The Ark Encounter:  An Encounter of Faith?

Recently, my wife and I, along with another couple, set out on a thirty-five-day camping trip.  We spent weeks planning the trip carefully orchestrating every stop around a theme of music and nature.  The music trail would take us to Mountain View, Arkansas; Hurricane Mills, Tennessee; Nashville, Tennessee; Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Tupelo, Mississippi; and Meridian, Mississippi.  Blending those stops with time to enjoy nature at Mammoth Cave, Tennessee; Cumberland Falls, Kentucky; Smoky Mountains, Tennessee; Desoto State Park, Alabama; and Dismal Canyon, Alabama seemed like a great trip, and when we added The Ark Encounter in Kentucky, we figured the trip was perfection.  Despite a couple of days of rain, the trip was everything we hoped it would be except for one stop – The Ark Encounter.

Our visit to the Ark left me (I will not speak for the others) not just a little dismayed but uneasy about my experience.  Granted, the Ark replica at 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 50 feet tall is a spectacular feat of modern engineering and construction.  To think Noah and his sons built such a vessel 4,000 years ago with crude tools, and unlike the modern replica, their boat could float is absolutely mind boggling.  Of course, there are those who say the original Ark was a fairy tale not to be believed, but I choose to believe based on my upbringing and faith.  However, some of what I found inside the Ark was puzzling and faith rattling.  It pushed my faith in the Biblical story of the Ark to its limits.

First, there is little doubt The Ark Encounter at $48 a head to enter, $10 to park, a gift shop around every corner, zip lines that range in price from $49 to $99 per person is a money-making endeavor.  Bills must be paid, and someone must make a profit, so money-making did not surprise me.  Besides, remarkable detail prevailed throughout the interior of the vessel.  There was nothing cheap about the modern-day Ark – the structure inside and out is beautiful.  How the animals were housed and cared for in the Ark was logically presented although the designers freely admit they took artistic license with the beautifully designed displays to explain how things may have worked on the Ark.  Considering no one alive was around during Noah’s time, taking artistic license to explain such as waste removal and ventilation makes perfect sense.  However, what made absolutely no sense was the kinds of animals displayed inhabiting the Ark.

As would be expected, there were crates, cages, and clay pots to hold insects, birds, small animals, and large animals.  But, did you know Tyrannosaur was on the Ark?  Yes, you read correctly!  According to the folks who developed The Ark Encounter, Tyrannosaurs and Sauropod dinosaurs as well as many other dinosaurs had tickets on The Ark!  The people behind the development of the modern-day Ark say there were as many as 80 kinds of dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark.  Now that I look back on my visit to The Ark Encounter, I realize I saw very few cages that held anything other than dinosaur-like creatures.

I am a Christian, but as I walked through the Ark, I began to feel uneasy.  If I had done more research before boarding the Ark, I would have known the present-day Ark is not simply a pilgrimage for Christians to marvel at the glory and miracle of God.  It is a tool to turn all credible science related to evolution upside down, and solely promote creationism.  Maybe my problem is I don’t see evolution as a threat to God’s power and love, but it is clear through their exhibits the creators of The Ark Encounter do.  They believe the world is only 6,000 years old, and that is okay if that is where their faith leads them but changing or misconstruing proven science to influence others to embrace their point of view is, for me, unsettling.

I hesitate to say I felt as though someone was trying to brainwash me, but that is exactly how I felt.  To be fair, some of the science presented seemed almost plausible, or was that the brainwashing?  What did not come across as plausible were such assertions as fossils did not exist before the flood 4,000 years ago, mountains and all contained within them were created by the flood 4,000 years ago, and the earth is only 6,000 years old.  I could have probably taken all that as well as the paintings of men during Noah’s time battling a triceratops with a grain of salt.  However, when I came face to face with a tyrannosaur and other dinosaurs populating cages in the Ark and a sign that stated 80 kinds of dinosaurs were on the Ark, not even my faith could save me from doubt.

I am sure there may have been some who left the Ark with a sense of renewal in their faith, but what about those who came seeking faith and a reason to believe?  Did dinosaurs and pseudo-science muddy the miracle of the Ark for them?  I hope not.  As a Christian, my faith helped me recover from my initial shock, but I can’t help but wonder the impact The Ark Encounter might have on those with less faith?  Will they leave the Ark believers in the miracle of God, or will they be turned off by what unfortunately comes across as a fairy tale authored by Edgar Rice Burroughs?

JL

©September 30, 2018

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