New Testament Evidence for the Flood

New Testament Evidence for the Flood


Friday, October 11, 2013

THE GLOBAL FLOOD—ACCORDING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
by Lita Cosner

This article was originally posted on Creation.com on 5/24/2012.

Wikimedia: Richard Wang

Many Bible skeptics regard Genesis 1–11 as mythical, copied from Enuma Elish, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and other such ancient writings—so not only is it a primitive myth, it’s not a particularly original one, in their view. We’ve often written about the characteristics of Genesis that show it claims to record history.

Sadly many believers have bought into various compromising interpretations of the Flood narrative, but as Christians, aren’t we supposed to believe what Jesus did? And it’s easy to extend that to believing what the apostles that He appointed and inspired by the Holy Spirit to author Scripture believed as well. If Christians don’t believe the Bible, in what sense are they ‘Christ followers’? So let’s look at what Jesus believed and what the New Testament tells us about the circumstances surrounding Noah’s Flood.

The world at the time of Noah

In Noah’s day, Jesus tells us that people were going about conducting ‘business as usual’ until the Flood came: “in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away” (Matthew 24:38–39). But it wasn’t a pleasant place to live—the culture was so immoral that Peter called it “the world of the ungodly” (κοσμῳ ἀσεβῶν, kosmō asebōn, 2 Peter 2:5). There were even angels who sinned at that time (2 Peter 2:4) by deserting their proper positions (Jude 1:11). While the New Testament doesn’t specify exactly what this sin was, it fits in nicely with the assertion in Genesis 6 that the ‘sons of God’ took wives among the ‘daughters of men’—in other words, angels taking human wives1 and fathering the Nephilim.

The Ark and its passengers

The author of Hebrews says: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of righteousness that comes by faith” (11:7). Peter says that only eight people were saved in the Ark (1 Peter 3:20): Noah and seven others (2 Peter 2:5). Absolutely everyone else was killed in the Flood (Luke 17:27).

The extent of the Flood

The Flood of Noah destroyed the entire human civilization that existed at that time (Matthew 24:39; Luke 17:27; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:5–6). The scope was global, and so severe that the earth was, in effect, reversed to its state on Day 2, before God created dry land—the whole earth was covered with water. This is strongly stated by 2 Peter 3:6, which says that the kosmos was destroyed in the Flood, pointing to its global extent:

What was destroyed was “the world of that time,” which contrasts with “the present heavens and earth” that are mentioned in the next verse. While the focus of the destruction is certainly on the human beings inhabiting that world … the destruction extended to the whole “world” as the merging waters undid the work of Gen 1:6–10, returning the creation to a watery chaos and concomitantly destroying those living things that were created after Gen 1:10.2

So not only was the Flood anthropologically universal, as most ‘progressive creationists’ would allow, but according to the New Testament it was global.

The promise

A rainbow surrounds God’s throne in Heaven (Revelation 4:3) as a constant reminder of His promise to Noah never to flood the earth again. The concept of a global Flood is often ridiculed not only by secularists, but also by Christians who doubt its historicity. But God promised not to send another Flood like the one He sent in Noah’s day. If it was just an extremely disastrous local Flood, God would have broken His promise because there have been innumerable catastrophic local floods.

New Testament theology of the Flood

The New Testament authors rarely reference the Old Testament for its own sake—they assume basic belief of the Old Testament Scriptures—rather, they are raising the historical events to use as examples or precedents to support their theological arguments. This is why a lot of the details of the story of Noah’s flood aren’t found in the New Testament (if you just had the New Testament, for example, you wouldn’t know that there were any animals on the Ark!). But silence should always be interpreted as agreement unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.

So the New Testament authors take Genesis as history, but revealingly, they take it as more than history at the same time. Because Genesis 1–11 is primarily about God’s actions in Earth’s and humanity’s earliest history, the New Testament authors are primarily interested in what these events tell us about God (note this doesn’t mean that the history is less important).

God’s righteousness is clearly on display in the Flood narrative—He judges angels as well as people when they sin (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6), but He spares the righteous (2 Peter 2:5). Peter used the Flood story to teach that God is equally capable of judging sin and preserving the righteous in today’s world as He was in Noah’s day (2 Peter 2:9–10).

