Another "Let's all go to the Ark Encounter!" dilemma: What do we do?


#1

Some of the young couples I work with are lamenting finding themselves more and more pressured to help organize “field trips” to the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter. They report that they are finding it difficult to “keep their heads down” in avoiding confrontations regarding AIG.

One couple had previously been telling other home-schooling friends “No, we just can’t afford the cost.” but now a wealthy elder in their church has offered to pay all of the expenses for all of the children in the church and their parents to go to the Ark Encounter. To make their predicament even worse, this couple is the only couple in the Homeschooling group that is licensed and insured to drive the church bus----and so they find themselves under even more pressure to cooperate. (If they don’t drive the church bus, nobody else gets to take advantage of their sponsor’s largess.)

As the mother put it to me, “As a matter of conscience, how can we help expose young children to false teachings? And how can we justify helping financially enrich what we consider to be a cult?” (Whether or not I agree with her definition and application of the word “cult”, their dilemma is very real.)

I know I’m raising a redundant topic, but how would you advise this young couple who want to do the right thing?

P.S. I have started thinking about this: Wouldn’t it be much easier for couples like this one to take a stand if more high-profile Christian leaders were speaking out in some way against the folly of the Ark Encounter? This came to a head for me when an enthusiastic AIG-supporter said, “Besides. If there was anything at all unbiblical or questionable about what Ken Ham teaches, we would be hearing warnings from…” and she started naming prominent evangelicals and major seminaries. People like her have even said to me “You seem to be the only one who is having problems with what AIG is doing.”


(Christy Hemphill) #2

The picture of the Creation Museum dinosaur-fighting-giant display is inspiring more incredulity and disgust than admiration on my favorite Christian homeschool forum where there are plenty of YEC-sympathetic folks. You don’t even have to be anti-YEC to be anti-Ken Ham. Why couldn’t you just clearly communicate that you think Ham is ridiculous and mean and you don’t want to support him financially on principle? Surely people could find other transportation if they were motivated, it’s not their problem.

Maybe they could plan a big family party for the scheduled day of the trip and then inconveniently have to drop out, because they can’t disappoint Grandma?


#3

Could they plan something else for that day? Something really awesome, so the kids don’t feel left out? How about a trip to a natural history museum or something similar?


(Christy Hemphill) #4

CT’s coverage wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/july-web-only/ken-ham-ark-encounter-visit.html

[quote]But for the skeptic or the atheist who might be drawn to the park out of curiosity, there is little to make them stop and think about the point of it all: Jesus, our savior who left heaven, came down to earth, lived a sinless existence, and died so that we may have life abundantly.

People are searching for answers to life’s biggest questions: Why am I here? Am I loved? What do I do with my pain? Any beliefs we have about Creation, Noah’s ark, or the Bible as a whole are beneficial only insofar as they help us point a hurting world to the one who provides the true answers to the longings of our hearts. A 100-million-dollar, biblically accurate wooden replica of Noah’s ark can find its true value only by directing us to the wood of the Cross and the one who died on it for the sake of the world.

With tears still in my eyes and distressing news headlines still swirling in my head, I make my way back to the busy parking lot and get in my car.[/quote]


(Lynn Munter) #5

It seems to me honesty is called for (this might be my personal bias) but the most loving form of it might be this: “we’re concerned about driving the bus on this trip because we might not be able to keep from making fun of Ham’s ideas the whole way out and back, and we don’t want to cause distress or conflict if some parents take him seriously. If you all would like to find someone else to drive this time, we’d totally understand!”

This is honest, upfront, and puts the ball in others’ court as far as whether they want to engage further on the subject.

And if they take you up on it, read up ahead of time, and the kids might find it really educational!


#6

I’m delighted to hear that!

My advice to the couple was quite direct, even harsh. (And that is exactly why I’m interested in hearing from people with greater patience and grace.) And it included encouraging them to print out a picture of that gladiator diorama so that they could be ready to show it to the parents trying to pressure them, so they could ask them, “Do you think that there is a scriptural basis for this kind of nonsense? Don’t you think it is hypocritical for AIG to complain that everybody who disagrees with them is failing to rely solely on the scriptures and not fallible man’s teachings while trying to sensationalize this foolishness in a tourist attraction that makes Christ-followers look silly?”

