Noah’s ark, manna, and a convenient device for ignoring the inconvenient point

So shortly after writing a post about how the last thing the world needs is another bunch of Christians building a life-size replica of Noah’s ark, I learn that — you guessed it — yet another church is building a replica of Noah’s Ark.

This time it’s John Hagee’s church in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee’s son, Matthew (whose singing is much better than his theology), says the purpose of the $5 million project is to convince people “to say it happened,” because clearly the question of historicity is the only thing that matters in the story of Noah. And because building a replica proves something happened, just like the way Peter Jackson proved the existence of Rivendell.

And what else should Hagee’s Cornerstone Church spend $5 million on? I mean, it was either this or else waste all that money on something like feeding all the poor children in San Antonio for a year.

Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk posted this promotional poster from Cornerstone’s website:

If you can’t read the image, it says:

Cornerstone Church invites you to attend the unveiling of its newest addition, a 28,400-square-foot Noah’s Ark-inspired building!

The Ark boasts true-to-size animatronics animals, custom-designed wall murals, synthetic trees and grasses, LED shooting stars, custom wood-plank carpeting and more. The building will host the children’s church Sunday school as well as Mother’s Day Out program. With its unique, stimulating, and larger-than-life elements, the Ark experience will truly bring to life the famed Bible story and be an inspirational adventure to all who enter.

  • Continuous Tours
  • Carnival Rides
  • Biblical Puppet Shows
  • Story Readings in the classrooms by Sunday school teachers in Bible costumes
  • Moon Bounces, Face Painting & Balloon Clown Artists
  • Hot Dogs, Roasted Corn, Kettle Corn & Cotton Candy

I am dazzled by this. It’s so appalling that it almost wraps all the way back around into a kind of delight.

Here’s more from the delightfully appalling/appallingly delightful Christian Post article:

“I want them to say it happened,” Executive Pastor Matthew Hagee told “The Ark was real. Salvation is real. What God desires for Noah, God desires for me. For Noah, it was a boat. And for me, it was Jesus Christ.”

… Hagee, son of founding pastor John Hagee, described The Ark, saying it has vestibule entrances with outdoor scenes of the ship’s hull, crafted with alder wood panels. At one vestibule will be a talking macaw playing host.

Each of the animals in the central area of the hull – from a tortoise, sheep and zebra to a rhinoceros, lion and elephant – will be named for a great church figure from history, as a springboard to lessons on John Bunyan, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Charles Wesley and others.

Nine of the 16 creatures will be animatronic, created by Animal Makers, a Southern California firm that specializes in robotic animals for Hollywood movies. Some are new, and some were formerly leased. The rhino, for example, had a short appearance in the John Cusack film 2012.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find any church with animatronics,” Michael Chanley, executive director of the International Network of Children’s Ministry, was quoted as saying. “It communicates so much value to the family, ‘We don’t just want your kids to come here and learn. We want them to experience God,'” he said.

You’ll recall that the Apostle Paul rebuked the church in Corinth for not having animatronics. That communicated such contempt for the family, and it denied children the chance to experience God the way one only can in a sacred space like the Hall of Presidents.

I’m not sure that moon bounces, kettle corn, or a talking macaw named Hudson Taylor will really help to achieve Matt Hagee’s goal of convincing visitors of the historicity of Noah’s ark. But those carnival touches — Chaplain Mike calls it the “Disney-ization of Christianity” — serve the same purpose as that preoccupation with proving the historicity of a story that never itself demands such an interpretation. The whole point of both of those is to distract from the whole point.

Fundies and inerrantist evangelicals like to pretend that they take the Bible more seriously — and more “conservatively” — than other Christians, and yet they’re always willing to go to outlandish lengths just to avoid engaging the meaning of the text. Read them the story of Noah and they’ll start talking about the carrying capacity of all those cubits, reciting arcane non-facts suggesting that the hydrological history of the Grand Canyon “proves” there was a global flood in antiquity, or whatever else they can come up with to change the subject and avoid dealing with the actual story the text actually gives us.

The story of Noah is one of many in Genesis where, as Tim O’Brien wrote, “absolute occurrence is irrelevant.”

“Did exactly this actually occur precisely in this way?” is probably the least interesting, least insightful, least helpful, least edifying, least inspirational questions one could ask about this story. Those who make it their first question, and their most important question, seem to be trying to hide, to evade, to distract themselves from actually engaging the actual story on its own terms.

They’d rather talk about historicity — by which they mean cubits and kettle corn.

