Grace A. Johnson
Theories of Man: Flat Earth Theory
An age-old theory is rising to the surface.
Should we believe it?
In light of many cultural and historical events, such as the JFK assassination in 1963, being evidenced to have been misrepresented for decades, and certain popular conspiracy theories proving to be closer to the truth than what the media has told us, many people—both a percentage of Christians and the secular world—have begun to question things even so simple as the shape of the earth.
The flat-earth theory has been taught as the long-standing belief of many ancient and medieval cultures, and our history books state that it was Christopher Columbus and other explorers of his time that proved that one in fact cannot sail off the other end of the earth, resulting in the widely-accepted belief that the earth is round rather than flat. Of course, that is not true in the least, as the Ancient Greeks—among others—had believed for over a millennia that the earth is sphere-shaped. That should tell you something, shouldn’t it? We’ve been lied to for years about a great many things—from historical events to scientific discoveries to something as trivial as a president’s chopping of a cherry tree. Why, a group of Christians, researchers, and theorists ask, would they not lie about the form of our planet?
The flat-earth theory, if you have not heard, is fast becoming one of the most controversial topics in our culture. Not only are celebrities “exposing” the earth as flat and a rapidly growing group of believing them, but the general public, regardless of their view of the earth’s form, are stereotyping this theory. In fact, the flat-earth theory was long ago stereotyped in the 19th century, when Darwinists and nonbelievers enforced the belief that Christians, from the time of their conception as a religious group, have held fast to the belief of the earth being flat.
Here’s the thing: Christians, as a group, never believed the earth is flat. The Catholic Church never accepted the theory that the earth is flat. Christopher Columbus’s contemporaries never believed the earth is flat. Historians, cosmologists, astronomers, scientists, researchers, and theologians never believed the earth is flat.
That begs the question: who does believe the earth is flat? What exactly is the flat-earth theory? If it wasn’t the widely-held belief of the Christian Western world, then where did it originate? And, most importantly, is the earth really flat?
First things first, I actually know of quite a bit of people who believe in—or are at least half-sold on—a flat earth. You probably know some too. They’re everywhere… All right, these are average, everyday people. (As in, if they are everywhere, I doubt they’re going to physically beat you up for believing that the earth is a sphere.) Most of them, nowadays, are Christians who have begun to take the Bible very literally—even more so than Young Earth Creationists. Even though about half of the flat-earthers (which is not an accepted word, by the way, so I wouldn’t use it in a conversation with an English teacher) are secular, those who do the most research and present the best arguments are Christians. They go right back to Creation and the Bible to source their information, which has prompted a lot of pastors and churches to accept the flat-earth theory are true.
These Christian flat-earthers are what we would categorize as “conspiracy theorists.” Most of them believe in every conspiracy theory imaginable, but that doesn’t automatically type them as idiots too—the flat-earth theory, from the arguments they give, is a pretty plausible theory...depending on what you know of the Bible. They believe that the earth is a flat disk—which would account for how God is using the earth as His footstool (Isaiah 66.1)—more on that later—and still sitting on “the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40.22). The North and South Poles? Yeah, that’s all one pole, a wall of ice that surrounds the earth and—you guessed it—keeps people from falling off the edge. Gravity? Not as powerful as we think. Satellite imagery? Faked—just like everything else the government has used to mislead us. The moon landing in 1969? Faked—and there’s a pretty good argument for that one too. NASA? They guard the ice wall instead of flying outside of the atmosphere. I could go on forever. If you believe that the earth is flat, then you buy into a lot of other theories that may or may not be true.
So I’m coming at this from the Christian flat-earther’s viewpoint. I’ve done my research, and I’ve had lengthy discussions with others who have done their research into why the earth really could be flat.
If, perchance, you happen to be a flat-earther, just know that I don’t think you’re stupid. You’re not. You’re taking initiative by digging into the Bible, science, and history to discover the truth. That’s noble. You’re also taking everything that the government says with a grain of salt. That’s smart.
You just haven’t dug deep enough yet. Which is what I’m going to do for you.
Also, for those of y’all who are related to flat-earthers—be kind. Don’t get into an argument, unless, of course, your relationship will not be damaged and you have the proper evidence. Your flat-earther relatives aren’t idiots, so don’t treat them like that. Hear them out, respect their perspective, and then do your own research and draw your own conclusions. To be honest, that’s what I’ve done with not just this post, but with this entire blog series. I come from both sides—I have relatives who are flat-earthers, some who aren’t, and some who are halfway there. For my next posts, I’ll have a background that you can trust, because I have friends and family on both sides.
