The great central hope of Christianity (and other faiths) is the promise of eternal life. This is the assurance that existence does not end at human death, that we progress into another realm or dimension, this time without the encumbrance of mortality (Revelation 21 is the classic vision). The gateway to this new realm is the central event of the Christian faith, the resurrection.  Christ is the firstborn from amongst the dead and where goes, we follow.

We work with a fundamental logical limitation – eternal life though is impossible to understand. It is and must be, by definition, beyond our understanding.  We have never been there, and no one has ever come back with any cast iron experience to share. We can do nothing but interpret the texts, apply reason and philosophy, and react internally in our spirit. From that point “you pays your money and you takes your choice”. It lies in the domain of faith, not knowledge. Eternal life or “six feet under” are both unprovable.

Two facets of eternal life come to mind, both of which might be ascribed to the classic gospel statement in Matthew 25:46 where Jesus speaks of “eternal punishment” and “eternal life” :-

Quantity : the idea that eternal life goes on and on, for ever and ever.  It’s a life outside of time and in that sense “timeless”.  I do not know if it  is characterised by the conscious passage of time (or the commensurate risk of becoming bored!), simply that eternal life is outside the realm that we currently see which has the arrow of time moving in one direction and with decay and entropy being its final destination.

Quality:  many of the references to the bible to eternal life carry another connotation, that is, not so much how long it is, bit what it is like.  Eternal life is life characterised as being subject to the kingdom of God and its principles, and eternal judgment is also that which is subject to God’s perfect justice.

Tribal views, theological strictness, and dogma about this frankly make little sense. All we have is the sacred text and what tradition has made of that text, deeply constrained by human experience and our knowledge of this life. The limitations of that lens must make us wary of describing this as “truth” ; it cannot be anything more than speculation based on our personal experience of God and a deep sense of inner assurance. As I say, “you pays your money and you takes your choice” (apparently from Punch magazine in 1848, there you are).

 

Hi all,

Having considered issues with the Tower of Babel narrative (part 1) and how God is portrayed as human rather than divine (in part 2)  we arrive at the last post that offers a more plausible alternative to understanding what actually happened to the people groups involved in the building of the tower at Babel. However, before we go there, a quick reminder of the tower of Babel narrative as it reads in the Bible:

‘Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.’ (Genesis 11v1-8, NIV)

Somewhere within my investigations into the Tower of Babel, I remember reading  about the different people groups involved in its construction.  A plethora of communities who in making their journeys from places such as Persia, Sudan, Ethiopia and the like, found themselves on a route that took them through Babel as they headed out or on their return journey. Among these people groups were a mix of nomads, intellectuals (such as the Magi), farmers, craftsman and visionaries who individually and collectively found themselves enticed by the idea of being part of a collective with the goal to build a very high tower in Babel that would be so high it would seem to be reaching to the heavens* (* If such a thing were possible!).

Initially, there was common consensus among these people groups who believed they were on the brink of achieving something significant. They were engaged in a construction that had never been envisaged or achieved before. However, as the tower grew in height and the years rolled past, dissension grew among the ranks of those involved in its building, For some, their discontent surfaced in their realisation that great as it was to be building this monumental tower, they had set aside their initial objective which was to find an area to live, work and develop or return to their families or whatever. For others, their discord  related to the timescale and constant need for resources  to complete the building project. Unable to reach agreement, the groups quarrelled with one another as the consensus they once had for the project was replaced with division and discord – which in turn, resulted in a reluctance to persevere with it.

Of course, to those outside of the Babel project community, the groups’ failure to continue with the building of the tower was interpreted as an act of God in which the Divine had come down to disrupt their work. The peoples’ failure to build the tower being attributed to God who confuses them in a way that renders them unable to communicate with one another.

HOWEVER

…might it be that the reason why the project failed is not that the people were afflicted with foreign languages that made it hard to communicate BUT RATHER the communities were no longer of one accord in their thinking and (to outsiders) it seemed as if they were now speaking a different language to one another!

Personally, I believe the latter explanation makes more sense and keeps God good. Rather than a Deity who feels threatened and undone by human achievements, God is hands off, allowing humans to do their thing rather than blighting them to speak in unknown foreign languages for fear they might actually achieve something. Moreover, a God who does not fear human endeavours to be creative and do something remarkable with their lives, intellect and cooperation. This is the God that Christ reveals….