Cara Sexton has a nice, rambly post up this weekend on being a rich Christian in an age of hunger. It’s titled “On Hoarding Manna.” The reference there is to a story from Exodus 16, in which God miraculously provides bread from heaven for the Israelites in the wilderness:

When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. … Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.'”

The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed.

And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them.

Sexton’s reference to this story tackles its meaning head-on. She doesn’t flinch from the implications of it and she wrestles with those in her post.

Her approach is very different from that of the literalist evangelicals I’ve heard preach and teach from this passage. For them, the key thing was, as Matthew Hagee put it, “to say it happened,” to believe the manna was real — that the above story from Exodus 16 is a historical account of actual events. That was what they preached on and taught about. That was the first question they brought to this passage and the thing they treated as most important.

With manna as with Noah’s ark, the whole point of this obsession with historicity seemed to be to distract from the whole point of the story.



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  • banancat

    anything that detracts us from God falls under the general category of “witchcraft”.

    So you’re witchcraft? You and others like you have done far more to push Christians away than any outside force has done to lure people away.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t know about that. I was sold the first time I heard “Come to the dark side; we have cookies.”

  • They rebooted Archer & Armstrong? Is it any good?

  • hf

    Seems like a waste of effort regardless. The story I see in the J text (mangled and partly overwritten by a fan of the Priestly text) goes like this. Yhvh starts as a clever little boy deity. He makes a lot of mistakes. When the adult deities ruin his experiment by barging in and having sex with his creations, he angrily decides to destroy what he’s made. But he decides not to kill Noah because he kind of likes the guy. (Later, he gets strong and wise enough to tell the Egyptian pantheon what to do.)

    The only useful lesson I see is that it’s harder to kill someone who you know personally. As usual, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality makes this point better.

  • AnonaMiss

    Y’all don’t have to jump on him for my sake. I’m pretty sure he meant that jokingly.

    I am touched though!

  • hf

    Because Satan is deceiving you, of course! You fail to ask the real question: what do Satanic witches really want?

    Tradition would have you believe they want to hurt people and curse cattle. This is obviously wrong. For starters, God would stop them. More importantly, wealth and safety for a country tend to reduce faith, thereby sending more people to damnation. The US seems like the only real exception, protected as we are by white Southern students of the Bible who know that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. So Satanists would want to make people happier, wealthier, and safer by black magic.

    Ask yourself this: do you really know how a light-bulb works? Well enough to build one?

    Clearly most of our “technology” and “science” is a lie straight from Hell, powered by sorcery. We knew our educated elites were Satan’s fifth column. We just didn’t know, until now, the full depth of the conspiracy.

  • Poe’s Law?

    Yes, I know how to build a light-bulb. People have been building them for over 200 years. It’s not actually that difficult. :p But for those who need to see the process…!

  • Alanlionheart

    I have absolutely no idea other that to monitor trends focussing on people who read that stuff. But that’s almost impossible I guess

  • Alanlionheart

    You are of course right about the Jewish stance on the NT. There is a resurging interest though in exploring the Jewish roots of Christianity adding further insight to our understanding of the Scriptures. The parable that springs to mind if about the Prodigal Son. Reading it from a Jewish perspective is so much more interesting. In our western culture we just read how the father was so pleased to see his son again. From a Jewish perspective the fact that the father ran to his son in such an undignified way was to save his life. As a son who disgraced the family he could have been stoned to death.
    Where I think you may be wrong is in assuming that writing was invented some time after. There is no evidence to prove that or, I agree, that it wasn’t. What we do know is how the Scriptures were faithfully copied down the ages to preserve their integrity. Personally I would rather lean towards the idea that they were written down not passed down orally.
    As to what they accounts originally may have meant I think is a bit of a red herring.

  • Alanlionheart

    I don’t know what others understand by the definition on this community. I am just using the general Biblical terminology since we are discussing a Biblical issue

  • Alanlionheart


  • Carstonio

    My point has nothing to do with any Jewish perspective on the NT, as interesting as that would be. Your posts seem to treat the Christian interpretation of the OT as the only or or primary one. When I talk about the stories being handed down orally for centuries before being written, I’m talking about the OT, not the NT, and you seem to be suggesting that Jesus inspired the older book. That’s what I mean by supplantism.

  • The_L1985

    I’m related to a “thalidomide baby.” I know exactly what happened, because I made it a point to study it. That was not science getting anything wrong, that was greedy doctors and pharmacists refusing to acknowledge the evidence before their eyes that thalidomide was dangerous, because they wanted to make money off of prescriptions.

