Board index Noah's Ark & the Flood

In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby Shotgun » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:34 pm

God kinda damages his own image when he's literally drowning the entire world, including a whole load of infant children. By my rough math, God had to have drowned an estimated 450-45,000 newborns when he flooded the world based on birth rates and depending on who you ask for how many people were around in that time of history. How do you justify the murder of that many children?
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Re: In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby jimwalton » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:35 pm

To know this, first we have to know when the Flood happened. The biblical scholars I've read, some put it before 10,000 BC and others before 20,000.

Next we'd have to know the population of the earth at the time. That's a tough one to get a handle on. A geneticist I know at Harvard/MIT says that back then there were probably at least 5000 homo sapiens on the planet. I would think your estimate of 45,000 newborns is a tad high.

Third, I have good reason to believe the flood was not global, but just massively regional. We can discuss that as you wish.

Fourth, if you plan to condemn God for being immoral, it would be necessary for us to know what people were like back then. How much violence, how much horrific behavior? We can't condemn God without the facts.

Possibly we should start with those, and we can continue to the conversation.
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Re: In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby Shotgun » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:08 pm

> Third, I have good reason to believe the flood was not global

You're a heretic according to my previous church. You are deceived into believing the Bible isn't literal and are a false Christian.

This is why I can't take any of this seriously: Christianity is so fractured that it is a laughable task for me to choose the "right" sect of Christianity since they all sound the same and they all disagree with each other on some.pretty serious theology interpretations. The term "world" having two different interpretations based on your sect just makes your religion into a laughing stock because it means god is so poor at predicting the future, he uses a word that can mean different things to different people rather than clarifying it or even using clear language at the outset. Some sects don't even believe the flood happened, so there's that too.
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Re: In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby jimwalton » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:18 pm

> You are deceived into believing the Bible isn't literal and are a false Christian.

The Bible is a rich literary collection containing music, poetry, metaphor, allegory, archetypes, parable, hyperbole, metonymy, irony, simile, and many other literary forms, as well as genres such as prayer, prophecy, blessing, covenant language, legal language, etc. "Literally" quickly becomes a word with very little meaning or helpfulness. If a poet says the trees of the field will clap their hands and the mountains will jump for joy, is that literal? Of course not, it's poetry. If a man prays, "God, kill all those people", we may all understand that his prayer is inappropriate, and is not blessed by God, but is it literal? Well, how does that word even apply? And how does it apply to archetype, allegory, parable, and all the others? It's a word that should be dropped from the discussion because it doesn't take us anywhere except to the Land of Misunderstanding.

It's better to think that the Bible should be taken the way the author intended it to be taken. If he was using hyperbole, we're to take it that way. So also allegorically, historically, parabolic, poetic, etc. Our quest is to understand the intent of the author. In that case we'll take the Bible *seriously*, but "literally" doesn't take us anywhere.

> Christianity is so fractured that it is a laughable task for me to choose the "right" sect of Christianity since they all sound the same and they all disagree with each other on some.pretty serious theology interpretations.

Interestingly, I hear scientists (astrophysicists, archaeologists, psychologists, geologists, paleontologists, etc.) disagreeing with each other on their interpretations of data. Important stuff, too. But I don't imagine you consider science "laughable." I hear economists disagreeing with each other. Lawyers on interpreting the Constitution. Educators as to philosophy and methodology. Such disagreements are the results of deeply thinking people examining the evidence and arriving at disparate conclusions. It sounds to me like you may have a double standard if reasoned debate is respectable in scientific, juridical, educational and many other disciplinary settings, but the same dynamic proves that the Bible is fictional. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

> The term "world" having two different interpretations based on your sect just makes your religion into a laughing stock

Haven't you ever used the expression, "Everybody was there!" What about, "The whole place went crazy"? We do this all the time. What's wrong with the biblical writers using the same idioms?