Til next time

Anyone want a half completed tower? Going once, going twice…

 

Okay,  continuing our mini-series on the Tower of Babel, we delve today into the inconsistencies within the narrative as they relate to God’s omnipotence and His love for His Creation. (If you missed last week’s post, you can catch up by clicking here).

In the Bible, the account reads:

‘Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.’ (Genesis 11v1-8, NIV)

Alright, let me condense down the key ‘God’ moments in this passage:

  1. God comes down to the city, discovers the people’s endeavours to build a tall tower and is threatened by it.
  2. Observing their ability to co-operate, God reasons that nothing is beyond their aptitude and capability.
  3. Fearful of their achievements, God confuses them so they can no longer understand one another’s language which results in…
  4. The people being unable to complete the tower and as a result they move away to fulfil God’s intention that they be scattered across the world.

Fairly straightforward so far..BUT…

Several questions arise about the character of God in this passage. Firstly,  The Divine is portrayed as insecure and easily threatened. Secondly, God is not omniscient (all seeing)  at all as not only does He have to physically come down to the city to view the tower but He also brings others with Him – presumably for protection (though some might suggest the Trinity?)  Lastly, the fact that God* did not know in advance that humans as ‘secondary creators’ – designed in God’s image and working with the available resources of the world – would attempt such a thing, defies understanding.  In being creative, humans were imitating their Creator whose image and raison d’être they bear.

All of which brings us to the nub of why this account of God is problematic – in short, God is portrayed in a way that makes him more like a human than a Deity! He is driven by fear of others and what they might achieve. The Divine is taken to mood swings in which He punishes all by confusing the languages (if indeed, he actually was responsible for doing this?). And why? Because people came together, cooperated and built something extraordinary for that time. (A parent would congratulate their child for such an endeavour not scold them out of hand for doing that which came naturally to them!)

And lastly – where is the Loving God in all of this? Moreover, where is the consistency? God stops people from building a tower made of brick and tar then does not intervene when others develop poison gas and use it to kill hundreds of thousands of people during World War 1. Or develop an atomic bomb to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War 2?  For many of us, these would be things we might hope  God would intervene in…..but he doesn’t: WHY?  Because God in giving humanity freewill – that is the ability to make their own decisions –  does so at the risk that some may abuse it in ways that affect, hurt and even kill others. Of course, God could withdraw all freewill from humanity but that would result in us being little more than automatons who have no ability to make choices that affect ours and the future of others .

In summary, the Tower of Babel owes much to a text retold and understood from a human perspective. Next week we will consider how this biblical account might be better understood in regard to God, humans and a historical record of events that seeks to keep God good. Untill then…

The Force be with you!

*as Primary Creator

 

 

 

 

With the mini-series on Noah and the Flood behind us, for these last three posts in the Genesis Narrative series, we turn our attention to The Tower of Babel and the rather bizarre account of how God responds to its construction. By that I mean, getting down to what actually happens over that which is presumed to be the mindset and actions of a Deity who is threatened by human cooperation and ingenuity. Interested? Good. Then let us begin with the account of the tower of Babel. In the Bible, the account reads:

‘Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.’ (Genesis 11v1-8, NIV)

Alright, let me condense this story down to its key moments:

‘Different people groups come together to build a tall tower. Threatened by the height of the building and what the people might achieve, God removes their universal language from them so that they all speak in different languages. Confused, the community is unable to cooperate to get the tower made and as a result, each group returns to the land they came from.’

Okay,  today’s post will consider the Babel account from a narrative point of view.

Next week’s post will consider the inconsistencies within the narrative that do not accord with what we know today about a God who loves His Creation… (and)

The last post will offer a plausible alternative to understanding what actually happened in the tower of Babel story for the people groups involved.

The Babel account from a narrative point of view

First thing to observe here is that the narrative reads more like a ‘lesson’ 0r ‘moral story‘ then a chronological event. We see this in the SET UP and PAY OFFS that occur at different points of the story. The opening of ‘the whole world having one language and a common speech’ is an obvious SET UP to facilitate the PAY OFF later on as to why people now speak different languages in the world.