    Even so, it took less than a year after babies with thalidomide-caused deformities started being born for the FDA to finally ban the use of the stuff in the US for pregnant women.

    It was essentially a large-scale scientific experiment with tragically delayed results. Women who took thalidomide had babies with certain deformities; women who did not take thalidomide had normal babies. Thus, thalidomide causes birth defects. Scientists were the ones pressuring the AMA and FDA to stop prescribing the stuff.

    Also, considering that thalidomide doesn’t occur in nature, it only ever existed as a result of chemical experimentation in the first place.

    The thalidomide tragedy is not a failure of science; it is a failure of human compassion due to greed.

  • The_L1985

    Wow, that’s not a bad Poe. It took me a second to realize you were just trolling. :)

  • Alanlionheart

    You are making the assumption that the account of the Flood is a myth. I disagree

    However if you want to focus on Cinderella and hidden meanings in the fairy tale then go ahead

  • Alanlionheart

    Pull away Sam :)

    I beg to disagree. God says that He is The Way, The Truth and The Life. If one of these is wrong, then God is a liar.

    God is absolute so cannot & does not entertain shades of grey

    So when you look at particular verses of Scripture it is a bit daft (if you don’t mind me saying so) to pick and choose which ones you will adhere to or not. If one sets themselves up to be The Truth, one cannot then expect to get away with little white lies and still hope that a person trusts in them. In short it’s an oxymoron.

    This is not me setting the standard. God has done that. He sets the rules. If we choose alternative ways to follow Him then they are rejected by Him. One comes to God on His terms not ours. If that were not so then where is one’s hope? In our efforts or God’s?

    Similarly, just because Cinderella wore glass shoes, does that mean we should follow her example just because she was a good woman and found her prince? Of course not.

    So it is with Jesus, just because He (allegedly) said some nice things, should we adopt them into our lifestyle? I suggest not because they would be meaningless without the person.

    BTW a simple look at white leprosy will answer your point on Leviticus. The issue here is whether the disease was contagious or not and white leprosy isn’t

    On Ken Ham, I think you are wrong

    1. He doesn’t argue that the earth is 4,000 years old but around 6,000

    2. He doesn’t deny that natural selection and evolution are lies. In fact he says they are true. What he does say is that molecules to man evolution is a lie. We have to be very clear about our terminology otherwise we misunderstand the points.

    3. Yes he does say some are wrong, especially when they get their facts wrong but your link is to the book review rather than his site

  • Alanlionheart

    Sam I’m not defending anyone actually. I’m just questioning people’s opinions and views. I don’t actually care whether a person is a millionaire or not.

    What I do care about is whether they are a Christian or not and whether they are walking in obedience to what God is saying to them.

    There is no way I can judge whether John Hagee is or isn’t since I don’t know him
    BTW you are partly right as I am about the biblical reference. Here are both

    Matthew 6:24
    “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:23-25
    Luke 16:13
    “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:12-14
    Jesus never condemned the rich young ruler who loved his wealth more than Jesus and he doesn’t condemn anyone who follows Him and puts Him first.

  • Alanlionheart

    so who is the god witches serve?

  • Alanlionheart

    Come on Ellie, you’re reading something into my response that isn’t there.
    I never said it teaches anything, but I do believe it heightens interest in the supernatural/spiritual detracting one from the Truth of God

  • AnonaMiss

    God is absolute so cannot & does not entertain shades of grey

    non sequitur

  • AnonaMiss

    You appear to be confusing subcultural terminology with Biblical terminology. Many people here aren’t Christians, and those who are would likely take umbrage at the implication that, for example, knowing the difference between witchcraft and Tibetan Buddhism is un-Biblical.

    Though I guess arguably it is, because like you, the authors of the Bible knew jack squat about Tibetan Buddhism.

  • AnonaMiss

    That would depend on the witch, I believe. And I think they generally don’t so much serve them, as just try to stay on good terms. I believe one of our pagans (who may or may not identify as a witch) is primarily a follower of Coyote.

    You’d be better off directing that question at one of our witches, or possibly at Google.

  • The people I know who identify as witches worship a variety of gods. That said, most of them are also broadly pantheists… that is, they consider the gods they worship expressions of a common immanent divinity, which is sufficiently larger than what the human mind can conceive that there’s no point in trying to conceive of it..

  • > God says that He is The Way, The Truth and The Life. If one of these is wrong, then God is a liar.

