Why the ‘Vault of the Sky’ is so Important to Flat-Earthers

What is most distinctive about what flat-earthers believe is what the don’t believe. Flat-earthers do not believe the earth is a sphere (globe) but, rather, is flat. Some think the earth is flat and square following Revelation 7:

And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth (KJV)

But most think the earth is flat and round as described in Isaiah 40:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

My Long Acquaintance with Flat-Earthers

As a child, a lady in my fundamentalist church was a flat-earther, and I became a flat-earther, myself, because of her. I previously wrote about my defense of flat earth in the fifth grade. But even though I was not a flat-earther for long I kept up with them from time to time. As a reader of American religious groups, I was interested in Wilbur Voliva, the leader of the church and city of Zion, Illinois, because he was a flat-earther.

Later, I came into contact with Charles Johnson and the Flat Earth Society. Johnson had become custodian of most of the flat-earth archives up to that point, which he kept in a trailer. He worked hard to spread flat earth views and even had an on-line presence. Non-flat-earthers were not allowed to contribute to the online conversation, but I was a member anyway—I just didn’t say anything. I was there to listen.

A big emphasis for Johnson was disproving the curvature of the earth. He claimed that when watching ships moving out to sea they did not disappear over the curvature of the earth but simply appeared smaller until they could no longer be seen. He also used a device to measure the curvature of water on very large lakes and claimed that he found no curvature.

I think he was also the one who made a big deal out of a story of a ship traveling across what we would call the far southern seas and took longer than expected. He was elated; it fit his theory perfectly. I thought it odd, though, because this was just one ship and I am sure many ships traveled that same area.

One thing I remember from that time was that there was a contingent of Australian flat-earthers on the site, and they would confirm that they, who lived ‘down under’, were not hanging from the earth by their feet.

Unfortunately, Johnson’s trailer caught fire and the records were destroyed. Sometime after that, my computer crashed and I lost all my accumulated flat earth material. Johnson died in 2001.

Flat-Earthers, Inerrantists, and the Vault of the Sky

flat earth91

I began this article with references to two biblical passages that suggest to flat-earthers that the earth is flat. But these are not the only passages that make such a suggestion. In fact, a flat earth is in view from the very beginning of the Bible and was the view of the ancient Hebrews who had little idea of a spherical earth. Genesis 1 reports:

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it…

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.

The vault separates the rain from the surface water on the earth; but notice what is in the vault of the sky—the sun, the moon, and the stars. They are right there above us—not that far away.

Genesis 7 gives us an idea of about how much combined water there is in the water on the earth and the water in the vault:

[O]n that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights…The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits [about 23 feet]

I assume that most (or all) flat-earthers are inerrantists, but certainly not all inerrantists are flat-earthers. And it makes me wonder why. These passages from Genesis are thought to be inerrant, and yet most inerrantists do not embrace the flat earth descriptions that lie behind them.

How Do Flat-Earthers Envision the Earth?

I have often heard of those who asked flat-earthers, ‘Then on what does the earth rest?’ And the answer is, ‘The back of a giant turtle.’

‘And what is that turtle on?’ Answer: ‘Another turtle; it is turtles all the way down.’

I have never heard a real flat-earther say anything like that. But flat-earthers do not simply reject views of a spherical earth but have specific beliefs about how a flat earth looks and works. We will talk about that next time.

Jesus without Baggage exists to assist and support those questioning beliefs they have been taught in fundamentalist, traditional evangelical, and other groups. If you know someone who might find Jesus without Baggage helpful, feel free to send them the introductory page: About Jesus without Baggage.

Articles in this series:
I Was a Fifth-Grade Flat-Earther
Why the ‘Vault of the Sky’ is so Important to Flat-Earthers

See also:
Books and Resources on Inerrancy

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40 Responses to Why the ‘Vault of the Sky’ is so Important to Flat-Earthers

  1. tonycutty says:

    Warning! Incoming proof-texts!

    Psalm 103:12 – “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us”

    Since our sins have been completely removed, to an infinite distance, it follows that the east is infinitely distant from the west.

