For decades now I’ve heard of a “Flat Earth Society.” Seems that some people are unconvinced that the earth is round. Well, roundish. I admit it has some bumps and valleys and occasional flat spots, and I am told by reliable scientists that it bulges a bit at the equator. But mostly, it’s round, and in everyday parlance, we call it round. Those spectacular photos of the “Big Blue Marble” taken from space are pretty convincing.
I was thinking of this recently as I reread parts of the OT in which you find that the earth is flat and has four corners. According to that text, it’s also quite small: see Daniel, in which a single point is visible to the whole world. The NT backs that up—see Revelation—and conversely, the author of Matthew says we can see the whole world from a single point.
The OT is surprisingly heavy on cosmology, leaning toward a fixed, immovable earth under a solid dome hammered out of metal, held up, we think, by a set of pillars. Of course, it does not move.—rather, the sun revolves around it. According to Joshua, the sun is small enough to fit “in Gibeon” and the moon small enough to fit “in the vale of Aijalon.” The stars are lights in a dome above, and yes, they can fall to earth. Dozens and dozens of such verses show us the scientific thinking of Bronze Age and Iron Age writers. The flat-earth people are depending on a very literal reading of the text. They fail to see metaphor or poetry anywhere, and they assume that illiterate shepherds knew more about science than Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson, that an ancient cosmology inherited from the Babylonians and the Egyptians was scientifically accurate. In short, they mistake the fallible Bible for a science textbook.
All this became more relevant for me when I began watching the new Cosmos series and reading about the strident reactions of the anti-evolutionary group and of the “Young Earth creationists.” These people are in the news often, denying evolution altogether or coming up with a thinly disguised Special Creation under another name. And they hold fast to Bishop Ussher’s calculation of an earth only about 6,000 years old.
Therefore, to hear them talk of evolution is rank heresy, and when you say “billions and billions”—whether you speak of stars or worlds or years—you are going to make such people very unhappy. Critics of Cosmos are demanding from Fox TV equal time to rebut the “unbiblical and sacrilegious views” presented by Dr. Tyson (whom some critics call a “sinner” and an “agent of Satan”). Curious, that demand for TV time, as they already have hundreds of radio shows and a dozen or more TV channels to broadcast their special views—check your local listings where you find Catholic masses and Kenneth Copeland and Cowboy Church and other such programming. Critics could air their rebuttals nonstop for years.
So far, only a very few are arguing for a Biblical flat-earth view, and that surprises me, as by counting verses, there is obviously far more biblical evidence for the flat earth than for the other contentious points. I can only conclude that they see less theological threat in the flat-earth topic, though—as I said—there is more scriptural evidence for it. But talk of the round earth doesn’t attack their notions of Special Creation or a measurable genealogy as calculated from an “infallible” listing of the generations of man.
Or maybe they, too, have seen photos of the Big Blue Marble and accept them as authentic.