    If an infallible God has spoken to you and said these things, and one of these things is wrong, then yes, it follows that God is a liar.

    If, instead, books you have read and humans you have listened to have said these things, and you’ve somehow convinced yourself that these books and humans speak for God, and one of these things is wrong, then no, it does not follow that God is a liar. It may be that the people you listen to, and the people who wrote the books you read, are lying. Or that they’re mistaken. Or that you misunderstood them.

    Blaming God for human errors, especially our own, is at best impolite.

  • > You are making the assumption that the account of the Flood is a myth.

    Not quite: I didn’t assume this, I concluded it. But regardless, yes, I believe it’s a myth.

    > I disagree


    > However if you want to focus on Cinderella and hidden meanings in the fairy tale then go ahead

    I haven’t said a word about Cinderella. I can’t tell whether your comment was meant as a response to someone else, or if you’re now just discussing with an undifferentiated mass of “people who are wrong on the Internet.”

    If the latter, I recommend you take a breather and reconsider who you’re talking to, and why you’re talking to us. It turns out we’re actually individuals who don’t always agree with each other, so treating us as an undifferentiated mass will tend to cause unnecessary confusion.

  • Well, you’re free to use whatever terminology you wish, of course.

    But if you insist on using words in ways nobody else in the conversation does, you’re unlikely to communicate especially clearly with them.

    And if you cannot communicate clearly, how can you clearly communicate the Word of God?

  • Mrs Grimble

    I knew that your ‘nym rang a bell! Is this you, Alan?

  • Maybe they were from different continents on Q’on’os (or even different planets in the Empire).

  • Alanlionheart

    Not quite Dave

    Epistemology is to do with the nature and scope of knowledge. It’s not just about belief although that can come into it. It does include understanding.
    The issue of knowing God however is even wider and deeper. The knowing includes relationship which cannot be so in a simple belief system

  • Many of us grew up in the decades before Ms. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books and before Mr. Yudkowsky turned his hand to rationalist Harry Potter fanfiction, and we therefore had to rely on other sources for our understanding of the world.

  • alfgifu

    Alanlionheart, I am a Christian living in the UK at the moment, and the world I live in looks very different from the world you live in.

    I don’t see any rise in emphasis in the supernatural. As far as I can tell, there has been a constant level of interest in the supernatural for decades.

    I am also not seeing any anti Christianity slant to the interest in the supernatural that does exist. Much of it is based on, or derived from Christian mysticism. Followers of other faiths remain a tiny minority, without the cultural, legal, or social level of recognition and acceptance that Christianity is granted.

    One particular problem with using the term ‘witchcraft’ as a synonym for ‘any non-Christian form of spirituality’, and further conflating that with ‘always a bad thing’ is that it falls apart when you encounter actual witches. I’m not going to try to define or describe witchcraft to you as it actually works, partly because I am not a witch and will probably get things wrong, and partly because I think you will find it more enlightening to set aside your preconceptions and talk directly to people who are witches.

    Actual self-identifying witches are pretty rare (as above, followers of non-Christian faiths are in the minority in the UK) and you probably did not realise that several posters in these comments are witches. For the record, a number are atheists, there are Christians from a variety of backgrounds, and there are also Muslims and (probably, I can’t bring to mind any specific examples) members of other faiths as well. All of these people have gathered together because they value the wisdom and insight that Fred – who is an Evangelical Christian – has to share. That is hardly anti Christian behaviour!

  • Alanlionheart

    It isn’t impossible to be 100% sure about anything
    I am 100% sure that God loves you and me
    I am 100% sure that I am a blessed person as are all Christians
    I am 100% sure that God loved you and me enough to allow His Son Jesus to be offered up as punishment for your wrong doing and mine
    I am 100% sure about so many things outside of mathematics

  • EllieMurasaki

    You’re wrong on at least one of those. I am 99.9% confident you’re wrong on at least three.

  • Alanlionheart

    Nothing to do with what I’ve been taught.
    I see it every day with the broken and unhappy lives people live. I see it when they tell me they have no hope, I see it in the breakdown of family, when people are out on the streets on a Friday night getting drunk to drown their sorrows, I see it in their wrong views of church and Christianity, I see it when they are experimenting with all kinds of stuff that is designed to numb their brains and keep them captive to all kinds of ungodly entrapment.
    So please don’t tell me I’ve been fed snake oil. You have no idea.

  • I infer that you believe the various bad things you list here didn’t exist before this “rise in emphasis in the supernatural” that you reference, since you seem to be asserting that the latter caused the former.

