The Cult of the Flat Earthers
Avoiding Falling Down the Rabbit Hole
More and more people these days seem to be buying into the notion that the earth is not shaped like a three-dimensional sphere. Rather, they have been claiming that the earth is two-dimensional and flat. Even Christians, surprisingly in droves in recent years, have been buying into what’s called the Flat Earth Theory. Should those who believe in the literal interpretation of the Genesis Creation account be joining what is swiftly growing into the cult of the Flat-Earthers?
To answer this question, I turned to my friend and fellow evangelist, Eric Hovind. Eric is the president of Creation Today (creationtoday.org), an apologetics ministry that focuses on teaching Genesis using Creation Science. He assures me that the earth is definitely not flat.
Nathan Jones: Eric, I’m trying to figure out why people have become so adamant lately in claiming that the earth is flat. Where did this idea come from?
Eric Hovind: Flat-Earthism is a growing movement that, I’m convinced, the Internet has given rise to, perpetuating yet another outdated idea that has long been totally disproven. Because of the Internet, there’s been a resurgence of interest in this false idea which has already been well debunked many times throughout history.
I’m convinced the modern Flat Earth Movement was created as a joke which has gotten completely out of hand. A Flat Earth Society was even formed in Canada to make fun of people who believe in the Bible. They claim that to believe in the Bible is to believe that the earth is flat when, of course, that’s not true at all. They were attempting to elicit a mental comparison, and quite successfully, for they have turned many people’s minds away from the Bible.
One of the side effects of this scam has been that a lot of people — I’ve heard as much as 6% of the population of the United States or some 20 million people — now believe in the Flat Earth Theory. Some Christians even claim that the Bible supports their notion that the earth is flat.
Four Corners Flat-Earthers
Nathan Jones: I traveled to the island of Saint Martin to preach at a church there and met a young man who clearly got all of his information from YouTube. He’d become absolutely convinced that the earth is flat. In response, I asked him if he’d ever left his little island, and though he responded that he had indeed never left it, he was still positive the earth must be flat. I explained to him how while traveling around the world from high up in the air, I could see the curvature of the earth. I pointed out that even from the island’s beaches, he could gaze upon the horizon which curves along the ocean so that the ocean had the appearance of roundness. But, he merely countered that the curvature would only inevitably wrap around into a circle and not a true sphere in the shape of a ball.
The youth then pointed to Revelation 7:1 and 20:8 which notes the “four corners of the earth.” He told me to look to those verses for proof that the earth is flat.
Eric Hovind: He’s got a problem there. Is he arguing for a flat square or a round disk? Most Flat-Earthers do not believe there are actually four corners to the earth. Much conflict exists within the Flat Earth Movement.
When you begin to study it, you’ll find there are multiple internal conflicts about who is in charge, who is the smartest, who has the best ideas, and just who is the authority on the subject.
As you look at those passages in Revelation that refer to four corners, we have to understand how they are interpreting Scripture. Most Flat-Earthers I would call hyper-literalists, taking whatever a passage says hyper-literally. The problem ends up being that they find themselves facing a whole lot of issues.
For example, in explaining those two references in Revelation, they claim these verses are portraying the earth as a square like a table with everything above revolving around the top of the table. If you’re not familiar with the Flat Earth Movement, though most people have probably encountered it by this point, you’ll also have heard them claim there’s possibly a dome extending over the tabletop and that the dome is structurally solid. Some Flat-Earthers would claim the stars are, in truth, angels locked inside of this solid dome that is spinning around a stationary planet.
Multiple scientific theories naturally come into play concerning what Flat-Earthers believe. Central to their view is the rejection of the Heliocentric Model which holds that the Sun sits at the center of our solar system and that the planets are orbiting around it. Rather, they believe the earth remains stationary. To support their view, they’ll use passages where the Bible talks about how the earth will not move, is fixed, or rests upon a foundation. I don’t believe stationary is what the Bible is intending to portray when it uses these descriptions of the earth relative to the cosmos.
Hyper-literalists state the Bible says the earth has four corners, and so, therefore, it must have four corners. Rather, when interpreting the Bible, what they really should be asking is: “What is the Bible trying to communicate in these passages?”
At times differences can occur between what the Bible is saying versus what the Bible is actually trying to convey. For example, Isaiah 55:12 says, “all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Do we really believe that trees in the field are clapping actual hands? Well, no! To do so would be to take a hyper-literalist approach. We should instead interpret Scripture based on what the verses mean literally but applying the genre which they employ; not always on what they actually say, especially when we translate the text from the original Hebrew and Greek.
Round Disk Flat-Earthers
Eric Hovind: Other Flat-Earthers will use Isaiah 40:22 which reads, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth….” and claim there’s the proof that the earth exists as a two-dimensional flat circle rather than as a three-dimensional sphere. They claim the globe should look like a circular disk and not as a sphere or square like a tabletop.
Multiple problems also arise with this claim as they do with the four corner Flat-Earthers. Just one, Isaiah uses different words for sphere and uses them somewhat interchangeably. And, specifically claiming that the earth must be a flat disk, rather than having four corners, would grind against those previously addressed passages in Revelation noting the earth as having four corners.
On top of translation issues, they are neither interpreting the Bible correctly nor are they viewing the science correctly. Scientific problems with this Flat Earth model abound.
So, which is it? Does the earth have four corners, or is it a round disk, or can it be both?
Some maps have been drawn up in an attempt to unify both interpretations. Obviously, those couldn’t possibly work because, in order to produce such a map, the mapmaker would need to be able to view everywhere in the world all at once. Astronauts have actually done that from up in high Earth orbit, and what they have seen is a sphere.
Let’s go back and address the theorized dome, for Flat-Earthers also claim the earth possesses a crystalline dome stretching over a flat square or disk. This dome supposedly holds in the air pressure. And, they don’t believe in gravity, denying that gravity is even a real force of nature.
Scientifically, though, here is what would happen. Say you are standing in one stationary spot on that flat disk and the stars are rotating around you. Instead of the stars making a perfect circle above you, that is, unless you are standing directly at the center point on that disk, the stars would end up drawing an oval shape around you. So, when you look up and see the stars revolving around you, their paths would appear oval in shape the farther they moved away from you, and came back, and moved farther away from you, and came back, and so on. In truth, we don’t see an ovoid pattern from any point on Earth. What we do see in time-lapsed photos are the perfectly circular paths of the stars moving across the sky, and never in an oval shape.
Avoiding Falling Down the Rabbit Hole
Eric Hovind: Scientifically speaking, the Flat Earth Theory is riddled with problems. And, biblically, even more problems abound. The supporting verses their adherents point to do not support the view that the earth is flat because they have taken them out of context, with biblical interpretation being one of the biggest problems I see with this cockamamie theory.
If only we would just read the Bible and take it for what it means. When it means something literal, then we take it literally. Like, for example, in Genesis 1-2, the six-day Creation account should be taken literally. But, when the biblical author makes references in passages that are clearly meant to be taken poetically or symbolically, then we interpret them by their proper genre and context. We have to continually be asking ourselves what the passages are saying, what are they communicating, and what are the phrases being used by God in His attempt to communicate with mankind.
Nathan Jones: It does indeed appear that the Flat Earth Theory contains many glaring holes, both biblically and scientifically. A proper literal hermeneutical approach to biblical interpretation — recognizing and accepting symbols and other literary forms for what they are — is how one should properly interpret the Bible. Follow this method of biblical interpretation and you won’t get lost down the rabbit hole of the latest crackpot theory and find yourself ensnared in the cult of the Flat-Earthers.