Nathan Jones: More and more people these days seem to be buying into the notion that the Earth is not a sphere but rather exists as a flat disk. Even Christians have been buying into the idea that the Earth is flat! Does that mean Creationists should become Flat Earthers?
To answer that question, Eric Hovind of Creation Today has joined us. He’s a friend and fellow evangelist who as an expert in Creation Science can best explain why the Earth is definitely not flat.
Internet-Fueled Flat Earthers
Eric, I’m trying to figure out why there’s been all of this interest lately in people 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Flat Earthism is a growing movement that, I’m convinced, the Internet has given rise to perpetuating yet another outdated idea that has already long been totally disproven. But, because of the Internet, there’s been a resurgence of interest in this debunked idea. People don’t realize that this claim has been debunked many times over and over throughout history.
I’ll tell you where I’m coming from — I’m convinced the modern Flat Earth movement was created as a joke that has gotten completely out of hand. Its followers are even claiming that the Bible teaches about a flat Earth.
There was a society in Canada that was a Flat Earth Society created as a complete joke. It existed to make fun of people who believed in the Bible. They were claiming that to believe in the Bible is to believe that the Earth is flat when, of course, it’s not at all. They were trying to make a comparison and successfully turned many people’s minds. One of the side effects is now there’s a lot of people, I’ve heard as much as 6% of the population of the United States or some 20 million people, who now believe in the Flat Earth Theory.
Four Corners Flat Earthers
Nathan Jones: I traveled down to Saint Martin Island to preach at a church and met this young man who clearly got all of his information from YouTube. He’d become convinced that the Earth was flat. I asked him if he’d ever left his little island, and he responded that he had never left it, and yet, he was still so sure the Earth must be flat. I told him that as I’ve traveled around the world I’ve seen from the air the curvature of the Earth. I pointed out that from the beach he could see the horizon curving along the ocean and how the ocean appeared rounded. But, he replied, that roundness could only produce a circle and not a true sphere.
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 as proof that the Earth was flat.
Eric Hovind: He’s got a problem. 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 hyperliteralists. In other words, they are going to take whatever the passage says hyper-literally. The problem ends up being that they find themselves facing a whole lot of issues. For example, to explain those two passages in Revelation, they’ll say they’re portraying the Earth as a square like a table and everything revolves around the top of the table.
If you’re not familiar with the Flat Earth movement, though you probably are by this point, you’ll also have heard them claim there’s possibly a dome over the tabletop. And, they claim the dome is solid in structure. Some Flat Earthers would claim the stars are, in truth, angels locked inside this solid dome that is spinning around a stationary, still Earth.
So, multiple theories come into play here when explaining what the Flat Earthers believe. Central to their view is the rejection of the Heliocentric Model, meaning the Sun is 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, and rests upon a foundation.
I don’t believe that’s what the Bible is saying when it uses these words to explain the Earth relative to the cosmos. Hyperliteralists state the Bible says the Earth has four corners, therefore, it must have four corners, versus asking what does the Bible means to say. What is the Bible trying to communicate in these passages?
At times there are differences between what the Bible is saying versus what the Bible means. For example, Isaiah 55:12 says “the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Do we believe the trees in the field are actually clapping real hands? No! To do so would be to take a hyperliteralist approach. We should instead interpret the Scriptures based on what they mean literally by the genre which it employs and not always on what they actually say, especially when we translate the text from the original Hebrew and Greek.
Round Disk Flat Earthers
Flat Earthers will also use Isaiah 40:22 which reads, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth….” and say that’s the proof that the Earth exists as a flat circle rather than as a three-dimensional sphere. They’re saying that the globe should look like a flat disk rather than a sphere, meaning a ball. There are multiple problems with this claim. Just one, Isaiah does use different words for sphere and ball and uses them somewhat interchangeably.
More than that, they’re not interpreting the Bible correctly and they’re certainly not viewing the science correctly. Scientific problems with the Flat Earth model abound!
Then there are some Flat Earthers who specifically claim that the Earth may be a flat disk, but rather than having four corners, there are no corners because it must be round. Claiming so would go against those passages in Revelation noting the Earth as having four corners. So, does the Earth have four corners, or is it round, or is it both? There actually have been maps drawn up trying to portray that it’s both. Those couldn’t possibly work because you would have to be able to see everywhere in the world at once.
