Many times in life, whether it be in theological studies, or just the mundane everyday tasks, we often focus so much on the individual details that we tend to miss the big picture! An everyday example might be something that us older people are very familiar with, but our younger counterparts may find somewhat strange. I remember pulling weeds in the family garden growing up, and how I would almost dread the time when dad would say, 'go pull weeds'! I would focus on ( and dread ) the 'pulling weeds' part, and not think about the bigger picture, that being the good, fresh veggies that a weed-free garden would grow, better so than a weed-infested garden!
Too often, we go about our biblical and theological studies much the same way, focusing on details like, 'was Noah's Flood universal ( world-wide ) or local ( regional )?' I tend to believe myself that it was a fairly local, though huge ( wide-spread ) event. Having done a minute bit of research myself, I feel fairly safe in pronouncing that it was so. However, this does not make it so, and I would imagine that there are those out there who would beg to differ, and even be able to come up with a better argument stating that it was not!
Whatever the case may be, whether Noah and his family were the only human beings alive on a post-cataclysmic planet earth or whether they were simply survivors of a catastrophic, local flood event, the fact remains; the Story, and the Ark in particular, was significant of the salvation of the People of God in Christ!
We love to argue! As human beings, we are naturally selfish; we have a very basic need to be right. We will argue the details of something like 'The Great Flood' till we're 'blue in the face', we will do so almost vociferously, alienating brothers and sisters left and right, just to prove that we are right!
Does it matter whether or not 'The Great Flood' of Noah's day was local or universal, world-wide or regional? Well, yes and no! Any good bible student from most popular seminaries will tell you that Scripture clearly states that the cataclysmic event was world-wide, with universal and lasting effects. On the other hand, and mostly aside from these seminaries, a grammatical and covenantal study of this and stories like it will show that this event was very likely a local one, and was simply a part of the Greater Story, and Significant of the Salvation of the People of God!
The Story of 'The Great Flood' does not stand alone! It is part of redemptive history, and should be understood primarily as such! The details are important, there is doubt; they are given for a reason, but it is easy to focus so much on those details, to become so single-minded about one aspect or another, that we easily forget what it's all about!
Certain statements in Scripture, in this case Genesis 6-9, seem to make very clear that the flood of Noah's day was a world-wide event, but when compared to other such statements in the prophetic Scriptures, the clear universality of these statements is not so clear anymore! In fact, it is just the opposite; the statements become more obviously covenantal and historical in nature! By that, we simply mean these statements, though undoubtedly true and accurate, were told to tell a particular Story, that of the Redemption of the People of God!
If we get the details of the Story right, but in doing so, miss the Story itself; we are lost, we have missed the whole point! If we do not correctly understand the Story, nothing else will suffice; if we correctly understand the Story, nothing else is necessary!
Charles Haddon Shank