Monday, September 12, 2022

The Coming Flood

Genesis 6: 5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

This is all we are told in Genesis of the pre-flood corruption on earth.  Yes, there is mention of the sons of God and the daughters of man, but nothing condemning this.  Then we get this:

7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth

Now, there was no “law” yet, no Ten Commandments.  We are told nothing of specifics, nor – at least in Genesis – on what basis such corruption could be identified.

In the Book of Enoch, there are further details.  This book, apocryphal for all Christian traditions and denominations except for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, begins by describing the judgment coming on all the earth, except for the elect who will be saved.

In chapter 6, we are told that the act of angels taking the daughters of men was known to be a sin…a sin by the angels!

And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' And Semjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: 'I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.'

The angels swore an oath to each other, removing Semjaza’s concern, and then did the deed.  But why did this sin by the angels require a punishment of men, wiping them off from the face of the earth?  It wasn’t this sin, but another, described in the earlier chapters, 2 – 5.  First, the purpose of each aspect of creation is described:

·         Observe ye everything that takes place in the heaven, how they do not change their orbits, and the luminaries which are in the heaven, how they all rise and set in order each in its season, and transgress not against their appointed order.

·         Behold ye the earth, and give heed to the things which take place upon it from first to last, how steadfast they are, how none of the things upon earth change, but all the works of God appear to you.

·         Behold the summer and the winter, how the whole earth is filled with water, and clouds and dew and rain lie upon it.

·         Observe and see how (in the winter) all the trees seem as though they had withered and shed all their leaves, except fourteen trees, which do not lose their foliage but retain the old foliage from two to three years till the new comes.

·         And again, observe ye the days of summer how the sun is above the earth over against it.

·         And you seek shade and shelter by reason of the heat of the sun, and the earth also burns with growing heat, and so you cannot tread on the earth, or on a rock by reason of its heat.

·         Observe ye how the trees cover themselves with green leaves and bear fruit:

·         And behold how the sea and the rivers in like manner accomplish and change not their tasks from His commandments'.

Every being in creation has a purpose, an order for which these were created.  Chapter 5 explains this:

[W]herefore give ye heed and know with regard to all His works, and recognize how He that liveth for ever hath made them so.

And all His works go on thus from year to year for ever, and all the tasks which they accomplish for Him, and their tasks change not, but according as God hath ordained so is it done.

But Enoch has not yet come to man.  What is this sin of man, so evil that he had to be destroyed from the face of the earth?  Verse 4 of chapter 5 sums it up:

But ye -ye have not been steadfast, nor done the commandments of the Lord

A few specifics are added, but given the comparison made for the purpose of distinction (identifying all of the created order’s obedience to live according to the purpose for which it was created as compared to man who has not been “steadfast), it is clear: man, like all of creation, was made with and for a purpose, and man, unlike the rest of creation, was not living in accordance with that purpose.

It is by properly identifying that purpose that one can derive natural law.  Man clearly was not living in accord with natural law, and for this he was taken by flood from the earth.

But still, how did man know this natural law ethic, for the violation of which he was condemned?  I have written on this before, so will only touch on it here.  Man earlier ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  By this act, he discovered the natural law.

Now, what’s wrong with that?  If man was made for the purpose of living in accord with the natural law, shouldn’t he know the natural law?  Why would God forbid them from discovering that which He would also hold them accountable?  St. Gregory of Nazianzus offers an answer:

He gave him a Law, as a material for his Free Will to act upon. This Law was a Commandment as to what plants he might partake of, and which one he might not touch.

One law was given, one prohibition.  Just one. 

This latter was the Tree of Knowledge; not, however, because it was evil from the beginning when planted; nor was it forbidden because God grudged it to us...Let not the enemies of God wag their tongues in that direction, or imitate the Serpent...But it would have been good if partaken of at the proper time, for the tree was, according to my theory, Contemplation, upon which it is only safe for those who have reached maturity of habit to enter; but which is not good for those who are still somewhat simple and greedy in their habit; just as solid food is not good for those who are yet tender, and have need of milk.