    Because this can only occur on a globular Earth, this proves that the Earth is a globe. QED.

    If the Earth was flat, the East and the West would be a finite, presumably measurable, distance apart, which would mean that our sins are removed only to a finite distance. Which, given that ‘God remembers our sins no more’ (Isaiah 43:25 and Hebrews 8:12), simply can’t be true.

    And that’s a relief on both counts: firstly, that He remembers our sins no more; and secondly, that the Earth is indeed a globe. Which means my flying instructors were telling the truth 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • tonycutty says:

      …you will appreciate, of course, that I wrote that from a temporarily-assumed inerrantist’s perspective… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Tony (the temporary inerrantist). No, your argument was not convoluted at all! But I am sorry your flying instructors tricked you into thinking the earth is a globe just because it SEEMS that you can see the curvature from the cockpit.

      I say this as a temporarily assumed flat-earther perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Why the ‘Vault of the Sky’ is so Important to Flat-Earthers — Jesus Without Baggage | Talmidimblogging

  3. Growing up, I was taught that the firmament was a real thing that existed before the Flood. I’m pretty sure Ken Ham still maintains that. They say it accounts for why people lived so long back then, too. What they don’t see to understand, though, is that every ancient Near Eastern people believed that there was water above the Earth. Why? The sky is blue and water rains from the sky! It seemed obvious to them.

    But you are right. Why wouldn’t every inerrantist believe in a flat Earth? John Walton is a scholar that has helped shaped my thinking on Genesis, especially. He is an evangelical, I believe, and maybe even an inerrantist (from some statements he’s made in the past), but he just twists what inerrancy means, which I find many inerrantists do: They twist it to fit their own narrative. John is still an invaluable resource, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Prog, the sky IS blue and water IS blue. That makes some some sense and I can understand it. But my big question is, ‘After the water was emptied out of the firmament and the springs under the earth during the flood—where did that water go?’ It no longer covers all the mountains in the world.

      And I agree that not all inerrantists treat inerrancy the same way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Where did the water go?” has been one of my biggest questions while reading the Noah’s flood story.

        I’d love to see a Ham-ish literalist point out where the vault of water is on NASA photos of Earth taken from the Apollo missions, shuttle flights, space stations…

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Chas says:

    Tim, It surprises me that people are still becoming flat earthers, even those who appear to have no background in Christianity/other religion, and previously seemed to believe sensible things. The flat earthers do not seem to accept the idea of the scientific method either, or they would soon find that their hypothesis did not work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, I am surprised as well. I had opportunity recently to talk to the lady (now in her 80s) from my old fundamentalists church that led me into flat-earth views. I asked her if she were still a flat earther. She said, ‘No, I can recognize facts.’ But I guess not all flat-earthers are ready to let it go.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ianhaylett says:

    Have you seen “Behind the Curve” on Netflix? Very interesting and also I could see parallels between those who hold firm religious beliefs and who struggle to accept challenges to those beliefs.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ross says:

    Years ago I was talking to a colleague at work and explaining how the horizon was a straight line and not curved, due to the effect of the globular earth, then I thought about it a bit, then realised I didn’t know for sure the Earth was an oblate sphere, then suddenly the World crashed down flat. I won’t go into the psychological background of this experience but I would recommend it. I’m fairly happy to assume that the Earth is actually nearly spherical, is very old and Adam and Eve never existed. I also believe Jesus walked this Earth, got nailed to the cross and there’s no reason to not believe he was resurrected physically, admittedly that’s a rare occurrence and statistically highly unlikely but hey, that’s life for you.

    All I can say is that I had a difficult home group experience again and boy, I may actually leave our fairly mild Anglican, Evangelicalish church at last, despite promising to do this frequently in the last year. My advice to anyone now is if you are in a “fundamentalist” church, a “pentecostal” church, or any form of “Evangelical” church, is leave and leave now, don’t wait, don’t quibble, equivocate or rationalise, just leave and leave now. It’s all a cult, whether cult by technical definition or just “cult lite”. It is not what Jesus wants, set up or desires, it’s what nailed him to the cross.

