A few days ago, an organization known as Noah’s Ark Ministries International announced they had found Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat. The announcement of the discovery produced an almost universal reaction. Hundreds of news reports, articles, and posts in blogs were published, a few of these hoping that the statement about the discovery was true, but most were skeptical about the group’s announcement that they had found the Ark.
I wrote two posts showing my skepticism about the so-called discovery of Noah’s Ark (Inside Noah’s Ark and Inside Noah’s Ark: A Hoax). I was also interviewed by a major newspaper and discussed the findings on a morning talk-show radio program. From the beginning I was skeptical about the findings and in the end, when the so-called discovery turned out to be a hoax, my skepticism proved to be true.
The reaction of many Christians to the news that the Ark had been found raises several problems related to Christian’s credibility and the claims of the Bible.
First, let’s review the claims of the Noah’s Ark Ministries International. This organization is in business to prove that Noah’s Ark really existed. According to a report in Time Magazine, Noah’s Ark Ministries International sponsors a theme park focused on the theme of Noah’s Ark. The theme park “houses a life-size replica of the ark, accompanied by models of animals on board as well as a vivid film depicting God’s wrath at a sinful mankind and the flood he sent to wash it away.”
Right here, Noah’s Ark Ministries International’s claims of discovery raises an important question: was the discovery of Noah’s Ark a publicity stunt to attract visitors to the theme park?
Noah’s Ark Ministries International is in partnership with The Media Evangelism Limited. According to Robert Cargill, The Media Evangelism Limited is in the business of using the media to promote the Kingdom of God. It is this group that filmed the discovery of the Ark and the work of the explorers on Mount Ararat.
The most damaging factor that destroys the credibility of Noah’s Ark Ministries International is that they refuse to make the evidence available to the public. They say the reason for the secrecy is that they need to preserve the integrity of the site. In addition, they refuse to make the evidence available to archaeologists and other neutral observers who have the expertise to evaluate the findings.
The most damaging thing about the so-called discovery of Noah’s Ark is what it does for the credibility of Christians to try to show that the stories of the Bible are true by producing false evidence, by twisting the truth, and by explaining away historical and scientific evidence.
Do we have to find Noah’s Ark on top of Mount Ararat to prove that the Bible is the Word of God? Will the claims of the Bible be ridiculed if there is no Ark on top of Mount Ararat?
Christians want to believe so much that they want proof of the reliability and historicity of the Biblical stories. This is the reason many Christians are willing to accept claims of discovery without checking the reliability of the evidence.
Several people have claimed in the past to have found Noah’s Ark. Some of them have even claimed of having been inside the Ark and of having brought a piece of the wood to prove that the Ark is there. And yet, to this day, no one has really shown the Ark to the world.
Some people have claimed to have found the remains of Pharaoh’s chariots at the bottom of the Red Sea and yet, to this day, in spite of videos depicting the wheels of chariots, no one has shown the chariots to the world.
The faithful want to believe and people will provide the evidence, provided that enough money is raised to defray the expenses of the exploration and maintain the organizations that sponsor these explorations. In the end, it is money or fame or both that drive the search for Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, Pharaoh’s Chariots, the Holy Grail, the Cross of Christ, and many other sacred relics.
But what will the secular world say about the credibility of Christians who accept any new discovery as a proof that the Bible is true? What happens when these claims prove to be a hoax, as the most recent discovery of Noah’s Ark demonstrates? The secular world becomes less and less willing to accept the claim of Christians and less prone to accept the claims of the Bible.
Again, I want to remind some Christians of the words of Christ. Some Christians are like Thomas who refused to believe that Christ had risen from the grave unless he saw the nail marks on his hands and put his fingers on Jesus’ wounds. The need to see and touch in order to believe is what drives people to Mount Ararat.
But Jesus said to Thomas: “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John 20:29).
It would be nice to find Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat, but I truly believe that nothing is there. If the Ark were to be found on Mount Ararat, many people would find another reason not to believe the claims of the Bible. The truth is: any false claim of discovery does not help the cause of God. Christians do not need to find Noah’s Ark on top of Mount Ararat to know that the claims of God on human life are real.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary