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I feel like triggering Dave Armstrong and what better way to do this than to get his longjohns in a twist about the Noah’s Flood story. This is from a chapter I am editing in a book I am just finishing (would be ready for proofers to look at later today – I have appealed to three previous proofers, but if anyone else wants to look at it, please let me know below):

The final story here that shows that God really doesn’t have omniscience is the Noah’s flood story. This never happened, that much is true. However, the majority of theists think that it did in some way:[1]

BIBLE STORIES – Overall, 64 percent believe the story of Moses parting the Red Sea is “literally true, meaning it happened that way word-for-word.” About as many say the same about creation (61 percent) and Noah and the flood (60 percent). About three in 10 say, instead, that each of these is “meant as a lesson, but not to be taken literally.”

There is wide variation in the numbers of literal readers across groups, but much of it is driven by two factors – religious belief and frequency of practice.

Literal belief peaks among evangelical Protestants, and especially among evangelical Protestants who attend church at least once a week. In that group, 96 percent take the Red Sea story literally. It’s a still-high 85 percent among evangelical Protestants who attend church less often.

The background to the story is important (forgetting that it was appropriated from pre-existing myths in neighbouring cultures). As Genesis 6 explains:

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. So the Lord was sorry that He had made mankind on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Then the Lord said, “I will wipe out mankind whom I have created from the face of the land; mankind, and animals as well, and crawling things, and the birds of the sky. For I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

We must understand that this is a story of God killing all of humanity, bar eight, and all of the animal kingdom bar two of each kind (or seven depending on which iteration of the story from Genesis you read). That is an awful lot of death. Why? Because God then realised how wicked humanity had become. He either never knew this before or he is very forgetful.

In fact, the whole nature of the story is one big invalidation of his omni-characteristics. He realises that he has messed up his creation in that his designed and created humans were all wicked, destroys them all and starts over, all the while promising never to send such floods and destruction again. This is a very human – anthropomorphic – god acting in a very human, non-omniscient way.

God is clearly showing a limited knowledge of how his creation would operate going forward – he is being reactive and not proactive. Simply put, this story as told invalidates God’s omniscience and foreknowledge.

A truly omnibenevolent and omniscient god would not have knowingly designed and created something for the main components to go wrong right at the start and then have to destroy them all (you know, with healthy loving dollops of suffering and death) and start again. This is incompetence at best, malevolence at worst.

Or, the flood never happened and OmniGod doesn’t exist.

There, fixed it.

NOTES:

[1] See the 2003 poll “Six in 10 Take Bible Stories Literally, But Don’t Blame Jews for Death of Jesus”, ABC News, https://abcnews.go.com/images/pdf/947a1ViewsoftheBible.pdf (accessed 11/11/2021).


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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...