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Refuting the Call for Unity in Compromise: The Importance of Upholding the Biblical Truth of the Flood Narrative

by | Jan 15, 2024

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Perusing social media this morning, I ran across the following tweet by Gavin Ortlund. Squishy doctrine and false teaching seem to be universal (no pun intended) within the entire pedigree of Ortlund men. His father, Ray Ortlund, is a staunch supporter of Beth Moore and other women pastors and his brother, Dane, wrote a book essentially painting Jesus as an effete and passive servant who has within him no wrath. So it comes as no surprise that Gavin would peddle such views as the following:

To entertain the notion that the biblical account of Noah’s flood was merely a local affair is not simply to tiptoe around a theological pothole, it is to undermine the very foundation of Scripture. Some may find this stance shocking, but it is necessary to seize upon the truth with conviction. This claim, which is now circulating on social media—that suggesting a local flood could unify the church—is a precarious proposition at best. Far from fostering unity, it actually sows seeds of discord by elevating human reasoning above divine revelation. Unity in error is no unity at all. It is a veiled disarray, a facade masking a crumbling foundation.

The Bible calls for unity in truth, in the sound doctrine handed down by the apostles, rooted in the very words of Christ. The gospel itself hinges on the historical truth of events like the worldwide flood—a cataclysmic event that prefigures the final judgment and the ultimate redemption found in Christ. To permit the propagation of a localized flood theory within the church is not an exercise in unity, but a foray into a labyrinth of subjectivity that threatens the gospel itself. The apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to attain “to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13), not a unity built on the shaky ground of theological compromise.

Allowing for a belief that starkly contrasts with the clear teaching of Scripture under the guise of unity is akin to gambling with the church’s doctrinal purity. It is to welcome a looming threat under the banner of inclusivity. The unity that Scripture calls for is one that aligns with the truth of God’s Word, one that holds fast to the teachings that have been entrusted to the saints once for all (Jude 1:3). The pursuit of such unity is not divisive, rather, it is the refusal to let go of error that creates divisions, as truth and error cannot coexist in blissful harmony.

Ortlund’s assertion that such a view is unifying is not a view drawn from Scripture. It may align with the mission of The Gospel Coalition, but it does not align with God’s revelation. Here are five reasons why such a view is at odds with sound, biblical doctrine and should not be allowed to flourish.

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1. The Authority of Scripture at Stake

The biblical text is unequivocal about the flood’s scope, describing waters, relentless and unforgiving, that covered the highest mountains. Interpreting this as a local event introduces a perilous precedent of selective literalism, gambling with our doctrinal foundation. Diluting the narrative to fit a modern comfort zone undermines the very authority of Scripture. The account in Genesis is not allegorical but an explicit, historical proclamation, with details too precise to be dismissed as hyperbole.

Compromising on the universality of the flood opens the door to questioning foundational Christian beliefs, including the resurrection of Christ. The Bible is a cohesive revelation from God, not a collection of myths to be selectively believed. Trust in Scripture is trust in the God who communicates through it, a trust that affirms His sovereignty and precise action in history. The genealogies, prophecies, and typologies that form the understructure of biblical doctrine are predicated on the historical reality of a global flood.

We must, therefore, stand firm in upholding the authority of Scripture, recognizing it as the definitive voice on matters of faith and history. To do otherwise is not just to risk doctrinal error but to erode the very foundations of Christian belief and the assurance of God’s unchanging nature.

2. The Nature of Divine Judgment

The global flood narrative stands as a visible reminder of God’s sweeping judgment against sin, portraying a world submerged in divine retribution. This is not a fairy tale of localized divine displeasure but a cosmic judgment, encapsulating the totality of human depravity. The notion of a localized flood trivializes the gravity of sin and the extent of God’s sanctifying wrath. It is essential to grasp the full scope of the deluge as a clear testament to God’s unyielding justice and His sovereign rule over all creation.

By depicting a judgment that spared nothing but the ark and its inhabitants, Scripture communicates that sin, no matter its reach, cannot and will not escape the gaze of the Almighty. To suggest the flood was localized is to wrongly imply a limit to God’s purview and diminish His response to sin. The worldwide cataclysm is a foreshadowing of the ultimate judgment, revealing that the Creator’s justice is as boundless as the sin it seeks to purge.

The biblical account reveals a God who is active and absolute in purifying His creation, offering no quarter to wickedness. The deluge was not merely a punitive act but also a decisive step towards renewal, a complete eradication of evil in preparation for a new beginning. It sets a precedent for the final judgment, a solemn promise that while sin may be rampant, divine justice will be thorough and all-encompassing.

Thus, the story of the flood is integral to the gospel narrative, affirming that God’s mercy is as expansive as His judgment. The same God who judged with water has extended salvation through Christ, ensuring His mercy reaches as far as the curse is found. The flood’s universality foreshadows the comprehensive scope of Christ’s redemptive work, a sweeping grace that covers all sin for those who embrace it. This narrative reinforces our understanding of a God whose actions are both just and merciful, whose plan for redemption is as grand as the floodwaters that once covered the earth.

3. The Gospel’s Foundation in History

The gospel’s power is rooted in the historical reality of biblical events, including the global flood—a point stressed by Christ’s own words when He paralleled His return with the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39). Questioning the historicity of the flood calls into question the veracity of Christ’s teachings and the steadfastness of the gospel. The narrative of Scripture is not allegory but a real and tangible, accurate and historical record of God’s interaction with humanity.