And just to be clear, it’s the same coin. Two different sides, two different arguments, but we’re all people, we’re all loved by God, and if you’ve placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, then you’re going to Heaven, whether you believe the earth is flat or not. Although each of those brings about a very different perspective of God, which I will expound upon later on.
A lot factors into this “age-old” theory, from scientific evidence to historical conclusions to Biblical truths—and I’m going to examine each one.
Welcome to “Theories of Man.”
(And, yeah, that was supposed to sound like a TV show introduction…)
Scientific Evidence—Can You Prove the Earth is Flat?
Technically, no. And yes. I’m not a scientist, so I can’t give you algorithms to dispute images that prove the earth has no curvature—although, is you want some, there will be a link at the bottom of this post that you can check out. I can’t be entirely certain that those satellite images are real.
If you look at photos of the earth, such as the ones posted on Twitter by flat-earthers like B.o.B. and Tila Tequila, then you’ll give pause and question whether or not the earth is really round. Places like Wadi Rum, the Maldives, Lake Baikal, and the Bonneville Salt Flats all look suspiciously flat. Even standing in your front yard and looking just a few miles ahead of you makes the earth seem pretty flat. A lot of people say that they can’t even see the earth’s curvature from an airplane. I can’t say anything about that, as I’ve never flown before, but maybe you can remember your last trip across the Atlantic—or across the entire world—and tell me what you think.
If you stand on this evidence, you could probably prove that the earth is flat.
But there’s a lot more out there that can prove the earth is round, regardless of your views on satellites, NASA, and the government.
I’ve been to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee before, and I can tell you that even standing hundreds of feet in the air, I can’t see hundreds of feet out. If the earth really is flat, then I should be able to see miles away, whether I’m standing on the shores of St. Simon’s Island or in the Smoky Mountains.
A relative of mine claims that he can look out from Lake Michigan and still see Chicago, which far exceeds the curvature—meaning, if the earth curves at certain points (supposedly at every thirteenth mile or so), then he shouldn’t be able to see an entire city. But here’s my rebuttal—from Lake Michigan to Chicago, the earth curves downward, thereby elevating Chicago and making it easier to see the city instead of just a faint blur or the empty horizon.
If you’ve ever sailed, or merely stood at port and watched the horizon, then you know that ships don’t just “appear” from the horizon, such as they would if the earth were flat. Rather, they seem to emerge from the sea, proof that they are sailing upward. And when they sail away, they disappear “down.”
There’s more to the spherical shape of the earth than we can see looking at the ground or the horizon. Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, did a fair amount of observation on the shape of the earth, and found that during lunar eclipses, the earth’s shadow against the moon is round. If the earth is even a round disk, it would still be a two-dimensional object, thereby rendering it impossible to cast a shadow from that angle. Flat-earthers, explain lunar eclipses to me. Explain how the earth can be “flat” when the deepest part of the ocean is35,814 feet deep and the tallest mountain is 29,029 feet above sea level.
Shadows of other objects can prove that the earth is round. Due to the earth’s rotation, the shadow of an unmoving, inanimate object moves. If the earth is flat, then it wouldn’t be rotating and shadows wouldn’t be moving with the passage of time.
I’m not even going to get into gravity, especially considering how flat-earthers have a hard time explaining Newton’s notorious discovery. But here’s a question for you: if the Ancient Greeks had already proved that the earth is round, then had they already known about the existence of gravity?
Which brings us to…
Historical Conclusions—What Did Ancient Peoples (and Our Great-Grandparents)
Believe About the Flat Earth?
Anyone who has dared to broach the subject of history with me knows that (1) I am extremely opinionated, (2) I may not know everything, but I can talk about everything, and (3) I absolutely hate that the general public of the Western world has been lied to for hundreds of years—and they don’t even know it!
Such is the case with the flat earth theory.
For the last nearly 200 hundred years, America (and most of Europe, in fact) has been tricked into believing that Christopher Columbus proved to a disbelieving world of flat-earthers that the world is round.
Because everyone already knew that it was round. In fact, that was discovered by Greek philosophers and astronomers like Aristotle back in 6th century BC. Beforehand, the idea of a flat, disk- or square-shaped earth was held to by the early Egyptians and Chinese and presented in ancient Hindu and Buddhist religion. For a Christian flat-earther, pagan origins don’t bode well.
