Was Noah A Millionaire? James McGrath’s Theology Stumbles On Scripture

What you’re about to read is what happens when a man who doubts the historical veracity of the Bible finds something in the Bible that contradicts his loosely Bible-inspired theology. Basically, he’s stubbed an opinion on a passage of Scripture. It’s sad. It’s instructive. It underscores the truth of Jesus’ warning in John 3:12 about the interconnectedness of earthly facts and heavenly truths. 

Dr. James F McGrath recently posed the snide question “Does Ken Ham Think Noah Was A Millionaire?” His reasoning, if we may use that term loosely, is that the Ark Encounter’s modern-day price tag is $24.5 million dollars. Tellingly, he scoffs alongside atheists like PZ Myers over the fact that the Ark Encounter project has raised only $4 million of the money needed, to date. That McGrath takes his seat with the scoffers should give us a clue how low his view of Scripture is.

In fact, in a rather misleading statement, he says:

“Why does one need even 4 million dollars to demonstrate the literal truthfulness of an ancient story about a lone man, without modern technology, perhaps helped by some family members and slaves, building a box-shaped boat capable of housing two or seven of all kinds of animals, if Answers in Genesis and their interpretation of the Noah story is correct?”

We pause here to correct a handful of erroneous notions evident in McGrath’s analysis.

First, we note that the height, width and length of the Ark are indeed given in the Bible, but this in no wise means that the Ark was box-shaped, any more than giving the basic height, width and length of a modern yacht or cargo ship require a box shape. If he had bothered to do the research [he either hasn’t, evidencing willful ignorance, or he has and he hopes to purposely mislead folks], he’d know that Biblical Creationists affirm that these are the basic dimensions of the Ark and that, while a box shape would in no wise invalidate the Genesis account, there’s quite a bit of creative room within those dimensions.

Second, even if Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth worked alone on the Ark, is McGrath suggesting that the feat could not have been completed in a time frame of 120 years?? Ridiculous!

Thirdly, McGrath makes the point that Noah built the Ark without modern technology. I remind him that Stonehenge and the pyramids were built without modern technology and modern technicians marvel at these feats because they are not able to determine how such things were accomplished in the timeframes history records. Of course, McGrath and others who scratch their heads at how the pyramids were built by “primitive” peoples with “primitive” technology are begging the evolutionary question. The Bible records that man was never primitive in this sense, but has degraded to such “primitive” conditions in many cases. 

He continues, oblivious to the logical errors he’s already committed:

“Are they suggesting that Noah was the equivalent in his time of a millionaire? I know they will want to complete the project more quickly than Noah did, but even so, if it takes $24.5 million dollars to get it done, doesn’t that suggest something about the feasibility of the ark itself?”

This is of course his main point, which tells you how well he’s though things through. Attaching a modern price tag based on modern techniques and equipment to an ancient project when McGrath cannot specify what techniques, equipment, manpower and time frame Noah’s Ark project entailed is comparing apples to oranges in the most misleading fashion possible. Noah need not have been a millionaire.

Of course, nothing in the Biblical account precludes Noah from being a millionaire either, so McGrath’s objection falls flat. Again, he’s arguing from silence rather than the biblical account itself.

Oblivious to this further mistake in his reasoning, McGrath compounds his error further still:

“Would it be inappropriate to treat the exorbitant price tag of this project as evidence of what most people, including most Christians, can figure out even without calculating the cost of such a boat, the required space, the fact that the amount of fresh water they would have needed would have sunk the vessel, that the carnivorous animals needed to eat during the trip, or any other such details. It isn’t a story about something that actually happened.”

Again, McGrath cannot count the cost without factoring in the available manpower, techniques and equipment used, price of materials, and the time frame the project was completed in. The Bible gives a lot of breathing room where the time frame is concerned. We cannot know whether anyone “owned” the forests that were lumbered from the Ark, nor whether Noah contracted out any of the work. So the price can only be loosely estimated.

McGrath should note that the required space is not based on the number of species on the planet then or now but on the number of Biblical kinds [which is generally found more at the family taxon], which means that as few as 2000 individual animals might be required. Without knowing how many individuals are required, how many would be hibernating during the voyage or how much freshwater might be replenished by rainwater, he cannot possibly rule out the feasibility of the Ark account based on the amount of fresh water required.

