A Revelation about the Earth at the Centre of the Universe

I have just been reading Peter S. Williams' new book A Sceptic's Guide to Atheism (due out immanently).

In it he takes the arguments of 'The New Atheists' to pieces. Anyway, I have just come across an interesting fact that I never knew before. I just had to share it (but I bet you all knew it anyway)

One common (and very poor) argument against the Bible is that the Bible sees humanity as central in God's purposes but that since Copernicus the earth has been demonted from the centre to the margins of the universe. Now, of course, it does not take much brain power to work out that this is a weak argument. Nevertheless, I have now discovered something new (to me) and interesting about the Ptolemaic view of the universe which was dominant before Copernicus.

The abovementioned naff argument about the demotion of earth is prediacted upon the idea that the Ptolemaic view placed the earth in a very prestigeous position (and Copernicus moved it from that central location). Not so!

The Ptolemaic view saw the earth (not flat, by the way, but spherical. The idea that people before Columbus used to think the world was flat is pure myth) at the centre encased in spheres within speheres (like a Russian doll). The planets and stars were on these speheres.

OK - so the idea is that the earth is at the centre. But, and this is what had never occurred to me before, we are mistaken to think that this was perceived as an especially noble location. For the medieval Christian the very centre was in fact Hell (contained within the sphere of the earth). Does that mean that they thought that Hell was the centre of God's purposes? One hopes not! And the most exaulted parts of the universe were, in fact, the heavens on the periphery.

Our error is that we have assumed that to be at the celestial centre was perceived as being in the best place.

The irony of this is that Galileo argued that the Copernican revolution promoted humanity by relocating the earth to the heavens like the stars.

How interesting is that !!!!


brett jordan said…
nice insight robin, thanks...
simon said…
fascinating and helpful.

I am doing a series on revelation with my mid-week Bible study group at the moment and was interested to read Richard Bauckham's take on the picture of worhsip in chapters 4-5.

This was new to me (probably not to anyone else!), namely, that the four living creatures represent the worship of the comos not humanity indicating that people are only a part of God's concern; that his goal for the comos is that every living thing worships him.

This coupled with my reading of Christopher southgate's wonderful new book is suggesting to me that God's purposes are not just about people; we are not the centre of the universe - however much god loves us!

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