Even so, He is patient in His judgment—just as God was patient in waiting for Noah to complete the Ark’s construction, today God is patiently waiting so that more people can come to faith in Jesus (2 Peter 3). But this doesn’t mean that people should be complacent. Jesus taught that just as people didn’t expect the Flood, His coming will be sudden and unexpected (Matthew 24, Luke 17), and it will be too late for those who didn’t believe while there was still time. As one commentator notes:

The people could see Noah building his ark, and doubtless, human nature being what it is, some mocked him. But they knew nothing;they did not share in Noah’s wholehearted commitment to the service of God, so they did not know what was coming on the earth. They disregarded what Noah said to them, doubtless believing firmly that their views were just as valid and just as likely to be correct as those of the ark maker. But such convictions did not avail when the Flood came and took them all away. The purposes of God are worked out quite irrespective of what puny humans think about them. Jesus is saying that people will in this way continue to be about their normal business right up to the time of his coming. That will be the critical point; after that it will be too late, just as it was too late for the antediluvians when the Flood came. The coming of the Son of man will be just as abrupt, just as unexpected, just as decisive as the coming of the Flood was.3

Christian theology is tied to history

While a lot of modern people want to separate theology from history, in the New Testament the two are inextricably tied together. The history doesn’t mean anything unless it’s interpreted correctly, and the theology has no foundation if the history isn’t accurate. Each time the New Testament authors cite a historical fact, it’s to give a precedent for how God has worked in the past. There’s nowhere where a NT author says simply, “Noah built an ark to escape a worldwide flood” with the purpose of getting the audience to believe just that. Christians writing to Christians assumed that they would believe the Scriptures. Rather, the historical points are used to support the theology that the author is teaching, such as ‘God judged the world once, so don’t think that He won’t do it again!”

What this means is that if we reject the history that the NT authors accepted, their theological arguments have no weight whatsoever. It seems illogical to say, “Peter was wrong about a global Flood in which only the passengers of the Ark survived, but his theology is still accurate.”

We should be encouraged that the New Testament authors placed such a great confidence in the Bible’s history, and that should inspire us to be equally as confident.

References

1. Angels are spiritual beings and do not marry in heaven. But they have been known in Scripture to manifest in our realm using corporeal bodies which can eat and so presumably carry out all normal human body functions, including reproduction.
2. Davids, P. H. (2006). The letters of 2 Peter and Jude. The Pillar New Testament commentary (271). Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
3. Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (614). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.

Fossilization: It Takes A Catastrophe

Fossilization: It Takes A Catastrophe


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Whale explodes fossil theory

This article was originally posted on Creation.com.

by

Television images showed a new tourist attraction floating in the ocean off South Australia—a bloated whale corpse being eaten by dozens of Great White Sharks.1,2 The dead Southern Right Whale had drifted offshore for over a week and the sharks were ripping chunks of flesh from the carcass in a feeding frenzy.

Originally, it was thought that a large freighter killed the whale, but there were no visible signs of injury on the carcass—nothing to indicate that it died of anything other than natural causes.

Local charter-boat operators were thrilled with people lining up at Cape Jervis wharf, 90 km (55 miles) south of Adelaide, eager to pay for a closer look. Dozens of boats were busy for days going back and forth to the drifting whale. The regular ferry detoured to allow passengers a first-rate view. Some of the thousands of people who made the trip described the experience as ‘awesome’.

Reckless behavior

The activities of the boat operators soon came to the attention of State authorities. Televised video footage, beamed around the world, showed male sightseers climbing onto the 15-m (50-ft) carcass. White Pointer Sharks were hungrily tearing its blubbery flesh and one of the men standing on the whale was seen holding a young child. Several people on the boats were filmed patting the snouts of the White Pointers as they circled and fed.

Next day, police crews from the water operations unit were monitoring the crowd behavior. Some officials even suggested that laws might be changed ‘to protect people too stupid to protect themselves’.3

Worried officials, fearing the whale would become a hazard to shipping, or wash ashore causing an environmental crisis, enlisted the police bomb squad to sink it.4

They placed three explosive charges in the whale’s belly to blow holes in its side so it could fill with water. At the very least, the authorities hoped the explosives would accelerate its disposal. As one spokesman said, ‘It will give marine scavengers a better chance of doing what they do best, which is to clean up dead and decaying material in the ocean.’

The carcass was towed away from the coast out of the way of the shipping lanes, and the charges detonated. Media reports said that no-one was standing on the whale at the time. Official reports said the operation was entirely successful and the whale no longer presented a problem.

