The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Cretinism or Evilution? No. 2
Edited by E.T. Babinski
The Holy Heavens




The Holy Heavens

Today, most Bible believers do not believe that God lives in the heavens directly overhead. But right up to the beginning of the Reformation, God and the heavenly/spiritual realm were believed to lie far closer to the earth, relatively speaking, and occupy the space around it in a most definite sense. (See the cover of this issue for a picture of Martin Luther's view!) Reading the Bible, it's easy to see how one could arrive at such a conclusion:

"He [God] sits above...the earth, and its inhabitants look like grasshoppers" (Isa. 40:22). If God wasn't fairly close, then why use "grasshoppers" as an analogy, since that implies a nearer proximity than, say, looking down on "ants." And in the same verse it says that God "stretches out the heavens like a curtain, like a tent to dwell in" (Isa 40:22). Cozy imagery of your typical sky-God dwelling above the earth. Certainly not "light-years" away!

  1. "He bowed the heavens and came down." (2 Sam. 22:10)

  2. "The Lord came down [from heaven]." (Gen. 11:5)

  3. Elijah was lifted up by a whirlwind to heaven (2 Kings 2:11).

  4. Angels ascended and descended on a ladder reaching to heaven (Gen. 28:12). The ancients also pictured angels with bird-like wings flying through the earth's atmosphere to a "heaven" lying directly above the earth rather than through light-years of space that lacks an atmosphere and where bird-like appendages would prove useless.

  5. "Manna," food supplied to the Hebrews in the wilderness, is depicted as falling from heaven.

  6. Angels who told of Jesus' birth "went away from [the shepherds] into heaven" (Luke 2:15).

  7. A "star [of heaven]...went on before the [wise men], until it came and stood over where the Child was" (Mat. 2:9). Such a star assumes a rather near proximity to the earth. How else could it stand unmistakably above a single house, rather than stand above a whole city or country?

  8. God spoke out of heaven at Jesus' baptism and the heavens ripped opened and a dove descended out of heaven.

  9. Later at "the ascension," "[The resurrected Jesus] was lifted up...and a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9), whereupon Jesus took his seat "in the the true tabernacle [tent], which the Lord pitched" (Heb. 8:1,2).

  10. And Jesus will return in the sky "seated at the right hand of Power" with the "clouds of heaven" (Mat. 26:64)."The Lord will descend from heaven...and we shall be caught the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess. 4:16, 17).

  11. "...a door standing open in heaven, and the...voice...said, 'Come up here"' (Rev. 4:1).

  12. "...and there was a great earthquake...and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. And the sky was split apart...and [men] hid themselves in caves...and said to the mountains...hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne." (Rev. 6:12-16)

  13. The "heavenly city," the "New Jerusalem" "descends" to earth from "heaven." (Rev.)

  14. "God is in heaven, and you are on the earth" (Eccles. 5:2).

  15. "The heavens are the heavens of the Lord; But the earth He has given to the sons of men" (Ps. 115:16).

Further corroboration of this ancient view of the relatively "near proximity" of God and of the heavenly/spiritual realm, is not hard to find. The Babylonians built towers, called ziggurats, reaching toward heaven to attract the sky gods' attention (compare Gen. 11:5). In similar fashion, Abraham ascended a mountain to sacrifice his son to God. Moses spoke to God after ascending a mountain (Ex. 19:20). Jerusalem was built on a holy hill nicknamed "Mt. Zion." Jesus was transfigured on a mountain top. And the resurrected Jesus was seen on a "mountain which Jesus had designated" in Galilee (Mat. 28:16), and/or is said to have ascended into heaven from Mount Olive (Acts 1) near Jerusalem.

Based on the authority of many such Bible verses, the heavenly/spiritual realm was believed to lie "above" the earth and so near that climbing a mountain brought you relatively "nearer" to God. Of course, we know today that climbing a mountain only brings you infinitesimally "nearer" to the nearest star which still lies several million to several billion miles away.

