You know what I mean by “dark places,” of course.
This one hit home recently, as it happens. What do I mean when I refer to such people? Let me set some background.
As regular readers know, I hold to some views that are atypical with respect to the average churchgoer. I am a orthodox preterist that doesn’t buy into the standard end-times package of a big anti-guy stamping people on the forehead. I don’t think the flames of hell are literal, but are metaphors for shame. I can’t be pinned any sure place on the TULIP range. And so on.
Recently, I shared my views on one of these issues on which I diverge, with a local pastor, who I'll call Roscoe. Roscoe indicated that he didn’t agree with me, because he preferred to take the word of Jesus at seriously on the subject. (As if I don’t. But I didn’t say that.) I invited him to consider an article I wrote on the subject. A little later, he wrote me asking for a copy of that article, which I sent.
The next thing I heard wasn’t from Roscoe. It was from my local ministry partner, who informed me that Roscoe had “tattled” on me to my own pastor. Apparently I was to be regarded as some sort of danger because I held to one of these views.
So far, I haven’t had a call from the Inquisition, much less my pastor (who already knew I held to this view). I’m glad to say that it doesn’t look like there will be any negative consequences in the end concerning this; my ministry partner is brokering the resolution for me, and my pastor may even be interested in hearing more about my position.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Roscoe has a serious problem that he needs to get over, and that he is representative of a way of thinking that ultimately deserves our derision and scorn.
I’m not alone in this kind of encounter, of course. In fact just this past week one of my readers wrote me with this comment, after I told him what was going on with me:
Kind of weird the timing with that, because I gave a talk to a youth group in my church last month on Christian eschatology, that I recently was grilled by my church’s pastor and the youth pastor on. They were afraid I was "confusing" the kids with "academic gibberish.”
Hmm. How much you want to bet it was the pastors who were confused by the "academic gibberish"? People with heads in dark places, indeed. And they’re part of the reason we can’t make any progress: They cling ferociously and closed-mindedly to their views, insisting that any variation is dangerous and that we who hold to these views are misleading the flock. In reality, the objectors are control freaks who are frightened of a teaching they can’t understand and which they are helpless to respond to. (That's also bad because you can be just as sure they can't respond intelligently to something like Mormonism, either.)
By the way…
If you want to condemn me for my preterism, you also condemn R. C. Sproul, Hank Hanegraaff, and scholars like Ken Gentry.
If you want to condemn me for my views on hell, you also condemn C. S. Lewis, J. P. Moreland, and even (gulp) Billy Graham.
Also by the way....with these "dark places" sorts there also frequently comes a sort of dishonorable cowardice. I said that Roscoe contacted my pastor, but that was not the first person he contacted. The first person was a respected retired pastor, but that person didn't think I was a threat, so he ignored Roscoe's protest. I might add that Roscoe asked this pastor to keep his objection anonymous. Hmm, I guess Matthew 18 is missing from his Bible? More than that, did he think I wouldn't be able to connect the dots if, as he apparently dreamed would happen, this influential retired pastor got in touch with me?
Retired Pastor: "JP, I've had a word from a certain party who wishes to remain anonymous that you teach X." JPH: "Oh gee. Let me see. How many people have I talked to in the last 6 months who have objected to X, who would contact YOU?"
The Bible says that the condemned end up in the “outer darkness”. I suppose we could say that these people have already made it to “inner darkness”.
They’ll find their eternal toilet brush in there somewhere, too.