Similarly, the next part of the narrative that details how bricks are baked thoroughly and fastened together with tar, provides the second SET UP which explains  why (1) the tower is able to reach so high into the sky but more importantly (2)  how it comes to the attention of God (PAY OFF).

As a subplot, we are privy to the raison d’etre of the people’s motivation (SET UP) which is to build something significant that will stop them being scattered across the land (INTENDED PAY OFF). However,  we are told that God – fearful of what the people have achieved and what they are capable of  – causes confusion to arise in their ranks (GOD’S SET UP) so that the work will stop (GOD’S PAY OFF).

And finally, the architect and people’s greatest fear that they would be insignificant and scattered across the world (SET UP)  is realised as their inability to communicate results in them being spread across the whole known world (GOD’S PAY OFF).

In summary, it seems like the story serves as a device to teach a moral lesson or warning about venturing beyond the boundaries prescribed while offering a fanciful idea and explanation as to why people do not speak a universal language today.

If you do not like the way this story casts God as an insecure Deity, tune in for the next two posts as I promise there is a far better explanation that keeps God good while addressing the issue of confused language in a way that doesn’t require us setting aside our ability to reason in the process. Til then…

…pass the bricks Harry!

 

 

Having completed our five-part Genesis mini-series, I realised that there is still one more post to write on this section of the Flood Narrative. Namely, the explanation of what happened after Noah’s family found dry land- and here I am thinking in particular about the feasibility of whether Noah’s three sons could repopulate the earth by themselves? In the Jerusalem Bible it states:

‘These are the descendants of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham and Japtheth, to whom sons were born after the Flood. ‘Japheth’s sons: Gomer, Magog the Medes, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras….(then)  Ham’s sons: Cush,  Misraim, Put, and Canaan… (and finally) Shem’s sons Elam, Ashur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram.’ (Genesis 10, v1, 2, 6, 11)

My, what a lot of males born to Noah’s sons and seemingly not a daughter in sight – what are the odds on that? Not just this but it seems from the records that Noah’s grandsons also had numerous sons and grandsons. Which is all very curious given that we know an adult male and female is necessary in the process of making a baby. So what are we to make of it?

Well, we know that without women, there would have been no children born to Shem, Ham and Japtheth so obviously women were there.Yet there is no mention of them entering or exiting the Ark. There is also no mention of them disembarking when the Ark finds lands as is the incomplete story of how grandchildren and great grandchildren come into being.

Of course,  to understand this passage we need to be culturally assimilated into the patriarchy of the religion in this period. To understand how it resulted in male children having their history recorded while the story of young girls was largely ignored, one only has to look to the absence of women in the story which was more often taken as a cultural choice to view what God is doing from a patriarchal view point.

In short, women were on the ark. They disembarked, worked the land and gave birth to offspring – it’s just their pioneer spirit was not recorded. That said, it does explain how Noah’s sons could grow a family and advance.

 

 

 

 

 

As we reach the end of this mini-series on Noah, I am reminded of the quote by LP Hartley in his book ‘The Go-Between’ in which he observes that “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

So too, the world of Noah and others of that time. Indeed, for ourselves, like most people born since the Enlightenment (1800s+) with its emphasis on rational ideas and thinking, there is a dichotomy between the way people of that time understood their world and the way we understand it today. A world in which rational thinking was yet to be developed, understood and applied. Now, compare that with the world of Noah which was one of simplistic belief – not because God made it that way but because human development was at the start of its journey in which people would later move towards exploring, learning and understanding the world in which they lived.

On November 1st, 1755, Lisbon was rocked by a huge earthquake and subsequent tsunamis that claimed 90,000+ lives in a day. Prior to this, the Church who had  encouraged the faithful to discover God through Nature found themselves between a rock and a hard place. The problem being the Divine seemed to be against His own as the majority of those killed in Portugal were Christian and devout worshippers at that. For the believing communities within Europe who learnt about the fate of Lisbon, they also were undone because their understanding of God as a kindly, concerned and loving Creator was no longer viable. If anything,  the Divine appeared to be the opposite, wreaking havoc on people through wanton acts of Nature that were both lethal and red in tooth and claw.