What does "all" mean? In Gn. 41.57 (same book, same author), we read that "all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe in all the world." Was Brazil experiencing famine? Did the Australians come to Joseph? No. "All" means the countries of the immediate vicinity in the ancient Near East. This is not difficult to understand, nor is it a lie. It's an expression, an idiom of communication.

Also, Deut. 2.25 (same author): "I will put the...fear of you on all the nations under heaven." Did that include the Mayans? The people of Madagascar? I don't think anyone would argue that this refers to more than the nations of Canaan, and perhaps a few others.

There are plenty of other references like this throughout the Bible (Acts 17.6; 19.35; 24.5; Rom. 1.8). We have to give serious consideration that quite possibly "all" doesn't mean "global". This is not a laughing stock, but using sense to determine what the intent of the author was.

Also, the flood didn't have to be global to accomplish God's purposes. God was dealing with Canaan and the surrounding neighbors. God was dealing with Noah's context. A flood in South America would be totally inexplicable to the people there, as well as patently unfair (which the Bible teaches that God is not). Noah was a preacher of righteousness, but not to the people of Africa, China, Australia, and the Americas. The language of the Noah story is normal for Scripture, describing everyday matters from the narrator's vantage point and within the customary frame of reference of his readers.

> it means god is so poor at predicting the future

Now you're changing subjects, apparently hauling out an old laundry list of complaints. We would have to talk about this appropriately, not as unidentified toss-offs.
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Re: In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby Regnus Numis » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:25 pm

Newborn infants are incapable of violent, horrific behavior, so it's nearly impossible to justify their deaths without utilitarian reasoning.
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Re: In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby jimwalton » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:34 pm

Of course this is true. I'm not sure anyone would argue that newborns are capable of violent, horrific behavior. As far as Noah's flood is concerned, several factors may be part of the total picture. First of all, in the ancient world there was hardly such a thing as individualism, so common to us in our modern world. Values were community oriented. What affected one affected all; where one was guilty all were guilty; where one brought honor, all were honored. The ancient mindset in the time of the writing of Genesis was this community worldview that knew nothing of individualism.

Secondly, you may be arguing that a truly good being always eliminates evil as far as it can, but that's not true. A doctor who can eliminate the pain in your knee only by removing your leg doesn’t forfeit his claim to moral excellence by failing to do so. A doctor escapes moral culpability because he cannot eliminate the evil without also eliminating a greater good. So maybe then we'd want to say that it makes logical sense that a person is not morally culpable in producing evil if he justifiably believes he can produce a greater good that outweighs the evil on by producing said evil; nor is he immoral in FAILING to eliminate an evil if he justifiable believes that he can eliminate it only by eliminating a GREATER good. So it’s just not true that a person is only good (or all-powerful or all loving) if he tries to eliminate every state of affairs that he believes is evil.

What about another angle: an omniscient person is only wholly good if he tries to eliminate every evil state of affairs that he can eliminate without eliminating a greater good? Well, no one would claim that evil MUST exist, so we're left with "God can then eliminate every case of evil whatever." But that doesn't follow. There are always pros and cons. We can't assume that every case of evil can be eliminated without possibly eliminating a great good. The argument fails.

This means that any evil outweighed by at least one good is necessary to have a good state of affairs that outweighs it. But this means that an omnipotent and omniscient being could permit as much evil as he pleased without forfeiting his claim to being all good as long as for every evil state of affairs he permits, there is the possibility of a greater good. That is to say, he can permit as much evil as he pleased provided that there was a balance of good over evil in the universe as a whole, which just may be the case!

In other words, we may not require a specifically utilitarian reason to justify their deaths. Possibly the consideration of the greater good, and the balance of good over evil in the universe justifies the action.
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Re: In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby Regnus Numis » Tue Feb 06, 2018 5:57 pm

> Of course this is true. I'm not sure anyone would argue that newborns are capable of violent, horrific behavior. As far as Noah's flood is concerned, several factors may be part of the total picture. First of all, in the ancient world there was hardly such a thing as individualism, so common to us in our modern world. Values were community oriented. What affected one affected all; where one was guilty all were guilty; where one brought honor, all were honored. The ancient mindset in the time of the writing of Genesis was this community worldview that knew nothing of individualism.

