When we don’t know what to do, when we fail to do the right thing, when we freeze in fear over making a decision, we can be at peace because Christ has already interceded for us through his perfectly obedient life lived for us and perfect sacrificial death on our behalf. He also gave us his Spirit who is at work in us, helping us to desire wisdom, teaching us the way of wisdom through the Word, and enabling us to walk in it.
Have you ever had to make an important decision and felt stuck as to what to do? Perhaps you stood at a crossroads with two paths before you, and you didn’t know which one to take.
You may have asked yourself questions like, Do I take this job or that job? Sell the house or stay? Trust the doctor or get a second opinion? Serve in this ministry or another? Send our children to this or that school? Have our parents move in or find them alternative living arrangements?
When my thyroid biopsy came back as inconclusive, the doctor recommended surgery. (I wrote about that here). He said it was the only way to know for certain whether the growth was cancerous or not. He gave me numbers and statistics (none of which I understood) and said we could remove the growth or wait and see, but he recommended surgery. I had a decision to make. Do I have the surgery? Or do I test and retest and wait and see? Do I trust the numbers and statistics? Do I trust the doctor?
I don’t know about you, but when I have a decision to make, my mind is consumed with it. It vacillates back and forth between the options. It’s all I can think about. I worry and fret and mull over it. I lie awake at night unable to sleep. I consider all the potential consequences to the choices. What I want most of all is for a clear answer to step up and knock me on the head. Because what I really fear is making the wrong choice.
And so I wondered, what is God’s will in this? What does he want me to do?
How are God’s will and making decisions related to each other?
Theologians often refer to God’s will in terms of his sovereign (decretive) will and his preceptive (or revealed) will. God’s sovereign will refers to the fact that he ordains all things. Everything is under his control, including every detail of our lives. Nothing can or will happen outside of his will. He is never surprised or taken off guard by what happens. Whatever choice we make, we can be sure it is God’s will.
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. (Prov. 16:33)
We don’t know God’s sovereign will.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut. 29:29)
We don’t know his plan for us for tomorrow, next week, or next year. His secret will is not for us to know. Yet, as believers, we can take great comfort in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. That’s because not only is God sovereign, but he is also our good Father who loves us. He always does what is right and good for us. Whatever decisions we make, we can be assured that God will use it for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28-29).
God’s preceptive will is the will that God wants us to know. Everything we need to know for living in this world is written in those pages. There’s no missing information we have to seek out in mysterious unknown places. It’s not hidden somewhere—like in a scavenger hunt—and we just have to find it. It’s all there.
The Bible teaches us what is sinful and what is not. It tells us the purpose for our life: to glorify God. It tells us how to treat others, how to steward what he has provided, how to love our family, how to live and work and rest. Most of all, the Bible shows us our greatest need—redemption from sin—and reveals our great Savior, whose life, death, and resurrection are sufficient to free us from sin and enable us to live in righteousness.
God’s word also teaches us about the Spirit who lives within us, producing the fruit of holiness and helping us to daily put sin to death. Ultimately, God’s will for our life is that we grow in holiness—that we become more like Christ.
When we struggle with making a decision and ask, “What is God’s will in this?” often we want to know what pleases God—what he desires from us. We want his direction. We want to know if he desires us to choose A over B or B over A.
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By Kendall Lankford — 9 months ago
Your greatest enemy, undoubtedly, are you. That internal chatterbox that is always running its trap, speaking lies about you, discouraging you, and clouding your judgment, must not be allowed the freedom to go on talking. Instead, you must repent of your sin, remain steadfast until your experience improves, remind God of who He is and who you are, and then reign over yourself! Instead of listening to yourself, begin speaking to yourself! Command yourself to hope in God and believe that your experience of His presence will improve.
Why does God sometimes feel distant? Why are there times and seasons when it seems like God is either aloof or further away from us than at others? As a pastor, I have received various versions of this question over the years.
“Why does God feel distant from me? I know I am saved. I have assurance of that from Scripture. But, why do I go through periods of deadness and dryness? How is this true and why does it happen? I am really not changing anything about my routine. I have the same Bible plan. I dedicate the same time every morning to prayer. I am repenting and doing everything I know to do, pastor… And yet, sometimes God feels nearer to me while other time I feel like He has left me and I am all alone… Why is that?”
There are undoubtedly many reasons why this phenomenon may occur, such as our own sinfulness and rebellion, the quenching of His Spirit, or God’s chastening His children. When that happens, God will often withdraw the experience of His presence from us, which is meant to lead us to repentance. He does not, however, remove His presence entirely since there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro 8:1). Yet. At the same time, God is fully present with us through the Spirit’s indwelling and fully present in all places through His own omnipresence; there are times when He veils our capacity to comprehend His presence, allowing us to experience distance, darkness, and shadows.
