Kentucky's Creation Museum Guy Just Spent Millions Building a Life-Sized Noah's Ark That Teaches One Basic Tenet - You Will Burn in Hell
The following is an excerpt from the new book Righting America at the Creation Museum by Susan Trollinger & William Trollinger, Jr. (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016):
On February 27, 2014, Ken Ham, head of the group Answers in Genesis (AiG) that operates the kentucky-based Creation Museum, held an “online press conference,” as he called it, in the Legacy Hall auditorium where Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ham had debated the age of Earth just twenty-three days prior. Surprisingly, no members of the press appeared for the event. None can be seen on the Answers in Genesis (AiG) video of the event posted on the AiG website, and no questions were invited or taken from any members of the press (or any audience members) during the recorded event. Instead, Ham asked most of the questions and, perhaps not surprisingly, regularly provided the answers.The big news at the “press conference” was that AiG’s fundraising efforts over the last few years along with a successful bond offering meant that construction of the Ark Encounter project could begin. In the course of the “press conference,” Ham, with assistance from Patrick Marsh (vice president of attractions) and Joe Boone (vice president of advancement), described the massive physical and financial size of the project.
At the heart of the project is an ark whose construction will match as closely as possible, both in materials and in size, the Ark as described in Genesis 6–8. This gigantic wood-frame structure will stretch five hundred and ten feet in length, eighty-five feet in width, and fifty-one feet in height. When complete, it will be “the biggest timber frame building in the United States.” Amazingly, the whole structure will sit several feet above the ground so that visitors can get a glimpse of its underside. It will be held in place by three eighty-foot cement towers, and some four million board feet of timber will go into its construction.
The interior of the ark will consist of three floors that together will feature one hundred and thirty-two wooden bays with an exhibit in each bay. Plans are for the first floor to focus on biblical “kinds”—that is, the pairs of animals that, according to AiG, boarded the Ark and later through reproduction and natural selection became the millions of species that populate the Earth today. These animals will appear in live, animatronic, and static forms. The second floor is expected to feature exhibits and displays that answer practical questions about how Noah built the Ark and how he and his family fed and took care of the animals. Bays on this floor will display large and small animals in cages along with exhibits featuring, for instance, Noah’s workshop, animal feeding, the Ark’s door, ancient man, and the pre-Flood world. Visitors will also find on this floor a snack shop and restaurant. The third floor is expected to devote a number of bays to Noah’s living quarters, who Noah was, and more on how Noah built the Ark. It will also include cages with small animals and exhibits on such topics as flood geology, the Ice Age, the Tower of Babel, fossils, and flood legends. In addition, the third floor is expected to feature the Christ-the-Door Theater. Plans for areas outside the ark include additional exhibits, a petting zoo, camel and pony rides, and more.
The design and construction of the ark represents only the first phase of a much larger project. Future phases of Ark Encounter promise the addition of such attractions as a Tower of Babel, a first-century Middle Eastern city, a journey through biblical history, a children’s area, an aviary, and a large petting zoo. This expansive multistage project will be located on eight hundred acres of land about forty miles south of Cincinnati just off Interstate 75 at exit 154 near Williamstown, Kentucky, and forty-five minutes from the Creation Museum. AiG expects that the museum’s proximity to the Ark Encounter will increase the number of visitors to the museum by as much as 50 percent. Not surprisingly, given such expectations, Ken Ham has already begun making plans to expand the Creation Museum in order to accommodate more visitors.
According to Ham, as of July 2015 the “Lord has blessed us in providing $70 million of the approximately $90 million needed to complete the life-size Ark project,” which is the first phase of the theme park. Those interested in supporting the construction of the first phase have several options. They may purchase a peg (for one hundred dollars), a plank (for one thousand dollars), or a beam (for five thousand dollars), the latter which brings with it, among other benefits, one’s name on the ark’s recognition wall, a replica of the ark signed by Ken Ham, and four free passes to behind-the-scenes events. Prior to the completion of the first phase, contributors may also purchase a “Charter Boarding Pass” for the whole family (a three-year pass costs fifteen hundred dollars, and a lifetime pass costs three thousand dollars), for an individual (one thousand dollars for a three-year pass or two thousand dollars for a lifetime pass), or for a grandparent (three thousand dollars for a lifetime pass allowing the grandparent to bring up to four grandchildren to the park each visit).
On May 1, 2014, just a few months after the press conference, AiG supplanted the traditional groundbreaking event by hosting a “Hammer and Peg Ceremony” inside the Creation Museum wherein John C. Whitcomb, co-author of The Genesis Flood, along with AiG founders and its board of directors pounded pegs into beams with wooden mallets. In the months that followed, construction of Ark Encounter began as “over a million cubic yards of dirt” were moved. By late November 2014, “the first of many loads of concrete was poured.”
The Troyer Group, a design and construction firm located in Mishawaka, Indiana, is building the ark with help from two Indiana Amish brothers who, according to AiG, are “amassing a construction crew from various Amish families in a handful of states.” According to AiG, given the enormity of the project “during our peak construction phase, nearly 100 workers will need housing.” As of this writing, expectations are that their efforts will culminate in the grand opening of the first phase, which features the ark, in July 2016.
