The Flat-Footed Failure of Flat Earth “Christianity”

Many evangelical Bible scholars accept that the ancient Hebrews viewed the world as a disk floating on the waters, supported by pillars. But does this mean that God’s Word is “teaching” us today to believe in a “flat earth?”…. Apparently, some people think so… This is pure crazy talk. (credit: Logos Bible Software, the FaithLife Bible).

 

I keep hearing about this stuff, so I decided to check it out.  Apparently, there is a tiny yet growing movement of Christians who believe that the earth is flat.

Seriously?

My cringe-worthy meter just went to the red zone.

What really bothers me about this stuff is that these so-called “Flat-Earthers” use much of the same rhetoric I hear used by other Christians to defend their view of the Bible. These overlapping talking points are disturbing, when you translate what those talking points mean to flat earth advocates.

  • If you believe the Bible is inerrant, then you must believe everything it says about scientific matters, such as the [flat earth]” (translation: Scientifically, Christians should believe in a flat earth because the “Bible teaches it”. The “Bible teaches” a flat earth, because we said so. ).
  • To deny the biblical teaching on the [flat earth] is to elevate man’s word over against God’s word.” (translation: God’s special revelation in Scripture contradicts God’s natural revelation in creation, but that is OK!)
  • To compromise on the Bible’s teaching on the [flat earth] is to compromise the authority of the Bible” (translation: the “real” Christians are the ones who accept a flat earth, and everybody else is either inconsistent, deceived, a liberal, or a non-believer. Trust us. Flat-Earthers are the real believers in the Bible. Every other so-called “Christian” is a compromiser.)
  • If Scripture is false about scientific matters, such as the [flat earth], then what Scripture says about salvation falls with it.” (translation: how can you trust what the Bible says about the Resurrection, if you do not believe what it says about the flat earth? In other words, you do not need to examine the evidence for yourself, just trust us Flat-Earthers!)

You can pretty much replace “flat earth” above with just about any supposed “scientific teaching of the Bible,” that rips the Bible out of its historical context, and get the same result.

Folks, we need to set the record straight.

With very, very few exceptions, no Christian through the course of church history believed that the earth is flat. Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell painstakingly has shown the idea that Christians have believed in a flat earth to be an invention of modern thinkers, over the past couple hundred of years.

Christians are not the only ones who have bought into this type of nonsense. As one of my “favorite atheists” Tim O’Neill puts it, a lot of atheists buy into this garbage as well.

Some ancient cultures did subscribe to flat earth cosmologies, arguably including the Hebrew culture. But certainly by the early years of the medieval church, such views had died out. Overwhelmingly, Bible scholars today contend that neither God, nor the human authors of the Bible themselves, were trying to teach science, with respect to a flat earth cosmology, back in the ancient era, nor should we try to apply such logic today to our cosmology. Sadly however, some Christians today think they know better, and perpetuate misinformation.

Columbus was not trying to test the idea that the earth was flat, by trying to sail around the world. Columbus, just like any other medieval European, believed that the earth was spherical. That old canard was an invention in the mind of writers like Washington Irving (ever heard of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?”), and propagated by such thinkers as John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White, in the late 19th century. For some strange reason, the Internet has made it possible to revive these ideas, and a growing number of Christians are buying into this.

I would not even bother with “Flat-Earth Christianity,” except that it raises serious questions that Christians should consider. For example, flat earth rhetoric mimics a lot of the talk I hear coming out of the Young Earth Creationist movement. Thankfully, Young-Earth Creationist groups like Answers In Genesis have wisely tried to put the “kabash” on such wild-eyed thinking. Thank goodness! But the “cringe-factor” gets elevated at times when both “Flat Earthers” and Young-Earth Creationists start talking alike.

