BOOKS: BIBLICAL STUDIES (1500BC-AD70) / EARLY CHRISTIAN PRETERISM (AD50-1000) / FREE ONLINE BOOKS (AD1000-2008)
David S. Clark -The Message From Patmos: A Postmillennial Commentary on the Book of Revelation (1921) "This early twentieth-century Postmillennial commentary on the Book of Revelation, written by the father of theologian Gordon Clark, offers an easy-to-read alternative to the popular Pre-millennial/Dispensational views of the best-selling Scofield Reference Bible and a multitude of other dissertations on end-time prophecy that litter the shelves of Christian bookstores. "
A Brief Reponse to the Full Preterist Criticisms of Dr. Kelly Nelson Birks
By Keith A. Mathison
Because this is a point-by-point response to Dr. Birksí criticisms, it will be easier to follow if the reader has already completed his paper. It should also be noted that although it has been necessary in the course of this response to occasionally offer further criticisms of full preterism, no attempt has been made here to provide an exhaustive critique of this system of theology. I have already stated my opinion on the matter in the appendix that Dr. Birks has critiqued and in a taped conference lecture "Playing With Fire" available from Ligonier Ministries. In addition, I have listed a number of published critiques of full preterism at the end of this paper. It is my prayer that this brief response to Dr. Birksí critique will be of some benefit to readers who have become confused by the over-confident arguments of full preterists.
A Theology of Perfect Imperfection
In the second paragraph of his paper, Dr. Birks expresses his general agreement with a postmillennial framework of eschatology which in his words means that, at Christís second coming after the millennium, "the church of Christ and the world enters into the fullness of the rule of Christ and His church and that the new heavens and the new earth, while [will?] be experienced in all of their eternal fullness and splendor" (emphasis mine). He then correctly points out that the difference between his understanding of postmillennialism and mine is that he sees the second coming as having occurred in AD 70 while I see it as yet to come.
Dr. Birksí definition of postmillennialism reveals one of the primary weaknesses of full preterism. According to his definition, Christís second coming in AD 70 has inaugurated a period of time (eternity?) during which Christís kingdom and rule is experienced in
all of its eternal fullness and splendor. This raises a number of difficulties. For one thing, it renders virtually incomprehensible other full preterist assertions such as the one made by Ed Stevens in his book
What Happened in A.D. 70? He claims that passages such as Ezekiel 47; Daniel 2; and Matthew 13 picture the present age and describe "the victorious conquest of the kingdom over all cultures and nations. This is an
ongoing process" (p. 33, emphasis mine). But if we have been experiencing the rule and kingdom of Christ in
all of its eternal fullness and splendor since AD 70, then it is meaningless to speak of a present ongoing process which
expands Christís rule and kingdom. If the second coming of Christ occurred in AD 70 and if this coming of Christ means that presently we are experiencing Christís kingdom and rule in
all of its fullness, then there is no place for a progressive expansion of Christís rule in either the individual or cosmic spheres. Progressive sanctification (either cosmic or individual) becomes a meaningless concept in a full preterist framework because logical consistency demands absolute perfection. There are no degrees of perfection. We are either experiencing "all" (perfectionism) or we are in the midst of a process of growth (progressive sanctification).
If It Had Been a SnakeÖ
In paragraph 3, Dr. Birks makes the statement that "it is clear that Mr. Mathison is engaged in proving his case against Full Preterism primarily through the means of comparing the doctrine, not to the scriptures to see if it stands up to biblical scrutiny, but rather to the creeds and confessions of the church as they have been enunciated over the centuries." In paragraph 4, following a brief note, he writes, "The critique that Mr. Mathison presents in appendix form is fourteen pages long. What is amazing to this writer is that in fourteen pagesÖhe spends "zero time" exegeting scripture in order to substantiate his own position in opposition to full preterism." Similar charges are repeated throughout Dr. Birks paper.
