Sunning

Sunrise over sea

“Why did it take me 26 years to get here?  And more importantly, how did I ever find this place?” I ask the Sunbathers, not aiming my question at anyone in particular.

“It’s always been here,” one answers.

“It has?  But . . no.  It just couldn’t be.  See, I’ve been looking for this place my whole life.  All my will’s been bent on it . .  well, I mean, I did get sidetracked a little.  A lot.  Most of the time.  Nearly all of the time.  But this was the place I really wanted to find.  Really, in my heart of hearts.  This is where I’ve been wanting to go.  So, you see, it couldn’t always have been here,” I explain.  “Because I was just over there.”  I point to the shore across the dried-up ocean floor.  “See there?  See where all those people are stumbling around, plotting against each other and snarling?  That was where I was, see.

“The problem with what you’re saying is that I would have been able to see this place from here.  I mean, it’s just across that ocean—well, that dried up ocean.  So it couldn’t have been here all this time.  Are you sure it hasn’t moved?”

“I’m sure,” another Sunbather pipes in.  “I’ve been here for years.”

“But I didn’t have to cross through any oceans to get here!” I protest.  “It wasn’t even hard!  I didn’t have to use any of the swimming techniques I’ve been teaching myself!”

“Right again.”

“But if you’ve been here for years . .” I start, putting two-and-two together, “then I would have seen you, you see, because I was RIGHT OVER THERE.”

“Well,” the Sunbather says mildly, “maybe you were just looking in the wrong places.”

“Yeah, but . . no,” I insist.  “You’re not getting the point.  If I was just over there, we would have SEEN each other, don’ you see?”

“Uh huh,” another Sunbather chimes in.  “We did see you.”

WHAT?” I demand.  “Not possible!”

“Oh yeah,” another Sunbather says.  “We’ve seen you all right.  You had a real penchant for mortality-by-ocean-drowning.”

I’m suddenly convinced that they have been seeing me, all this time.  But it’s almost beyond belief.  “But- you- if- . .” Sentence fragments are flying all over the place, the confusion blowing them everywhere, and any pieces I happen to find don’t fit with any others.  I can’t make a sentence to save my life.

Of course, I don’t have to save my life.

That’s the whole point of this place.

“We tried to help you,” another Sunbather volunteers, reading my mind.  “We yelled out.  A lot.”

“But- you- then- how- why-”

“You couldn’t hear us though,” another Sunbather adds.  “What with all the waves and all.”

“You had a real obsession with waves,” another Sunbather agrees.

“But- then- you mean- wow.”

“That’s right,” a Sunbather says, knowing my mind.  “You didn’t have to go through any of those oceans at all.  All those times you were choking on salt water.  All those times you sunk to the bottom.”

“None of that was necessary,” I say in shock, knowing it’s true.

“None of it,” one of the Sunbathers agrees.

“You mean . . all the time . . . I just had to . . . . cross . . . . . a dry ocean bed.  There was no water to contend with at all?”  But I don’t need an answer.  I know it’s true.  They know I know it’s true.  I look down at the dry river bed.  It’s the deepest, longest canyon I’ve ever seen.  “If there’d been water in there,” I whisper.  “I’d never have made it.”

“No one would have, no one except the Great Swimmer.  The Great Swimmer changed all that years ago,” a Sunbather explains, even though he knows my learning and accepting of that truth was how I finally got here.

“The Great Swimmer drowned, didn’t He?” I ask.  “Draining the water from this oceanbed.”

“He had to,” one of the Sunbathers says.  “There was no other way.  Everyone would have drowned crossing it.”

“So you mean . . all this time . . . I’ve been . . . . trying to ford oceans . . . . . when I didn’t need to?”

“Are you sad about that?” one of the Sunbathers asked.

I shook my head.  “How can I be?” I asked.  “When I’m over here now?  When the Great Swimmer not only made a way to save me, but He rescued me from my decision to drown myself until I changed my mind?”

“Would you like to lay down in the sun now?” another Sunbather asked.  “Now that you’re through with swimming and drowning and all that stuff?”

“Oh yes,” I say.  “Oh yes.”  I sit down on the hot, hot sand in the hot, hot sun.  I have almost forgotten what it was like to be cold, even though it was just a minute ago that I was.  A minute ago or was it really almost 2,000 years ago, with the death of Christ?

“You look like you could use a rest,” a Sunbather says.

I cough up a spurt of saltwater, and I feel really good doing that.  “I don’t have to go into any more oceans,” I say in relief.  I keep coughing up nasty, burny water.  It feels good to get rid of it.  It feels even better knowing I won’t have to swallow any more down.  I start to lay down.  I have never laid down before.  I have never been able to close my eyes for more than a blink.  I have always been vigilant.  I have always been trying to make it across oceans.  I have always been drowning.

“Now that I’m not drowning anymore,” I say, leaning back, “what is there for me to do?”

“Soak up the Sun,” a Sunbather says.  “Really soak it up.”

“Ah, yes,” I say.  “That sounds nice.  Anything else?”

“I can see you’re just beginning,” a Sunbather says, chuckling.  “This is the anything else.”

“Just laying here, soaking up the Sun?”

“That’s right.”

“That’s ALL I do?”

“Everything you do is going to be through that, because of that.”

“You mean like working as a lifeguard, don’t you?  Going back to all those wrong oceans.”

“That’s right,” one of the Sunbathers says.  “But you’ll find that when you go . . you haven’t really left.”