Consider the statement: “…it is only safe for those who have reached maturity of habit to enter….”  Does a baby know the natural law?  Does a child?  Are they ready for it?  No.  In an immature state, we offer rules – don’t touch that, don’t go there, don’t hit your brother.  We instruct them to say thank you, be courteous, share things.

We develop, we train, we show by example.  Further, as maturity is reached, the inherent truth of natural law is discoverable and discovered.  But leave a child to this – without any explicit training – and chaos will ensue.

Man was to have access to this knowledge when he was mature enough to understand it.  As man could not even obey the milk of the simplest command to obey God regarding one tree, he certainly was not yet mature enough to handle the solid food of the natural law.

Conclusion

Now, one need not take the flood account as a historic fact in its entirety to recognize a reality: a society that lives in violation of the natural law ethic will not long survive.  It will be destroyed.

This lesson was not learned the first time, and like many passages and prophecies in the Bible, the lessons taught are not merely for the one time and the one place.  Violating natural law results in consequences every time, not just the first time.  Yes, even in our time.

No, there won’t be a flood – God promised that.  In reality, God need not do anything.  He created a self-enforcing natural law.  It is powerful enough to defend itself and dole out punishment as necessary.

Hence, the flood.

16 comments:

  1. The angels and the humans were violating natural law. The humans were punished with death. The angels were put in the abyss. Read Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4-5 for more on these angels and their punishment. Jude even quotes a part of Enoch later in the letter, so you know he had that book on his mind while writing. Their sin is similar to the sin in the Lord Of The Rings where it relates trying to escape your ordered position in the universe.

    https://thecrosssectionrmb.blogspot.com/

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  2. Great essay, thank you.

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  3. Thank you Bionic for your posts & faith - look forward to them. Sin is insidious & creeps into our lives - thank God for his grace

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  4. Bionic, it is not clear to me what you are driving at. I have many questions and reservations about the content here which I am going to have to mull over before I make any statement. I am not sure I will.

    However, I clicked on the link to the New Advent website to read Gregory of Nazianzus and was thoroughly pleased to read what was written, although I had to deliberately slow down and read every word in order to absorb the message.

    “VII. God always was, and always is, and always will be. Or rather, God always Is. For Was and Will be are fragments of our time, and of changeable nature, but He is Eternal Being. And this is the Name that He gives to Himself when giving the Oracle to Moses in the Mount. For in Himself He sums up and contains all Being, having neither beginning in the past nor end in the future; like some great Sea of Being, limitless and unbounded, transcending all conception of time and nature, only adumbrated by the mind, and that very dimly and scantily...not by His Essentials, but by His Environment; one image being got from one source and another from another, and combined into some sort of presentation of the truth, which escapes us before we have caught it, and takes to flight before we have conceived it, blazing forth upon our Master-part, even when that is cleansed, as the lightning flash which will not stay its course, does upon our sight...in order as I conceive by that part of it which we can comprehend to draw us to itself (for that which is altogether incomprehensible is outside the bounds of hope, and not within the compass of endeavour), and by that part of It which we cannot comprehend to move our wonder, and as an object of wonder to become more an object of desire, and being desired to purify, and by purifying to make us like God; John 10:15 so that when we have thus become like Himself, God may, to use a bold expression, hold converse with us as Gods, being united to us, and that perhaps to the same extent as He already knows those who are known to Him. The Divine Nature then is boundless and hard to understand; and all that we can comprehend of Him is His boundlessness; even though one may conceive that because He is of a simple nature He is therefore either wholly incomprehensible, or perfectly comprehensible. For let us further enquire what is implied by “is of a simple nature.” For it is quite certain that this simplicity is not itself its nature, just as composition is not by itself the essence of compound beings.”

    We have fallen so far in our mastery of language.

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    1. Roger, for more than half of what I write I am also not sure what I am getting at - it's a process and the road takes me where it will. Often, I will come to a conclusion while writing a post that never dawned on me when I initially sat down to write it.

      For this post: what struck me from Enoch was the clear (at least to me ) spelling out that it was man's violation of God's natural law that brought his end in the flood. This doesn't come out clearly in the Genesis account, but did here in Enoch.

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  5. Interesting take by Gregory of Nazianzus. I never thought of it that way.

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    1. I had heard is mentioned by others (which is why I went looking for it). I just didn't recall the author until I found it in my search.

