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The ark — something to think about

Some call it a monstrosity, but officials at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky had more in mind than just building a life-size Noah’s Ark when they began construction in 2015. After our visit to the attraction last Saturday, I’d say they succeeded. The project stands as a powerful visual reminder of God’s twin attributes, justice and mercy.

But at 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, the ark replica would stand powerfully even if it didn’t come with a backstory. Amish craftsmen used 3.3 million board feet of timber to form its three decks, making it the biggest timber-frame structure in the world.

In its first year of operation, the historical theme park became a national tourist destination, attracting more than a million visitors. Staff members surveying the parking lot on a single day noted license plates from 41 different states. International ticket-buyers are common as well.    

For my crew, it was awe at first sight, even from the interstate. When I entered the hull, I was awed again, this time by the interior vastness. Add in cages, life-like wax human figures, food storage bins, Disney-like creatures, and a soundtrack of animal noises, then voila! The total-immersion experience.

Exhibits at the ark run the gamut: A diorama of life at the time of Noah; an interactive, high-tech display of ways Noah’s family members might have disposed of all that animal waste; a graph explanation of animal “kinds.”

All along, the basics are emphasized: The Flood of Noah’s day was a worldwide catastrophic event that resulted in large-scale human and animal death, leaving behind many of the plant and animal fossils and landforms we see today. God saved Noah and his family and the animals on the ark, just as He had promised.

One exhibit I found particularly compelling was a room called “The Fairy Tale Ark.” There, behind glass, sits dozens of Noah’s Ark toys and books, each showing Noah as a happy grandfather-type taking care of smiling, cutesy animals. The exhibit text points out the dangers of such thinking: The image of a fairy tale ark, with its non-biblical dimensions and details, attacks the truthfulness of Scripture. It sends mixed signals, and gives nay-sayers ammunition to mock.

The park is well-acquainted with nay-sayers. On the day of the Ark Encounter’s one-year anniversary, dozens of protesters lined the road to the entrance. Most identified as atheists and science supporters. Critics have attacked the park for requiring its employees and job candidates to sign a “statement of faith” affirming belief in the basic tenets of Christianity.

A spokesperson for the ark released a statement: “We welcome the protesters to come inside and discover for themselves what we really believe, which is largely not represented accurately in society.”

Officials at the Ark Encounter continue to hope it draws skeptics. Visitors who question the Genesis ark account will find the one in Kentucky makes a worthy attempt to provide answers. But as Noah’s wife says in one fictional video, “Scoffers will scoff.”

In my opinion, the Ark Encounter accomplishes two important things. First, it stresses biblical truth our schools, government, media, and even many churches are trying to suppress. Second, it’s a credit to Christian apologetics, with its world-class, intelligent displays.

One thing is for sure: Anyone who enters the ark will leave with something significant to think about. 

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.