The Destroying Angel Comes to First Fairview
…The angel could not believe what he had just heard. There must be some misunderstanding—a possibility heightened by the fact that, contrary to the doctrines of some fundamentalist churches, English is not the divine language.
“You,” he asked carefully, “know better than what God has said through the human authors in His inspired Word?”
“I see,” the pastor replied, “that you have not only an enlightenment-bound understanding of language that leans too heavily on authorial intent, but, more importantly, that your understanding of God’s revelation is static. I won’t say that’s bad, but static things are not good. Dynamic things are good.”
“I don’t think that’s—”
“God is still speaking,” the pastor said.
“Yes, of course God is still speaking.” The destroying angel began to feel frustrated by this interchange. “But when you say that, you seem to be suggesting that God has spoken things to you that are entirely contrary to what God has spoken in the Scriptures.”
“Never place a period where God has placed a comma.”
“That…what…it seems to me…” the angel had to try several times to choose a constructive response to the pastor’s sloganeering. “While one ought not place a period where God has placed a comma—or a semicolon, ellipsis, or em-dash for that matter—it would be at least equally offensive to place a comma where God has placed a period. But these hypothetical metaphorical punctuation marks are all your own invention anyway, to justify adding to what God has said. The church universal has held a closed cannon for the greater part of two millennia. Granted the ending of John’s apocalypse references only his letter and not the entirety of the Scriptures, oughtn’t it disincline you to add or take away from the words of God?
“Perhaps more to the point,” the angel continued, “I wonder how you reconcile your theology with the stern warning of Galatians 1:8, or—”
“Well, that’s a matter of interpretation, now isn’t it?” the pastor said.
“No, I don’t…how would it be? Surely there can only be one correct interpretation of so straight-forward a passage.”
“Ah,” the minister said, “Here we find another area, good fellow, where you simply aren’t up with the times. The church in the modern world has come to realize that rather than there being one correct interpretation of the Scriptures, there are many faithful interpretations.”
“That is nonsensical,” the angel said, “I suppose you think there are many faithful interpretations of the command not to steal, or that there are many faithful interpretations of the fact that God declares murder wrong?”
“No. All these ridiculous things you’re saying are excuses for your desire to accommodate worldly sensibilities while still claiming to be Christian. It’s deplorable!”
“I understand that’s how you feel,” the pastor said, “and I’ll grant you we’ve made some moves away from traditional Christianity—always reforming, as the motto goes—”
“Corruption is not the same thing as reformation,” the angel objected.
But the pastor paid no heed. “—and though we’ve moved away from some elements of traditional Christianity, I personally believe that we’ve come closer to the heart of real biblical Christianity: as the apostle James said, “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
“The verse finishes,” the angel said severely, “‘and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’”
So saying the destroying angel departed, weary and bewildered, but ultimately satisfied that there was no need for his efforts here. The foundations of the church had been eroded away till only the frailest tinder remained. He felt sure that the next reading of the book, the faintest whisper of the Scriptures opening, would finish the old and broken church. The rotted clapboards would crumble away beneath the weight of that high-mounted cross, and it would come crashing down, down, down and stand amid the ruins a more eloquent testimony than any words the pulpit had put forth for decades past.