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Since I originally posted in this thread I’ve been thinking about this topic a little more (and I honestly haven’t done so much in the past). As of right now, if a non-believer asked me what I thought about the flood and the geological record, I would probably say something like, “That’s a good question. I haven’t looked into it much, but I would be happy to if you are interested in it.” I would then probably start with some exegesis and look into what the scholarly opinion is on what the author of Genesis meant to communicate when he was writing about the flood (was he thinking of a global flood, a local flood, an allegory, etc.). Then I would see if I can find out what the scientific consensus is on what the geological record says about the flood. However, in general I probably wouldn’t focus on the flood narrative in Genesis when sharing the gospel with someone unless they are really interested in it.
However, coming back to the question at hand, even though I don’t have answers right now I do have a couple of initial thoughts:
1. I don’t think that holding to the Christian faith requires that we have all of the answers (for e.x., how to reconcile the Genesis account with the geological record, if need be). We can still have good reason to be Christians even if we haven’t explored all of the questions of the faith or come up with completely satisfactory answers to the ones that we have explored. To give something of an analogy, scientists often hold to theories even though there are difficulties with them (they can’t explain some observations, some observation go against their predictions, they aren’t completely developed, etc.). Despite these difficulties, scientists may still think that they have good enough reason to hold to their theories. I would say the same thing about my (our) Christian faith.
2. Whatever the geological record says, it is important to keep in mind that scientific beliefs are almost always provisional to some extent. For e.x., Newtonian physics was thought to be the way of the world until Einstein developed the theory of relativity, and more recent developments in physics (quantum mechanics) have caused issues for relativity theory (for e.x., no one knows how to marry quantum mechanics and relativity theory in the very early stages of the universe). Some theories and fields of science are more established than others, but scientific beliefs are generally subject to change with the developments of future insights and observations. So, when looking into what the geological record says about the flood, I think it is important to keep this fact about scientific knowledge in mind.
3. If, in the end, exegesis and other research seems to suggest that the Genesis account of the flood and the geological record contradict each other in some way (and I’m not saying that they do), then perhaps this is a Biblical teaching that we will have to hold in tension with scientific beliefs and either wait for future insights to illuminate the issue or ask God about it when we finally see him. Personally, given the considerations I brought up in #1 and #2, I don’t see this a as a potentially big enough issue to lose the faith over. I think there is good enough reason to be a Christian despite what the geological record may say.
4. Whatever the case may be, I would probably say yes, the message is still the same: “God will only put up with sin for so long before he judges it, and God takes care of those who are faithful to him” (and maybe there are other lessons in the flood narrative too). Until I have reason to think otherwise, however, I take the narrative at face value and think that what it says is more or less a literal account of what happened. My curiosity has been sparked, however, and I think I just might look into this whole issue!