"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The flat earth myth

The flat earth myth
Unless the earth were spherical, an eclipse of the moon would not always reveal circular segments; for we observe that whenever the moon is eclipsed, its dark and its shining portions are distinguished by a curved line.  ~St Thomas Aquinas
For the last 200 years or so, many anti-Christians have resorted to a scurrilous lie (acting consistently with their worldview1): that the early and medieval Christian Church taught that the earth is flat.2
One of the most prominent recent examples is probably the most powerful man in the world, the US President Barack Hussein Obama:

“Let me tell you something. If some of these folks [sic] were around when Columbus set sail–[laughter]–they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society [laughter]. They would not have believed that the world was round [applause]. We’ve heard these folks in the past.”3
Since President Obama also supports infanticide and gay ‘marriage’,4 which are clearly out of line with biblical teaching, should it be surprising that he would also repeat one of the commonest anti-Christian fables?

What did the early church really teach?

Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell (1934–) thoroughly debunked the flat earth myth over 20 years ago in his definitive study Inventing the Flat Earth.5
The famous evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002) favourably reviewed this masterpiece:
“There never was a period of ‘flat earth darkness’ among scholars (regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.”6
Russell showed that flat-earth belief was extremely rare in the Church. The flat earth’s two main proponents were obscure figures named Lactantius (c. 240 – c. 320) and Cosmas Indicopleustes (6th century; the last name means “voyager to India”). However, they were hugely outweighed by tens of thousands of Christian theologians, poets, artists, scientists, and rulers who unambiguously affirmed that the earth was round. Russell documents accounts supporting earth’s sphericity from numerous medieval church scholars such as friar Roger Bacon (1220–1292), inventor of spectacles; leading medieval scientists such as John Buridan (1301–1358) and Nicholas Oresme (1320–1382); the monk John of Sacrobosco (c. 1195–c. 1256) who wrote Treatise on the Sphere, and many more.

One of the best-known proponents of a globe-shaped earth was the early English monk, theologian and historian, the Venerable Bede (673–735), who popularized the common BC/ AD dating system. Less well known was that he was also a leading astronomer of his day.7
In his book On the Reckoning of Time (De temporum ratione), among other things he calculated the creation of the world to be in 3952 BC, showed how to calculate the date of Easter, and explicitly taught that the earth was round. From this, he showed why the length of days and nights changed with the seasons, and how tides were dragged by the moon. Bede was the first with this insight, while Galileo explained the tides wrongly centuries later.8
Here is what Bede said about the shape of the earth—round “like a ball” not “like a shield”:
“We call the earth a globe, not as if the shape of a sphere were expressed in the diversity of plains and mountains, but because, if all things are included in the outline, the earth’s circumference will represent the figure of a perfect globe. … For truly it is an orb placed in the centre of the universe; in its width it is like a circle, and not circular like a shield but rather like a ball, and it extends from its centre with perfect roundness on all sides.”
And the leading church theologian and philosopher of the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), wrote in his greatest work Summa Theologica/Theologiae:
“The physicist proves the earth to be round by one means, the astronomer by another: for the latter proves this by means of mathematics, e.g. by the shapes of eclipses, or something of the sort; while the former proves it by means of physics, e.g. by the movement of heavy bodies towards the centre, and so forth.”9

 Dr Henry Richter, Dr Robert Carter, Dr Jonathan Sarfati, and CMI-US CEO Gary Bates discuss flat earth teaching and geocentrism.