“You mean I’ll be there and here?”

“There and here.”

“Whoa.  Cool.”  I know that really isn’t the right thing to say, or the most intelligent, but it’s the only thing I can think of.

“So even when I’m there, in the cold, in the water . . I’ll really be here?  In the sand, in pleasure, in the Sun?”

“Always.  The Sun only turned away from one Sunbather.”

“The Great Swimmer,” I say.  “When He drowned.”

“That’s right.”

“So . . where do I go?  Which ocean?  There must be thousands.”  I know, because I used to be drowning.  I used to be drowning for a long time.

“Millions,” one of the Sunbathers correct.

“Which one, then?” I ask.  I want to write it down on my To-Do list.  My great big To-Do list that used to be filled with names of oceans I commanded myself to drown in.  But when I reach for my list, I notice it’s gone.

“IT’S GONE!” I cry.

“What?” one of the sunbathers asks.  “Oh, your To-Do list?”  She chuckles.

“This isn’t funny!” I cry frantically.  “Everything I was supposed to do was on it!”  I start to get that sick feeling in my stomach, that sick feeling I get when I can’t even check off one of the bazillions of things I’m supposed to be doing on my ever-growing list.  But then, the panic stops.  I take a deep breath.  I laugh.

“Oh, yeah!” I cry.  “I remember now!  After the Great Swimmer pulled me up onto this shore, we had a fight over that list, didn’t we?”

“Yeah,” one of the sunbathers says, laughing.  “And you lost.”

“Oh,” I sigh in bliss.  “I am so happy He got that out of my fist.”  I look down at my hand.  “You know,” I just realize, “the broken bones don’t hurt anymore.”

“No,” one of the Sunbathers agrees.  “He healed your hand after He broke it.  That’s His way.”

Of course it is.  I know that by now.  “HE DID EVERYTHING ON MY LIST!” I cry, pure, sweet peace.  “HE DID EVERYTHING ON MY LIST!”  My heart rolls around in the rapture of living without a list.

NO MORE LIST!” I scream hysterically, flopping down into the sand.  “NO MORE LIST!”  I roll around in the sand, laughing and laughing.  I am a lunatic, a lunatic for the Great Swimmer, and I want to stay that way forever and ever.

NO MORE LIST!  NO MORE LIST!  NO MORE LIST!!!  Hallelujah, it’s all crossed out!  NO MORE LIST!

I take a little nap.  It’s my first time sleeping.  (It’s hard to sleep when you’re drowning.)  When I wake up, I’m still on the shore.

I have more questions.

“So . . when I’m in the ocean . . . What’s my job?  Pulling people up off the ocean floor when they’re drowning?  Holding their head above water?  Giving them CPR?”

“No, no,” a Sunbather says patiently.  “No no.  Is that what we did?  Did we pull you out of the water?  Did we save you from drowning all those zillions of times?  Did we drag you to shore?”

“No,” I whisper, thinking back.  “The Great Swimmer did.  So . . what is my job, exactly?”

“Don’t you remember what we did for you?”

“OH!” I say, getting it now.  “I have to narrate what the Great Swimmer’s doing.  I have to follow His directions and be a part of the rescue.”

“That’s old ocean talk,” one of the sunbathers warns.  “That won’t get you anywhere but back in the ocean, trying to drown.”

“But I can’t drown now,” I say, ecstatic.  “Look, see?”  I hold up my arms.  “I’ve got these wonderful floaties on my arms that the Great Swimmer gave me.  And you know what’s even better?  I can’t get them off.”  I realize now how stupid that sounds.  “I mean . . I tried,” I admit.

“We know,” one of the sunbathers says dryly.  “We watched you.”

“I guess you guys think I’m really stupid, huh?”

They all grin.  “We didn’t just walk out here one day, you know,” one of them says.  “We had our share of oceans.”

“Wait, though . .” I say, thinking back.  “Why did you say that was ‘old ocean talk’, what I said earlier?  When I said I have to talk about the Great Swimmer?  When I said that I have to do what He says so that I’m an aid and not a nuisance as He pulls people up out of the oceans?”

They all just lay there smiling, waiting for me to get it.

“OH!” I say, getting it now.  “I don’t have to.  He can do it by Himself, can’t He?”  I grin, and I feel a wild joy.  “I want to tell drowners about the Great Swimmer.  I want to be a part of the rescue mission.”

“There you go,” a Sunbather says.

“Now you’ve got it,” another Sunbather says.

“I’m so happy!” I say.

“It’s about time,” one of them says, grinning.

“I know just what ocean I’m going to start in!” I say.  “I’m going to start in the Listic Oceans.  Those were my drowning spots, you know.”

“We know.”

“I’m going to show them my floaties, and I’m going to talk about how happy I am!  And I’m going to show them my hands, to prove there’s no list.”

“Now you’re talking,” a Sunbather encourages.

I look down at myself.  I have little floaties on my arms.  My body is awfully wrinkled from spending so much time in the ocean.  I can still see the oceans I used to drown in.  They look awfully dark and scary.  I might mess up if I go back there.  I might thrash around in the water and snort up saltwater.  I won’t drown, of course, thanks to my floaties.  But I might make a real fool of myself.  In fact, I probably will.

“I am a real mess, though,” I say.  “Do you think anybody will believe me?”

They look at me until a slow smile spreads over my face.  “That’s the whole point, isn’t it?  You don’t need to be rescued if you can rescue yourself, do you?”