The idea that Columbus came from a society of flat-earthers was created by Washington Irving—author of Rip Van Wrinkle—whose 1828 book, The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, was based on numerous historical inaccuracies. Columbus had set out to do two things—find India and prove that the distance between Europe and Japan wasn’t as great as it seemed.
So from whence did Mr. Irving get this picture of Catholic flat-earthers?
From a small percentage of the early Christian scholars and theologians, and a man by the name Lactantius in particular.
As Christianity soared among Ancient Rome and the surrounding countries in the 3rd and 4th centuries, rising scholars of the faith decided to eschew anything and everything Greek. That meant philosophical works of Plato and Aristotle, the written works of Homer, togas and laurels, Zeus and the Olympics. It was a good idea—in theory. Aligning themselves with anything apart from either the Word of God or what they contrived themselves would not be wise—and rightly so. Light and dark cannot coexist (2nd Corinthians 6.14).
But that also meant that they had to come up with a new idea for the shape of the earth.
Only a few people followed along with the views of people like Lactantius. In fact, his works were considered heresy by the Roman Catholic Church until the Renaissance, during which his writings were considered good Latin. From there, several Christians latched onto the theory of a flat earth.
Of course, the leaders of the Church, the later reformers, and the secular world refused to relent in holding fast to a flat earth. Despite this, the flat earth theory was soon labeled the common Christian belief, and from there it was cultivated into an evolution-stifling, idiotic idea that was an alleged Christian belief. People today still view the Catholic Church and conservative Christians as flat-earth promoting, when in reality few Catholic leaders have ever questioned the shape of the earth in centuries past and the portion who did regarded it as round. And, of course, few conservatives buy into conspiracy theories, right?
I say all this to say that Christians didn’t invent the flat earth theory, few people in the history of the world ever believed it, and those who did did so because of a small group of Christians rejecting Greek philosophy and thereby tainting the reputation of the Catholic Church. And those who did invent it? Yeah, they were Hindu and Buddhist.
But people are believing it now. In recent years—as in, since 2016—the flat-earth theory has spread rapidly amongst Christians and even a portion of the secular world. The details have changed a little bit, and believers are heading straight to the Bible for proof instead of Lactantius’s writings.
Armed with Bible verses and a new perspective of God, Christian flat-earthers present a very strange argument, and here’s what it looks like:
Biblical Truths—What Does the Bible Really Say About a Flat Earth?
In talking with one of my family members, I realized that Christian flat-earthers consider so much more than just the shape of the earth. They go all the way back to Genesis, Creation, God’s grand design, and Satan’s plan of attack.
It would take a while to explain all the nuances of how a flat earth would be plausible from a Christian worldview and what Christian flat-earthers think about Creation, the shape of the earth, the Great Flood, the cosmos, the planets, and more. Once you buy into the flat earth theory, everything about the Bible and the universe changes.
So does your perspective about God.
One way to combat a round earth is to blame it on Satan. Not a bad idea, admittedly. There has to be a reason why there are two theories concerning—of all things—the shape of our home planet. It could be merely for division within the Church. Or, it could be to jeopardize our relationship with God.
Satan’s whole plan is to make us feel small and insignificant, right? To prevent us from wanting a relationship with the God of a universe that stretches past infinity. So he crafts a plan to make the world seem large and spherical, miles away from God’s throne room of Heaven. He deceives us into thinking that there is a great expanse beyond our wildest imagination, a vast array of planets, and a distance from us and God that reduces us to mere atoms. If we’re led to believe that, then surely we could never place ourselves into an intimate relationship with the One who holds all of that in His hands.
It’s a good plan for a villain. But not for Satan.
Satan’s out to steal, kill, and destroy. To defame God. To make himself a god. By diminishing God’s power to create and control an infinite cosmos, Satan makes God seem smaller, less powerful. By erasing the chasm of the universe between us, he makes intimacy with God, the love of God, and our special place in God’s heart, home, and plan seem...meaningless.
If the God who holds the whole world, the whole galaxy, the entire cosmos that cannot be measured by man...if this awesome, all-powerful Being chose to send His Son to die for me, when He could have sent Jesus to a billion other planets or a hundred other galaxies or even kept Him in Heaven, then how insignificant will I feel? I have been chosen by God. By God! Therefore, I must be greater than the heavenly host, more powerful than the devil, more loved than all the creatures, more desired than all the inhabitants of the cosmos.
