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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Geocentrism (Fixed earth)

What is it?  It is the term used by Wikipedia (also "Modern Geocentrism") and others to describe the scriptural teaching of a fixed earth where the sun is said to go up (or rise) and go down. This site (archived) has a listing of the many scripture verses speaking of the motion of the sun and moon in relation to the earth.

We applaud those who teach creationism in the face of modern "science".  However most of those creationists do not uphold the scriptural teaching of a fixed earth.

But the old (German) Missouri Synod held up the scripture teaching on this point.  And still does in the writings of C.F.W. Walther and Franz Pieper (Christian Dogmatics, vol. 1, pg 473).  The Wikipedia article on Modern Geocentrism says "In the United States between 1870 and 1920, for example, various members of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod published articles disparaging Copernican astronomy, and geocentrism was widely taught within the synod during that period."  How the author even knew of the Missouri Synod's teaching makes me wonder that he would call himself a "Lutheran" or even a member of the LC-MS. But his statement is not quite correct on the ending year of 1920 since Franz Pieper taught scriptural "geocentrism" until he died in 1931 and specifically wrote about Copernicus in Lehre und Wehre in November 1926.  And here is what Pieper wrote in 1924 in his Christliche Dogmatik, vol. 1, page 577 (Christian Dogmatics, vol. 1, page 473, 472):
  • "It is unworthy of a Christian to interpret Scripture, which he knows to be God's own Word, according to human opinions (hypotheses), and that includes the Copernican cosmic system, or to have others thus to interpret Scripture to him."
  • "No matter what size, compared with the earth, men may ascribe to sun, moon, and stars, these celestial bodies have no independent history and no independent meaning and function, but their history and significance or function are dependent upon the earth.  These facts are positively taught in Holy Scripture."
I have a note in the margin at this point that Prof. A. C. Repp scoffed at this passage in the July 1964 issue of Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly.  Unfortunately today's LC-MS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) has abandoned it's heritage.

The Wikipedia article continues (see article) :
"However, in the 1902 Concordia Theological Quarterly, Prof. A. L. Graebner claimed that the synod had no doctrinal position on geocentrism, heliocentrism, or any scientific model, unless it were to contradict Scripture. He stated that any possible declarations of geocentrists within the synod did not set the position of the church body as a whole."
This article in the Concordia Theological Quarterly largely defends the position of the Missouri Synod which upholds the divine teaching of scripture.  But it leaves a little to be desired since even the writer of the Wikipedia article thinks the Missouri Synod teaching was ambiguous. Professor A. L. Graebner  in this article attaches the basis of the heliocentric system or Copernican system to an "assumption of millions of years of siderial existence in our universe" (page 42) which excluded the possibility of the creation of the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation. He then dismisses the Copernican system and the heliocentric system on the basis of this assumption of "millions of years" rather than that scripture teaches the primacy of the earth.  But  Franz Pieper and C.F.W. Walther (and Martin Luther), although dismissing the "millions of years" theories, dismissed the Copernican system based on the scriptural teaching of the primacy of the earth over all celestial bodies.

What did Walther teach?  Here is my translation from his German of a review of a new publication in the April 1, 1873 issue of Der Lutheraner magazine, (volume 29 (1872-1873), page 103):
= = = = = = = = = = =
Astronomical discussion about the infallibility of the Copernican solar system. By J. C. W. L., St. Louis, Mo. 1873.

                A little writing of the preceding title has just arisen from our Synod printer.  It is small - it includes only 26 pages in the format of "Lehre und Wehre" - but a gold kernel in the latest literature, that unfortunately! mostly is a rubbish heap.
                As you know, the newer astronomers or stargazers, claim by the Copernican system in which the earth moves around the Sun, that the Bible is thoroughly refuted and overturned according to which the Sun moves around the Earth; and yet, these gentlemen require that Christians now believe as firmly the Copernican system as previously the Bible religion.  Because they say whoever does not belong to the profession of astronomy, has no right to judge about what they teach; it is therefore a real shame that there still are people who are not professional astronomers as they are and yet do not all want to believe their every word.  Through these mighty sayings and bulls of excommunication these unfailing would-be astronomical popes now hunt indeed the people of the world in general into the buck's horn; in order not to fall into the stargazers spell and to be considered enlightened, they recite everything in blind simple faith what these "infallible" popes tell them. They admit patiently that they might not understand astronomy and therefore could not judge it, but if one should hold them to be clever, they should close their eyes delicately and only believe firmly.  But with Christians it is different. So firmly they believe their God at his Word, so oppositely on human concepts are strongly convinced; there they want to be persuaded by irrefutable reasons, otherwise they won't believe it.
                  The pamphlet shows with the title but how little Christians have cause to hold so infallible the Copernican system, as astronomers give it and the would-be enlightened view it.  The author has namely the happy idea to once catechize the astronomers or rather to examine them and, since they are difficult to bring to a response, to get themselves their answer from their own writings.  As it turns out then, that the men themselves in no uncertain terms have to admit that there simply is nothing with the certainty and security of their system, that they themselves do not believe and only demand of the uninitiated belief in their infallibility. One should read the pamphlet, and one will soon be convinced that this really is so. The writer has only asked the questions, the answers are always word for word taken from the writings of astronomers themselves, and describes the place where the answer stands against.
                Whoever wants to be enlightened in the points of the newer solar system should read this pamphlet and he will find full satisfaction. The pamphlet costs 15 cents in hard cover and is handled by our general agent Mr. Barthel.
= = = = = = = = = = =

If the reader of this article is a Christian, know this: the world will constantly assail any faith you have in the Bible by the constant refrain of "millions and billions of years" and the secondary place of the Earth in the universe (as this Wikipedia article states "the Earth does not hold any obvious preferred place within the Solar System").  It will not stop doing this nor will Scripture be changed.  Scripture testifies to this when it says in John 1: 10,11: "... the world knew him not... and his own received him not".  Modern science wants you to believe their theories on the origins of the universe.  But the Bible is true... believe it, in all it's teachings. The sun does rise over the earth and the Son did bring salvation for all.
(see another later post here for more of Walther's teaching on this subject, and modern Lutheran theologian , Matthew Becker's doubt of the Bible teaching.)

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