I think about this some more.  Then I frown.  “But don’t you think they might be mad?  I mean, that the Great Swimmer picked me?  I mean, me of all people.”  I think about everyone I’ve ever known.  “I mean, why me?  There were a trillion bazillion less helpless, less pathetic people out there.  There were a trillion bazillion people who are more sufficient, less needy, more hopeful, less doubtful, more courageous, less cowardly, more satisfied, less weary, more happy, less sad, more funny, less tragic, more brilliant, less dumb, more knowledgeable, less empty-headed, more healthy, less sick, more strappy, less puny, more brassy, less whimpering, more appropriate, less clueless, more powerful, less feeble, more conquering, less defeated, more successful, less pathetic, more nice, less mean, more friendly, less calculating, more straightforward, less devious, more honest, less lying, more beautiful, less ugly, more normal, less psychotic, more stable, less neurotic, more pleasure-giving, less pain-seeking, more planning, less plotting, more organized, less chaotic, more gentle, less cruel, more safe, less dangerous, more humanitarian, less misanthropist, more cool, less dork, more trying, less giving up, more lawful, less wicked, more calm, less anxious, more smooth, less jerky, more benevolent, less malicious, more forgiving, less punishing, more gracious, less judgmental, more well-intentioned, less ill-intentioned, more hard-working, less manipulative, more dependable, less unreliable, more faithful, less wishy-washy, more compassionate, less hurtful, more patient, less hot-tempered, more composed, less moody, more blessed, less cursed, more dignified, less classless, more improvised, less canned, more collected, less impulsive . . .”

“Yes,” one of the sunbathers says.  “And they’re still trying to swim here.”

“You mean I can go out and help them?”

“That’s the wonder of the Great Swimmer, now isn’t it?”

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I wrote this metaphor April 19, 2009, two days after my conversion.  The original title was “Freedom is Free (For Us)”.

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Because, you see, God saved me.

I grew up in a Christian home, and, as a kid, I would have told you I was a Christian, something like the way I belonged to this or that or liked this or that.

3, 7, 2008, in the middle of the service.

I was sitting in the balcony of a church, way off by myself.  I’d gone there the way I always went to church–out of some kind of lingering grudging duty left over from childhood.

I had everybody fooled, but, most of all, I had myself fooled.  I was totally blind, totally lost, totally clueless, and totally dead to the knowing of any of that.

And in the middle of that nothingness, that meaninglessness, that zombification, that never-ending sleep, something happened I cannot get my mind around.  Some One happened I cannot get my mind around.

When I got home, this is what I wrote:

I woke up.

The thought of waking up, the will of waking up, the feeling of waking up had stayed behind.  I hadn’t reflected on waking up; I hadn’t chosen to wake up; I hadn’t even wanted to wake up.

Here I was, awake.

I babbled on a little, trying to find something within myself smart enough to figure this out, and then I just stopped.

And I marveled.

I don’t know how this is going to sound, and I don’t care, because it is the absolute truth–

God woke me up.

I still remember the no-words shock and staggering delight, realizing Someone had given me the unimaginable privilege of awareness.

In that church service, on that day, God in absolutely interventional grace woke me up.  I know it.  I know it more than I know the power of gravity or the air in my lungs.

I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever forget the grace God gave me.

How precious the opportunity!

I was awake, but I wasn’t safe.  Like a comatose patient woken suddenly, I started wandering around a hospital.  But now I knew: I needed the Doctor.

4, 17, 2008.

1 month and 10 days later.

Really.

God in absolutely unfathomable mercy waited on me 1 month and 10 days.  He could have killed me and sent me straight into Hell, but for 41 days, He waited for me to understand.

The Almighty Creator, Jesus the Christ who

is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

(from Colossians 1:17)

This Almighty Creator held my damned soul in my body and waited on me for 41 days.

4, 17, 2010.

At a Saturday church, I asked Christ to come into my life.

Not like joining a group.  Not like ‘liking’ something.

Breath in my nostrils, passion in my heart!  And I had no idea there was going to be fire in my soul!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The most wonderful, fearsome, awesome fire of God, burning away my sin nature, igniting me to change, inflaming me in a love for the lost, blazing light in my darkness.

I now know that there is no person in this life too hard, too far gone, or too stupid for God to save.

Because, you see, God saved me.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  (1 Corinthians 15:10a, NIV)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV)

Does God want everyone to be saved?

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6, ESV)

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. (2 Peter 3:15, NIV)

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his [God’s] kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Romans 2:4, NIV)

“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins.  Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God–something the law of Moses could never do.  (Acts 13:39, NLT)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV)

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NIV)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise.  In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.  He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.  And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.  And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit.  It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. (Romans 4:20-25, NLT)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NASB)

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Controversy

I was working on an entry I’d written some time ago about a common Christian controversy, one on different interpretations of some particular verses of Scripture.  The controversy isn’t resulting from one side using Scripture and the other not, but rather on how the Scriptures each side uses harmonize, or work together.  As Christ is the Word (see John 1:1-1:5), so we know that all the Bible works together to reveal one perfect Truth–that is, Christ Himself!  But sometimes we get confused when we read, taking our own presuppositions, feelings, experiences, etc., and trying to fit them into what we read, and that is at the heart of all Biblical controversy, not the God-breathed text.

As I read through the entry I had written, I was struck not by the power of my words, but by the power of the verses from the Bible I’d “included”.  (To support my ideas, rather than for me to support the Bible.)