While I intend throughout this response to give Dr. Birks every benefit of the doubt, I have to say that his comment is very misleading. He fails to inform the reader that out of approximately 250 pages of text, I spent six chapters (or a little over 100 pages) going from Genesis through Revelation exegeting Scripture in order to substantiate my own position. Why Dr. Birks expects me to reproduce 100 pages of text in an appendix is a mystery to me. An appendix is defined in my dictionary as "supplementary material at the end of a book, article, or other text, usually of an explanatory, statistical, or bibliographic nature." The word supplement is defined as "something added to complete a thing, supply a deficiency, or reinforce or extend a whole." In other words, an appendix is not a stand-alone document. The whole book has to be taken into consideration. It is because Dr. Birks has not done this that I believe his insinuation is neither fair nor accurate.
Some of My Best Friends Are Idolators?
In paragraph 5 one of the more confusing characteristics exhibited by full-preterists is illustrated. Dr. Birks writes, "some of the most idolatrous methods of hermeneutical failure is yet to be brought out." Throughout the remainder of the paper I am accused of idolatry, creedolatry, and blasphemy. These are serious accusations which, if true, mean without any doubt that I have no part in the Kingdom of God (cf. I Cor. 6:9-10). And yet, if one looks at the first paragraph of Dr. Birksí paper he commends my first book as a "very important work in the area of helping to sustain those just entering into the truths of [the] Five Points of Calvinism."
Additionally, in private correspondence with other full preterists I have repeatedly heard the following kinds of comments, "We are fighting the same fight as you against the liberals." And "We are in the same foxhole." And "Weíre really on the same side whether you realize it or not." The same people simultaneously accuse me (and other critics of their position) of idolatry, a sin which necessarily excludes us from the Kingdom. Obviously this raises some serious questions. If I am an idolator, why would you want to "be on my side"? Why would you commend the work of an idolator to new Christians or those Christians trying to come to a deeper understanding of Scripture? Why do proponents of full-preterism strive so much to have their position recognized as a legitimate option by those they consider to be idolators? Why would full-preterists care what idolators think? If we are idolators, then full preterists are sinning in their desire to be "on our side in the battle" (e.g. Eph. 5:11; II John 10-11); and if we are not idolators, full preterists are sinning by bearing serious false witness against us (Ex. 20:16; Matt. 19:18). In either case, many full preterists are sinning. This strange phenomenon has little to do with Dr. Birksí actual critique, but it does tend to reveal some profound confusion on the part of many full preterists.
Antipathy to Orthodoxy
Towards the middle of paragraph 5, Dr. Birks raises one of his most significant objections in connection with my quotation of Andrew Sandlinís definition of sola scriptura. Dr. Birks claims that my position "places the reader of sacred scripture at the mercy of fallible men much in the same way the Roman Catholic follower is placed under the directive of the Pope and Bishops of the Roman Church in order for them to understand what scripture means."
Dr. Birks has missed my point which on this issue is very simple and is pointed out in the very appendix that Dr. Birks is critiquing. I simply maintain that the modern American evangelical version of sola scriptura is qualitatively different from the Reformed doctrine. The modern evangelical version of sola scriptura is much closer to the view of Scripture advocated by the radical Reformers - the Anabaptists. The problem is that very few evangelicals are even aware that there is a difference, and therefore any rejection of the Anabaptist/modern evangelical version is automatically interpreted as a rejection of the Reformation. What I wholeheartedly reject is the radically individualistic, relativistic, and subjectivistic version of sola scriptura espoused by the Anabaptists and adopted by modern evangelicals en masse. The Reformersí understanding of Scripture did not entail a complete rejection of the subordinate yet real authority of the Church and the universal creeds. There exists ample documentation for the claim I am making here, and for those readers who may not have a copy of my book and its footnotes, I would suggest the following works as a good place to begin examining the question:
McGrath, Alister E. Reformation Thought: An Introduction. 2d ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 1993 (pp. 134-157).
Muller, Richard A. Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993 (pp. 358-388).
Oberman, Heiko A. "Quo vadis, Petre? Tradition from Irenaeus to Humani Generis." In The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought, 269-296. Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1986.
