When I ask flat-earthers this question, there often is some hem and haw before I get a straight answer, with the answer finally being “no.” What usually prompts my question is flat-earthers equating the strong delusion of 2 Thessalonians 2:11–12 with belief that the earth is a globe. Those verses read:
Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Notice that this passage begins with the word “therefore.” When one encounters a “therefore,” it is proper interpretive practice to look for what it is there for. The context begins in verse 1, and it concerns the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fact that his return will be preceded by a rebellion and the revealing of “the man of lawlessness” (verse 3). The immediate antecedent of “them” in verses 11–12 is found in verses 9–10:
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
So, God will send this strong delusion to those who have rejected the truth and hence are not saved. Therefore, if one is serious about the strong delusion of 2 Thessalonians 2:11 being belief that the earth is a globe, then one must also believe that the question of the earth’s shape is a salvation issue. Pointing that out to flat-earthers usually results in some back-pedaling.
But now I think I’ve found a flat-earther who probably will double-down rather than back-pedal if I were to ask him this question. I’ve previously blogged about the vile anti-Semitism of Edward Hendrie’s book, The Greatest Lie on Earth: Proof That Our World Is Not a Moving Globe. Now Hendrie has a second book out about flat earth, The Sphere of Influence: The Heliocentric Perversion of the Gospel. Though this book contains some anti-Semitism, it’s not as prevalent as in his earlier book. However, in this book he discusses at length why he thinks believing the earth is flat is essential for salvation. For instance, on pp. 58–59 he wrote,
Just because someone uses the name of Jesus does not mean that they are believers in the true Jesus. If the Jesus they invoke is the not the Jesus of the Bible, they are worshiping in vain. Heliocentric “Christians” reject the Jesus of the Bible who is the creator of a flat and stationary earth, which is his footstool over which he presides from his abode in heaven above the firmament. They, instead, conjure in their hearts a different Jesus who created a spinning ball earth floating in outer space, which thus cannot be Jesus’ footstool. They worship a false Jesus. Their worship is in vain. They are not unlike the Muslims, who believe in a Jesus, but their Jesus in not the Jesus of the Bible. Muslims belief (sic) in a false Jesus who does not, will not, and cannot save them.
I will overlook the blurring of God the Father with God the Son in this quote, concentrating instead on Hendrie’s insistence on the earth being flat. Hendrie thinks that heliocentric Christians are not Christian at all because they worship a false Jesus. Do you think that perhaps Hendrie misspoke here or that I misquoted or misrepresented him? Check out this quote a few pages later, on pp. 59-60:
The Bible states clearly that “(w)hosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father; but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” 1 John 2:23. Muslims reject the Jesus of the Bible. They reject the son and so they have not the Father. They reject the God who can save them and instead worship a heathen god who cannot save. That same analysis can be done for the Hindu Jesus, the Mormon Jesus, the Catholic Jesus, and the heliocentric Jesus. There are all false Christs and their devotees worship them in vain.
Hendrie’s meaning seems clear enough in that statement. But Hendrie wasn’t done. On p. 76 he wrote,
To reject the flat, stationary earth with foundations laid by God is to refute the surety of salvation. It is an attack on the gospel.
Again, this statement indicates that Hendrie thinks that flat-earth belief is essential for salvation. Much later in the book, Hendrie appeared to walk this conclusion back at least a little. On p. 341 Hendrie wrote,
Many take the position that belief in a flat earth is not necessary for salvation. That is true. But that dodges the real issue. The issue is not whether someone who is saved must know every truth of the gospel. God’s revelation of his truth is progressive. Once saved, a Christian will ‘grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ 2 Peter 3:18. The issue is whether a person who is presented with the gospel truth believes it. How can someone claim to be a Christian and reject the truth presented in God’s word?
But two pages later (p. 343), Hendrie clarified what he meant:
If a person rejects a truth of the gospel that is presented in the gospel that indicates that truth has not be revealed to the hearer. That, in turn, indicates that the hearer does not have the unction of the Holy Spirit that imparts the revelatory knowledge. That is what Hosea 4:6 is saying. That is what God means when he says ‘because thou has rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee.’ It is the willful ignorance born of the rejection of knowledge presented in the gospel that ends in eternal destruction.
That is, if a person doesn’t know the earth is flat when he has a salvation experience, that’s OK. But then if that new Christian later is instructed that the Bible teaches the earth is flat, but he rejects that “truth,” then it proves that the person never was a Christian in the first place. Funny, Jesus and the Apostle John apparently didn’t get that memo when establishing tests for one’s salvation. For instance, in John 14:15, Jesus said,
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
In John 13:34–35, Jesus said,
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
In his first epistle, the Apostle John echoed these tests for salvation (1 John 2:3–11). A few other passages offer other evidences of salvation, such as fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), continuing in the faith (1 John 2:19), and outworking of our faith (James 2:14). Neither Jesus nor John nor these other passages—in fact any passage—says anything about the earth’s shape being a part of our salvation. Thus, Hendrie adds to the gospel.
What does Hendrie think of pastors and other Christian leaders who disagree with his cosmology? By a statement on p. 349, you can see that he doesn’t mince words:
“Anyone who undermines the truth of God’s creation as set forth in the Bible undermines the very gospel of Jesus Christ. Such who claim to be ministers of Christ are, instead, wolves in sheep’s clothing sent among God’s flock by the devil.”
The comparison to wolves in sheep’s clothing comes directly from the Sermon on the Mount. It is very clear from Jesus’ warning (Matthew 7:15–20) that the wolves are false teachers. For Hendrie’s words to be true, it requires that those who disagree with Hendrie are false teachers and hence are on the road to perdition. Throughout the book, Hendrie had harsh words for many well-known pastors and creation scientists, including yours truly. It was good to know that I was hardly alone. Despite what Hendrie thinks, I think I am in very good company.
Other than being united in belief that the earth is flat, there is much diversity among flat-earthers.
This represents a very radical facet to what already is a radical movement. I’ve written before on some of the peculiar characteristics of the flat-earth movement. There I considered whether the flat-earth movement could be considered a cult. It certainly has many cult-like characteristics. But other than being united in belief that the earth is flat, there is much diversity among flat-earthers. For instance, Hendrie is a staunch Calvinist, and he is very critical of Arminians, claiming that Arminian theology is a product of heliocentric cosmology (p. 81). The question of whether belief in a flat earth is essential for salvation adds another point of difference within the flat-earth movement.
However, there are staunchly Arminian flat-earthers who would condemn Hendrie for such a claim. Hendrie believes the only acceptable Bible is the King James Version (KJV), and he is not alone in the flat-earth movement. But there are many other flat-earthers who disagree with this. And flat-earthers seem to be in many different denominations: Baptist, Presbyterian, and Assemblies of God, to mention just a few. With such a broad view of beliefs represented, it will be difficult to classify the flat-earth movement as being a cult, unless we revisit the definition of a cult. I’m in favor of changing the definition to include something as aberrant as the flat-earth movement, especially considering the corrosive effect that extremist flat-earth belief has on many of the people involved.