I revised the entry to try to better explain these verses, and, when I got it all done, I saved.  But when I came back later, I lost it all, every bit of my revisions.

I spent some time trying to figure out what had happened to my document, going through the computer’s search system, sure my lost document had left its footprints somewhere on my computer.  I was upset, at first because I lost my work—at first the ruling reason-but then at God.  I was mad because my feelings were hurt, and I, in grand delusion, began to wonder if God even cares about lost people.

God, in His mercy, brought me back to my senses rather than striking me dead, and I found myself left with a gaping hole.

For the better part of my life, I have been plagued by a tug-of-war between these particular two interpretations of Scripture on this one controversial issue.  I have been on both sides of the fight, and I have switched sides many times.  I have boiled with rage at one particular side, even when I have thought that side might be right.  I have felt a most ungodly hate flare in my heart, like a demon digging up through dry ground, more times than I can remember.  I have spent hours and hours and hours thinking of strategies to “defend God” on this issue—really, to prove I am right.

But I have also prayed for humility for my life, and God has been faithful to answer.

Now I realize that my whole revision was nearly worthless, because I had wanted so desperately to win an argument, not reach souls.  I had gone on and on about what needed no introduction.

I see that I am not the person to write about this certain controversy, because I can’t let go of bitterness and keep spinning it at the same time, and I can’t starve off my pride and keep feeding it, either.

And so, from now on, my prayer is that my responses to this controversy–this controversy that I have jaded and torn myself with–not to come from my ego, but instead only from the Word of God, and any gentle words He may, in the grace He has like no other, choose to give.

All I have is a love
That set my world on fire
Let it fall, let it burn in me
And, oh, to be a friend of God, is all that I desire
All I want is to be faithful
All I want is you.

–All I Want, Michael W. Smith

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,

he did not think of equality with God

as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

he took the humble position of a slave

and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

he humbled himself in obedience to God

and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

(Philippians 2:3-8, NLT)

Photo by Victoria Kovios, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/victoriakovios/

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Were bugs on the ark? What about fish, whales, sea horses, squid . . .?

Did bugs go on the ark? (Part 1)

You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.  Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. (Genesis 6:19-20, NIV)

“All living creatures” . . . and . . .  “Two of every kind of bird”

Just because we now define birds as separate from winged insects

doesn’t mean ancient people or God did when He created them. 

If a “bird” is defined simply as a winged creature, it is accurate to see all flying insects (and bats) as birds, as well as what we now think of as birds.  It’s only because we now define birds more specifically than “flying creatures”, that we don’t consider flying insects (or bats) to be birds.

Insects have always had distinct characteristics from birds, and no one knows this so well as the Creator, but they do have a commonality with birds: flying.

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Did fish go on the ark?  What about whales?  And seahorses?  And squid?  And . . .

You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.  Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. (Genesis 6:19-20, NIV)

“of every kind of animal”

Animals, in this text, were creatures that ‘move along the ground.’  Sea creatures wouldn’t have been in this ‘animal’ definition, but would have been defined in one of two other categories:

  • great creatures of the sea  (from Gen. 1:21, NIV, see also sea creatures in NLT, ESV, etc.), sea monsters (NASB, DBT, ERV), or great whales (KJV, D-RB, Webster’s)
  • every living and moving thing with which the water teems (Gen. 1:21, NIV), or with which the waters swarm (ESV) (also see NASB, NLT, WEB, etc. for similar translations) or every living creature that moves, which the waters brought forth abundantly (AKJV) (also see KJV, ERV, Webster’s, etc. for similar translation)

Our modern definition of “animal” today is different from ancient and Bible times.  In the New Testament, James also excludes creatures of the sea from animals (as well as reptiles and birds):

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man (James 3:7, NIV)

Can we say it is “wrong” to define “animals” as separate from sea creatures?  In the oldest version of our English translations–the King James Version–the word “animal” does not even appear in the entire Bible!  The KJV uses “beast” in Genesis 6:7, and “cattle” in verse 20.   Obviously, we can’t accuse ancient authors of being inaccurate because they don’t match our modern definitions.  Think about “Troll the ancient yuletide carol“.  When I think of the word “troll”, I think of little critters with wrinkly faces and neon hair.  Does that mean that the song writer was wrong to use the word “troll” in such a way?

Fish and whales, not included in the ancient definition of ‘animals’, didn’t board the ark.  They didn’t need to.  While many of them would have been killed by the violent upheaval of water, some clearly survived.  God knew the sea creatures would not all die during the flood. Besides this, God says in Genesis 6:7 (KJV):

I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air

Sea creatures and every other living thing that moved in the sea were not listed in this destruction.

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Did bugs go on the ark? (Part 2)

You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.  Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. (Genesis 6:19-20, NIV)

“and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground”

If winged-insects weren’t mentioned with the birds, they would be now, because all insects at one time or another move along the ground.  We need to remember that Noah only had to bring insect kinds, not species (blog #2 Even if the ark was huge, how could the animals all fit? has more information on kinds and species).

Any insects that spent their whole lives in water, would be included in

every living and moving thing with which the water teems (Gen. 1:21, NIV)

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Photo of flying insects by Duncan Harris, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/duncanh1/

Photo of fish by Star 5112 (John), profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/johnjoh/

Photo of ant by Colonel Wildturkey, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/wildturkey5300/

Even if the ark was huge, how could all the animals have fit?

Biology class, Spring of 2001.  I suggested to my professor something like, “Couldn’t the flood in the Bible explain the fossils?”