Later though, it was found that, in spite of detonating enough explosive to ‘knock a hole in a concrete wall’, the dead whale continued to bob around, refusing to sink.5 Instead of opening up holes that filled with water, the explosions only made a small dent. According to official sources, the attempt to sink the dead whale was a learning curve because such a procedure had never been tried in Australia before.

Contradicting theory

To alert observers, the whale episode dramatically contradicts the standard theory about how fossils form. Fossils, of course, are abundant on every continent, buried in sedimentary rock, even on high mountains. Remarkable fossil remains of many almost-complete animal skeletons have been excavated and displayed in museums all over the world.

whale

Figure 1

The standard theory about fossils is presented in museums, school and university text books, encyclopedias and popular nature books. For example, the National Dinosaur Museum, in Canberra, Australia, has a diagram at its entrance (Figure 1). The first picture shows a dead dinosaur, eyes closed, sinking in water. Upside down with legs pointing upwards, streams of tiny bubbles are shown floating to the surface as the animal descends. The next picture shows the dinosaur skeleton lying on the sandy bottom, waiting to be covered by sediment. The bones are not scattered but are correctly related with each other. The third picture shows the bones, still in their correct position, covered by a thick layer of sediment, while the final picture shows the fossilized bones exposed after the rock had been uplifted and eroded.

But the dead South Australian whale explodes this fossil theory. The whole saga vividly demonstrates that dead animals don’t immediately sink to the bottom of the ocean—they generally float on the surface. Anyone who has kept an aquarium would know that. It’s only after other marine creatures have substantially scavenged the corpse that it will sink.

Rapidly scavenged

Even when the remains eventually sink, the skeleton does not fossilize. Craig Smith of the University of Hawaii has been studying whale corpses on the bottom of the ocean for more than a decade.6 As a rule, there is not much food around on the deep ocean floor—it’s a bit like an underwater desert. So, when the remains of a whale arrive at the bottom, it signals feeding time for everything that lives down there.

For months the carcass is alive with scavengers.7,8 Hundreds of long, tendon-like hagfish curl in and out of every opening. Huge sharks feast on the softening flesh. Crabs are busy eating all they can. In as little as four months, the soft tissue can be stripped away, leaving a pile of bones. Furry worms and shrimp-like animals then multiply and consume the small fragments of tissue dispersed over the sea floor. After another year, the furry worms have gone and the bones are covered in mussels, clams, tubeworms and bacteria. Over ten or so years, the bones are slowly consumed until they disappear and the site is clean.

Clearly, dead animals will not fossilize in the ocean under normal circumstances. Their scattered bones do not lie around long enough to be covered by sediment. Special conditions are needed to form fossils, especially to preserve the bones in their correct orientation. The creature has to be buried quickly to protect it from marine scavengers.

However, we don’t find animals being rapidly buried in the oceans today. Well-preserved fossils point to catastrophe—to sudden death and burial before the animal was scavenged, scattered and obliterated. Well-preserved fossils are consistent with the unusual conditions associated with the global Flood of the Bible. At that time, huge torrents of water flowed across the continents, dumping tonnes of sand and silt into the oceans and burying fish and animals catastrophically. The dead whale off the coast of South Australia alerts us to the problems with the standard fossil theory. Noah’s Flood explains why so many fossils are found in sedimentary strata all over the Earth.

References

1. Hockley, C., Shark scene behaviour ‘appalling’, www.theaustralian.news.com.au/printpage/0,5942,2418082,00.html, 19 November 2001
2. Littely, B., Whale of a feed, finance.news. com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,2407788%5E421,00.html, 19 November 2001.
3. Shark patting, whale walking may soon be outlawed,
www.usatoday.com/news/world/2001/07/24/sharkpatting.htm, 19 November 2001.
4. The walkabout whale … thar she blows,
www.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/auspac/07/31/australia.whaleblast/, 19 November 2001.
5. Debelle, P., Wrong way to remove a right whale, www.smh.com.au/news/0108/01/national/nationa26.html, 19 November 2001.
6. Oceanographers say dead whales provide deep-sea living legacy, www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories/s377.htm, 19 November 2001.
7. How to sink a whale, The Blue Planet, BBC Wildlife/Nikon Supplement, Bristol, pp. 18–19, September 2001.
8. Zeidner Russo, J., This whale’s (after) life, newnos.nos.noaa.gov/nurp/whales.html, 19 November 2001.