The problem of carnivorous animals on the Ark has been answered ad nauseam, which again makes me wonder why McGrath feels compelled to comment upon a subject he disagrees with so strongly yet has evidently researched so poorly!

As an alleged “expert” on New Testament studies, McGrath’s bald-faced assertion that the Flood account “isn’t a story about something that actually happened” is particularly troublesome. In denying the historicity of the Flood account, he denies the veracity of Peter [1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:6], the author of Hebrews [Hebrews 11:7] and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself [Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-27], who all affirmed its historicity.

In fact, Jesus warned that the last days would be as the days of Noah:

“As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” [Matt 24:36-39]

 While Peter prophesied that scoffers like McGrath, rabid wolves in shepherd’s robes, would come in the last days, denying the Second Coming largely due to their willful ignorance of the historicity of both the Creation account and the Flood account:

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:” [2 Peter 3:3-6]

Willfully blind to how his pseudo-intellectualism undermines the authority of the Scriptures, the apostolic authors of the New Testament, and of Jesus Christ Himself, McGrath continues to spew forth doubts and blasphemies:

“And thank goodness. Most people are so inoculated against the actual story through exposure to versions in childhood featuring lots of cute animals and no emphasis on mass extermination, that they fail to notice what sort of deity the story actually depicts.”

Of course, the Ark Encounter is meant to answer and correct erroneous depictions of the Ark that feature cute animals and bath tub toys arks that could in no way be feasible, for these cutesy cartoons of the Ark actually undermine people’s confidence in the Biblical account. But what is he insinuating when he claims we are inoculated against the “sort of deity the story actually depicts?”

The answer to that question is found in a separate post, entitled Can Noah’s Ark Be Salvaged?  In that post he objects to the Genesis account for the following reasons:

“The question is whether the story of Noah’s Ark can be told today in a way that continues to serve any healthy, positive, meaningful purpose. The story is so familiar from childhood that we can forget that it is about God obliterating not merely the whole human race except for Noah and his family, but also every other living thing. The fact that this is clearly not a story about something that actually happened can alleviate some of the difficulty, although not all. The same applies to other morally difficult stories in the Bible, such as the accounts of genocide in Joshua – that these are not factual historical accounts helps, but does not resolve the issue entirely. Like these, the story of Noah’s ark remains a story that depicts God as though God would do this sort of thing, and it is imperative to ask why, and whether we can make sense of it.”

He goes on to compare the judgment of the Flood to “a celestial Andrea Yates, who even though she knows every hair on each of her children’s heads, nonetheless submerges each one in the water until they are drowned, because she knows she cannot protect them from turning away from her and living evil lives in the future.” This monstrous misinterpretation of the Biblical account is indicative of a heart that has neither comprehended its own depravity nor the enormity of God’s grace. He has basically impugned God’s goodness and justice because he feels that a loving God would never judge the entire human race for their sin. Does he suppose that God’s love requires Him to be a doting grandfather who lets man get away with whatever his evil heart so desires? McGrath’s basic objection is that God made us this way, or at least made us knowing we would sin, so it was therefore wrong that God would judge us. I’ve heard this argument before, but only from unbelievers. It’s an attempt to deflect our sin onto the Creator, but the Creator only made us with free will; He did not actualize our potential for choosing evil. By way of metaphor, God made the human instrument a blade, but we chose to use it as a weapon rather than to cultivate or prepare food. Rather than a story that depicts God as evil or insane, as McGrath accuses, the Flood account relates the total depravity of man, the fact that God will and must judge sin and that there is a limit to how much evil He will allow. This should be a stark warning for us today, for Jesus warned that He would return when things returned to a condition like the days of Noah.

Yet McGrath’s liberal theology requires that he further undercut the authority and veracity of God’s revealed Word. Instead of using it to relate the Gospel, he says the following:

“The best way to make sense of the story is to show how it, like all the Biblical literature, reflects the development of human thinking about God that has led us to where we are today, rather than as static proclamations of things one ought to believe about God.”

