Thursday, November 6, 2014

Noah and the ark

Well-intentioned but foolishly misguided persons are building what they claim is a replica of Noah's Ark as part of a Christian theme park in Kentucky (this link is for their website).

This effort insults Christianity.

First, the biblical story of Noah and the ark is just that, a story. This story, whatever its origins, is not historical. Neither God, nor any other power, ever flooded the entire world. Life did not continue because two of every species lived amicably together aboard an ark. No archaeological evidence of such a flood exists. The idea of prey and predator peaceably co-existing on an ark is absurd. How would species unique to a limited geographic area (e.g., Australia) get to the ark? How would Noah collect and then co-exist with all viruses, bacteria, and other microscopic organisms unable to live in water and then extant? Why would a wise God establish principles/laws for the functioning of creation and then choose to abrogate them? Accepting the story of Noah and the ark as literal history requires a thinking person to set aside most of what is known about biology, physics, chemistry, etc.

Second, Christianity is not a religion exclusively for the ignorant, whether those ignorant from choice or from a regrettable lack of education. God's creation led to the emergence of thinking persons. We insult God when we refuse to utilize our minds (which are an integral element of who we are) to learn about creation and to advance human understanding.

Third, theology and spirituality are dynamic not static. We can regress. Centuries after Christians stopped reading the Bible literally, we can pretend to do the same. We are pretending and not emulating their example, because Christians in prior centuries read and interpreted the Bible using the best scientific information and theories they had available. Alternatively, we can progress. We can read the Bible in light of the new information and latest theories that the sciences and social sciences have developed. Future generations will inevitably think our views limited and incorrect. But they need not think us foolish or needlessly ignorant. To postulate that people in the twenty-first century can know no more about God or life than did the people of the tenth century BC, or the first century AD, is to reject the insights and wisdom accumulated by intervening generations, often at considerable effort and cost.

The story of Noah and the ark is a great story. Sadly, it is rapidly becoming a bad joke eroding Christianity's diminishing credibility.

2 comments: said...

SO if this is a lie does that mean the bible is a book of lies?

George Clifford said...

A lie, by definition, is an attempt at intentional deception. Thus, the Bible is not a book of lies. Instead, the Bible is a compilation of materials that includes stories, parables, efforts to record history, etc. From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, with the advantages of modern science, we know that the dominant worldview and more limited scientific outlooks of their day colored the efforts of many previous generations to record history (including the biblical authors). This is vastly different from intentional deception. Indeed, future generations will undoubtedly offer the same criticism of current efforts to record history. The Bible is a window through which God's light illuminates the world, a book of metaphor and poetry rather than a book of fact or propositional truths.