Did Noah save the Dinosaurs?

Did Noah save the Dinosaurs?


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Were dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark?

This article was originally posted by Creation Ministries International (CMI) on Creation.com.

1. Were dinosaurs even around then?

The story we have all heard from movies, television, newspapers, and most magazines and textbooks is that dinosaurs ‘ruled the Earth’ for 140 million years, died out 65 million years ago, and therefore weren’t around when Noah and company set sail on the Ark around 4300 years ago.
However, the Bible gives a completely different view of Earth (and therefore, dinosaur) history. As God’s written Word to us, we can trust it to tell the truth about the past. (For more information about the reliability of Scripture, see Q&A: Bible.)
Although the Bible does not tell us exactly how long ago it was that God made the world and its creatures, we can make a good estimate of the age of the universe by carefully studying the whole counsel of Scripture:

  1. God made everything in six days, and rested on the seventh. (By the way, this is the basis for our seven day week—Exodus 20:8–11). Leading Hebrew scholars indicate that, based on the grammatical structure of Genesis 1, these ‘days’ were normal-length, and did not represent long periods of time (see Q&A: Genesis).
  2. We are told God created the first man and woman—Adam and Eve—on Day Six, along with the land animals (which would have included dinosaurs).
  3. GThe Bible records the genealogies from Adam to Christ. From the ages given in these lists (and accepting that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to Earth around 2000 years ago), we can conclude that the universe is only a few thousand years old (perhaps just 6000), and not millions of years old (see also The earth: how old does it look?, especially under Jesus and the age of the world). Thus, dinosaurs lived within the past few thousand years.

2. So, were dinosaurs on the Ark?

In Genesis 6:19–20, the Bible says that two of every sort of land vertebrate (seven pairs of the ‘clean’ animals) were brought by God to the Ark. Therefore, dinosaurs (land vertebrates) were represented on the Ark.

3. How did those huge dinosaurs fit on the Ark?

Although there are about 668 names of dinosaurs, there are perhaps only 55 different ‘kinds’ of dinosaurs. Furthermore, not all dinosaurs were huge like the Brachiosaurus, and even those dinosaurs on the Ark were probably ‘teenagers’ or young adults. Indeed, dinosaurs were recently discovered to go through a growth spurt, so God could have brought dinosaurs of the right age to start this spurt as soon as they disembarked—see Dinosaur growth rates: Problem or solution for creationists?

Creationist researcher John Woodmorappe has calculated that Noah had on board with him representatives from about 8,000 animal genera (including some now-extinct animals), or around 16,000 individual animals. When you realize that horses, zebras, and donkeys are probably descended from the horse-like ‘kind’, Noah did not have to carry two sets of each such animal. Also, dogs, wolves, and coyotes are probably from a single canine ‘kind’, so hundreds of different dogs were not needed.

According to Genesis 6:15, the Ark measured 300 x 50 x 30 cubits, which is about 460 x 75 x 44 feet, with a volume of about 1.52 million cubic feet. Researchers have shown that this is the equivalent volume of 522 standard railroad stock cars (US), each of which can hold 240 sheep. By the way, only 11% of all land animals are larger than a sheep.

Without getting into all the math, the 16,000-plus animals would have occupied much less than half the space in the Ark (even allowing them some moving-around space).
Conclusion

The Bible is reliable in all areas, including its account of the Ark (and the worldwide catastrophic Flood). A Christian doesn’t have to have a blind faith to believe that there really was an Ark. What the Bible says about the Ark can even be measured and tested today.

For answers to other objections about the Biblical account of Noah’s Flood and the Ark (e.g., Where did all the water come from?, How did Noah collect and then care for the animals?, etc.), see the books featured below. The Creation Answers Book—Chapters 12 and 13, in particular, cover these particular ‘problems’ related to Noah’s Flood, and Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study covers these and more in detail.

For more information on dinosaurs, read chapter 19 of the The Creation Answers Book on Dinosaurs.

Read the rest of this article at AnswersInGenesis.org!

Did Noah’s Flood really cover the whole earth?

Did Noah’s Flood really cover the whole earth?


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Does Scripture require a global Flood?

by John D. Morris

This article was originally posted by Creation.com

Until fairly modern times, people in Western countries have basically believed that the Bible was God’s Word, and, by and large, believed what it said.