Make no mistake about it: Here McGrath is actually denying Scripture, for the Bible claims that God’s Word never came by the will of man, yet McGrath explicitly states that all Biblical literature reflects the development of human thinking about God and therefore definitely came by the will of man [2 Peter 1:21]. He does not believe the Bible is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16] in any sense. In fact, his published works cast doubt upon the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, the deity of Christ, the Trinity and the reality of future rewards and punishments.

He accuses the Jews of historical plagiarism [a common thread of liberal theology], claiming that the Flood account is derived from the Epic of Gilgamesh, despite the fact that the Biblical account is much more realistic: “In the context of ancient Israel’s ethical monotheism, the author of the Noah story does the best he can with what he had inherited, and attributes the flood to the one God (what else could he do?) and explains the action as judgment on human sinfulness (how else could he make sense of it?).”

He makes much of a bad application of the book of Job, claiming that the message of that book is that we have no right to blame “blame disasters on humans having done things wrong and thus having deserved to have bad things happen to them.” In fact he claims that “In light of the book of Job, and our scientific understanding of floods and tsunamis, we not only have the option of exploring other approaches, it is absolutely imperative that we do so.” In this, he completely misunderstands the book of Job, for in that book the disasters which befell Job were the result of Satan’s work against Job, after God had removed the hedge of protection from Job’s life. The Bible warns that Stan is as a roaming lion, seeking whom he may devour. While the things that befell Job seemed mundane enough, the Book of Job lets us in on the fact that there was a supernatural cause: an attack of Satan. So the book of Job does nothing to rule out the idea that natural disasters and even the attacks of men have a supernatural cause.

Furthermore, in the book of Genesis, God states unequivocally that He would send a world-covering flood to destroy the Earth, save those aboard the Ark. Just as He rained down fire and brimstone upon Sodom. Just as He sent the plagues of Egypt in Moses’ day [something else McGrath doubts].

But McGrath’s “god” could never do such things, for he is a god of McGrath’s own making. A palatable god. A deity who loves unconditionally and would never judge our sin with calamity, sickness or eternal damnation. A safe pet deity.

But this is not the God revealed in the Bible. The God who will judge the quick and the dead. The God who loved us enough to give His only Son for our sin, precisely because sin must be judge. The wages, or deserved earnings of sin is death, but the gift of God to those who believe is eternal life.

McGrath also states that “In light of what we know from geology, which the author of Genesis did not, namely that such a worldwide flood never happened, we have other options available.” But what we “know” from geology are all-natural interpretations of the evidence which do not take supernatural revelation [an idea McGrath utterly rejects for the sake of a lame duck liberal theology he imposes upon what he considers a purely human book] into account. Yet, as Ken Ham notes, the fossil record reveals billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth, and these same fossils are better interpreted as evidence for the worldwide Flood which McGrath claims never happened.

A worldwide flood he denies because it testifies to the total depravity of man, the inescapeable judgment and wrath of a righteous and holy God, and the grace of God demonstrated in the salvation of Noah and those aboard the Ark.

-Rev Tony Breeden

10 Comments Add yours

  1. JasonS says:

    Good response that is faithful and biblical. Just expect a tongue lashing soon as a result of it.

  2. Amy Pearsall says:

    Agree with you completely, but there’s another point he missed as well. The projected cost of the Ark Encounter includes far more than the actual boat–I would imagine that the cost of building the ark is negligible compared to that of the rest of the park. He’s gone beyond comparing apples and oranges: he’s comparing apples to an orange seed.

  3. Cathy says:

    Great post! This guy has NO real knowledge of scripture at all. He is very sad indeed to see. Unfortunately, many are parroting his ideas and hurting the faith of many who otherwise would come to the cross. He needs desperate prayer!

  4. Ashley Haworth-Roberts (Mr) says:

    Nice biblical theology (unlike James McGrath) – and woeful ‘science’.

    “McGrath also states that “In light of what we know from geology, which the author of Genesis did not, namely that such a worldwide flood never happened, we have other options available.” But what we “know” from geology are all-natural interpretations of the evidence which do not take supernatural revelation [an idea McGrath utterly rejects for the sake of a lame duck liberal theology he imposes upon what he considers a purely human book] into account. Yet, as Ken Ham notes, the fossil record reveals billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth, and these same fossils are better interpreted as evidence for the worldwide Flood which McGrath claims never happened.”

