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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  • Alanlionheart

    You are right
    It has also been used by many religious people whose Christianity I would question. But this is a sad example of people twisting Scripture to suit their own bigoted position.
    I guess we’ve all done that at one time or another and I include myself in that

  • Justice League: The New Frontier. I rather liked it.

  • Alanlionheart

    I am not questioning Fred’s faith banancat. Being an evangelical Christian does not make him right any more than it does me.
    On the other hand he has as much to say what he thinks as does everyone else. It doesn’t mean we have to agree

  • Alanlionheart

    Certainly not
    We learn a lot from the Jewish perspective on the Scriptures both OT and NT (the NT from Messianic Jews)
    There is a very rich heritage and insight from a Jewish perspective.
    So far as Jesus inspiring the OT the Bible in John ch1 tells us that Jesus is the Word of God and that the OT speaks of His coming throughout
    What the accounts may have originally meant referred to the idea that there may be some hidden issues that are not apparent in the Scriptures today. That isn’t the case otherwise the Scriptures could never be trusted and one opens the way to all kinds of mysticism and cultism

  • EllieMurasaki

    Frankly I’m more inclined to trust the Jews on the content of the Tanakh than I am to trust the Christians on the content of the Tanakh.

  • Mrs Grimble

    But geologists still refuse to deal with the
    stories despite the long list of them from ancient

    Geologists don’t deal with flood stories because they aren’t anthropologists; creation myths aren’t their department. They
    can however use science to disprove that the Biblical flood happened as written.

    But anthropologists HAVE dealt with widespread ories of floods from ancient times; they’ve pointed out (as indeed I did, earlier in this thread) that early humanity civilisations developed in fertile river valleys and deltas which would have been subject to flash floods and tsunamis.

  • Alanlionheart

    I’m sorry to hear that. It was a dreadful period in the UK as well and I don’t for one minute dispute what you say about greed etc.
    But I do wonder why others in the scientific community did nothing to stop it. Maybe it was all covered up but medical science, as good as it often is, should have prevented the catastrophe I think
    Otherwise what do we have but a vain hope that medical science hasn’t messed up in other areas?
    So from my perspective I do still think that the science failed with this drug and the fact that it was eventually withdrawn underlines that

  • EllieMurasaki

    Soooo…you’re blaming the entire spectrum of science for not stopping sooner a thing that scientists in the applicable fields stopped as soon as was humanly possible?

  • Alanlionheart

    My grammar must be a bit suspect AnonaMiss so perhaps you could enlighten me how an absolute God can entertain shades of grey

  • P J Evans

    And it turned out that the compound is chiral (handed) and only one of the two forms is teratogenic – but that wasn’t well-known at the time. (Also, it’s useful in treating some diseases.)

  • Alanlionheart

    What an interesting site
    But no it isn’t me
    I will have a little browse around it though

  • Alanlionheart

    Of course they existed Dave but like most things in life trends change so it would be impossible to say when it began

  • Alanlionheart

    Times change, circumstances change, even people change so yes of course there have been many improvements in society. I guess one could argue that drug addiction was around in Wesley’s day but certainly no to the extent is it today, suffering has been around since the fall to nothing has changed there but I have never said that Harry Potter had anything to do with it.
    So far as I know witchcraft as a movement has not caused any improvements to the lives of the poor. The church has an outstanding record in this regard in terms of hospitals, schools and generally caring for society

  • EllieMurasaki

    So far as I know witchcraft as a movement has not caused any improvements to the lives of the poor. The church has an outstanding record in this regard in terms of hospitals, schools and generally caring for society

    Are unions churches or part of the witchcraft movement?

  • Alanlionheart

    I agree that we are not to worship the Bible but that does not get away from the fact. There is of course no mention of the word “Bible” in the Scriptures but that does not alter the fact that words like Bible, Scripture, Word of God are all interchangeable for the same thing and in common usage and understanding.
    Then again I don’t think I even implied that we should worship the Bible
    But I am equating the Bible with Jesus to the extent that as John 1 says He is the Word of God. The Bible is that Word of God in written form, commonly called the Scriptures

  • EllieMurasaki

    words like Bible, Scripture, Word of God are all interchangeable for the same thing and in common usage and understanding.

