Re: [asa] Designed Kangaroos?

From: Merv <>
Date: Fri Aug 03 2007 - 00:37:09 EDT

Regarding Martin Luther (& church in general) on the flat Earth position:

Now that I'm home & with book in hand, let me give further comment and
an extended quotes (excerpts below) from the book to see how some
historians here might react. Mr. Grant will not stand accused of being
a religious proponent given this book. Nor perhaps will he stand
accused of scholarly work, at least not here, given the complete lack of
much needed footnoting. But he does discuss his take on the history
of the Church and flat Earth -- it would be great to have seen his
specific sources. Anyway -- check out the excerpt below which (even
if he is wrong about Luther, he is not wrong about an even more recent
flat-earther which makes my original point even more salient, anyway.)

>From "Discarded Science" by John Grant beginning p. 30 following a
discussion of what the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians believed.

   That these ideas were accepted is astonishing in light of the fact
that as you travel north or south you see different starts come out at
night -- surely navigators such as the Babylonians /must/ have noticed
this effect. Still, although the ancient Greeks, as we have now seen,
were perfectly well aware that our world was a sphere, the flat-Earth
idea survived. Martin Luther (1483-1546) and St. Augustine (d604) both
insisted the Earth had to be flat, since otherwise people living on the
underside wouldn't be able to witness Christ's descent on Judgment Day.
   In 1895 the evangelical Christian the evangelical Christian and
faith-healer John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907) founded the Christian
Apostolic Church in Zion and the community of Zion, Illinois. About a
decade later Dowie's leadership was usurped by Wilbur Glenn Voliva
(1870-1942), under whose rule the community prospered -- although its
laws were strict: such offenses as whistling on a Sunday could earn
heavy fines. It was Voliva's contention that the Earth is flat: he
traveled several times around the world trying to persuade other people
to accept this. [Merv inserts: Voliva offered $5000 to anyone who
could prove the world was round --- any recent echoes of this?]
[Excerpt continues: ] In his cosmology the north pole lay at the
centre of a disc whose circumference was the southern "pole". Beyond
the rim was Hades, but luckily there was a wall of ice (i.e.,
Antarctica) to stop mariners sailing over the edge. Voliva's flat Earth
was motionless in space, with the Sun (small and nearby) and the stars
revolving around it. The proof of the Earth's motionlessness was easy
to come by: if the Earth were moving at great speed we should all be
bowled over by colossal winds, as the atmosphere was "left behind".
Voliva's flat-Earth system has probably been the most influential since
the Middle Ages, representing little progress over the Babylonians.
[end of first excerpt]

That last assertion is no trivial claim to me since I had never heard of
Voliva before reading this -- had any of you?]
Here are a couple more paragraphs in which Grant himself takes to
evaluating some historians, I would be curious to see Ted's reaction to
what Grant says here.
Excerpt starting on p. 31