    Young Earth Creationists conveniently IGNORE all other physical evidence apart from fossils (not even mentioned in the Bible) that falsifies any worldwide flood just 4,300 years’ ago. Ham’s claim is pseudo-science and he uses it to indoctrinate kids. You and he are anti-science.

    1. Mr Ashley Haworth-Roberts,

      You have made three grievous errors in your brief comment of such a character that I wholly doubt you comprehend precisely what it is you so vehemently object to!

      Firstly, you make the demonstrably false claim that creation scientists ignore all other physical evidence which might invalidate a worldwide Flood with the exception of fossils. Twenty minutes of honest internet research on sites like AnsersinGenesis.org, ICR.org, Creation.com, or Biblicalgeology.net and would have cured you of such notions. Have you no intellectual integrity? Or does humanism allow itself such willful ignorance and pseudointellectualism? Honestly, can’t you be bothered to know your opponent’s position BEFORE you bother to disagree with it? These are signs of a man operating from entrenched dogma, not someone who came about his beliefs by a careful, reasoned consideration of all facts!

      Secondly, neither Mr. ham nor myself are anti-science. We are merely anti-evolution. I refer you to two articles already written for a fuller treatment of this ridiculous straw man: How Did We Get Here? and More On Why Creation Is Foundational To Science – Not Evolution!

      Thirdly, you make the monstrously insipid insinuation that creation science is somehow Ken Ham’s claim, as if this were some sort of cult. If this is what you truly believe, you are even more ignorant of the issues surrounding the origins argument than I first supposed. Young earth creationism is the traditional, orthodox, apostolic view of Scripture. Creation science may be new, but so is evolutionary science, and [relatively speaking] and science in general, if we’re to be fair about it. The founders of science intended to “think God’s thoughts after Him;” modern scientists seek to prevent a Divine foot from entering the door. Modern science thus chained to naturalism seeks to indoctrinate kids into godless humanism, which means that public schools are being used to indoctrinate kids into beliefs that will damn them to an eternal hell with your blessing, blind guide!

      -Sirius Knott

      1. Ashley Haworth-Roberts (Mr) says:

        You sound outraged – but you FAIL to tell me WHAT evidence (or lack of evidence) invalidating a recent worldwide flood YECs do not ignore. They ignore – or misinterpret (with just ONE possible explanation) – the physical evidence from the geological record. (They also ignore the great depth to which many fossils are buried.)

        You ARE anti-science because you reject vast areas of science out of hand, regardless of the evidence (or possible future evidence). For reasons of religious doctrine. You don’t question or put forward another scientific theory – you merely REJECT. Ham and co also pretend that it is impossible to do ‘historical science’, without making huge errors, and that an ‘eye-witness’ is required in order to learn any actual facts about the pre-historic past.

        I do not really understand what you mean at the beginning of your third allegation. But pseudo-science puts conclusion FIRST instead of LAST (among other things).

        If the evidence points to an understanding that contradicts Genesis, and IF that leads to young people not believing the Bible and the gospel (it need not) THAT IS GOD’S PROBLEM (OR THE DEVIL AND GOD’S PROBLEM).

      2. Mr. Ashley Haworth-Roberts,

        It does no good to say that creation science is invalid because it refuses interpretations of evidence against creationism, for this is a double standard. As others have so aptly put it, “In a biblical worldview, scientific observations are interpreted in light of the truth that is found in the Bible. If conclusions contradict the truth revealed in Scripture, the conclusions are rejected. The same thing happens in naturalistic science. Any conclusion that does not have a naturalistic explanation is rejected.”

        Also, we do not say that we cannot determine past events without an Eyewitness; we note that the further back into the past we go, the less certainty we can claim. We also note that if we have a credible Eyewitness account it would be foolishness to reconstruct history without incorporating it [which is what the all-natural account of origins and history does].

        Lastly, we have exactly the same evidence with differing interpretations. I’m sorry you don’t like our interpretations, but you have yet to demonstrate how we’ve ignored evidence entirely.


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