    Citation needed, particularly in reference to the John passage you quoted where ‘the Word’ is unmistakably Jesus.

  • Alanlionheart

    But I am sure 100%
    And yes I have faith and I believe
    But as the Bible says, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. So when God speaks to us individually, that causes faith to rise up within us and we respond to it knowing that God is true to His Word and we see the evidence as that word comes into being.
    Without God speaking in this way we cannot have faith and it certainly isn’t blind

  • EllieMurasaki

    So it is not possible to have religious faith if one’s religion is not Christianity?

  • Alanlionheart

    Have a look at my response to Alf’s post

  • Alanlionheart

    Have a look at my response to Alf’s post

  • Carstonio

    Talking about a Jewish “perspective” does a disservice to Judaism by implying that the religion is merely a subset or offshoot of Christianity. The argument amounts to telling the world’s Jews what their book means or how they should read it. Anyone who claims as irrefutable fact that Jesus is foreshadowed in the OT should be expected to prove that Judaism is mistaken in claiming no such foreshadowing.

    Although I don’t belong to any religion, I have strong ethical reservations about the Messianic Jews movement. From what I’ve read, it’s mostly a creation of non-Jewish Christians as specialized evangelizing.

    And I don’t understand the leaps you’re making with your last two sentences. Such as what those hidden issues would be, or why mysticism would be bad or wrong, or why an unreliable Bible would open the way to either mysticism or cultism.

  • AnonaMiss

    If God could not entertain shades of grey that would mean God was not all-powerful. An God can entertain whatever colors He likes.

    As for whether or not he does entertain shades of grey, the fact that humans can comprehend and produce shades of grey, double meanings, works with layers upon layers of meaning, fiction which is truer than life and life which is stranger than fiction – well, it’s pretty awesome. A more perfect Being, the creator upon whom humanity is modeled, would be both absolute and subtle, all colors, hypercolors, each individually and also blended.

    Consider the Trinity. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, always all of them, separate and yet one. While an argument could be made that “black and white at the same time” isn’t the same as “grey”, “grey” is about as close as human understanding can get to it.

  • AnonaMiss

    If you consider alcohol addiction to be a form of drug addiction – and honestly we only distinguish the two because alcohol is so easy to get a hold of – then yes, drug addiction was a huge problem in Wesley’s day. The evils that alcoholism wrought among the poor was the major reason why temperance was a founding principle of the Methodists. Remember, Methodism was a direct response to the rise in popularity of cheap corn whiskey – wine had been too expensive to get drunk off of, but whiskey hit the cities of England like crack did in the 1990s.

    As for the charity of churches, that’s irrelevant to my argument. I wasn’t trying to make any claim about any religion, Christian or non, helping or harming society as a whole. I’m not implying causation, I’m just showing that there isn’t even a correlation. Even if it were true that people becoming interested in non-Christian spiritualities!!, was a recent phenomenon, the fact that (English) society is taking better care of its poor now than ever before indicates that England is not in moral free fall.

  • Well, OK, let’s go with something easier then. When you say there’s been a “rise in emphasis in the supernatural,” do you think there’s more emphasis on the supernatural in 2013 than there was in 1913? Less emphasis? Do you not know?

  • By “that lesson” you mean “it’s harder to kill someone who you know personally”? No, not especially. The earliest instance of that lesson I can think of was a story about a farmer’s kid being chastised for naming one of the chickens because “we raise chickens for food, son.” But I can’t remember the story.

  • Steve Morrison

    Helena Constantine said:

    Rivendell was built as a fortress at the time the Witch King of Angmar had a large army laying waste to the remnants of the Northern Kingdom.

    Heresy!! Incorrect doctrine!!! According to the One True Holy Book, Rivendell was founded in the Second Age, at the time of the War of the Elves and Sauron! According to the Tale of Years for S.A. 1697:

    Elrond retreats with remnant of the Noldor and founds the refuge of Imladris.

  • Steve Morrison

    As for an Old Testament parable, how about the story of the lamb which Nathan told to David? (“Thou art the man!”)