And that, that love and that Holy Ghost power, makes Satan tremble. He knows that we, as Christians and equals to Jesus Christ, with the Spirit of God living inside of us, have an earth-shaking, hell-quaking power in us that we could us against him with merely a word. He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4.4).
But that’s just the personal opinion part of it—the actual idea and perspective that differentiates flat-eathers from round-earthers. And it goes on to transcend the shape of the earth and our perspective of God and Satan. It goes on forever, really. That’s how theories are. One point, one idea, leads to another. It works great when you’re writing a novel. But living your life? I don’t know. It’s easier to rely on the Bible and the Holy Spirit, who already have everything you need to know.
Which begs the question: what does the Bible say about a flat earth?
The Bible is really ambiguous about a lot of things—and that’s because God loves mysteries. He loves revealing mysteries, and it says in multiple places in the Bible that we, as Christians, have been granted the understanding, the wisdom, the knowledge, and the revelation of the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven. We get that understanding through the Holy Spirit. And so, as you read the scriptures I’m about to share with you, I recommend that you pray for Holy Spirit to reveal to you what He wants you to know—that’s the main thing.
The next thing is that God loves poetry. I’m serious. If you don’t believe me...well, then you just don’t believe me. But God loves beautiful things, right? And God loves books—He wrote the greatest one of the all. And He loves words too—His Son was the Word (John 1.1.).
So why not use a lot of figurative language in His prophetic words, a lot of parables in His Son’s teachings, and a lot of allegories in Song of Solomon? I mean, surely you didn’t really think that the bride’s teeth were sheepskin. That’s figurative language, and the Bible is chock full of it.
Now, not all of it’s figurative. Most of it’s literal. The people—real. The stories—aside from the parables Jesus taught, real. But a lot of times it’s difficult to figure out which is literal and which is figurative.
There are two ways to do so. One is to study the context. Like I mentioned above, the prophets used a lot of figurative language. They—or rather, God—still do today. And Psalms, Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are full of metaphors, similes, analogies, symbolism, and more.
The second is to go back to the original word. I don’t mean the word used in the King James Version. I mean the word used in Hebrew.
Now, you’re probably asking right now, what in the world has poetry and metaphors got to do with a flat earth?
Well, the Bible doesn’t necessarily state “The earth is flat” or “The earth is round.” That’d just be too easy, and then people wouldn’t get to digging. He also doesn’t say “The earth is 7,000 years old” or “The earth is a million years old.” Again, too easy, and God loves mysteries.
So you have to choose your verses carefully, and then you have to cross-examine them in the original Hebrew.
Here are several verses that give some insight into the shape of the earth:
“I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”
From Luke, chapter 17, verses 34-36, Jesus refers to the day of the Rapture and mentions that while the women and two of the men are working, two men are still sleeping. This indicates that the earth is rotating, and we’ve already discussed that the flat earth doesn’t rotate.
“It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:”
Now, this verse from Isaiah 40 (verse 22) could mean that God sits upon the flat disk of the earth, or that He balances on the exercise ball of the earth. This is where figurative language is employed because obviously we aren’t grasshoppers (that’s a simile). Or are we?
“And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
This verse, again from Isaiah, Chapter 11 verse 12, is used by flat-earthers to argue that a sphere can’t have four corners. But neither can a disk, can it? So maybe this is figurative language too, or maybe there are particular corners that only God knows about.
“Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?”
I love this verse. It’s Isaiah 66:1, and it’s also used by flat-earthers to argue that a sphere can’t be a footstool. But here’s my problem with that. Why are you using this verse, of all verses, and why are you taking it literally? This verse has nothing to do with the shape of the earth, and God is a spiritual being. Therefore, His spiritual feet cannot actually rest upon this physical earth. He doesn’t literally hold the whole world in His hands either. Because He resides in the spiritual realm and the earth is part of the physical.
But that’s not all. This is where we do more than look at context clues.
Go back to the original Hebrew. Say God meant this literally—what would He have used in the place of the word footstool, because we all know He wasn’t speaking to Isaiah in modern American English.
Strong’s Dictionary (officially my favorite dictionary) says that “footstool” translates to “hadom,” which actually has nothing to do with kicking your feet up and relaxing. Just the opposite, in fact. It means “to stamp upon.”
