How Do We Know What We Know?
Flat-earthers raise an excellent epistemological question: how do we know what shape is the earth? For three decades, I asked this very question of students in the first semester of my introductory astronomy class. The context of this question was the early history of astronomy. I would ask my students what shape they thought the earth had. All my students would answer that the earth was a sphere. I retired from the university more than six years ago, just about the time the modern flat-earth movement was starting, so I expect that if I were teaching classes now, I frequently would encounter students who think that the earth is flat. When I asked my students how they knew the earth was a globe, not one student could give me a good reason. Eventually, a student would bring up photographs from space. Then, I’d point out that the first satellites were launched in the late 1950s and that people had thought that the earth was a sphere much sooner than that. Furthermore, I’d also point out that photographs could be faked. You see, I was making this point long before flat-earthers were!
If a person hasn’t truly been taught the why of believing something rather than the what, then they are an easy prey for all sorts of odd ideas.
The problem I saw was that my students had never been given reasons for knowing that the earth was a sphere. Rather, long before arriving in my class, students were spoon-fed what to believe but with little understanding of why they believed. Much of education amounts to memorizing many facts but with little reasoning as to what these facts mean. This amounts to indoctrination rather than education. Consequently, few students ever develop proper critical thinking skills. When someone comes along with a few arguments for the earth being flat, most people have absolutely no knowledge or resources to counter them. Flat-earthers, for example, typically testify that when they first heard about the earth being flat, they thought it was the dumbest thing that they ever heard. The soon-to-be converts thought that they easily could disprove that the earth was flat, but they quickly realized that they couldn’t. Perhaps out of frustration, they finally concluded that the earth must be flat. It never occurred to them that perhaps their education had failed them in not better preparing them for refuting the notion that the earth is flat. After all, if a person hasn’t truly been taught the why of believing something rather than the what, then they are an easy prey for all sorts of odd ideas. Therefore, I congratulate flat-earthers in raising a good epistemological question. The drawback is that upon raising that excellent question, they proceed to drive the question off a cliff.
The “Columbus Mythology”
Related to this poor job of educating people about how we know the earth is a globe is a mythology about Christopher Columbus. According to this story, Columbus’ opponents feared falling off the edge of the earth. This alternate history all too often has been taught as true history in school classrooms. However, the reality is that virtually everyone in the West at the time of Columbus knew that the earth was a sphere and had known this for two millennia. The argument wasn’t over the shape of the earth but over the size. So, when preconditioned by the above Columbus mythology, it is much easier to flummox people when confronted with evidence that the earth is flat. Again, our education system has failed most people. You can read more about this “Columbus myth” in my Is the Earth Flat? Article.
Gnosticism and Conspiracies
In the case of flat-earth, this urge to share secret knowledge transforms some flat-earthers into sort of flat-earth evangelists.
But there is another factor at play here—the appeal of secret knowledge. There is something about human nature that creates a desire for things not generally known. This is one reason why gossip is so enticing. Perhaps knowing a secret gives people a feeling of superiority, that they are on the inside of what is going on, or that they have been clever enough to have learned it. But people generally aren’t content to leave it at that: they want to share what they’ve learned with others. In the case of gossip, we want to share what we’ve learned with just “a few” of our closest friends. The problem is, the urge to share gossip soon causes our circle of close friends to expand rapidly. In the case of flat-earth, this urge to share secret knowledge transforms some flat-earthers into a sort of flat-earth evangelists.
There is an important difference between gossip and flat-earth cosmology. Mere gossip rarely is life-changing (except perhaps for the poor victim of gossip). But if one becomes convinced that the earth is flat rather than being spherical, that is a major change in one’s worldview. If the earth truly is flat, then we have been lied to about the earth’s shape our entire lives. One must ask how and why this lie was created and perpetuated. Ultimately, this line of thinking leads to the conclusion that there must be a vast conspiracy about the earth’s shape that has been going on for a long time (since the time of Columbus in most flat-earthers’ estimation, since they generally subscribe to the Columbus mythology). And coming to believe that a vast conspiracy is responsible is a relatively small step for most flat-earthers, because, by definition, a conspiracy is a secret knowledge, and the allure of secret knowledge generally was a major factor that led them into flat-earth belief in the first place. The thirst for secret knowledge is why so many people find belief in all sorts of conspiracies so appealing.
