Why are people believing in a flat Earth again? What does the Bible teach: flat Earth or a globe? What is the verse in Bible prophecy that requires a globe earth and what does the flat Earth resurgence teach us about ourselves?
The Unlikely Return of Flat Earth Thinking
Just like any other Bible or science expert, I've recently been getting lots of inquiries about the flat Earth Theory. I've heard:
- "The Bible teaches a flat Earth; why don't you?"
- "I thought you took the Bible literally?"
- Warnings that I "better study flat Earth and get out of deception." (Wrongly assuming that I must not have investigated flat Earth if I don't promote it.)
- "Are you going to change your book cover since it depicts the earth as a globe?"
Let's dig in.
Examples of Flat Earth Beliefs
To bring you up to speed on this topic, here is a list of just some of the things flat-earthers teach. Note that not all flat-earthers agree on everything here, but everything listed below are arguments I have heard from flat-earthers:
- "The Earth is a flat round disk and not a sphere, just like the Bible teaches."
- "Look at the horizon: it's flat! It would be curved if we were on a globe."
- "Antarctica is not the 'south pole'; it is the ice wall around the edges keeping the oceans in."
- "The Sun revolves around the Earth (above it), much nearer than the accepted 93 million miles away."
- "Night can still happen because the Sun's light works like a flashlight illuminating only one part of the disk at once."
- "Gravity is a lie. It is the Earth moving upward that pulls us down."
- "Photos of a round Earth from space are almost all photo-shopped composites."
- "A great conspiracy of NASA, other space agencies, astronauts, pilots and others is responsible for faking evidence of a globe and hiding the true (flat) nature of the Earth from us."
At this point you're either laughing hysterically or your head is spinning as you try to remember the other reasons (not contradicted above) for why you know (...think...believe...or is it assume?) the Earth to be a ball.
Don't bother. The flat-earthers have a rebuttal for every single proof you can think of...and (literally) hundreds more that you cannot. Basically, they say everything you have been taught is false and every proof you accepted—that you did not prove yourself—was fabricated by the conspiracy.
In other words, flat-earthers think you should trust only what your own eyes see, not photos, videos, pseudo-science and other things created by outside untrustworthy sources...and you, too, will arrive at the inescapable conclusion of a flat Earth.
Now, I have to confess: I feel a little guilty about how I reacted to this topic when it first started "assaulting" my inbox in 2015 (as I viewed it at the time). Maybe you will be able to relate to the following:
Like so many, my first response to being asked to comment on the idea that the Earth is flat and not a globe was "wait...what?" Complete disbelief. They had to be kidding.
As I watched my first flat Earth video on YouTube, I thought, "This person is insane." A few more videos and I saw it was not one crazy person; it was more like a mass hysteria.
When I shared what I was hearing with my wife, I could not help but mock the perceived "stupidity" of the people believing this. I feel bad about that now. Holding judgmental attitudes hinders us from emulating the compassion and kindness that Jesus taught and exemplified. It's perhaps hardest to be kind to people we disagree with especially when we perceive that belief coming from stupidity. Yet, we are to obey Jesus' law of love even when, or especially when, it is against everything we feel.
To be clear, I have never said or posted anything disparaging to or against flat-earthers. That's not my approach with those I disagree with.
For example, although I don't agree with pretrib rapturists, I do not put them down for their view. I understand it is not a reflection of their character or intelligence that they believe what I know to be unscriptural. For many, the pretrib rapture view is the only view they have ever heard. Others fear accepting a "heretical view" as they are told a post-trib rapture doctrine is. You see, among the many reasons people ascribe to a doctrine, that they can prove it from clear literal passages of the Bible is seldom at the top of the list.
Despite my restraint with saying anything to flat-earthers, I still hold myself accountable for my mocking attitude towards them. We are to bring every thought captive (2Co 10:5). Attitudes lead to thoughts which lead to actions which if sin, lead to death. If we are not actively looking for and working on areas where we are not acting in love, but more like reacting, then we cannot call Jesus "lord" because that makes him the one whose commands you obey, not the one whose commands you forget and flaunt.
What's Your "Flat Earth" Belief?
If you had the same judgmental reaction I did when you heard what "crazy" flat-earthers believe, consider: we all have our version of the flat Earth belief. Or if you don't yet, one day you will because we're all wired with built-in biases that cloud our thinking. Everyone is susceptible to deception (Rev 12:9) including believing provably false or irrational ideas.
For example, for a short time around 1999, I entertained the idea that the 400-year-old KJV Bible was a perfect translation of the Bible, inspired and preserved by God, and the only one English-speakers should use. This is so-called "KJV-Onlyism." It seems silly now given how clearly illogical it is to think a translation can ever be more perfect than the sources it is based on. But I believed it anyway.
