Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

What God Learned from the Flood

Posted by BrianJ on April 18, 2010

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.”

That’s how the flood story begins. So what do you do with a world incorrigibly filled with violence?

God met this violence with tremendous violence of his own: a deadly flood. The problem, which stood out to me recently as I studied Genesis, is that one, maybe two, generations later violence is rampant once again. As far as ridding the world of violence, the Flood appears to have been quite unsuccessful—and thankfully, God promised never to try that again!

Now, maybe I was being a bit facetious in the title when I suggested that God needed to learn something, but perhaps that’s the lesson of the Flood for us: you cannot successfully fight violence with violence.

5 Responses to “What God Learned from the Flood”

  1. Gerald Twitchell said

    It may be possible that we fall for the newsworthiness of violence and miss the real point of the removal of a civilization. It may be that when we apprehend where we are, what we are to be about, and the consequences, it may have been more about agency and the lack of it in civilizations who exhibit one of the attributes of the destruction of agency, violence.

    When Nephi was taught that it was better for one man to die than for a people to dwell in ignorance of the crucial knowledge to understand and use agency to become like God, it was not about violence, but the danger of losing the capacity to become like God.

    To be sure there is violence enough and to spare in this world, but the determination to rule with blood and horror is all about the destruction of agency and taking away the chance that anyone can become like God by those who will never be able to do that. Perhaps it is even a loving Father removing those who have succumbed to such a degree of violence from further condemning themselves.

  2. Jacob J said

    Well, if that is what God learned from the flood then he is not very good at logic. He could have learned that one massive act of violence is unlikely to stop all future violence, but to extropolate from the flood story to pacifism is a leap indeed. Plus, if you keep reading you’ll find out God didn’t turn over a new non-violent leaf after the flood. Also, we routinely fight violence with violence and it is by concentrating the threat of violence in one place (police) that we have created the least violent time in our earth’s history (which is now).

  3. BrianJ said

    Jacob: You’re probably right.

    Still, I wonder about how the story is presented: God sees some problem with the world, decides to “fix it,” but then the world is right back where it was before the “fix.” What’s the point? If the fix worked, why not do it again (and again and again and again) every time there’s rampant evilness? If it didn’t work, why not?

    “if you keep reading you’ll find out God didn’t turn over a new non-violent leaf” Yeah, that God of the OT is one complicated guy, preaching forgiveness and mercy one minute and then telling the Israelites to go slaughter children the next.

    “but to extrapolate…is a leap indeed.” I’m not too worried about interpreting the God of the OT as an extremist, btw. I think the book is filled with stories that teach a particular moral/lesson to a the extreme, only to be contradicted by another story that takes it to the opposite extreme. If we patterned our lives exactly after the OT God’s actions we’d be a mess, and I think the stories are better read as exaggerations to make a point. Thus, for example, I’m comfortable with the idea of telling the Israelites to completely destroy all things Amalekite (since this a lesson about not accepting the least amount of impure influence (that’s a silly term I just made up, but oh well)) while in practice I think it would be totally deplorable.

    “it is by concentrating the threat of violence in one place (police) that we have created the least violent time in our earth’s history (which is now).” Yes, that’s certainly part of our peace, but to suggest that our police force is the only reason our day is the least violent in history would also be a big leap. In the end, I think a lot of scripture stories are extremes that highlight only one consideration of the larger equations we face as we try to choose the right/best path—“a time to kill, a time to heal, a time to break down, a time to build up” and all that. Instead of getting precise calculations from God (e.g., you may not strike back if someone hits you above the waist but below the throat but not directly in the sides or the exact center of the small of the back unless it is with an open fist…) we get the extremes.

  4. […] What God Learned from the Flood […]

  5. kirkcaudle said

    “by concentrating the threat of violence in one place (police)…we have created the least violent time in our earth’s history.”-Jacob

    This is a good observation. I am not trying to start a political debate here, but it makes me think about “the right to bare arms” in a different light. Imagine what the world would be like if the only threat of violence came from God and not man.

    Perhaps that is part of the problem with humanity today. Our threats of punishment (violence) come from too many directions. We are often less concerned with what God can do to us and more concerned with how other humans can harm us. Most people in the world today do not see the violence/punishment that takes place in their lives being centered around God. Maybe we have lost track of something?

    By this logic, maybe the flood was God’s way of showing humanity that he is ultimately in control. The only threats to humanity that really matter are concentrated within Him.

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