Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Modern day Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos

A regular preacher at Union Gospel Mission with the unlikely first name of Darwin – Darwin Ellis – told us last night that End Times are near, beginning with an era of terrible tribulation. The Enemy, Satan, is amassing his soldiers and we must be warriors to confront his evil. Horrible times are coming very very soon. We must make ready.

A depiction of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace. Jesus is there as the Fourth Being, protecting the three Israeli boys from the deadly flames.
Or, I should say, he alluded to all that in the most foggy, frustrating and obscure ways possible.

Guys in the chapel seats weighed in with approval [“Amen!” “Praise Jesus!”] here and there as Ellis spoke of supporting Jesus, following Jesus and preparing for difficult battles, but nobody can have known what he was really talking about. The Enemy, in terms of the Who and What of the organizations and people of today was left out. In was a sermon minus anything specific. It was obscurity lost in a foggy mist of obscurity. WHAT are you talking about!?

The Scripture Ellis read from had to do with Shaddrach, Meshach and Abednego, the Israeli boys who were loyal to God, angering King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who had them tossed into an impossibly-hot furnace. But because of their loyal, abiding faith, they were protected, and could be seen with a fourth being, Jesus, protecting them from the lick of the flames.

And, thus, according to Ellis, we in the mission congregation should be modernday Shadrachs, Meshachs and Abednegos, faithful and courageous, unafraid in the face of a coming cataclysm.

What WAS Ellis talking about!?

For months now Ellis has been on the same topic, spoken in increasingly obscure ways. But in his first sermons on the topic of “preparation for tribulations,” I’ll call it, last October and December, he was somewhat specific on who all were in Satan’s Camp.

Here, from my notes,
Ellis's October sermon was opaque to us, seeming to have to do with serious criticisms he had about specific, unnamed other preachers who were "wolves in shephards' clothing."

Ellis's Dec message was that a spiritual war is immanent -- but from the details it sounded like he meant a political war. He used 1 Kings 18: 20-40 as being prophetic of a coming war, with enemies including those relating to the worshipers of Baal and Ashteroth/Astarte (which, he said, translates, today, to supporters of Universal Heathcare, sex, sexual immorality, and ecology/'supporters of efforts to confront Global Warming') Reaction from the congregation was silent to cold, with the exception of just a few. Ellis made evident his disappointment at not being better received.
The cover story for Time magazine's Apr 25, 2011, issue was about Pastor Rob Bell of Mars Hill, a megachurch in Michigan.
Last night, Ellis again alluded to preachers who were the enemy, citing those who lived Large [though that’s not how he termed it] and some unspecific preacher(s) who has/have mega-churches. Possibly, though he didn’t say so, Rob Bell, who is getting a lot of press lately, and is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, a megachurch in Michigan, is on Ellis’ mind as an Enemy of God.

Ellis said of these Enemies that they make the Good sound Bad and the Bad sound Good. Bell is in the news for his books that certainly seem to confront traditional Christianity. His latest, Love Wins, denies the existence of Hell and (from what I understand) preaches a Universalist message that the good news of the Gospel is "better than we could ever imagine."  Also, from what I've just learned online, Bell is one of several central figures in the so-called Emergent Village Movement that teaches many things that confront standard Christianity.

A critic of Bell, tells me that these are some of the principles of Emergent Village:
1. There is no hell. (In one of Bell's books prior to Love Wins he refers to hell as a temporary state of "Pruning".)
2. We should accept the “truths” of another religion and another can accept the truths of Christianity while staying in their own religion and by doing that, we will all go to Heaven.
3. The Bible is up for interpretation.
4. Virgin birth of Jesus was not necessary.
5. Cannot define when same sex marriage would be illegitimate.
6. People who believe in the second coming of Christ are distorted, deadly and terrible, blaming the Middle East conflict on those who believe in the second coming of Christ.
7. Fundamental Christians are harmful in the fact that they believe in the end of the world, and contribute to it’s destruction, thus bringing in a “self-fulfilling prophesy” when we “should” be trying to preserve the earth and nature.
8. God is a “chick”. Etc…
9. They teach that Islam and Christianity believe in the same God.
10. Their main focus is obviously, interfaith coupled with good works of men and purpose for living
apart from foundational truths found in The Bible.

I can't really confirm any of this [I have "requested" Love Wins from the Sacramento Public Library and will report on it when I have had an opportunity to read it.].  And, I don't know if Bell and the Emergent Movement is a target in Ellis's sermons.

What I do think is that preachers at the mission have an obligation to be rather specific when they are rallying us to confront Enemies of Christianity/Jesus that they have identified.

My friend, Steve, has been wholly impressed with Darwin Ellis in the past, but unfortunately he wasn't in attendance for the sermon last night.  I will be interested in his thoughts since he is particularly knowledgable about Scripture.

For my part, I am troubled by both what I read online about Bell and about critics of Bell.  Also, I should disclose, I am centrally Buddhist, but am what I term a "Skyhooks Buddhist" -- a believer that life is not wholly pushed up from the ground [in a reductionist understanding of evolution] put "pulled" upward by something I try to understand.  My effort to understand what "pulls us up" is ongoing and the basis of a great interest in Christianity.

I will post again on this expanded topic as information comes forward.

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