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  6. This is a very interesting concept about the Tree of Knowledge. Consider Hebrews 5:12-14. "Solid food belongs to those who are of full age (mature), those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." But notice they had to be taught the basics, the foundation.

    But my question is: where do we get the MILK .. the fundamental basic training, the foundation that produces maturity? From Man or from God?

    "It is not within man that walketh, to direct his own steps (successfully)." Jeremiah 10:23

    "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9

    "Whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, will be like a wise man that built his house upon a rock .." Matthew 7:24

    It seems that God's point with the Tree of Knowledge was to illustrate that it is not within independent man to direct his own steps. Man is too easily deceived and corrupted.

    I can agree that the natural law is in our DNA .. but will we ever get there without God's Law and grace?

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    1. AB: "...but will we ever get there without God's Law and grace? "

      Not completely. The Law is written on men's hearts (by God, certainly). Therefore, I think man can move a good measure toward fully living a natural law ethic, but not completely. One must love God and love one's neighbor and accept these as man's highest purpose in life in order to fully live the natural law ethic.

      To do this requires God's grace.

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  7. Re: "there was no “law” yet, no Ten Commandments." Just because it wasn't yet codified for the nation of Israel, it doesn't then follow that it didn't exist. Your own quotations point to this fact. God ordains these boundaries. Codifying them isn't necessary for those who are already walking with God, and it shouldn't be necessary for those who are smarting from the effects of transgressing those commandments either. Moreover, sin is defined as the transgression of the law. If a lack of codification puts them off the hook, then your god is capricious.

    There is more about the reason for the flood which you missed, i.e. "Noah was pure in his generations"(vs.9) i.e. his pedigree. The same word is used with regards to sacrificial animals. Neither he nor his family were mixing like everyone else was. Unlike the rest, but like Adam before the fall, he "walked with God"(vs. 9).

    It's ironic that St. Gregory quotes Eve who just like the Pharisees who would follow her lead, she adds "touch" to what was not to be eaten as well as turning a certainty ("you will die") into a possibility ("lest ye die"). This word "touch" in the Hebrew also has sexual connotations which flow directly into their need cover themselves as well as Eve's trouble with conception. Perhaps it's just a coincidence, right?

    While God did promise not to destroy the world again, he added the caveat "by flood", and we know that the next time people get to the point where they are "continually evil", the result will be destruction by fire.

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  8. Do you listen to "The Lord of Spirits," podcast? If not, I think you would enjoy it. Thanks for your writing.

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  9. "In reality, God need not do anything. He created a self-enforcing natural law. It is powerful enough to defend itself and dole out punishment as necessary."

    Bionic Mosquito

    Even though I am a great fan of the natural law, your conclusion is one I all too often forget.

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    1. This wording hit home to me once when I was writing something like "who will defend the natural law?" Thinking about it...I realized it defends itself. However, there is a question of who will speak for it, educate others on it, elaborate the benefits of it, etc.

      In providing for its own defense, natural law is quite capable!

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  10. Bionic,

    I mentioned above that I had to think this through. I have concluded that your premise is in error.

    "One must love God and love one's neighbor and accept these as man's highest purpose in life in order to fully live the natural law ethic." -- BM

    Love is the highest value. It is not the highest purpose. It is a means, not an end.

    “Every being in creation has a purpose, an order for which these were created…” -- BM

    “It is by properly identifying that purpose that one can derive natural law.” -- BM

    Everything which has been created, including man, has a purpose. By properly identifying that purpose, we can determine how we should live in harmony with the world around us. So far, so good, but what exactly was (is) the purpose for which man was created?

    “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the seas, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28

    “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” – Genesis 2:15

    Man’s purpose in life is to have dominion over the earth and everything in it, to tend it, to keep it, to bring it under his rule. Man was created to be a manager over the world. Everything that we do follows from this. Every man or woman is subject to this order in his/her own personal world. However, there was (is) one condition: it must be accomplished in accordance with God’s Word.

    “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.”” – Genesis 2: 16, 17

    The act of eating the “apple” did not overturn nor change the purpose placed on man at the beginning, but it did make the fulfillment of the mandate more difficult. From now on, man would no longer have everything given to him free of charge, instead he would have to work for it. Gain or profit from any endeavor would come by hard labor, pain, and loss. Scarcity became the norm.

