The Earth Was Never Flat
Once Upon a Time…
At the end of the 19th century the German pharmaceutical company, Bayer, prescribed “non-addictive” heroin for coughs. Around the same time, you could purchase Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup to help ease your teething child’s discomfort – it only contained 65 mgs of pure morphine.
Once upon a time there was a commonly held belief on the earth that heroin was good for coughs and morphine good for teething babies…
Circa. 570-495 B.C the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras proved the earth was a sphere, thus challenging a common misconception at the time that the earth was flat.
In 1543 Nicholas Copernicus debunked the commonly held belief that the earth was at the center of the universe. And in 1609 Galileo used the invention of the telescope to prove Copernicus correct, the earth revolved around the sun.
In 1917 Einstein’s theory of a static universe was debunked by Edwin Hubble, inventor of the Hubble telescope. Edwin discovered the earth is actually ever expanding.
Once upon a time there was a commonly held belief that the earth was flat, at the center of the universe, and finite…
The Earth Isn’t Flat
Imagine you’ve traveled back in time in your DeLorean time machine. You know, the car from the movie, Back to The Future.
There was Doc Brown, and terrorists, and plutonium and it was all very exciting. But you didn’t go back to November 5, 1955…no, you traveled much further, way before the early breakthroughs in medicinal heroin and morphine, way before telescopes and Greek philosophers, all the way back to when the earth was flat.
You arrived in a field and, after sufficiently hiding your time machine, you began to explore your new surroundings. You came across two fellas at the edge of the sea in passionate debate. They were surrounded by a large crowd of people.
You joined the crowd just as the first guy points to the vast expanse of sea and beyond and says with great conviction, “10,000 miles, that’s where the earth ends!” The other guy is adamant it’s at least twice that distance. There seems to be support for both arguments from those in the crowd, heads nodding and fingers wagging.
Back and forth, the men debate with genuine spirit and intellect, each argument more impassioned than the last. And with each assertion, those listening became more convinced.
You whisper playfully to a young man standing next to you, “What keeps us from falling off the edge?” The young man responds excitedly, “Elephants!” That makes you laugh so loud that one of the fellas takes notice.
He sees you standing there, in your Marty McFly vest, looking amused. You didn’t mean to look amused, it’s just, well, you have both pieced together the premise behind their debate, and, elephants?
“You! Yes, I am talking to you my strangely dressed newcomer friend. What do you believe; does the world end in 10,000 miles or 20?”
It’s a tricky thing to be asked to settle a conflict in which both participants are arguing from a flawed premise; especially if it’s a premise that all have agreed upon, a premise upon which, to some extent, their daily lives have been constructed.
But you, being a person who values truth, and, having actually seen photos of the earth in all its roundness, decide to tell them what you know. In a respectful tone, you say, “Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t have the whole story, you’re operating on a flawed assumption. You see, the earth isn’t flat, it never has been, it just seems that way…”
It Just Seems That Way
Jesus found Himself in this figurative position.
Actually, many still believed the earth was flat when Jesus walked upon it, so, Jesus found Himself in this literal position as well. But He decided to leave the revelation of a round earth to Galileo and his friends. He had bigger fish to fry.
Sovereign control was introduced to humanity when it slithered into the Garden of Eden ages ago. It was the story told by Satan to the first Adam. And Adam bought it. He ate from the wrong tree. It distorted Adam’s perspective on God, it imprisoned him to an inferior reality, a narrative of control; suddenly he was naked, ashamed and desperately afraid.
The lie of sovereign control birthed a world confined to human understanding; a world defined by human reasoning, “a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (1) And it produced a world ruled by fear, a perspective that led to finite flat earth conclusions.
The devastating reality of this control narrative forced the first Adam out of the garden and into the wilderness where he passed the lie down the generations. It became intrinsic in every human experience, a violent reality on earth, a fractured lens through which humanity perceived, a mindset that dominated humankind, a paradigm of brokenness, a wilderness of human reasoning; the earth was flat and everyone agreed.
Except, as we know, the earth isn’t flat, and it never has been. It just seems that way.
Then Jesus was born into this broken narrative, a world ruled completely by an ideology of sovereign control. And He revealed and redeemed a truer narrative. God was never about control. The earth was never flat, not even once.
Jesus, the second Adam, revealed powerfully the whole story, sovereign love. And in so doing, He exposed and declared war on the devastation of sovereign control.
The Devastation of Sovereign Control
“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5
The ideology behind the lie Satan presented to Eve, and later Adam, was God is in control. And they bought it. They believed God was withholding some part of Himself. They believed some aspect of His nature was controlling. And by agreeing with this perversion of love, they enslaved humanity to the devastation of the control narrative.
Every horror in history, every fruit of sin, every sickness, every groaning of the earth, every insecurity, desperation and shame, every struggle against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, (2) can be traced back to the moment Adam and Eve bought into the lie that the sovereignty of God had something to do with control.
Control… it’s the very first lie the snake used to describe God. It exposed Adam and Eve’s nakedness. It was the introduction of fear, condemnation, and shame, the origin of sin and death, the birthplace of every religious thought and action thereafter.