This was certainly true for views of ancient history, with the majority of both scientists and theologians believing in a literal creation, the Fall, and the Flood.

Now, however, the tables have turned. Christians are hard-pressed to find a denomination, seminary, or even a church, which holds to a consistently literal view of Genesis. Many Christian ‘scholars’ consider such a stand to be ‘unscholarly’, and rush to reinterpret Genesis to agree with secular scientific views.

Historically, this compromise started in the early 1800s, with the denial of the global Flood. But this doctrine doesn’t stand by itself. If the Flood did not cover the world, then it did not lay down the world’s sedimentary rock, and therefore this rock must have been laid down slowly over long periods of time.

Thus the biblical doctrine of the young earth was abandoned. The fossils in these ‘old’ sediments seemingly could only be interpreted as having lived over the same vast ages, and these creatures could not have been created in the way Genesis records. Thus the biblical doctrine of creation died. The trickle-down effect continues today, with more and more doctrines being denied or re-stated.

But there is hardly a doctrine in the Bible more clearly stated than that of the global Flood. In chapters 6-10 of Genesis, the words and phrases used to describe the Flood can be interpreted in no other legitimate way.

Of course, some of the words, such as ‘all flesh died’ (7:21) might be interpreted as meaning all living things within the local area, as some modern ‘scholars’ claim. But when a word can have more than one meaning, the context must define its true meaning. And in Genesis 6-10, the context is one of a global Flood! More than 30 times, words and phrases of global scope appear. In each case, the primary meaning is one of totality, but when they are all together, the meaning is crystal clear.

Compare this clear teaching with the teachings of Christ and the New Testament writers, and the conclusion is inescapable. Trying to salvage the local flood idea makes nonsense out of New Testament doctrine.

For example: the local flood theory logically implies that the Indians in North America, the natives in Africa, the Scandinavians, the Chinese, etc., were not affected by the Flood. They escaped God’s judgment on sin. If so, what could Christ possibly have meant when He likened the coming judgment of all men to the judgment of ‘all’ men (Matthew 24:37-79) in the days of Noah? A partial judgment in Noah’s day means a partial judgment to come.Scripture does not stand if the Flood was not global.

The time has come for Christian ‘scholars’ to swallow their intellectual pride and return to a belief in the Bible—all of it. How much better it is to receive the approval of our Lord than that of secular colleagues.

When Christians come back to the truth of the Bible, they not only will find it doctrinally whole, they will find it scientifically satisfying—far more scientific than the secular view with which they now compromise.

Noah’s Flood covered the whole earth

This article was originally posted by Creation.com

Many Christians today think the Flood of Noah’s time was only a local flood, confined to somewhere around Mesopotamia. This idea comes not from Scripture, but from the notion of ‘billions of years’ of Earth history.

But look at the problems this concept involves:

If the Flood was local, why did Noah have to build an Ark? He could have walked to the other side of the mountains and missed it.

If the Flood was local, why did God send the animals to the Ark so they would escape death? There would have been other animals to reproduce that kind if these particular ones had died.

If the Flood was local, why was the Ark big enough to hold all kinds of land vertebrate animals that have ever existed? If only Mesopotamian animals were aboard, the Ark could have been much smaller.

If the Flood was local, why would birds have been sent on board? These could simply have winged across to a nearby mountain range.

If the Flood was local, how could the waters rise to 15 cubits (8 meters) above the mountains (Genesis 7:20)? Water seeks its own level. It couldn’t rise to cover the local mountains while leaving the rest of the world untouched.

If the Flood was local, people who did not happen to be living in the vicinity would not be affected by it. They would have escaped God’s judgment on sin. If this happened, what did Christ mean when He likened the coming judgment of all men to the judgment of ‘all’ men (Matthew 24:37-39) in the days of Noah? A partial judgment in Noah’s day means a partial judgment to come.

If the Flood was local, God would have repeatedly broken His promise never to send such a flood again.

Belief in a world-wide Flood, as Scripture clearly indicates, has the backing of common sense, science and Christ Himself.

Stories from around the world verify Noah’s Flood

Stories from around the world verify Noah’s Flood


Monday, October 07, 2013

Flood Legends — The Significance of a World of Stories Based on Truth

by A. J. Monty White, Ph.D.