As said above, this often occurs because of habitual, indwelling, and unrepented sin. But what happens when this is not the case? How do we explain other occasions when we are in the Word, repenting of our sin, praying, fasting, singing, mortifying, and doing everything we know to do, or when we feel like the absence of God is more palpable than His presence? How do we explain that?
These are questions that I have asked myself countless times before. Unfortunately, I was not given a Biblical reason from Scripture to account for these occasions. Instead, I was taught that my relationship with God was based on quid pro quo rules, which means If I repented of my sins and did the right things, then He would give me the joy of His presence.
This not only encouraged a performance-oriented faith where I believed my experience of God was wholly dependent upon me, but it also was not in accord with the men I saw in Scripture. Take Job as an example. The Bible tells us that he was a righteous man, exemplary among the men at that time. Yet, God allowed him to experience awful suffering and the diminishing of His presence. Take David, whose Psalms are riddled with pleadings that God would draw nigh to him, allowing Him to experience the joy of God’s nearness again. Finally, consider Jesus, who never sinned, but in the garden felt the agony of future distance from God.
How do we account for these things? To answer that question, I would like to share thirteen things I wish someone had shared with me that I have now learned. I will not be diving too deeply into “why God is distant” but discussing more about how to think about it and what to do about it. Sometimes, the why belongs to God and remains a mystery to us.
In the rest of this article, I offer 6 reflections to consider when you feel distant from God. I would also like to provide 7 Biblical remedies for you to employ should you ever experience this.
Part 1: Reflect on This
Reflect on His Rights:
The principle: God has every right and ability to give and take away the experience of His presence as He deems appropriate.
One of the grandest doctrines we often recoil from is the sovereignty of God. Sovereignty entails God has every right, ability, and power to accomplish whatever He wills. And since everything that occurs is what He has willed (Dan 4:35), then every pain, displeasure, and discomfort came about first by divine knowledge and permittance. Therefore, nothing happens outside of God’s will.
Job says this poignantly:
“It is God who has made my heart faint, And the Almighty who has dismayed me, – Job 23:16
Jeremiah, a man also acquainted with grief, heartily concurs. He said:
“He has driven me and made me walk In darkness and not in light… Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer.” – Lam 3:2, 8
While these verses may rub the inner drama queen inside us the wrong way, do we really have cause to be angry? All of us, at some point, have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That includes Job and Jeremiah, and it also includes us. As such, God said that the punishment for our sins would be death. And yet look at how long we live. The very fact we are alive today means that God has been exceedingly generous to us. It means He has not given us what we are owed but has offered us unmerited mercies far beyond what we deserve.
Beyond this, if you are a Christian, you have received unfathomable grace! Grace is not only being spared from the punishment you earned but also receiving blessings, comforts, and joys that did not belong to you! In your sin, you and I should have suffered eternal torments and terrors forever. And yet, God sacrificed His Son to rescue you. Instead of us suffering, He watched His only Son undergo emotional, spiritual, and physical anguish to offer us grace. Our salvation, even if it were the only good thing that ever happened to us, would be infinitely more than we could ever ask for or expect.
But it is not the only good thing that has happened to you. Tell me, can you count all of the blessings and graces the Lord God has given you? All of the joys He has imparted through families, friends, children, or through a lineage and heritage. Has He given you wealth, food, wine, safety, or security? Has He answered any of your prayers? Has He given you oxygen to breathe or organs that work without your direct involvement or management? Has He given you a physical copy of the Bible? What about all the other blessings stacked on top of blessings that we forget to acknowledge?
When we add up the mountain of blessings we have received and compare it to the eternal torments and sufferings we deserve, it is shocking that we complain as much as we do. Think about this clearly, if we received nothing but our salvation from God, and if our temporal lives were filled with nothing but heartache, miseries, and unimaginable sufferings, and if we never once felt the comfort and nearness of His presence, we would still be inconceivably and unreservedly blessed.
Remembering this, we should not be surprised whenever God feels distant from us. We should actually be surprised that so frequently, He doesn’t. Instead, we should be shocked that such an immense and pure being would persist for so long with such petulant peasants. And if we should ever walk through a period like this, where God feels to us distant, our first reaction should not be that we have been slighted. Instead, we should remember that this same God, who is working out our salvation, is also working out this situation for good. Since He is sovereign over all things and perfectly good in all things, we can trust Him in all things. We can rest knowing we are more blessed than our minds can conceive, which will help us patiently wait for our experience to improve.
Reflect on Our Righteousness:
The principle: Our righteousness, obedience, and sanctification do not obligate God to give us experiences of His nearness.
The book of Job is predicated upon the fact that Job is a righteous man (Job 1:1). Throughout its pages, Job himself announces that he is blameless, guiltless, and righteous (see Job 27:6 as an example). Furthermore, God Himself agrees with this assessment, even saying it Himself at the beginning of the book (Job 1:8). The book is a fascinating thought experiment and a case study on how and why the righteous suffer and experience distance from God. And according to the book of Job, sometimes they experience this phenomenon, not because they lack righteousness, but because of it, which was a concept entirely foreign to that time and place.
