Creation Museum at the Crossroads of Faith and Science
by Michael Wright
The sign on I-71 in northern Kentucky says " Prepare to Believe. " This billboard invites commuters to the Creation Museum, a $27 million facility sprawling over 70,000 square feet presenting the origins of human life from the perspective of a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis.
According to its mission statements, the Creation Museum has been built to " Exalt Jesus Christ through a safe, wholesome, family-friendly center for learning and discovery " to help Christians evangelize to unbelievers with exhibits " that uphold the inerrancy of the Bible, " and to bring unbelieving visitors to faith in Jesus Christ. Whether or not the museum achieves its mission will become clearer as the public visits the facility.
The Creation Museum invited charter members for early viewing, and volunteers estimated 4500 people had seen the museum with great excitement. The reactions were more skeptical at the museum's community day. Jene Earnest, the museum's cabinetmaker and long time volunteer said that " nominal Christians who don't believe in miracles will have to make a decision. " After over a decade since the original idea for the museum developed, an air of skeptical expectation clashed with religious excitement as both secular media and faithful supporters found their seats before the beginning festivities.
Much of the opening ceremony was filled with excitement and applause. George Ward, the Secretary of Commerce for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, predicted that " every Christian school in the country will come here for a field trip. "
From left to right, Answers in Genesis leaders Mark Looy, Ken Ham, and Dan Lisle at the May 26, 2007 press conference announcing the grand opening of the Creation Musuem in Kentucky.
Mark Looy, the Chief Communications Officer of Answers in Genesis, said that the Creation Museum was "an evangelistic opportunity as no other in the world." Ken Ham, the Chief Executive Officer of Answers in Genesis and visionary behind the museum, said that the opening of the museum was "an historic event in Christendom" and discussed the importance of the creationism movement, receiving many "Amen's" from the crowd in response.
A tour of the museum begins with a walk through individual rooms that slowly build the case for the literal interpretation of Genesis, starting with a room discussing the difference of a Christian paleontologist and a secular paleontologist as they date the origins of humanity: "same facts, different starting points." Starting with this underlying assumption that Natural Science must yield to literal views of Scripture, the visitors move to rooms discussing the inerrancy of the Bible in the face of human reason: "the elevation of human reason above God's word is the essence of every attack on God's word."
Different Starting Points at the Creation Museum
Next, visitors move through an apocalyptic alleyway complete with graffiti scrawled on the wall: "Modern World Abandons The Bible."
The Graffiti Room at the Creation Museum
This room touches on many conservative hot topics of today, including teen pregnancy, absolute truth, abortion, and pornography. After showing the problems, they show the answer: the Seven C's of History (Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, Consummation). The rest of the museum follows the Creation story from Adam to Babel to Jesus himself, a final answer to the pain and suffering caused by Adam and his descendants. The visitors end their tour through the bookstore called "Dragon Hall." And so after all the special effects, after the animatronic dinosaurs, and replica of Noah's Ark, after the planetarium, after the video presentations, the question still remains:
Why put $27 million dollars into a science museum based on specific and narrow theological doctrine? What about Christians who don't ascribe to a literal view of the Genesis account? Why proclaim Creationism as strong as proclaiming Christ? These were questions that didn't have ready answers.
When asked about reconciliation with Christians who understand the Creation story differently, Ken Ham said " without a literal Genesis you have no foundation for the gospel. " In fact, he says on the Answers in Genesis website that he has spent 27 years in " full-time creation ministry, " and God has " mightily blessed the proclamation of the creation/gospel message. " Behind the slick design and technology of the museum and behind the influence of the Answers in Genesis ministry is the fundamental issue of defining the gospel. Is the gospel Jesus as the son of God, or is the gospel God creating the world in six 24-hour days with Jesus as an eventual byproduct ?
A very buff Adam and Eve portrayed before "the fall" at the Creation Museum
It is this entanglement of the tenets of Young Earth Creationism with the Gospel that can quickly push away thoughtful seekers, Christians, and atheists alike. The museum presents two inevitable conclusions: either the visitor accepts the literal Genesis and Jesus as Savior, or the visitor denies the literal Genesis and Jesus as Savior. There are no other alternatives presented in Creation Museum.
