A Report on the Ark Encounter (Part 1)

The Ark Encounter at sunset on Monday, July 4. (Photo by Paul DeCesare; courtesy Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis and ArkEncounter.com)

From Dispensational Publishing House; used by permission.

July 5, 2016

Greetings from the Ark EncounterAnswers in Genesis’ life-size reconstruction of Noah’s ark.

In this first report following a very big day at the Ark, I want to emphasize a few simple points.

Just getting to the Ark proved to be quite a challenge this morning. My wife Lynnette and I thought that we were leaving early, but we ended up trying to take an alternate route when we saw traffic headed to the Ark on Interstate 75 at a near standstill. We entered the parking lot before 10 a.m., then stood in line until finally getting on a bus that was bound for the Ark and the ribbon cutting ceremony around 11:35. (The ceremony began at 11.) All this to say—the crowd was immense.

There were people everywhere—going in every direction—but especially going to see the Ark and desiring to be part of this historic event. According to a report from Answers in Genesis, the crowd numbered more than 7,000 people.

That number made me think of a familiar passage of Scripture, in which we read this Word from God to Elijah:

Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him (1 Kings 19:18).

In these strange days into which we are moving, could it be that many people—certainly not a majority, but a significant number—are hungry for truth and flocking to the Ark, specifically because it has much to teach us about these turbulent times?

As Jesus stated:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all (Luke 17:26-27).

Dispensational Publishing House will be exploring similar themes all this month, so for now I will leave this as a rhetorical question. Certainly we can say that 7,000 people showed up today who are not ready to bow to the false gods of evolution and uniformitarianism.

Following the ceremonies, I left the Ark Encounter for several hours, then returned and spent about two hours touring the inside of the Ark. When I went back at 4 p.m., the crowd had thinned out to such an extent that I was the only one taking the bus bound for the Ark at that particular time. There were, of course, still many people inside taking the tour.

What did I see inside the Ark? I will give a detailed overview of my impressions in a later post. But first, I will describe some more personal highlights of my trip—particularly the opportunity to watch this historic event and spend time with one of several men who were honored today, Dr. John Whitcomb.

July 6, 2016

It was a great privilege to be invited to participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Ark Encounter and to be able to tour the Ark twice before it opens to the public tomorrow.

I must admit that the opening events on Tuesday morning unfolded much differently than I expected. Since attendance at the ribbon cutting was by invitation only, I was envisioning a service that had some of the marks of the installation of a new president in a Bible college. What actually occurred was something more like—on a smaller scale—trying to get into a professional sports stadium for the game of the century. I wrote a little about this yesterday, and I truly hope that the crowds that turned out yesterday—and again today when we went back for the opportunity to tour the Ark at our leisure—are a sign of the kind of response that the Ark Encounter will continue to see on an ongoing basis.

The other very special privilege that I had during these days was to spend time with Dr. John and Mrs. Norma Whitcomb. I have assisted Dr. Whitcomb in his ministry for the past 13 years and contributed his bio in Coming to Grips with Genesis (Master Books, 2008). I have previously written about Dr. Whitcomb’s significant contribution to the beginning of the modern Biblical creationism movement, which, of course, is the backdrop to his inclusion in these events at the Ark.

It has been my desire for some time to be present when Dr. Whitcomb participated in the historic opening of the Ark. Ironically, I was still standing in a long line in the parking lot when it was time for his major place in the ceremony. But at least I was there on the grounds! And the Lord graciously gave me the ability to have this photo taken with the Whitcombs, and gave my wife and I the opportunity to spend a nice time at lunch with them and many of their family members who were on hand for the occasion.

At age 92, Dr. Whitcomb’s concerns during the time between ordering lunch and receiving it still focus upon the books he is writing and other ministry opportunities ahead. The Whitcombs were actually doing double duty this week, as the church fellowship that they are part of—the Conservative Grace Brethren Churches International—had planned their annual conference to coincide with the opening of the Ark Encounter.

DPH editor in chief Paul Scharf (left) with Dr. and Mrs. John C. Whitcomb following the Ark Encounter ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, July 5.

Dr. Whitcomb did not have any public speaking engagements during these days, but he interacted with countless people—some who have known him for years and some meeting him for the very first time. He began today at the Ark, where he met with some Conservative Grace Brethren pastors. The afternoon found him at the Creation Museum, where he signed books for an hour outside the bookstore and then did a recorded interview.

At an age when most people would not even consider making a trip to see these kinds of attractions, Dr. Whitcomb is an inspiration to all who come in contact with him.

This morning I met another member of the Greatest Generation—who is also a contributor to Dispensational Publishing House and a familiar name to many if not all of our readers. As my wife and I were on the ramp going up from the second to the third deck of the Ark, we saw Mark Looy, co-founder and chief communications officer of Answers in Genesis, speaking to none other than Dr. Tim LaHaye. Although I have interviewed Dr. LaHaye for Answers Magazine, and have worked with him on behalf of DPH, I had never met him in person.

Dr. LaHaye holds a special place in my heart—both because of his long and storied stand for Biblical truth and—in particular—Bible prophecy, and also because another beloved former seminary professor of mine, the late Dr. Ralph Turk, was once Dr. LaHaye’s right-hand man, and always spoke very highly of him.

As Dr. LaHaye shook my hand, he remarked on “what a testimony” the Ark offers to the world.

I am grateful to God for the opportunity to interact with Christian servants of the caliber of Drs. Whitcomb and LaHaye. The verse that comes to my mind is Phil. 2:29: “Hold such men in esteem.”

In tomorrow’s conclusion to this series of reports on the Ark, I will share my reaction to what I saw at this amazing apologetic endeavor.

