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The Canopy Theory

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From: Lorri T
Subject: Where did the water come from for Noah’s Flood 

Look up on google about the water canopy that surrounded the earth years ago and I don’t mean millions of years. If you look at biblical history people lived hundreds of years. After the flood the number of years shortened a lot. It seems that the water canopy provided a much purer atmosphere than we have now. I believe in the Great Creator and I believe that He collapsed the canopy to flood the earth and start over with mankind through Noah. I would give you the website about this but I do not remember it. As I said try Google to see what that brings up.

RESPONSE:

Lorri, thank you for contacting Creation Revolution with your comments concerning the canopy theory. 

The canopy theory was developed based on an interpretation of Genesis 1:6-7 and the waters above:

Again God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.  Then God made the firmament, and separated the waters, which were under the firmament, from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 

The canopy theory involves the concept of some kind of water source existed in the upper atmosphere of the earth and that it collapsed at the time of the Genesis Flood resulting in the forty days of rain.  What that water source was has been the subject of debate.  Some believe it was a dense vapor canopy that surrounded the earth, others believe the vapor canopy was not as dense but extended higher into the atmosphere, and others believe the water source could have been in the form or rings of ice crystals that circled the earth like those that encircle Saturn.  Whatever the source, they were all intended to explain what the waters above in Genesis 1:6-7 were referring to and that it was their collapse that occurred in Genesis 7:11 when the windows of heaven were opened up. 

The first person to put forth the concept of some kind of canopy was Isaac Vail in 1912.  Vail proposed the idea that the earth was surrounded by rings like those around Saturn.  These rings subsequently collapsed one after the other.  The last ring to collapse was the cause of the Genesis Flood.

A few years later George McCready Price also championed the idea of some type of canopy theory.  However, the concept gained more popularity when Drs. Henry Morris and John Whitcomb published their book The Genesis Flood in 1961.  The publication of this book is often credited as the launching point of the modern creationist movement.  In 1982, Joseph Dillow published his book, The Waters Above in which he continued to popularize the idea of a vapor canopy. 

When I was attending the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School in the mid 1990s, Dr. Larry Vardiman was conducting more research on the canopy theory.  He was running sophisticated computer atmospheric modeling of various scenarios that would support a vapor canopy significant enough to provide the forty days of rain during the Flood.  At that time, all of his models indicated that the earth’s atmospheric pressure would have been significantly greater than it is now.  The increased atmospheric pressure coupled with enough water vapor necessary for the Flood rain would have resulted in surface temperatures that ranged from 150ºF to nearly 200ºF.  These temperatures would have made life on earth impossible for most animal and plant life and especially for humans.  In order to bring the temperatures down to livable conditions, the amount of water in the canopy had to be reduced to only 20 inches which is far short of that required for forty days of rain.  The results of his computer models fully indicated the impossibility of the earth being surrounded by any kind of vapor canopy. 

Since then, Dr. Vardiman has been running additional computer models.  In order to obtain livable temperatures and provide enough water in the canopy to account for the forty days of rain, the sun’s solar constant would have to be reduced by at least 75% of today’s value.  While some may say that this would be sufficient to once again embrace the theory of a water vapor canopy, one has to wonder what effect on plant life in general a 75% reduction in the solar constant would have.  Would there be sufficient sunlight to support the photosynthesis requirements of plants, especially the huge plants that existed prior to the Flood?

However, the most important question is whether or not a canopy is supported by Scripture.  In many of the Articles for Kids series, I have been teaching the kids to be like the Bereans who went to Scripture to determine what was true and what wasn’t.  Some years back I had the privilege of sitting down and talking with Dr. Russell Humphreys, physicist and author of Starlight and Time.  The main topic of our conversation centered on the reports from various scientists and NASA of them finding evidence of water or ice in more and more locations in outer space.  In Dr. Humphrey’s book, he predicted that wherever man looked in the solar system, galaxy and universe that he should find evidence of water since that is what God started with from the beginning.  He based his prediction on his understanding of God’s description of Creation in Genesis 1.  With his help we did like the Bereans and went to Scripture. 

Dr. Humphreys explained that God started with water in Genesis 1:1-2:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the deep, and the Spirit of God moved upon the waters. 

Notice that there was nothing but water mentioned here.  That would also explain why the earth was without form and void.  Most likely, it was in the middle of the water, but had not yet been formed.  Then God separated the waters in Genesis 1:6-8.

Although many people over the years have used these verses to justify a canopy layer that surrounded the earth Dr. Humphreys says that Scripture does not support the idea of a canopy.  He then pointed out some very interesting things that happened in Genesis 1:14-18 on Day 4:

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.  And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.  God then made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made also the stars.  And God set them in the firmament of the heaven, to shine upon the earth, And to rule in the day, and in the night, and to separate the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

Here, he points out that God placed the sun, moon and stars in the firmament that BETWEEN the waters above and the waters below.  By stars, it means the visible universe.  The waters above had to be beyond the sun, moon and all the visible stars.  If the waters above were beyond our visible universe, then it could not have been any kind of vapor canopy that collapsed during the Flood as so many well meaning Christians have proposed.

Dr. Humphreys helped me to read the plain Word of God.  Starting there, then we turn to the evidence.  Like the Bereans, we went to the Scriptures and found that they do not support any concept of a vapor canopy.  We may never know the true source for the water that provided the forty days of rain, but we do know that it wasn’t a canopy of any kind.  I also pray that we have learned that whenever any other theory comes along that we need to be like the Bereans and first start with God’s Word and then see if the theory has any possible credibility.

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