To be clear, though I am not persuaded myself, I am all for the possibility that the earth is indeed young. God could have created the earth any way He wanted, during any time frame: 6,000 years ago, according to the traditional view, or 4.34 billion years ago, according to the contemporary scientific consensus. But when some Christians resort to a rhetorical style of argumentation, with examples like what I gave above, that equates their own interpretation of Scripture, with the authority of the Bible itself, then that is manipulative at worst, or just plain idiotic at best.

Responsible Young Earth proponents may make the philosophical argument that the character of the Creation story, in history, is such that our current scientific knowledge can not adequately describe what happened in the past. Old Earth Creationists reject this view, arguing in favor of the scientific consensus, that the present indeed is the key to understanding the past. But no matter how one views the past, this is all very different from our ability to make scientific observations here in the present. And this is where flat earth thinking goes completely awry.

The flat-footedness of flat earth thinking has all of the characteristics of a conspiracy theory:

Yup. It is that silly.

OK. It can be really tough for scientifically-trained people to accept a Young Earth, but this “Flat Earth” businesss goes way beyond the age of the earth issue. It is bad enough for some Christians to still argue that Copernicus and Galileo were wrong about the non-stationary characteristic of earth, and favor the older, Ptolemaic view that the earth is a fixed object in space, where the sun, and all of the rest of the stars and planets revolve around the earth. But to claim that the Bible teaches a flat earth, when only an obscure handful of Bible interpreters, mostly within the early years of the church, have ever made such claims, only to be refuted by others long ago, is an example of “the-Bible-says-it–I-believe-it–and-that-settles-it” type of thinking gone off the rails.

Here I am linking to a few videos that readers might find to be helpful. The first is from a YouTube channel, Jubilee, that sponsors dialogue between people who have incredibly conflicting points of view. This particular video pits “Flat Earthers” vs. “Scientists.”  Two of the Flat Earthers also claim to be Christian. Interestingly, the third Flat Earther does NOT claim to be Christian. What bothers me about the “Scientists” on the panel is that none of them claim to be Christian, which in my view, distorts the dialogue. The vast majority of Christians do not embrace the Flat Earth mindset. Still, the video is helpful in outlining the issues involved. What is fascinating is how influential the explosion different voices on Internet platforms, like YouTube itself, has fueled the growth of the Flat Earth movement over the past decade or so:

This second video is from Inspiring Philosophy, a Christian who tries to show how the cultural context of the biblical world, regarding the ancient cosmos, is very different from the cultural context of the 21st century, and why it would be wrong to try to impose a 21st century worldview on an ancient text, like the book of Genesis:

If you are not convinced of Inspiring Philosophy’s reasonings, and analysis of the evidence from the biblical text, you might want to at least consider the following talk by Answers in Genesis’ astronomer, Danny Faulkner, a Young Earth Creationist who does not believe that the Bible teaches that the Earth is flat:

UPDATE: January 18, 2023: It has been about 4 or 5 years since I last reviewed this blog post. When I first published it, I referenced several videos put out by one group of Flat Earth Christians, as found on YouTube. Interestingly, all of the videos from this group have since been removed from YouTube by the authors, and are no longer publicly viewable. I will leave it to the reader to come to their own conclusions as to why these videos were removed from public view. In lieu of this, I have posted the three videos above that have been published within the past three years, that do a much better job of analyzing the concerns that I have about the Flat Earth Christianity movement. I still stand by my original conclusion to this blog post:

Folks, the propagation of such nonsense only casts ill-repute upon the Gospel. It is time to set such bad Bible interpretation aside, and read the Bible responsibly. This type of irresponsible handling of God’s Word really gets my goat.

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About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

7 responses to “The Flat-Footed Failure of Flat Earth “Christianity”

  • Clarke Morledge

    Life in the fantasy flat earth:

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  • Eugene

    The shape of the earth is round as in a circle and not a ball or globe. This is how God describes his creation throughout scripture. Also throughout scripture God describe the earth as stationary and fixed and it’s not spinning 1000 per hour.

