In light of the fact that the first annual Flat Earth convention took place last year, and rapper B.o.B. currently has a GoFundMe page devoted to helping him prove the flatness of the earth,1 this article seems necessary.
Imagine a Flat Earth for just a moment. Just indulge the idea, and I promise it will be worth your while. I’m not asking you to give up your self-respect, or your ability to reason. I’m simply asking you to take a mind-trip with me.
Imagine that you could see your cousin, who is taking a gap-year in Germany because she loves travel and a drinking age of 16, through a powerful telescope if there were no mountains in the way.
Imagine traveling “south” to Antarctica and finding a large Ice Wall, behind which is some of the most demanding terrain in all the earth. This is true, but imagine that Antarctica is not a continent, but a rim. A rim around this flat planet containing the ocean you sailed across to get there. If you were in Germany and headed “south”, you’d arrive at the rim. If you were in Mexico and headed “south” you’d find yourself at the same rim. Beyond this rim is what? The inclining wall of a dome. This dome covers everything you see, and contains the sun and moon. You approach the dome take off your gloves and touch it with your hands. It’s freezing. If you licked it, would your tongue stick to it?
To believe this of course, you must also believe that scientists and governments are lying to you. This is not a stretch to most people. Decades of politicians promising one thing, and doing another have formed mistrust in almost every American to the degree that ‘honest politician’ has become a punchline. And scientists once told us that Pluto was a planet.
If you take the small leap of distrust, and set out with a Flat Earth worldview, all sorts of signs begin to support it. Why is it you can’t get a direct flight from South Africa to Australia? Why is it that Antarctica, known by its explorers to have vast resources, not been thoroughly mined and pillaged like every other country in the world? Why is there no footage from an astronaut spinning in every direction effectively “breaking the fourth wall”? Why are there conflicting shadows in the moon landing footage? Why is it that none of us can think of one movie about landing on the moon that was based on a true story? Is someone hiding something from us? Are they trying to hide the fact that they could fake a landing if they wanted to?
Now, to perhaps most reading this post, the sorts of conspiracy theorists that dive into this manner of thinking ought to be tossed into the looney bin. Modernism has deemed this sort of thinking preposterous, unreasonable, and even insulting. What could drive a group of people to come to these conclusions? Why is it easier to believe in a massive conspiracy in which governments across the earth come together to not only hide evidence, but also to manufacture false evidence on a gargantuan scale, than it is to believe in a spherical earth? After all, the moon is round, and rotates to show that it is a sphere. Why would it be wrong to conclude otherwise about our planet, especially with all of the evidence in support of a spherical planet? (I owe this argument to Pythagoras).
It may surprise you to learn that the Flat Earth movement is primarily championed and furthered by Christians who hold fast to the inerrancy of Scripture. They believe that the Bible speaks of a flat earth, and they also believe that if the Bible says this, it must be true. This is quite the claim, and if it is indeed true, then Bible believing Christians have quite the lane to choose.
Those who choose the Flat Earth lane are willing to go against the overwhelming majority opinion to hold on to their beliefs. Many have had their lives upended, and have endured much mockery for their beliefs. This mockery forces them to either try to forget the whole thing, or to hold tighter and tighter to their beliefs in a flat earth. To give up on Flat Earth, would be to call God a liar, and to relinquish their faith in the God of the Bible.
Perhaps some, if not many leading the movement, worship ‘rebellion against society’ as an idol, and perhaps they are addicted to conspiracies. But it is very likely that many people have been taught by these leaders that this is what the Bible says, and so they hold onto it with all their heart, because they know the Word of God to be infallible. They have seen the scriptures talk about God placing a firmament above the earth, and it seems to be talking about a lid. A lid that many ancient people groups believed in. They see the Bible talking about the sun rising and setting indicating that the sun revolves around the earth, and not the other way around. They see scripture even talking about the sun halting altogether. They see many other indications of a Flat Earth in scripture and they see a contradiction between how the Bible presents the earth, and how modern science (especially anything since the time of Aristotle) presents it. Holding fast to the inerrancy of scripture, they conclude that scientists, and the government have lied to them. And like we said earlier, despite its enormity, it is a much easier pill to swallow than to believe that God has lied to them.