   The flat Earth lives on for a few -- a very few -- Biblical
Fundamentalists, who can point to Isaiah ("He will bring back the
scattered people of Judah from the four corners of the Earth") and
Revelation ("Next I saw four angels, standing at the four corners of the
Earth . . ."). Nevertheless, Fundamentalist US broadcaster Ian Taylor
claims the whole notion of Christians perpetuating and even enforcing
the dogma of the flat Earth throughout the Dark Ages is a myth -- and
that even the notion of the "Dark" Ages is slanderous, for those were
really Christian Ages during which, while ignorance, war and deprivation
might indeed have held sway, there was tremendous spiritual contentment
because of Man's closeness to God. According to Taylor, virtually none
of the early or Dark Age Christians believed the Earth was flat, only a
few who rejected the notion of a spherical planet as part and parcel of
their wholesale rejection of teh ideas of the Classical philosophers.
He points to Lactantius (45-325) and Cosmas Indicopleustes (6th cent.)
as the sole examples of significant early Christians who maintained the
world's geography must be as depicted in the Bible; the former was
regarded at the time as a heretic by the Church Fathers, Taylor tells
us, and thus had no influence on their thinking, while the latter's
views were treated as at best fringe. The attribution by historians of
a belief in the flat Earth to several centuries' worth of Christian
though is purely because Cosmas's opinions, once translated, have been
taken as typical of the whole.
    Taylor is guilty of a few omissions here. Christian thinkers like
Pope Gregory the Great (c540-604) and St. Isidore of Seville (c560-636),
not to mention Luther and St. Augustine (as noted), all maintained
vehemently that the world was flat, with Gregory being in a position to
enforce that view, which he did. As late as 1493 Pope Alexander VI
(1431-1503) demonstrated his and the Church's belief in the flat Earth
by proclaiming that the New World should be divided between Portugal and
Spain, with the Portuguese having all the land to the east of a meridian
and the Spaniards all the land to the west of it; it did not occur to
the Pope that the Portuguese could sail eastwards and start claiming as
much of the newly discovered continent's western coast as they wished.
[Merv inserts: this last sentence makes no sense to me -- I was
careful to copy the exact wording -- but even if the words 'east' and
'west' were mixed up here, I still fail to see how it support Grant's
point. Excerpt continues:] Prior to his circumnavigation of 1519
Ferdinand Magellan (c1480-1521) stated the current doctrine of the
Church quite specifically: "The Church says the Earth is flat, but I
have seen its shadow on the Moon, and I have more faith in the shadow
than I do in the Church."
    But the first great villain of all this, Taylor maintains, was
Washington Irving (1783-1859), whose /The Life and Voyages of
Christopher Columbus/ (1828) created the picture of Columbus as almost
alone in his belief that the world was round. (In reality, the
sphericity of the Earth was well accepted by Columbus's time although,
thanks to a miscalculation by Ptolemy, it was believed to be about
one-third smaller than it actually is.) In 1834, just a few years after
Irving's book came an article by the French scholar Antoine-Jean
Letronne (1787-1848) that depicted a Church which for centuries
terrorized astronomers into ignoring the evidence of their own
observations and adhering to the doctrinal view. This too, says Taylor,
was a complete canard, although here he falls curiously silent about the
   Further writers singled out by Taylor for especial condemnation
include John Draper (1811-1882), author of /History of the Conflict
Between Religion and Science/ (1874), and Andrew White (1832-1918),
founder in 1865 of the secular Cornell University and author of /History
of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom/ (1897). Both
men were essentially, according to Taylor's account of things, less
scholars than political flagbearers whose interest was not so much in
elucidating history as in advancing the cause of atheism. Taylor's
attitude towards the motivations of the countless others who have come
to tell much the same story, at least in the context of the Church's
doctrine of the flat Earth, can be deduced from his overall
categorization of them as "liberal historians".

[end of excerpt --any typos are probably mine.]

I feel no great need to defend Mr. Grant's position except where it
happens to intersect with truth. I do want to look into some of these
claims -- they are interesting and have great bearing on how differences
like Iain's and Peter's are played out.


Michael Roberts wrote:
> Merv wrote;
> Regarding Iain's concern, though, here is another actual historical
> event,
> Peter. The world is taken to be flat because of a way of interpreting a
> certain scripture. Martin Luther (I read recently -- but haven't
> verified -- so you Luther experts please correct if necessary)
> apparently was adament in
> his view that the earth must be flat because if it wasn't then the
> return of
> Christ could not be witnessed by everyone on the globe
> simultaneously. This
> was, to him, a clear case of Scripture needing to prevail over "current
> wisdom". Now -- what happens when the evidence becomes overwhelming?
> What a
> tragedy if such a thing leads to loss of faith just because someone
> conflates
> their own understanding with Scripture itself! Or if the above
> example is a
> false about Luther, the point still stands -- just substitute the
> immoveable
> earth (supported by an straightforward reading of some psalms). The
> world
> does move -- so somebody either adjusts their understanding of
> Scripture or
> their faith is shaken. YECs today refuse to see any parallel here
> when they
> should. It's a dangerous road for faith. Peter, you will no doubt
> point out
> that letting science determine all Truth is also dangerous to faith.
> And I
> agree -- but that is only from science attempting to transcend its
> bounds to
> become Science with a capital 'S'. To ignore or defy science, though,
> is to
> court unnecessary danger, I think.
> Michael responds;
> I am not prepared to read all of Luther's works to prove that he did
> not believe in a flat earth, but at that time no educated person took
> the earth as anything but spherical and very very few theologians from
> 30AD accepted that the world was flat. This strikes me as an appalling
> case of ignorance on someone's part to suggest this.
> Luther is reported to be dismissive of Copernicus, but from a
> heliocentric standpoint which was the majority view in Luther's lifetime.

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Received on Fri Aug 3 00:26:42 2007

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