At that time, the prevailing wisdom, especially among Job’s shoddy friends, was that good people obtain favor and blessings because of their goodness. At the same time, the wicked will suffer because of their wickedness. To that culture, the world operated along strict rules of reciprocity. Good people were rewarded; bad people were punished. The obvious conclusion from such a philosophy was: “If you are suffering, then you must be wicked,” which contradicts God’s own words about His servant, Job.
With that, the book invites us to explore why someone blameless, righteous, and even commended by God could undergo such a loss of intimacy with His creator. Notice how Job recounts his suffering. He does not describe it entirely as the loss of material wealth or physical health decline. Instead, he says:
“Oh that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat!… “Behold, I go forward but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; when He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.” – Job 23:3, 8-9
In addition to Job’s constant declarations of rightness and fairness, he also describes what he considers the brunt of his affliction. His righteousness did not secure for him the intimacy and fellowship with God he thought it would. Job is far less vexed over the loss of physical and material blessings. Instead, he is far more broken that God seemed like a million miles away from him. Job cannot conceive of a world where a man actively pursues righteous living, and God, who knows everything, would still withhold His presence from him. That was inconceivable to him, and that same complaint comprises the lion’s share of the book.
Just as Job had to learn at the end of the book, we, too, must expand our view of God. Like Job, we must understand that works of personal righteousness, individual obedience, and dedicated work in holiness cannot guarantee the experience of feeling near unto God. God does not operate in a quid pro quo, vending machine spirituality. He grants the awareness of nearness as He deems fit. This is not based on our schemes. There will be times when God will graciously allow us to experience an abundance of His presence. But there will also be times when He doesn’t, and we need to become acquainted with that.
Remember, God is sovereign over all these things. Recall that our sanctification and growth in righteous living do not render God indebted to us. Rest in the fact that God is using everything, even periods of perceived distance, for our good and for His glory!
“Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him. – Job 13:15
Reflect on Past Records:
The principle: Just because God gave tremendous experiences of His presence in the past does not mean He is obligated to repeat them in the present.
Psalm 44 begins this way:
O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us the work that You did in their days, In the days of old… For by their own sword they did not possess the land, and their own arm did not save them, but Your right hand, and Your arm, and the light of Your presence, for You favored them. – Ps 44:1
The Psalmist is seeking to remind God of the days of old. Those were days when His presence went powerfully ahead of the people and delivered them safely into the land He had promised.
By Forrest L. Marion — 2 years ago
Written by Forrest L. Marion |
Monday, February 7, 2022
I recently had the opportunity to worship in a church in Sumter, South Carolina, that I had attended faithfully as a single man in my twenties more than 35 years ago. In the mid-1980s, stationed at nearby Shaw Air Force Base, I attended a local Bible church where many of the congregation clearly loved Jesus Christ and His Word. In my several years there, I connected with an older couple in the church, Herman and Rachel.
I recently had the opportunity to worship in a church in Sumter, South Carolina, that I had attended faithfully as a single man in my twenties more than 35 years ago. In the mid-1980s, stationed at nearby Shaw Air Force Base, I attended a local Bible church where many of the congregation clearly loved Jesus Christ and His Word. In my several years there, I connected with an older couple in the church, Herman and Rachel. Herman was born before 1920, was reared in Marion, South Carolina, and, like many young men during the Great Depression era served for a time in the 1930s in the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). When the United States entered the Second World War, Herman wanted to serve in the military but was married and with a child on the way. His wife, Rachel, was also from the town of Marion. (I recall one of them sharing with me that their family’s first telephone number, a party line – was either 9 or 1J – that was all.) Their first child, I’ll call her “Patsy,” was born early in 1942.
Expecting that he could serve without moving far from home, Herman enlisted in the Army Air Forces late in ’42 or early ’43, becoming a crew chief on the B-17 bombers that famously were carrying the fight to Hitler’s Germany from the skies. (Contrary to his expectations, he ended up moving around and was stationed for a time at Kingman, Arizona.) After the war, Herman returned to South Carolina, and residing in Sumter he worked for a cleaner’s, a bank, and, later, as a traveling salesman first with an auto parts company, then a hardware store. With the hardware store, his territory extended from Sumter to the east and south, down to Georgetown, S.C. He dealt with a lot of people in his career, and Herman didn’t know a stranger, as the saying goes. He loved people and loved to talk about the Lord Jesus and the Bible with them. Rachel liked to say that Herman never went anywhere without seeing someone he knew. Once on a family trip to Indiana, it was only on the way home, somewhere in Tennessee, where that record remained intact. Patsy recalled her daddy always said to the children growing up, “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours, because they need it more than you do.” Herman lived that saying. He also read the Bible at home with his family. Patsy felt he lived before the Lord in a way that she could see – not perfectly, of course – what Christ was like.