Dr. Birksí continues by expressing his regret at my assertion that some of the more vocal full preterists seem to be hostile or antagonistic to the orthodox creeds of the church. I included two short quotes in my appendix illustrating this attitude towards the orthodox creeds, both by Ed Stevens. In his paper "Creeds and Preterist Orthodoxy" he tells readers that they must not take the creeds any more seriously than the writings of men such as R.J. Rushdoony and C.S. Lewis. My comments are based on my reading of full preterist comments such as this and the full preterist responses to critics such as Kenneth Gentry, Andrew Sandlin, myself and others. The overt antagonism of many prominent full preterists to the so-called "tyranny" of the orthodox creeds is not a matter of opinion. Anyone who points out that full preterism is opposed to the historic creeds of the Church is immediately branded a "creedolator." Dr. Birksí regret notwithstanding, anybody who has kept up to any extent with the debate between full preterists and their opponents knows how many full preterists characterize the orthodox creeds and those who support them. The reason for the antagonism on the part of these full preterists towards the orthodox creeds is not difficult to understand or explain. It is due solely to the fact that all of the orthodox creeds contradict their eschatological position.
In connection with the issue of creeds and Scripture I cannot recommend highly enough a small book by Samuel Miller entitled
The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions (Greenville, SC: A Press, 1991 ). Miller was one of the first professors of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in the early 19th century, and a more staunch defender of Reformed theology during this period of time shall hardly be found. His comments concerning those who dismiss the creeds are worth considering. He points out the historical fact that "the most ardent and noisy opponents of Creeds have been those who held corrupt opinions" and "the most consistent and zealous advocates of truth have been, everywhere, and at all times, distinguished by their friendship to such formularies" (p.16). He continues, "From those, then, who have either far departed, or at least begun to depart, from "the faith once delivered to the saints," almost exclusively do we hear of the "oppression," and the "mischief" of Creeds and Confessions" (ibid.). And finally he writes, "Accordingly, if we look a little into the interior of Church history, especially within the last century, we shall findÖwith few exceptions, that whenever a group of men began to slide, with respect to orthodoxy, they generally attempted to break, if not to conceal, their fall, by declaiming against Creeds and Confessions" (pp. 16-17). Samuel Miller, like Charles Hodge (a later and more famous professor at Princeton), was committed to the doctrines of the Reformation, and he proclaimed the Reformed doctrine of
sola scriptura. But like Hodge, he rejected the Anabaptist version of this doctrine which is espoused by the majority of evangelicals today and which is continually used by full preterists to attack those who stand in the orthodox Reformed tradition of Calvin, Miller, and Hodge.
Full Preterist Creedolatry
In paragraph 6 of Dr. Birks paper, his misunderstanding of my basic position, and his apparent failure to read those sources I cite in the footnotes of my appendix leads to his abandoning argumentation for sarcasm. After quoting me, he writes, "If Calvin spins any faster in his grave, his body is going to show up in China." In the light of all that Dr. Birks has written to this point concerning the authority of fallible men, one wonders why I, he or anyone else should be concerned with what Calvin would think of our position.
Once again, an inherent self-contradiction in the full-preterist mode of thinking is revealed. It is argued repeatedly and vigorously that no human creed has any real authority, no human creed is inerrant, and no human creed is exempt from further revision. And then the full-preterist turns around and claims an exception. The Reformersí (at least the radical Anabaptist Reformersí) human formulation of the doctrine of
sola scriptura is apparently an infallible and inerrant creed and one not subject to revision. Placing so much authority and confidence in the doctrinal formulations of fallible men sounds suprisingly similar to what full-preterists usually condemn in others as "idolatry."
The Non Effects of the Fall?
In paragraphs 7 and 8, Dr. Birks cites several biblical passages which proclaim some of the attributes of Scripture. I do not deny anything Scripture claims for itself. And contrary to what Dr. Birks may think, I do believe in the perspicuity of Scripture. However, I do not believe in the "perspicuity" of the fallen human mind. What the proponents of the Anabaptist version of
sola scriptura seem oblivious to is the noetic effects of sin. Scripture is clear enough. But manís mind is not because it has been affected by the Fall. Dr. Birks, along with thousands upon thousands of others, write and speak as if this were not the case. Over and over one hears the statement, "The Bible saysÖ" But is it always what the Bible says, or is it sometimes merely what your
interpretation of the Bible says? Dr. Birks claims that if each individual will simply use the Scripture alone, we will come to a doctrinally secure position. But what would Dr. Birks or other full-preterists say if I agreed and said "OK, weíll use the Bible alone, but since we are at a hermeneutical impasse, weíll let Hal Lindsey tell us what the text plainly says." He wouldnít consider it for a second. He would argue that Hal Lindsey reads Scripture with presuppositions and preconceived biases. But what he and many others seem unable to recognize is the fact that we
all read Scripture with presuppositions and biases. When these are added to our sin, pride, and inevitable ignorance of many facts, we see the reason for the thousands of mutually contradicting interpretations of the perspicuous text of Scripture. The question is not whether one reads Scripture with presuppositions. The real question is what those presuppositions are and whether or not one recognizes that he has them. I am well aware of the fact that I read Scripture with biases. But this is true of everyone else including Dr. Birks. For one to deny that he has any biases in his reading of Scripture would be not only arrogant but extremely naÔve.
