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December 4, 2013
Character, Ethics, and Watching Films
January 9, 2014
Ark Encounter: Kentucky's Next Biblical Museum
February 3, 2014
The Creation Museum in Kentucky is fixin' to get a neighbor. The Ark Encounter, a life-sized "biblically accurate" ark, will receive visitors through its hallways of farm animals, snack bars, and exhibits debunking critiques of a literalist interpretation of Genesis.
My first curiosity was zoological; would they use live animals? Wired recently tackled this issue, and to my relief, the fullscale plans for exotic representatives of all the animal "kinds" (like giraffes, only miniture ones!?) were abandoned. Once they reasoned with the zoning and code restrictions, not to mention the logistics of animal excrement and habitations, they scaled back their dreams to domestic farm animal babies.
Mousing over the exhibit layout, with three decks planned, we see a juxtaposition of noctournal mokeys with snack bars. On the third floor, a visitor can peer into Noah's living quarters right after turning the corner on "Ice Age Animal and People Migration."
I can only provide an educated guess about the nature of this latter exhibit. Biblical literalists have always had to contend with geologic realities, the ice age included. Flood geology mounts alternative arguments about how to explain unquestionable data - no doubt, the ice age and its impact on global populations are similarly redrawn to preserve a 6000-year old earth and a global flood. I don't know this for sure, but I wonder if the ice age exhibit is connected to modern arguments about climate change. Most religious climate deniers agree that temperatures and weather are changing, but insist that these are natural developments akin to an ice age. In other words, the ice age exhibit doubles as a critique of modern climate science and its conclusions about global warming.
Even if I am wrong, I wonder how the environmental themes of Genesis 6-9 will be protrayed?
However stridently the Ark Encounter advocates its 'faith-based science,' one room on the thrid floor is probably the most dear to the heart of the visitor experience. At the prow of the boat is "Christ Theater" where one of Ken Ham's primary messages will no doubt run on a film loop. Ken Ham is the President and CEO of answersingenesis.com and the spokesperson for KY's Creation Museum and Ark Encounter. His stated reasons for wanting to build the Ark Museum have everything to do with his christological interpretation of Noah's ark.
"Other than the cross, I believe the ark of Noah is one of the greatest reminders we have of the message of salvation."
~ Ken Ham in promotional video for Ark Encounters.
In some of his site's literature, Ham has emphasized the importance of the door of the ark. If the ark is the vessel of salvation, the door to the ark is the specific path on which Noah's family trod. The door is like christ, says Ham. It is the way to heaven.
This is not just a theological point for Ham. It's also personal, as are all things to do with these two museums. Upon entering the ark, Ham states,
"people see a small wooden model of Noah's Ark that my father built for me just before he died. In many ways, that Ark is a representation of my father's uncompromising stand on the authority of the Word of God beginning in Genesis."
Is the entire project an homage between a father and a son? Sort of. Ham admits that one of the main functions of Ark Encounter is the message parents can give their children. A parental insistence on a literal reading of Genesis is equated with the parental responsibility to teach their children salvation. Without the door to the ark, parents will fail to provide their kids with the true path to salvation.
I am extremely interested in the assumption that the ark is a sin-free vesssel of salvation. With doors closed, like the security of walking through heaven's gates, the visitor can feel the eternal rest of salvation. I can see how the ark functions as a powerful theological metaphor, but there are some unforeseen problems presented by none other than the Genesis account:
(1) The flood establishes a covenant with every living creature (Gen 9:8-10). Typically, Christians do not aver that all humans are going to heaven. But Noah's covenant is a universal convenant for all humanity, far more an emblem of universal salvation than the exclusive second covenant of Christ.
(2) Noah's universal convenat with God also includes the animals: "and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal with you" (Gen 9:10). I have rarely been impressed with the environmental commitments of biblical literalists. They typically care about human salvation and denigrate conservation biology, ecology, animal rights...these should be pressing concerns if the Noah story is to be taken seriously.
(3) Noah is an interesting biblical character. I am a fan of wine, and don't have a moral problem with getting drunk, but I wonder how the Ark Encounter will address the end of Noah's story. Noah's naked drunken stupor, and the family dysfunction that ensues, does not evoke an eternal state of salvation. Rather, it hints that the flood took a toll on Noah. The annhilation of all of creation except for one family and representative animals, has a dark side. Genesis seems to affirm this ethical shadow cast across Noah's ark.