By the time I met him, he had retired. He and Rachel became my surrogate grandparents in those days. I well remember going to the Shoney’s in town with them, and it was difficult for us to finish a meal. That was because Herman knew everyone there, or so it seemed, and wanted to talk with them and they with him. (On my recent visit to our old church, I drove right past that Shoney’s as I followed Patsy to her home for lunch.) Patsy’s son, whom I met on my recent visit, shared that he still runs into strangers around the state who knew his granddad, who went home to his Lord in 2000. Patsy says the same about folks all over Sumter. Herman’s lifelong companion, Rachel, followed him to her Lord about five years later.
In his latter years, Herman developed Alzheimer’s and eventually moved into a Methodist home in Orangeburg, S.C., for the care and convenience it afforded. Patsy shared that in her dad’s time there, he had a roommate, a former pastor. On occasion, as Patsy visited from Sumter, she would find Herman and his roommate sitting literally “knee to knee” in their room, their Bibles open on their laps. Herman’s roommate also suffered from Alzheimer’s. Neither man could read his Bible any longer, but they had them open anyway, talking about God’s Word together, which both of them knew very well. The fact that one was white and the other was black mattered not at all. They both loved Jesus and His Word – and that was all that mattered.
Forrest Marion is a ruling elder in Eastwood Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Montgomery, Ala.
 To protect her identity, I chose to call her “Patsy” because she has been enjoying a book on George Washington’s family life. George called his wife, Martha, by the nickname, Patsy.
By Dean Davis — 6 months ago
In such a world, cosmic geocentrism may well be true. Moreover, from many quarters we have received good evidence that it really is true. It is the testimony of common sense (and therefore the testimony of most ancient cosmologies). It is the testimony of the Bible. It is the testimony of sound observational science. It promises emancipation from the confusing labyrinth of Relativity Theory. It holds forth the promise of a new, coherent, and holistic physics, astrophysics, and cosmology. But most importantly, it points us to a wise and powerful divine Creator, one who very much has the Earth on his mind; a God who shows himself to us in his universe; and a God who calls us back to himself through his Son and in his Book.
In the previous essay we examined biblical testimony concerning the structure of the universe. In so doing we found that Scripture consistently pictures the Earth at the center of all, and this for the excellent reason that the Earth and its human inhabitants lie at the center of the triune God’s affections, purpose, and plan for his creation.
Now it is time to consider a second witness in the great debate about cosmic structure: natural science.
In approaching this subject it is vital that we ask the right question. I believe it is this: Do the findings of natural science speak up in favor of cosmic geocentrism? Now if, as I argued earlier, our life in this world is essentially a test of our love of the truth about God and the other great questions of life, then they certainly should. For how could the God who created the universe, life, man, human reason, and human ability in natural science give us a revelation that runs altogether contrary to the genuine findings of natural science? In other words, if the Bible really is God’s word to mankind, its cosmological statements should be reasonable, and—to a reasonable extent—verifiable by means of scientific observation. And this includes God’s statements about the geocentric structure of the universe.
Note carefully, however, what the question here is not. It is not, “Does natural science prove cosmic geocentrism?” Natural science cannot prove any model of the universe, since natural scientists are unable to observe the universe in all places and at all times. So the real question is: “Are geocentric models of the cosmos scientifically plausible? Is there any solid observational evidence to support them? Are they at least as reasonable—or possibly even more reasonable—than the prevailing a-centric model?” Well, surprisingly enough, a growing number of modern physicists and astronomers are now returning an enthusiastic answer of “yes” to all these questions!
In what follows I will touch briefly on the main lines of scientific argumentation favorable to the idea of cosmic geocentrism. There are three: 1) Arguments based on scientific experiments, 2) Arguments based on scientific theory, and, 3) Arguments based on astronomical observations.
Arguments Based on Scientific Experiments
Beginning in the 16th century and continuing to the present day, history displays a great philosophical and scientific contest, initially between geocentrism and heliocentrism, but more recently between geocentrism and relativistic a-centrism. In this contest, certain scientists—most of whom were favorable to heliocentrism—performed experiments that turned out to favor geocentrism. Happily, several Christian writers with scientific expertise have discussed these experiments in considerable depth. In this short section I offer a simplified description of a few of the most important, referring you to my cosmological mentors to study this subject more closely on your own.1
First up is “Airy’s Failure”. Piqued by certain experiments performed by F. Arago (1786-1853) that were favorable to the idea of a stationary Earth, English astronomer G. Airy (1801-1892) set out to resolve, once and for all, the puzzle of stellar aberration. Aberration is a term used to describe a curious astronomical phenomenon: When, over the course of a year, we observe a “fixed star” in our telescope, its day to day position, relative to its average position, describes an ellipse. Astronomer James Bradley believed that this aberration ellipse proved the revolution of the Earth around the sun. However, proponents of Tycho Brahe’s earth-centered cosmos responded by saying that the same effect could be caused by the motion of the stars around a stationary Earth. Airy set out to prove, once for all, that stellar aberration was indeed as James Bradley had hypothesized: an optical effect caused by shifts in the Earth’s orbit as it revolves around the sun.
