Culture At Large

Musings on the eternal search for Noah's Ark

Andy Rau

Has Noah's Ark finally been found? Well, probably not, but at least one person is holding out hope that a geographical anomaly spotted in a satellite photo might just be history's most famous boat:

High on Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey, there is a baffling mountainside "anomaly," a feature that one researcher claims may be something of biblical proportions.

Images taken by aircraft, intelligence-gathering satellites and commercial remote-sensing spacecraft are fueling an intensive study of the intriguing oddity. But whether the anomaly is some geological quirk of nature, playful shadows, a human-made structure of some sort, or simply nothing at all--that remains to be seen.

I'm afraid I've got my money on "nothing at all," but I will admit that it's fun to play the what-if game and wonder what the world might make of an epic Biblical artifact that actually turned out to be genuine. There's certainly been no shortage of alleged Biblical archaeology discoveries--ranging from the fairly plausible to the downright bizarre--that have excited Christians but which haven't held up to scrutiny. So why, in the face of almost certain disappointment, do I still react to this sort of news story with--I'll just go ahead and admit it--a bit of exhilirated curiousity?

It isn't because the Christian faith relies on archaeological or scientific evidence to remain viable. Blogger Fred Butler, writing about the Noah's Ark story and discussing the ease with which overactive imaginations can read significance into the insignificant, makes an important point:

...do we need to have a physical, tangible ark to prove the Bible is true? That the global flood describe in the pages of Genesis really happened? Of course not. The fact that the Bible is God's revelation is certainty enough the historical account of Noah and the flood took place. Besides, whose to say there is an ark up there anyways? The integrity of the Bible doesn't demand it. More than likely, after Noah and his family left the ark, they dismantled a good portion of it to use in construction for their own shelter. What was left has since been covered over or left to deteriorate in the elements.

When it comes down to it, even a physical, tangible ark will do little to convince the most stubborn of skeptic unbelievers. His disbelief is a heart problem, not one that lacks credible evidence.

I think most Christians would agree--faith looks to the unseen, not to the archaeologically-proven. Nevertheless, when we read stories like this, it's hard not to wonder: what would faith be like in a world where the Bible's historical accuracy was undeniable? How different from our modern-day faith was the faith of the Biblical patriarchs, for whom God's interaction with the world was a physical and observable fact? If we were confronted with undeniable proof of the Bible's historicity, would we find it impossible to not also accept the Bible's spiritual claims? Or would we--like the Israelites who witnessed miracles and turned away from God anyway--still find ways to reject God despite the evidence?

Butler, quoted above, suggests that the last question would ring true, and I think he's right. And so it's good to be reminded, as sensational archaeological claims come and go, that our faith doesn't ultimately rely on (and might not even be helped by) archaeological finds. Maybe one day we'll make that big discovery--Noah's Ark, or something similarly spectacular, that will raise all those interesting questions about faith and proof. Maybe, probably, we won't. But for now, I'm content to watch with untroubled curiousity as the search goes on.

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Science, Theology & The Church, The Bible, Faith, News & Politics, History