It is interesting that while most flat-earthers came to believe that the earth is flat and then moved on to conspiracy theories, some flat-earthers moved the opposite direction, starting with various conspiracy theories and then moving toward a belief that the earth is flat. It seems that the conspiracy to hide the earth’s true shape is the motherlode of conspiracies. All other conspiracies easily are subsumed by this one. For instance, the belief that the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center (and two other places) were inside jobs and their true nature has been concealed is a conspiracy theory that works regardless of the earth’s shape. The same is true of conspiracies about so-called chemtrails. Both these conspiracies are widely believed by flat-earthers, but many non-flat-earthers also believe in these two conspiracies. Why is the cosmological conspiracy believed by flat-earthers all-encompassing? The answer lies in the fact that the alleged conspiracy is cosmological. Cosmology is foundational to one’s worldview. If we have been lied to about such an important, fundamental issue, then all other conspiracies are relatively small matters in comparison. Once one comes to believe that there is a vast conspiracy about cosmology, it is a relatively easy step to believe in many other sub-conspiracies.
The importance of secret knowledge was a fundamental element of Gnosticism, a heresy that arose in the 1st and 2nd centuries and plagued the early church. For instance, the Apostle Paul apparently was concerned with Gnostic tendencies that had arisen the in Colossian church. Gnosticism taught that special knowledge either brought salvation or elevated one spiritually. This probably was at least part of Paul’s warning in Colossians 2:8 and possibly 1 Timothy 6:20. Many flat-earthers claim that since coming to embrace the belief that the earth is flat, they feel much closer to God and read the Scriptures with much more understanding than before. There are many claims of salvation after coming to believe that the earth is flat. This emphasis on false cosmology is dangerously close to this element of Gnosticism, if not an outright practice of it.
Flat-earth Christians think they have found cosmological truth in the Bible, and they aren’t about to let anyone dissuade them from this belief.
In their new-found fervor, flat-earthers often become very bold. Flat-earth Christians think they have found cosmological truth in the Bible, and they aren’t about to let anyone dissuade them from this belief. It doesn’t matter that until very recently virtually no one within the church saw the Bible as teaching that the earth is flat.
Four decades ago, I learned a valuable lesson from a Bible professor from whom I took two semesters of Pauline epistles. He said that if you see something in a passage that no one else has seen before, there’s probably a very good reason: it isn’t there. But flat-earthers typically are undeterred by such advice. They dismiss it as the mere teaching of a man. They proudly proclaim that they want to stick solely with what the Bible says. They fail to understand the importance of sound teaching taught in the very Bible they profess to uphold. God has ordained the church for several purposes, including instruction in the Scriptures. 1 Timothy 3:2 says that an overseer must be able to teach. But flat-earthers frequently dismiss instruction from Godly men, insisting that they know more about what the Bible says than men who have devoted many decades to prayerful study of the Scriptures. It never occurs to flat-earthers that they may be wrong in their understanding of the Bible. Nor does it occur to them that they have set themselves up as authorities on the meaning of the Bible, but their approach completely undermines the possibility of such an authority in the first place. Flat-earthers attempt to use lexicons and other resources regarding the meaning of Hebrew words in the Bible, while dismissing conclusions about the meanings from godly Hebraists who have spent decades pursuing a deep understanding of the Hebrew language. Nor is this burn-it-to-ground sort of attitude restricted to biblical studies. Some flat-earthers also fashion themselves to be experts on science and the methodology of science. Consequently, they think of themselves as competent to dictate to scientists, both godly and ungodly, on how science ought to be conducted. But their definitions and practice of science appear to be formulated to make science as generally understood impossible.