Taking up an earlier suggestion offered by Roger Boscovich (1771-1787), Airy filled one of his two telescopes with water. Knowing that light travels 1.5 times slower when passing through water, he reasoned that if the Earth were indeed moving, he would need to tilt the water-filled telescope towards the lower end of the star in order to get the same reading as found in the normal telescope. But to his surprise and dismay, he repeatedly found that he did not need to tilt the telscope at all! To all appearances, at least, aberration had nothing to do with the motion of the Earth. Indeed, to all appearances the Earth is standing still, and the stars, or the heavens themselves, are moving around the Earth. (For an animation describing Airy’s Failure, click here.)
The Michelson-Morley Experiment (MME)
Keenly aware of Airy’s failure, A. Michelson (1852-1931) and E. Morley (1838-1923) resolved to confirm the motion of the Earth through space, thereby also confirming Bradley’s view of stellar aberration. Happily, it now appeared that Providence had given them a means of doing so. Only recently physicist James Clark Maxwell (1831-1879) had developed his elegant (and fabulously useful) theory of electromagnetism, according to which light consists of electrical and magnetic energy passing at a constant speed as waves through a universal sea of tiny particles that he called the ether. Reflecting on this view, physicists like Michelson and Morley soon realized that Maxwell’s fresh understanding of the physics of light supplied a way to test for absolute rest and motion. More particularly, it provided a way to test for the widely assumed motion of the Earth through the ether.
With all this in mind, the two researchers built an ingenious device called an interferometer. The instrument consists of a light source, several mirrors strategically situated on a table, and a detector where the reflected rays of light are gathered after their journey around the table. A beam of light is discharged from the light source, then split at a half-silvered mirror into two beams moving perpendicularly to one another. By means of more mirrors the beams are further reflected and then reunited at a photographic plate situated near the light source. The scientists knew that if there was a difference in the speed at which the light beams arrived at the plate, there would be an “interference”: a unique mingling of the out-of-sync light waves. Photographically, this mingling would show up as a “fringe,” or a pattern of parallel black lines. Accordingly, they reasoned that if indeed the Earth were indeed racing through the ether at 30 km./sec (the assumed speed of its revolution around the sun), then the beam of light heading into the ether would be slowed down by an “ether wind”, rather like a car is slowed by the air into which it is driving at high speeds. On the other hand, the beam of light running perpendicular to the line of the Earth’s motion would be slowed less. On this premise, the interferometer should definitely register a “fringe shift,” and this fringe shift would confirm the absolute motion of the Earth. Indeed, by rotating the table, one could use the maximum fringe shift to show the direction of the Earth’s motion, and also to establish experimentally the speed at which it passes through the ether. (For further discussion, click here)
In the annals of physics the results of this experiment have been described as “convulsive.” Factoring in the supposed motion of the solar system through space, Michelson and Morley predicted shifts of at least 0.4 of a fringe width. However, the maximum change discovered was only 0.02, and the average change less than 0.01. These results were so close to the margin of instrumental error that the two scientists dismissed them as insignificant. Thinking that the motion of the solar system had perhaps cancelled out the motion of the Earth around the sun, they repeated the experiment six months later. Still no change. Documenting their growing desperation, Philip Stott writes, “They repeated the experiment at all seasons of the year. They repeated it all times of the day and night. They repeated it in Berlin, in Chicago, on the tops of mountains, and everywhere. No fringe shift.”
And such would be the case for years to come: The interferometers—built with ever increasing sophistication—would continually register very small fringe shifts, enough perhaps to indicate a slight “ether drift,” but certainly nowhere near enough to vindicate the Copernican notion of an Earth revolving around the sun at 30 km/sec, or a solar system hurtling through space at 300 km/sec. Wrote Michelson when all was done, “This (experiment) directly contradicts the explanation of aberration which has been hitherto accepted, and which presupposes that the Earth moves through the ether, the latter remaining at rest.” Stellar aberration (and parallax) must be traceable, not to the motion of the Earth, but to the motion of the starry heavens!
The Sagnac Experiment
Clearly, the MME supported cosmic geocentrism: the idea that an ether-filled universe is rotating daily around a stationary Earth. However, the geocentric option—which threatened the accumulated “wisdom” of over 300 years of natural science, and which had theistic and biblical implications not at all palatable to most scientists—was simply unthinkable. Therefore, after a short season of more or less desperate theorizing, Albert Einstein advanced what in time would become the accepted way of escape from the geocentric implications MME: the Theory of Special Relativity (SR).
