I know the life-size Noah’s Ark that Answers in Genesis is building in northern Kentucky is going to be a spectacular sight—it will be, we have been told, the largest timber-frame building in the world. This 510-foot-long Ark will be an architectural and engineering marvel.
We realize that much of the media coverage we have received so far has been about the Ark structure itself. The media knows that people will come from all over the world to see this incredible wooden ship. In fact, the very latest study by America’s Research Group (a renowned organization) has increased its estimated minimum attendance for the first year by 200,000 guests—up to 1.4 million people!
There is one aspect of the Ark’s construction that is ultimately more important than its impressive size.
But there is one aspect of the Ark’s construction that is ultimately more important than its impressive size. In fact, it’s the real reason we are building this life-size Ark. This crucial aspect has had the atheists up in arms and eventually became the reason the state of Kentucky is preventing us from the opportunity to participate in a tourism sales-tax incentive (which is why we launched a lawsuit against the state).
Actually, some state government officials would be very happy if we just built the life-size Ark as a tourist attraction that had no real message. I believe the atheists wouldn’t really care that much if we were just building a huge wooden ship.
So what is it that the secularist organizations—like the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State—are really upset about? And what are some officials in Kentucky really objecting to with the Ark?
Well, in a letter to Answers in Genesis, state officials pressured us to guarantee that “no visitor to the attraction would be subject to religious proselytizing.” Now the word “proselytizing” can have many definitions, but we believe the state means that the Ark project can’t share the gospel. (Certainly, AiG would not force the gospel on guests.)
In another letter, Kentucky officials detailed why they decided to deny AiG access to a tourism incentive, one that is offered to any organization that wants to build in Kentucky and meets the tourism requirements (which we do). Here are some of the reasons for denial found in the state’s letter to us:
On February 27, 2014, in a press conference streamed live from the Creation Museum, Mr. Ham described how the Ark was designed to further AiG' s evangelical mission. He has stated that he wanted people to come and have an encounter with Noah's Ark, but at the same time to have an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Patrick Marsh, AIG's Director of Museum Design, in describing the Ark's design has said that the Ark Encounter will present an evangelical, yet entertaining, Gospel message, and that the project is really about evangelism to the unchurched.
At the Hammer & Peg ceremony on May 1, 2014, supporters were reminded that Deck 3 of the Ark would contain the Christ Theater and referred to Ark Encounter as ‘this Gospel proclaiming project that will stand as a monument to biblical authority, reminding people of God's judgment on sin as well as His great mercy.’
One speaker proclaimed ‘that the new Ark Encounter would save people to Jesus just as the original Ark saved Noah, his family and the animals.’ In addition to these statements, the current design schematic for the Ark featured on its webpage shows the Christ Theater and a room called, ‘Why the Bible is True’ as prominent features on the third floor.
In the November 19 fundraising letter, Mr. Ham characterized the purpose of the Ark and its exhibits as a mechanism to ‘point people to God's Word and the gospel’, and stated his belief that ‘it is going to be one of the most effective evangelical outreaches of our era.’
You can clearly see what the bottom line is for the state regarding its tourism incentive program and the Ark Encounter: it’s not the physical Ark as a tourist attraction that certain officials (and secularists around the country) have objected to—it’s the message inside the Ark that they don’t want guests to see and consider.
This brings me to what I consider to be the most important aspect of the life-size Ark project: the three floors of walk-through exhibits inside this huge wooden structure. These excellent exhibits will cover a wide variety of topics, like how Noah fit the animal kinds on board, how he and his family could care for them, and so on. These displays will answer the many questions people have about the feasibility of such an Ark (and the Flood event) as outlined in the Bible in Genesis chapters 6–9.
But there’s no point in merely answering people’s questions about the feasibility of the Ark and what the Bible says about this structure if we don’t unashamedly engage people with the spiritual message of the Ark.
Like we do at the Creation Museum, we will be sharing the salvation message with guests.
Like we do at the Creation Museum, we will be sharing the salvation message with guests. Just as Noah and his family had to go through a door to be saved, so we too need to go through a door to be saved for eternity. Jesus said, “
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
And like we do at the Creation Museum, we share the message freely, with no attempt to compel anyone into believing the messages we share. People are free to come to the museum and consider what we present—guests are free to accept, reject, or be challenged by what we share.
In fact, people from all sorts of religions, from atheists to Bible-believing Christians, have visited the Creation Museum. And the overwhelming feedback we have received is that while we do not hide what we believe concerning God’s Word and the gospel, guests say that we share it all in a professional way and with no attempt to force the messages on visitors.
When guests will walk through our future life-size Ark, they will be challenged to consider the answers we give that point to the Flood/Ark being a real event in history. We will then share the gospel with visitors in a powerful but loving way.
There would be no point building a life-size Ark unless we are answering skeptical questions, sharing the truth of God’s Word, and proclaiming the gospel.
Right now we have budgeted only $10 million for three floors of exhibits. Our very talented design team believes it can create exhibits that are just as high in quality as what we see in the Creation Museum—and for the same dollar amount.
Think about this: secular museums will spend several million dollars on just one exhibit in an effort to teach evolutionary humanism. For instance:
- The Field Museum in Chicago spent $8.36 million on purchasing the famous T. rex skeleton (Sue) and millions more for the related exhibit—just for this one fossil, plus 50,000 man hours.
- In 2010, the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, opened its Hall of Human Origins exhibit (which is totally evolutionary). It was reported that a billionaire gave a $15 million donation towards the $20.7 million for that one exhibit. (The initial Creation Museum budget was $27 million for the building and all our exhibits!)
- Last year, the dinosaur exhibit at the Smithsonian was temporarily closed for a $45 million upgrade; I can only imagination how much evolution content will be seen in it.
- Regarding theme parks, Universal Studios spent about $35 million on the Jaws attraction, around $50 million on the King Kong ride; and about $150 million on the Spiderman attraction. Imagine if we had access to these sorts of funds to present God’s Word and the gospel!
I praise the Lord that He has enabled our remarkably talented and dedicated designers/artists/fabricators to do a lot with just a little!
Now if we do raise more than $10 million for the exhibits, our Ark team would be thrilled to use the extra to create even more powerful exhibits to teach people the truth of God’s Word and help lead more people to Christ.
AiG has stepped out in faith to design and build the Ark exhibits—and much of the design is done! As we get ready for opening next year, I’m thrilled to report that some exhibit construction is underway. Please pray for AiG and the entire Ark Encounter team as construction continues!