Perhaps, but I don't see how God should have been affected by this ancient mindset when He sent the Great Flood, assuming the story is true.

> Secondly, you may be arguing that a truly good being always eliminates evil as far as it can, but that's not true. A doctor who can eliminate the pain in your knee only by removing your leg doesn’t forfeit his claim to moral excellence by failing to do so. A doctor escapes moral culpability because he cannot eliminate the evil without also eliminating a greater good. So maybe then we'd want to say that it makes logical sense that a person is not morally culpable in producing evil if he justifiably believes he can produce a greater good that outweighs the evil on by producing said evil; nor is he immoral in FAILING to eliminate an evil if he justifiable believes that he can eliminate it only by eliminating a GREATER good. So it’s just not true that a person is only good (or all-powerful or all loving) if he tries to eliminate every state of affairs that he believes is evil.

> What about another angle: an omniscient person is only wholly good if he tries to eliminate every evil state of affairs that he can eliminate without eliminating a greater good? Well, no one would claim that evil MUST exist, so we're left with "God can then eliminate every case of evil whatever." But that doesn't follow. There are always pros and cons. We can't assume that every case of evil can be eliminated without possibly eliminating a great good. The argument fails.

> This means that any evil outweighed by at least one good is necessary to have a good state of affairs that outweighs it. But this means that an omnipotent and omniscient being could permit as much evil as he pleased without forfeiting his claim to being all good as long as for every evil state of affairs he permits, there is the possibility of a greater good. That is to say, he can permit as much evil as he pleased provided that there was a balance of good over evil in the universe as a whole, which just may be the case!

Your reasoning may apply to the Problem of Evil, but I don't see how drowning newborn infants constitutes as a failure to eliminate evil in order to preserve a greater good. If anything, you could argue He was probably sacrificing innocent lives to prevent a greater evil.

> In other words, we may not require a specifically utilitarian reason to justify their deaths. Possibly the consideration of the greater good, and the balance of good over evil in the universe justifies the action.

If God was considering the greater good when He drowned the newborn infants, then it is an act of utilitarianism.
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Re: In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby jimwalton » Tue Feb 06, 2018 6:28 pm

> Perhaps, but I don't see how God should have been affected by this ancient mindset when He sent the Great Flood, assuming the story is true.

Any good communicator accommodates the mindset of his listening audience. If 150 years ago we talked to people about cars, planes, computers, and the Internet, obviously we'd be met with wide stares and plenty of smirks. As a communicator, we always try to gauge our audience and speak in terms they understand, analogies that make connections for them in particular, and word pictures that make sense. For instance, public speakers learn pretty quickly that jokes don't work in foreign countries through an interpreter. So much is lost in translation, and the culture without the same shared experiences just doesn't get it. The speaker always has to accommodate his listening audience.

There is no reason we should assume it would be different with God. When He spoke to Noah, he spoke in words and concepts Noah could understand. Otherwise it couldn't have been communication but only obfuscation.

> ...in order to preserve a greater good. If anything, you could argue He was probably sacrificing innocent lives to prevent a greater evil.

There were several "greater goods" at play. For one, places like Somalia and organizations like the KKK and ISIS have taught us horrible truths about how young children can be taught to be racist, dangerously ethnocentric, and murderous. From the earliest days infants are taught to hate and to kill. Sometimes the only way to break the chain is through annihilation of all contamination, which could possibly include even very young children.