Having grappled with it in my book, I will not pause here to discuss SR. Suffice it to say that in SR Einstein daringly abolished the ether, explaining the “null results” of the MME by arguing that, for reasons unknown, the universe operates in such a way as to keep speed of light [c] kept constant, and that it does this by altering the length, mass, and rate of the passage of time of objects moving relative to one another. Very importantly, this theory rises or falls upon the idea that c is a cosmic constant: that the speed of light remains a constant everywhere in the universe.
Though SR offered (and still offers) no physical explanation for these strange “contractions” of time, length, and mass, many scientists joined with Einstein (and still do). But George Sagnac (1869-1928) had his doubts. A true scientist, he wanted to put Einstein’s theory to the test. So he constructed a special interferometer designed to ascertain whether or not c really is constant at all times. Describing the experiment, Philip Stott writes:
Sagnac built a turn-table with mirrors on it arranged in such a way that a beam of light was split into two beams. One was reflected from mirror to mirror anticlockwise around the table, the other reflected around clockwise. After a complete circuit the beams were recombined in a camera to give interference fringes. Looking at it in a very simplified way, when the table was set spinning there was known to be movement: the beam going round with the turn-table’s rotation would be chasing the camera (which is moving away at speed v) with a relative speed of c-v, whereas the beam going against the rotation would approach the camera “head on” with a relative speed of c+v. If the basic assumptions of SR were correct—with c+v = c-v, and no ether—then there should be no fringe shift. But there was.
Notably, the so-called Sagnac Effect is observed daily by technicians maintaining the Global Positioning Satellite System. Signals arriving from a satellite approaching a ground station do so 50 nanoseconds sooner than those from a satellite receding from the station, though the distances traveled are the same. Thus, in a rotating system, c clearly travels at different speeds—so predictably that if the GPS computers do not compensate for this effect, the system will not work.
In sum, Sagnac showed that c is not always constant, the ether does exist, and the theory of SR is false. (For an animation of the Sagnac Experiment, click here)
The Michelson-Gale Experiment
Performed a few years after the MME, this was yet another experiment designed to test for the existence of the ether. Stott describes it as follows:
[Michelson and Gale] built a tunnel of pipe sections at Chicago. The tunnel was in the form of a large rectangle. They reasoned that if there were an ether, then the rotation of the earth from west to east through the ether should cause a beam of light traveling clockwise round the tunnel to take slightly less time to get around than a beam traveling anticlockwise. If there were no ether, then both beams would take the same time. They measured a difference. Existence of ether established.
In my book, In Search of the Beginning, I list a number of other experiments, observations, and theoretical considerations indicating that c in the universe is not constant, that the ether definitely does exist, and that SR is therefore in error.2 But to admit that is also to admit that Earth may indeed be at rest in the center of all.
Arguments Based on Theory
In proposing theories, scientists are trying to supply us with models: ways of thinking about the nature and behavior of the natural world. Hopefully, these models will not only help us understand our world, but also enable us to develop technologies useful to mankind. For many years the geocentric model has been out of favor, so much so that most people consider it a relic of the past. However, as we are about to see, for quite some time stubborn natural phenomena are forcing theoreticians to reconsider the heliocentric model of the solar system, and the acentric model of the universe. Not only so, these same phenomena are also forcing them to consider afresh the geocentric model of the universe. Let’s to a closer look.
The Trend Towards Relativity
First up in this part of our discussion is modern trend towards relativity—a trend that, paradoxically enough, restores geocentrism as a fresh and viable cosmological option.
To understand this point, let us consider for a moment the crucial role of the presuppositions that we bring to the study of the cosmos. We know, for example, that in the West medieval cosmology was grounded upon a biblically-based metaphysical presupposition, a presupposition that—with the help of Ptolemy—endured until the time of Copernicus: cosmic geocentrism. However, with Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, that presupposition changed: Now the sun stood at the center of a finite material universe, while Earth rotated on its axis and revolved around the sun beneath “the fixed stars.” Later on, Kant retained a cosmic center, but denied pride of place to our solar system. After that, theoretical cosmology more or less abandoned the idea of a cosmic center, realizing that it was indeed a presupposition, and that the methods of natural science could not, in any case, discover or demonstrate a center, since, according to the Galilean/Newtonian principle of relativity, we are unable to determine absolute motion or rest by direct observation. Finally, Einstein stepped up and made what is surely an enormous philosophical and scientific faux pas: Daringly, he introduced a new metaphysical presupposition: absolute relativity. According to this presupposition, there is no such thing as absolute motion or rest, a presupposition which entails that a cosmic center cannot exist. Modern seekers of cosmological truth should understand that in our day the twin presuppositions of absolute relativity and an a-centric cosmos rule the scientific roost.