    Maybe you’ll have nowhere to go, maybe you’ll be disowned, maybe it’ll cost you money, that’s what Jesus promised if you follow him. He asked you to follow him, he never suggested stay!!!

    Tim is wise, great and lovely and I am so humbled by his grace to everyone, particularly the religious b******s who f***k us all up. Due to today’s experience I would recommend hitting them with a good length of 4″x2″ (2 by’ 4 to my North American friends). That is not what Jesus would have us do (but I’m sure he was tempted). so the next best thing to do is just leave. Essentially the four gospels were a story of a man persecuted by the “religious fundamentalists and evangelicals” of his day. Leave now before it’s too late, you’re in hell now, why stay there? They can’t f**k up anyone if no-one’s in their pews.

    Apologies for the language Tim, but it’s just traditional Anglo Saxon and I’ve had another bad day with the C***s.

    Liked by 2 people

    • tonycutty says:

      Fantastic post, Ross. My weapon of choice would indeed be a bit of 4×2″, probably finishe ’em off by jamming their heads in a meat grinder.

      Regarding getting out of Fundie churches fast, the RAF have a phrase they use in situations like that.

      “Eject, eject, eject!”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chas says:

        You two do realise that you can only get 98mm x 47mm now, unless you prefer an ‘as cut’ finish!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ross says:

          The PAR joinery redwood I bought at TP today was 43 x 93, not even the 44 x 96 they claim it to be!!! I’ve never liked these new fangled metric inches

          Liked by 2 people

      • Chas says:

        On a more serious note, the mention of Anglican and Pentecostal and getting out of them raises the question of what church is for. When I was brought to believe through the Alpha course, the first church I went to was Anglican, but the service was so dry that it was clear it was not for me. After trying a semi-Pentecostal church, I went to a formerly Baptist one nearby and was immediately attracted by the joyous worship that was going on, so it was clear that this was for me. While being quite bible-centred, the preaching was OK, and it was only after about 3-4 years that the pressure to conform to their way of thinking came out. Time to walk away!
        I find that worship is important for me, and have always listened to the preaching, to hear whether it was true to what the bible said, otherwise all I have understood has come from my own reading of the bible, plus a lot of time thinking about things.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        “Eject, eject, eject!” I really like that!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ross says:

        eject eject eject, works wonders in a Chinook, I dare say putting a few fundies in one of those and pulling the stripy chord would be highly amusing

        Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Ross, I think the time comes for all of us when we must decide whether to stay in a church and try to make a difference or to move on and find a place better suited for us. I think moving on is very appropriate. I don’t think you need their permission or owe them anything, and it is a good feeling just to get out of that environment.

      Thanks for your comment on language. I don’t judge other people on their use of language, but I very much prefer not to have it on my blog.

      I hope you find a congregation that is a better fit for you if you are looking for one.

      Like

      • Ross says:

        Thanks Tim,I think I’d realised “moving on” was the only option quite some time ago, however there’ve been a few barriers to this. Finding another congregation is unlikely as any form of “organised religion” generally leads to all of the problems that people find with “church”. I’m currently contemplating a “non church” for the third time, but this will involve avoiding Evangelicals and probably anyone else who believes some form of “organisation” is important or essential. Having had the last two attempts go pear shaped makes it harder to gather the energy to try again.

        As a Brit, I find the US problem with “cussing” fairly humorous, as a Brit working in the manual trades, deciding to not swear or say anything offensive would involve taking a vow of silence and refusing to write anything down!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chas says:

          Ross, I blame the Normans, they made good Anglo-Saxon-Danish words into words not to be used in their polite society! Yes even the c one.

          Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Ross, I know it is different in Britain, but in the USA the use of crude language is often associated with an aggressive disparagement of other people. I am sure you will come to a satisfactory decision about churches.

          Like

          • Chas says:

            Tim, swearing is often used by people who are being aggressive to try to intimidate others too. (That applies in both UK and USA).