This article was originally posted by AiG (Answers in Genesis) on March 29, 2007.

There are hundreds of stories and legends about a worldwide flood. Why do diverse cultures share a strikingly similar story?

Did you know that stories about a worldwide flood are found in historic records all over the world? According to Dr. Duane Gish in his popular book Dinosaurs by Design, there are more than 270 such stories, most of which share a common theme and similar characters. So many flood stories with such similarities surely come from the Flood of Noah’s day.

A Historical Event

The worldwide catastrophic Flood, recorded in the book of Genesis, was a real event that affected real people. In fact, those people carried the knowledge of this event with them when they spread to the ends of the earth.

The Bible declares that the earth-covering cataclysm of Noah’s day is an obvious fact of history. People “willingly are ignorant [that] … the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:5–6, KJV). This Flood left many evidences, from the fact that over 70% of the rocks on continents were laid down by water and contain fossils, to the widespread flood legends. Both of these evidences provide compelling support for this historical event.

If only eight people—Noah’s family—survived the Flood, we would expect there to be historical evidence of a worldwide flood. If you think about it, the evidence would be historical records in the nations of the world, and this is what we have, as the chart [below] indicates. Stories of the Flood—distorted though they may be—exist in practically all nations, from ancient Babylon onward. This evidence must not be lightly dismissed. If there never was a worldwide Flood, then why are there so many stories about it?

From Generation to Generation

The reason for these flood stories is not difficult to understand. When we turn to the history book of the universe, the Bible, we learn that Noah’s descendants stayed together for approximately 100 years, until God confused their languages at Babel (Genesis 11:1–9). As these people moved away from Babel, their descendants formed nations based primarily on the languages they shared in common. Through those languages, the story of the Flood was shared, until it became embedded in their cultural history.

Similar Stories

Hawaiians have a flood story that tells of a time when, long after the death of the first man, the world became a wicked, terrible place. Only one good man was left, and his name was Nu-u. He made a great canoe with a house on it and filled it with animals. In this story, the waters came up over all the earth and killed all the people; only Nu-u and his family were saved.

Another flood story is from China. It records that Fuhi, his wife, three sons, and three daughters escaped a great flood and were the only people alive on earth. After the great flood, they repopulated the world.

As the story of the Flood was verbally passed from one generation to the next, some aspects would have been lost or altered. And this is what has happened, as we can see from the chart. However, as seen in the given examples, each story shares remarkable similarities to the account of Noah in the Bible. This is true even in some of the details, such as the name Nu-u in the Hawaiian flood story. “Nu-u” is very similar to “Noah.”

What These Stories Mean

God clearly sent a worldwide Flood to punish humankind for their evil and corrupt ways (Genesis 6:5, 11). Even though Flood-affirming evidence from geology and other areas of study is abundant, we don’t need this evidence to know what happened. Starting with the Bible and the history that God faithfully recorded there, Christians have a tool to interpret the evidence that evolutionists and non-Christians do not. We have the record of what happened, from the One who was there.

Dr. Monty White earned his B.Sc. degree in chemistry and his Ph.D. in gas kinetics from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Dr. White is now the CEO of Answers in Genesis-UK/Europe and has traveled extensively throughout Europe lecturing on creationists’ views of origins.

Greg Koukl: Relativism Discussion Starters

Greg Koukl: Relativism Discussion Starters


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Part 1: Insulin or Ice Cream?

What is moral relativism? It’s simply the idea there are no real moral facts in the world. Morality is a matter of preference or opinion. Moral views are “true for you” if you believe them. Your views are not universal or true for everyone.

Think about the difference between ice cream and medicine.  Is there a single flavor of ice cream everyone ought to affirm as the one best-tasting flavor? Do you spend time trying to convince others they are wrong if they prefer chocolate over vanilla? Of course not. Our choice of ice cream flavors is a matter of personal preference.  It’s subjective. My favorite flavor of ice cream is true for me but you might have a different favorite flavor. No problem.

But do we take this same approach when it comes to medical choices? If doctors were to discover you had Type 1 (or Insulin-dependent) diabetes would you ask for a treatment you like or prefer? Of course not. You want what works or what is objectively true. The cure is in no way dependent on your preference or belief. You might believe ice cream can control diabetes but if that’s the course of treatment you follow, you’ll soon be dead. In the case of Type 1 diabetes you need insulin, not ice cream.