Said Dr. Arnold Sikkema:
No physicist I know says that the Earth in any absolute sense travels around the sun . . . Science today does not claim that there is an absolute reference frame in which the Earth is moving. Newton thought that, but after Einstein, no informed scientist still makes that claim.
Similarly, Bertrand Russell wrote:
Whether the Earth rotates once a day from west to east, as Copernicus taught, or the heavens revolve once a day from east to west, as his predecessors believed, the observed phenomena will be exactly the same. This shows a defect in the Newtonian dynamics, since an empirical science ought not to contain a metaphysical assumption [i.e., presupposition].
This is a most revealing statement. Because of the modern trend towards relativity, Mr. Russell faults Newton’s cosmology as unscientific. He asserts that an empirical science (e.g., cosmology) ought not to contain a metaphysical assumption (i.e., Newton’s assumption of absolute heliocentricity). However, if this is so, then surely cosmology ought not to assume absolute relativity. True, we cannot observe absolute rest or motion. Nor can we observe the center of the universe (if indeed there is one). But do these observational limitations really justify our saying that absolute rest, absolute motion, and an absolute cosmic center absolutely do not exist? Surely not, for again, that would be to introduce exactly what Mr. Russell condemns: a metaphysical assumption—a metaphysical presupposition of absolute relativity. This is what Einstein did in his General Theory of Relativity. But, says Russell, he was quite unscientific in doing it. For in the end, the post-Copernican trend towards relativity does not rule out the possibility of absolute motion, absolute rest, or an absolute center; it only confronts us with our inability to observe or ascertain them scientifically. Accordingly, the modern trend towards relativity does not rule out a geocentric universe.
Happily, some modern cosmologists are wise and honest enough to admit this. They include men like S. Hawking and G. Ellis, who confessed that it is impossible to do cosmology without metaphysical assumptions; that their preferred a-centric universe contains an “admixture of ideology”; that they have arbitrarily embraced a “democratic” view of the cosmos, rather than grant to the Earth or to mankind any special place therein. Similarly, we have the words of Sir Fred Hoyle, who declared—albeit rather reluctantly—“The Earth-centered hypothesis is as good as anybody else’s, but no better.” Here, Hoyle speaks for all clear-thinking relativists, openly admitting that the modern trend towards relativity has not ruled out cosmic geocentrism, but has in fact made it a viable cosmological option once again.
However, in one respect Hoyle is surely mistaken. For what if an ever-growing mass of direct observational evidence actually favors the geocentric view? Furthermore, what if the Creator of the cosmos has given us a well-attested scriptural revelation that positively teaches this view? Under such circumstances would not the geocentric model become, far and away, the better hypothesis—and therefore the most reasonable to believe?
The Proliferation of Geocentric Modeling
Since the idea of relativity leads inexorably to a fresh consideration of cosmic geocentrism (and therefore quite possibly to its own demise), it should hardly surprise us that 20th century physics is marked by a noteworthy proliferation of geocentric models. I will briefly discuss them here.
In order to be viable, any model of the cosmos must satisfy two basic criteria. First, it must “save the appearances.” That is, it must enable us to understand and even predict the observed motions and appearances of the heavenly bodies (e.g., the path and phases of the moon, the path of the sun, the Earth’s four seasons, the path of the planets, the retrograde motion of the planets, various “perturbations” of the planets, the path of the stars, etc). Down through the years Ptolemy gave us one such system of celestial kinematics, Copernicus another, Tycho Brahe yet another, and Kepler and Newton another still, until at last the modern turn to relativity seemed to eliminate any hope of arriving at a definitive picture of the actual structure of the cosmos. Might a renewed confidence in the geocentric cosmology of the Bible supply us with such a picture? Perhaps. But for it to do so, it must—like any good model—“save the appearances.”
Secondly, a viable cosmology will also seek to give us a plausible system of celestial mechanics and dynamics. That is, it will try to explain the physical reasons for the diverse motions of the heavenly bodies. Are these bodies attached to revolving crystal spheres that are propelled by angels? Are they moved by invisible gravitational, centrifugal, and Coriolis forces acting at a distance? Are they rolling around in pockets of curved space-time (whatever that might mean)? Or are they carried along by a dense but invisible ether, rather like fish in a revolving fishbowl, or like boats in a whirlpool? Only heaven knows for sure. But on Earth, we do know that the model with the greatest explanatory and predictive power normally carries the day—until a better one comes along.
