Scientists and other secular authorities are adamant: A global flood—like the one described in Genesis 6-8—is impossible. They deny it with the same tenacious antagonism they bring to the topic of creation, or any of God’s other miraculous works. Second only to their attacks on the creation account, the prophets and priests of naturalism want to delegitimize and dismiss anything to do with the flood and Noah’s ark.
But the world’s opposition to biblical truth should not take us by surprise. What might, however, is the damage the church has done by blurring fact and fiction about Noah, his ark, and God’s miraculous work. We’re all familiar with toys, story books, and Sunday school teaching aids that depict Noah’s ark as little more than a floating bathtub overstuffed with zoo animals. But we rarely—if ever—consider how those images undercut and undermine the biblical account of God’s judgment and saving work during the flood.
To be fair, even the most detailed flannelgraphs would fail to capture the immensity of the ark. Its divinely designed dimensions were vast (Genesis 6:14-16), even by modern standards. But by settling for less than the specificity of Scripture, the church has unwittingly aided Satan’s attempts to dismiss the whole thing is as little more than a fairy tale.
That’s what makes the latest venture by our friends at Answers in Genesis so tremendously valuable to the church. The Ark Encounter—which opened just over a year ago in Williamstown, Kentucky—is a stunning monument to biblical truth, and a tremendous encouragement against the assaults of naturalism and other secular worldviews.
It was quite sobering to stand in the shadow of the ark. As the largest timber structure in the world, it is taller than a four-story building, and longer than one and a half football fields. It’s clear from the outset that they did not cut any corners. Much the opposite, in fact—the point of the project is to show in vivid and precise detail how the biblical ark was sufficient to protect and house Noah, his family, and two of every kind of animal, along with enough food and water for all of them to survive the voyage (Genesis 6:18-21).
And while the exterior of the ark takes your breath away, inside is where the experience becomes truly profound. We’ve all seen how secular museums attempt to depict the circumstances of prehistoric mankind through life-size dioramas. Visitors to the Ark Encounter get to step inside those types of displays, fully immersed into what life on the ark might have been like. Rows and rows of cages, baskets, and pots give you a vivid sense of the living and working conditions aboard the ark.
But it’s more than just a static simulation. The folks at Answers in Genesis have designed every element of the ark with apologetics in mind, anticipating and answering the questions and complaints of flood deniers. We saw multiple displays that gave plausible and detailed explanations for everything from sourcing clean water to disposing of waste—all of it painting a convincing picture of how the ark could have functioned as a gigantic life raft for a full year. Other displays show how true empirical science validates a global flood, but how scientists prefer unverifiable explanations that involve millions of years.
All of those features testified to the thoroughness of the project. They provided helpful answers for practical objections. In that sense, every inch of the place makes an argument for the truth of the biblical narrative.
However, the dominant theme of the Ark Encounter is not the ark itself, or even the Genesis account on which it is based. Instead, the ark and virtually all its exhibits are designed to point visitors to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. And that’s appropriate, given the unmistakable parallels between the ark and the gospel.
For example, the enduring image from our visit to the Ark Encounter is the solitary door fitted on the side of the giant ship. That door represented the only means of escape from God’s judgment against the pre-flood world. Likewise, the only refuge sinners have from God’s coming judgment is the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 10:9). Only through Him is there hope of salvation.
It is only fitting then, that the Ark Encounter continually points its visitors to the ark God has provided for us in Christ. Gospel truth is woven into virtually every display, culminating with an overt evangelistic presentation. And that’s how it should be, since the truth of biblical history is not an end in itself. All of Scripture points to Christ; likewise, the Ark Encounter puts the focus on the completed work of the Savior.
In that sense, the ark itself can be a great encouragement to believers—it certainly was during our visit. But its true purpose is to help open the eyes of critics and unbelievers. It’s not merely about persuading visitors that a global flood could have happened—it’s aimed at convincing lost sinners of the accuracy and reliability of God’s truth, and pointing them to the pinnacle of His revelation: His Son.
In simple terms, think of it as an enormous and elaborate gospel tract that you can walk through. It’s our prayer that many will visit the Ark Encounter in the years to come, and that God will use it to illuminate hearts and rescue lost souls for the sake of His kingdom.