Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
All about Hell | Righting America

by William Trollinger

In the course of our work on Righting America at the Creation Museum, we regularly encountered arguments or appeals made by AiG in the museum and beyond that were illogical or implausible. Especially as we worked through the material in the Science chapter, we often found ourselves scratching our heads, trying to figure out how this or that argument actually worked. But no matter how confusing or confounding we found their arguments and appeals initially, we did find that in the end, if we paid attention, we could figure out their point.

The same appears to be true at Ark Encounter.

As visitors proceed through the first two floors of the Ark they are instructed as to how the biblical story of Noah’s Ark makes sense as literal history. They see animal cages, sacks of grain, and ceramic jars; they read placards answering questions such as “How Did Noah Keep the Polar Bears Cool?,” “How Did Freshwater Fish Survive?,” and “What Personal Belongings Did Noah Bring on the Ark?”; they learn about ventilation, lighting, and waste removal on the Ark. And much, much more.

Ark Encounter puts forth a barrage of information, and it is not difficult to imagine some people becoming baffled as to what the point of all this is.

Then visitors enter an exhibit bay dedicated to making the claim that popular “fairy tale” versions of the story of Noah’s Ark undermine the message of the Bible. And just as they enter, they come face to face with a rather menacing looking, three-dimensional red-orange sculpted serpent whose head is stretched out towards them and that appears to have coiled itself around the edges of a placard. It reads:

“If I Can Convince You That the Flood was Not Real, Then I Can Convince You That Heaven and Hell Are Not Real.”

Aha. The point of it all.

And the point is not heaven. Fundamentalists in general and AiG folks in particular don’t have much to say about heaven.

The point is hell. Believe in Noah’s Ark and the global flood and – especially – the drowning of billions of human beings, and you will have no trouble believing in the idea that billions of human beings are going to be damned to the eternal, conscious torment of hell. Doubt the drowning of billions, and you might doubt the burning of billions.

For Ken Ham, his AiG colleagues, and young earth creationists in general the global flood prefigures the hell to come. Damnation and hell are not peripheral aspects of their worldview; damnation and hell are central to their worldview.

There is a good reason why the last chapter of Righting America at the Creation Museum is titled “Judgment,” and why the last section of the last chapter is devoted to “Hell.”

Having visited Ark Encounter, we now realize that what we say about the Creation Museum near the end of Righting America applies equally well to Ark Encounter. So, we reproduce that section here with some edits:

The Creation Museum and Ark Encounter very much reiterate Ken Ham’s emphasis on damnation. In both places the story of the past has been reduced to original sin and the Fall and the spread of pervasive wickedness, followed by the global flood, with the rescue of a tiny remnant and drowning of millions, or now billions, of creatures . . . The past is also prologue to the future. . . . The museum’s and ark’s controlling and repetitive narratives of disobedience and punishment, especially with their emphasis on the global flood and Noah’s Ark, make it clear that judgment . . . for all humanity is forthcoming, and with it the rescue of a faithful remnant and eternal damnation for the rest of humanity. That is to say, for many (perhaps most) human beings the future means hell (224).

In the end, this is what building a life-size ark was all about. Indeed, in the world of AiG, this is what Christianity is all about.