Where do these flat-earthers get the notion that they are capable of rewriting so many disciplines of study? This is particularly galling when one considers the limited science education that most flat-earthers seem to have achieved. Their ready stock answer is that they haven’t been indoctrinated by all those years of study. These flat-earthers fail to realize that without all that study, they don’t even understand what they criticize. There is a term for this overinflated confidence in one’s own abilities: hubris. Hubris often is defined as exaggerated pride or self-confidence. This describes the attitude of many flat-earthers very well – they know very little about the things they confidently claim to know. Perhaps the psychological term Dunning-Kruger effect is even more descriptive. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people overestimate their cognitive ability. This gives the subject an unwarranted high self-assessment of what he understands. The anti-authoritarian attitude that is rampant among flat-earthers is like the 1960s on steroids. This railing against the system that they don’t understand amounts to anarchy.
Is the Bible Literally True?
This extreme suspicion of anyone with any amount of advanced education is common in certain brands of Christian fundamentalism. This type of fundamentalism is committed to a very wooden, hyper-literal approach to the Bible. The fear is that if one admits that any part of the Bible is not literal, then one is free to interpret any and all the Bible in a nonliteral sense. But this fear is unwarranted, for some parts of the Bible clearly are not literal. For instance, the Bible contains many figures of speech, idioms, similes, and metaphors. In addition, some passages of the Bible, such as in the prophetic books, contain much imagery. All these are nonliteral uses. However, these nonliteral elements generally are missing from the historical narrative in the Bible. It isn’t very difficult to determine what genre one is reading in Scripture. It is intellectually dishonest for those with an agenda to read nonliterally passages of the Bible that clearly are meant to be taken literally. It is intellectually lazy for Christians in their fear to insist on a strictly literal approach to all of Scripture. Sadly, flat-earthers who demand this hyper-literal approach to the Bible readily abandon it when it suits them. Ultimately, flat-earthers place themselves in a position of authority while simultaneously deconstructing the idea that there can’t be any authority other than Scripture. They are blind to the fact that they have equated their understanding of Scripture with what the Bible says.
Context is King
Many of the biblical texts that flat-earthers use are taken out of context.
Many of the biblical texts that flat-earthers use are taken out of context. One example is Job 38:14:
It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment.
What is the antecedent of the pronoun “it”? The antecedent is “the earth,” found in the previous verse. Flat-earthers typically argue that in ancient times the clay that was changed by a seal was flat, so, therefore, the earth must be flat. When asked when this change of the earth took place, flat-earthers typically respond that this verse must be referring to the creation of the earth, perhaps on day three. To those who already believe that the earth is flat, this argument sounds convincing. However, it is doubtful that anyone ever was convinced that the earth is flat because of this one verse.
What is wrong with reading this verse this way (or, more properly, the first half of this verse)? First, keep in mind that this is in the book of Job, one of the five poetic books of the Old Testament. The poetic books contain many nonliteral devices. Second, this one clause is a simile (a nonliteral device): it says that the earth is changed like clay under the seal in some way. Third, in what way is the earth changed like clay under the seal? This is where context is vitally important. Job 38:14 isn’t a single stand-alone verse, but instead is part of a four-verse group, Job 38:12-15,
“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place,
that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?
It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment.
From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken.”
