Geocentrism, Young Earth Creationism and Literalism

Recently, the first Annual Catholic Conference on Geocentrism1 was announced, much to the amusement2 of many sceptics and disbelief of laypeople who were astounded that 400 years after Galileo, educated people would still claim that the sun revolved around the Earth. As with young earth creationism, while elaborate scientific justifications for geocentrism have been formulated, the ultimate motivation for geocentrism is Biblical literalism. The Biblical Astronomer makes this plain in its credo:

The Biblical Astronomer was originally founded in 1971 as the Tychonian Society, on the premise that the only absolutely trustworthy information about the origin and purpose of all that exists and happens is given by God, our Creator and Redeemer, in his infallible, preserved word, the Holy Bible, commonly called the King James Bible. All scientific endeavor which does not accept this revelation from on high without any reservations, literary, philosophical or whatever, we reject as already condemned in its unfounded first assumptions.

We believe that the creation was completed in six twenty-four hour days and that the world is not older than about six thousand years. We maintain that the Bible teaches us of an earth that neither rotates daily nor revolves yearly about the sun; that it is at rest with respect to the throne of him who called it into existence; and that hence it is absolutely at rest in the universe…

Lastly, the reason why we deem a return to a geocentric astronomy a first apologetic necessity is that its rejection at the beginning of our Modern Age constitutes one very important, if not the most important, cause of the historical development of Bible criticism, now resulting in an increasingly anti-Christian world in which atheistic existentialism is preaching a life that is really meaningless.3

The similarities between the credos of the Biblical Astronomer and Answers in Genesis are obvious. Both privilege a literal reading of Genesis over evidence from the natural world. Both maintain that their views are scientific, and have produced elaborate justifications of their positions from people who have managed to acquire higher degrees in the sciences. Significantly, despite the fact that both organisations maintain an a priori commitment to Biblical literalism, they have arrived at divergent views on geocentrism. This raises the question of whether one group has not been consistent in their adherence to literalism, or whether the other group has incorrectly read parts of the Bible as teaching a fact statement about reality.

On a surface reading, there is plenty of Biblical evidence which appears to support geocentrism.4 Those who deny that the Bible reflects a geocentric worldview claim that these verses are employing phenomenal language. Implicit in this argument is that the inspired writers of the Bible did not have a geocentric view of the world – phenomenal language would be meaningless if Joshua actually believed the sun moved around the Earth. In order to maintain the phenomenal language argument, a non-geocentric Biblical literalist is obliged to provide evidence that a heliocentric view was known over 3500 years ago. However, there is no recorded evidence that heliocentrism was known in the ANE, which makes the argument that these verses are employing phenomenal language hard to defend.5 Therefore, when the ancient writer described Joshua commanding the sun to stand still, it is quite likely that he believed that the sun ceased moving long enough allow Joshua’s army victory.

While the geocentrists may have made one more scientific error than the young earth creationists, they are at least more consistent in their literalism. Gerardus Bouw, one of the leading figures in the modern geocentrist movement, argues that:

The Copernican Revolution, as this change of view is called, was not just a revolution in astronomy, but it also spread into politics and theology. In particular, it set the stage for the development of Bible criticism. After all, if God cannot be taken literally when he writes of the “rising of the sun,” then how can he be taken literally in writing of the “rising of the Son?”6

Bouw may be utterly wrong in his geocentrism, but in his defence of geocentrism against young earth creationist attacks, he skewers their inconsistency perfectly:

Evolutionists, atheists, and agnostics in the know can easily shame creationists on the issue of geocentricity by simply pointing out the hypocrisy of their insistence that the days in Genesis 1 are literal while the rising and setting of the sun is not. Likewise, to insist that the rising of the sun is figurative while the rising of the Son is literal is also hypocrisy. Given that the geocentric model is pure physics, mathematically tractable, and realistic, and consistent with Scripture, we conclude that the creationist’s desire to reject it can only be for the sole purpose of appearing intellectual and acceptable to the world, which desire is enmity with God (James 4:4).7

As Bouw notes, consistency would obligate young earth creationists to be geocentrists if they claim to follow the literal word of God. Maintaining a belief in recent creation taking place over six days while rejecting geocentrism leaves the YEC open to the very real charge of inconsistency.

Of course, as the evidence against both geocentrism and a young earth are overwhelming, it suggests that the question is not one of how far to take literalism, but that it is an inappropriate exegetical approach.

  1. Galileo Was Wrong []
  2. Plait, Phil “Geocentrism? Seriously?” Bad Astronomy (Discover Blogs) 14th September 2010 []
  3. Credo of the Biblical Astronomer []
  4. Sixty-Seven Scriptural References Which Tell Us That It Is The Sun And Not The Earth That Moves  []
  5. Aristarchus of Samos advanced his heliocentric model in the 3rd century BCE, while the concept of a spherical Earth can be reliably dated no earlier than the 5th century BCE. []
  6. Bouw GD “A Geocentricity Primer” (2004, The Biblical Astronomer) p 1 []
  7. Bouw GD “Geocentrism: A Fable for Educated Man?” []


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