Secondly, we also know that collateral damage is often inescapable. When God judged Israel for the their disobedience it was not to claim that every last living one of them were bad or worthy of it. We know specifically from the book of Daniel that was not the case. So also when a society is allowed to continue is not an indication that everyone in it is worthy. Reward or judgment always inevitably catches many categories of people in its net. But if we are talking about not only the balance of evil over good (or vice versa), but the far-majority preponderance of one over the other, then the action is warranted in order to preserve the greater good. If he could not send the flood to kill communities of evil people because there were two babies somewhere in there, then the greater good would be forfeited. When innocent animals are caught in forest fires, we still learn important lessons about the value of life and about good and evil. The sacrifice of innocent lives, as you said, shows us how horrific the evil of that day must have been. We do the same thing when we prune off good parts of branches because there is an incurable infection further down the line.

Researchers have shown that our bodies do this as well. A Nobel prize winner named Yoshinori Ohsumi wrote about autophagy, the body's self-eating tendencies that are vital to our survival. Apparently cells wrap proteins and organelles in a protective membrane and then shred them with enzymes, the equivalent of watching a wrecking ball reduce a skyscraper into a pile of rubble. Why, with the prospect of invasion, would a cell demolish something it had worked so hard to build? It isn't cruelty, but pruning, Ohsumi says. "Degradation is a process essential for the creation of new life." Subsequent researchers have found evidence of autophagy in every tissue of the human body. The heart destroys mitochondria when they age, because they slow it down. It replaces them with newer, healthier ones. Neurons in the brain clear away damaged proteins that would block transmission of the neural signals. Sacrifice and destruction allow us to prevent greater evil and preserve a greater good. It's the way of nature. The same principle enters every part of life: we cut lesser players from the team, fire employees who aren't pulling their weight. John 15.2: Every branch that bears fruit gets pruned so that it will be even more fruitful. Heb. 12.11: "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

We feel the personal pain (and perceived unfairness) of a baby’s death, a natural disaster that takes lives, or a perceived premature death. We mourn the loss of precious life. These are not the cruel perpetrations of an immoral God, but the necessary and dynamic autophagic symbiance of life as it must be. God doesn't heal all illnesses or spare everyone from suffering and death ((Lk. 4.25-27; 13.1-5; 16.20-22). One apostle in Acts is rescued; another is beheaded. God cannot protect us from all the ravages of life without stealing away all the good in the process, and so he identifies with us in our suffering, redeems the pain, and makes sure that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8.28).
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Re: In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby Regnus Numis » Wed Feb 07, 2018 3:11 pm

> Haven't you ever used the expression, "Everybody was there!" What about, "The whole place went crazy"? We do this all the time. What's wrong with the biblical writers using the same idioms?

While I do understand your point, wouldn't it still have been safer if God instructed biblical authors to avoid using figures of speech to minimize misinterpretation by future generations? In addition, did the Hebrews and Early Church Fathers know that God was only using figures of speech, especially regarding major events like the Great Flood? It's rather pointless to include figures of speech if the audience back then took them literally.
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Re: In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby jimwalton » Wed Feb 07, 2018 3:11 pm

> While I do understand your point, wouldn't it still have been safer if God instructed biblical authors to avoid using figures of speech to minimize misinterpretation by future generations?

Certainly back in the days of Noah, as far as we know writing didn't exist. It was an oral culture, and so the communication is more story-like than an instruction manual. The story is told in a human-like, casual manner than like a technical handbook. People speak in images. We just have to interpret accordingly.

> In addition, did the Hebrews and Early Church Fathers know that God was only using figures of speech, especially regarding major events like the Great Flood?

I don't know the answer. This would take a whole lot of study. I'm sure someone has done it, but it wasn't me. I don't know.

> It's rather pointless to include figures of speech if the audience back then took them literally.

It's not pointless, it's just that we have to use good interpretive skills. We have to interpret it by what the author meant by it. We have to do the same thing with Beowulf, Shakespeare, and Thomas Jefferson. I mean, when we read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address we have to know what he meant by "score," and it wasn't about sports. But you know this. You and I have had many conversations, and you're an intelligent person.
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