At last count, more than 150,000 visitors since the May 28 grand opening have made the pilgrimage to this $27 million marvel located about 25 miles from Cincinnati. They’ve traveled from nearly every state in the nation. They’ve traveled from overseas. They’ve traveled by car, plane and train.
Turns out Ken Ham was right. If you build it, they will come.
It’s less certain whether Ham thought the CM would be so controversial, but given the nature of the beast – in this case, a dinosaur living at the same time as man – it’s safe to assume that the former Australian school teacher turned “Young Earth” lightning rod knew what he was getting himself into.
Not that he minds. The more commotion stirred up through the comparison of creationism to evolution, the more exposure the museum receives. The more exposure, the more visitors who arrive. And the more visitors, the more souls that can be saved.
So bring on the “bad” press, the protesting scientists, the airplanes trailing banners that include: “Thou Shalt Not Lie.” Ham is ready for it all. The president of the Answers in Genesis ministry simply points people toward the first book of the Bible and asks:
“Is America getting better or worse? Is the compromise really working?”
Those questions have nagged at Ham since 1980, when he began contemplating the idea of a creationism museum to impress upon people the importance of Biblical authority. Twenty-seven years later, Ham’s dream became reality in the dirt of northern Kentucky.
The museum, located on 49 acres, is a mixture of ancient and modern: exhibits depicting Adam and Eve complete with the latest in audio-visual technology. A planetarium. Outdoor trails and fossil bones. It is impressive to say the least.
Live chameleons share space with a scale cutout of Noah’s ark. The serpent in the Garden of Eden tempts on one side of a walkway while Moses stands tall not far off.
And everywhere there are signs reminding guests that they have two choices when determining historical truth: God’s Word or human reason. So choose wisely.
On a wall a sign reads: Human philosophy says “I think, therefore I am.” Biblical truth, meanwhile, makes clear of God that “I am that I am.”
That struggle between following the mind of God and the mind of man is largely the reason so much emotion is brought to the table when creationists come face to face with evolutionists, whether they be Christians or not.
It is why more than 800 scientists from Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana signed a “statement of concern” about the museum, and why a physics/astronomy professor from Cleveland rated the museum a 4 out of 5 for technology – 5 being best – and a 5 for propaganda and negative 5 for content.
“Evolutionists get red in the face and the proverbial steam comes out of their ears, because in essence we’re challenging their whole world view, that there is meaning to life,” said Mark Looy, vice president of Answers in Genesis.
And yet both Looy and Ham insist their chief aims are evangelism and emphasis on the authority of scripture
“It’s not that we’re insisting on a (literal) six days of creation,” Ham said. “It’s we’re insisting you take God at his word.”
Ham shared a meeting he had with humanist Eugene Scott, an anthropologist and executive director of the National Center for Science Education, which stands against creationism and intelligent design.
“She sat right there,” Ham said, pointing to a padded chair in his museum office, “And she said, ‘Ken, I know a lot of people of faith who have no trouble believing in evolution and millions of years (age of the earth).’ I said to her, ‘Dr. Scott, would you agree they can’t believe in millions of years if they take Genesis as literal history?’ She agreed. In other words, she knows. If taken as written, it’s six days. Secularists know that.”
Ham quickly points out, however, that winning arguments isn’t the point, which is why the museum experience ends at the emotional “Last Adam” exhibit, a movie that includes a Roman centurion speaking of Christ’s death.
“What we’re saying is not going to be antagonistic to your friends,” Ham said. “It will be challenging but not antagonistic. The most made comment after coming out is ‘I’m going home to bring my non-Christian friends.’ ”
Interestingly, sharing the gospel message has met with little resistance from secular critics.
“At one period, I was doing 80 interviews in 10 days, and some in the secular press asked me, ‘In a nutshell, what is this place all about?’ I told them we’re teaching people that Bible history is true, therefore Christianity based on that history is true, and what we’re about is seeing people saved and won to the Lord Jesus Christ. And the secular press said, ‘That is refreshing, because a lot of times in America people are doing things and hiding it in a way.’ ”
Nothing is hidden at the Creation Museum, including stern warnings to the church that treating the Bible as “soft” history is like pouring water onto a slippery slope.
“You can love the Lord, be an on-fire Christian and I will not question your Christianity and whether you’re going to heaven,” Ham said. “But what have you done to the next generation when you’ve told them they don’t have to believe this book? When you compromise in one generation, you notice it more in the next, and that door gets opened further and further.”
He points to England as a country that dismissed a literal interpretation of the Bible ... “and England is destroyed from a Christian perspective.”
Whatever they’re teaching, crowds are showing up to hear it and see it. Initial hopes were that the museum would attract 250,000 visitors a year, but that estimate would seem to be way low considering attendance is more than halfway there in less than three months, creating something of a nice problem.
“Our operating costs are now higher than we expected, because so many people are coming,” Looy said, adding that part of the popularity is that while the museum does not beat people over the head with its beliefs, neither does it shrink from its core message.
“We present some of the evolutionary arguments, but then we refute them,” he said. “We’ve had skeptics come through and try to engage us in conversation. Some are mocking, but on the whole they’re respectful.”
Looy put the museum’s message in its proper perspective.
“We don’t want people to leave here and just say, ‘I’ve given up evolution and now I’m a creationist.’ In terms of eternity what does that accomplish? Nothing. We want them to accept the fact that Christ is our creator and he’s our savior. So we want them to leave here without excuse.”