the flood & why

25 October 2013 13 comments

I was thinking about the flood -- the whole-earth mabbul that swallowed the world with water and drowned almost every living thing. I was thinking about the tragedy.

And thinking, Why couldn't God have destroyed the violence without destroying the people? Why couldn't He have fixed the world without destroying humans? Why did God do this unthinkable thing?

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was very great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land..."
Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them."  [gen6]
Corruption, rottenness. Evil continually. Filled with violence. And it grieved Him to His heart.

All the things we hate about this life. Extortion and exploitation. Using and abusing people, the animals, and the land. Plotting, conniving, manipulating. Predation and discarding the weak. Debasement, debauchery. Rivers and pools of pain that multiplied until it all became a flood.

Why couldn't God have destroyed all of that pain without destroying the people?

>> Because God could not separate unwilling sinners from their sin. 

And right now we're in the world millennia after that big flood and I look around and sometimes I'm struck with the beauty of a common rabbit just really enjoying himself in a patch of grass and clover, but a lot of times I'm sickened in the stomach with the realities of corruption, rottenness, evil continually, and violence, just disgusted with all the pain. 

And in these situations we ask God why He doesn't put an end to it. 

But when He tells us that He will, we ask Him why He'd do such a thing in destroying the earth with fire. 

Why can't God just destroy all the pain without destroying people?

>> Because God cannot separate unwilling sinners from their sin.

He'll do so much! He will wait with the patience that even the saints cannot fathom. He'll send His Spirit and His message of rescue and restoration and give every invitation to a people who have stopped up their ears. He will put up with the pain that only an infinite heart can feel. He will consider all the privileges of divinity as something to be set aside, and He will make Himself nothing, and He will be born as a man and will humble Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death on a cross. He will pour out every good thing He has and everything He is to save as many as He can from destroying themselves. 

But what He'll never do is force someone into holiness and love. What He'll never do is wrestle away their power of choice, leaving their robot bodies alive and pretending that they're still human. 

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. And this is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. [jn3]

. . . . . . .

A beautiful song that gives voice to a common question. (but: language warning!)


  • Jonathan Peinado said...

    thanks for these thoughts. in our bible class at jaa, we're currently going through genesis 3 & 4 and looking at the effects of knowing evil. in the story of cain & lamech it's unbelievable how closely identified we become with evil so that even though its evil (i.e., bad for us and everyone around us), we actually prefer it, choose it, & pursue it.

    yet God's mercy is still apparent in that when cain killed his brother, God forbade anyone from killing cain. God's heart of love is so great that he could not endure the pain of any more blood shed, even if merited.

    what's scary is that it came to the point where the only way for God to eradicate sin during the flood was to eradicate those who perpetuated its existence.

    we've become so identified with evil, that we become the embodiment of evil itself. evil cannot exist without a residence.

  • Jared Spano said...

    We so easily forget that if we choose to clutch our sin, rather than to clutch Jesus, then we become identified with our sin, and in its eradication we are destroyed.

  • William Bell said...

    I'm not convinced that appeals to human free will can do the sort of heavy lifting required to justify global extermination. It doesn't seem obvious to me that God honors and respects my agency by allowing me to freely determine myself in ways that bring about my own destruction. Free-will, the ability to choose, the power of self-determination-are all important, but I don't know why these values should be considered to trump everything else. Furthermore, I don't know about separating people from their sin, but people are undoubtedly defined by much more than their sin.

    I've always found the specificity of God's promise after the Flood alarming to the point of being hollow.

  • Jennifer Schwirzer said...

    Kessia, great thoughts. We must distinguish between coercion and consequences. Coercion means controlling people, consequences means simply responding appropriately to their choices. The former fascist states do, the latter free states do. We don't accuse the US government of being fascist because it puts people in jail for murder. The Bible knows nothing of the current embarrassment over God's destruction of the wicked. Your answer to the difficulty of divine retributive justice is just right. It's true to Scripture. In my experience trying to explain away DRJ leads to a reexplaining of Scripture such that only those with "special insights" see through the "veil." It really becomes quite esoteric. Soldier on, girl. I believe in you!!!!!

  • kessia reyne said...

    William, thanks for your reply.

    There is undoubtedly still a measure of trust involved in considering God's actions, especially something as drastic as a "global extermination." There are degrees of autonomy that God could grant, from absolutely none to absolutely total. So it doesn't seem obvious to me either "that God honors and respects my agency by allowing me to freely determine myself in ways that bring about my own destruction," yet surely God must grant me some self-determination and this "some" is inherently risky. The flood gives us some insight into how God weighs that risk. And I think the necessity of agency and self-determination is something we do not see proved by Scripture, but something assumed by Scripture -- something integral and inherent in the meaning of "human" and in the character of "God" and the nature of the God-human relation.

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