In verse 12, God asks the rhetorical question of whether Job had ever in his life commanded the morning. The obvious answer is “No.” God went on to ask Job if he had ever caused the dawn to know its place. Again, the obvious answer is “No,” because it is God who is responsible for bringing on the dawn each day. Verse 13 introduces a metaphor: the dawn takes hold of the ends of the earth to shake the wicked out of it. Why do I say this is a metaphor? I seriously doubt that even flat-earthers would argue that the dawn has ever literally shaken the earth so that wicked men literally fall out of it; if it is not literal, then it must be a metaphor. Robbers and other evil doers often pursue their deeds in the cover of darkness: the light of day exposes their evil deeds (attention returns to the wicked in verse 14, the conclusion of this section). As dawn approaches evil acts are more readily exposed. The earth here is not the entire earth but rather the earth that is exposed by the light of the approaching day. It is this portion of the earth, not the entire earth, that is transformed by dawn and thus is the antecedent of “it” in verse 14. While in darkness, the earth is amorphous, without discernable features. But as day approaches, the landscape drastically changes, bringing out features that were not visible before. Verse 14 expands upon this comparison, in a simile likening it to how amorphous clay is given features by passing it under a seal. Hence, this verse, in context, doesn’t teach that the earth is flat. One can get that meaning only if one first assumes that the earth is flat and then imposes that meaning on the verse in isolation. This eisegesis is outrageous, but, sadly, it is not a unique example of how badly flat-earthers abuse Scripture. The irony is that flat-earthers regularly accuse all others of misreading the Bible.
The Teachings of Men or the Teachings of God?
Another irony is that while flat-earthers regularly dismiss any teaching on Scripture that they disagree with as mere teachings of men, they readily embrace the teachings of men with whom they agree. The prime example of this is the supposed cosmology of the Bible propounded by Michael Heiser. Flat-earthers frequently post copies of Heiser’s diagram of what he thinks the cosmology of the Bible is, with a flat earth having a dome over the top. One also may see among flat-earth sources reference to similar diagrams or descriptions from Paul Seely or John Walton. Some Christian flat-earthers even reference Bob Schadewald’s comments on biblical cosmology, apparently unaware that Schadewald was a skeptic who used such arguments in an attempt to discredit the Bible. For that matter, while Heiser, Seely, and Walton claim that the Bible teaches a flat earth, they themselves don’t believe that cosmology, yet claim to be Christians who ostensibly believe in the inspiration of Scripture. These clearly are the ideas of men, yet Christian flat-earthers embrace these teachings, all the while accusing those with whom they disagree of embracing the ideas of men.
The Book of Enoch
A thread that is common among flat-earthers is the high regard that they have for the book of Enoch (also called 1 Enoch). Jude 1:14b-15 quotes a passage from 1 Enoch 1:9. So from this, flat-earthers infer that the entire book of Enoch is reliable. Some flat-earthers go so far as to claim that 1 Enoch ought to be part of the Bible or even that it once was but was removed from the Bible at some point. But if mere quotation in Scripture is the standard for what ought to be included in the Bible, then it opens the door for the writings of the Greek poets Epimenides and Aratus to be included as well, because the Apostle Paul quoted from them (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12). You can read more about this subject in my article The Book of Enoch and the Flat Earth.
The irony is that the flat-earth cosmology of 1 Enoch is incompatible with the modern, zetetic flat-earth model.
The irony is that the flat-earth cosmology of 1 Enoch is incompatible with the modern, zetetic flat-earth model. The cosmology of 1 Enoch is reflective of ancient flat-earth cosmologies that didn’t allow for time zones. Once ancient people became aware that different times existed at different longitudes on the earth, they soon abandoned the idea that the earth was flat in favor of the earth being spherical. But the revival of belief in the earth being flat in the 19th century required a new model (the zetetic model) that could allow for time zones. This conflict between the cosmology of 1 Enoch and zetetic model has caused some flat-earthers to abandon any hope of developing a flat-earth model. I shall return to this topic shortly.
A Church or a Cult?
For a while, I wondered if the Christian version of the flat-earth movement might coalesce into a new denomination or perhaps an association of churches, unified by a common belief that the earth is flat. There now are local churches that include the earth being flat among their core beliefs. And the leaders of those assemblies are zealous about planting similar local churches in other cities. Some flat-earthers feel alienated from their local churches, that in many cases they have attended for years, solely because the leadership of those churches doesn’t agree with them on cosmology, and hence they seek out flat-earth churches that they can attend. However, as strong as the bond of flat-earth belief may be, there are many other differences that divide these local churches. KJV-only, flat-earth people will not tolerate other flat-earthers who stray from the King James Version. The KJV-only, flat-earth pastors are not loath to condemn as false teachers other flat-earth pastors who from time to time use other translations of the Bible. Eschatology is another issue that divides flat-earth pastors. Additionally, many flat-earth pastors are very domineering and dictatorial. This rubs many people the wrong way, particularly when other, much smaller, differences arise. These factors probably will prevent a large unified flat-earth church movement from coming about.
