SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
The Age of the Earth
Part 7: Noah's Ark
By Steve Webb
Greetings in Christ! This is the seventh in a series of blog articles that deal with the age of the Earth from a Christian perspective. I am a Christian geologist who has been working in this field of science for 38 years. I take the Bible as the inerrant inspired word of God, as I have done since my youth. As explained in prior blogs, I believe the Earth is considerably older than 6000 years and I do not believe that this conflicts with Scripture. The immensity of this subject is more than book length. Due to the fact that my time and energy for writing on this subject is limited, all I can do is bite off a single small piece at a time. There are not many areas that I can speak with true authority, but this is one of them. I know my geology. I hope you will give me audience.
The single topic I am addressing in this note is Noah's Flood as it relates to geology and the age of the Earth. First, let me say that I truly believe that this event happened simply because the Bible says it did. The veracity of the Bible in areas that are clear gives me the confidence to trust it in areas that are less clear. Secondly, there are certain Hebrew scholars who say that the original language does not demand that the Flood covered the entire Earth. I am unsure of this. The Hebrew etymology is outside my realm of expertise and I will say no more about it.
Everyone needs to understand that Noah's Flood was a miracle. God intervened in Earth's history and caused something to happen that was far beyond natural processes. There is simply no way for the amount of water described to cover the Earth by any means that approached natural processes. Nonstop rain does not create a flood like this because rain is not adding water to the system; it is simply recycling what is already there. We do not know what the Bible means when it says "the fountains of the deep were opened." We know that there are deep oceanic vents that continuously spew gas and water, along with submarine springs rimming all the continents, but the physics don't work for them to supply enough water to cover the entire Earth higher than 20,000 feet above sea level. None of this bothers me. I don't expect miracles to obey the laws of physics. This was a miraculous event; it was not a scientific event. You believe it happened because of the veracity of Scripture not because you understand the science behind it.
It was widely believed at one time that the complexities we see in Earth's geology could be explained by Noah's Flood (so-called Diluvian geology). This was an idea that was well worth pursuing by both Christian and non-Christian geologists. It is a complete dead end. After having drilled the Earth with countless wells (the basin I recently worked in Argentina has over 20,000 oil wells in it), and a great deal of the Earth now covered by seismic equipment that images subsurface sediments typically deeper than 10,000 feet, we know a whole lot about it. I can say emphatically with absolutely no equivocation that the geologic complexities of our planet were not caused by a single event. We are very good at putting together the geologic history for any given area, which includes the timing of faulting, folding and sedimentation. There is no worldwide synchronous event that comes close to explaining the complexities seen in the rock record. Those who claim otherwise may be well intended but they simply don't know what they are talking about.
Now, if there was indeed a flood of the magnitude described in the Bible it is perfectly fair to ask why we don't see clear evidence of it. This has to be answered in two parts. First, the flood lasted one year. That would have been a very long time if one were living through it, but from a geologic perspective it would have been the blink of an eye. During the initial part of the flood a lot of sediment would be washed down slope into rivers and oceans but as the flood continued to surge higher, the amount of erosion and sedimentation would sharply decrease due to less exposed land area being available for erosion. At the very peak of the flood, when all land areas were covered, there would be almost no erosion and sedimentation occurring. When the flood subsided, there would be evidence of human habitat destruction and chaotic flood sedimentation along the continental margins, but evidence of the flood on the land areas would disappear very quickly, most of it within a human lifetime. Similarly, the flood sediments offshore would be much less impressive than one might assume due to the very short duration of the event, and the fact that the processes, as described, were self-limiting. I could go into more of the geologic specifics of this, but in summary, the Flood would not leave the clear evidence that one might think. There would not be a spectacular imprint on the rock record purely from a geologic standpoint.
A second part of the answer as to why we don't see more evidence of a worldwide flood is that we do not know to what extent God may have restored the Earth to its original pre-flood condition, making it that much harder to recognize the event. Any assumptions in this regard are unjustified. Did God plug up the fountains of the deep, move groundwaters back to their original place, and restore sedimentary layering to its prior state? We have absolutely no way of knowing. By analogy, when Jesus resurrected Lazarus from the dead, to what extent was Lazarus restored? Was he given a youthful body of say around 21-years old, or was he given his same old aging body that only bought him a few more years to live, or was he given something in between? We have no idea. And if this resurrection had happened during our modern era, science would not have been able to determine how Lazarus had been brought back from the dead. That is the nature of miracles; they are beyond our ability to scientifically analyze. We should not expect to be able to scientifically analyze Noah's Flood; it was not a scientific event.
Blessings and keep the faith!
Please note, as a ministry, GotQuestions.org officially holds to Young Earth Creationism. We truly and fully believe that Young Earth Creationism best fits with the biblical account of creation. However, we recognize that Old Earth Creationism is a valid viewpoint that a Christian can hold. In no sense is Old Earth Creationism heresy and in no sense should Old Earth Creationists be shunned as not being brothers and sisters in Christ. We thought it would be worthwhile to have some articles that positively present Old Earth Creationism, as it is always good for our viewpoints to be challenged, motivating us to further search the Scriptures to make sure our beliefs are biblically sound.
Age of the Earth: The SeriesPart 1: Introduction
Part 2: Radiometric Age-Dating
Part 3: Dinosaurs
Part 4: Tree Rings
Part 5: The Meaning of Yom
Part 6: Other Scriptural Difficulties
Part 7: Noah's Flood
Part 8: Hebrew-Judaeo Worldview
Part 9: Who were the Cavemen?
Part 10: The Garden of Eden
Part 11: Bible Genealogies
Image credit: "The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge" by Thomas Cole; public domain
Tags: Controversial-Issues | Current-Issues | Science-Creation
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