I had lunch today with a geologist who credits me with giving him an understanding of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This man heads the exploration department of an oil company that has grown under his leadership to be one of the largest resource firms in the world. His mind moves as fast as an Intel processor, and one can almost hear his neurons firing as he thinks. He's a smart man who has studied the earth's rocks to find uranium, gold and now oil. He believes the earth is old and Noah's flood was local; and he believes this because of his geological expertise.
He knows that I believe the Bible to be inspired by God. He asked me what I thought of his views of an old earth and a local flood. I could tell he was a little hesitant to share his views with me because he was under the mistaken notion that all evangelical, Bible-believing Christians must be young earth creationists and global flood adherents.
He was shocked when I told him I felt I could prove from the Scriptures (not science) that the earth is millions of years old and that Noah's flood was local, not global. My friend is quite convinced he can prove these two things to others from scientific evidence and logic, but he was dumbfounded to hear his Bible-believing evangelical Christian friend state that these views also can be proven from Scripture. Now, before too many of my fellow evangelicals get all bent out of shape, please know that I have taught young earth creationism and a global flood. However, I have no qualms with saying to others that I could be wrong in my views. Here's why:
Five Textual Reasons Why Noah's Flood Could Be Considered Local
(1). Genesis 7 says the flood fell on the "earth" forty days and forty nights. The Hebrew word eretz is translated into English as "earth" in the Genesis 7 flood account. The author of Genesis 7 used erets a dozen times to describe the extent of Noah's flood. For example, "And the rain fell on the earth [erets] for forty days and forty nights" (Genesis 7:12 NIV).
When we Christians in the west hear the word "earth," we immediately think of a global sphere, the globe we call earth. However, when a Hebrew heard the word eretz, he would never think like us. Erets simply meant land. This is the way the word is used throughout the Old Testament:
The Lord said to Abram, 'Leave your country [erets], your people, and your father's household and go to the land [erets] I will show you. (Genesis 12:1).
I [God] am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth [erets] to seize dwelling places not their own. (Habakkuk 1:6).
"See how the waters are rising in the north; they will become an overflowing torrent. They will overflow the land [erets] and everything in it, the towns and those who live in them. The people will cry out; all who dwell in the land [erets] will wail. (Jer. 47:2).In this last example, Jeremiah used the exact same language that Moses used in Genesis 7, yet no interpreter of Scripture suggests that the flood in Jeremiah's day was anything more than a local flood. The Hebrew text implies Noah's flood was also local.
(2). Genesis 7:20 says, "The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered" (Genesis 7:20 NKJV). A Hebrew cubit was the measurement from the elbow to the tip of the fingers, an average of eighteen inches, or a foot and a half. Fifteen cubits is somewhere between 20 and 30 feet, but no more. The English word "mountains" is the Hebrew word har, which is often translated "hills." The Hebrew text itself indicates a local, albeit devastating flood. Noah took the animals native to his land, not the entire earth, and gave them safety in the ark God told him to prepare.
(3). Prior to the flood there were Nephilim, "heroes of old, men of renown" (Genesis 6:4). If the entire world's population was destroyed during Noah's flood, as a global flood requires, then there is difficulty explaining how the Hebrew spies "saw the Nephilim" in Canaan, generations after the flood (see Numbers 13:33).
(4). The author of Genesis ascribes specialization of labor and technological advances to Cain's descendents--Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-Cain--who were "the father of all those who dwell in tents" and "the father of all those who play the flute and harp" and "an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron" respectively (Genesis 4:19-22). The author of Genesis assumes that specialization in musical instruments, metallurgy, and shepherdology existed continuously from before the flood to the present day. Were the descendents of Cain all drowned in a global flood, then the "fathers" of these technologies would be the sons of Noah, not the sons of Cain. Further, a simple reading of the Hebrew chronologies from Genesis 5 to Genesis 11 places Abraham's birth less than 300 years after the flood. Many in Noah's family, including Noah himself, were still alive in the days of Abraham. With that said, how is it possible for there to be numerous peoples and numerous national identities by the time Abram left Haran to come to Canaan, a scant three generations after the flood? For example, Hagar came with Abraham from the empire of Egypt (Genesis 16:1) and Eliezer came with Abram from Damascus (Genesis 15:2). The flood of Noah seems to be God's judgment against the apostasy of His chosen people, the family that would eventually be called the Hebrews.
(5). After the flood, Noah offered a blood sacrifice (see Genesis 9). This sacrifice represented the future coming of the Messiah, the Lamb of God, and his death at Calvary. Through blood atonement, Noah and his family found peace with God. God gave a sign to Noah of the peace covenant--a bow. Most people say "rainbow," but in reality, it was a bow. But not just any bow. A bow is an instrument of war. It is a picture of death. When your enemy uses his bow, he aims to destroy you. But God promised Noah that through the blood covenant of peace, He would not destroy His people. Look at His bow.
The bow of God gave to Noah was (1). Hung in the sky and pointed away from Noah's land, and (2).the bow had no string in it so it was unusable, and (3). the bow was unbent, perpetually picturing for Noah that God was at peace through blood atonement.
Generations later, the Hebrew people would reject the Lamb of God, "trample under foot His blood," and turn their backs on the only Sacrifice that God provided for sinners. In response, God took up His bow against the Hebrews, and broke covenant. In Revelation 6:1-2, the bow of God is taken up against Israel as the Lamb rides a white horse, holding His bow, and comes in judgment against His people Israel. In the same manner that God destroyed the land of Noah for the apostasy of His people during the days of Noah, so too He destroyed the land of Israel (Jerusalem, the Temple, etc...) in AD 70 for the apostasy of His covenant people. God's wrath against sin is either born by the Lamb and escaped by those who trust Him, or it is born by sinners who trample under foot the only sacrifice God will ever provide for sinners. The Old Covenant way of worship is over.
The New Covenant shows us the God of all grace who provides for us the Lamb. The message to us all is "Trust Him!"
In addition, since Russell Crow is playing the lead in the epic 2014 Hollywood film Noah, it might be wise to brush up on your Bible knowledge lest you be tempted to get your theology from Hollywood.
The worst thing any Christian could be is cocksure of non-essential theology and miss the importance of Jesus Christ and His covenant of peace with those who trust Him.
Whether you are and old earth advocate or a young earth believer, whether you believe in a local flood or a global flood, remember this: Christianity is all about intimacy with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
My friend learned salvation by grace through faith in Christ from me. Thank God he's smart enough to realize all other doctrines are secondary.