    “Cursed is the ground for your sake. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…” – Genesis 3:17-19

    The idea that one should not have to work to live saw its beginning here. Every effort to justify that philosophy is a futile attempt to return to “The Garden” where there is no scarcity and that all one must do to enrich himself is to reach out and take whatever is available. That someone else owns the wealth desired is of no concern. Personal wealth is a visible reminder that, before the Fall, everything was freely granted to anyone who wanted it. Since then, there have only been two ways to gain wealth—work hard for it OR to take it illegitimately. Those who refuse to live under the terms of the Curse are true descendants of Adam and Eve, who thought they should have everything for nothing.

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  11. The sin of Adam and Eve was not so much in the eating of the fruit as much as in the decision to eat the fruit. The determination to eat preceded the act of eating. They had already decided, before eating it, that God’s promise was not true nor trustworthy and that there was much more to be gained by ignoring it. Eating the fruit was akin to affixing a signature or a seal to the terms of a contract, the stipulations of which had already been agreed on.

    The generations between Adam and Noah carried out this practice whole-heartedly. The corruption mentioned is not so much of a physical nature, i.e., angels copulating with young women, as it is a spiritual one. Man was attempting to fulfill the “dominion mandate” by setting his own terms, making his own laws, ignoring God’s word, in essence, cutting God out of the picture entirely. Adam’s descendants took this to an extreme and became thoroughly corrupted, totally dominated by the sin nature, without any regard for God and the created world was suffering for it. Hence the Flood.

    When Satan said to Eve that she would “…be like God, knowing good and evil…”, he didn’t necessarily mean that she would understand the difference between good and evil. She knew that instinctively and, more than likely, the Spirit of God was sitting on her shoulder whispering in her ear. Ultimately, it meant that she would be able to DETERMINE what was good and what was evil. She could become like God by decreeing good and evil. She could make the rules. Personal, subjective ability and power were to be hers and all she had to do was take one bite. The only choice she had to make was to live within the limits set by God OR to set her own boundaries which, as history has proven, means there are no boundaries to human behavior.

    The concept of No Rules rules!

    Why do you need God to tell you what is right and what is wrong, if you can make that choice yourself? Man, throughout the ages, has followed the same route and it has always led to the same reward…death and destruction on a massive world-wide scale. Modern man is no exception.

    “St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224/25–1274) propounded an influential systematization, maintaining that, though the eternal law of divine reason is unknowable to us in its perfection as it exists in God’s mind, it is known to us in part not only by revelation but also by the operations of our reason. The law of nature, which is “nothing else than the participation of the eternal law in the rational creature,” thus comprises those precepts that humankind is able to formulate—namely, the preservation of one’s own good, the fulfillment of “those inclinations which nature has taught to all animals,” and the pursuit of the knowledge of God.” -- https://www.britannica.com/topic/natural-law

    The preservation of one’s own good. The fulfillment of those inclinations which nature teaches. The pursuit of the knowledge of God. We are quite good at going after the first two items but are sorely lacking in the third.

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  12. I dispute that love is the purpose for which man was created. As explained above, man is to manage his world within the boundaries laid down by God. Love is one of the means of achieving that purpose. Love is the highest value of all man’s efforts, and it is only in the spirit of love that man will be able to reach the pinnacle in the performance of his duty.

    God did not create man because He was lonely, wanted companionship, nor to have someone to love who could love in return. Rather, God brought man into being to manage His creation, to act as the steward, to produce after His own example. Man is created in God’s Image, it is only by following that lead that we can, even remotely, reach the goal set before us. This is the highest purpose, the ultimate end, and since God is love, can only be achieved through love…love of God, love of man, love of creation.

    Satan told Eve that she could be “all that she could be” without any adherence to this principle. She could have it all simply through selfishness, consideration only for herself. Jesus restored the original principle by teaching that all things are possible through sacrificial love. The purpose of man—management of creation in the pattern set by God—can be achieved through love.

    Love, more than anything else, is the means to the end. Man is not capable of perfect love but, even if he were, there would still be creative work to do.

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