Is the Earth….Flat?

Is the Earth….Flat?

I figured since I was ticking people off in recent articles, I could finally gird up my loins and tackle this topic.  I know there are strong opinions on this topic so I suspect that many people will be very invested in responding to this article. I ask that you engage respectfully and exchange ideas, not insults. With that in mind, let’s talk about the shape of the earth.

The idea of a flat earth is a relatively new idea.  The ancients all were convinced the earth was a sphere. Aristotle’s cosmology which had the strongest influence on the ancient world viewed the earth as a sphere.  Aristotle undoubtedly had one of the strongest influences on the cosmological ideas of the Catholic theologians of the Middle Ages. The idea that the church teaching flat earth did not come about until a pair of atheists wrote a book in the late 1800s purporting that the Medieval church taught the earth was flat and that Columbus was the one who proved the earth was round.  Both of those are patently false, but in a culture as ignorant of its history as ours, most people swallowed the lie.

This, however, does not prove the earth is round.   The first evidence most people offer when confronted with someone who believes in a flat earth is space photographs.  However, since most flat earth advocates believe NASA faked the moon landings and faked all the space travel,  this argument often falls flat. Of course, numerous Christians have been to space and given testimony to that which should be enough for flat earthers who are Christian, but it isn’t so we need to consider some other evidence.

The ancients deduced that the earth was a sphere by observing lunar eclipses. Because the shadow of the earth covers the moon during such an eclipse, and the shape of that shadow is round, they believed the earth must be spherical.  However, this is far from the only evidence. The fact that the stars appear to be higher or lower in the sky, depending on where on earth they are viewed indicates that the earth is spherical as well.  Further, air travel has provided additional evidence.  If you fly across an ocean, or even across the continental United States, you will notice that the sun will change places in the sky. If the earth were flat, the sun would show in about the same area of the sky all the way across the world.  Yet this is not the case.

Even when confronted with the evidence, many flat earth advocates completely bypass it, claiming that the Bible supports a flat earth. While I admire their desire to affirm the authority of Scripture, their interpretations are mistaken.  Probably the most popular passage used to support the flat earth idea is Revelation 20:7-8.  “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,  And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.”  Because of the use of four quarters in this verse, translated four corners in more modern versions, flat earthers argue that the earth must be flat. However, this is spurious.  This is an illustrative term, used among prophetic language, to describe where people are coming from. It is in no way meant as a literal description of earth’s surface.  In fact, in every case where the Bible describes the “ends of the earth” or some similar phrase, it is meant as an idiomatic expression.  Just like the phrase “costs an arm and a leg” refers to something very expensive, the phrase “ends of the earth” refers to something very far away.

Unfortunately the flat earth movement, despite a complete lack of evidence or Biblical support for their position, is actually growing.  Usually, this growth is fueled based on a general distrust of scientists and the government, as well as a desire to uphold the Bible, at least among Christians. However, interestingly, one of the leading flat earthers is an evolutionist.  While I understand the skepticism of both the government and mainstream science given both groups penchant to lie, that does not mean that everything they produce should be automatically rejected. Instead, each idea should be independently evaluated based on its own merits.

 

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