Addia K. Wuchner, a member of the Kentucky House of Representative from Boone County, and a guest at the event, said in an exclusive interview with Christian Faith and Reason Magazine that " the beauty of this country [is] that we are free to believe.
Indeed, we are free to believe anything we want. But instead of believing that God came to earth in human form through Jesus of Nazareth, Answers in Genesis persuades visitors to believe in the power of the museum to fight the Christian culture wars, to believe in a brittle view of Holy Scripture, to accept literal Creationism with a Creator.
Many will come for curiosity, some might come to faith, but many Christians will be tempted to put their faith in the Creation Museum instead of the Creator Himself.
Prepare to believe, but believe in what ?
This is the question answered by a lifetime personal journey of faith that no museum can resolve - Young Earth Creationism or not.
At the grand opening of the new Creation Museum in Petersburgh, Kentucky in May, Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis, the non-profit organization that built and owns the museum, proclaimed the day as "an historic event in Christendom."|
As Ham spoke, an airplane hired by opposition group DEFCON (an acronym for the Campaign to Defend the Constitution) flew over the crowd, trailing the message "DEFCON SAYS THOU SHALT NOT LIE". Noting the plane, Ham quipped "It's interesting that a group that hates the Bible is quoting it in it's sign." The friendly audience laughed, speaker and audience alike missing the intended irony of the message.
What else can be said about a museum that, without a single shred of scientific evidence, claims that dinosaurs co-existed on the earth with man ?
photograph by Michael Wright
Harris may be a dishonest polemicist, but 18 per cent is still a pretty large number. Are there really that many people who hold such beliefs, and why, pray tell, do they ?
In an exclusive interview with Christian Faith and Reason Magazine, Mr. Ham himself did not hazard a guess as to the number of "Young Earth Creationists", but did claim that the number "is growing fast." He bristled at the question that his life work is aiding the growth of atheism. "To the contrary," he said. "We are bringing people to Christ."
History may prove Ham's immodest boat to to be correct, but not for the reasons he thinks. Years from now, historians may look back at the opening of the Creation Museum as a watershed event in the growth of militant atheism in this country, because it provides atheistic evangelists like Sam Harris, Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett with such an easy Christian target upon which to heap intellectual scorn.
An Armed Security Guard Stands at the Front Gate of the Creation Museum
The presence of man is evident in the form of an armed and seriously minded security guard, attired in a uniform designed to evoke images of the Kentucky State Highway Patrol. A visitor gets the impression that one is about to enter an organization that considers itself under attack, and is prepared to defend itself.
Passing the front gate, a drive lined by American flags leads to the parking lot.
The museum itself is impressive from the exterior, a modern 70,000 square foot facility, adjoined by a well landscaped trail walk designed to evoke images of the Garden of Eden.
Trail adjacent to the Creation Museum
That such an improbable museum exists today is largely a tribute to the vision, commitment, and relentless, some might say ruthless, drive of Australian born Ken Ham, the 57 year old CEO of Answers in Genesis. That organization today owns not only the Creation Museum, but also employs a staff of 200 and operates the 50,000 circulation Answers Magazine, has a daily radio program, and runs frequent educational programs.
Born to a school teacher father who later became a principal, Ham spent his early years travelling along the dusty roads and small towns of Queensland Province, Australia, where his father was employed. His father and mother were strong Christians, a rarity in Australia, where Ham estimates that only 5 per cent of the population regularly attends Christian churches.
"As for Evangelical Christians, that population is really only 1 per cent or 2 per cent," Ham told Christian Faith and Reason in an exclusive interview. "Australia is not like the States, where there are all these denominational differences. There are so few Christians that when we arrived in a new town (my father would be transferred every three years or so), we would attend whatever church might be there. Baptist, Presbyterian, it didn't matter."
One gets the impression that his current unyielding determination to always remain "on message" stems from the personality traits that developed from the isolated and solitary religious experiences of his early days.
Ham graduated from Queensland University of Technology with an Applied Science degree in 1973 or 1974 (he couldn't remember the year in our interview) and went on to teach biology at several high schools in the Brisbane area. Along the way, he read the book that got the entire Modern Young Earth Creatism movement started, Genesis Before the Flood, by Henry Morris, and John Whitcomb. That 1961 book revived the long abandoned "Age of Earth" chronology laid out by Anglican Bishop James Ussher in 1650. Using the genealogical stories found in the Bible, Ussher claimed that God created the universe, the earth, animals, and man in seven days in the year 4,004 BC.
