all the other data, in the light of and in accordance with the teaching of Genesis 6-9.
The Issue: Is Genesis 1-11 Historical?
The book is an attack on the historicity of Genesis 1-11. What the Spirit breathed forth in Genesis 6-9 never actually happened. It never actually happened as described in the passage. There never was the Noah of Genesis 6-9. There never was the ark of the chapter. There never was the wonder of the entering into the ark of the animals “two and two . . . as God had commanded Noah” (Gen. 7:9). There never was the heart-shrinking judgment, but also the heart-warming deliverance, of the purging water, when “all the fountains of the great deep (were) broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Gen. 7:11). There could never have been, therefore, the offering of sacrifices by the non-existent Noah, or the giving of the cosmic covenant with its rainbow- sign by God (Gen. 8:20-9:17).
The passage is a myth.
Attack on Faith
The book is an attack on faith. As the Heidelberg Catechism states in Q. 21, true faith holds for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word. It holds for truth all that God has revealed in His Word because it is revealed in His Word. God’s Word is self-authenticating to faith. Therefore, faith cannot be moved to doubt or deny anything that God has revealed in His Word by any evidence, argument, ridicule, or pressure from any quarter whatever.
Young does not understand faith. He piles up his scientific proofs and authorities against the biblical revelation of a universal flood and, apparently sincerely, asks, “When will these naïve, credulous fundamentalists concede?”
Leaving aside now the unkind disparagement of the Reformed believer as a naïve fundamentalist, the answer is, “Never!” For faith holds for truth all that God has revealed in His Word.
Faith believes absurd things, e.g., that Jonah the prophet was three days in the belly of the great fish, just as Christ was three days in the grave.
Faith believes impossible things, e.g., that dead Abraham and barren Sarah had a son, just as the Messiah was a sprout out of the stump of Jesse. Indeed, faith holds for truth an event the impossibility of which makes belief of a universal flood with all its details mere child’s play in comparison: the incarnation of God.
Faith believes the account of the universal flood onlybecause it is revealed as truth in the inspired Scriptures. Just as extrabiblical evidence does not dissuade faith, so also extrabiblical scientific evidencein favor of the universal flood is no part of the foundation of faith. Nor does faith try to prove the universal flood to others on the ground of alleged evidence in the rocks. In this connection, Young makes a legitimate criticism of some defenders of the literal understanding of the biblical flood:
Significantly, the literalist flood geology school has not rejected extrabiblical data. Indeed, the literalists have depended more heavily on extrabiblical physical substantiation of biblical statements than have other Christians (pp. 244, 245). One might expect that those who endorse a strict literalistic interpretation of the flood narrative…would be inclined simply to reject the relevance of extrabiblical data, given the fact that such data seem clearly and overwhelmingly to deny that such a planet-altering flood ever took place. One might expect that such individuals would instead make appeals solely to the Word of God as the complete and final authority in all such matters and that they would denounce extrabiblical evidence as superfluous and misleading. And yet the proponents of flood geology have moved in the opposite direction, not only showing a substantial interest in extrabiblical evidence but actually elevating it to the status of apologetic proof (p. 264).
It is one thing to point out, as Whitcomb and Morris helpfully did in their The Genesis Flood, that there is a great deal of evidence in the present form of the earth corroborating the Bible’s testimony to the flood. It is another thing to make this evidence even a part of faith’s foundation, or to use this evidence as proof to convince the doubters.
From the science department of Calvin College have come, in quick succession, two violent assaults upon the foundation of the Christian faith in Genesis 1-11. Howard Van Till demolished the historicity of the creation-account. Now Davis Young has undermined the historicity of the account of the flood. Still to come are an attack on the origin of the nations in the account of Babel in Genesis 11 and, finally, the rejection of the historicity of the account of the fall in Genesis 3.
We expect these sequels.
A Deadly Silence
It will be instructive to pay careful attention to the reviews that The Biblical Flood receives in the magazines and journals of reputedly conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches and seminaries. Likewise, it will be instructive to take note of the response to the book by supposedly conservative and even Calvinistic colleges.
Will there be a clear, sharp, unambiguous condemnation of the book from any of these institutions?
Or will there again be a telling silence?
The unbelief concerning Genesis 1-11 that is a mark of theological modernism is now widespread in churches, seminaries, and colleges that have a name for evangelical and Reformed orthodoxy. If the theologians and professors do not themselves teach the mythical nature of the events in the opening chapters of the Bible, they are tolerant of the teaching—and the teachers.
There will be no defense of the faith from them.
A puddle is fine.