ARKONE
They said it couldn’t be done. Then when it was built, they said they wouldn’t let it open. Then when it was open, they said it would be a failure.

But today, the facts are in and the astonishing Ark Encounter attraction created by the Christian apologetics group Answers in Genesis is a resounding success, drawing hundreds of thousands of people.

The life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, spanning 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, is attracting guests from around the country to Williamstown, Kentucky.

And among the multitudes coming to witness this marvel are atheists, skeptics and adherents of non-Christian faiths, some of whom are being won over by the exhibit’s uncompromising Gospel message.

Mark Looy, chief communications officer for the Ark Encounter and vice president of outreach, told WND the exhibit has surpassed all expectations.

“I’m thrilled to report we are approaching 400,000 visitors to the Ark in three months of operation,” he said. “Now that’s significant not only because it’s exceeding our projections, but because the state of Kentucky, which was very cool towards the project, had done a study predicting we would have only 325,000 visitors the first year. Now we exceeded 325,000 in less than three months.”

Looy says a sizable percentage of those who attend the Ark Encounter aren’t evangelical Christians.

“We believe, though we haven’t done any intensive surveys yet, it’s possible that perhaps 40 percent of our Ark visitors are not ‘born-again’ as taught by the Bible,” Looy stated. “That seems to match up with our feasibility study that we conducted a few years ago, that the Ark has such a broad interest among the culture that some non-Christians and even some skeptics will come out to see this immense ship.”

One of the wonders of the world – available to see today! Come and experience the Ark Encounter, the extraordinary adventure straight out of the pages of Scripture. The Ark Encounter, a life-sized Noah’s Ark. Come and be amazed.

ARKTWO

But some atheists and skeptics did their best to prevent the Ark Encounter from ever opening. Atheist groups attempted to use a billboard campaign to inspire opposition to the project. There were also attempts to deny Answers in Genesis access to a Kentucky state program designed to boost tourism through tax rebates.

As Looy recalled, atheists also made their presence felt on the day the Ark Encounter opened.

“Well, the first day we opened there were about 75 protesters out front,” he remembered. “One of their main arguments was a false one, that taxpayer money was used to build the Ark and that’s not true at all. There’s a tax incentive that can kick in later on, but this Ark was funded through our donors, through a bond offering and through donations. There’s the occasional skeptic that comes through and tries to engage our staff in conversation and we deal with them in a firm but loving way. There haven’t been any disruptions within the Ark Encounter park itself but outside the Ark on opening day there was a protest.”

However, the Ark Encounter is more than a tourist attraction or something designed to reinforce the views of those who are already believers. Instead, it is a ministry designed to win people to salvation.

“We present the gospel message in a number of places,” said Looy. “We don’t hide the fact that we are a ministry that shares biblical truths starting with Genesis but working through the New Testament. And so the Gospel is presented, especially on the second deck of the Ark. There’s a door there, which we depicted as the door that Noah and the animals used to come in, those that were saved from the watery judgment. And Christ is our modern day ark of salvation, the door through which we must pass to be saved. And so yes, we are evangelistic.”

As part of that effort, the Ark Encounter will be hosting the premiere of well-known evangelist Ray Comfort’s newest film, “The Atheist Delusion” on October 22. The film is designed to give Christians a rational basis for their faith as well as challenge the secular worldview of atheists.

Powerful tools for witnessing, apologetics and spiritual growth. Don’t miss the blockbuster books and movies from the Christian evangelist who is not afraid to engage the culture and take his message to the streets. The collected works of Ray Comfort. Available now at the WND Superstore.

Looy says such outreach is a core part of the Ark Encounter’s mission.

“We strongly encourage skeptics, agnostics, atheists and those who are of other religions to visit the Ark,” he said. “We open up our doors in a very loving way. We have some very important messages to share with them, the Gospel most of all.

“Our objective is more than just to prove the Book of Genesis is history. And by the way, I’m a former evolutionist and remained one until I heard both sides of the issue. We hope atheists leave the Ark Encounter recognizing that the Bible is true, but not just because we want to show them that evolution is wrong, creation is true and that there was a worldwide flood and this huge ship. That, in terms of eternity, doesn’t get a person into heaven. We want them to accept the New Testament message of why Christ came to earth 2000 years ago.”

And the efforts are paying dividends.

“I just heard of a young lady, after touring the Ark and in the parking lot after the visit, prayed with her parents to receive Christ,” said Looy enthusiastically. “Now, sometimes you don’t hear about these salvation testimonies until years and years later. It usually happens not on site, it happens elsewhere as that person’s whole worldview has been challenged. A worldview, like that of evolutionary naturalism, doesn’t go away overnight. It takes some digesting of the materials.”

One of the wonders of the world – available to see today! Come and experience the Ark Encounter, the extraordinary adventure straight out of the pages of Scripture. The Ark Encounter, a life-sized Noah’s Ark. Come and be amazed.

With that kind of effectiveness, Looy says it is not surprising the Ark Encounter has aroused opposition from atheist activists. But he is proud to say the Ark Encounter is a triumph despite their efforts.

“In the first month or two of operation there were some bloggers, atheist, secularist bloggers and others, who were claiming that no one was coming to the Ark,” Looy recalled. “And there was one image that got circulated in a lot of secularist blogs and websites. Someone took some drone footage of the parking lot of the Ark and there were only maybe 75 cars in the parking lot. And they said therefore nobody was coming.

“Well, what wasn’t made clear was this drone footage was taken a half hour before the Ark opened. The fact that there were 75 cars already at the Ark before it opened was significant. And of course, some days, you’re going to be busier than others.

“But again, this last Saturday, we had 7,000 people at the Ark. And yet there’s this myth out there circulated by atheists. They’re perpetuating the myth that no one’s coming to the Ark. And here we are, almost 400,000 visitors in three months. It’s been a success.”

Powerful tools for witnessing, apologetics and spiritual growth. Don’t miss the blockbuster books and movies from the Christian evangelist who is not afraid to engage the culture and take his message to the streets. The collected works of Ray Comfort. Available now at the WND Superstore.

A while before opening:

Closer to opening day:

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.