You can’t separate the truth about God’s work in the physical world from spiritual truths without drastic consequences.
Many Christians believe the biblical account of Jesus’ life and resurrection as well as the spiritual teachings in the Bible, yet they reject some of the “earthly things” that Scripture teaches, such as the recent six-day creation and worldwide flood. They believe the Bible’s purpose is to help us understand spiritual truths rather than the physical world around us.
But you can’t divorce the “spiritual things” from the “earthly things” in the Bible. Rejecting one will ultimately lead to rejecting the other. Jesus said as much when he told Nicodemus, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12).
Consider just one example: the geologic record. Many Christians in the Western world accept a secular interpretation of the geologic record. They believe the fossil layers reflect the burial of living things over millions of years, contrary to what Genesis 1–11 teaches about a young earth and a global, catastrophic deluge.
Christians who believe the earth’s sedimentary rock layers resulted from billions of years of deposition almost invariably entertain the idea that Noah’s flood was either a localized flood or simply a myth.
However, even the New Testament describes Noah’s flood as global. In 2 Peter 3:3–6, the Apostle Peter says,
Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.
That word world is the Greek word kosmos, referring to the global extent of the flood.
Depending on your worldview, you could interpret this passage one of two ways:
But Bible scoffers aren’t denying a local flood. Even secularists often propose a local flood as the reason not only for the biblical flood account but also for the flood legends of various people groups around the world. No, these scoffers are denying a global flood.
The fact that Scripture refers to such people as “scoffers” should concern Christians who hold to old-earth positions.
But where is the impact on spiritual things?
This passage links scoffers’ denial of the flood to “following their own sinful desires.” What is the connection between “sinful desire” and a denial of the plain reading of Scripture?
Dr. Keith Mascord provides a perfect example. In 2012 he wrote an article titled “Beliefs Must Be Tempered by Facts,” in which he argues that Christians should accept gay “marriage.” In these excerpts, notice how he mentions Noah’s flood before segueing into his antibiblical stance on marriage:
Moreover, whenever the story [of the flood] is referred to elsewhere in the Bible, the writers appear to take the story as factual. Jesus appears to have accepted the story in this way (Luke 17:26–27). Jewish and Christian interpreters have also mostly taken it that way as well, until the past few hundred years. The big problem with this is that the Noah flood story is almost certainly not factual.
The only reason a plain (and church-history-long) reading of the Noah story has been overturned in favor of seeing it as a localised flood . . . is that scientific discoveries have made that necessary. Many of the first geologists were Christian clergymen. It was under pressure from their discoveries that the biblical text came to be re-read and re-appropriated.
There is good reason to think we will need to do the same [i.e., overturn “the plain (and church-history-long) reading” of the Bible’s words] with the issue of marriage equality. Throughout history and across cultures, and within the Bible itself, homosexual practice has been almost universally condemned. But we now know, or have increasingly strong reasons to believe, that people are born gay or lesbian.
Because Mascord thinks science has shown that we do not have to take God’s Word as plainly written regarding a historical and physical event (the global flood), we don’t have to take it as plainly written regarding a moral issue (homosexuality). In other words, it isn’t God’s Word that has the ultimate authority; it’s man’s word that is supreme. With this line of reasoning, he concludes that we should support sinful behavior the Bible condemns.
It is impossible to disconnect spiritual truth from physical truth, though many scoffers, even those in the church, attempt to do so.
It is impossible to disconnect the Bible’s spiritual truth from physical and historical truth, though many scoffers, even those inside the church, attempt to do so. Just as Satan confused Eve to make her doubt what God said and then deny God’s Word (Genesis 3:1–6), so scoffers today cause confusion and doubts to destroy Christians’ faith. We can recognize danger by knowing what God’s Word clearly says so we can hold fast to it and not be led astray. In the case of the geologic record, the Bible says there was a global flood. To reject that is to reject a plain reading of the Word of God.