I also told them of how I often respond to AIG fans: “I thought you adamantly denied evolution? I hope you realize that that Ark Encounter teachers that after the animals left the ark, there was 200 years of high-speed evolution whereby every species of cat, from lions and tigers to leopards and house cats, evolved into hundreds of species from just a cat species that was on the ark. Do you believe the Bible teaches that? Or is that the teachings of fallible men?” I’ve had many Young Earth Creationist deny that Ken Ham makes any such claim, and then they were speechless when shown they he teaches that quite dogmatically, along with a Noahic Ice Age for which there is zero scriptural or scientific evidence.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #7

I wouldn’t be harsh with this couple – quite the opposite. Think how easy it is for people here to fling around smug condescensions among nearly all like-minded responders. This tends toward the same kind of monolithic reinforcement that also powers these very groups in their feelings that virtually all the world’s Christian faithful would flock to such things as the Ark encounter if they could. So this couple understandably will not easily fling around caustic mockery of much-venerated causes cherished by those with whom they have a relationship. This puts them on the front-lines in a more direct sense than those of us here writing easy advice to them from the “safety” of like-minded enclaves. So first, we should recognize their perception of loneliness in this as an indictment against us.

And next we should be imagining ourselves in their place --which shouldn’t be too hard for most of us, having our own versions of these situations that we also live in. So I completely understand if they can’t bring themselves to a point of full-confrontation, throw-down-the-gauntlet refusal to go along with their friends. And if that is the case, and I was being depended upon to help facilitate the trip, I would research the event and use it as an opportunity to have a few key thought-provoking questions to help encourage my friends to come back to Scripture and reality again. You may provoke notice enough just by thoughtfully reading and observing the claims made, voicing agreement where you can, but without joining in with the pep-rallyish gushes of your friends regarding the many unfounded claims. You could choose to see it as an opportunity to be a biblical witness – like Paul on Mars Hill. Yes, you would need to swallow the pain of financial support toward something that violates conscience. But it sounds like that money is going to be spent in any case. We do a lot more good when thrust into mixed company, especially if we are among the only differently-minded in the group. As uncomfortable as that is for any of us, we often discover that we aren’t completely alone. Others may be there too who also struggle (and maybe fail for the moment) to have the courage to not affirmingly gush about everything with the others. Even in that case though, your own detached consideration still plants seeds. As hard as it must be though to refrain from speaking up about everything in such a target-rich environment (from what I’ve heard --I’ve never been there myself) I think it would be best to refrain from nearly continuously expressed disapproval and pick on just a few salient points that might best call your cohort back into examining Scriptures (and God’s creation) with fresh eyes.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t follow the advice of others here by flat out refusal and your witness with that – especially if that is what God is calling you to do. I’m just suggesting that prayer is always warranted and that this isn’t a one-solution-fits-all type of situation.


(Brad Kramer) #8

Does Pat Robertson count?

Seriously, though, the problem is totally that moderate Evangelicals need to step up and decry young-earth creationism (as Tim Keller has done). Evangelicalism has lost its identity as a middle ground between Liberalism/Modernism and Fundamentalism. YEC is totally a fundamentalist movement, yet it is widely represented at all levels of Evangelical culture (exhibit A: Al Mohler). So I think a lot of moderates feel like strongly decrying YEC would paint themselves into a corner. I also think that the shibboleth of Inerrancy in Evangelical culture is a big problem, because even if Evangelicals decry YEC, they have to do it with one hand tied behind their back, lest they be labeled as attacking the Bible. (See: Andy Stanley)

Another part of this discussion that is easy to overlook is that The Ark Encounter and The Creation Museum have no competition. Have you ever been to the Reasons to Believe museum or the BioLogos museum? Me neither. Now, I’m not trying to argue that RtB or BL should build museums or giant arks or whatever (I’ve said before that I don’t think BL would ever do this), but the brute fact of the matter is that he who creates the conversation controls it. Answers in Genesis is the only origins organization building major tourist attractions. They out-publish everyone else in the conversation by a factor of 10. They are incredibly well-resourced. And so therefore everyone else is playing defensive. The situation described above would not have happened in the first place if there wasn’t a GIANT ARK in the Kentucky countryside inviting well-meaning Christians all over the country to attend. And I’ll bet you that a significant percentage of people who attend the Ark Encounter are not hardcore YECs. They believe the Bible, they are concerned about secularism in our culture, and they can’t see a good reason NOT to go.

