The Ark Encounter as Culture

Sanityville,

I know the citizenry here like to make fun of people with pretensions about Christian culture. People who fuss a lot about aesthetics. People who think we really, really need to reach the world through ART. Not art, but ART. Because WHAT I LIKE is naturally what Jesus likes, and if I can somehow Jesus-juke my favorite musical style or TV show or indie band, then I’m culturally sophisticated and doing the REAL work of the Kingdom.

I’m with you on making fun of people like that, because they really need to be made fun of, but bear with me for a moment.

Recently, my family went to visit the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. Pictures don’t impress on you how big the Ark is until you actually see it. I learned that the Ark is the largest free-standing timber structure in the world. Building it required a lot of coordination and skill. The Ark is pleasing to the eye, both inside and out, it is structurally safe and sound, and it aims to teach the world about God’s judgment of sin, the reliability of Biblical history and chronology, and most importantly – repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins in an evil day.

Skip everything I just said in the previous paragraph and what is clear is that the Ark is a cultural artifact. It is art. It is “culture”. It is also Christian. The Ark is an example, and a really potent one, of Christian culture. The largest timber structure in the world isn’t an accomplishment to sneeze at.

Why am I pointing this out? Well, the sorts of people Sanityville exists to poke fun at – Christian culture savants – tend to be dismissive of things like the Ark, right? If you asked them what evangelicals have contributed to art and architecture, would it even occur to them to include the Ark? What would they say if you said the Ark was a cultural artifact? Are they eager to take credit for it?

No, because the In-The-City-For-The-City crowd, by and large, finds Genesis 1-11 embarrassing.

But if we’re measuring cultural achievement, building the largest timber framed structure in the world based on Biblical blueprints has to trump having a nice art gallery or trying to find redemptive themes in Death Cab songs, right?

What are the odds that Brett McCracken will ever write an article about the Ark for the Gospel Coalition?

The irony amuses me. That’s why I’m sharing it.

We need to be critical thinkers when we hear rhetoric, now very commonplace, about how low church evangelical types have no appreciation for culture, and would be content to just let it all burn. All you evangelicals care about is going to heaven. Is that really true? I seem to have missed the impressive, to-scale timber-framed replica of the Ark that Tom Wright designed, supervised and built.

I’m willing to bet that the people most instrumental in getting the Ark built were not postmillennialists, not hipsters, not the sort of people we associate with sophistication in their cultural engagement.

All of that merits thought. And it merits Christian men with certain refined tastes not taking themselves too seriously.

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I imagine part of the disdain from the “Christian culture savants”–as you put it–is because the Ark Encounter appeals to the wrong demographic. Anything that attracts suburban homeschooling families and their minivans can’t really be understood as “culture.” I imagine the very presence of a large parking lot is considered crass, if not “problematic.” Add to that the embarrassment over Genesis 1-11, which you already pointed out (which is really embarrassment over “fundamentalism,” which is really embarrassment over inerrancy, which is really embarrassment over Scripture, etc., etc.) and it makes sense why the Ark Encounter is scoffed at when it’s not being ignored.

You alluded to this, but I do think that it comes down to an aesthetic judgement. The “REDEEM-THE-CULTURE-THROUGH-THE-ARTS” crowd doesn’t find the aesthetics of parking lots, minivans, and young-earth creationism appealing, therefore those things (and things in proximity to those things) are not “redemptive” the way that Wes Anderson movies and Death Cab songs are.

But imagine if Answers in Genesis purchased a city block of downtown Cincinnati, turned it into an urban garden for organic, GMO-free vegetables, (with all proceeds going to the local homeless shelter) and called it the “Eden Encounter.” Surely TGC would run an article praising that, so long as Ken Ham kept his mouth shut about historicity.

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It is certainly somewhere I look forward to taking my family.

There’s a step or two omitted between fundamentalism and inerrancy, but the linkage between these two is, of course, as tight as a high wire. What we’re considering altogether is the clarity of Scripture’s meaning and the immediacy of its apprehensibility - the notion that “it means what it says” where what it says is obvious.

This is the why Scripture is going to be so damning at The Doom. “Hath God said . . .?” will be answered with “It is written . . .”

