An astonishing documentary is drawing fire for its attempt to resurrect geocentrism, the ancient/medieval cosmology that placed the Earth at the center of the universe. Featuring commentary by leading secular scientists like Lawrence Krauss and Michio Kaku, and narration by Star Trek’s “Captain Janeway” (Kate Mulgrew, when she is not piloting a starship), The Principle boldly goes where no sane person has gone for several centuries.
The Principle is a project of Robert Sungenis, whose denial of the Holocaust and unabashed anti-Semitism has earned him the title “one of the most rabid and open anti-Semites in the entire radical traditionalist movement.” Just about everyone else involved in the project is wondering where he got the cleverly-edited footage of them seeming to support the central—and completely refuted—thesis of the film.
The movie is based on Sungenis’s book Geocentrism 101: An Introduction into the Science of Geocentric Cosmology, which has a higher ranking on Amazon right now than most of my books. Geocentrism 101 is a summary of Sungenis’s multi-volume 1,200-page opus Galileo Was Wrong and the Church was Right, published in 2009 by “Catholic Apologetics Publishing” which appears to be a private vanity press operated by Sungenis. Galileo Was Wrong is based on Sungenis’s “doctoral work” at the unaccredited Calamus International University, which provides distance-learning from the Republic of Vanatu, a tiny island nation with less than 250,000 people and which I had never heard of before researching this article.
The Principle has a checkered pedigree, to say the least and will open to low expectations and, most likely, tiny audiences of incredulous skeptics and costumed Trekkies hoping to encounter Captain Janeway.
But Sungenis’s eccentric project has something important to teach us. Geocentrism 101, like the Young Earth Creationism of Ken Ham, Eric Hovind, Al Mohler and so many other evangelicals, is based on the assumption of biblical literalism—except that Sungenis is prepared to go all the way in his commitment to the scientific inerrancy of the Bible. Ham, Mohler and other creationists have found clever ways to escape the geocentric and even flat-earth implications of their biblical literalism. If Ham were truly a biblical literalist he would be endorsing The Principle. Instead we can anticipate him explaining over the next few months why the geocentric verses in the Bible fall outside his commitment to literalism.
Sungenis and his tiny team of geocentrists call our attention to forgotten passages in the Bible that few of us talk about any more but were featured prominently in the discussions that led to Galileo’s trial. In the book of Joshua (10:12-13), for example, we read that Joshua spoke to God about prolonging the day so he could kill more of Israel’s enemies. The result was that “The sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.” This geocentric miracle is again mentioned in the book of Habakkuk (3:11) where we read that “The sun and moon stood still in their habitation…” Note that the passages do not say the sun “appeared” to stand still.
In Psalms 19:4-6, we read that God has “set a tent for the sun, which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs his course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from its heat.” In Ecclesiastes 1:5 we read “The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.”
In addition to claiming that the sun moves, the Bible is clear that the earth does not. In 1 Chronicles 16:30 we read: “the world stands firm, never to be moved.” Psalms 93:1—a passage used to challenge Galileo—states “Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved,” a claim repeated verbatim in Psalms 96:10.
The Bible also contains multiple references to “the foundations of the world,” with the clear implication that the earth rests securely and immobile upon a secure foundation.
Answers in Genesis (AIG), Ham’s young-earth creationist group, struggles mightily to drive a wedge between their biblical literalism and that of the geocentrists. In fact they go so far as to charge the Roman Catholic Church—which they view as an aberration—with the teaching of an unbiblical geocentrism! The Catholic geocentrism—which they fail to mention was shared by the Protestants—resulted from a “mingling of pagan science and the Bible” and was a “fundamental error for which the Church eventually paid a tremendous price.” AIG goes so far as to claim that “any evangelical Christian misinformed of this history who opines that the Bible is geocentric is hardly any more credible a source on this topic than an atheist or agnostic.”
This, of course, is nonsense. Christians almost universally believed the Bible endorsed geocentrism until the Scientific Revolution proved that view false. They were honest readers doing their best to understand a book they believed was divinely inspired and free from error. They did read a “pagan science” into the Bible, as AIG claims. Biblical geocentrism is not surprising in the least as all the Biblical authors lived at a time when everyone thought the earth was fixed at the center.
Perhaps in its extremism The Principle will awaken fundamentalists to the folly of their biblical literalism, just as the Westboro Baptist Church sounded an unwelcome alarm about homophobia. Perhaps, in turning away from a geocentrism refuted by science 300 years ago, evangelicals will reconsider their allegiance to a young earth creationism refuted by science 100 years ago.