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Does the Bible Support a Flat Earth? (part 4 of 8)

For millennia, mankind believed the earth was flat. Does the Bible support that view? Ben Spackman says yes.  We’ll talk about a biblical world view, and how we’ve come around to believe the earth is round, rather than flat.

Ben:  One of the examples I use that people generally agree with is–I did this at the FAIR Conference a couple of years ago. I said, “Okay, how many of you believe that the earth rotates around the sun?” Of course, every hand went up. I said, “Okay, I want you to understand very clearly that you believe and accept something fundamental about the universe that is contrary to scripture, flatly contrary to scripture, and is a philosophy of men invented through human reason and observation. Do any of you have a problem with that? It was a conference, so I didn’t expect anyone to say anything.

GT: Because in the Bible, clearly the sun rotated around the earth is what you’re saying.

Ben: Right. The sun and moon and stars were embedded in the solid dome overhead. They were certainly not spheres rotating. I mean even…

GT:  How would Joseph Fielding Smith have answered that?

Ben: He would have said that’s absolutely false.

GT:  What’s false?

Ben: That the Israelites ever believed that cosmology.

GT:  They didn’t believe in the firmament. They didn’t believe in the flat earth.  They did believe that the sun rotated.

Ben: They understood that the earth and planets rotate around the sun and anything else is just the false traditions of the apostate church.

GT:  That seems like a very difficult position and I know he’s dead, so he can’t defend himself. But it seems very difficult to defend that point of view.

Ben: Well, he was arguing from a very absolutist standpoint, where prophets simply can’t do that, because if they are, they are not reliable as prophets. In some ways, he very much thought like a protestant, but in a Mormon context. In some ways, well, I don’t want to go there too much. He’s a very easy punching bag because he is dead, and because he left such a big paper trail and because he had views that were so, so far in certain directions, so absolute. And he’s not the only one to have held them, but he was certainly the most influential and the loudest and the longest to hold them. And because he did leave this paper trail, the worst thing for a historian is to have nothing to analyze, right?

Check out our conversation…

Is it true that the Bible supports a flat earth?
Is it true that the Bible supports a flat earth?

 

Here are our previous conversations with Ben!

244: Did Man Evolve From Apes?

243: Did Joseph Fielding Smith Win the Evolution Battle?

242: Evolution & Bible: Irreconcilable Differences?

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Did Man Evolve from Apes? (Part 3 of 8)

Many people like to say that man evolved from Apes.  We’ll talk about that assumption, and I’ll ask Ben Spackman his opinions on the evolution of man.

GT: So, let’s talk a little bit about your views then. We’ll use the classic trope or whatever. Do you believe that we evolved from one-celled bacterium to evolve into monkeys and apes and to mankind and that sort of a thing?

Ben: As you phrased it, I would say no, but that’s because it’s an inaccurate description of evolution.

GT: Okay.

Ben:  Evolution is itself a fairly vague term. A lot of people who have issues with evolution are actually having issues with abiogenesis. That is, how do you go from something that’s lifeless to something that has life? That’s not technically what evolution is about. Evolution is about the relatedness of living things. They are very similar. Why are they similar? How do we explain the similarities in things which no longer exist, which we have proof of.

Ben: We didn’t descend from apes, we share a common ancestor. That is where the scientific evidence points. Again, I’m not a scientist. I can’t go in and evaluate their p-values or redo these experiments or get my hands on the fossils. As with most aspects of life, we kind of accept the scientific consensus such as it is….

GT: So, in Genesis it says that Adam was formed out of the dust of the earth. Is that what happened?

Ben:  I actually like to bring that up with people who are opposed to evolution. They say, “You think we came from apes.” I say, “Well, you think we came from dirt. Is that really so much better?”

What do you think?  Check out our conversation….

Did man evolve from apes, or from the dust of the earth as the Bible says?
Did man evolve from apes, or from the dust of the earth as the Bible says?

Check out our other conversations with Ben.

243: Did Joseph Fielding Smith Win the Evolution Battle?

242: Evolution & Bible: Irreconcilable Differences?

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Did Joseph Fielding Smith Win the Evolution Battle? (Part 2 of 8)

Early Mormon apostles BH Roberts, John A. Widtsoe, and James E. Talmage seemed to be very amenable to evolution.  It seems like Joseph Fielding Smith on the other hand, had an outsize influence on LDS thought, and tended more towards a creationist stance.  In our next conversation with Ben Spackman, we’ll talk about that dynamic, and how early leaders diverged, and how it seems like Smith temporarily won the evolutionary debate.

GT: So let me throw that out there. We talked about who won between Tertullian and Augustine and it sounds like Augustine won? Is that a fair assumption? Before you answer that, I also want to do this. Let’s talk about Talmage, Roberts and Widtsoe and Joseph Fielding Smith. It sounds like Joseph Fielding Smith won in a lot of minds.

Ben: In a lot of ways, I think he did. If you want to be cynical, he kind of waited until his opponents died. Then he published Man, His Origin and Destiny, which was kind of his young-Earth creationist book. Parts of that were written word for word 20 or 30 years earlier. None of his discussions with apostles, who were in some cases his senior and had Ph.D.’s in relevant fields shifted him one bit.

Ben:  On the one hand, you can look at that as very admirable. His strength was, he thought, and rightly so, at least in this narrow way, what is important is that we’re faithful to scripture. Where that goes wrong, and I would disagree with it, is how he read scripture. There are other examples of this in LDS history. I have made a very loose argument somewhere that, in a way, Joseph Fielding Smith was kind of the epitome of 19th century assumptions that Mormons had inherited. These other three guys were outsiders in several ways. First of all, they were all foreign, technically. Roberts was British, Talmage was British, Widtsoe was Norwegian. So they were not raised in a set of 19th century American assumptions. They were getting 19th century European assumptions which differed in some ways. They were all converts and so they were not raised with, what you might think of as religious Mormon assumptions that they would just start imbibing by osmosis, from age three onwards in church or something. So, it’s interesting that these three guys who are outsiders in significant ways are the ones who opposed Joseph Fielding Smith’s insider perspective. By insider I mean, you couldn’t be much more of an insider than Joseph Fielding Smith. I mean by his position, by his family, by his history. He was just at the center, at the core.

Check out our conversation…..

Joseph Fielding Smith's views supporting creationism over evolution seems to hold more sway than apostle BH Roberts, John A Widtsoe, and James E. Talmage in the LDS Church.
Joseph Fielding Smith’s views supporting creationism over evolution seems to hold more sway than apostle BH Roberts, John A Widtsoe, and James E. Talmage in the LDS Church.

Don’t forget to check out our previous conversation with Ben!

242: Evolution & Bible: Irreconcilable Differences? (Spackman)