This raises the question of whether the Christian version of the flat-earth movement is a cult. The flat-earth movement has some elements of a cult. Flat-earthers insist that their understanding of the Bible is the only true meaning of Scripture, dismissing all others as the mere teachings of men at best, and at worst, the work of the devil. This is the major defining characteristic of a cult. On the other hand, a cult often denies one or more cardinal doctrines of Christianity, such as the deity of Jesus Christ. While some individual flat-earthers who identify as Christian may stray a bit from orthodoxy, there is no consistent pattern of denying central tenets of Christianity among flat-earthers. Furthermore, a cult usually is led by a central figure. As of yet, there is not a single person who seems to be leading the Christian version of the flat-earth movement. There are various individuals within this subset of the flat-earth movement that have their followings, but it is far from centralized. However, there is a common conduit through which flat-earth arguments flow and converts are made: the internet, particularly social media and YouTube. Therefore, it is this new medium that amounts to the leader of the movement. Perhaps we need to revisit the definition of a cult to include “faceless” social media leadership.
Earlier, I pointed out that the conflict between the zetetic and the Enochian flat-earth models has prompted some flat-earthers to abandon any hope of developing a flat-earth model. This know-nothing attitude is rampant among flat-earthers. They are convinced that the earth is flat with a dome over the top, but beyond that, they have no details. Nor are they terribly interested in knowing any details. A major part of the reason for this attitude is because flat-earthers generally don’t think that it is possible for man to know the size of the earth or the dome above. Much of this reasoning comes from Jeremiah 31:37:
Thus says the LORD:
“If the heavens above can be measured,
and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord.”
Flat-earthers argue that since the Lord will never cast Israel off, then the size of the heavens and the earth can’t be measured. Therefore, they don’t even try. Furthermore, flat-earthers argue that since the conventional cosmology measures both, that is proof that the conventional cosmology not only is wrong but also is anti-God.
But is this what the verse truly says? The Hebrew word translated “measure” here referring to the heavens usually (but not always) is translated “measure,” so this probably is the correct understanding of this part of the verse – the heavens cannot be measured. Of course, the most ardent flat-earther would agree that God certainly knows the size of the heavens, so this must refer to man’s inability to measure the heavens. But does any astronomer claim to know the size of the heavens? Not really. While we know distances within the solar system with some confidence, and even the distances of many stars within a few thousand light years, distances beyond that are sketchier. But consider the proposition of knowing the size of the heavens (the universe). At best we can say that the universe appears to be billions of light years across, but the exact figure is far from known. Cosmologists can’t even agree whether the universe is finite (having a definite size) or infinite. So much for the flat-earth claim that astronomers believe they know the size of the heavens.
What about not being able to measure the earth? Notice that this verse doesn’t say this at all. Rather, it says that “the foundations of the earth below can [not] be explored.” It’s true. Man has never explored much of the earth’s interior, and he likely never will. Flat-earthers like to point out the deepest man has drilled into the earth is less than eight miles (out of a 4,000-mile radius). By this, flat-earthers mean to argue that man has no idea about the earth’s interior. But in their zeal to pursue their arguments, flat-earthers fail to realize that this fact makes the point this verse is making: man hasn’t explored the depths of the earth. From seismic studies, we do know a few things about the earth’s interior, such as the existence of a solid inner core and a liquid outer core. However, there are many things about the earth’s interior that we still don’t know. Hence, flat-earthers twist this verse to get a twisted meaning from it that they want.