In 1979, newly married, Ham quit his teaching job and began the Creation Sciences Foundation Ministry in Brisbane, Australia. He had little money at the beginning, and had to live on donations from friends and family. By 1987, he had concluded that his future lay in the United States, and he secured a position with Henry Morris' Institute for Creation Research in California. He moved his family half way across the world, and soon his talents for speaking and evangelizing were put to use by his new employer. By 1993, Ham decided that ICR was too academic, and that a new lay oriented ministry was needed. Persuading fellow ICR employees Mark Looy and Mike Zovath to join him, Ham again moved his family, this time to Northern Kentucky, where visions of a family friendly Creation Museum danced in his head
Buddy Davis, one of the first locals in whom he confided his dream, lit up when he heard Ham's plans. "Let me show you something," the former taxidermist said, and he led Ham to his collection of self made dinosaurs. Ham was impressed with Davis' vision, and the two made a pact. Songwriter Davis had recently written a song about God making dreams come true. To seal their shared vision of a Creation Museum, Ham asked Davis to sing him that song, then and there, and promised he would let Davis sing the same song when the museum opened.
It took thirteen years, but on Saturday, Ham fulfilled his promise, and Davis, who has the kind of singing voice found among many decent songwriters, entertained the assembled crowd of several hundred invited guests and over fifty members of the media at the offical ribbon cutting for the Creation Museum held in Petersburg this past Saturday, May 26.
The joint enthusiasm the two shared for dinosaurs that evening in 1994 may have formed the basis of the marketing strategy currently deployed by Ham, Answers in Genesis, and their Muncie, Indiana based advertising agency, Joseph David and Associates.
Kids love dinosaurs. Why not build the museum around the bold and ludicrous claim that dinosaurs co-existed with men ?
There had been some work among the Young Earth Creationists that juxtaposed dinosaurs with men. While most Young Earthers may have accepted the concept, it was not an element of their theology which was featured prominently.
Enter Ken Ham and his vision for a Creation Museum.
Using the Bible alone as his source, and citing absolutely zero scientific evidence, Ham reasoned that God must have created dinosaurs on Day 6, and that dinosaurs lived with man from the date of creation in 4004 BC to the date of the flood in 2324 BC and even past that.
Noah, Ham reasoned, must have carried dinosaur eggs on the ark.
His evidence for such claims ?
Why, the widespread existence of dragon legends.
Those legends, coupled with a few factoids thrown in about an instance or two of dinosaur bone age dating that suggested dinosaurs were around more recently than 65 million years ago were enough for Ham to anchor his entire 70,000 square foot Creation Museum on the concept.
It is that claim that causes the secular humanist group DEFCON to call Ham a liar.
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OTHER STORIES IN THIS ISSUE
ESSAY by Frank Walton: The Whole Story Behind the Blasphemy Challenge
This I Beleive by Professor Pamela Gay
On Stem Cell Research by Thomas Robey
Sam Harris' Pearl of Great Price by Joel McDurmon
Atheist Diversionary Tactics by RC Metcalf
Opinion: The Trouble With Fred and Wilma
Gallup Still Asking Wrong Questions in Recent Evolution Poll
Opinion: Leading Evolutionary Biologist Says Michael Patrick Leahy Right on Creation Museum, Wrong on Intelligent Design
Opinion: Young Earth Creationist Critique of Leahy
Opinion:Leading Evolutionary Biologist Says Michael Patrick Leahy Right on Creation Museum, Wrong on Intelligent Design
Book Review: The Shack reviewed by Nancy Reese
Book Review: God is Not Great reviewed by Michael Patrick Leahy
ADDITIONAL STORIES ON THE CREATION MUSEUM
A Behind the Scenes Look at Efforts to Stop the Creation Museum Lawsuit
Young Earth Creationist Wars Heat Up After Filing of Lawsuit Against Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis
Fellow Christians File Lawsuit Against Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis
Fellow Christians Aggrieved by the Business Practices of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis
The Marketing of Bedrock
Aljazeera Covers Grand Opening of Creation Museum
Prepare to be Disappointed: Creation Museum Fails to Live up to Entertainment Value Hype