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Forests (of gopher wood?) have been felled to produce books about Noah’s Ark. Some have been silly looking children’s books, with the bathtub boat and furry animals. Some on the other end of the spectrum have been heavy, technical tomes enjoyed only by hardcore researchers. A few have been of the ’70s TV special variety and remain classics.
Swimming against the tide is an eminently accessible new effort by Larry Stone, “Noah: The Real Story.” Stone, a journalist and graduate of Moody Bible Institute, has crafted one of the best overviews of the Noah story I’ve ever read. What Stone has accomplished is difficult to do: provide enough information to interest a wide audience, but not so overwhelming as to leave it in the realm of dusty scholarship.
The result is a riveting read that doesn’t pressure the reader to be pigeonholed into a specific group. In other words, believe in the Noah account or not, you’re still going to end up with a fun analysis of one of history’s greatest mysteries: Did an ancient man construct a wooden ship to ride out a period of God’s wrath and punishment?
Stone begins by recounting the basic biblical account, which is far more important than we might otherwise think, given the times in which we live. After all, recent polling data suggests that young people in America today – quite incredibly – don’t even know the basic story. They no longer recognize broad outlines of Bible stories. So Stone’s effort here at the beginning of “Noah: The Real Story” is on-target and very well done.
Stone is careful to give the biblical view: “The Bible is clear that God was upset with the wickedness on the earth, sorry He had made people, and was ready to destroy humans, animals, and birds with a flood. But between the first mention of Noah and the story of the Flood are four strange verses that seem to explain the wickedness on the earth. But what they mean is not very clear.”
In other words, Stone lets the Bible speak for itself (and emerges into a fascinating discussion about a subject that is sweeping the church world today, the mysterious “Nephilim”) and, critically, does not dance around the horror that both brought the flood and saw it to its end: God’s wrath was at work and a lot of people died as the result of their sin.
That’s not a pretty picture, and Stone is to be commended for including it as, ironically, many books for younger people don’t address it, leaving folks new to the story confused about why a flood was necessary to begin with.
Stone also offers several compelling flood stories from other cultures, showing that even skeptics must acknowledge that an ancient event must have inspired them.
Chapter 4 (“How Big Was the Ark?”) is brilliantly done, as Stone goes into some depth about ancient shipbuilding techniques, demonstrating clearly that the project was plausible. An illustration on page 52 (the book is generous with helpful illustrations, ranging from Middle Ages woodcuts to modern renditions of the Ark, including the version currently in vogue with the giant apologetics ministry, Answers in Genesis) shows how the planking necessary for buoyancy could have been achieved using dowels, tenons and mortises.
Since he’s a journalist, Stone realizes that the modern search for the ark is almost as big a story as the ship itself. In “Noah: The Real Story,” he does a tremendous thing: debunking some of the alleged modern sightings, which have served to foster a cottage industry of books, films and organizations dedicated to the search. I consider this balanced, objective view to be one of the strengths of a strong book.
Finally, Stone, as a believer, wraps it all up nicely by presenting the biblical view of what the Ark means for us today. The final chapter (“Noah’s Secret for Surviving the End of the World”) outlines the plan of salvation familiar to Christians, with the Ark symbolic of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. This final presentation by the author is just one of the reasons I think “Noah: The Real Story” is one of the top apologetics books of the last several years.
In a sea of books about the famous biblical shipbuilder, Larry Stone’s effort is sure to stay afloat for a long, long time.