To the modern mind, the story of Noah and the flood is a dark tale and one that is hard to equate with the “loving God” (i.e., the “kind” God of our notions). Why would God regret what He had done and want to kill everything He had made?
Now never mind that we do this all the time when we harvest a field, or prune our roses or slaughter animals to feed ourselves, etc. When we do these things, we understand why we do them and so we give ourselves credit for doing what is right and good. But when God prunes, or plows under one culture to bring forth another, or ends life here to nourish life there, we call Him despotic. The atheists like to call Him wrathful and vengeful.
But the Church has always understood the flood in terms of the language of baptism. God ends one life to begin another. In every baptism, even to this day, one life ends so that another can begin. The baptismal font is both tomb and womb. It is a tomb because the old Adam dies in us, and it is a womb because the new Adam (Jesus) is birthed in us. St. Paul says,
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin … So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:3ff).
This may not seem like the flood, but it is. We are overwhelmed in the flood of baptismal water and lose our old life. But a new life is set forth in us. This is just as in the old flood, which ended the regime of sin and sowed the seed of new life on a washed-out world. It is an allegory of baptism, not the reality itself but pointing to the reality.
The Catechism references the blessing of Easter water, in which the Church speaks of the flood: The waters of the great flood you made a sign of the waters of Baptism, that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness.
Thus, in terms of baptismal theology, the flood was not a disaster, but a new beginning.
“But Father, but Father, so many died!” True, but we will all die and God decides when that will be. Further, He does not simply have my good or your good in mind, but also the common good. So God must sometimes end certain human projects, epochs, and empires so that others may emerge. He knows why He acts; we do not. We may think we are the “bee’s knees,” but God knows something better. So He ended antediluvian (before the flood) culture to bring forth something different. Do you judge Him for this? And if you do, on what basis do you do so? Is the Roman Empire better than what came later? Is “Western Culture” better than what might come next? How do you know? Can you see the future? Are you sure of your judgments? Are they better than God’s?
In November, I pruned my roses from eight feet down to just one foot. Do you judge me for this? Today they poke through the snow awaiting the coming of spring. Have I done well, or was I just violent and nasty? Well, wait until spring and you might have a different perspective. My Crape Myrtle is also protesting and calling me a despot, for I pruned it severely. But wait until May before you condemn me. You might be surprised as vigorous growth bursts forth.
Well, I hope you get the point. We have often judged God based on very little evidence. He knows why He does what He does; we do not. If a flood or the collapse of a culture is needed, He knows; we have no idea.
Floods and other dramatic steps are sometimes needed. And we who protest such actions are not much different than rose bushes that protest pruning. We know not whereof we speak.
Let God be God. If floods are needed He knows. If lesser measures are adequate He knows. If more is needed He knows. Floods are “in his pay grade,” not in ours. He knows. Do not judge God. If you do, I am going to ask you why we kills tens of thousand of animals, or rip healthy ears of corn from their plants to feed ourselves. I am going to ask you why we prune roses. I am going to ask you why we wield scalpels to cut cancerous tumors from people and then throw those tumors in the trash.
If you will judge God, please answer first the prosecutorial questions I ask you. Is a flood too strong a response to sin? Well, is reducing my roses by 7/8ths during pruning season too much? Is putting people to sleep so they can’t defend themselves and slicing open their bodies and forcefully removing tumors too extreme? Is wielding the sickle and harvesting grapes to feed the poor too much? Is it evil to take the eggs of chickens or to kill mature chickens to feed the hungry?
OK, the flood happened. Are you ready to sit in judgment of God as you munch on your Chicken McNuggets?
Who will judge the flood or the God who sent it? If you will, then never, EVER again plow under your summer marigolds to plant autumn mums. Otherwise, I will call you evil, despotic, and just plain mean. I realize that people are more valuable than mums or marigolds. But God has every right to decide that the season for marigolds is over and mums are now needed. Do you doubt His judgment? If you do, then never again pull weeds from your garden, mow your grass, swat a fly, or seek the repel the devourers of your crops.
Otherwise, let God be God and do not call Him to account for things you do not understand.
The flood was necessary. Do you deny it? Show that you know better than God and cease your own husbandry. Allow rats to infest your home and flies to devour your food stock. Indeed, you should never harvest at all; you devour plants and animals and follow your own designs, designs that those plants and animals cannot discern. How dare you, you devourer, you sender of floods, you user of oxygen. How dare you use precious resources the animals could use, you interceptor of natural processes!
You stand accused with God! How do you answer? Will you still prosecute God for the flood?
This song says,
Away way back in the ages dark
Old man Noah built a sea-going ark
Old man Noah had his nervous spells,
When he had to listen to the animals’ yells,
But when anything was doing he was there with bells,
He was a grand old sailor.
Old man Noah knew a thing or two,
He made them all play ball,
Old man Noah knew a thing or two,
Because he knew a thing or two, he thought he knew it all,
Some say he was an also ran,
He was the original sailor man,
Old man Noah knew a thing or two,
He was a grand old man.
Said old man Noah to his wife one day
There’s a big storm comin’ on the first of May
So he gathered all his family and made this remark:
The sky’s getting cloudy and it’s getting rather dark,
So gather all the animals, and beat it to the ark,
It’s gonna rain tomorrow!
The rain came down in showers cryin’
The ark made it out on a scheduled time
And every day at half past three,
Noah played poker with the chimpanzee,
Cried the ring-tailed monkey, I sadly agree,
Noah’s got a full house up his sleeve!
When Noah got the animals out to sea,
They organized a regular jubilee
In the middle of the night the elephant said,
There’s a couple of snakes crawled into my bed,
Shut up, said Noah, you’re drunk instead,
Now I’m gonna lose my license!