Control…it masquerades in the religious rhetoric of holiness. Its wars are holy, its politics, its inquisitions, its crusades, its genocide, its prejudice, discrimination, racism, sexism, its abuse – all painted with the brush of fanatic righteousness.
Control…it’s ego dressed up in virtue. It demands compliance; women must know their place, children must know their place, slaves, everyone must know their place.
Control…it’s a bully who’s been bullied. It’s a vicious cycle of condemnation masquerading as justice. Its victims become disciples.
Control…it’s the preacher frothing at the mouth about hell, and gays and gun rights. It’s hate speech framed as pious obedience. It’s the church standing up for what it’s against while marginalizing all who Jesus embraced.
Control…it’s the voice of social media mouthing off about tolerance while normalizing depravity. It’s the doctrine of whatever feels good. It sexualizes everyone for its own amusement. It saves the whales while rationalizing abortion.
Control…it’s the ethos of a fallen world, the lens through which most see, the context by which multitudes measure success, value, respect, and significance. It promises we don’t have to live afraid, desperate, helpless, exposed; that we don’t have to be its victims. Except…
Control makes everyone its victim.
Deep down we know control is a mirage. We know it’s a perversion of the truth; it’s counterfeit to the life we were designed for – to experience love and to become love. But to the extent we don’t recognize or understand the power and authority of sovereign Love, is the extent to which we find ourselves clamoring for it: control of our God, control of our destinies, our jobs, our finances, our relationships, the line at Starbucks, the House, the Senate, the Mexican border, Russia.
Control is the lie driving a wedge into our relationship with God. It’s a lie about God and a lie about us. If believed, it will demand to own our every breath, our every thought, our every moment. But it always leads to the same place – shame, condemnation, fear, death and slavery.
Control… it makes fearful slaves, and it never empowers sons or daughters.
Control… it’s ugly, unkind and selfish. It’s counter to all God is and yet it is still the word most often used to describe Him.
Control… we box God into a broken paradigm, a fallen narrative, a flawed premise, a lie spawned by the enemy of our soul, and then, when everything goes to hell, we, in our human reasoning, call it sovereignty and either blame Him for the brokenness or conclude He isn’t as good or powerful as we thought.
This control narrative is an institution unto itself, a ruler by which human understanding has measured everything since the fall of the first Adam. The control narrative has dominated our thinking; it’s become the pursuit of every religious, political and social institution on the planet, including the institution of Christianity.
A god in sovereign control is the devil’s kingdom, and believing his lie leads us into the wilderness of our existence.
But it was never true; the earth was never flat, it just seems that way. Then, some two thousand years ago, the second Adam, Jesus, walked into this wilderness and declared war on the lie of sovereign control.
Just before Jesus “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil,” (3) His Father publically introduced the whole story.
“This is my Son, whom I love. With Him I am well pleased.” (4)
“This is my son” - He is fully God and fully man. He is perfect.
“Whom I love” - He is living as the measureless revelation of sovereign love. He has all authority, the power of heaven at His back. He has come to destroy the control narrative.
“With Him I am well pleased” - He has all my pleasure; He is sure in my affection and He will establish my redeemed narrative on earth as it is in Heaven.
Then, Jesus, in the Father, led by and filled with the Holy Spirit, went into the wilderness to throw down the gauntlet.
You’ve seen the movie… two vast armies gathered, a valley between them. They are faced off against each other, ready to crush their enemy. But before a drop of blood spills, the leaders of both armies ride their horses into the valley to meet. Under a white flag, they look each other in the eye and make their demands. “Surrender now and I will give you a position in my kingdom.”
We’ve all seen that movie. But this showdown in the Judean desert was different in two very significant ways. First, it took 40 days for Satan to get the nerve to show his face. Second, Jesus wasn’t offering surrender.
Finally, punch-drunk by arrogance, Satan tries to capitalize on Jesus’ physically weakened state. He attempts to persuade sovereign Love to submit to the devastating narrative of sovereign control.
Three times Satan essentially pleads, “Acknowledge my control narrative and I’ll put you in control of it. Endorse the devastation of my control paradigm and I’ll give you my perversion of freedom by making you its dictator. Agree the earth is flat and I’ll seat you over every pointless finite argument regarding where it ends.”
Control, is Satan’s blindness. Control is the only narrative the devil knows, it’s his theology, the only context by which he interacts with God and humanity. Therefore, he doesn’t have the ability to comprehend the truth that sets free. You see, Satan’s perversion of freedom is to be in control of others.
The fact is, that perverse perspective of freedom seeks to infiltrate every institution on the planet…
Because control is the only narrative Satan knows, he assumed Jesus came to earth to gain it. That’s why, in the wilderness, he attempts to manipulate Jesus with promises of control. What he can’t see is that Jesus came to expose the broken paradigm of control and reveal true freedom, the power, and authority of sovereign love.
Jesus was fully man. He experienced all the emotions we feel. Physically weak and emotionally vulnerable, He was truly tempted in the wilderness. But Jesus was also fully God, and He knew the whole story.
