[Editor’s Note: This article has been updated as of February 16, 2012, to reflect the current status of the Ark Encounter project.]
Answers in Genesis certainly expected opposition to come from the secular world when it was announced that we would be building a full-size, all-wood Noah’s Ark that would testify to the trustworthiness of the Bible and the gospel message. After all, AiG saw vehement opposition when it sought to find land and then build the Creation Museum in the 1990s and early 2000s. Yet, as a result of the opposition, God blessed the museum project with remarkable worldwide press coverage, and something of a built-in crowd was assured when the museum opened in 2007. The Creation Museum drew over 400,000 guests the first year, some of it courtesy of (to paraphrase Genesis 50:20) what men meant for evil but God meant for good.
Some Christians opposed the Creation Museum’s construction because they did not accept the straightforward creation account in Genesis that we embrace at AiG, so we did expect that a few Christians might oppose the Ark project as well. While the topic of the Ark is not as controversial as the creation vs. evolution issue, we have been surprised to receive more opposition to the Ark project from Christians than we had expected. It could be that because the museum has exceeded attendance projections, and its exhibits have drawn rave reviews even from detractors, some Christians are concerned the world will see yet another testimony to the historicity of Genesis (treated by our Christian critics as non-historical and as a metaphor), and thus the Ark will be an embarrassment for them.
Here is an example of a Christian who vigorously opposes the Ark project. Our response follows.
[Editor’s note: We have not corrected the sender’s spelling or punctuation.]
It has come to the attention that a Christian organization has lost it's ability to think like Jesus the Chirst. Instead of raising money to educate, to help the poor and widows the AIG organization has show it's propensity for pride over God's love and wisdom.
In an over inflated egotistical effort to try and prove themselves right and waste money this has to be the tops! Two $10,000,000 projects to build housing with education, community services and ministry support and call them Ark (ACTS of Real Kindness is a much better idea!
The battle for mankinds mind isn't lost but without the heart there is no hope and without God and Jesus there is no love, faith or hope and you have put the 7 day creation as your God.
I hope this gets to someone who has the heart to think about the real issue here.
In a follow-up email, B. wrote that he or she thought the building on an Ark was a “joke but it seems more of an embarrassment as I see it. . . . It honestly looks to me like the ones in charge have put their need to get attention and to try and look right ahead of Jesus' teachings . . . like the Pharisees.”
Here was our response to B’s emails, only slightly edited.
Thank you for your email.
Perhaps we haven’t communicated well enough the nature of the Ark Encounter project and why we think it will be even more impactful for Christ in our culture than our evangelistic Creation Museum. People mock our museum, but God has blessed it beyond our expectations.
Frankly, we believe the Ark will be an extremely powerful evangelistic tool. It provides a picture of salvation, and thus allows us a great opportunity to proclaim salvation through the ultimate Ark of salvation: Jesus Christ. While the Flood was a judgment by God upon the rebellious people of the day, a gracious God provided a means of salvation for Noah and his family. What could possibly be more important in this world than evangelism? I’d like to hear your opinion.
While the Ark Encounter will be a fun experience for families, it is not a “playground” or amusement park (as some people have suggested). The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an amusement park as a place “having various devices for entertainment (as a merry-go-round and roller coaster).” While we hope that our guests will be entertained as they learn Bible truths and events from various themed attractions, the Ark Encounter is not like Disney World, King’s Island, Universal Studios, etc. There will be no roller coasters, for example, and no other kinds of “thrill” rides.
The Ark Encounter can also be described as a themed educational complex presenting historical accounts recreated from the Old Testament, something appropriate for either a for-profit or non-profit group. It will not be a frivolous place that exalts the ideas of man. More than anything, it points to the Creator and Savior of the world, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1). First and foremost, it is an evangelistic outreach. For you to suggest that it is being built “to get attention” for ourselves and we are “prideful” are prejudicial judgments—do you claim to know our hearts?
Some people have wondered why we have mentioned the possible numbers of people who might be coming to the Ark (1.6 million in the first year). First, it’s because we are excited to have the opportunity to share the gospel. As we design the Ark Encounter, we are keeping in mind that perhaps half the visitors will not be regular churchgoers. That knowledge helps drive the content of the attraction. Second, to accommodate these huge crowds and not wanting to create long lines (especially in the summer), we will eventually add other evangelistic and Bible-proclaiming attractions next to the Ark. That means, of course, that the price tag goes up.
Also, while the Creation Museum definitely serves its purpose in presenting real events from the Bible, and many lives have been touched (we rejoice in the many salvation testimonies), we believe the Ark can do even more to speak about the history of the Old Testament. Many skeptics will not even listen to the gospel message because they believe the Bible can’t be trusted, especially in Genesis.
Because of the attention the Ark will receive and the large number of visitors it should draw, the Ark Encounter is expected to reach many more people than we ever could have with the Creation Museum or other outreaches. There will be a lot of Bible instruction at the Ark project, as we show visitors that the Bible is the true history book of the universe and that the gospel message, based in that history (starting with Genesis), is the most important biblical truth to share.
To address another concern of yours, this project will meet a social need as it becomes a blessing to many needy people, especially with the state of Kentucky having so many people unemployed (over 10 percent). This attraction is projected to bring jobs to 900 people at the Ark Encounter when all phases are completed, many of whom might be needing employment at that time. Also, an estimated 14,000 jobs will be created in the area for tourism-related businesses (hotels, restaurants, and other places), which includes management and supervisory positions.
Furthermore, the state and local governments will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue in the first ten years, which will help fund schools, health care, libraries, and other services. The Ark Encounter will be an absolute boon to Northern Kentucky and its residents.
Moreover, we can think of no more vital project to reach out to the neediest people of them all—those who are heading to a Christless eternity. To use your word, it’s the “kindest” thing we can do.
May I ask, what have you have read or heard from us or others that has prompted your concern about our intent and runs contrary to what you have read in this email? Thank you.
I trust you can see the Ark’s potential as a way to share the truths of the Bible, especially the gospel message.
I think when the Ark Encounter opens, you will see it as a wise use of funds, and I hope that you’ll be able to tour the Ark when it opens, Lord willing, in 2014. As one who once worked for a humanitarian organization that fed and clothed desperately poor people, I still say that meeting spiritual needs is what the world needs most.
Before I close, I must ask, where have we ever stated or implied that we “have put the 7 day creation as our God”? Why would you write such a thing?