Then came the ballistic tirade.  In the blur of my memory, the tirade of scornful questions he fired at me didn’t focus on the impossibility of a worldwide flood, but the impossibility of Noah’s ark.

I sat in stunned embarrassment.  The way he made Noah’s ark sound, it was on par with a fairy tale.  I was too frightened to say what I really should have said, no matter what scorn I received:

If God wants something to happen, it will happen.

There are more scientific responses, but, ultimately, this is where I stand.  In the words of Martin Luther, “I can do no other.”  The grace of God is too real for me to ever replace it with man’s theory[1].

In the case of Noah’s ark, God gave Noah specific directions for building the ark that show He did not choose to perform a miracle in the fitting of the animals on the ark, but rather used a manmade boat–really, what He used was Noah’s faith (see Genesis 6:22, Hebrews 11:7).

From a mathematical/scientific viewpoint, could Noah have fit all the animals on the ark?

I need to know

  • How big was the ark? (See )
  • How many animals did Noah need?

From the standpoint of believing in evolution, though, why would it be difficult to believe Noah could bring enough genetic variability aboard the ark even if the space had been small (which it wasn’t)?  The evolutionary reason, I suppose, would be time.

If Noah had millions or billions of years after the ark and before current time, from an evolutionary standpoint, he could have brought millions of protozoa on to evolve into all animals, which would have taken up hardly any space at all.  Or, he wouldn’t have even had to bring any animals at all, because sea creatures did survive.  If land animals have evolved from sea creatures, it would seem they could once again do so, though not into the same kinds.  So it seems to me that the evolutionist’s major complaint of the ark should not be space, but rather time.

Protozoa example

In any case, Noah could most certainly have fit all the animal kinds on the ark.

God many times chooses to use the laws of the universe He set up when He intervenes in our lives.  The Bible gives evidence that this is what God did with Noah, because the physical measurements of the ark are recorded as HUGE (see Genesis 6:15), and because God earlier in Genesis gives us the key to understanding how the animals could have fit.

To understand this key, we need to go back to Genesis 1.  There, we find a big difference between the “kinds” of plants and animals God created . . . and what we identify as species.  A “kind” is the group an animal (or plant) belongs to, at the top of which is the singular animal (or plant) with the full genetic information for the kind.

At the top of each kind, the animal pair taken on the ark would have had rich genetic variability opportunity, able to lead to all the species that resulted in offspring from different expression of the genes.  The top of each kind would have both dominant and recessive genes to pass down to offspring.

I don’t know what was at the top of the dog kind, but we do know what is at the top of the dogs we see today: wolves[2].  Basset hounds, poodles, dalmatians, chihuahuas, etc, are all later offspring of wolves[3, 4].  Of course these breeds weren’t around in Noah’s day, so when he took this dog kind aboard the ark, he would have only had to take two “dogs” (probably something like the wolves we have today).

When I think about the “kinds” described in Genesis, I see how it is possible for animals to fit on the ark: the bear kind would probably have only two bears, the snail kind two snails, the seal kind two seals, and so on.

After the fall, when Adam sinned, animals began dying.  Right then, the concept of “survival of the fittest” (which Darwin described) would have first come into play.  In survival of the fittest, the offspring would, over time, lose genetic information as a result of location, environmental changes, predators, or human breeding.

The fall of mankind was about 2,000 years before the flood, so there had already been speciation by the time the animals were boarding Noah’s ark.  But when God chose the particular animals that would go into the ark, He chose those with a vast diversity still within their genetic code (like how, today, if we could save only two dogs, we would be much better to save wolves, which could be theoretically bred back down into collies, dachshunds, bulldogs, etc., than to save just one particular breed of dogs, like, for example, poodles.  Sorry poodles[5].)

John Woodmorappe calculated that Noah would need about 8,000 different kinds of animals, including animal kinds we’ve found in the fossil record that we don’t have anymore (like dinosaurs)[6].  Since Noah had two of each kind of most animals (a few special ones he had seven of each kind), an approximation for how much space on the 1.52 million cubit feet volume of the ark these animals would need would be less than half (even with allowance for movement)[6].  This would leave room for food for the animals and 8 people . . . and more importantly, this would have left room for more people.

They are like those who disobeyed long ago in the days of Noah when God waited patiently while Noah built the ship. In this ship a few people-eight in all-were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:20, GWT)

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Photo courtesy of CDC.gov, accessed on Flickr from Yasser, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/prep4md/.  The official name of this protozoa is “Giardia Lamblia trophozoite”.

[1] If I believe in God and God wants every species on the earth to fit inside a matchbox, can He?  Unquestionably.  God created the universe and all the natural laws within.

[2] For a more in depth discussion see the article Did God create poodles? by Ken Ham, from Creation 25(4): 19-22, September 2003, see http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v25/i4/poodles.asp?scrFrom=aignews

[3] A Potpourri of Pooches by Peter Tyson, January 1, 2004, NOVA, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/potpourri-pooches.html

[4] For more detailed information, see One Blood, One Race DVD or Only One Race DVD

[5] I love poodles and one of my all-time favorite dogs was a poodle.  I’d rather have the poodle than the wolf, although all we would have from that point on would be “oodles of poodles” (to use the phrase Lynda Lippman-Lockhart coined in her book by the same name).  But there’s a running poodle joke at Answers in Genesis, so I had to throw this in.  🙂

[6] Were Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark, Creation Ministries International http://creation.com/were-dinosaurs-on-noahs-ark

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

How would just 8 people feed (and water) all the animals on the ark?

