We were shocked to see the title of this new post: Is the Earth Flat?. It appears at the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia.
At last, we thought, they’re going full-throttle for scriptural literalism. As everyone knows, the bible is a flat Earth book from start to finish — see The Earth Is Flat!, in which we provide dozens of scripture quotes from both the Old Testament and the New. So we eagerly started reading AIG’s new article.
It was written by Danny Faulkner. Here’s AIG’s biographical information about him. They say he taught physics and astronomy until he joined AIG. His undergraduate degree is from Bob Jones University. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis. He begins by saying:
Many people will probably wonder why it is necessary to write an article defending a round earth. Or, more specifically, an earth that is spherical. You see, the earth could be both round and flat, if it were disk shaped.
[*Groan*] We know the difference between round and spherical. Then he talks about “cultural mythology that, until the time of Christopher Columbus five centuries ago, nearly everyone thought the earth was flat.” We all know that’s nonsense. In Klinghoffer: “We’re Not Flat-Earthers”, we wrote:
It’s true that both the Old Testament and the New have an ark-load of scriptural references that unmistakably describe a flat earth — we gave several examples in The Earth Is Flat!, but as we’ve previously posted, at least since the time of Aristotle, educated people knew the world was a sphere. And a generation after Aristotle, in the third century BC (well before the time of the New Testament), Eratosthenes computed the earth’s size.
In spite of the clear words of the bible, because the earth’s shape and size were known by educated people, no European before Columbus was foolhardy enough to try to sail West to reach the Orient. They didn’t know about North and South America, which divided the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, so the ocean was assumed to be too vast for their ships to cross. But Columbus somehow had the size of the world figured wrong, and his backers, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, didn’t know any better. … Anyway, Columbus wasn’t trying to contradict any flat-Earth beliefs.
So what is Danny trying to say? He spends a few paragraphs describing how difficult it is for people to give coherent reasons for believing the Earth isn’t flat. Danny and your Curmudgeon have obviously lived a different lives, because we’ve never encountered anyone with that problem. You can click over to AIG to read his paragraphs about people he’s met who can’t justify the spherical shape of the Earth, but we’ll skip that material.
Then he talks about how the ancients knew the shape of the Earth, and he mentions Aristotle and Eratosthenes. He also gives us Aristotle’s argument about the shape of the Earth’s shadow on the Moon during lunar eclipses. Very nice, but everyone knows that stuff. What Danny doesn’t do is talk about what’s in the bible. Then he says:
In the late nineteenth century, two atheistic skeptics, Andrew Dickson White and John Draper, created the conflict thesis that Christianity held back the progress of science. One of their major arguments was that throughout the Middle Ages the church had taught that the earth was flat. In creating this myth, Draper and White suggested that the church could redeem itself for this supposed error on the earth’s shape by getting in on the ground floor of Darwinism. This ploy was very successful in that much of the church capitulated on evolution. It also falsely altered history. It is this false version of history that most people have learned.
We’re not familiar with those names. Wikipedia’s entry on Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918) says:
In 1869 White gave a lecture on “The Battle-Fields of Science”, arguing that history showed the negative outcomes resulting from any attempt on the part of religion to interfere with the progress of science.
The final result was the two-volume A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), in which he asserted the conflict thesis. Initially less popular than John William Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874), White’s book became an extremely influential text on the relationship between religion and science. … White’s conflict thesis has been widely discredited among contemporary historians of science. The warfare depiction remains a popular view among critics of religion and the general public.
Okay, maybe we’ve learned something. After giving the impression that he’s discredited the flat Earth myth by mentioning those “two atheistic skeptics,” Danny continues:
During the previous six months I had been asked about the flat earth several times. …. All of this suggested that there must be some sort of movement out there within Christianity promoting the flat earth. This immediately raised two questions: who are the people responsible for this recent interest in a flat earth, and what is their motivation?
Maybe those are people who read the bible? Danny goes on at great length describing and discrediting various flat Earth claims. We’ll skip that because it’s not worth bothering about. Then, in his conclusion section, he says:
Are these people who believe in a flat earth for real? It’s hard to say. They could be well-intentioned but seriously misguided people. Or they could be attempting to discredit the Bible and Christianity. If the latter, their approach probably is “If you think that the Bible is literally true, then I’ll show you just how literally true that the Bible is!” But this is a false dichotomy.
Really? Why is that? Danny says:
We here at Answers in Genesis don’t say that the Bible is literally true. Rather, we understand that the Bible is true because it is inspired by God. As such, it is authoritative on all matters and is reliable.
Did you understand that distinction, dear reader? We didn’t. Anyway, given Danny’s belief that the bible “is authoritative on all matters,” then why doesn’t AIG insist that the Earth is flat? Here’s Danny’s reasoning:
The Bible contains imagery and poetry. However, those passages are easy to identify. When it comes down to the sorts of questions that matter here (such as “Did God create the world?”), the Bible must be read and understood historically and grammatically. That is, historical narrative does not lead to symbolic interpretation. Hence, the creation account is literally true.
Then what about all the flat Earth passages? Danny never addresses any of them. Instead, he ducks the issue entirely and finishes with this:
At least some of the people behind this upsurge in the flat earth movement may be lampooning the creation movement. As such, they clearly are no friends of the church; rather, they oppose Christ and His kingdom. I recommend that Christians be very discerning about their teachings.
That was entirely unsatisfactory. Danny never comes to grips with any of the numerous flat Earth statements in the bible. He can’t, because if he confronted them and said they were wrong, then AIG’s entire argument for young Earth creationism would collapse. There’s no way to get around it. If the bible is correct about Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, and all the rest, then it must also be true that the Earth is flat. Nevertheless, the Earth isn’t flat. Danny knows this. But he can’t face the consequences.
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