Atheist's Attacks

Answering Humanist's Accusations Against the Bible

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A Flat Earth?!!!

Did the church fathers teach that the earth is flat?

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THE HUMANIST'S CLAIM the Bible teaches that the earth is flat!

Further support for the idea of a flat earth is contained in the verses mentioning the “four corners of the earth” (e.g., Isaiah 11:12; Revelation 7:1) and the “ends of the earth” (e.g., Jeremiah 16:19; Acts 13:47).

Because of such Bible teachings, most of the early church fathers thought the earth is flat.[33] In fact, the view of the world contained in Cosmas’ book was accepted for several centuries as orthodox Christian doctrine.[34] Even in the fifteenth century, when Christopher Columbus proposed to sail west from Spain to reach the East Indies, the biblical notion of a flat earth was a major source of opposition to him.[35]

As for the question of what holds the flat earth in place, the Bible indicates the answer is “pillars.” The pillars of the earth are mentioned in several verses in the Old Testament (I Samuel 2:8; Psalm 75:3; Job 9:6). These verses reflect the belief of the ancient Hebrews that the earth rests upon pillars.[36]

Here are their references:

[33] White, Vol. I, p. 91. See also Draper, John W., History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (New York and London: D. Appleton and Company, 1919), pp. 62, 63, 161.

[34] White Vol. I, pp. 325, 326. See also Draper, pp. 163, 294.

[35] Draper, pp. 163, 164.

[36] The New English Bible with the Apocrypha, Oxford Study Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), p. 1002.

The question still is, does the Bible teach that the earth is flat? We'll look at this in three parts: the referenced verses; the church fathers; and the earth being supported on pillars.

The Referenced Verses

And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
- Isaiah 11:12

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. - Revelation 7:1

FROM ENGLISH LITERATURE: "They came from the four corners of the earth, driven by hunger, plague, tumors, and the cold, and stopped here. They couldn’t go any further because of the ocean. That’s France, that’s the French people. - from Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (published in 2006)

I'm surprised humanists still bring up this one. The dictionary definition of "four corners of the earth" is: "The far ends of the world; all parts of the world." ( As you can see from the above quotes, it is used in exactly the same way in the Bible as it is in English literature. It has nothing to do with claiming the earth is flat.

O Lord, my strength and my stronghold,
And my refuge in the day of distress,
To You the nations will come
From the ends of the earth and say,
“Our fathers have inherited nothing but falsehood,
Futility and things of no profit.”
- Jeremiah 16:19

For so the Lord has commanded us,
"I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles,
That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.”
- Acts 13:47

The opening was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranguil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky. - Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (published 1902)

Once again the answer is obvious... the phrase "the ends of the earth" has nothing to do with describing the earth has being flat. Once again we see that the Bible and English literature use this phrase in exactly the same way. The definition is: "The utmost limit, as in She would go to the ends of the earth for him. This usage was once literal (referring to the farthest reaches of the planet) but now is used only figuratively."

The Church Fathers

We have a direct contradiction. The humanists claim the church fathers thought the earth was flat, referencing Andrew White and John Draper. And in the previous page I stated that the church fathers rejected a flat earth. Which one of us is right?

I've already shown that Andrew White is not a source who can be trusted to stick to the truth. John W. Draper's "History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science" is also referenced above. In the preface he writes: "The history of science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests on the other." Is that historically accuratre? Can we trust Draper? We'll see.

If you'd like to read a brief and accuate history describing where the idea of a flat earth came from, an article titled "Who Invented the Flat Earth?" is available here.

But, who is right?

The rather mundane fact is that most educated Christian writers accepted Greco-Roman teachings about the earth and cosmos and quickly moved on to more urgent matters of sin and salvation. No Christian authority of any consequence ever taught that the earth was flat. - Huffington Post, May 25, 2011

It looks like the humanists, and their sources White and Draper, are wrong.

What about White and Draper?

In an effort to discredit the Bible and Christianity, White and Draper were the major founders of the myth that the church fathers believed the earth was flat.

In the late nineteenth century, the writings of John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White were responsible for promoting the myth that the church taught a flat Earth. Both had Christian backgrounds, but rejected these early in life.

Both men incorrectly portrayed a continuing battle through the Christian era between the defenders of ignorance and the enlightened rationalists. In fact, not only did the church not promote the flat Earth, it is clear from such passages as Isaiah 40:22 that the Bible implies it is spherical. (Non-literal figures of speech such as the ‘four corners of the Earth’ are still used today.) - from Who Invented the Flat Earth?, March 1, 1994

It seems both White and Draper were more interested in attacking the Bible than there were in reporting the truth.

Does The Bible Claim The Earth is Supported On Pillars?

No. The following are the verses (with some context) the humanist references:

[This is part of Hannah’s Song of Thanksgiving]
“He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles [princes],
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
And He set the world on them.
- I Samuel 2:8

1 - We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks,
For Your name is near;
Men declare Your wondrous works.
2 - “When I select an appointed time,
It is I who judge with equity.
3 - “The earth and all who dwell in it melt;
It is I who have firmly set its pillars.
4 - “I said to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
And to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn;
5 - Do not lift up your horn on high,
Do not speak with insolent pride.’”.
- Psalm 75:1-5

[Job speaking]
5 - “It is God who removes the mountains, they know not how,
When He overturns them in His anger;
6 - Who shakes the earth out of its place,
And its pillars tremble;
7 - Who commands the sun not to shine,
And sets a seal upon the stars;;
- Job 9:6

Previously the humanist claimed scripture supported the earth physically having an unmoveable foundation. The above verses are saying the same thing. You can read my response to that previous humanist assertion here.

Another verse we should take note of is:

He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing. - Job 26:7

Now we have a Bible contradiction the humanists missed in their section on contradictions. The humanists claim 1 Samuel 2:8 says the earth is set on pillars, yet Job 26:7 says that it hangs on nothing. This looks like a big time contradiction to me.

The word "pillars" is a metaphor in the first two referenced verses:

1 Samuel 2:8 - The context is that of God talking about people. What is being said is that God stabilizes societies through the "pillars" of His common grace and His laws.

Psalm 75:3 - Notice that the context is that of judging; and that of "the earth and all who dwell on it;" and that of the boastful. This Psalm is talking about people, not the physical earth. Once again "pillars" is a metaphor for God's common grace.

Job 9:6 - This one is figurative language. The context is that of God being so powerful that He can do the impossible, such as make immoveable things move. Here "pillars" is used to describe the secure and stable position of the earth in the universe... yet God is powerful enough to shake the earth out of its place. A similar figure of speach we use today is, "it's as solid as a rock." For example, an old song claims "your love is as solid as a rock." Or, "We can't break down this door, it is as solid as a rock."

Conclusion: There is nothing here, except once again, misinformation from White and Draper. Neither the Bible nor the church fathers support the idea that the earth is flat. This was a myth created specifically to attack the Bible.

Oh... and Job 26:7 got it right. The earth does hang on "nothing."

Okay... so what is next?

The humanist claim: The Bible Says the Sky is a Solid Dome Containing Windows

The Bible promotes the idea that the sky is a solid dome covering the earth. In the creation account given in the first chapter of Genesis, verse 17 says the Lord set the sun and moon “in the firmament” to provide light for the earth. The Hebrew word translated as firmament is raqia, which means “hammered metal.”[37]

More support for the notion of a domed earth is found at Job 37:18 (where the sky is described as like a “molten lookingglass”); Isaiah 40:22 (God “stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in”); and Revelation 6:14 (“And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together.”).

Here is the reference:

[37] Ecker, Ronald L., Dictionary of Science and Creationism (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1990), p. 56.

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