Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
Looking for Jesus at Ark Encounter | Righting America

by William Trollinger

As we document in Righting America (48-49, 225-227), Jesus makes few appearances at the Creation Museum. He appears just twice—in a ghostly white statue that is usually kept in a corner of one exhibit room (except during the Christmas season when it is displayed in the Main Hall) and in the Last Adam film, which takes an approach akin to Mel Gibson’s in The Passion of the Christ and devotes all of thirty-two seconds to Jesus’ teachings and three minutes and forty-five seconds to images of Jesus being flogged and executed, usually in slow motion.

With nearly twice the square footage of the Creation Museum (the Creation Museum measures 75,000 square feet while Ark Encounter boasts 140,000), surely Ark Encounter says a lot more about Jesus, who is presumably the whole point of it all. Right?

So far, we have found only three areas in the Ark Encounter where mention is made of Jesus. One appears on a placard amidst images of a raging flood devouring all the sinners of the pre-flood world. That placard refers to an account in Matthew (24:37-39) according to which Jesus said that when the Son of Man comes things will be like they were in the time of Noah. People will be going about their business unaware that judgment is coming. We take it that the point here is that Jesus is an ultra-reliable witness to the fact that the flood actually happened.

Another appears amidst a series of text-placards that talk about why a perfect and righteous God is obliged to judge (destroy in a global flood) billions of humans, excepting eight. The answer: God gives life, so He can take it away; God is perfect and must judge sin (to stay perfect, or something); and we are all sinners, so we all deserve to die. Here Jesus appears again as the perfect sacrifice who holds out the promise of eternal life without sin.

Jesus’ third appearance at the Ark Encounter comes in the form of a series of placards that follow a large image of the scene of the crucifixion—Jesus appears to be suffering his last on the cross, two other crucifixions are underway on either side of him, Roman soldiers stand by as a crowd witnesses Jesus’ death. Seven placards follow. Six have only text on them. The seventh is an image of Jesus’ tomb.

The message is simple. What is important about Jesus, again, is that he died on the cross in order to give us sinners a chance for salvation. A point the placards emphasize is that salvation does not come to those who do good works (of mercy or charity or kindness or love). What matters is that we confess our sins, turn from our sinful ways, and plead for God’s forgiveness.

It’s striking how little there is about Jesus. As far as we can tell he appears on all of nine textual placards and one image placard in the space of 140,000 square feet. And it is striking that, just as in the Creation Museum, what matters about Jesus is 1) that he thought people would be going about their business when the Son of Man arrived and 2) that he was the perfect sacrifice that makes it possible for God to forgive people who confess their sins and beg for forgiveness.

Here, as in the Creation Museum, nothing about Jesus’ life, his ministries of healing the sick and afflicted, or his preference for hanging out with sinners. Nothing about his teachings seems to be worthy of note.

All those square feet (and much of it rather empty, as we noted in our last post) and no place to talk about how Jesus called us to love our neighbor, love even our enemy, make peace, turn the other cheek, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty.

We suppose all that is just “works.”

In these deeply troubling days of so many vile words and too many bullets, it sure would have been nice to see the Prince of Peace make an appearance.