Hi Ernie, welcome to the forum. I love your high view of the bible and your desire to be faithful to God’s perfect revelation and how you interpret it. That’s a massive area of common ground that we share. And clearly you want to be faithful to God’s word as you seek to understand science in the light of God’s revelation. Again common ground we share.
Meeting on that common ground, I’d like to run something by you to see what you think. Here in the British Isle, we have a rich history dating back thousands of years. And were we to begin an archaeological dig somewhere we might well discover artefacts and remains from that historical past.
Imagine then we picked a hypothetical English field and began a dig. What might we find? Well first we might come across evidence of Victorian farming practices (1831-1901), digger down so more and we might find evidence of a Tudor barn or farmstead (1485-1603). Keep going we might find remains of a Norman period (901-1204) battle. And on we go, down to the Vikings, below that the Romans, and so on. The point is that each of the artefacts we find would be neatly banded with the earliest at the lowest depth and the most contemporary at the top. From this, we would conclude that these remains and artefacts were deposited over several thousand years. It would be illogical to assume that they all died at the same time.
Compare this to a Soviet mass grave. There we would find, for argument’s sake, one hundred bodies all dumped on top of each other. Close examination might reveal that these people came from near and far, but all from a relatively short time period. Namely, from the time the grave was dug to when it was covered over. From this, we conclude that these remains were deposit as a result of a catastrophic event. Again it would be illogical to conclude that each person died and was buried over several thousand years.
From here we can make a comparison to the fossil record. Which of the two scenarios is most analogous to the fossils as we find them in the ground? Had these fossils been formed as a result of a single catastrophic event, namely, a global flood we would expect to find all sorts of animal and plants fossils, along with human remains all dumped alongside one another like a mass grave. At best, we might expect the fossils of heavy animals to be deposited lower down with lighter animals and plants near the surface.
This, however, is not what we find. What we find is a clear delineation of fossils into bands much like we find in archaeological digs. Most notable are two things, 1. The fossils become less complex the lower down the layers we go, 2. not one human skeleton has been found in the same layer as a dinosaur fossil. From this many conclude that, just like in archaeology, the lowest levels represent the oldest fossils. From this it would be logical to conclude that some time passed between the fossil deposited in the lowest depths and those at a higher level - perhaps over thousands of years, perhaps even longer (How that time frame might be determined is a separate question).
How then should we integrate this scientific information into our understanding of Scripture’s witness regarding the flood? Well, we could adopt one of the following positions.
The flood event never happened . It is fiction present as fact, that the bible is unreliable, and should be discarded.
The literal reading on Genesis 6-9 is what happened, and that science is mistaken. However, this conclusion would lead us to question many of our basic, foundational assumptions about the reliability of logic, intuition, the witness of our senses, reason, and our ability to come to any reliable conclusions about the past. Such conclusions would be more in line with the philosopher David Hume than the writers of scripture.
Scientists are involved in a global conspiracy to undermine the bible. This option requires such an evidence threshold to be true that, should such evidence exist it would likely have already been suppressed by those involved in the conspiracy. Thus making the conclusion impossible to prove.
The author Genesis is using common literary techniques of his time; such as rhetorical devices and interacting with ideas and texts that were known to his first audience. Given the span of time between us and the first readers, it is not unreasonable to conclude that these once commonly known elements in the text are now lost to us without engaging in extra-biblical research. And whilst not necessary for us to understand the key teaching of the text, they are required when understanding the historical details and literary devices and how the text fits with our contemporary knowledge of the world.
Clearly for you and I, option 1 is no option at all. So that leaves option 2-4, I wonder, which of these makes the most sense to you? I loved to hear your thoughts.
Every blessing, Liam