What is the point of this massive project? Ken Ham and others at AiG have been explicit that the primary purpose of the Ark Encounter is evangelism, as Noah’s Ark serves as a powerful call to the salvation offered by Christ Jesus. In his statements at the “online press conference” Ham made this clear, with particular emphasis on the Ark’s door:
"When you think about the message of salvation, the cross of course is the greatest reminder of the message of salvation. But other than the cross, I believe the Ark of Noah is the greatest message, the greatest reminder of the message of salvation. Because you think about it: God at the time of Noah said he’s going to send a global flood because of the wickedness of man, and so he had Noah build this great big ship and that representatives of the land animal kinds were to go on board this particular ship, and then Noah and his family went on board. They had to go through a doorway to be saved. Actually, Noah’s Ark is a picture of salvation as Noah and his family had to go through a doorway to be saved. So, we need to go through a doorway. Jesus Christ said, 'I am the door. By me if any man enter in he will be saved.'"
For Ham, the door on Noah’s Ark served as a passageway to salvation. Salvation came to those who crossed its threshold; damnation to those who did not. More than this, and based on John 10:9—wherein Jesus says that he is a door—Ham reasons that the door of the Ark is like Jesus. Both provide passage to salvation, as anyone who wishes to be saved is obliged to make that passage and cross that threshold. That being the case, Ham continues, then the door of the Ark serves as a great symbol for the Christian message.
All of this explains why—at least as of the summer of 2015—the theater in the ark at Ark Encounter will be named “Christ-the-Door Theater.” In the course of his description of the ark during the “online press conference,” Patrick Marsh gushed, “One of the most special things on this floor is what we call Christ-the-Door Theater,” which “is the most important exhibit inside the ark” (emphasis added). According to Marsh, this theater will serve as “an evangelistic outreach . . . that’s about bringing people to Christ.” With enthusiasm, Marsh said that “this will be the full gospel message.”
The reader will recall that the door to the Ark figures prominently at the Creation Museum as well. In the Voyage of the Ark room, visitors are powerfully positioned in relation to that door. As they stand before one of the miniature dioramas depicting the floodwaters rising to mountaintops, they observe the final horrific moments in the lives of animals, adults, and children as they are about to perish on those mountaintops. And they see the Ark, impossible now for them to reach and sealed up tight, floating by them. From the perspective of another miniature diorama, visitors are positioned inside the Ark. They are standing behind Noah and his family and looking with them through the open door of the Ark just before God shuts the door for good. The placard below this diorama says the following: “God shut Noah’s family into the Ark. This ended any opportunity for people outside the Ark to be saved.”
At the Creation Museum, the door of the Ark stands open for a time. While open, it serves as the passageway to safety and to salvation. Crossing the threshold secures salvation. But then, once the Flood begins, God shuts the door. Once God shuts the door, it remains shut. Indeed, according to a blog entry on the Ark Encounter website, “From a careful reading of Scriptures, it appears that the door was never opened again.” Given the importance of this point, the blog entry goes on to work out a scenario by which Noah, his family, and all the animals managed to exit the Ark without opening that door. Based on Genesis 7:13, the blog entry speculates: “Did Noah remove the wooden planks—the ‘skin’ of the Ark—and build off-loading ramps?” Importantly for Ken Ham and AiG, once God shuts the door to the Ark, it stays shut forever. Once shut, it bars forever all those who are on the other side of it.
Does a door like that work well as an analogy for Jesus? At least when looking at the verse in John that inspires Ham’s analogy, that is not so clear. The complete verse (in the King James Version) says the following: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9, KJV, emphasis added). The door Jesus describes seems to be the sort that swings back and forth; one can walk through it in either direction repeatedly, and find pasture on either side. By contrast, Ken Ham’s door stands open for a while and then shuts forever, an eternal barrier to all who find themselves on the wrong side. Far from finding pasture on either side, one finds the happy righteous (patriarchal) family on one side and global destruction, suffering, and death on the other.
Ham calls the Ark and his idea of the door “a picture of salvation.” On closer examination, it appears that the Ark Encounter and its door are very much like the Creation Museum, that is, much more about judgment than salvation. In another online video Ham—mixing Jesus-as-ark and Jesus-as-door metaphors—says: “You see, there’s a coming judgment by fire (not by water) next time, and God’s providing an Ark of salvation for us—the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said ‘I am the door. By me if any man enter in he will be saved.’ Jesus is our Ark of salvation. And just as surely as there was a Flood, and we see the evidence all over the earth in the fossil record, just as surely there’s going to be coming judgment by fire.” According to Ham, last time around, the righteous handful found their way through that Ark door and were saved while the rest of humanity perished. Next time, the righteous who claim Jesus—who make it through before the door shuts—will find salvation just like Noah’s family did. As for the rest, they are sure to find themselves on the wrong side of that shut door, burning in Hell for eternity.
The above excerpt is taken from RIGHTING AMERICA AT THE CREATION MUSEUM by Susan L. Trollinger and William Vance Trollinger, Jr. Published by Johns Hopkins University Press © 2016. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.