Monday, October 18, 2010

Gerrit Aalten finds the Ark of Noah!

The weekend edition of De Telegraaf, a large Dutch newspaper, features a huge article on an intrepid Ark-hunter named Gerrit Aalten, who gained world fame by appearing on Chinese television as Ark expert. This is remarkable for more than one reason.

Apart from having no tradition based on the Torah, China’s government still restricts religious practices, and interest in the Bible is rare. But on the other hand, the Chinese are clever enough to understand that an exact replica of the Ark might prove to be a virtual magnet for Western tourists-slash-investors. Hence the primary expedition to Ararat was funded by a company that had built a restaurant in the shape of the Ark according to the specifications listed in Genesis 6.

One may wonder if this restaurant is vegetarian, but at least it’s such a success that it could pay for an Ark hunt. And wouldn’t you know, they’ve actually found a large wooden structure right where the Bible said it would be.

But finding a wooden structure on a mountain that may or may not be the Biblical Ararat is not where the hunt ends. Unless it comes with a plaque that says, “Noah was here,” a wooden structure is just a wooden structure. The purpose and validity of the story of Noah in the Bible may even be entirely disconnected from a possible historical event (see here our own humble opinion). But that something Ark-like happened at some point in the past is strongly argued by the fact that Noah appears in various forms in pretty much all major bodies of ancient literature. The Sumerians and Babylonians called him Gilgamesh. In Hindu tradition he’s known as Manu. In the Qur’an he’s called Nuh, because yes, De Telegraaf helpfully submits, Noah is also mentioned in the Qur’an.

During the last century, the Netherlands has seen an enormous decline in church attendance, and with that came an increasingly pressing attitude of derision towards Christianity or religion in general. And with the influx of cheap-labor Muslims, Islam became a target as well. Until bombs started to go off and folks were killed after they’d provoked the wrong people for years.

The last decade or so we’ve seen a very curious development in this arena. On one hand the resistance towards the dissolution of the Dutch culture found its scapegoat in Islam, and its identity in Christianity as a socio-historical phenomenon. The snickers of lame mockery have quieted and now it’s fashion to show ostentatious Respect to the belief systems we oppose. That’s very convenient for Christianity because suddenly Christians find themselves with a torch in hand that they never thought could have existed. We’re one of them now, it seems. It reminds me of my school days when Billy the Nerd was acquitted of all nerdery the day his brother Bob blew up the science building during an experiment.

It is from this perspective that Abarim Publications wishes to extend a heartfelt salute to Gerrit Aalten and his passion to find the Ark. Remember the promise of global restoration as written down by Isaiah, “Behold, these shall come from afar, and lo, these will come from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Sinim (that’s probably China)…” (49:12).

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