Deborah Haarsma
 on July 09, 2018

BioLogos Responds to the “Ark Encounter”

We at BioLogos fully affirm the authority and inspiration of the Bible, while believing that proper interpretation of the Flood story in Genesis 6-9 does not conflict with modern science.


Before You Read

Dear reader,

We’ll get right to it: Young people today are departing the faith in historic numbers as the church is either unwilling or unable to address their questions on science and faith. BioLogos is hosting those tough conversations. Not with anger, but with grace. Not with a simplistic position to earn credibility on the left or the right, but a message that is informed, faithful, and hopeful.

Although voices on both sides are loud and extreme, we are breaking through. But as a nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of donors like you to continue this challenging work. Your tax deductible gift today will help us continue to counter the polarizing narratives of today with a message that is informed, hopeful, and faithful.

Young-earth creationist organization Answers in Genesis, led by Ken Ham, has recently opened the Ark Encounter to the public. The Ark Encounter features a large wooden reconstruction of Noah’s Ark, based on the Flood story in Genesis 6-9. Answers in Genesis believes that the early chapters of Genesis should be interpreted as historical and scientific statements, requiring that the universe was created in six days around six thousand years ago, and that a world-wide flood produced most fossils and geological features on Earth. While we at BioLogos affirm and share the Christian faith of young-earth creationists like Ham, we disagree with their interpretation of Genesis and their view of the scientific origins of our world. Answers in Genesis and Ken Ham do not speak for all evangelical Christians.

Christianity has a tremendous legacy of encouraging scientific research, building on the belief that all of nature is God’s creation. Through modern science, we are becoming increasingly aware of how God has crafted the universe around us. Hundreds of years of research in geologypaleontologybiology, and many other fields have produced abundant evidence that the earth is billions of years old and that fossils and geological features formed through many processes over eons of time. Today, 99% of PhD biologists agree that plants, animals, and humans formed through evolutionary processes.

We at BioLogos fully affirm the authority and inspiration of the Bible, while believing that proper interpretation of Genesis 6-9 does not conflict with modern science. The story of Noah’s ark and the Flood is an essential part of the Bible’s divine teaching about God, his relationship to creation, and the just punishment that sin deserves. The story points to the magnitude of Christ’s work, saving us from judgement and giving us new life. We must remember that the first ancient readers of the text saw its primary message as theological, not scientific.

The perspective offered by Answers in Genesis forces people to choose between the Bible and modern science, and reinforces the harmful cultural stereotype that modern science and biblical Christianity cannot mix.  Sadly, Answers in Genesis is staking the authority of the entire Bible—and Christianity itself—on the view that a global flood is a viable alternative to abundant scientific evidence for a longer chronology of creation. To do so, they must add in many speculative details not found in the biblical text, such as the “biogeographical rafting model”. And they must rely on a theory of post-Flood animal evolution in which species diversify at rates many times faster than any known evolutionary mechanism. These theories, along with many others posited by young-earth creationists, are not based on credible scientific evidence; in fact, they contradict the clear evidence in God’s creation.

When people accept the AiG narrative that these scientific conclusions are essential to Christianity, then their faith is often shaken when they encounter the incredible explanatory power of modern science. In fact, we hear from individuals on a daily basis who have experienced a deep crisis of faith when their young-earth creationist beliefs were exposed as scientifically (and biblically) weak. While we are grateful that BioLogos has helped recover and strengthen the faith of these Christians, we mourn the fact that countless others have drifted away from the faith. Young-earth creationist teaching is causing unnecessary harm to the reputation of the Church and creates a stumbling block for people who are considering the Gospel.

For more resources on science, Genesis, and the Flood, I recommend checking out our Common Questions page, as well as the other resources linked below.

About the author

Deb Haarsma

Deborah Haarsma

Deborah Haarsma is President of BioLogos. She is an astronomer and frequent speaker on modern science and Christian faith at research universities, churches, and public venues like the National Press Club. Her work appears in several recent books, including Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Design and Christ and the Created Order.  She wrote the book Origins with her husband and fellow physicist, Loren Haarsma, presenting the agreements and disagreements among Christians regarding the history of life and the universe.  She edited the anthology Delight in Creation: Scientists Share Their Work with the Church with Rev. Scott Hoezee. Previously, Haarsma served as professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin University. She is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. She has studied large galaxies, galaxy clusters, the curvature of space, and the expansion of the universe using telescopes around the world and in orbit.  Haarsma completed her doctoral work in astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her undergraduate work in physics and music at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She and Loren enjoy science fiction and classical music, and live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.