No longer able to point to Nature as the source of God’s goodness to his Creation, the Church had to rethink whether the wanton acts visited on Lisbon were in fact directed by the hand of a Loving God (if at all?) In the end, what emerged was an understanding of a world in which earthquakes and tsunami’s come about – and this, independently of God and definitely not the whim of a dualistic mindset in which the Divine  fluctuates between good and evil actions.

Okay, back to Noah and the Ark floating around on the water with no land in sight – and this is a man who neither understands geology nor how tectonic movement causing plates  to shift and dry land to become flooded – be that by one sea tipping into another or territory being flooded by a giant meteor strike or whatever. Now, into this simplistic understanding of a world in which Noah believes that God is bringing about a flood, it is quite easy to see how he might conclude  (in his mindset) that the only reason God would do this is to bring about the end of those people who are against God. The fact that God instructs him to bring animals is presumed that this is to repopulate the planet rather than the necessity of food for the saga that lies ahead. In short, Noah’s thinking is simplistic (as was the thinking of the fertility cults, sun-worshippers, etc) because their understanding of the world was limited during this period of time – and with that I think its right to cut Noah a little slack. Had we been born during this period it’s very likely we would have thought and acted in much the same way as Noah 🙂

I’m not quite sure why but it seems many believers have a theologically compromised position in their defence of God. Possibly because they believe the bald reading of scripture or consider God to be capable of both good and evil. So much so that they end up portraying the Divine in the worst possible light – that is, a Deity who fluctuates between good and evil depending on Divine ‘whim’  (if there even is such a thing?)

We see this in Noah’s understanding that God was about to bring a Flood upon the earth from which only he, his family and the animals taken with him, would survive. So certain was Noah of this fact, that he presumed that only he and the family would be saved and was rather undone later on to find out that people (and not smaller undeveloped life-forms) continued to inhabit the earth long after the Flood waters abated. How confused was Noah at this outcome?!

At the core of Noah’s misunderstanding is his belief that the family and he were being singled out as lone saviours to the world. Why? Because he believed that God was for them and against others. Rather than seeing God’s instruction of making an ark to survive the Flood as pertaining to his own family’s survival, Noah presumed they were the only ones chosen and that everyone else would drown in the process, leaving them to repopulate the earth with ‘godly’ people – which is only possible if we don’t have freewill to choose!

However, what Noah and the gang didn’t understand was that God’s love would extend to all people, irrespective of whether they believed in God or not. How do we know this? well, because Jesus goes to the cross to take the sins of everyone and to make restitution for all who believe. Hence, why Noah presumed he and his family would be singled out for salvation/redemption while others would be condemned –  rather like the Pharisees who years later would despise Jews (in Jesus’ time) for having withered limbs or being born blind or having leprosy or engaged in nefarious activities such as prostitution or didn’t adhere to working on the Sabbath (to name but a few!).

In short, religiosity and belief in their own self importance led many to the conclusion that God was for them and against everyone else when really, (as shown by Jesus  who is God incarnate) the Divine loves all and does not have favourites – or least not in the sense of those being saved and others who are not.

Personally, I believe Christians would do better if they were to  ‘Keep God Good’  in  their conversations. To believe God is capable of dualistic outcomes – that is, destroying the innocent along with the guilty – is to misunderstand the Creator and sustainer of all things good and holy. It also perpetuates the idea that God is dualistic, capable of doing good and evil to bring about His Kingdom – and we know the latter is impossible.

Til next time…the gloves are off!

🙂

 

 

Okay, so where are we in the story? Well, at the end of Chapter 7 in the Book of Genesis we are told that ‘only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.’ Then in chapter 8 it continues:

‘But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.  Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.’

Oh my goodness! It looks like I’ve got it wrong! There was a Global Flood after all! Not only that, the ark came to rest on top of Mount Ararat (Turkey)!

Hmmm, well, maybe?  While there is evidence for the Flood, there is little to suggest it was an extinction event for reasons we shall consider next.

One reason ‘The Flood’ cannot be considered an extinction event is because of what happens after Noah runs aground  – and lets be clear here: when Noah looks out from the Ark at the watery world before him, his conclusion is that the entire world is completely flooded. Or put another way, Noah’s world was flooded and (by extension) so too, presumably everybody else’s world with it. After all, God had told Noah to build an ark so that he, his family and the animals could be spared, to which he presumed everyone else would incur death for their nefarious sins and rejection of God. All of which leads to:

Three problems.