To the point: If I were this couple, I would actually agree to go, and drive everyone else at the church. On one condition: After the trip, they hold a small group meeting with the attendants to “debrief” and talk about different perspectives on the Flood (and also bring up some of the problems). I would encourage them to read the little-known book Paradigms on Pilgrimage, written by a scientist and biblical scholar who were both raised in YEC backgrounds and were convinced by the evidence that it was wrong. Another good one is Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon? I’m with @Mervin_Bitikofer that calling out YEC as a cult and making a big fuss about the trip will accomplish absolutely nothing. Going to the Ark Encounter will also make any future response to YEC by this couple more credible because they’ve shown that they are willing to listen to YEC arguments.


#9

And just to add some more details to the fun, the young family man visited the Creation Museum soon after it opened (though I don’t think his wife had) and both were raised in YEC churches. I’m not clear on how many of their church family knows of their strong background and understanding of Young Earth Creationism.

But the competition is coming—although it is coming from a similar but competing YEC ministry:
https://ncse.com/blog/2015/12/just-what-america-needs-another-creationist-museum-0016832

I sometimes listen to American Family Radio when traveling through rural America between the big cities and radio station choices is limited. I’ve often considered how non-Christian define “Christian” after listening to a typical day of such broadcasting. They probably conclude that to be a Christian means to:

(1) be Young Earth Creationist, specifically, denying any science that undermines belief in a 6,000 year old earth and a global flood not long ago.

(2) Deny “global warming” and “the heresy that puny man could possibly change God’s climate!”

(3) Must be conservative Republican, not Democrat.

(4) Hate Obamacare and Planned Parenthood.

(5) Worship the Bible. [I’m not deprecating the Bible. I’m just saying that a listener could get the impression that a Christian should not so much quote the Bible as to constantly praise it as the answer to every question—and I mean EVERY question.]

(6) A good Christian is obsessed with politics and the fact that America is heading away from the paradise it was in the 1950’s when America was a Christian nation. (And for PROOF that America was ALWAYS a Christian nation, they regularly quote “one of the world’s greatest history scholars”, David Barton. Of course, they never mention that his best selling title was so filled with factual errors that the publisher issued a recall of every copy.)


(Christy Hemphill) #10

I’ve been to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, the Perot Museum in Dallas, the Smithsonian in DC. They did a nice job showing the BioLogos science view. :relaxed:


#11

Perhaps we need to do a much better job of reminding everyone that “All truth is God’s truth.”


(Phil) #12

`I understand kids think it is a little lame, except for the zip lines, so may not affect them much if you went. You could express some concern about the presentation of animals that never existed being in the exhibits as being deceptive and the totally made up super-evolution after they got off the ark as being unbiblical as well as lacking any evidence that it ever happened as concerns, maybe throw in a little warning about false teachers as in 2 Timothy.
But, Mervin is spot on.


(Jay Johnson) #13

Walking around what is essentially a large empty warehouse with dioramas and bad or no animatronics and almost no actual entertainment value? Of course the kids hate it. This thing is doomed. The more Ken Ham overreaches, the more I’m reminded of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker


#14

Me too. Yes, I think he will overbuild, and adding that “Tower of Babel” Park will be the beginning of the end. He won’t be able to carry and subsidize all of his properties forever from general revenue. It will take a while, but the lack of repeat visitors will catch up with him before he realizes that he has to slow down.

I find it fascinating that Ham tweeted the photo of the giants versus dinosaurs diorama but never followed up with Facebook posts on that theme. That’s unusual. I wonder if the laughter and mockery startled him. Perhaps even got him thinking.