According to Robert Ingersoll, "The telescope did away with the heaven of the New Testament, rendered the ascension of our Lord infinitely absurd, crumbled to chaos the gates and palaces of the New Jerusalem, and in their places gave to man a wilderness of worlds." In fact, if Jesus did rise up to heaven through the clouds as Luke says, even if he reached the speed of light, he wouldn't be out of our own galaxy yet, and there are about a billion other galaxies out there.

According to C.S. Lewis, the ancients, right up to the Reformation, had an absolute sense of Up and Down. In both a flat-earth and geocentric cosmology the earth was the solid center, and movement was either Down to the earth From heaven, or Up from the earth Toward heaven.

The ancients never suspected that the earth was just as much a heavenly object" as all the stars they "looked up at." They never suspected that the earth was an integral part of the "heavens," sailing amongst all the other "heavenly bodies." If they had, then they would never have "worshipped" the objects "above" their heads. Nietzsche expressed it thusly, "So long as thou feelest the stars as an 'above thee,' thou lackest the eye of the discerning one" ("The Sage as Astronomer" in Beyond Good and Evil).

The Hebrews envisioned a geocentric universe the same way that other ancient cultures did, and had to be warned, many times, not to worship what lay "above" them, i.e., "the sun, moon, and stars, all the host of heaven" (Deut. 4:19; 17:3; 2 Kings 17:16; 21:5; 23:5; Jer. 7:18; 19:13; 44:17,19,25). Naturally, if they had known that the earth was moving amongst the stars, it they had known that the earth was merely one of nine planets circling round an unimposing star (a star that was not the only "great light" in the cosmos), a star that was sailing around a galaxy full of such stars, then they would not have been so tempted to "worship" the host of heaven. They would have realized that the stars only appeared to lie "above" them.

In the case of the Hebrews, who had to be told not to worship "all the host of heaven," those heavens still remained uniquely "holy" since they lay nearer to God, and/or, God's dwelling place."The heavens are the heavens of the Lord; but the earth He has given to the sons of men" (Ps. 115:16). Hence the fear that some Bible believers felt when a man first planted a flag on the moon! "The earth" was "given to man," but not the heavens, not the moon, etc.! That was "the Lord's realm." And if merely building a "tower that reached to heaven" (Gen. 11 -- the tower of Babel story) moved God to "come down" and take drastic action, then what about building a rocket that "reached to heaven," a rocket named after the pagan god, Apollo!

For thousands of years (right up to the Reformation), pagans, Jews and Christians agreed that the stars lay "above" man and "nearer" to God, while the Christians added that the earth was a "sink of impurity" with hell lying at the earth's center. Such a view was inspired by Biblical passages that spoke of the heavens above the earth as the holy abode of God and angels: Ps. 115:16; Eccles. 5:2; Gen. 11:5,7; 28:12; Isa. 40:22; Heb. 8:1,2; 2 Kings 2:11; 2 Sam. 22:10; Luke 2:15; Mat. 23:22; 26:64; Acts 1:9), with sheol, hades, etc., the land of the dead, lying beneath the earth (Job 11:8; Ps. 71:20; 88:3,6; 1 Sam. 28:8,13,15; Amos 9:2,3; Philip. 2:10; Rev. 5:13).

Naturally, when Copernicus and Galileo presented the theory that the earth moved, people rejected it violently with arguments like those below (see also the strictly Biblical arguments featured in the articles that follow this one!):

"The planets, the sun, the stars, all belong to one species-namely that of 'stars' [bright objects moving above the earth]. It seems, therefore, to be a grievous wrong to place the earth, which is a sink of impurity, among these heavenly bodies, which are pure and divine things."

"Angels make Saturn, Jupiter, the sun, etc., turn round. I! the earth revolves, it must also have an angel in the center to set it in motion, but only devils live there, it would therefore be a devil who would impart motion to the earth."

Today, of course, we know that the sun, planets, and stars, lying "above the earth" are no "nearer to God" or "nearer to a heavenly/spiritual realm" than we are on planet earth. And some people even dare to believe that perhaps God ha,; given man not just the "earth" but also the "heavens" too, to explore.





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