John Woodmorappe calculated that Noah would need about 8,000 different kinds of animals on the ark[1].  There’s no way 8 people could feed 8,000 animal kinds every day without a miracle.  But God doesn’t given us any indication the animal caretaking on the ark was a miracle.  In fact, God told Noah to store up food.

“You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.” (Genesis 6:21, NIV)

If the 8,000 animal kinds is correct, each person on the ark would have to feed 1,000 animal kinds a day . . . or would they?

  • In zoos, animal kinds are usually in separate cages from each other, showcasing the different kinds, making the zoo experience last longer, and creating a habitat and dietary regiment especially for that animal.  But on the ark, Noah wasn’t getting paid admission by his family members to view the animals!  Most likely, similar animals kinds were placed in the same cages together, not only making less construction work, but also simplifying feeding times.
  • Although different herbivore animals do prefer different kinds of vegetation, many can get by with a hodgepodge of grass and vegetables.  Animals that could get along with each other (like deer, goats, sheep, cattle) could have been caged together.
  • The animals arrived on the ark without harming each other because God sent them to Noah (see Genesis 7:8-9).  We are also told that animals did not fear people until after the flood (see Genesis 9:2).  Feeding and watering the animals would have been a much easier job if many like-dieted animals could have been placed in large cages together.
  • God didn’t give permission for humans to eat animals until after the flood (see Genesis 9:3).  That might mean that animals also did not eat meat before the flood.  Animals may have attacked each other before the flood (see Genesis 6:11-12, which focuses on human violence).  Noah would not have placed animals together who couldn’t get along.  God could have, however, simply given the animals peace on their time on the ark, the way he stopped lions for gobbling Daniel down for dinner (see Daniel 6).
  • Every animal didn’t have to be fed every day.  The Creation Museum in Cincinnati, Kentucky shows one way animals could have been fed efficiently: by placing jars filled with enough food to last weeks in a slot that would allow the jar to tip as the animal ate the food out of the chute.  Not all animals could be fed this way.  Giant animals, like the brachiosaurus and elephant would have probably required hauling food over each time, due to their massive diets.  However, they did not necessarily eat every day.  Zoos are (ideally) optimal environments for animals.  The ark was an emergency shelter.  Animals may have been fed fewer times than ideal.
  • Some animals, like bears and some amphibians and reptiles could have hibernated part of the time, since they were on the ark for over a year.
  • Water could have been “piped into troughs” like the Chinese have done for thousands of years[2].
  • Okay, but what about animal waste?  How would it have been cleaned up?  Would it have been toxic?  The movement of the ark would have helped prevent methane build-up, as would the window, when it was opened.  Noah may have constructed the ark with slanted floors and gutters to make clean-up easier [2].

Noah’s family probably had about a year of the worst work of their life on the ark.  But the God who gives strength to make all His work possible would have no trouble giving Noah and his family the strength they needed for the trip.

Everything is possible with God. (Jesus, quoted in Mark 10:27c, NLT)

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For a more in-depth study see the resources below.

[1] Were Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark, Creation Ministries International, http://creation.com/were-dinosaurs-on-noahs-ark

[2] Caring for the Animals on the Ark, Answers in Genesis, John Woodmorappe, March 29, 2007, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n2/caring-for-the-animals

See Copyright Page for Bible Translation information.

#4 But what about the dinosaurs?

If you’ve been following my blogs about Noah’s Ark, first of all I humbly thank you.  You might remember my professor who belittled me in front of the class when I brought up a global flood as an explanation for fossils.  I was not only caught off guard and embarrassed, but he started scornfully tossing questions and remarks at me without giving me more than, oh, maybe 3 seconds to respond to each one.  (He did give me 5 or so generous seconds after the last statement before he moved on.)  I can’t remember much of what he said, but one question has stuck with me,

Do you really think Noah took a T-rex on the ark? 

I remember the contempt on his face.  And then he moved on with his presentation.

So, what about the dinosaurs?  The length of a tyrannosaurus seems to have been somewhere between about 40 and 50 feet long[1,2,3,4,5].  But that’s kiddie stuff compared to the seismosaurus at between 110 and 150 feet long[6,7,8,9].  The most reliable estimate seems to be around 110-115 feet long [10], making this dinosaur more than twice the length of t-rex!

A t-rex may have weighed between about 6 and 9 tons [1,2,3,4,5].  But that’s a lightweight compared to a brachiosaurus at somewhere between about 27 to 54 tons [9,11,12,13] with apparent uncertainty[13].

How could Noah have possibly gotten such humongous dinosaurs on the ark?  And what about their appetites?  And how were they kept from tearing up the ark?

Well, I’m making the assumption that God called only older animals on the ark.  But it would have made a lot more sense for God to call younger animals on the ark.  Not only would younger dinosaurs save on space, but they would also live longer and be more likely to bear enough offspring to keep the dinosaur kind alive after the ark.

In fact, the biggest dinosaur egg ever found was only around the size of a football[14]!  What’s more, dinosaurs were reptiles, and reptiles grow their whole lives[15,16], the biggest growth occurring in the first few years and slowing down after that[17,18].  Noah was only on the ark between 370 and 375 days[19, 20], so these reptiles would not have even reached the end of their largest growth spurt.

The dinosaur fossils we see that are huge may have been older dinosaurs.

