This article was first published in the August 2007 ABR Newsletter.
In my years of interest in the search for Noah's Ark, I have repeatedly observed that the subject tends to bring out strong reactions in the unbelieving. This phenomenon was seen once again at the beginning of September, when the Livescience.com website posted an article entitled, "Hunt for Noah's Ark Takes on New Dimension." Those interested in the full story can read it online at http://www.livescience.com/blogs/2007/09/02/hunt-for-noahs-ark-takes-on-new-dimension.
To briefly summarize, Porcher Taylor of the University of Richmond issued a press release highlighting his favorite Ark site, the so-called "Ararat Anomaly." Located at an elevation of 15,300 feet in the northwestern corner of the Western Plateau area of Mount Ararat, it was recently examined by a new stereo-imaging satellite. The press release focused on the use of the new technology as a tool for research, rather than revealing any new information about the "Anomaly."
Despite the fact that nothing really new was noted so far as Noah's Ark was concerned, the report still elicited several strong responses, both on the Livescience website itself and on other blogging sites which referenced it. To give one example, in the Comments section of the Livescience website one atheist stated (all spelling errors as in the original post):
I am going to be very blunt here, because I have read just about everything about the non-existant "Noah's Ark". Why is time and money being wasted looking for this "Ark". The bible is just another book of fiction and a very poor one at that. It plagiarises Egyptian and Babylonian Myths. They are where the so called "geat flood" stories come from...There was no "god/creator", no Adam and Eve, no Noah, no Exodus. I could go on and on about this, but I think I have made my point.
I find the poster's certainty that the Bible is nothing more than a book of (poor) fiction interesting. Why does he feel this way? My guess is it's because it speaks of metaphysical realities foreign to his experience. He cannot fit the God of the Bible into his concept of reality; therefore, all the purported historical things in the Bible predicated upon His existence must be fictional by definition. His philosophy does not allow for God; therefore, "God stuff" did not happen! Despite his complaint about the "time and money being wasted" in the search for the Ark, though, he also claims to have "read just about everything about the non-existant 'Noah's Ark'." One has to wonder why, if the story of Noah's Ark is just a fiction, has the writer gone to the time and trouble to "read just about everything" about it? It sounds like he really WANTS to find a reason to believe it! But sadly, his philosophy acts as a filter to remove any such reasons from consideration.
The comment also reveals an incredible amount of self-confident arrogance. He KNOWS the Bible is a "work of fiction." He KNOWS that the writer of Genesis simply plagiarized Egyptian and Babylonian myths. From whence comes this great certainty? I am sure there are a number of reasons, but one in particular came to mind, which I would like to elaborate on a bit: it is unlikely he has wrestled with the dilemma of the utter impossibility of reconciling the moral and ethical teachings of Scripture with what we know of human nature.
If we hold that human nature has remained basically unchanged for as long as mankind has walked the Earth, there is no reason to think Man was more noble in Old Testament times than now. If anything, we would expect much more of a "might makes right" and "if it feels good, do it" perspective to have ruled the day thousands of years ago. After all, the ancients were unenlightened rubes compared to us modern sophisticates, right? (Just consider how most of today's young people view those just a single generation before them!)
But in fact, the opposite is true. In the Bible, a book with its roots sunk deep into the dim recesses of ancient history, we find advocated as norms for human behavior what are, by common consensus, the highest of ethical precepts. If you take a moment to think about it, this is a striking thing! Ancient societies accepted as normal such things as slavery, prostitution, infanticide and the worship of idols. There was no reason to do away with them; they were societal norms, and powerful people made a profit off of them. Why, then, did these uppity Jews write down and embrace, albeit imperfectly, the stark moral restrictions recorded in the Torah? The illogicalness of it boggles the mind!
If the Bible is only a book of plagiarized pagan myths and Jewish just-so stories, how can we explain its penchant for teaching people to do what is decidedly unnatural behavior? One need only look at the dominant trends in America today to see "natural" human behavior showcased: looking out for "number one," striving to become wealthy and powerful, advocating sex with no constraints, practicing infanticide (abortion) and euthanasia of the weak and infirm, etc. Now compare this modern, "enlightened" perspective with the standards set forth in the Bible. Among other dangerous ideas, it holds forth the ideal of fidelity of one man and one woman to a lifetime of marriage; enjoins us to think of others as more important than ourselves; calls for honesty in all our dealings, whether personal or in business; upholds the sanctity of human life; and - horrors! - lays down Ten Commandments, which no reasonable person would ever have devised as rules for life. We are expected to believe that the ancient Jews willingly imposed upon themselves the moral and ethical constraints enshrined in the Decalog, committed to teaching them to their children, and filled the Torah with their practical application to daily life. Is this reasonable to believe?
No...from what we know of human nature, it is virtually impossible to accept the premise that the moral precepts of the Bible were the invention of men. The restrictions they impose on behavior would have been too onerous. They had to have been imposed somehow upon the ancient Jews, that stubborn, willful people...and how could this have happened, except by the agency of an all-powerful God? A Moses who did not have the power and authority of the Living God behind him would have been trampled underfoot by the mob worshipping the Golden Calf. And even if we considered, for the sake of argument, that the man Moses was a pious fiction, we are stuck with the fact that there WERE pious people in the first place who would write such stuff! The very existence of the Bible, with all of its uncomfortable restrictions on "natural human behavior," testifies to the reality of the God Who originated it.
Our understanding of human nature thus makes it quite unreasonable to think that any ancient people would ever, if left to their own devices, come up with a Bible with the ethical principles it advocates. The only explanation for it is the one which faithful Jews, and the Church after them, has always held: that the Scriptures constitute the very Word of the Living God. He acted in human history, had His thoughts recorded by the prophets, and sent His Son to die for the sins of mankind.
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