“So He blotted out all living things on the face of the earth: both man and cattle, creeping things and the birds of heaven. Only Noah and those with him in the ark remained alive.” (OSB)
The story of the Great Flood makes this much perfectly clear: God takes human sin and evil seriously. The God of our Scriptures and Tradition is not the contemporary “god” of “Moral Therapeutic Deism,” not a “god” whose sole concern is our “happiness” and “fulfillment.” Rather, humans have been created by God to serve a position of central importance as king-priests in the created world, and when we abandon our calling, the results are disastrous for us and all of creation. God is not indifferent to this. There is a “tipping point,” a point of no return, where judgment is necessary.
Again, in Genesis, we see the downward spiral of humanity accelerating and deepening. What began as one act of disobedience led in turn to fratricide, and this in turn has led to all of humanity being overrun by the “disease” of sin and death, expressed in societal violence and inner depravity:
Then the Lord God saw man’s wickedness, that it was great in the earth, and every intent of the thoughts within his heart was only evil continually. So God was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and He thought this over. (Gen 6:5-6)
Now the earth was corrupt before God and the earth was filled with unrighteousness (“violence” Heb.). Thus the Lord God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh corrupted their way on the earth. (Gen 6:11-12)
The Flood is presented as both an act of un-creating and of cleansing, which leads to a sort of new creation. The earth has been polluted by wickedness and needs to be washed. Thus God rewinds the “creation clock” to Day 2, by undoing the separation of the waters in Gen 1:6-8, allowing the “waters above” and the “waters below” to once again converge so as to extinguish all life (Gen 7:11), save that which is in the Ark.
Noah and his family are the “righteous remnant” of humanity, and his sacrifice after the Flood (Gen 8:20-21) signifies the restoration of Humanity’s priestly function in creation, along with God’s ratifying of a new covenant with Humanity to never judge the world in this way again (Gen 9:8ff)—all of which mark this as a “new beginning” in the story of Scripture. Though this “new beginning” will soon be followed by another “fall” (Gen 9:20-27) which echoes the original Garden story in a variety of ways.
St. Peter unfolds a figurative reading of Noah’s Flood in his First Epistle:
… when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us-- baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 3:20-21)
The New Ark is the Church, and we are washed in Baptism, so as to become the New Humanity who worships God in Spirit, Truth, and Righteousness.
~ By Reader Justin Gohl