But there are other reasons for flat-earthers’ inattention to details of their model. A detailed model can be used to make predictions that we can test via experiments or observations. For instance, most flat-earthers believe that the moon and sun are objects only a short distance above the earth’s surface (the maximum distance that any flat-earthers will commit to for the sun and moon above the earth is 4,000 miles). If the moon is this close, it will appear larger when high in the sky and much smaller when low in the sky. However, carefully conducted observations reveal that the sun is the same apparent size throughout the day. For that matter, the sun and moon always would be above the earth’s surface, so they would never rise and set. How do flat-earthers respond to these realities? Some flat-earthers concoct all sorts of weird effects to add to their ideas. Others refuse to commit to any distance of the sun and moon from the earth in the vain hope that some value will resolve this problem (it doesn’t). Still, other flat-earthers refuse to commit to any specifics beyond the earth being flat with a dome over the top.
This latter path is most interesting. Many flat-earthers have absolutely no curiosity of the world around them. This lack of curiosity is accompanied by a very strange, negative way of looking at the world. What I mean by this is that many flat-earthers describe the world more in terms of what they don’t believe (negative) rather than what they do believe (positive). For example, when asked for the distance to the sun, many flat-earthers say that they don’t know, but they know the sun isn’t millions of miles away. When asked for the cause of lunar eclipses, many flat-earthers say that they don’t know, but they know it isn’t the earth’s shadow falling on the moon. When asked what stars are, many flat-earthers say that they don’t know, but they know that stars aren’t large balls of hot gas many light years away. When asked how large the earth is, many flat-earthers say that they don’t know, but they know the earth isn’t a sphere 25,000 miles in circumference. This is a very weird worldview that I’ve never encountered before.
Consequently, flat-earthers have no skepticism for the claims of fellow flat-earthers but have nothing but skepticism (or is contempt a better word?) for those critical of flat-earth views.
I have found that flat-earthers readily believe almost anything that a fellow flat-earther says. A flat-earther comes up with a very lame argument that he posts on the internet; soon, another flat-earthers endlessly repeat the poor argument, an argument that is easily refuted and often contains demonstrably false information. Yet it is nearly impossible to convince flat-earthers of the folly of the claim. At the same time, flat-earthers are highly resistant to any arguments for the conventional cosmology. Consequently, flat-earthers have no skepticism for the claims of fellow flat-earthers but have nothing but skepticism (or is contempt a better word?) for those critical of flat-earth views. I’ve suspected for some time that many flat-earth arguments are created by people who don’t believe the earth is flat, but simply want to see how many people they can snooker with very bad arguments. They must get perverse delight out of fooling gullible people. It is a shame that flat-earthers never think of themselves as being gullible or naïve. If anything, in their own estimation flat-earthers are far ahead of everyone else.
I’ve also noticed that flat-earthers generally don’t understand, and hence don’t engage in, rational arguments. Many flat-earthers use memes to make their case for flat earth on social media. Usually, they post these memes without comment, apparently thinking that the meme makes all the appropriate and necessary comments.. Many of these memes contain misspellings and grammatical errors, which makes them difficult to follow sometimes. Most of the memes contain false information. These memes must pass around within flat-earth groups in social media where they receive zero scrutiny. When flat-earthers finally post the memes outside of the flat-earth echo chambers, they often are surprised by the sharp, and well deserved, criticism that they encounter. Yet, the firm believers of a flat earth are never deterred by this, because, as I pointed out before, flat-earthers have zero skepticism of flat-earth claims and impossibly high skepticism for any opposing positions.
Another demonstration of the inability of many flat-earthers to argue properly is their proclivity of simply stating truth as they understand it. In a discussion group that I participate in, one flat-earther, when confronted with an argument devastating to his position, frequently responds with the comment “The earth is flat!” Apparently, this person, along with many other flat-earthers (he isn’t alone in this sort of behavior), thinks that simply asserting what he thinks to be true is a proper way of arguing a proposition. He and too many other flat-earthers fail to understand that simply stating something (even if it is true) doesn’t constitute an argument for why it is true.