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  • Eugene

    It gets your goat only because you have not study biblical cosmology according to how God has defined his creation. Quite literal I may add. But you like so many more who have been bamboozle are so indoctrinated you would rather scoff than to critical look into the volumes of real data and real scientific evidence that proves the earth is a stationary (geocentric) level circular plane. It is not a globe and people are not walking upside down in Australia. You have rather consented to the modern day heliocentric pseudoscience theories (lies) presented as scientific facts.

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    • Clarke Morledge

      Uh, sure, Eugene. It really “gets (my) goat.” …. Let’s see, you probably believe that I am denying the inerrancy of the Bible by rejecting the flat earth, that I am “compromising biblical authority,” and that I am embracing a secular, godless philosophical paradigm that is at war with God’s Word. Got it. These are all talking points used by Ken Ham, at Answers in Genesis….. Oh, wait. That’s right. Ken Ham is a compromising liberal, who says he believes in the Bible, but in reality, he also is mocking Scripture.

      Well, at least you are consistent. Does anyone really take your arguments regarding the flat earth seriously, Eugene?

      Like

  • Warren

    What gets my goat is how you relate yourself to a Christian yet are steady bashing their beliefs. Calling us names and degrading us while I see you actually produced no substantial claims to your belief. In fact, I read plenty of opinion. In fact, what I read was someone that thinks everyone should believe like him. If we don’t believe like you, we are “idiots”. You sir are the reason people don’t go to church. Do you sit back and judge the unwed mother? Do you judge the drug addict that has nothing due to bad choices they used to escape the pain of their life? If you do, that’s me. A single father. Former drug addict. And I dont believe the earth is round as we have all been taught for years.
    My Grammer is off. Probably spelling and punctuation. Label me an idiot. Stupid. But mister, I CRINGE at your behavior towards Christians

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    • Clarke Morledge

      Hi, Warren. Apparently, you have taken offense to what I wrote here about Flat Earth Christianity.

      Assuming that you are being honest here, and not trying troll me in being deceptive, I can at least offer some concession to what you are saying and invite you to give a response. I hesitate to do this since there have been atheists who have trolled Veracity, posing as Flat Earth Christians, in order to prompt ridicule. I want to give everyone who comments on Veracity the benefit of the doubt, but at the same time, I am not interested in taking any bait that is meant to defame and ridicule.

      That being said up front, I am surely grieved and moved by your stated history of being a drug addict and single father. That sounds very difficult. I am very glad that your faith in Jesus has offered you hope. There is much to be thankful for here, in how God has intervened in your life in setting you free from the weight of these trials and difficulties.

      But that is not what this post was about. It is about the credibility problem posed by the Flat Earth movement. When you claim that it is people like me “are the reason people don’t go to church,” I find the statement difficult to comprehend. I am just trying to be honest here. In my circle, the exact opposite is the case. I know of many friends who reject the Christian faith because they observe that too many Christians reject the contributions of science. Those friends do not want to have anything do with any form of Christianity that gives the Flat Earth view a free pass.

      So, yes, this not only saddens me, it also angers me. To your point, this posture is not very helpful. Some of negative tone in my blog post probably needs some further sanctification. I need you to pray for me that I not respond in anger, but rather respond out of love and compassion, and a desire to listen, and learn with an open ear and open mind, in an effort to try to understand why someone finds the Flat Earth to be believable. Can you do that for me?

      I never called you an “idiot.” At least I never intended for that to be the case. I am sorry you believe that I did. I just think that the reasoning behind Flat Earth Christianity is “idiotic.” I worked for NASA a good part of my adult life, so I can personally testify that the Flat Earth mindset is patently false. A particularly line of reasoning itself does not inherently make that person an idiot. It simply is not the same thing. Someone can be an otherwise sound and reasonable person, and still believe a few nutty things here and there. We all do that.

      But to land on a positive note: Again, I applaud that you have found Jesus to be the one who has saved you. I would just urge you to reconsider your involvement in the Flat Earth movement. Thanks.

      Like

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