An article appears in today’s New York Times about the soon to open Ark Encounter, a new feature of Ken Hamm’s creation museum. The article though informative about what Hamm is doing and why, is nothing if not a bit caustic and sarcastic in its tone. Likewise, the author states that the Ark Encounter is anti-science and then proceeds to cite Bill Nye, who himself is a television personality and not a scientist, as its spokesman for the entire scientific community. I wrote my first book about the story of Noah and the Ark along with researcher and Bible teacher Dan Tankersley, so I thought I would weigh in.
First of all, I am anxious to go and visit what promises to be an impressive and perhaps life changing educational experience. When I was working on my book, “The Rain: A Story of Noah and The Ark” I walked out to the street in front of my house. I did a pretty accurate survey and marked boundaries along the shoulders of my street in order to get the ark’s dimensions in my mind. I positioned markers (with the permission of my neighbors) so that I could look out my little writing office window and get a mental picture of the ark’s dimensions as though it were sitting, “dry docked” as it were, on my street. By the time I was halfway through writing, I could literally see the ark in my mind’s eye with just a glance outside. I grew extremely attached to the characters in the Biblical account and am sure that when I travel to see the ark exhibit (I am proud that it is being built in my home state of Kentucky) I am certain it will be an emotional experience for me.
Along with Kenn Hamm, and all of Orthodox Christianity, I don‘t look at the Biblical account of Noah as a parable or a metaphor. I believe that a primordial deluge occurred just as the Bible proclaims, that it was catastrophic in scope and that all human life, with the exception of the eight individuals on the ark, was lost. Also, like Hamm we placed dinosaurs on our ark because I believe it is certainly possible that dinosaurs and man lived at the same time (my co-author Dan is a young earth creationist… a position which I respect). However, I am not as dogmatic about a young earth as Hamm and I have had some spirited discussions with a couple of senior members of Hamm’s staff along those lines.
To be sure I believe that the Bible is God’s infallible and inerrant word. I also believe that after creating the universe, God then created light and all living things on the earth in six literal twenty four hour days. Where I am less certain, because I do not believe that the Bible speaks clearly on this issue, (the Bible makes no attempt to be a chronograph of the universe) is whether or not time passed between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. I do believe that it is at least possible that time passed between the events chronicled in those verses. More importantly, I refuse to accept, from Mr. Hamm or anyone else, that the truthfulness of God’s word rests on men’s interpretations of these two verses alone. Many Bible believing, Christ following, Scripture loving scholars have come to differing conclusions on the time/age of the universe without doubting so much as a jot or tittle of the accuracy of the Bible.
I likewise believe that the Biblical story of Noah and the ark, in addition to being a true account of actual events, provides a beautiful metaphor of Christ’s provision and love for us in the roiling waters of a non-believing world. What’s more, the discovery of ancient flood accounts from other cultures such as Gilgamesh, far from discrediting the Biblical account, lend credence to it because they harken back to a common source for the story, namely, the actual event.
The story of Noah from Genesis is referenced by Christ in Matthew 24:37-39, by Peter twice (1 Peter 3:20 and 2 Peter 2:5), and in Hebrews (11:7). (The 2nd Peter verse is one of my personal favorites and belies the rather silly depiction of Noah by Russell Crowe in the Noah movie.) The Genesis account was treated in all those verses as a true story.
Rather than bogging down in age of earth questions, important and worthwhile as those debates may be in theological and scientific circles, we should all be excited about the opening of the Ark Encounter. Those that believe in God can take great comfort that the Bible is trustworthy and that the story of Noah is both inspirational and a testament that even in the midst of catastrophic events, He can be trusted to provide security, rather in this life or the next, for those who believe. Our novel based on the Biblical account can be found here.