Firstly, God blesses Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.’ However, there is nothing in the biblical accounts to suggest any women were onboard the ark which makes this instruction problematic for Noah and the boys – especially when you have been instructed by God to go forward and multiply after an extinction event has occurred on earth?

Secondly, the more likely reason why it wasn’t a global Flood in which all humans died is that had it been an extinction event, there wouldn’t have been anyone around to resist Noah and his family from taking the land – which is what happens for no sooner has Noah and his sons set foot on dry ground and begun to explore the land and mark out the areas they want, then they encounter people with the same  lifestyles and cultic practices as to those they presumed had died in the Flood. (Now, I’m no microbiologist but even with a best guess at the length of time needed for human life to be restored after an extinction event has occurred, I would think at least 500,000 years for amoebas to form.  And yet, Noah and his family encounter human resistance to their claim for land within weeks of  departing the ark – and that from a people who are presumably the same age as his sons.)

And thirdly, if Noah and his sons populate the whole world after it has suffered an extinction event, then how do we explain the diversity of ethnic groups such as Aboriginals, Maoris, American Indian, etc that continue to exist today? (Either they did not die in the Flood or it was a localised Flood that affected Noah’s world and the surrounding areas).

Til next time, a question to think on: What odds on four men repopulating the earth after an extinction event?

(Answers on a postcard to…)

Following on from last week’s post about why the ‘Flood’ Noah experienced was not global, we continue today by looking at the evidence that suggests it was a localised event.  And can I say here that I appreciate (that for some believers) I may be treading on cherished ideas of an ark full of rare and exotic animals gathered from the four corners of the earth. However, as you will see, the evidence for Noah’s Flood being a localised event is compelling so read on….

In the Flood epic, we are told that God instructs Noah to build an ark. While he does this,  two of each animal – male and female – find their way to the Ark in readiness for the voyage. I think we can presume here that God did not intend the animals for eating otherwise he would have sent a lot more. Maybe fifty or sixty  – enough that Noah, his family members and the wolf and coyote might have their fill. (Actually, I’m not going to venture into how you keep animals in an ark when some are predators and the others are prey).

Anyway, it rains, the waters rise and the good ship Noah’s Ark sets sail for who knows where. Soon, the crew find themselves in the middle of a vast expanse of water with no land in sight for days on end. Weeks pass – possibly months – until they become so used to  the watery horizon that greets them every day, they stop looking out of the window.

Eventually, Noah sends out a raven from the ark which doesn’t return. Presumed missing-in-action (aka ‘drowned at sea’) there was probably quibbling between them as to why a seagull or albatross wasn’t sent out as these would be better birds to go on such a  mission given that they could rest on the water when tired – however, a dove was chosen which went out, found nothing and returned.  (note – need to add here that the  ‘The Ancient Mariner’ had not been written so there were no qualms about having an albatross on board though clearly Noah thought  the dove was a better choice until it didn’t return).

Undeterred, Noah sends the dove out again and this time it returns with a leafy green twig between its beak – Hurrah! The Flood was retreating! A week (or seventeen) later, the Ark runs aground on Terra firm, much to the rejoicing of Noah, his family and the animals who were desperate to get out and exercise.

This is where we encounter our first major problem with the Flood narrative because there is a presumption that the Ark runs aground on top of a mountain –  and why not? After all, they have not seen land for months until the day they awoke to find the ark grounded on land from which water was receding – I need to add here that I am sitting on my hands as there is so much more to say about the implications of the extinction event but it will have to wait for the fourth part of this series!

Now, had the Ark ended up on top of Mount Kilimanjaro or Table Mountain or Mount McKinley or Mount Everest or Mount Blanc or whatever high place you want to name, Noah would be justified in believing the Flood had covered the whole world and an ‘extinction event’ had occurred which, as a result, had him, family and animals as the only living creatures left on earth. And let me add here, that there is no deception on Noah’s part as he actually believes the whole world had been flooded. Why? Because every day he looked out, all he saw was water, leading him to presume that he and his family are the only people left on earth.

