Was There a Worldwide Flood?
In geology, scientists are divided into two groups, Uniformitarianists and Catastrophists.
The word uniformitarian is derived from the assumption that uniform environmental conditions have worked together to affect the environment in predictable ways. The key phrase of the uniformitarianists is “The Present is the Key to the Past.” In other words, if we examine the processes occurring naturally in the world around us we will see that they affect the geology of the earth in many ways. For example, rivers are continually eroding material from the land surface of the earth and depositing it into the seas. Also, snow and rain has similar effects of erosion. Plants and animals can also produce significant effects on the geology of the earth. Closely examining all of these naturally occurring systems allows scientists to make certain predictions based on the careful measurements they make. For example, if they measure the amount of growth on a stalactite in one year, they can then divide the height by that number to find an approximate age for the formation. Along the same line, if a river cuts an inch into a canyon in one year, they can conclude that a 2,000 foot canyon took 24,000 years to produce. Uniformitarianism has been the basic creed of historical geology ever since the days of James Hutton and Charles Lyell in the early part of the nineteenth century.
Before that, Catastrophism was universally accepted as the adequate explanation of geologic formations. The word catastrophism is derived from the same root as the word Cataclysm. A modern dictionary defines it this way:
Etymology: French cataclysme, from Latin cataclysmos, from Greek kataklysmos, from kataklyzein to inundate, from kata- + klyzein to wash, flood, deluge, catastrophe.
Revealingly, Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it this way:
CATACLYSM, n. A deluge, or overflowing of water; particularly, the flood in Noah’s days.
Nicholas Steno (1631 1686), known as the Father of Stratigraphy (a branch of geology which studies rock layers and layering), developed his ideas with a firm belief in the Bible as the authoritative word of God. With this understanding, he reasoned that the worldwide flood of Noah’s day would have had a tremendous impact on the land surface. In fact, if the Flood described in Genesis 6 actually occurred, the science of stratigraphy would demand the formation of stratified rock layers all over the earth filled with the fossilized remains of the plants and animals that lived in the antediluvian world. As creationist Ken Ham has aptly put it “If Noah’s flood were true you would expect to find millions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth, and what do we actually see in the fossil record? Millions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth!”
In fact, the evidence for Catastrophism is so overwhelming, that Uniformitarianists have adopted many of the arguments from that camp. They have incorporated the catastrophist arguments and have reworked their theories to incorporate them in what they call punctuated uniformitarianism. A theory that holds that great spans of geologic time have been punctuated throughout history at various times with catastrophic events which dramatically alter the geology (and biology) of the earth.
So what about the arguments of uniformitarianists? Isn’t it true that wind, rain, and erosion are continually changing the surface of the earth in measurable ways? The answer is a resounding yes! Catastrophists do not deny this. However, they differ from the uniformitarianists in that they don’t believe in the long ages. In other words, when God declared that everything was very good and rested on the seventh day, uniform forces of nature began to take effect. Then when the flood came (a cataclysmic event), all the earth was covered with water and there was a complete redistribution and mixing if the antediluvian geology (see 2 Pet 3:6). After the flood, uniform forces of nature once again took over.
So how does this view explain stalactite growth and river canyon erosion? The uniformitarian argument makes the assumption that the forces at work today have been the same for great periods of time. If that were true, then their conclusions would also be true. But what if the catastrophic argument were true? They make different assumptions. They would argue that a worldwide flood would have caused greater amounts of water as the flood waters receded with a gradual lessoning over the years until the present rate was eventually reached. Therefore, stalactites would have grown much faster after the flood and gradually slowed until their present growth rate was reached. The same is true of river canyon erosion. After the flood, the stratigraphy was not fully set and receding flood waters were able to cut dramatically into the earth. This process too has slowed down to its present rate.
When you build a model of earth history using the assumptions of the creation account in Genesis you will find that the model produces very accurate predictions and nicely fits with observable data. However, the uniformitarian model must contend with many obstacles and is routinely revised and updated in an effort to explain away the many contradictions which are discovered around the world.
How accurate ring the words of the Apostle Peter who warned us in 2 Peter 3:3:
3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (KJV)