Three times, Jesus essentially says, “I am my Father’s Son and there will be no quarter given, no clemency, no opportunity for surrender! I have come to destroy you and, along with you, the damning devastation of the control narrative!”
Jesus made it clear, there would be no opportunity for retreat; the end of Satan’s reign of fear through control was upon him.
At no time had the earth been flat!
Time Travel Continued…
Meanwhile, back to our time-travel voyage…
The fella that had asked for your thoughts seems intrigued. “What do you mean the earth isn’t flat?”
Suddenly you’re a little overwhelmed. You’re not a scientist; you have no idea how to explain it (note - if you are a scientist, just ignore that last sentence… come to think on it, go ahead and ignore the next few as well).
“So, imagine the earth is like a big ball spinning on an axis, oh and it’s in outer space.” You pull out your smartphone so Google can help you make your point, but of course you have Sprint and there’s no signal. You’re forced to use your words like you’re a Baby-Boomer.
“So, this spinning ball, in outer space? Well, it’s also orbiting around a bigger ball, the sun!” You point with confidence to the sun, hoping its existence will help prove your point.
“What keeps us from falling off?” One of the fellas asks quizzically. He seems uncomfortably intrigued.
The young man next to you asks hopefully, “Elephants?”
You are about to attempt an explanation of gravity when you are struck with two very valid concerns. First, you don’t know how gravity works; second, you suddenly remember Doc’s words, something about not “unraveling the very fabric of the space-time continuum.”
The whole crowd is still waiting for an answer and it dawns on you that it’s going to take way more than a vague memory of your 7th-grade science class to convince them the earth isn’t flat. It will require something of grand proportions, a greater revelation, to change their flat-earth thinking.
Having won the desert showdown, Jesus left the wilderness on a mission, His face set like flint. (5) He lived in our finite world controlled by measurements; a world dominated by fear, and He revealed a measureless, infinite perfect love that casts out all fear. (6)
He walked among the flat-earthers and revealed the whole story, sovereign love! Everywhere sovereign love walked, the ugly lie of sovereign control was exposed and its power destroyed!
Sovereign Love destroyed every control; He healed blind eyes, cleansed lepers, fed the hungry, clothed the poor, raises the dead!
Sovereign Love decimated the destruction of a theology of control by setting captives free. He transformed, sinners to saints, and slaves to sons and daughters. He restored and redeemed the worst of life’s tragedies and He healed the most broken of life's sorrows.
Then sovereign Love experienced the ultimate control, death. And He revealed sovereign love was more powerful than death by rising from the grave.
And upon His resurrection, He won our freedom, redeemed our narrative and gave us access to a His perspective - the earth wasn’t flat.
Not only was a battle won, the war was won. Sovereign love was victorious!
How Do We Win in The End?
“If God is not in control, how does He win in the end? He has to be in control to win.” My friend said with a force that bordered panic. He was uncomfortable by what I had just suggested.
We sat in a local bakery, my coffee was cold; I hadn’t taken a sip for fifteen minutes. I’d been sharing both about the devastation of sovereign control and the goodness of sovereign love. I concluded by suggesting that maybe control wasn’t the best way to describe God.
“How do we win in the end?” I repeated, “What if that’s the wrong question? What if the earth was never flat, it just seems that way?”
“What do you mean?” he asked understandably confused. I hadn’t told him about our time travel adventures and the two fellas on the beach.
“What if the premise behind your question is wrong? What if believing God is in control is like believing the earth is flat? It seems right from our perspective. It seems a necessity if God is to win in the end. But what if there is another way to win, a better way. A way that doesn’t complicate God’s goodness or compromise His love?”
I could see my friend was still very uncomfortable. I shrugged and smiled, “It’s just a thought.”
I let it go. But I could have kept on.
What if the sovereignty of God wasn’t about control, but was defined truly and perfectly through love? What if sovereign Love has already won because that’s the nature of love? What if sovereign Love never loses, He simply redeems the past and transforms the future?
What if God was never in control; it just seems that way.
Then, what if Jesus did something of such grand proportions, something so powerful, that our flat-earth perception and thinking could be forever changed? What if He lived, died and rose so we could be free and empowered, so we could see and experience a truer paradigm, the whole story, sovereign love?
What if the very real war we are waging, a war that is evident in so many aspects of daily life, a war marked by disappointment and sorrow, sin and death, sickness, doubt and shame, is a war against the devastating lie of sovereign control.
And what if this war has already been won?
I would like to suggest that sovereign control is flat earth thinking, it’s an institution unto itself, a broken paradigm, a ruler by which so many have measured everything since the fall of Adam. This devastating narrative has dominated humanities thoughts and perceptions for far too long!
Jesus redeemed our true narrative, He redefined His sovereignty as perfect Love. He restored us to our original relationship before the fall, and He empowered trust and set us free so we could live confidently victorious.
The earth is not flat, it just seems that way.
This article was excerpted from Jason's new book, God Is (Not) In Control.
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.