For the sake of intellectual honesty, let me say that the Flood of Noah is the greatest single reason of which I am aware to doubt the truth of Christianity and the reliability of the Bible. If you read the text, then what seems to be depicted is a global flood which covers Everest and destroys all life on earth except for the animals saved two by two on a wooden aircraft carrier. The Bible seems to say that it had not rained previous to this disaster and that after it was done God created the rainbow as a reminder that he would not destroy the earth with a flood again. The account is not only difficult because it describes God’s unpleasant verdict against all of mankind, not only because it reeks of mythology, but because there is no scientific evidence that a global flood of this kind is even possible given the amount of water that is required.
Now the best attempt to square the Flood of Noah with the facts of science which I know of is the attempt by Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. Dr. Ross argues that the flood was not “global”, but “world wide”. He argues that the entire population of early humans (the “known world”) was wiped out by a local flood where the ark contained only domesticated animals. He argues that God did not create the rainbow after the flood but rather assigned it the significance given in the text. While this attempt can save the Bible from being demonstrably false, it would be a stretch to say that it is an intellectually satisfying answer. Believing that the Flood of Noah occurred in history requires faith and we need to be intellectually honest about this.
But if we cannot answer the questions that surround the flood account in a way that does not require faith, can we at least understand why faith might be necessary in this case and related cases? I think we can if we consider two related Biblical principles. The first principle is that God uses faith to strengthen faith, the second principle is that God allows rebellion to engender rebellion.
One example of the first of these principles is found in the letters of Paul to the believers in Corinth:
But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you— therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)
In this passage, Paul’s faith is strengthened by the faith of other believers. I would argue that this passage and others like it establish a Biblical principle that God uses the faith of the faithful to encourage and strengthen faith in others. We can see this principle at work when we examine the historical evidence for the truth of Christianity.
The greatest evidences for the Christian faith are found in the courageous acts of believers in the past. The martyrdom of the early church under Roman persecution establishes that the early church believed in the witness of the Apostles to the point where they were willing to die for it. This is the strongest evidence that those of us who live two thousand years after these events have for the reliability of the New Testament. Likewise, the faith of the Essene community in preserving their writings before they underwent some calamity gave us the Dead Sea Scrolls. These scrolls are the most powerful evidence we have for the reliability of the Old Testament. Another powerful evidence for the truth of the Christian faith comes from bold and courageous missionaries who gave their lives to spread the gospel. The fact that native tribes have converted to Christianity through the blood of devoted Christian believers is powerful evidence of the work of God among the nations. God uses faith to strengthen faith and we see this when we examine the historical evidence for Christianity.
The second principle is also found in a number of places in the Bible but is perhaps most clearly illustrated by the words of the Lord in Matthew:
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, (Matthew 24:12)
The passage establishes the principle that God allows rebellion to encourage and strengthen rebellion. Can we see this principle at work in our examination of the historical evidence? I would argue that the Flood of Noah is the account of the greatest rebellion of mankind against God in all of the Bible. So if God uses faith to strengthen faith and the greatest evidences for the truth of Christianity come from the heroic faith of believers in the past what would we expect to be the greatest challenge for belief in God? Would it not be the Biblical account of the greatest rebellion against God? The Biblical account of the Flood of Noah is the greatest challenge to a rational faith in God and this is exactly what we would expect from an understanding of two basic principles found in the Bible.