Why? Because of my biases. I had tendencies towards idealism and minimalism. Therefore the idea of a single perfect English Bible version that could be relied on (no need to own and consult Bibles or learn any Hebrew or Greek) held great appeal to me. Oh that it were that simple and the verse saying God "has preserved his Word" (Ps 12:7) could have anything to do with Bible translations. But it's not.
"Depart From Me, I Never Knew you!" - Jesus
Jesus predicted that he will tell many sincere believers to basically "get lost" instead of welcoming them into the Kingdom. So...who are they and what did they miss or do wrong? In this study, get those answers and the one requirement for salvation Jesus taught (that Christianity misses) so that you can make sure you don't hear these dreaded words yourself!
Note: If you are reading this and happen to believe in KJV-Onlyism, obviously as a past advocate of it, again, I don't judge you. I only judge the theory. For the people, I have sympathy that they are stuck using a 400-year-old, “Ye Olde English” version when many more accurate and easier-to-understand modern English versions are available—all because the KJV-Only theory has a hold on them.
Psychology explains why people believe irrational things like KJV-Onlyism and flat-earthism. Humans are not the rational, logical creatures we assume. We all have cognitive biases, or mental short-cuts taken by our mind, that cause us to deviate from rational thinking. This article talks about the common cognitive biases that lead people to believe conspiracy theories like flat-earthism.
My point is that when we feel like ridiculing or lashing out at people who we view to hold crazy ideas, we're forgetting that we have been and probably currently guilty of holding ideas that are outright false or at least viewed as false by others. This means that when we judge or attack others over their (in our opinion) "false" beliefs, we're being self-righteous. We are certain that we are totally correct or morally superior to the person we are judging as "crazy." Just something to think about as a believer the next time you hear someone share an odd belief of theirs.
Why "Flat Earth" Is Spreading Again Now
While the cognitive biases explain why flat-earthism is believed at all, they do not explain why this belief is spreading again. Think about it: "flat-earther" used to mean a person who believes or advocates an outlandish, discredited theory. Why is it now no longer just a euphemism, but a literal thing again?
I have my own answer for that: YouTube!
Over the last few years, I have noticed a trend in what people email me to ask my opinion about. It used to be exclusively text pages, perhaps with impressive charts, and usually arguing some classic prophecy theory I have heard for years. So I began writing articles to cover all the popular theories like the Parable of the Fig Tree as a prophecy of a final generation. Or the hidden meanings in the Parable of the Ten Virgins.
Just when I thought I was going to run out of things to write about, the subjects of the questions changed. I had more and more requests to look at YouTube videos of usually brand new theories. The videos would have lots of timeline charts, eclipse charts, constellations, graphs, planetary orbits and other graphics with voice over by the theory creator or proponent. Yet for all their graphics, the theories were the same old doomsday or rapture date-setting kind that always come and go and always fail. I could not understand why people were paying any attention to them.
Finally I began to realize how making a video of a theory could supercharge it. A video version could transform a weak and easy-to-ignore prophecy theory into something persuasive and even viral. All it has to be is complicated and developed enough for a person to wonder if it might be right ("If this is just 10% right, then...!") They then will share it with someone else to ask for help on whether "there is anything to this?"
In this way, false theories get spread around by email and social media even if the sender does not fully believe or endorse the theory! They may even share it with someone else to give them a laugh, not realizing that the receiver is not entertained, but is intrigued or even terrified by it! (Has that ever happened to you?)
YouTube has been a blessing in allowing anyone to publish a video for free and for others to view it for free. Want to see a song's music video? It's on YouTube (I love that). On the downside, false ideas also are easier to find and spread freely. People don't even need a camera to produce a teaching video. They can just do a PowerPoint of charts, pictures, and text and narrate it with their own voice. If they put up enough amazing coincidences and arguments that no single viewer will be able to explain away or answer (like the "200 proofs of a flat earth") and the video will leave viewers wondering if this is person is onto something...
By the way, if a theory needs dozens or hundreds of proofs to argue its case, that should be a red flag. I've seen dozens of proofs for a pretrib rapture and for the failed Blood Moons and Shemitah theories. The post-trib rapture only needs a few plain clear literal passages to prove it and with the spherical earth you can choose any one of even just ten strong proofs if you like.
The "Flat Earth Bible Passages"
OK, so now you know how we got here on this topic. But you still want to know is it true or not, right? Especially as a Bible believer and reader you're probably a bit confused.
You see, in my research on this topic, I was surprised that Bible literalists have been the main proponents of flat-earthism. In the 1800's people like Samuel Rowbotham used a combination of the Bible and experiments to argue a flat Earth. You see, there are many passages in the Bible that can be harnassed to argue that "the Bible has been teaching us a flat earth all along and we ignored it because of our spherical earth brain-washing since childhood."
It's a shame the Bible is used this way, but also nothing new. Christians have supported several wrong causes because of misuse of the Bible. Christians in history have cited the Bible for their positions pro-slavery, against interracial marriage and against woman's rights.