I mean, how could others have survived without a vessel? Noah believed this because God had told him to prepare as a flood was coming. And of course the most obvious explanation (for us in the 21st century) is that a flood did indeed occur and the ark was swept out to sea and ended up circling the Mediterranean aimlessly for months on end until the water around it receded and they found ground a hundred or so miles down the road from where they built the ark. For Noah – a man who presumably believed  (like so many of that time)  that the world was flat and that the endless watery horizon surrounding them was evidence of how God had covered everything with water. Moreover, it’s quite possible that Noah may never have seen the sea prior to the Flood and sincerely believed that he and his family were the only one’s afloat and alive. A misconception that, as we shall see in next week’s post, will land both him and his son(s) in a heap of trouble.

Til then, man overboard!

ps could it be that the first dove that never returned to the ark, found land, weighed up its options and lived out the rest of his life on the rich pickings at the nearby Canaanite settlement? Hmmmm?

 

Today, we begin a five part series looking at the events of the Flood which is recorded in the account of Noah in the Book of Genesis (chapter 6). In this chapter, God tells Noah to build an ark because the people are wicked and that he, his family and animals will be spared when the Great Flood comes upon them. Now, aside from other flood accounts that hail from this region at varying points in time – most notably, the Epic of Gilgamesh – more recent geological investigation suggests the  the Black/Caspian Sea(?) tipped into the Mediterranean around this time that resulted in flooding in the outlying regions.

Now, we will go deeper into the passage in future posts but for today, I would like to discuss the anomaly of how the animals found their way to the ark.

For those of us who have ever read the story of ‘Noah and the Ark’ or bought a toy in which pairs of giraffes, brown bears, kangaroos (etc) fit into the dimensions of the plastic container (that doubles as an ark), we are immediately drawn to a problem in the scenario of Noah and the animals. Namely, how did these pairs of animals – female and male – from other continents, manage to find their way to the ark?

I need to add here that many times what I hear from well intentioned christians who think I am missing a trick is the adage that ‘God can do anything,’ Well, ‘yes’ – God can do anything. However, for the sake of the stability in our world, God does not usurp the  rules he has set in place to achieve his goals. And herein lies the problem:

‘How did animals from the continents of Americas, Australia, Greenland, Antartica find their way to Noah’s Ark?’

A few poorly thought out explanations I sometimes hear in response to this question are:

  1. The Flood event occurred at a time while all the continents of the earth were locked together – thus the animals did not have the problem of having to cross a large body of water in making their way to the Ark.
  2. God equipped the animals  so they were able to swim across the body of water to facilitate them making the rest of the journey under their own steam.
  3. Somehow God teleported (Star Trek-like) polar bears from the North Pole and other animals to Noah’s Ark because God can do anything He wants.

Okay, hold on to your hats! A few simplistic ideas are about to be knocked for six.

Firstly, geological surveys predict that the plates of the earth separated long before human existence – there’s a very good reason why this is so because the energy, gases and eruptions caused by this colossal event would have destroyed all life on earth. Had it happened while humans were alive (and they had somehow survived), there would be evidence of humans artefacts at different layers of the geological strata – but they’re aren’t!

Secondly, the idea that God would equip koala bears with the ability to swim makes little sense. If these marsupials  can manage a hundred day swim from Perth to Johannesburg without one of them being consumed by a shark – remember, there is a need for them to arrive in pairs – then why do they need to travel at all? If koalas – and other animals  – are able to stay afloat in a choppy ocean with gusts and gales, then why do they even need to travel there to get onboard the Ark?

Lastly, God cannot create a world in which freewill is established, then transgress these outcomes by interfering within it. With the exception of Star Trek IV ‘The Voyage Home’ in which Captain Kirk and the team return to earth in the 1980s to save the planet by transporting two whales to avert an incident (long story), the reality is that God does not intervene in the way we think He should.

And finally…

What are we to make of God’s instruction to Noah to make ready the Ark and take two of every kind of animal with him?

Well, if you believe the Flood to be global, it makes no sense at all as the Ark’s dimensions cannot contain two of every species.

However, if the Flood is localised to a region and Noah and his family will have to resettle after they find dry land, then having two of every animal (goats, hens, cows, etc) is providential for the fresh start that awaits them.

Til the next instalment, live long and prosper!