So, moral relativism says that moral choices are much like our ice cream choices. Our moral views are personal and private, not objective. There are no moral rules or laws that are true for everyone whether he or she believes in them or not.

Part 2: C. S. Lewis on Absolute Morality

Is moral relativism a good idea? I don’t think so. Remember, the moral relativist’s claim is there are no objective moral truths, no real right and wrong for everyone. We’ll let the clear thinking of C. S. Lewis be our guide to show us two quick problems with moral relativism.

First, no one can live this way consistently. As Lewis states, “Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair…’” If one takes morality to be a mere preference, then any moral choice is fine.  Just like we wouldn’t fault someone for preferring chocolate ice cream over vanilla, the consistent moral relativist shouldn’t fault the liar or thief. Dishonesty is merely their preference. Of course, this view of morality is unlivable nor would anyone want to live in that kind of world.

Second, if moral relativism is true then we are not justified in calling things wrong, evil, or unjust. As Lewis recounts, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” In other words, if there are no objective moral truths (the straight line), there are no objective moral evils (the crooked line). However, isn’t it just obvious there are “crooked lines” in this world, things that are unjust? An adult sexually molesting a young child. A government committing genocide. Exploiting of the helpless. Racism. Slavery. Rape. If moral relativism is true, none of these things are ultimately wrong. But clearly, these are moral wrongs, whether or not anyone affirms them as such.

Part 3: Understanding Absolutism

If moral relativism is false, there’s only one option: moral absolutism. This is the idea that a moral rule is true whether or not anyone believes it. Remember the distinction we made between subjective and objective truths in lesson one? A moral absolute is an objective truth. It’s true for everyone.

Unfortunately, the word absolute comes with some baggage. When used, people often hear, “I’m absolutely right and I’m absolutely certain and you can’t question me.” Not really the impression we want to give, right?  Instead, avoid the baggage and talk in terms of moral reality or moral facts. There are real moral facts “out there” in the world and they are independent from my believing them. Let’s take a clear case example to illustrate: “Torturing babies for fun is morally wrong.” Hopefully, this moral fact is just obvious to you (if not, get help immediately . . . and stay away from my kids!). As a moral fact, it is true for everyone and it does not matter what you believe, what culture you grew up in, or what time period you’re living in.

Indeed, there’s a basic set of moral facts universally found in all cultures. It’s wrong to rape women. It’s wrong to kill innocent people for no reason. It’s wrong to lie, cheat, and steal. In addition, kindness, honesty, and justice are virtues that should be commended. These basic moral facts are self-evident to most people and that’s why they have been universally recognized across cultures.

Now let’s make something very clear. We are not saying that every moral issue is black and white. Not all moral questions have easy answers. Some are really difficult.  However, there’s a basic set of moral facts that are pretty clear and form a foundation of morality on which we can build.

Part 4: Responding to Relativists

Last week, we concluded there are real moral facts in the world and God is the objective standard for them.  Morality flows out of God’s nature. Of course, God’s a pretty rock solid standard. At the end of the day what we believe about morality does not change the facts of morality. They are grounded in God’s perfect moral character.  He’s the standard of right and wrong.  But that might sound pretty rigid to some. Certainly people will disagree. Can we hold to moral standards and at the same time let people ask honest questions or raise serious objections? I think so. First Peter 3:15 is instructive in this regard, telling us we should always be ready to answer anyone who asks the reason for our hope and to do so with gentleness and respect.  Notice three important aspects of this verse.  First, Peter said we should always be ready to give an answer, a reason for what we believe. Always. That requires diligent study and preparation on our part. Not only do we need to know what we believe but why we believe it. When our views are supported by good reasons and evidence, we don’t have to get defensive or irritated when others raise questions or objections.

Instead, we are humbly confident in the truth. Second, Peter indicated that giving an answer and a reason is always done in the context of a particular kind of life. What kind? A life where Christ is set apart as Lord. It’s not merely a matter of offering reasons but doing so in the midst of a life where Jesus’ trans-formative work is increasing.

Third, we see the result of good reasons offered from a transformed life: gentleness and respect. If your encounters with those who disagree are not characterized by these two things, it’s time to step back and see what’s gone wrong. Are you diligent in the study of God’s truth? Are you giving Jesus increasing control of your heart? First Peter 3:15 paints a beautiful picture of what our encounters with the world should look like.