Bob Jones University and Answers in Genesis, the apologetics organization behind both the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter, have partnered together since 2019 to promote one another and their shared mission.
The two organizations collaborate in several ways. For example, Ken Ham, the CEO and founder of AiG, has spoken in chapel and at conferences on campus; BJU sent a theatre team to the Ark Encounter to perform for the summer and BJU Press has published several of AiG’s books.
Before speaking at the STAND Education Conference at BJU in 2019, Ham wrote a blog post expressing his opinion of the University. “BJU is unlike the vast majority of Christian colleges,” he said. “This school … takes a stand on a literal Genesis. I’m thrilled to be speaking at a school that doesn’t compromise the truth of God’s Word and is excited to share the message of biblical authority with teenagers.”
Dr. Bobby Wood, BJU’s vice president for Enrollment and Marketing, said the planning for the partnership between Bob Jones University and Answers in Genesis began in 2018, when the University and AiG began to discuss how they could enhance their relationship.
“We presented ways that we wanted to serve and be a blessing to Answers in Genesis, and they have come back to us and reciprocated far more than we were able to do for them,” Wood said. “It’s really been a God-honoring, mutually reciprocating blessing to work with them.”
Even before the partnership formally began, BJU had advertised with AiG and invited Ham to speak at the University. “And from there it’s just been a progressively growing relationship,” Wood said.
Wood said partnering with AiG has allowed BJU to connect with potential students who were unaware of the University. The relationship with AiG helps people know the University holds biblical positions on inerrancy and creation, a fact that attracts many Christians to BJU.
David Lovegrove, BJU’s chief marketing officer, described the relationship as an informal collaboration. “It’s not like an advertising contract,” he said. “It’s a partnership of two organizations that are on the same side of issues and supporting each other.”
Lovegrove said the partnership between BJU and AiG is built on the organizations’ agreement on the authority of Scripture and biblical inerrancy.
Lisa Keith, a staff member in BJU’s admissions and enrollment department, said the University has partnered with AiG on a wide variety of projects.
For example, BJU set up a booth at AiG’s Creation College Expo in November. Dr. George Matzko and his wife Darlene, BJU science ambassadors, spent the summer at the Creation Museum leading interactive science workshops showcasing the intricacies of creation.
Nathan Hutcheon, art director of BJU’s marketing department, said he was assigned the project of designing a promotional display for AiG to put in the back of the Answers Center, a multi-purpose building added to the Ark Encounter in 2019. The exhibit is one of BJU’s promotional efforts in conjunction with AiG. Hutcheon asked the engineering department to collaborate with Marketing to create an exhibit based on one of their autonomous vehicles.
The exhibit features an autonomous vehicle, which was donated by BJU’s engineering department to the Marketing department to use in the exhibit. Hutcheon and his team were tasked with making the vehicle look presentable for the center. Dr. Bill Lovegrove, head of the department of engineering, and students in the engineering department added a camera and computing equipment that visually tracks people and objects in its path.
Hutcheon said the design process took them around six months from start to finish. “There was a lot of discussing things with AiG and making sure that all of their groups and people who might have had an interest in the project had the opportunity to sign off on it,” he said. “We talked to some of their creative team to get input from them. And then we ended up talking to vendors to get estimates about sourcing some materials that we needed and that sort of thing.”
Jeff Stegall, a faculty member in the theatre department and the principal designer for the BJU Classic Players and the Opera Association, said the BJU theatre team sent to the Ark Encounter this past summer is performing Unbelievable: Stories of Faith, an original play written by theatre faculty members.
“[The theatre production at the Ark] incorporates the actors with a 70-foot wide, 22-foot tall screen, probably very close to the largest IMAX screen that [can be made],” Stegall said. The students interact with the screen during the play, reacting to the backdrops and special effects displayed during each scene.
AiG was pleased with the performance. “They had about a hundred performances of it this summer,” Stegall said. “When they were finished, Answers in Genesis asked if there was a possibility that we would field another team of actors.”
The theatre department recruited students to act in the play with only a few weeks left in summer break. Joshua Stauff, David Janowski, Lydia Campell and Savannah Scott, current BJU students, are currently performing the play at the Ark Encounter. They will perform Unbelievable: Stories of Faith until Oct. 26.