Our friends at christiannews.net posted this article regarding Ken Ham’s assertion that Jesus’and the Apostles’ references to Noah and the Flood constitute proof of the literal interpretation of the Flood story in Genesis. His point is that, if the Flood is a myth, then so is the Gospel. My understanding of this reasoning is based on the assumption that Jesus of Nazareth, being entirely God, was therefore omniscient and would be lying if the Flood story weren’t literally true.
Ken Ham sets up a dichotomy but there are at least four reasonable postulates regarding His references:
- He was omniscient and spoke of a true literal Flood.
- He was omniscient and spoke of a literal Flood when He knew that it was only a story, in which case He lied and the Gospel is a myth.
- He was not omniscient and spoke of the Flood as any other Jew of the time might understand it, as being literally true.
- He was not omniscient spoke of the Flood as any other Jew of the time might understand it, as being a story.
Postulates one and two are Ham’s dichotomy and are entirely predicated on the assumption that Jesus, being God, was omniscient. But there is evidence in Scripture that Jesus Himself may not in fact have been omniscient which thus allows for postulates three and four.
We focus on Jesus’ divinity but don’t always see the correlate, namely God’s carnality. If Jesus was tempted “like us in all ways, except for sin,” He clearly shared our carnal nature, although untainted by original sin.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Phillipians 2:6-8 (NIV) [emphasis mine]
So it is altogether plausible that, although Jesus was entirely God and entirely man simultaneously, he might not have possessed all the attributes of divinity by virtue of of His incarnation. It seems to me apparent that Jesus did not comprehend His full nature from infancy, that awareness of His being the Messiah came to him in stages. Yet He was God from His very conception, so there had to have been times when He was not omniscient. Similarly, although He possessed the power of prophecy (as no man ever had) yet the prophetic office does not imply omniscience per se. Even at the last, during His agony in the garden fully aware of the death He would likely soon suffer, nevertheless prayed
… Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
Mark 14:36 [KJV]
Knowing that God the Father had spared Isaac, perhaps (and this is only speculation) He might have wondered if the Father would likewise spare His own Son. He clearly speaks as having His own will apart from the Father. In any case, it is clear that there was at least a sliver of uncertainty regarding the Father’s will, and a sliver is all it takes to render moot the question of omniscience.
So having established that God incarnate might not be all-knowing, we can allow the possibility that Jesus may have been referencing the “time of Noah” and the Flood according to the prevailing understanding of devout Jews of that time. Whether they saw it as literal or metaphorical is not a question with a direct answer. But it really makes no difference. It still obviates the necessity for a literal Flood.
Let me take pains to affirm that Mr. Ham’s reasoning is not in itself wrong except as it fails to take into account a fuller range of possibilities. My greater concern is that, in setting up a literal Flood as a litmus test for being a Christian, he may be turning some away from a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ who might otherwise have been saved if not for such rigidity.