Again, the twentieth century has witnessed a surprising proliferation of basically geocentric models of the cosmos, all of which attempt to address the above concerns. Very importantly, the majority of these are “secular,” having been developed by scientists with no explicit interest in, or appeal to, divine revelation. Examples here include the work of P. Gerber, H. Thirring, G. Brown, G. Birkhoff, P. Moon and D. Spencer, J. Nightingale, J. Barbour and B. Bertotti, G. F. Ellis, D. Lynden-Bell, and others. The common component in all or most of these models is Mach’s Principle: the idea that if the universe is indeed a bounded sphere rotating around the Earth, this cosmic rotation will somehow generate inertial forces more or less identical with those we associate with heliocentric physics and cosmology: centrifugal, centripetal, coriolis, and Euler. After agreeing on this, each embarks in its own direction. Some are based on Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, others upon classical Newtonian mechanics, others still upon newer physical models. After discussing a number of these, Christian astronomer G. Bouw concludes:
All of these physicists (and there is not a geocentric Christian in the bunch) conclude that there is no detectable, experimental difference between having the Earth spin diurnally on an axis as well as orbit the sun once a year, or having the universe rotate about the Earth once a day and possessing a wobble centered on the sun, which [i.e., the sun] carries the planets and stars about the Earth once a year. In none of these models would the universe fly apart, nor would a stationary satellite fall to the earth. In every one of these models the astronauts on the moon would still see all sides of the Earth in the course of 24 hours, the Foucault pendulum would still swing exactly the same way as we see it in museums, and the Earth’s equator would still bulge. In other words, each of these effects is due to either the centrifugal force, Coriolis force, or some combination of the two, and can be totally explained in any geocentric model.
Such considerations are likely the kind of thing English astronomer G. F. Ellis had in mind when he said, “I can construct you a spherically symmetrical universe with Earth at its center and you cannot disprove it based on observations.”
Encouraged by these developments, biblically-oriented scientists and philosophers have stepped forward as well. Modern biblical geocentrists include the father of the movement, W. van der Kamp (1913-1998), the heir to his mantle, Dr. Gerardus Bouw, and a growing cadre of thoughtful colleagues including Dr. Russell Arndts, Dr. Robert Bennett, R. G. Elmendorf, Dr. J. Hansen, Dr. Martin Selbrede, Philip Stott, and Dr. Robert Sungenis. Most of these men have daringly devoted a significant portion of their career attempting to rescue modern physics and cosmology from their thralldom to Relativity Theory, hoping to restore them once again to what they see as their true and proper foundation: the geocentric cosmology of the Bible. Their friends call them prophets, their opponents call them “windmill tilters.” Each seeker will have to decide for himself which description fits best.
Most biblical geocentrists (but not all) champion a slightly modified version of Tycho Brahe’s Earth-centered cosmos, sometimes referred to as the Neo-Tychonic Model (NTM). If we limit ourselves simply to the kinematic side of the model (i.e., to a description of the motions of the heavenly bodies), it is fairly easy to understand. Here, the Earth stands motionless at the center of the universal sphere. The moon, whose orbit wobbles slightly over the course a month, revolves around it daily. As for the planets, they do indeed orbit the sun. But since the sun itself is embedded in the ether, it too, like the moon, revolves daily around the Earth. And since the stars, galaxies, and other astronomical bodies are all “centered on the sun” (that is, embedded with the central sun in the same ethereal frame), it appears to us as if the sun were carrying the entire universe around the Earth. Thus, the Earth truly is at the center, since the moon, the sun, the planets, the stars, the galaxies—the universe as a whole—all revolve around the Earth once a day!
Kinematically speaking, this model is the exact equivalent of the traditional heliocentric view, but with the Earth standing still and everything else in motion. Accordingly, its proponents argue that it does everything the traditional model does. In particular, it is held to account for the observed motions of the planets (including their retrograde motions), the phases of the planets, the phases of the moon, and stellar parallax, commonly held to be one of the definitive proofs of heliocentrism. But as we are about to see, it may do even more, since the NTM is uniquely able to accommodate the various observational evidences favorable to cosmic geocentrism, and since it also proffers a fresh, holistic understanding of the physics of the universe.
Turning now to the dynamic side of the NTM, we find considerably less agreement and considerably more speculation, some of which is quite challenging for the layman to understand. We cannot, however, overly fault the geocentrists on this point, since, unbeknownst to many, the situation in the larger scientific community is certainly no better, and perhaps worse. Yes, with the help of Newton’s equations any physicist can give a basic mathematical description of how gravity and inertial forces work (on the Earth, at least). But the well-kept secret of modern science is that there is little if any agreement as to why, physically speaking, they work as they do—and no end to the resulting hypotheses and speculations about them. Here, then, is where the geocentrists may actually have a leg up on their secular peers: Though they are not yet fully united around a single theory of cosmic dynamics, they are at least pretty much agreed in eschewing the bizarre relativistic world of Einstein in favor of a simple, underlying physical cause for the dynamics of celestial motion.
To get a feel for this cause, let us briefly consider some of Robert Sungenis’ thoughts about the structure of the cosmos. According to Sungenis, the Earth lies at the center of a spherical rotating universe full of ether particles. He likens this universe to an immense gyroscope whose enormous mass locks the central Earth in place in the midst of all. But what exactly does he mean by “the universe” and “the mass of the universe”?