Flat earthers often mistake geocentrism with flat earth. While the flat-earth model must be geocentric, there is a long history of geocentric belief accompanied by the belief that the earth is a sphere. That was the dominant cosmology in the West for two millennia, at least from the time of Aristotle until the early 17th century. Many of the arguments that flat-earthers use are lifted from the modern geocentric movement. Yes, geocentrism is a thing too. While modern geocentrism has been around for nearly a half-century, it now has far fewer adherents than flat earth does. Flat-earthers seem to think that an argument for geocentrism automatically is an argument for a flat earth, but in many respects the two are unrelated.
As I previously stated, the ignorance of many flat-earthers is astounding. But their ignorance often is surpassed by their arrogance. The term for arrogant ignorance is hubris. There is much pride among flat-earthers, at least among the vocal ones. It is pride that attracts people to flat earth in the first place. It is the self-congratulatory confidence that a flat-earther has found the deepest hidden truth that few people have found. If they have figured it out while most people have not, that must be evidence that they truly are far ahead of nearly everyone in understanding. That is the appeal of the secret knowledge of Gnosticism. But it is pride that keeps flat-earthers trapped. In order to escape the delusion of a flat earth, believers in such ideology must first realize that they have been duped by some very poor arguments. But this means that they aren’t at the head of the class. Perhaps they aren’t even the bottom of the class. They may be miles away from the school building altogether. This is humiliating, even to admit to oneself. But if a flat-earther has been vocal, coming out to friends and family as a flat-earther, this is even more difficult.
The arguments for flat earth that began to arise in the 19th century didn’t originate with Christians. Instead, the belief that the Bible teaches the earth is flat first arose among skeptics who used this false charge as a bludgeon to intimidate the church and attempt to discredit the Bible. Regrettably, few Christians refuted this lie at the time, and some Christians even accepted this false notion and took it up as a badge of honor. I suspect that Samuel Rowbotham, the founder of the modern flat-earth movement in the 19th century, wasn’t earnest in his claims. Rather, I believe that Rowbotham did this as a cruel joke. If so, then he must have had perverse delight in fooling so many people.
I believe that part of the agenda of the flat-earth movement today is to mock and undermine arguments for biblical creation.
Similarly, I suspect that some of the people who relaunched the flat-earth movement in the 21st century did so for the same reasons. Except that there is a twist. Many flat-earthers who claim to be Christian use terminology about their supposed biblical arguments that appear to have been lifted from creationists. I don’t think that this similarity is a coincidence. I believe that part of the agenda of the flat-earth movement today is to mock and undermine arguments for biblical creation. Since studying and teaching biblical creation is my calling, that is a direct threat to my ministry. The sad irony is that many of the foot soldiers in the flat-earth movement are creationists and have no idea of the role that they are playing in this diabolical scheme.
Finally, I have learned of the corrosive effect that the flat-earth movement is having on Christians who have been sucked up into it. I’ve heard from wives whose husbands have been turned into surly, paranoid, negative men because of their belief in all sorts of conspiracies. I’ve heard from husbands whose wives no longer give them due respect because the wives are convinced that their husbands are deceived and hence can’t be viewed as the spiritual leaders in their families. The flat-earth movement is tearing families and churches apart. Many flat-earthers leave their churches in search of another church that teaches what they consider to be true biblical cosmology. Unable to find a flat-earth church, many flat-earthers simply stop attending church. All these attitudes and actions directly violate God’s commands and will for our lives.
So, I continue to battle this threat to biblical Christianity. I’m not interested in debating flat-earthers. I don’t even try to convince them. Instead, my target audience is those who are true seekers, not those who think that they’ve already found truth in the falsity of flat earth, without doing the proper research. I also provide answers to those who have seen the unfortunate effects of the flat-earth movement in people that they know and love.