A Flat Planet Earth
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, August 19, 2016
For whatever reason, the internet recently became awash with flat-earth articles. Who knows what prompts these trends. It may have been a slow-news day, and perhaps some popular news site decided to run a story for the heck of it.
Interestingly, when I was haunting New Age bookstores I came across the Hollow Earth and Realm of Aghartha concepts. The stories surrounding these ideas were so fascinating and intriguing that I almost wanted to believe them.
Back in 1947, Admiral Richard E. Byrd allegedly found a hollow earth entrance to a fantastic world as he was flying to the North Pole. As the story goes, he saw a wondrous land of mountains, lakes, rivers and monstrous animals. There's tons of information out there to be accessed via Google on this topic. If you do so, make sure you also Google why the earth can't be hollow - just to bring things back into proper perspective. Just saying!
But I'd never come across anyone seriously believing that the earth was flat. I had seen Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" fantasy-humor novels on the book shelves. His world was a flat disc resting on top of four gigantic elephants, standing on a colossal turtle traveling through space.
Later I discovered that the world of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (Arda) was originally flat. Following conflicts between the Valar (good angels) and Melkor (bad angel) the world was made round. In doing so, the Blessed Realm of Aman where the Valar lived was removed from Arda. From then on Aman could only be accessed via ships traveling the Straight Way, and only by special dispensation.
The difference between Pratchett and Tolkien was that the former was an atheist, while the latter was a Christian. Tolkien borrowed from various mythologies. However, his Silmarillion mythology was also heavily influenced by Christianity.
Meanwhile Pratchett utilized clever humor to satirize religious beliefs. The "Great God Om" and "Omnianism" are classic examples of his use of satire. As a Humanist Pratchett would have assumed the Bible taught a flat world, like other religions presumably did. Hence, the Discworld complete with elephants and turtle. According to Discworld Wiki:
Omnianism now demands that Om triumph over competing gods not through military force but in the "marketplace of ideas". The church has thus become more evangelical in its methods, and its followers can be seen going from door to door to convert unbelievers.
Surprisingly, Pratchett has his religious devotees. One writer (Michael McVeigh) welcomed the idea that some atheists enjoy writers like Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Actually atheist Philip Pullman didn't share the same enthusiasm - which is why he wrote His Dark Materials. In fact Pullman hated Lewis and all of his materials.
McVeigh applauds that Pratchett - like many other atheists - critiques religious hypocrisy and fanaticism. Also that Pratchett populated his world with "heroes grounded in objective scientific materialism." He suggests that Christians fall into the erroneous trap of portraying atheism as a desert void of values and where anything goes.
The best critique of religious hypocrisy and fanaticism should be derived from God's Word rather than any atheist worldview. Atheists aren't immune to the same hypocrisy one can find everywhere. While one cannot bundle all atheists into the same box, all atheists reject God's Word. Any values atheists have must be measured against God's standard.
Recent interest in flat-earth cosmology saw articles by Christians being resurrected for our benefit. One was written by a popular evangelical PhD. Unfortunately, he felt the need to employ pejoratives such as "stupid", "gullible" and "dumb" to describe Christian Flat-Earthers.
Furthermore, he added that the "biblical writers do indeed describe a flat round earth." They did so because they supposedly lived during a time before science enlightened the world. In his view, the biblical writers weren't inspired to write about the "natural world." It seems that their reporting of the Genesis Creation account was unscientific as well.
A representative of Creation Ministries International informed me that this evangelical writer got into an email argument with one of them. He insisted the Bible taught a flat earth. The irony is that there are scholastic refutations of the Bible-teaches-a-flat-earth claims.
You can find CMI's list of rebuttals to the biblical-flat-earth narrative HERE. J. P. Holding responds to Paul Seely at The True.Origin Archive. Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser discusses this and other issues in his book The Old Testament Documents - Are they Reliable and Relevant? Younker and Davidson of Andrews University discuss a related issue - The Myth of the Solid Heavenly Dome.
One writer has made solid observations (pun intended) about Hebrew Cosmography. For example, if the sky was made of metal then how likely is it that no one questioned why it was blue and didn't reflect the sun? Again, if the Hebrews borrowed from other cultures (many of which were sea-faring) then why didn't they wonder why ships disappeared over the horizon yet didn't fall off the earth?
When we say it's raining cats and dogs - do we actually believe that? I hope they have a safe landing! What about the four corners of the earth? How about the sun is rising, or the sun is setting? You get the picture, don't you? Well, you don't really - it was just a figure of speech.
We could go on. But isn't it a strange spherical world we live in? Why do some professing Christian scholars insist on calling biblical writers ignorant about certain subjects, despite evidence to the contrary? They'll typically respond that they're guarding God's Word against science etc. Frankly I don't buy into that position.
Science doesn't contradict the Bible. The Bible hardly needs that kind of defense. The biblical writers were a lot smarter than some modern Christian scholars give them credit for. In claiming the biblical writers believed in a flat earth you're propagating atheistic canards.
Charles Spurgeon's advice regarding Scripture should be taken to heart:
"The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself."
If you're consistently ignoring evidence supporting the biblical account, then something else may be motivating you. Whatever the case, this approach will eventually corrode trust in Scripture and ultimately compromise the gospel.
Lord, come quickly!
About Alf Cengia
Last week: Sign of Christ's Coming
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