This is not at all to say all the dinosaurs on the ark stayed small the entire time.  Even if they were brought on boards very young, some would have grown significantly.  But I must keep in mind that the average size of a dinosaur is about that of a sheep or small horse[21,22,23].  At the Creation Museum in Kentucky, they have a scale model of the ark, and they show large dinosaurs going aboard, too.  There mathematically was room for even larger dinosaurs, like t-rex and bracchiosaurus.

The ark was at least 450′ x 75′ x 45′ [24].  Measuring by “school buses” we can get an idea of scale: the ark was almost 12 long x 10 wide x 4 high[25]!  Alternatively, about 569 modern railroad stock cars[24].  That’s a lot of room!

The other thing to remember about dinosaurs is that God didn’t have to bring every dinosaur on for which we’ve found a fossil today.  There were kinds of dinosaurs, too, like the sauropod kind.  There may have been 50-55 kinds of dinosaurs[26,27].  Just as not all dog breeds would be required to bring about two dog kinds (nor indeed were there dalmatians or greyhounds or chihuahuas at the time of Noah’s ark, but probably something like wolves), not all dinosaur species (or “breeds”) would be required to bring the dinosaur kinds.  Each dinosaur kind brought could have had great genetic variability, like wolves have today.

I didn’t have all these arguments back in the biology class of 2001.  But, you know what?  Even if I had, would my biology teacher have been convinced?  Would he have even acknowledged that a flood could be a possible explanation?  Or would he have grown more and more outraged and hostile?

Ultimately, no amount of evidence can “convince” someone of something.  Being “convinced”, or believing something, stems from worldview.  The conflict between evolutionists and creationists isn’t science vs. religion, but instead a clash of worldviews.  Starting from the belief there is no God will yield very different interpretations to evidence than starting with the belief that God does exist, and He has made Himself known through His Word.

Worldviews make it easy for us to make decisions.  For the evolutionist who is convinced there is no God [28], it’s easy to dismiss interpretations of evidence that suggests God.  For the creationist who is convinced God is, it’s easy to dismiss interpretations of evidence that suggest against God.

The peace of mind I and other Christian creationists have should never be that we know how to interpret all the evidence, or that we are always sure we are right about a particular scientific discovery.  No, the peace of mind we have is that we have the right worldview.

God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ. (Colossians 2:3, GW)

See Copyright Page for translation information.

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[1] Dinosaur Timeline Gallery, Dinosaur Corporation(r) http://www.prehistory.com/tyranrex.htm

[2] Dino Dictionary, http://www.dinodictionary.com/dinos_tpg2.asp#TYRANNOSAURUS

[3] Tyrannosaurus, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrannosaurus

[4] Jurassic Park Wikia, http://jurassicpark.wikia.com/wiki/Tyrannosaurus_rex

[5] The Tyrant Lizards:The Tyrannosauridae, UCMP, http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/saurischia/tyrannosauridae.html

[6] How Stuff Works: Seismosaurus, Editors of Publications International, http://animals.howstuffworks.com/dinosaurs/seismosaurus.htm

[7] Dino Dictionaryhttp://www.dinodictionary.com/dinos_spg2.asp#SEISMOSAURUS

[8] Seismosaur Cut Down To Size, ScienceDaily, Geological Society Of America, November 12, 2004, http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2004/11/041108020944.htm

[9] Dinosaurs–Living Large, Answers in Genesis, Marcus Ross, November 21, 2009, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v5/n1/living-large

[10] Going by the ScienceDaily article and AnswersinGenesis website, respectively.

[11] Dino Dictionary, http://www.dinodictionary.com/dinos_b.asp#BRACHIOSAURUS

[12] 10 Facts about Brachiosaurus, About.com, http://dinosaurs.about.com/od/dinosaurbasics/a/brachiofacts.htm

[13] Brachiosaurus, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brachiosaurus

[14] What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs?, Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham, October 25, 2007, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/what-happened-to-the-dinosaurs

[15] Herpetology: Frequently Asked Questions, San Diego Natural History Museum, http://www.sdnhm.org/research/herpetology/resources4a.html

[16] World’s Smallest Dinosaur Footprint, Evidence Web, http://evidenceweb.net/fossil_search_more_info.php?p_PRIKEY=6

[17] Reptile Growth and Development, Ehow, Jacob S., http://www.ehow.com/about_6558401_reptiles-growth-development.html

[18] General Information, Applegate Reptiles, Robert Applegate, http://www.applegatereptiles.com/articles/bookgeninfo.htm

[19] How Long was Noah in the Ark?, Reverend Earl Cripe, http://www.godspointofview.com/public/qanda/how_long_was_noah_in_the_ark.htm

[20] The reason we are not sure of the exact number of days is because the ancient year may have been slightly different from ours, see note [19].

[21] Concise Answers on Video, Answers Magazine, October-December 2009

[22] How Did Dinosaurs Grow So Big? And How Did Noah Fit Them on the Ark?, Creation Ministries International, Jonathan Sarfati, Creation
28(1):44–47, December 2005

[23] I did some research to try to discover a secular viewpoint of the average size of a dinosaur and discovered that, because evolutionists separate dinosaurs into different time periods, they are not nearly so inclined to speak of average size.  I did find one secular article that compared the average size of a dinosaur to a car.  (Dinosaur size, http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4766)  That would be all right for two reasons: 1) The dinosaurs could have been brought on board when they were very young, 2)The ark was almost 12 school buses across and almost 4 high and 10 wide.  There is room to fit 50-55 kinds of car-sized dinosaurs with lots of room left over for the other kinds of animals, food, and Noah and his family (see note [24]!