So, for all our sakes, let us take a brief glance into what the Bible really has to say about the creation and shape of our planet.
Genesis 1:6-8 says,
“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,” (for sake of argument I have used the KJV).
The waters mentioned were presumably the waters that the Holy Spirit moved upon before creating light (Gen 1:2). So, day two of creation was dedicated to the crafting of a divide between two bodies of water. In Hebrew this divide is called ‘רָקִיעַ.’ This word is transliterated as raqia and the King James Version translates it firmament. Firmament is not an incredibly common word in today’s vocabulary, so let’s look at a definition. Webster defines firmament as, “the vault or arch of the sky.”2 Perhaps more prevalent with regards to the scripture, the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon entry for רָקִיעַ says, “the vault of heaven, or ‘firmament,’ regarded by Hebrews as solid, and supporting ‘waters’ above it,” (956).3
Paul H. Seely is a Flat Earth promoter who wrote in his article about the Firmament in Genesis 1, published in the Westminster Theological Journal, saying
“Considering that the Hebrews were a scientifically naive people who would accordingly believe the raqia was solid, that both their Babylonian and their Egyptian background would influence them to believe the raqia was solid, and that they naturally accepted the concepts of the peoples around them so long as they were not theologically offensive, I believe we have every reason to think that both the writer and original readers of Genesis 1 believed the raqia was solid. The historical meaning of raqia in Gen 1:6-8 is, accordingly, “a solid sky,” (235).4
Seely, along with most Christian Flat Earthers, believe that this firmament is a hemi-spherical, solid, bowl-like lid that stands between the earth as we know it and the heavenly waters above it. In another article he wrote for the Journal, he goes to great lengths to demonstrate that this was the view of ancient peoples as well. Indeed many did, Professor Lucien Lévy-Bruhl records in his book about primitive peoples closed off from modern civilization this about an unnamed primitive group, “They therefore believe that, traveling straight on, always in the same direction, one comes at last, without any metaphor, to touch the sky with one’s fingers,” (353).5
Seely argues in another article,
“Since the sky is usually thought by pre-scientific peoples to be a solid hemisphere literally touching the earth (or sea) at the horizon, the earth must necessarily be thought of as flat. It is impossible to conceive of the sky as a hemisphere touching the earth at the horizon, and yet conceive of the earth as a globe. If the earth were a globe but the sky just a hemisphere touching the earth, half of the earth would have no sky. The shape of the earth is accordingly explicitly or implicitly described by all pre-scientific peoples as being flat, and usually circular–a single disc-shaped continent” (232).6
By saying this he presumes many things. Firstly, he presumes that these early thinkers were “pre-scientific,” or “scientifically naive.” Judging by the tone of his article, Seely sees these as good traits. He would consider these people uncorrupted by current scientific thought. However, “pre-scientific” also supposes that these people weren’t all that in tune with how the world around them operated, which should not be seen as complimentary despite his attempts to make it sound so. These people are by no means “pre-scientific” simply because they drew different conclusions about certain things, Even the book of Genesis talks about towers, boats, wells, finance, bread, and many other objects and events rendered impossible without a certain understanding of science. Seely is indulging in chronological snobbery, which Gospel Vision has written on here. He does this while using a giant absolute he has not proven, when he says, “The shape of the earth is accordingly explicitly or implicitly described by all pre-scientific peoples as being flat…” (bold and italics mine). This is in no way verifiable, and easily disprovable. Just take a quick skim of The Discarded Image by Medieval scholar C.S. Lewis to see plenty of evidence to the contrary.7
Seely also assumes that the author of Genesis was among the certain ancients that he speaks of, and he makes no attempts to prove this.
Along with this, he ultimately makes a false claim about the inspiration of scripture. The inspiration of scripture does not presuppose that every author of every book had a thorough, extensive, or even correct knowledge of each thing he wrote about. In the same verse that the author (who this author understands to be Moses) mentions the firmament in Genesis 1, he also mentions “the waters which were under the firmament” (Gen 1:7). Did Moses know of what this water was made? Did he know about hydrogen and oxygen forming H2O? What about the atoms that made up those molecules? If he believed water to be a substance in itself without a molecular make-up at all, would the scripture cease to be inerrant? Or should we then believe that since the ancients didn’t know about hydrogen, we shouldn’t believe in it either? Surely this is not the case. Moses simply says water, and gives no attempt to demonstrate its ingredients. What the ancients believed about the make-up of water is not in play here. The same is true about the firmament. Moses makes no attempt to explain its make-up, he simply says it divided the waters. God didn’t need Moses to be right in his own thoughts about the molecular make-up of water or the firmament for him to write what he did.
