Biblical Tales Proven?

On April 25, 2010, a team of Chinese Christians held a press conference in Hong Kong announcing their discovery of Noah’s Ark. The vessel, which dated to 4,800 years ago, was uncovered on Mount Ararat in Turkey. Noah’s Ark has long been predicted to rest at this location. The team leader, Yeung Wing-Cheung, says they are “99.9 percent” certain that what they excavated is Noah’s Ark.

I was roughly three years old when I first heard the story of Noah’s ark. I attended a parochial preschool and a few days a week, my teacher instructed us to link hands in a snake-like unit and trek to the campus chapel.

Once settled in the pews with as minimal squirming as we could manage, a woman named Miss Margaret would flash us a warm grin and welcome us to our Bible lesson of the day. Her Christian education weapon of choice? The flannelgraph.

I can still picture little Noah (made of felt) leading felt animals two-by-two into the felt ark to survive the flood of fuzz in the flannelgraph world. As I grew older and decided on the faith for myself, I encountered the story of Noah’s Ark time and time again, focusing less on the specifics and more on the message of God’s redemption and promise.

You would think that last month’s discovery, though not by any means proven to be sure, would at the very least, moderately captivate my enthusiasm. My faith in Jesus is the core of who I am and how I try to live my life, but for some reason, I honestly do not care whether or not the ark, or any other Biblical relic, has been found. Shroud of Turin? I guess that’s pretty sweet if it’s really the cloth they wrapped Jesus in after his crucifixion. John the Baptist’s Head? That’s…actually pretty gross.

The thing that bothers me about this remnant hubbub is that the people who spend their time searching for or relying on these artifacts are completely missing the point of Christianity.

The focal point of the Christian message is that Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive us from our sins because God loves us and wants a relationship with us. And as Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-39, the first and greatest commandment is “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second is “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

So to see an entire ministry, Noah’s Ark Ministries International, appearing to be devoted to finding some wooden structure instead of focusing foremost on orienting their lives around the love that God has to offer us and wants us to show others, breaks my heart.

The question of whether or not such stories from the Old Testament are literally true is yet another facet of this topic that I find generally unimportant. Not only do some Christians waste their time debating the specifics, but many seem to limit God’s power when all their faith is riding on a Biblical story’s accuracy. What if it turns out that there never was a Noah or an ark? What if Jonah was never swallowed by a whale? The messages behind them are still intact, and God is still there, just as powerful, loving and redeeming as before.

At the same time, I have no problem believing Bible stories to be true. The God I trust in can do absolutely anything, so yeah, he can help an underdog named David defeat a giant named Goliath with the mere aid of a slingshot. That’s just God warming up. And whether or not we have all the facts, proof or evidence will not make God more or less apparent to those who believe in Him. To me, the verification is in the intricacy of nature, and how I’ve felt Him working in my life.

According to Fox News, there was an update on April 30 that the uncovered vessel is most likely not the ark. Good thing I’m not putting my faith in 450-foot-long hunk of gopher wood.