When “Flat/Young” Earth Apologetics Run Off the Rails

Conspiracy theories never make for good arguments in favor of the Bible.

Here is a case in point: As I learned about a year ago, apparently, the Flat Earth movement, that is alarmingly growing in some corners of evangelical Christianity, is starting to make in-roads into the Young Earth Creationist movement. As a result, some Young Earth Creationists are treating the Flat Earth movement as though it were a conspiracy theory, but this apologetic tactic is not working very well.

Now, let me be clear. I have no problem with someone believing that God created the universe within six-24-hour days, citing the Creation as a miracle. God can create the world any way He wants. However, I DO have a problem if someone bases their argument for a Young Earth Creation on the idea that the current scientific evidence leads us to conclude that we should accept a 6,000 year old earth.

This is conspiracy thinking through-and-through. The current scientific consensus overwhelming confirms that the earth is 4.34 billion years old. Not 6,000. And such conspiracy logic only turns Bible-believing Christians into either skeptics of the Bible, or it turns people the other way, to double-down on the conspiracy, and then become something like Flat-Earthers, to reinforce their convictions. Sadly, critical thinking appears to be a commodity in short supply, in the age of social media, and endless YouTube videos, promoting the most wildest ideas possible.

Very briefly, Flat Earth believers base much of thinking on the idea expressed in the King James Version of the Bible:

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Genesis 1:6-8 KJV)

They take the word firmament, highlighted above, in a hyper-literal fashion, to mean something like a firm, metal dome, that separated the waters above, from the waters below, during the Creation week. Regardless of what one concludes as to how the ancient Hebrews understood this, biblical scholars today, including Young Earth Creationists, regard this as a metaphor. Most modern translations, like the ESV, translate the KJV word firmament as “expanse.” In other words, that blue sky you see above you is not some hardened surface, that keeps water from dripping down on your head, during a sunny day.

The so-called “logic” of Flat Earthers is severe. Flat Earthers therefore conclude that all other Christians, including other fellow Young Earth Creationists, are compromising Scripture, by not holding to a “literal” interpretation of the Bible.

 

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. (credit: Logos Bible Software, the FaithLife Bible).

Ken Ham, the president of Answers in Genesis, who runs the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter, in Kentucky, has become alarmed about the growing popularity of the Flat Earth movement. But how does Answers in Genesis respond to this increasing threat to Bible-believing Christianity?

Danny Faulkner, an astronomer with Answers in Genesis, has taken up the challenge to try to beat some sense into those who might be drawn to Flat Earth thinking. The popularity of the Flat Earth, among some evangelical Christians, through a growing number of Internet websites and YouTube channels, has even led to the  making of a documentary movie, featuring Danny Faulkner, and Hebrew scholar, Stephen Boyd, featured in Is Genesis History?, to try to refute the Flat Earth. Here is the trailer:

The Flat Earthers have a 2 1/2 hour critical review of the documentary film. Danny Faulkner wrote an article, at the Answers in Genesis website, refuting the Flat Earth movement. It is actually quite a very good, informative article. The problem is that by making some minor adjustments, the adjusted article could also be used to refute Young Earth Creationism.

According to journalist Jay Johnson, at the Naturalis Historia blog, Johnson took Faulkner’s article and did a simple find-and-replace of key words in Faulkner’s article, replacing “flat” with “young,” “shape” with “age,” “a sphere” with “old,” “a globe” with “old,” and “astronomy” with “geology.” The results were startling.

Anyone with a computer, with a program having a find-and-replace feature, can do this themselves.

Seriously.

It is that easy.

Here is a sample of Danny Faulkner’s original article (you can read it in full at Answers in Genesis), with Jay Johnson’s find-and-replace, tweaked version of Faulkner’s article (read most of that here). To make it easier to compare, I am just quoting portions of paragraphs, with the changed words in bold:

(Faulkner)….if one becomes convinced that the earth is flat rather than being spherical, that is a major change in one’s worldview. If the earth truly is flat, then we have been lied to about the earth’s shape our entire lives. One must ask how and why this lie was created and perpetuated. Ultimately, this line of thinking leads to the conclusion that there must be a vast conspiracy about the earth’s shape that has been going on for a long time….
(Johnson)…if one becomes convinced that the earth is young rather than being old, that is a major change in one’s worldview. If the earth truly is young, then we have been lied to about the earth’s age our entire lives. One must ask how and why this lie was created and perpetuated. Ultimately, this line of thinking leads to the conclusion that there must be a vast conspiracy about the earth’s age that has been going on for a long time…

Another section, after Danny Faulkner encourages Flat-Earthers to rethink their approach, of thinking that their view is found in the Bible:

(Faulkner)….But flat-earthers typically are undeterred by such advice. They dismiss it as the mere teaching of a man. They proudly proclaim that they want to stick solely with what the Bible says. They fail to understand the importance of sound teaching taught in the very Bible they profess to uphold. God has ordained the church for several purposes, including instruction in the Scriptures. 1 Timothy 3:2 says that an overseer must be able to teach. But flat-earthers frequently dismiss instruction from Godly men, insisting that they know more about what the Bible says than men who have devoted many decades to prayerful study of the Scriptures. It never occurs to flat-earthers that they may be wrong in their understanding of the Bible. Nor does it occur to them that they have set themselves up as authorities on the meaning of the Bible, but their approach completely undermines the possibility of such an authority in the first place….Some flat-earthers also fashion themselves to be experts on science and the methodology of science. Consequently, they think of themselves as competent to dictate to scientists, both godly and ungodly, on how science ought to be conducted. But their definitions and practice of science appear to be formulated to make science as generally understood impossible.
(Johnson)…But young-earthers typically are undeterred by such advice. They dismiss it as the mere teaching of a man. They proudly proclaim that they want to stick solely with what the Bible says. They fail to understand the importance of sound teaching taught in the very Bible they profess to uphold. God has ordained the church for several purposes, including instruction in the Scriptures. 1 Timothy 3:2 says that an overseer must be able to teach. But young-earthers frequently dismiss instruction from Godly men, insisting that they know more about what the Bible says than men who have devoted many decades to prayerful study of the Scriptures. It never occurs to young-earthers that they may be wrong in their understanding of the Bible. Nor does it occur to them that they have set themselves up as authorities on the meaning of the Bible, but their approach completely undermines the possibility of such an authority in the first place. … Some young-earthers also fashion themselves to be experts on science and the methodology of science. Consequently, they think of themselves as competent to dictate to scientists, both godly and ungodly, on how science ought to be conducted. But their definitions and practice of science appear to be formulated to make science as generally understood impossible.

This really stood out to me:

(Faulkner)….It is intellectually lazy for Christians in their fear to insist on a strictly literal approach to all of Scripture. Sadly, flat-earthers who demand this hyper-literal approach to the Bible readily abandon it when it suits them. Ultimately, flat-earthers place themselves in a position of authority while simultaneously deconstructing the idea that there can’t be any authority other than Scripture. They are blind to the fact that they have equated their understanding of Scripture with what the Bible says…..
(Johnson)…It is intellectually lazy for Christians in their fear to insist on a strictly literal approach to all of Scripture. Sadly, young-earthers who demand this hyper-literal approach to the Bible readily abandon it when it suits them. Ultimately, young-earthers place themselves in a position of authority while simultaneously deconstructing the idea that there can’t be any authority other than Scripture. They are blind to the fact that they have equated their understanding of Scripture with what the Bible says.

And finally, here is Faulkner’s conclusion:

(Faulkner)….So, I continue to battle this threat to biblical Christianity. I’m not interested in debating flat-earthers. I don’t even try to convince them. Instead, my target audience is those who are true seekers, not those who think that they’ve already found truth in the falsity of flat earth, without doing the proper research. I also provide answers to those who have seen the unfortunate effects of the flat-earth movement in people that they know and love.
(Johnson)…So, I continue to battle this threat to biblical Christianity. I’m not interested in debating young-earthers. I don’t even try to convince them. Instead, my target audience is those who are true seekers, not those who think that they’ve already found truth in the falsity of young earth, without doing the proper research. I also provide answers to those who have seen the unfortunate effects of the young-earth movement in people that they know and love.

If you follow the whole line of thought, it is pretty amazing. So, after reading this, do you feel more drawn to the Flat-Earth movement, as the most faithful expression of biblical Christianity? Do you feel more drawn to the Young-Earth Creationist movement? Or are you skeptical about the whole business?

My purpose here is not to pick on Danny Faulkner. He is a legitimate astronomer, and a sincerely devout Christian man. I think he really wants to help people to have a love for the Bible, and a love for Jesus. But it becomes apparent that when you take the same type of anti-conspiracy apologetic logic, that Danny Faulkner uses against the Flat-Earth, and then apply it towards the Young-Earth, the results are quite unsettling, for those who advocate for a Young-Earth. To those who are not convinced of a Young-Earth, who hold to a more Old-Earth view, the whole thing is quite exasperating. There are better ways to approach the Flat-Earth nonsense.

If Young Earth Creationists are to make their case for their interpretation of the Bible, it would probably better serve their cause to try a different tactic. As I will report, in a future Veracity blog post, coming soon to a web browser near you, there are Young Earth Creationists who do take different approaches (the appearance of age, or a hope for a testable Young Earth model to be found in the future), and such apologists do their best to try to stay away from conspiratorial type of thinking. Whether such Young Earth Creationists succeed or not, in making their case, with a different approach, is an entirely different question. But it would better serve the entire Body of Christ for apologists to completely distance themselves from the conspiratorial quagmire, that tends to engulf Christians who do not bother to think things through more critically.

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

4 responses to “When “Flat/Young” Earth Apologetics Run Off the Rails

  • dwwork

    Thanks for a great article. My apologetic approach to this has been to use the old earth as today we are trying to reach people come from a modern point of view that both the earth and the universe are billions of years old. Our job is not to convince them of the age of the earth but the truth of Jesus Christ and His redeeming death on the cross. God could take as long or as short of a time to create the universe. There is a good reason there are not a lot of dates in the Bible. Dates are not important, God’s plan for us is what is important.

    Like

  • dwwork

    Reblogged this on Reasons For The Hope Blog and commented:
    A great article from my friend Clark Morledge.. My apologetic approach to this has been to use the old earth as today we are trying to reach people come from a modern point of view that both the earth and the universe are billions of years old. Our job is not to convince them of the age of the earth but the truth of Jesus Christ and His redeeming death on the cross. God could take as long or as short of a time to create the universe. There is a good reason there are not a lot of dates in the Bible. Dates are not important, God’s plan for us is what is important.

    Like

  • Clarke Morledge

    Stumbled on another great post, by one of my favorite atheist bloggers, AustralianTim O’Neill. He explodes the “old wives tale” that suggests that Saint Augustine believed in a flat earth. Fantastic reading:

    https://historyforatheists.com/2019/08/aron-ra-gets-everything-wrong/

    Liked by 1 person

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