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There are 40 Comments

dgszweda's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

I have no dog in this hunt, but why are a few of you so interested in the Ark Encounter failing? And stop pretending you aren't.

Because on some level it is mind blowing.  Where they came up with a 2 Million a year visitor count is beyond me.  The creation museum struggles to stay above 250K visitors a year.  This given the fact that every year the creation museum looses millions of dollars a year.  They sold junk bonds to finance the attraction, with my guess, the intention of trying to raise the visitors to the creation museum.  From a business perspective I am flabbergasted at the approach.  To put this into perspective, they hope to get more visitors than Westminister Abbey or Stonehenge.  In fact they are estimating that the attendance will be greater than the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, the #1 science museum in the US and #4 in the world.  Essentially AIG feels that this museum will attract roughly half the attendance of the Vatican (museum, city, Sistine Chapel and St. Peters Basilica) every year.  I am not sure who really validated this number.  In reality this would put the Ark Encounter as one of the most visited museums in the entire world.

I am not necessarily so interested in it failing, I am just surprised it even got off the ground, and I will be very surprised if it meets its numbers.

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

I have no dog in this hunt, but why are a few of you so interested in the Ark Encounter failing? And stop pretending you aren't.

Really about the same reason I'll occasionally click on the Internet pictures of famous train wrecks, I guess, and I've got some hope that I can encourage dear brothers and sisters to put on their thinking caps when someone comes up with a grand sounding plan.  I hope that we're missing something in the business plan and that it might end up working, but all the numbers point to a colossal train wreck where thousands of inexperienced investors learn the hard way to take a close look at the business plan when buying junk bonds.

And yes, inexperienced investors--the wealthier have advisors who will look at things and say "steer clear", so the guy that's being hurt here is the middle class guy who's been working hard for decades to provide a basic retirement and an education for his kids, and who....well at least until this.....loved and trusted Ken Ham.  And their kids are making decisions on the Gospel based in part on how their dad's Christian investments worked out.  

Yeah, this is a big deal, and we've all got a dog in this fight.  Business plans suitable for a spreader don't help when we're trying to present the Gospel, and I wish I'd been paying more attention earlier.  Perhaps I could have done something.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

The other challenge is that the ticket prices are sometimes 60% more than other world class attractions such as the Louvre, the British Museum or the Museum of Science and Industry.  Given the fact that these attractions have exhibits that takes more than one day to look at and that the exhibits are changing constantly, it seems hard for most people to afford $40 an adult to see a ark, petting zoo and some ziplines.

Bert Perry's picture

James K wrote:

I see where others brought up the B/C comparison.  The only organization sanctioned by the NT is the church.  Beyond that, it is simply what Christians want to do.  If the ARK fails and closes, then that is the end of it.  It simply reflects a lack of interest.  Businesses open and fail everyday people.  Did Christ fail simply because Northland did?  No.  Same will be true of the ark if it fails.

James, appreciate your thoughts, but the big difference here--again, IF I am correct, and I hope and pray I'm not--is that Northland had a plausible business plan that fell victim to the arrival of online schools and a general disenchantment with Baptist Bible colleges in general--at one point, their dorms were fairly well filled, and the like.  People will excuse that a lot more than a completely implausible business plan--they'll often call the latter "fraud", and they'll be asking to see the financial statements to see who got paid how much and when.  Yes, I'm saying that if the Ark Encounter crashes and burns, secular groups are going to go for blood, because the taxpayer would take the hit for a lot of infrastructure and such.  

And regarding the Bible and seminaries, again, Paul went to one, and the interaction of the disciples closely resembles the teacher/student relationships of both the rabbinical schools and the Greek academies of the time.  So while "academy" or "seminary" is not mentioned by name, the concept is certainly there.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Let's also keep in mind that there is only one message and one institution that will not fail.  The Gospel and the Church.  All other are man-constructed and have no guarantee or protection from Christ.

Bert Perry's picture

The NBC article Larry cites indicates 300-400 workers will be needed seasonally--let's assume about half the year--and even with no benefits and wages just about minimum, that's a cost of at least $3-5 million annually when you price out the full employment burden. Add to that a similar amount for service on the debt and a similar amount for utilities and such, and you need about 300-400,000 visitors each year just to keep the lights on.  Now I can point out, to be fair, that Nye is looking at this with a decidedly negative eye, especially scientifically, and will point out that his quotes simply accept the majority geological/biological views, but the rest of the article brings up some very relevant points.  

Again, hope I'm wrong, but the numbers so far are ugly.  BTW, in the article you can also see a nice panorama of the park--you can see the parking booths, parking lots, and the ark in the background.  Notice as well that someone--I presume the city or county--has already widened the road by the attraction.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

The creation museum has been operating at a loss of more than $3 Million a year, since it opened, but the rest of AIG's profits are keeping it propped up.  I think they felt (and still feel) that the Ark may help boost attendance at the Creation Museum helping cut losses.

Bert Perry's picture

David, are you picking up this info from Guidestar, or where?  Just curious--you seem to have a bunch of knowledge that I haven't figured out how to find yet.  Or are you at liberty to tell?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

David, are you picking up this info from Guidestar, or where?  Just curious--you seem to have a bunch of knowledge that I haven't figured out how to find yet.  Or are you at liberty to tell?

You can see all of their IRS filings on propublica.

for example in 2013, revenue for the Creation Museum was $4,895,263 and expenses were $8,112,529.




James K's picture

Paul learned at a rabbinical school of sort.  That is not an example of a BC or Seminary.  The teacher/student or better discipleship pattern is a responsibility of the church.

Seminaries are easier for Christian groups to brush aside when they fail, because churches have been outsourcing that responsibility for centuries.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.


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