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No. 83: A Letter on Geocentricity

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 83
March, 1996
Copyright 1996 Biblical Horizons

Dear Mr. ______,

. . . Here is how I look at the geocentricity question. Since I don’t recall what I wrote you before, I may be repeating some things.

1. The Bible does not teach it. Biblical passages used to support the idea are being misinterpreted. My original paper on the topic shows this passage by passage. (Copies of this paper are available for a donation to Biblical Horizons .)

2. Common sense. As you put it, can we trust our senses? Well, for many people, our senses say that the earth is flat. Though we know that this is not true in the larger contest, in the smaller context of everyday life it is proper to regard the earth as flat. After all, we don’t make lengths of rail for locomotives slightly curved. We make them straight, because given the largeness of the earth, the curvature makes no difference. Thus, for many practical purposes, the earth is flat.

So, when we move into a still larger context, perhaps it is true that the earth goes around the sun. I say, what difference does it make? True, it contradicts "common sense," but so does the sphericity of the earth. It does not contradict "common sense" once we get used to the idea.

3. Centrality. I believe that this is a conceptual bug-a-boo that has not yet been completely purged from Christian thinking. Let us consider the matter historically. The center of the surface of the earth originally was the area of Ararat. Here humanity began, not once but twice. Later the center was Mt. Sinai, and then Shiloh, Shechem, and finally Jerusalem. But after that time, where is the center of the earth? In the Middle Ages, the myth existed that the "holy land" was one center, and Rome the other. Fundamentalists still believe the former, and both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, with their Second Rome (Constantinople) and Third Rome (Moscow), still believe the latter. But we know that they are all wrong. In the New Creation there are as many centers as there are churches.

Moreover, practically speaking, where is the center on the surface of a sphere? We center our lines of longitude on both the north and south poles, so there are two centers. Greenwich Mean Time centers the world’s clocks at one place. But these are all completely arbitrary, geographically speaking.

The centrality issue is not, or should not be, geographical. Geographical centrality was an aspect of the Old Creation, and only because God chose to put His Name at a certain place and make it the Navel of the world.

The centrality issue should be conceptual, or theological, and historical. The earth is central because:

Compare these parallel assertions. Eden/Jerusalem is the center of the earth because:

You see, I see no value, except curiosity, in such an exercise. What is "central" is heaven and God.

4. Fixity. The same is true of fixity. In the Bible, the earth (land) is fixed, in the sense that it is free from earthquakes. The Bible does not comment on the supposed motion of the earth on its axis.

Moreover, what is really fixed in the Bible is heaven, while the earth "moves" in terms of heaven. You can see this from my paper Behind the Scenes: Orientation in the Book of Revelation. The Throne is fixed; the 24 Archangels move around it. Similarly, the Tabernacle was fixed with the tribes positioned around it. But the Tabernacle is an image of heaven, not of the earth. The Bible is not geocentric in its imagery, but uranocentric. The Bible can hint at a heliocentric model in Psalm 19, as one possible perspective. It can also hint, if my reconstruction of Biblical astrology is correct, at a polaricentric model.

5. Practicality. If I send a ship to the moon, I shall do my calculations assuming a fixed earth. It is the easiest way to do it, and so NASA does it. But if I build a colony on Mars, and send a ship to Phobos, won’t I assume a fixed Mars when I do my calculations? Of course.

6. History. Returning to the discussion above, for me the center of the earth is located in Niceville, Florida, on Partin Drive, on the Lord’s Day, from 10:45 – 12:15. That is where the Church I belong to meets. On a sphere, any point is as good as any other point, so every point can be assumed to be central. Similarly, I don’t have a conceptual problem believing that humanity will move out to the stars, particularly if Jesus is going to show His faithfulness to thousands of generations; in which case we have about 100,000 years to go. Just as Ararat was once the center of the earth, it may be 80,000 years from now that The Earth was once the center of the universe. But it may be that the greatest concentration of Christians will be located on a planet near Tau Ceti. Arguably, the center of the earth today is the USA, for there is (still) the center of authentic Christianity (though not much longer, I believe).

Now, that does not mean that I have a brief for quantum physics, the Einsteinian model of the universe, or any other modern theory. After all, I believe we have millennia ahead of us. Why should I throw in my lot with any present-day view, considering that humanity is still a child, and every day we uncover new data about the created universe? The modern views have a certain aesthetic elegance (which is the real reason for their attractiveness), and may be the simplest present construction for justifying the appearances – but that is all. Occam’s razor does not tell us truth and reality; it is merely a way to identify the best (most practical) way of explaining the appearances of things.