Earlier this year I attended a debate between a biblical creationist and a humanist; during the Q&A time, an atheist posed the question: “If God is good, how could He be so capricious as to wipe out all those innocent people in the Flood.”
This is not an uncommon objection raised by people who do not believe in the God of the Bible.
However, this objection does not take time to consider the biblical context of the Flood or to think about one’s own presuppositions. For example, atheists have no basis with which to question the character of God, given that they have no objective moral foundation on which to do so. Morality for an atheist is just a matter of opinion. It is also important to remember that, when atheists read the text of Scripture, they do not believe that God exists or that He reveals Himself to people. The people in the biblical narrative then are judged by the atheists as if God has not revealed Himself. Ultimately, atheists are not critiquing what the Bible says, but rather they are critiquing a misrepresentation of the biblical event.
As Christians we need to consider the account of the Flood (and other judgement passages) in light of what the Bible states about God and humanity:
In Genesis 6 God gives the reason for His judgement of the world in the days of Noah:
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. . . . The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. (Genesis 6:5, 11–12)
The judgement at the time of the Flood was not a result of God’s supposed capriciousness; rather He had several reasons for His judgement:
Despite man’s wickedness, God showed Himself to be gracious in that He patiently waited, presumably for people to repent, while the Ark was being prepared (1 Peter 3:20). Unfortunately, despite the testimony of Noah, a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5, Hebrews 11:7), the people went about their daily affairs, unconcerned and unsuspecting of the Flood that came and destroyed them (Matthew 24:39).
We need to remember that just as God judged the whole world in the days of Noah, He has also promised to do so again (Matthew 24:37–39, 25:31–32; 2 Peter 3:3–7). The good news is that, just as God provided a means of salvation (the Ark) in the days of Noah, He has provided a means of salvation from the future judgement through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12, 17:30–31; Romans 10:9).
God was patient in the days of Noah, and He is patient today. The fact that Jesus has not already returned means salvation is still available to people (2 Corinthians. 6:2; 2 Peter 3:15), which should be a reminder to us as Christians to make the most of every opportunity to witness about our Saviour.