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This post is relevant to the topic, more broadly, and I have found it helpful: https://warhornmedia.com/2018/01/03/makes-tim-keller-uncomfortable/

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“It’s like how pale ale has now penetrated into Walgreen’s liquor section. The beer is the same, but it doesn’t taste quite the same now that Joe Sixpack drinks it too.” — @EricRasmusen

*golf clap emojis all around *

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Wow that was a heck of a read. Thanks for drawing my attention to it.

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Such as? I’m curious…Thanks.

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Several years ago when the Ark Encounter hadn’t been built yet there was some drama over whether the state of Kentucky would find the project eligible for some kind of tourism tax abatement program, I watched a video of a rep from Ark Encounter insist up and down that it should be eligible for the abatement because it was “entertainment” (as opposed to something religious). I took them at their word and was disappointed, since I wanted something distinctly Christian. But now I think it might be worth taking the family to see, if only because it’s so despised by liberal Christians and non-Christians both.

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We live in the area and have heard mixed but mostly positive things about the Ark. We haven’t gone ourselves. I will have to reserve judgment.

If anybody else visits, let me know and maybe we can meet in person.

Thanks for the post. My family just visited the Ark recently. I had no idea what to expect and had no expectations about anything. My thoughts:

  • the ark itself is very impressive. Both inside and outside, it’s quite a thing to see.
  • it’s Answers in Genesis and Ken Ham from top to bottom. The videos and displays felt very similar to what you’d find on their website.
  • unfortunately, I did not think it was a good bang for our buck. It was very expensive, and it was run like an amusement park in that you can’t bring in food with you. As I said, the ark itself was very impressive… but that’s pretty much all there is. They do have a small petting zoo off to the side, but you are paying to see the ark.

At the end of the day, I came away unconvinced that I would recommend families (especially large ones) to spend their vacation dollars there. But, and I think for the reasons you wrote about in the OP, I was still very glad that the ark exists. For all their faults, Ken Ham and AiG are unashamed of God and His Word. They are willing to be mocked and derided for their faith in His Word. That’s refreshing. I’m with them.

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Some years back me and my big family had to stay in the Cincinnati area for about two weeks due to an extended medical procedure at the Children’s Hospital. Since we only had to be at the hospital each morning, that left the afternoons to explore the city. The hospital told us to check with them and other places for discounts for families utilizing the hospital, so I emailed the Creation Museum and they hooked me up with free tickets. Whether it was part of a deal with the hospital, or just a gift from a kind heart, I don’t know.

I too was taken back by how much the tickets were and realized without the free tickets we wouldn’t have been able to afford to go. But the Museum was fun and pretty well done (and amazingly poor quality in certain parts…like 1986 shopping mall mannequins :rofl: ) and I would recommend it to anyone interested.

But we went before the Ark was built so unfortunately I haven’t seen it. But it does look amazing.

I’m not sure what the faults are, but I am glad for men and organizations like AiG for the reasons listed.

Haven’t been to the ark. Our family does hope to check-it out sometime and so can’t speak to it. I wonder if the creation museum is more “worth it” than the ark?

I haven’t been to the ark. My experience with the creation museum was almost entirely negative. It was expensive - about $25 each for my wife and I. I was a poor student and fifty bucks was hard. A lot of my fellow students in med school were making fun of it so I wanted to check it out, so I could tell them it was actually a pretty good place. I lived in Louisville at the time.

The staff at the museum was rude. Maybe that shouldn’t matter but if you charge a lot of money and are rude while your goal is to evangelize the lost and strengthen the faithful, well… Seems self-defeating.

I was coming out of a state college - WKU - with a bachelor’s in biology. I didn’t buy into evolutionary theory that most of the professors confessed, but my faith and understanding of creation had been shaken a lot. I was more of a 'bio-logos" type at the time.

One would think that if God really made the world, his fingerprints should be all over it. I expected the creation museum to expose those fingerprints. Instead it felt more like a bunch of exhibits just saying that the Bible is true without considering the science.

I guess there’s a place for that but it wasn’t at all what I was looking for. I remember telling my wife we should have saved our money and just read the first two chapters Genesis. It certainly didn’t strengthen my belief in a young Earth creation.

Times change. Museums change. People change. I don’t know that I would feel the same today. That was at least ten years ago. They were obviously still working on the place - parking lot construction and such was going on.

My impression was “not remotely worth it.” Read Genesis 1-2 instead. I had nothing to say to my med school freinds except, yeah, you’re generally right.

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Well, if you can’t cut it at Chic-Fil-A, you’ve gotta end up somewhere, I guess. :man_shrugging:

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