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I knew this was true for the USA but I didn’t know it was also true in the UK. Thanks for sharing.

            Like

    • Chas says:

      Ross, that must have been some home group experience if it made you so angry. Would it be appropriate to let us know the gist of what happened?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ross says:

        High Chas, I’ve tried to write about the gist of the issue but am unable to gather anything together which isn’t a bitter diatribe. Let’s just say that I can no longer carry on with a group of people who can’t see outside a fairly narrow viewpoint which I don’t share but have a lot of experience with. A background of living below the relative poverty line until recently, in a church which is aware of my situation but unable or unwilling to offer much if any help and support despite considerable wealth has not endeared me to it either. A few weeks ago when explaining to them what it was like to live with severe ongoing depression I had to say I didn’t want their prayers as you can’t eat them and they don’t pay the rent. My view is that prayer is what you do when practical means are exhausted, not instead of engaging them.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Ross, you said: “Let’s just say that I can no longer carry on with a group of people who can’t see outside a fairly narrow viewpoint which I don’t share but have a lot of experience with.” I think so many progressive believers have a very similar experience. I know I do.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. This is my comment on the “flat-earth vs globular earth” debate: I am an engineer by training and profession. This may sound crude and thoughtless to some, but my approach to these kind of debates in life is “use what works.” That is how I accomplish anything and earn my salary. Don’t waste time on arguments about the “ultimate truth.” For example, if I want to put a satellite into orbit that relays telephone or television signals, and I discover that the values of the gravitational forces and the distance of an orbit works for the “assumption” that Earth is a sphere and doesn’t work if I “assume” the Earth is a flat disc, then I will use the numbers required to orbit a “globe”. End of story.
    Some purists will argue, “But, but, you have to know the TRUTH!” I will come back with, “Why should you have to know the truth, if it has no effect on any part of your life?”
    The Flat-Earthers shout, “But I does!”
    I reply, “Tell me again why, when I get up in the morning, I HAVE to know whether I am standing on a pancake or a sphere.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      William so funny but true! However, you must know that if you are involved in putting satellites in space (which does not exist) you are part of a huge conspiracy of an unfathomable number of people. At least that is what is claimed. How so many of you are involved and nobody has broken ranks and gone public seems remarkable to me. But, hey, I am just sharing what I read!

      Thanks for your informed comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Why the ‘Vault of the Sky’ is so Important to Flat-Earthers | MARK 35:6 NIV Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

  9. Dennis Wade says:

    *Sigh* …… when are people going to realize that the earth is neither round nor flat, but is actually a cube? Why am I the only one that knows this truth?
    …….. but then, I always knew I was special!
    (Heh heh!)
    Years ago I read a book by an American writer, Robert Anton Wilson, who described how we arrive at a lot of our dogmas and beliefs. He summed it up as: ” What the thinker thinks, the prover proves.” By this he meant that we very often don’t look for facts with an open mind, and then arrive at logical deductions based on those facts. Instead, we do the exact opposite. We already have a conclusion in mind and then we proceed to uncover the “facts” that support that conclusion.
    It is the opposite of the “scientific approach”. We start out with our minds already colored by certain assumptions of how things are, and this assumption causes us to interpret what we see as “proof”.
    By approaching life in this way a person can only “see” what confirms their accepted world view.
    This shows the dangers of assumption, and how important it is to be willing to question our strongly held ideas.
    I especially like to question the ones that “everybody knows”, or the ones that are supposedly so obvious that they are never questioned:
    – “all gays are immoral”
    – “all poor people are lazy”
    – “women are weaker than men”
    Assumptions and Truth are the same in that they both must always be questioned. That is the only way to tell them apart.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Dennis: “the earth is neither round nor flat, but is actually a cube.” So we are on a Borg ship then? That makes some sense; a lot of people seem programmed.

      I like this: “Assumptions and Truth are the same in that they both must always be questioned.” It is interesting how many times I have planned to write an article but when I take a closer look at the supporting passages they don’t say what I thought they said, and I have to abandon the article completely.

      Liked by 2 people

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