So, Moses declares that there was a firmament created on the second day. We have no way of knowing what he thought this was made of, and he feels no need to explain it. Whether it is solid, liquid or gaseous is not described.
We do see God name the firmament “heaven” in verse 8, and see birds flying around “above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” in verse 20. This doesn’t prove anything necessarily, but it does show that an interpretation of the firmament to be the atmosphere, and possibly the known universe, is absolutely possible.
The argument from the Bible recording sunrises cannot stand either. Though the Bible is poetic throughout, and uses such language, this argument isn’t even necessary here. Centuries after it became commonly accepted that the earth revolves around the sun, we still all use the term ‘sunrise.’ This is the viewer’s experience. The viewer is not making a giant cosmological argument. It is a perspectival observation. Not to mention, in space (according to a spherical earth perspective), though they can be incredibly helpful for seeing which planet or star’s gravity is doing the most work on any given space mass, all measurements are relative to the masses around them. To illustrate this point, take a battery-operated mobile depicting the solar system, turn it on and hold onto the earth. If the mobile isn’t hanging from anything, you’ll see that the sun revolves around the earth just fine.
There are many more verses in scripture that are used to support Flat Earth theory, but these two examples are among the most mentioned. This article is notably brief, and is a drop in the great deep. There is an overwhelming amount of thought and argumentation from both sides on this topic. I, for one, have not come close to plumbing the depths of evidence on both sides. This article is designed to offer a brief glimpse into the mind of a person who believes the earth we walk to be flat. To humanize them, and then to help wade through some difficult scripture on the topic. I hope that we can begin to see that it is not necessary to believe in a Flat Earth in order to uphold the inerrancy of scripture, nor is it necessary to ignore things like heavenly waters as hogwash. Though this passage is poetic, Moses spent a fair amount of time talking about these heavenly waters, and he has led us to understand that the waves of the heavens are crashing and swirling beyond Orion and Sagittarius. This is surely a great mystery.
Gospel Vision is not a debunking site. It is a site dedicated to opening our minds and hearts to the truths in scripture that seem to fly in the face of what makes us comfortable. Often times, the world will spit things at us that don’t line up with what we’ve been told. It’s helpful to delve into a seemingly crazy perspective once in a while to spark our imaginations, and to ponder how little we know about our own world.
I’ve included some links below to content from Flat Earth promoters to get you started down a rabbit hole.8 It’s a fun ride, but I suggest you tie a rope around your ankle before you dive in. It is immense.
If you are a Flat Earther, and you are reading this, I plead with you to be bold. Spend time raising money and training to circumnavigate Antarctica, or to take a pedestrian, non-governmental, private flight to space. Elon Musk is starting that up this year.9 If the earth is flat, it should be easy to prove. So, please prove it for all our sakes. Even if it takes decades to save up and prepare, right or wrong, you will have taken an amazing journey. This will take sacrifice and hard work, but think of the potential. Think of the wonder to be unleashed.
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- Brown, Francis, et al. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon : with an appendix containing the Biblical Aramaic : coded with the numbering system from Strong's Exhaustive concordance of the Bible. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996, 956.
- Seely, Paul H. "THE FIRMAMENT AND THE WATER ABOVE." The Westminster Theological Journal, Vol 53, 1991, 235.
- Lévy-Bruhl, Lucien. Primitive Mentality. Great Britain: The Gresham Press, 1923, 353.
- Seely, Paul H. "THE GEOGRAPHICAL MEANING OF "EARTH" AND "SEAS" IN GENESIS 1:10." The Westminster Theological Journal, Vol 59, 1997, 232.
- Lewis, C. S. The Discarded Image : An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ih1LPFqHSSM, http://enclosedworld.com/videos/,