Night of the Antinomian

Posted on November 17, 2004 by Jenna

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“I don’t know,” says Sarah to her boyfriend, James. “These woods are pretty spooky.”

“It’ll be all right,” James says. He takes her in his arms. He kisses her. “There’s nothing here that could hurt us.”

The earth shakes, once. His hands draw off her sweater and her top.

“But is it wrong?” she asks him.

“No,” he says. He shakes his head.

The earth shakes, again. Birds burst into flight.

“Nothing good people do,” he says, “is wrong.”

He fumbles at her bra hooks, without success.

The earth shakes.

Her eyes widen. “James,” she says.

“It’s okay,” he says. “I’ll get it.”

“No, James. James. James,” she says. “Behind you.”

He turns. He looks. He lets go of her.


He is grasped in a massive hand and hurled upwards into Heaven.

Sarah screams.

Johannes Agricola (1494-1566): a German Protestant reformer, at first welcomed by Martin Luther, but later condemned by Luther and others for his ‘antinomian’ heresy.

“It was, perhaps, a mistake,” Dr. Oboli admits.

“Pardon?” asks General McCoy.

“It might have been a mistake. To harvest the genetic material of Johannes Agricola, and bring him back to life—fifty times his normal size!”

“Yes,” General McCoy says flatly. “Yes, it might have been.”

“I honestly didn’t think he’d ever escape the lab,” Dr. Oboli protests.

“Spilled milk, Dr. Oboli. Spilled milk. Tell us what we’re up against.”

“It’s probably the greatest threat ever to face humanity,” Dr. Oboli frets. “Historically, antinomians and humans have been able to coexist only because we were just as big as the antinomians and could kill them if we had to. But Johannes Agricola is already dead, and he’s also very large.”

“Large enough,” General McCoy asks, “to physically fling the saved into Heaven?”

“Exactly,” says Dr. Oboli. “No one is safe.”

“What about the sinners?” asks General McCoy, practically. “I mean, aren’t they safe? What if we buy some kind of golden calf from a military supplier and everyone worships it until the problem is resolved?”

“It won’t work,” Dr. Oboli moans. “Antinomians aren’t like ordinary Christians. They don’t care about sin any more than they care about good works. To Johannes Agricola, you’re either saved or damned from the moment that you’re born. It’s a doctrine of arbitrary judgment!”

Antinomianism: the doctrine that those who God has already chosen to spare will find grace, and those he has not, will not, and that therefore the saved are ultimately free to commit whatever crimes and sins they like. In short: believers have a blank check from God, whether or not they choose to cash it.

Bud and Ernest are soldiers.

“When General McCoy said to search this region,” Ernest says, “I don’t think he meant for you to go into the church, alone, carrying only a candle.”

Bud looks embarrassed.

“I mean, that just seems—dangerous.”

“I’m not really doing it to look for Agricola,” Bud says. “I just want to pray at the stained glass window by candlelight.”

“Wouldn’t a mosque be safer? There won’t be any giant undead antinomians there.”

“What are the chances that of all the churches in this little town, he’d be hiding out in this one?”

Ernest shrugs. “Point,” he admits. He stands and watches nervously as Bud goes into the church, alone, carrying a candle.

“Oh, no!” shouts Bud. He is seized by the giant hand of Johannes Agricola. He is flung through the stained glass window and in a great arc up to Heaven.

“I always thought,” whispers Ernest. “I always thought, in my heart, that I had God’s grace.”

The earth shakes. Ernest pulls out his gun. He points it, hands shaking, towards the church.


The earth shakes. The great doors of the church creak open, like paper pushed by a child.

“No!” Ernest shouts. “I don’t want to go to Heaven!”

He fires desperately, bullets embedding themselves uselessly in Agricola’s reanimated flesh. Then he runs. He runs before Agricola can see his grace.

Ere suns and moons could wax and wane;
Ere stars were thundergirt, or plied the heavens,
God thought on me his child;
Ordained a life for me, arrayed
Its circumstances every one
To the minutest; ay, God said
This head this hat should rest upon
Thus, ere he fashioned star or sun.

— “Johannes Agricola in Meditation,” by Robert Browning

“What I’m thinking,” says Mr. Brown, “is Agricola Cola.”

“What?” General McCoy asks.

“We don’t have to fear a giant undead antinomian. Instead, we can market him. ‘The risk of sudden enHeavening,’ we’ll say, ‘is just one of the perks of delicious Agricola Cola.'”

“Why will that help?” General McCoy asks, blankly.

“Well,” Mr. Brown says, “the problem isn’t people going to Heaven. People do that every day. The problem is that people are afraid. Resolve that fear, and suddenly Johannes Agricola is no longer a threat—just a friendly giant givin’ people a hand.”

