Williamstown – Ken Ham sees a parallel between the time of Noah in the biblical book of Genesis and today’s growing secularization of American culture.
So perhaps it makes sense that Ham’s Christian apologetics ministry, Answers in Genesis, has built an ark 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, based on the cubit measurements God gave Noah in the biblical flood account.
But while only eight people in Noah’s family climbed aboard the biblical ark, when the rain began to fall, on Tuesday (July 5) as if on cue, more than 8,000 people got a first look inside the full-scale replica at the Ark Encounter.
The ark and 800-acre theme park officially opened to the public Thursday in northern Kentucky, 45 minutes from Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum.
Ham called the Ark Encounter’s opening “a historic event in Christendom” at the ribbon-cutting and preview Tuesday and predicted it would become “one of the greatest Christian outreaches of this era of history.”
The park’s centerpiece features three decks of exhibits explaining Answers in Genesis’ views of the biblical flood account and life-size figures depicting what life on the ark might have been like for Noah and his family — an extravaganza Ham described as “beyond Hollywood.”
The park also features a two-story restaurant, aerial zipline cables and the Ararat Ridge Zoo with goats, ponies, emus and more animals. The next phase of park construction likely will include a walled city “that takes you back to Noah’s day” with shops, restaurants and street performers that visitors will walk through as they approach the ark, said Michael Zovath, chief action officer for Answers in Genesis and project director for the Ark Encounter.
But the Ark Encounter is “not just for entertainment,” said Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis.
It’s to “proclaim God’s word and the gospel,” he said. It’s meant to show — in keeping with Answers in Genesis’ ministry, focused on issues such as creation, evolution, science and the age of the Earth — that the biblical flood account is historic and the Bible is true in regard to history and science.
“When people say, ‘What are you really doing here? What statement are you making?,’ well, you know, in a world that we see becoming very secularized before our eyes, it’s really time for Christians to do something of this size, of this quality, that competes with the Disneys and the Universals to get a message to the world,” he said.
The park’s opening day — 7/7 — was chosen because Genesis 7:7 reads, “And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.”
Employees have been working six days a week since April to finish by that date, Zovath said. There still is lighting and animal sculptures (eventually, the ark will hold 200) to finish, and the animal sounds and music that boom through the wooden structure have not yet been finalized, according to Patrick Marsh, vice president of attractions for the Ark Encounter.
Those at Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting and park preview — accompanied by hymns, shofar blasts and a marching band — were either members of the media or supporters who had donated toward the construction of the Ark Encounter.
America’s Research Group estimated the park could attract up to 2.2 million visitors in its first year, perhaps doubling attendance at its sister attraction, the Creation Museum. ARG’s research also indicates more than 40 percent of those visitors may not even be Christians.
“Even if they don’t share our biblical view,” Ham said, “they can’t help but be impressed by the structure, the craftsmanship, the attention to detail in the world-class exhibits inside. And — who knows? — maybe they’ll be challenged to even talk about the Bible as we do.”
The animal sculptures were a hit with Michigan couple Holger and Lindsey Spiewak’s seven children. They especially liked the dinosaurs, they said.
And 8-year-old Merrick Spiewak said, “I think it’s really cool because the people looked really real.”
The Spiewak family has been following the ark’s construction for the past seven years, Lindsey Spiewak said, but “to see it come to life and be real life is amazing.”
“We came up on the hill where the ark was sitting,” she said. “It just took my breath away, and I had tears in my eyes because, wow, this was real. It’s a piece of history. I just think it’s so cool.”
Steven Gutierrez, who came to the park from California with his wife, Veronica, and their young daughter, Apphia, said he first had discovered Answers in Genesis’ ministry a few months after becoming a Christian. Gutierrez, who had lots of questions, found its resources helpful, and he said he hoped the exhibits aboard the ark also would help others.
“If there are people who are skeptical and confused,” he said, “a lot of their questions could be answered just by walking through the exhibits.” (RNS)
Emily McFarlan Miller