  • Alanlionheart

    That’s a good point about the dreams. I must admit I’d not thought of them in terms of parables.
    But like all dreams and parables an explanation is proffered. Dreams in particular are generally prophetic in nature foretelling what is to come, unlike parables, but still the explanation is given.
    On the matter of the rainbow we really don’t know what the climate was before the global flood. We do know it was markedly different and of course you are right about rainbows. But you can’t say that because it happens today it must have always happened. That’s assumption when the truth is we just don’t know

  • Alanlionheart

    OK so if it’s a parable, what is it about the text that indicated it is?

  • Alanlionheart

    I am saying that someone should have taken moral responsibility to stop the faulty science before it got off the ground. Clearly it was faulty and not thoroughly researched. Someone or people got it seriously wrong

  • Alanlionheart

    Not faith as described in the Bible. Faith in the “religious” sense is not the same

  • EllieMurasaki

    I am saying that someone should have taken moral responsibility to stop the faulty [theology] before it got off the ground. Clearly it was faulty and not thoroughly researched. Someone or people got it seriously wrong
    Do you see the problem with this statement? Hint: it’s not the bit I changed.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You put quote marks around ‘religious’. Do you then mean to say that only Christianity is a religion?

  • Alanlionheart

    I’m not implying anything
    There is a very close relationship between Jews & Christians. We share the same Scriptures, Jesus was a Jew, and so on.
    And yes there are Jews that have trusted in Jesus as their Messiah. That doesn’t change their Jewishness.
    On the last two sentences I was merely commenting on your post

  • Guest

    Pardon me while I abruptly choke on my tongue.

  • Alanlionheart

    I don’t think that any Christians regard Christianity as a religion with or without quotation marks

  • EllieMurasaki

    Is there, then, any such thing as ‘religion’?

  • Alanlionheart

    Well clearly there is as most people use the term to describe all kinds of belief systems

  • EllieMurasaki

    Define ‘religion’ as you use the term, please, Alan.

  • Otherwise what do we have but a vain hope that medical science hasn’t messed up in other areas?

    What do we have?

    We have a measurable reduction in child mortality rates.

    We have medical advances that have kept several friends of mine alive and happy and productive who fifty years ago would have died from cancer.

    We have medical advances over a mere fifteen years that let me survive a stroke in 2007 that would have killed me in 1992.

    We have the knowledge that we can learn from the mistakes we make, and thereby do better next time. And better, and better, and better, and better.

    We have the knowledge that fallible minds, by working together and paying attention, can make the world better. And better, and better, and better, and better.

    Of course we have failures. We’ve had plenty of failures. And we have to examine them so we can learn from them. If we don’t learn from our failures, people die needlessly.

    But to look back without also crediting our successes is dishonest. More important, if we don’t learn from our successes, people die needlessly.

  • Alanlionheart

    I thought I had in the above comment. I looked it up and found this
    although I have edited it a little because you asked me how I would use the term
    1.a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

    2.a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.

    3.the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.

    5.the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of a faith.

    You can see the full definition here

  • EllieMurasaki

    Your comment doesn’t actually end at “And we have to examine …”, does it, Dave?

    Fuck Disqus. Any stronger words would require a violence and sexual violence warning so I shall refrain.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So, uh, Christianity by your definition is a religion?

  • No, no it doesn’t. So yes, subscriptions just became worthless to most of us. They really are on a roll with these updates, aren’t they.

  • EllieMurasaki


  • No, but in retrospect it would be awfully evocative if it did.

  • Alanlionheart

    I entirely agree
    But here in the UK we have issues that people are dying needlessly because of poor nursing care, patients being neglected, poor hygiene etc. As good as our health service is, it is let down by carelessness and lack of proper attention.
    Yet some parts of it are excellent.

  • This is not possible, in particular because science doesn’t have any kind of authoritative body which determines what is acceptable or not. That’s left up to government, and the US government (despite claiming every third sentence or so that this is a Christian nation with Christian heritage and Christian ideals) has a very large body of people willing to kill people to make a buck.

  • Yup. Here in the US, as well.

  • cyllan

    Wait, what does that even mean? You don’t think that Christians — that is, people who profess to be of the Christian Religion — regard their religion as a religion?

    I’m calling Poe.