The Flat Earthers also claim the Earth possesses a crystalline dome stretching over it and that this dome is what’s holding in the air pressure. They don’t believe in gravity nor that gravity is even a real thing.
Scientifically, though, here is what would happen. Say you were standing in one stationary spot on that flat disk and the stars were rotating around you. Instead of the stars making a perfect circle above you, that is unless you were standing directly at the center point on that disk, the stars would end up making an oval shape around you. So, when you looked up and saw the stars going 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. Well, we don’t see that anywhere on Earth. What we see in time-lapsed photos are the perfectly round paths of the stars moving across the sky and not in an oval shape.
Avoiding Falling Down the Rabbit Hole
Scientifically, the Flat Earth Theory has problems. Biblically, there are problems. The verses they point to do not support the view that the Earth is flat because they are taken out of context, which is one of the biggest problems I see with this theory. If only we’d read the Bible and take it for what it means. When it means something literally, then take it as literal. Like, for example, in Genesis, the six-day Creation account should be taken literally. But, where the book’s author makes references in passages that are clearly meant to be taken poetically or symbolically, then interpret them by their proper genre and context. We have to continually ask ourselves what the passages are saying, what are they communicating, and what are the phrases being used in God’s attempt to communicate with mankind.
Nathan Jones: Thank you, Eric! I appreciate you explaining the glaring holes in the Flat Earth Theory.
If you want to learn more about what the Bible teaches concerning the Genesis Creation account, how the Earth was indeed created as a sphere, and how to properly interpret the Bible based not on what one wants it to mean but rather by what the Bible intends to mean, then visit Eric’s website at Creation Today. A proper literal hermeneutical approach to biblical interpretation — recognizing and accepting symbols and other literary forms as they were meant to be taken — is how one should properly interpret the Bible. Follow that method when you interpret the Bible and you won’t get lost down the rabbit hole of the latest crackpot theory.
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Many of the Old Testament verses which Flat Earth advocates cite as support for their model incorporate the English word “earth” (not capitalized). This older usage word is typically used to translate the Hebrew word ” ‘eretz ” which means land/territory/country and/or the people thereof; all the land and/or people everywhere; or soil/dirt/ground. Confusion arises when interpreting various passages employing the rendering “earth” because now in modern times we have a more recent but similarly spelled usage, “Earth” (capitalized, because it’s the proper name for our planet). My point here is that “earth” and “Earth” are NOT THE SAME USAGE.
In ancient/biblical times a planet was typically called a “wandering star” (cf. Jude 1:13) because it was always something seen up in the sky; it was not the ground beneath your feet. The ground beneath your feet was called (in an ancient language equivalent) “earth”—but it WASN’T called “Earth.” The term “Earth” is a more recent term that refers to our planet in the celestial mechanics sense.
So, modern readers of the English Bible can easily fall into the misreading error of seeing “earth”—meaning LAND—in the Old Testament but mentally substituting “Earth”—meaning PLANET—for it. This results in passages that are talking about the land being interpreted as if they were speaking of our planet instead, when they do not.
This is the biggest single misreading I’m aware of which contributes to misinterpretation of Bible passages as ‘proof’ for a Flat Earth model, but I’ve also discovered that many, many passages which the Flat Earth advocates cite as support yield their actual meaning to a careful examination of the local context. On some occasions there are also translation accuracy issues involved, and anyone who’s ever compared English translations of the Bible will be aware of the differences one can encounter when looking at different versions.
A very helpful resource for any kind of Bible study involving translation issues is an Interlinear Bible, which displays the original language (Hebrew/Aramaic or Greek) text of the Bible along with a very word-for-word English (or other modern language) translation. One online Interlinear Bible I use a lot personally also has links to the various usages of a Hebrew or Greek word, to its range of meaning, and to lexicons such as BDB.
I also urge my fellow Christians to remember that those of us who adhere to the doctrine of inerrancy of the Bible subscribe to inerrancy of the Bible autographs, and not to inerrancy in the work of manuscript copyists, Bible translators, or Bible readers, all of whom are fallible.