In our contemporary time frame we possess abundant knowledge of our home on “Spaceship Earth.” The term derives from a photograph taken by the astronaut crew of Apollo 8 orbiting Earth’s Moon on December 24, 1968. Of many photographs, this rendition has been dubbed “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”
Spaceship Earth is a sphere. The concept of human habitation on a sphere rather than a flat surface has been known to man for only about 2500 years. It is unlikely any authors of Old Testament scripture were aware of these Classical Greek discoveries beginning about 500 years BC. Many skeptics have claimed that authors of Old Testament Scripture proposed the Earth was flat.
Almost all Old Testament books were composed before the advent of the Classical Greeks. Greek scholars in the 500 years prior to Christ’s advent brilliantly proposed and defended many spherical Earth beliefs. Included were Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Aristotle, Aristarchus, and Eratosthenes.
All of the Greek scholars were unable to visually observe the Earth as a sphere, but their intellectual achievements were noteworthy. They observed various phenomena such as the shape of Earth’s shadow on an eclipsed moon, apparent differences in height of visible stars above the horizon as we travel north or south, and the differing angle of incidence of the sun’s rays on the same date in cities widely separated. The myth that the informed public believed in a flat Earth rather than a spherical one has not been true since the start of the Classical Greek period. With few exceptions, even Dark and Middle Ages residents did not hold flat Earth beliefs.
Skeptics of Scripture point to Old Testament books which seem to indicate inaccurate scientific beliefs. One example is found in texts such as Psalm 104:5 “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” Many similar passages have been offered to show that the Bible contains errant science. Almost all of the Old Testament was written before the Classical Greeks offered their scientific and intellectual insights. Keep in mind that OT writers stressed their God-centered perspectives and devotional focus. Even though Greek intellectuals of a later era produced startling scientific insights concerning physical reality, the writers of Scripture should not be diminished for lacking modern scientific insights. Their writings were observational, practical, and often metaphorical. We may appreciate their conceptual model for what it was, not according to our current model of advanced scientific knowledge.
Citing supposed inaccuracies or absence of modern scientific knowledge in order to promote belief in the errancy of Scripture is a serious mistake. Beyond the discovery of planetary sphericity, we pose another serious conceptual deficiency of the Greeks which persisted for almost 2000 years—the belief in geocentrism rather than heliocentrism. This is defined as the belief that the sun revolves around planet Earth rather than Earth revolving around the sun. This belief resulted from an observational error—a false trust in what appears to be rather than what actually is. The confusion results from the difficult task of distinguishing the real from the apparent. This error makes the study of observational astronomy challenging, yet interesting for astronomy students of our current day.
The history of establishment of the spherical Earth concept together with the knowledge of Solar System heliocentrism presents an interesting study at many levels of detail. How do these topics impact our contemporary culture? Proponents of scientific naturalism are not impressed by evidence of intelligently designed features in our natural world. If we link evidence of a spherical Earth with evidence of heliocentrism, some naturalists and some theists may respond with indifference. But these two characteristics are just the introduction in the catalogue of multiple intelligently designed features of our Solar System.
The Discovery Institute based in Seattle is a famous scientific think tank. They have dozens of scholars who promote the concept of intelligent design in the natural world. In their Center for Science and Culture they publish a well-known list of fine-tuning parameters. Jay Richards has described the “most celebrated and widely accepted examples of fine tuning for the existence of life.” He enlarges by explaining “such features include the initial conditions and ‘brute facts’ of the universe as a whole, the laws of nature or the numerical constants present in those laws (such as planets’ distance from its host star). The basic idea is that these features must fall within a very narrow range of possible values for chemical-based life to be possible.” Hugh Ross, president of Reasons to Believe, has long published an extensive and nearly identical list of fine-tuning parameters in his publications. Readers are encouraged to explore a vast wealth of knowledge pointing to multiple examples of fine-tuning—the actions of a Divine Creator.
Spaceship Earth is a spherical planet in a system of planets orbiting our magnificent companion in the Solar System. That companion is the SUN, around which all planets, including Earth revolve.
Psalm 33:6; ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” (ESV)