    So, OK. When did this “rise in emphasis in the supernatural” begin?

  • Alanlionheart

    We are talking slightly at cross purposes AnonaMiss. I don’t equate the account of Noah and the Flood with fairy stories, so therefore there is every reason to discuss it if that’s what people want.
    Jesus’ use of parables in the NT we agree on
    Perhaps you can show me an OT parable. At this moment I cannot recall any.
    On your last point you are speculating. It is clear that the rainbow came as a result of the aftermath of the flood. There were clearly different weather conditions before it, but I have to admit that I too am speculating a bit here because the Bible is largely silent.
    In any case the rainbow was set up as a sign that God would not destroy mankind again by water, The last judgement is by fire

  • Alanlionheart

    You are so right AnonaMiss :)

  • Alanlionheart

    John 1

    New International Version (NIV)

    The Word Became Flesh

    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

    6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

    9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

    14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

  • AnonaMiss

    And you interpret this as a decline for what reason?

    As a British Christian I assume you’re familiar with John Wesley. Isn’t what you just described, pretty much exactly what Wesley described? If this suffering has been around for hundreds of years, doesn’t that pretty effectively demonstrate that Harry Potter had jack squat to do with it?

    If anything, it’s better now than it used to be. For example, people are able to obtain medical treatment without being obscenely rich. Debtors’ prisons are, I believe, a thing of the past; certainly orphans aren’t put to work as slave labor, as they once were. Has rising interest in witchcraft – and please understand, I am entertaining this idea to point out the logical inconsistencies in your argument, not because I agree with you – caused these improvements in the lives of the poor?

  • alfgifu

    Alanlionheart, I think you have just proved The_L1985’s point. Read the opening of John again, and substitute ‘Jesus’ for ‘The Word’. Now try that and substitute ‘the Bible’ for ‘The Word’.

    I think it’s pretty clear that the Word of God, with God in the beginning, is Jesus Christ all the way through. Calling the Bible the Word of God – and treating it the way you would treat Jesus – is the kind of mistake that can lead to all sorts of problems. We’re not supposed to worship inanimate objects, however divinely inspired they may be!

  • The_L1985

    No, you’re not 100% sure about any of those things.

    You believe them very firmly, but it’s not like you saw Jesus being crucified and resurrected right in front of you. Therefore, you don’t have 100% proof. You believe. You have faith.

    By the way, doubt is something to be investigated and, if necessary, overcome. It is not something to deny you ever have.

  • The_L1985

    And where does that say that the Bible is the same Word in question? Because I don’t see that anywhere in the entire passage, and I’ve read that passage and heard it in church hundreds of times. (I used to be a Christian.)

  • The_L1985

    How about those prophetic dreams that Joseph saw in Genesis? Obviously there were no real, physical bowing sheaves of grain, nor did any cows walk up in real life and swallow other, fatter cows whole.

    And for a rainbow to happen, you need exactly 2 things: sun and rain. For Genesis to be 100% historical, and for no rainbows to have ever happened, it would have to have never rained during daylight hours, at all, anywhere on earth, for centuries. That is not physically possible, because the water cycle is based on the physical properties of water and air.

  • cyllan

    I can’t decide if I find it more amusing or tragic that the most lyrical and metaphorical of the Gospels is the one being used to try and claim that the Bible should be taken as literal truth.

  • The_L1985

    What if God tells someone to start a fire in a hospital? Does that make it OK?

  • EllieMurasaki

    gah Sucker Punch flashback

  • AnonaMiss

    I am arguing that the story of Noah and the flood is in fact a parable in the OT.

    I suspect an objection is coming, which is, “If it’s a parable, why isn’t it explicitly stated/why isn’t it explained in the text?” To which I would respond, that the OT/texts of Jewish origin are generally not explained in-line, because the Jews have traditionally studied scripture with the help of outside rabinnical commentaries. Why provide explicit explanations in-line, when your reader has the Cliff’s Notes at hand?

  • The_L1985

    Especially since taking that passage literally would mean that Jesus was a lightbulb or a written word on a page. Even people who don’t believe Jesus was a real person, still know he’s supposed to be a person.

  • hf

    And did you, in fact, get that lesson from the story of Noah?

  • Alanlionheart

    Well I agree with your additional questions but if the passage is historical then it tells us exactly about the nature of God and His attitude to wrongdoing as well as His patience, His tolerance, His wanting to have a relationship with people and His willingness to forgive.
    So most of your questions are addressed