The flood stands as a definitive act of God, shaping both the Earth’s landscape and mankind’s spiritual understanding. It is a clear demonstration of God’s sovereignty, a historical judgment with ramifications reaching far beyond its immediate aftermath. If we undermine the flood’s global significance, we inadvertently weaken the universal scope of salvation offered through the gospel. The historical grounding of the gospel lends credibility to its message of redemption and reinforces the faith of believers in the promises of God.

The biblical flood is not a disconnected event from the rest of biblical history—it is interwoven with the totality of our reality, offering a foretaste of the ultimate judgment and salvation that define the Christian narrative. To diminish the flood is to diminish the gospel’s claim of a salvation that is as encompassing as the waters that once covered the earth. The flood’s historicity is a non-negotiable pillar in the architecture of Christian doctrine, supporting the trust we place in God’s redemptive plan through Christ—a plan as historical, as certain, and as global as the flood itself.

4. The Unity of Biblical Themes

As stated above, the narrative of the worldwide flood is not an isolated story—it is a necessary component of the redemption narrative interspersed throughout the Bible. This sweeping event illustrates the profound theme of judgment and grace that is echoed in various forms from Genesis to Revelation. The totality of the floodwaters reflects the all-encompassing nature of God’s grace, a grace that is not partial or limited but extends to all of creation. To interpret the flood as merely a local event is to ignore this overarching theme, risking a fragmented understanding of Scripture’s unified message.

In the flood narrative, we see a prefiguration of the ultimate redemption found in Christ. Just as the waters covered the earth, bringing both judgment and a new beginning, so too does Christ’s work on the cross bring judgment on sin and the promise of new life for all who believe. The universality of the flood serves as a powerful parallel to the universal offer of salvation through Jesus, an offer that knows no bounds and is not confined by geography or ethnicity.

This pattern of comprehensive judgment followed by all-encompassing salvation is a recurring motif in Scripture, depicting the consistency and reliability of God’s plan for humanity. Each event, each prophecy, each covenant in the Bible contributes to this unified narrative of redemption, culminating in the person and work of Jesus Christ. To diminish the scale of any of these events, including the flood, is to weaken the spine of this grand narrative, obscuring the clarity and beauty of God’s redemptive purposes as revealed in His Word. Therefore, upholding the truth of a worldwide flood is essential not just for doctrinal accuracy, but for maintaining the integrity of the biblical narrative as a whole.

5. The Assurance of God’s Promises

Finally, the covenant God establishes with Noah, symbolized by the rainbow, is not just a pact with one man or one region. It is a sweeping covenant with all of creation. This universal promise, set in the sky for all to see, speaks volumes about the breadth and depth of God’s faithfulness. To consider the flood as merely a local event is to dangerously narrow the extent of God’s promises, undermining the assurance they are meant to provide. The global nature of the flood, therefore, is necessary to understand the scope of God’s commitment and His unyielding faithfulness to His creation.

This covenant, following the flood, sets a precedent for the nature of God’s promises—they are inclusive, expansive, and unwavering. Just as the floodwaters engulfed the entire earth, God’s promises encompass all aspects of creation, leaving no part untouched by His grace and providence. The rainbow, displayed worldwide, is a perpetual reminder of this fact, a symbol of a promise that extends as far as the curse is found. To diminish the flood’s impact is to diminish the promise attached to it, eroding the foundation of trust that believers are called to place in God’s word.

In a similar vein, the gospel message is a global assurance, a testament to the fact that God’s plan for salvation is as comprehensive as the flood was extensive. The promise of restoration and redemption through Christ is for all people, in all places, across all time. Just as the flood was an act of both judgment and renewal, the gospel is a message of both justice and grace, extended to the entirety of creation. Upholding the worldwide scale of the flood reinforces our confidence in the gospel’s promises, assuring us that in Christ, God is indeed working to restore all things to Himself, just as He promised.

So what do we make of all this? Clearly, to dilute the universality of the flood is to veer towards a theology that may seem more digestible to modern sensibilities but ultimately strays from the scriptural truth. Such a stance not only gambles with the profound impact of the gospel but also aligns with the warning in Jude 1:4 against those who pervert God’s grace into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Those who advocate for a non-literal interpretation of the flood, thereby contradicting the clear teaching of Scripture, disqualify themselves as sound teachers of the Bible.

But what about our fellow church members who hold to this erroneous view? It is conceivable that a new believer, still maturing in their faith, may not fully grasp the significance of a worldwide flood. However, more mature believers must instruct and correct this false teaching. Defending the literal truth of the flood narrative is not about promoting dogmatism but about safeguarding the integrity of biblical teaching. Those who persistently resist such correction and continue to propagate unbiblical views may well be demonstrating not a simple lack of understanding, but a deeper rebellion against God’s word.

In the Christian walk, to uphold the truth of a worldwide flood is to anchor oneself firmly in the entirety of God’s revelation. It is to embrace a faith that is informed by the whole counsel of God, a faith that finds its strength not in the scientific debate or cultural trends but in the unchangeable truth of the Scripture. This stance is not one of willful ignorance but of deliberate conviction, holding fast to a biblical truth that forms an essential part of our understanding of God’s nature—His judgment, His salvation, and His ultimate promise to restore all things.

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