“Get out of my sight,” General McCoy says. “And I hope you’re saved.”

Mr. Brown scowls. General McCoy stares him down. After a moment, Mr. Brown flees.

I have God’s warrant, could I blend
All hideous sins, as in a cup,
To drink the mingled venoms up;
Secure my nature will convert
The draught to blossoming gladness.

— “Johannes Agricola in Meditation,” by Robert Browning

“All right,” General McCoy says to his troops. “We’ve got a problem.”

He taps the tactical map behind him with a pointer. It shows the town, and a big question mark, and a little airplane.

“We have no idea where Johannes Agricola is,” General McCoy says. He taps the question mark with his pointer. “He’s picking us off one by one, and he’s immune to ordinary gunfire. But he’s just one giant undead antinomian. We still have time to set a trap.”

“Yes, sir!” snap his soldiers.

General McCoy moves the pointer to the airplane. “This is our problem,” he says. “Word is spreading to the other undead. Dracula. Living Dead Guy. The ‘love zombie’. Our media scouts say that one of them is already flying into the area. They’re interested in this antinomianism. There’s a real chance that Agricola can convert them to his doctrine of licentiousness and vice.”

“What about Dracula’s three handmaidens?” a soldier asks.

“They converted to Islam some time ago,” General McCoy says. “The burkha protects them from the terrible light of the sun, but also nullifies their infernal seductive appeal and silky lingerie. They are no longer a threat.”

The soldier nods.

“Even so,” General McCoy says, “we need to act fast. Dr. Oboli has created a ‘clean nuke’ that only kills antinomians. But it’s a stationary mine and only has a thirty foot radius. So we need to bring him to us. Which means we need bait.”

He clears his throat.

“Are any of you, ah, bound for Heaven?”

The soldiers shuffle their feet. PFC Morgan lifts his hand, but only halfway.

“Morgan?” asks General McCoy.

“I try to be a good person,” Morgan says. “I mean, there’s some whoring and cursing. But other than that.”

General McCoy surveys the soldiers. Ernest, standing in the back, keeps his hand at his side. His face is anguished. He will let PFC Morgan die.

“Very well, Morgan,” McCoy says. “We’ll stake you out for the antinomian.”

“Do you think he’ll come?” Morgan asks.

General McCoy stalks forward. He rips Morgan’s shirt open, artfully, to display the PFC’s Russell Crowe-like chest.

“He must,” says General McCoy.

Wer anderen eine Grube gräbt, fällt selbst hinein.
(“He who digs a hole for another, falls into it himself.”)

— Johannes Agricola

The earth shakes.

“He’s getting closer,” whispers Dr. Oboli. “He’s getting closer.”

“He will go for Morgan, won’t he?” the general asks.

“It is not for science to say who can be saved.”

The earth shakes.

Morgan is tied to a post in a forest glen. He is a sacrifice to the antinomian. Next to him is the clean nuke. All around him, hiding in the shadows, are the soldiers of General McCoy.

PFC Morgan is praying.

“God,” he says, “please don’t take me. I want to come to you. But gently. I don’t want to be flung.”

The earth shakes.

“Please,” whispers Morgan to the sky. “Not this way.”

Johannes Agricola stands in the glen. He towers over the soldiers. He looks down at Morgan. Then he looks away. His eyes scan through the trees. His giant hand reaches down.

“He’s not going for Morgan!” General McCoy shouts. “Abort! Retry! Fail!”

Ernest looks up. He sees the shadow of the hand. And suddenly he knows.

“General,” he shouts. “He’s here for me!”

And he runs. But not away. He runs into the clearing, and casts himself down upon the nuke.

Johannes Agricola’s hand scoops up Ernest and the nuke alike.

“Trigger it! Trigger it!”

There is a flare of white light.

Johannes Agricola (2004-2004): a giant undead German Protestant reformer, at first loved by Dr. Oboli, but later betrayed by him and utterly destroyed. He flung many people directly into Heaven, as well as one very surprised cat.

“He’s gone,” says Dr. Oboli. “My greatest creation. Gone.”

“I’ve lost a man today,” says General McCoy.

“How can that compare?” says Dr. Oboli. “It was suicide—suicide! Ernest chose the worst possible moment to convert to antinomianism.”

General McCoy’s mouth works. He does not know how to respond to Dr. Oboli’s statement.

“But I,” says the doctor. “I built an antinomian from clay and dust. I created a great thing—a gigantic undead Agricola. And now it is gone. And it shall never return.”

“At least no one else will be flung into Heaven,” says General McCoy.

“Yes,” says Dr. Oboli. “At least no one else was among the saved.”

There is an uncomfortable silence.

It stretches.

“There’s always good works,” General McCoy suggests.