This same word was also used to describe the temple in several passages of scripture. And the temple was where God’s Spirit resided, right? And God’s Spirit was with Adam and Eve, walking upon the earth. And He walks with us now, doesn’t He? Stamping upon the earth, surrounding us with His Spirit.
Aha! Do you see it? This verse really doesn’t have anything to do with the earth being flat. It has everything to do with God walking alongside us and His Spirit residing in us. We are His footstool. We are His temple, the new Ark of the Covenant. The earth is His stomping ground, not any other planet, and not even Heaven. Heaven is His literal highchair (see what I did there?), the earth is His playground, and that house and place of rest He’s talking about? That’s the temple, His crib.
You glean from that whatever you want.
But here’s one pretty suspicious verse for y’all, Job 1:7:
“And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.”
The way I see it, you can’t walk up and down a flat earth. Just sayin’.
Conclusion—Should We Believe That the Earth is Flat?
The flat earth theory has existed for over 2,000 years, but that doesn’t make it plausible. Ancient Greek philosophers—who, you have to agree, possessed at least a modicum of intelligence and understanding—deciphered the shape of the earth not by satellite imagery, theology, or mythology. They merely observed the world around them and drew these conclusions. We can do that too.
Beforehand, God used a variety of figurative language to confuse the wondering minds of men about a host of things—but it was pretty obvious by verses like Job 1:7 and Luke 17:34-36 that the earth is round.
The argument that Christian flat-earthers present sounds good—in theory. They have photographic evidence, scripture, and logic, if you believe in the government’s plan to deceive. But when you dig into the “proof” they present, you’ll find that everything isn’t quite as black and white as it may seem.
I hope I’ve done an adequate job of explaining the flat earth theory, what that entails, and whether or not it’s true. Maybe you’re still sold on the flat earth theory—that’s fine. I’m just glad you’ve made it to the end of this post. I do suggest doing some more research—don’t rely on what you hear or see; learn for yourself! And that goes for round-earthers too. Don’t be afraid to dig into the Bible and take a look at the world around you. If you’d like to read more about the flat earth theory, the history of it, and what other Christian astronomers think about it, I have a list of resources below. I urge you to check them out.
Again, thank you for joining me today and learning about the “Theories of Man.” I have several other theories I would like to examine over the coming months, but I am open to suggestions! Please contact me on the homepage with your questions and give me some theories of man that you’d like to learn more about.
Just remember that regardless of what you believe the earth is—round or flat—God is still God. He is still in control and more powerful than any force of darkness. He never changes, even though our theories, doctrines, and mindsets do. That’s why we as Christians should always go to the Bible, His Word, FIRST!
Resources and Works Cited
Faulkner, Dr. Danny R. “COVID-19 and the Flat Earth.” Answers in Genesis, 17 April 2020, https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/danny-faulkner/2020/04/17/covid-19-flat-earth/
Faulkner, Dr. Danny R. “Is the Earth Flat?” Answers in Genesis, 24 May 2016, https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/earth/is-the-earth-flat/
Faulkner, Dr. Danny R. “Reflections on the Flat-Earth Movement.” Answers in Genesis, 22 June 2019, https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/earth/reflections-flat-earth-movement/
Fleming, Chris. “Flat wrong: the misunderstood histories of flat Earth theories.” The Conversation, 28 Jan 2016, https://theconversation.com/flat-wrong-the-misunderstood-history-of-flat-earth-theories-53808
Hogenboom, Melissa. “We have known the Earth is round for over 2,00 years.” BBC, 26 Jan 2016, http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160126-how-we-know-earth-is-round
“How many feet per mile does the earth curve down from where you stand?” Quora, accessed 21 Nov 2020, https://www.quora.com/How-many-feet-per-mile-does-the-earth-curve-down-from-where-you-stand
Kramer, Miriam. “From ancient Egyptians to B.o.B.: A history of flat Earth truthers.” Mashable, 27 Jan 2016, https://mashable.com/2016/01/27/flat-earth-truther-timeline/
Schottlender, Moriel. “10 easy ways you can tell for yourself that the Earth is not flat.” Popular Science, 26 Jan 2016, https://www.popsci.com/10-ways-you-can-prove-earth-is-round/
“Strong’s #1916: hadom.” Bible Tools, accessed 21 Nov 2020, https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/H1916/hadom.htm
The Holy Bible: King James Version. Peabody, Ma: Hendrickson Marketing, 2009
“Who invented the idea of a flat Earth?” Christian Answers, accessed 21 Nov 2020, https://christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-c034.html