Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Did Christians believe in a flat earth during the Middle Ages?

Consider this post from Matt Flanagan of MandM. (H/T Thinking Matters New Zealand)

Flanagan cites Jeffrey Burton Russell’s book “Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians”. Dr. Bussell is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Dr. Russell writes:

[W]ith extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat. A round earth appears at least as early as the sixth century BC with Pythagoras, who was followed by Aristotle, Euclid, and Aristarchus, among others in observing that the earth was a sphere. Although there were a few dissenters—Leukippos and Demokritos for example–by the time of Eratosthenes (3 c. BC), followed by Crates(2 c. BC), Strabo (3 c. BC), and Ptolemy (first c. AD), the sphericity of the earth was accepted by all educated Greeks and Romans.

Nor did this situation change with the advent of Christianity. A few—at least two and at most five—early Christian fathers denied the spherically of earth by mistakenly taking passages such as Ps. 104:2-3 as geographical rather than metaphorical statements. On the other side tens of thousands of Christian theologians, poets, artists, and scientists took the spherical view throughout the early, medieval, and modern church. The point is that no educated person believed otherwise.

So where did this myth come from? And why has it persisted so long in school textbooks?

Click through and read the rest of Matt’s post to find the surprising answers.

My view is that stories like global warming and evolution are really just the latest round of flat-earth myths which have no basis in fact but are believed solely because they are useful for powerful people who want to undermine traditional moral values by misleading children in government-run schools. The elites want to act sinfully, but they don’t want anyone to judge them. They think that if they can trick enough people to believe lies about God, that God might cease to exist because we voted him out. Unfortunately for them, building a consensus of people who are mistaken doesn’t change objective reality. And God doesn’t grade on a curve.

Those who reject Christianity need to be careful about letting their feelings determine what they believe.

What should atheists be doing instead of believing myths?

Instead of just calling people names and making jokes, they should investigating the actual scientific evidence:

Then, perhaps a philosophical investigation on some common objections to belief in God:

But for most atheists, the purpose of life isn’t to find the truth.

Related books

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3 Responses

  1. Dan says:

    On a corollary note, this article reminded me of this passage in The Abolition Of Man by C.S. Lewis found in the last chapter by the same title:

    I have described as a `magician’s bargain’ that process whereby man surrenders
    object after object, and finally himself, to Nature in return for power. And I meant
    what I said. The fact that the scientist has succeeded where the magician failed has
    put such a wide contrast between them in popular thought that the real story of
    the birth of Science is misunderstood. You will even find people who write about
    the sixteenth century as if Magic were a medieval survival and Science the new
    thing that came in to sweep it away. Those who have studied the period know
    better. There was very little magic in the Middle Ages: the sixteenth and
    seventeenth centuries are the high noon of magic. The serious magical endeavour
    and the serious scientific endeavour are twins: one was sickly and died, the other
    strong and throve. But they were twins. They were born of the same impulse. I
    allow that some (certainly not all) of the early scientists were actuated by a pure
    love of knowledge. But if we consider the temper of that age as a whole we can
    discern the impulse of which I speak.
    There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both
    from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had
    been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge,
    self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how
    to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the
    practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting
    and impious—such as digging up and mutilating the dead.

  2. ECM says:

    This myth is up there w/ the ‘persecution’ of Galileo and the idea that the Crusades were a war of aggression, i.e. fodder for modern day know-nothings raised on a completely broken educational system.

  3. [...] YE OLDE EEJITS? Did Christians believe in a flat earth during the Middle Ages? …. [...]

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