Sunday, September 09, 2007

Teaching Institute: Science v Bible

In a post about a current "Dialogue Flood Article," Julie M. Smith explained how "to lay the groundwork for a non-traditional reading of the Bible in a way that a traditionalist can accept ... as I did it this week as I taught the first session in a year-long Institute class on Genesis." I commented:

Julie, you no doubt already know this, but Guide to the Scriptures at LDS.org says:

"During Noah's time the earth was completely covered with water. This was the baptism of the earth." (s.v. Flood at Noah's Time.)

Is it really your job as Institute instructor to teach that the student manual is wrong?

"The earth was immersed. It was a period of baptism." (Religion 301: Old Testament Student Manual, Genesis—2 Samuel [2003], p.55.)

Julie responded:

R. Gary asks, "Is it really your job as Institute instructor to teach that the student manual is wrong?"

It is part of my job as an Institute instructor to help my students understand the difference between scripture and commentary on scripture. We don't believe that the scriptures are without error; it boggles the mind that I would teach my students that commentary on the scriptures is without error.

But more to the point, I don't "teach" a limited flood. I review the evidence supporting the idea of a local flood (pros and cons) and the evidence supporting a universal flood (pros and cons) and tell my students that faithful LDS can believe either. (And I really do believe this. If you go back to the post I did for my SS lesson notes, you'll see that I defend in theory those who believe in a universal flood.) I also tell them that focusing on the issue too much (on either side) is a distraction from what the scriptures are really about–namely, moral lessons and personal application thereof.

Speaking from the perspective of a father and grandfather, I think Institute teachers should focus on the manual. It has been carefully prepared and approved for teaching Institute. In this case, the manual teaches a worldwide flood and uses the words of John Taylor to explain from a scriptural point of view how it happened:

I would like to know by what known law the immersion of the globe could be accomplished. It is explained here in a few words: "The windows of heaven were opened" that is, the waters that exist throughout the space surrounding the earth from whence come these clouds from which the rain descends. That was one cause. Another cause was "the fountains of the great deep were broken up"—that is something beyond the oceans, something outside of the seas, some reservoirs of which we have no knowledge, were made to contribute to this event, and the waters were let loose by the hand and by the power of God; for God said He would bring a flood upon the earth and He brought it, but He had to let loose the fountains of the great deep, and pour out the waters from there, and when the flood commenced to subside, we are told "that the fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained, and the waters returned from off the earth." Where did they go to? From whence they came. Now, I will show you something else on the back of that. Some people talk very philosophically about tidal waves coming along. But the question is—How could you get a tidal wave out of the Pacific ocean, say, to cover the Sierra Nevadas? But the Bible does not tell us it was a tidal wave. It simply tells that "all the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered. Fifteen cubits upwards did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered." That is, the earth was immersed. It was a period of baptism. (Religion 301: Old Testament Student Manual, Genesis—2 Samuel [2003], p.55.)

All of us may believe whatever we want. But we are not authorized to teach it in a Church setting unless it is grounded in the scriptures.

"It is the business of those who are to teach His children to teach the principles of the gospel [not] notions or guesses at truth [not] philosophies or sciences of the world [but] the principles of the gospel as found in the four standard works." (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p.59.)

If the standard works (click here), modern prophets (click here), and the Institute manual all teach a worldwide flood, why would an Institute teacher lay the groundwork for a non-traditional reading of the Bible as preparation for a discussion of current sciencific evidence for a non-worldwide flood?

(read more...)

Scriptural Evidence for a Worldwide Flood

[The following is excerpted from Donald W. Parry, "The Flood and the Tower of Babel," Ensign, Jan 1998, p.35.]

In the book of Genesis, Moses clearly states that a flood occurred, and the terminology definitely refers to a worldwide flood, as opposed to a localized flood. The Joseph Smith Translation backs up the Genesis account, modifying the wording only slightly.

Said the Lord, "I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die" (Gen. 6:17; emphasis added in this and other scriptures in this article). The phrases "all flesh … from under heaven" and "every thing that is in the earth" indicate a worldwide destruction of all creatures that lived on land. Note that the Inspired Version, translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith, changes "in the earth" to "on the earth" (JST, Gen. 8:22).

Genesis 7:19–20 [Gen. 7:19–20] states, "All the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered … ; and the mountains were covered." These verses explicitly state that all of earth's high mountains ("hills" should read "mountains" here; Hebrew harim) were covered by the waters. Lest one believe that the statement "under the whole heaven" is figurative and can be read or interpreted in different ways, a scriptural search through the entire Old Testament reveals that the phrase is used elsewhere only in a universal sense, as it is here; the phrase does not refer to a geographically restricted area (see Deut. 2:25; Deut. 4:19; Job 28:24; Job 37:3; Dan. 9:12). For instance, Job 28:24 also uses the phrase when referring to God's omniscience, which is certainly not restricted to a specific geographical region on the earth.

Genesis 7:21 [Gen. 7:21] states, "All flesh died that moved upon the earth, … every creeping thing … every man." The phrase "all flesh" refers to all land animals, creeping things, and fowls and all of humanity, with the exception of those in the ark (see Gen. 7:23). The entry every in the Oxford American Dictionary reads: "each single one, without exception." Moses is clearly trying to let us understand that the Flood was universal.

Verse 22 [Gen. 7:22] states, "All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died." Again the term "all" expresses a sum total. The term "dry land" should be read literally here, having reference to the land masses of our planet.

Verse 23 [Gen. 7:23] states, "Every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl." Moses' list of those destroyed by the Flood is inclusive; only Noah "remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark."

Genesis 8:5 [Gen. 8:5] states, "In the tenth month … were the tops of the mountains seen." After the flood, the "waters decreased" until Noah and his group were able to once again see mountaintops.

Verse 9 states, "The waters were on the face of the whole earth." The phrase "on the face of the whole earth" refers to a worldwide flood (see Gen. 1:29; Gen. 11:4, 8, 9).

Modern prophets have also taught that the Flood was worldwide (see, for example, Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:319).

Taken altogether, these statements should convince every believer in the Bible that the great Deluge was a worldwide event, not a localized flood that filled only the Mesopotamian or some other region.

[The above is excerpted from Donald W. Parry, "The Flood and the Tower of Babel," Ensign, Jan 1998, p.35.]

(read more...)