This happened because they took passages out of their grammatical context or did not comprehend the historical context and audience to which they were given. Plus, they ignored or twisted the other biblical passages that contradicted their view.
Flat-earthers citing the Bible as proof of a flat Earth are committing the same errors. They take many passages out of grammatical or historical context:
- They take poetic passages (Psalm 75:3) literally even though they are in the poetic genre. Psalms is, after all, a book of songs. Plus, interpreting the Bible literally does not mean you can ignore the clues that non-literal figures of speech are being used. It means we take things as literally as the context guides us to.
- They misunderstand what other passages like Rev 7:1 mean when they speak of the "four corners of the earth." These meant the four cardinal directions: N, S, E and W. If you travel north long enough, you reach the north pole and cannot travel north anymore. You must turn south.
- When they say the Bible teaches geocentrism because it says the sun rises and sets and moves (Ecc 1:5) they forget that people who believe the earth goes around the Sun also use "incorrect" geocentric language when they refer to "sunrise" and "sunset." Observational figures of speech prove little about what people actually believe.
The Bible Refers To A Spherical Earth
Also, flat-earthism requires you to ignore or twist the passages which speak of the Earth as round (just like the shadow of the earth cast on the moon during eclipses):
- Isaiah 40:21-22 - "[God] sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers."
- Proverbs 8:27-28 (ESV) - "When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep..."
Note that there is no word in Biblical Hebrew that literally means sphere or globe. The word khoog is literally means circle or compass. Yet when you consider that an omnipresent God is watching the earth from all points chose this term instead of "disk" or "plane" "of the earth" it's telling. The earth looks round from all points for God. Given that, this circle term is the most accurate description of the globe.
- Job 26:7 (ESV) - "He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing."
- Luke 17:30, 34-36 - The day Jesus comes back he refers to as both "that day" and "that night." Also the people he raptures are described as doing both night-time (sleep) and and daytime activities (making food).
Luke 17:30, 34-36 — On that day when the Son of Man is revealed...
34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left.
35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”
36 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left..."
The prophetic passage in Luke speaking of people being in day and night simultaneously when Jesus returns requires just a little clear thinking to see why it tells us the earth is not only round (like the passages above do) but also must be a round sphere and not a round flat disk.
Why Even The "Sun As A Flashlight" Would Not Explain Night
The flat-earthers claim that day and night can happen on a flat disk if the sun worked like a flashlight. However, even if the sun operated that way, nothing would stop the light flashing on one part of the disk from being visible from the other. We see this same diffusion of light at dawn and dusk. The sun may be beyond the horizon but the light is scattered through the atmosphere, reflected off the surface of the earth and to clouds and back again. Hence the dusk/dawn glow we are all familiar with.
Or think of a spotlight on a stage in a theatre and how the audience can see the light coming out of the light from the source and off the surface it is directed at.
The only way to hide the light of the sun on one part of the earth from another is clearly by the parts being on opposite sides of an opaque ball that is illuminated on only one side.
Therefore the passage in Luke 17 speaking of people being in both day and night when Jesus returns shows an advanced understanding of the nature of the Earth. Think about it: back then you could not communicate with anyone on the other side of the earth as you can today to confirm what we all take for granted today about the function of day and night on our spinning blue marble.
By the way, you may know that I teach that believers will be gathered to safety on earth for the Tribulation. After considering Luke 17 above, you may be wondering why it seems to contradict that concept. The answer is that there is a special group of believers who have special protection to witness throughout the world during the Great Tribulation and therefore are not gathered with the rest: the 144,000.
I don't think this question is worth fighting over let alone worrying about or attacking each other over. I really did not want to comment on it because I know voicing in on it will offend some and alienate others.
Whatever you believe on this topic really is fine with me. I'm not trying to convince you to not believe in flat earth. This article was written in response to those who asked what I think on this issue or those who want my help on this question.
Realistically, your answer to this question does not matter; it does not impact our daily walk. What matters is how we treat each other. If this question causes us to stumble and "beat our fellow menservants and maidservants" (Lk 12:45) then it is an issue and we each must examine ourselves if we are in the faith in light of how we handle it (2Co 13:5).
Also, whether we are on a flat earth or round earth Wormwood is coming to devastate it as Jesus warned! We need to obey his advice to "pray that we may have the strength to escape" (Lk 21:36)...and in the meantime love each other as Jesus commanded those who call him "Lord" (Lk 6:46).
Watch this Mythbusters flight to 70,000 feet in a U2 spy plane with increasing curvature of the earth as they go up...
Flatearthers claim in the video comments that any curve seen is from "fish eye lens." However, the instruments in the cockpit are not curved because it's a normal lens. The curved glass canopy does distort things when the camera shoots through it at oblique angles. If you get to the 8:08 video mark when the plane is at the highest altitude, you'll see the horizon in the background distinctly curved and the wing in the foreground straight.
The only shame is they did not choose to take a flatearther up with them and let him see the curve with his own eyes. That would make a great reality show!
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