Back in the early 1940s when I was courting my wife, Alva, who is now in heaven, I met what I thought was all of her relatives living in California.
It wasn’t until well into my time as Senior Pastor at the Chapel in the Pines that I found out that her proud family had a member that they sort of pretended didn’t exist. That member was Uncle Ellis (I only knew him by his first name). Let me tell you the story.
I had just persuaded the Chapel Trustees to buy a Video Camcorder to improve our audio-visual capability. I unpacked the equipment and read the instructions about the time we were scheduled to leave on our vacation. We planned to visit our parents in Southern California. I decided to take the camcorder along and learn how to use it during the course of our vacation.
We spent several days with Alva’s parents, Mom and Dad Sawyer. While there, Dad presented us with the deed to a property in Oceanside, California. It consisted of a very old, very tiny house on a very tiny lot several blocks from the beach. The whole neighborhood was of similar little houses (perhaps “cabins” would be more accurate), amateur-built of scrap materials, and a nightmare to maintain. He explained that Uncle Ellis had owned it, but had some emergency financial needs. He asked Dad to buy the house from him to give him the needed money, but give him a life-estate to live there till he died. Then Dad could sell the house and recoup his money. Dad consented, so he then owned the house with Uncle Ellis entitled to live there till he died. Dad never mentioned what he paid for the property but it had to be forty thousand or less, otherwise we would have had to pay gift tax upon receiving it from Dad and Mom. Dad just didn’t want to be bothered with it, so he and Mom turned it over to us. From then on our vacation generally included a trip to Oceanside to do maintenance on that little old house.
Anyway, we decided to go see the property, meet Uncle Ellis, and tell him we were his new landlord/landlady. I found out we had something in common. I was a Pastor, and he was a retired Pastor. I asked him if he minded if I videotaped our conversation, as I needed to practice using the new equipment. It didn’t bother him a bit, and he launched a commentary on a favorite topic, that the earth is actually flat. I kid you not. I thought to myself, “My first documentary is going to be a home run!” He went on to say that the moon landings were phony and had been staged on a movie set.
As we drove back Alva told me the sad story. Uncle Ellis had been raised in the Methodist Church, and was a committed Christian, who felt called to the ministry. When he finished his education he was ordained and began his ministry as a Methodist pastor. He was a stickler for believing that the Bible meant what it said:
- Isaiah 11:12, “He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
- Rev. 7:1, “After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.”
- Rev. 20:8, “And will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.”
No figure of speech for Uncle Ellis, it is obvious that a sphere doesn’t have any corners-case closed! Obviously the Methodist Church didn’t endorse his position. And at the same time the Methodist churches (in northern USA, not in the south) were buying into German rationalism: the Bible is a bunch of myths, not the word of God; science has made traditional religions obsolete; man was evolved, not created; man is basically good, etc. Uncle Ellis had a serious mental breakdown and quit the ministry with a broken heart. He was faithful to the Gospel, and I have no doubt that up in heaven Jesus has perfectly healed his broken heart. I have an idea that he was on the reception committee when Alva arrived in heaven on June 9, 2013.
If you can believe it, there are still Flat Earth Societies. Here is an excerpt from an article on the internet:
“Modern flat Earth societies are modern societies that are based on the belief that the Earth is flat. Modern flat Earth hypotheses originated with the English writer Samuel Rowbotham (1816–1884). Based on his conclusions derived from the Bedford Level experiment, Rowbotham published a 16-page pamphlet, Zetetic Astronomy, which he later expanded into a 430-page book, Earth Not a Globe.”
When we got back to Dad and Mom Sawyer’s home I told Mom she would be interested in the video I had shot at Uncle Ellis’ house. She said, “Oh no!” as she covered her face. I tried to play it back on the camcorder’s screen, but it wouldn’t come up. Investigation showed, to my chagrin, that I had not put a tape cartridge into the camcorder. Mom gave a hearty “Praise the Lord!”
In all fairness to Uncle Ellis’ flat earth doctrine, it would solve one of our problems associated with a spherical earth, that is, “Where is heaven?” No problem with hell, in both scenarios it is down. If the earth is flat, heaven is up. If the earth is a sphere, and heaven is up to me, then to someone on the other side of the earth both hell and heaven are down. To make matters worse, we spherical people believe that the earth is rotating once every twenty-four hours. That means that if heaven is up to me at noon, it will be down to me at midnight (through the earth at my feet and out the other side). Thus none of us sphericals can really know where heaven is because it is changing all the time. Woe.
Let’s see-which of the flat-earth societies will be the best one for me to join?