[24] Could Noah’s Ark Really Hold All the Animals That Were Supposed to Be Preserved from the Flood? Christian Answers, Eden Communications, http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-c013.html

[25] Kids’ Answers: Noah’s Ark Bookmark!, http://www.answersingenesis.org/assets/pdf/v2i2/Bookmark.pdf

[26] How Can We Use Dinosaurs to Spread the Creation Gospel Message, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/spread-gospel-with-dinosaurs

[27] Were Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark?, Creation Ministries International, http://creation.com/were-dinosaurs-on-noahs-ark

[28] There are theistic evolutionists, people who believe in evolution but that God created the initial matter.  There are difficulties with believing this, however.  Answers in Genesis is a great place to explore these reasons.  I also have a blog about it titled 3 takes on what we are doing here: a creationist, and evolutionist, and a creation-evolutionist.

All websites accessed 8-8-2011 or 8-9-2011.

If only “kinds” of animals went on the ark and not species . . . why was the ark so BIG?

When we realize that animal kinds went on the ark and not species, we realize there was actually too much room!  Ken Ham points out:

“Why did [Noah] build a boat so big?  Because God is a gracious God, and people could have gone on that ark to be saved.”[1]

Those words haunt: “People could have gone on that ark to be saved.”

People.

As Mr. Ham points out, the ark sat for seven days after completion and after all the animals were aboard, but before the door was closed.  And since the Bible tells us Noah was

a preacher of righteousness (from 2 Peter 2:5, KJV, NIV, NASB, etc.)

He was probably outside preaching, trying and trying to get people to believe in God’s judgment and climb aboard the ark for safety.

But once the door was shut, the door was shut.

That is the most important part to remember about the flood and the ark: the ark was the only salvation.

Sometimes we can get so bogged down in doubt that we lose the big picture: the ark was the only salvation.

When that door closed, it was closed.  God shut it, and and it did not open back up until all people not aboard the ark were destroyed.

I don’t want to be on the outside of the ark the moment the door is shut, watching waves build in the horizon and feeling the earth shake under my feet.  I want to be inside the ark.

My faith is in Jesus Christ, my Ark.

I want you to be inside the ark, too.

Don’t wait until it is too late.

Someone asked him [Jesus], “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.  Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’” (Luke 13:23-25, NIV)

“I am the Way,” (Jesus, quoted in John 14:6a, WNT)

[1] Already Gone DVD, Ken Ham

Published in: on July 29, 2011 at 9:02 am  Leave a Comment  

How could all the animals fit on the ark?

Not like this.

Illustration by Dan Lietha, © Answers in Genesis 2005, used by written permission.

Poor Mrs. Elephant.  Only she knows the “ark” is about to become bark.

This picture shows how goofy we become when we do not carefully read the Word of God.  (By the way, are those little aliens in the second window to the right?  They might as well be; they’re not going to survive either.)

The pictures we usually see of the ark are no good for representing the historical event.  Although these pretend “Noah’s arks” may make a nursery room, what they don’t make is sense.

There was no “patio” on which elephants stood and a big ol’ hole in the roof for the giraffes heads to stick out.  Actually, there was only one window in the ark (see Genesis 6:16).  That window would, of course, have been closed during the turbulence–and in fact Genesis 8:6 tells us it was–and only opened after the ark landed on Mount Ararat (see Genesis 8:4 and 8:6).

Besides all this, pictures of the ark like the spoofed “floating bathtub” above (as Ken Ham says) don’t show the ark to the scale given in the Bible.  The ark is the wrong scale for the elephants, for example.  An ark this small couldn’t possibly fit every kind of land animal without miraculous intervention of space.  God could have chosen to work that way, but we know He didn’t, because of how the Bible describes the ark:

And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. (Genesis 6:15, NKJV)

When in Genesis 6:15 the length, height, and width are described in “cubits”, we need to visit ancient standards of measurement.  Cubits, translated to modern measurements, would be approximately:

450-510 feet long (meters)

75-85 feet wide (meters)

45-51 feet high (meters)[1, 2, 3]

So the ark wasn’t a boat the way we think of boats today, but rather a ship.

The description of the ark doesn’t read like a fairy tale or myth, but rather as directions–directions given from God to Noah:

“Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.  “This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.  “You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.  (Genesis 6:14-16, NASB)

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[1] Feedback: Was Noah’s Ark Shaped Like a Box? by Bodie Hodge, January 21, 2011, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2011/01/21/feedback-ark-shape, accessed July 28, 2011

[2] Make Your Own Kids’ Answers Noah’s Ark Bookmark, gives an the perspective of about how many school buses long, wide, and tall this would be, http://www.answersingenesis.org/assets/pdf/v2i2/Bookmark.pdf, accessed July 28, 2011

[3] See how the NIV or NLT translates cubits, for example.  We don’t know which ancient measurements for cubits was used for certain, and so we don’t know the exact measurements for the ark.  But the variations in possible cubit length yield a large ark regardless, as we would expect for a ship built for animals of every kind (and most of all for Noah’s family).

Recommended Resources

Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box DVD, Tim Lovett, Answers in Genesis

Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box, Tim Lovett, Answers in Genesis

How well designed was Noah’s Ark? DVD

Thinking Outside the Box by Tim Lovett, Answers in Genesis Magazine, July-September 2011, p. 75-79

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.