What if They Held a Council and No One Cared?
In paragraph nine, Dr. Birks repeats a point that he briefly mentioned in paragraph three. Once again he tells us that the creeds and councils have not yet addressed the issue of eschatology and that they now should. A question that simply begs to be asked however, in light of full-preterist criticisms is: why? Leaving aside all of the complicated questions concerning who would convene such a council, and who would and would not participate, one still wonders why a full-preterist would say the Church should now address the subject of eschatology in a council or creed. In the words of the full-preterist Ed Stevens, "we must not take the creeds any more seriously than we do the writings and opinions of men like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, the Westminster Assembly, Campbell, Rushdoony, or C.S. Lewis." If this is the true value of creedal pronouncements, making yet another one would be pointless.
For the sake of argument, letís say the Church did hold an ecumenical council on the subject of eschatology to settle the matter once and for all. And letís say that, after much prayer, biblical study and comparative analysis, the council ultimately endorsed some form of futurism in a new ecumenical creed and declared full-preterism to be a heresy. What difference would that make to full-preterists? Absolutely none. As Ed Stevens explains, "Even if the creeds were to clearly and definitively stand against the preterist viewÖit would not be an overwhelming problem since they have no real authority anyway." What this means is that, whether ancient or new, any creed which comes to any conclusion other than full preterism is to be ignored. Stevensí comment clearly reveals that the full preteristsí appeal for the Church to convene a council on eschatology is
not made because it would have any kind of real authority. Making such an appeal allows the full preterists to appear to acknowledge some kind of authority in the Church as a whole while cleverly concealing their complete rejection of any authority higher than the mind of the individual.
Itís the End of the World as We Know It
In paragraph ten, Dr. Birks makes a couple of statements to which I must briefly respond. He asks, "Precisely where in the Bible does it teach an end of this earth, and the ceasing of sin as an expression within that earth?" To begin with, I donít claim that the earth itself is going to end or be completely destroyed. A number of times in the text of my book, I state that I believe that all of creation will be restored. I do not state that this restoration of creation necessarily involves its destruction and re-creation from scratch. But does this mean that sin will continue in Christís kingdom forever? Dr. Birks asks where the Bible teaches the ceasing of sin as an expression within the earth? I would suggest I Corinthians 15:24-28 as a good place to start. Jesus "must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet." Sin is His enemy, is it not? "The last enemy that will be destroyed is death." Since death is the wage and fruit of sin (Rom. 6:23), it is not an exegetical stretch to say that the destruction of death will necessarily entail the destruction of its source.
In the same paragraph, Dr. Birks makes the following comment, "The fact of the matter remains that the futurist insists that every thing must come to a final conclusion simply because of presuppositionÖThis is the rose-colored-glasses approach to hermeneutics which always leads to invalid conclusions." Dr. Birksí repeated assertions of complete neutrality and objectivity remind me of the dispensationalist Lewis Sperry Chaferís statement in volume 8 of his Systematic Theology. Chafer said, "the very fact that I did not study a prescribed course in theology made it possible for me to approach the subject with an unprejudiced mind and to be concerned only with what the Bible actually teaches" (8:6). This extreme overconfidence in oneís own objectivity is a naÔve and dangerous position regardless of whether it is promoted by Dr. Chafer, Dr. Birks, or anyone else. We all have prejudices and presuppositions. None of us is completely neutral and free of all bias and preconceived notions. Help in overcoming our intellectual and cultural biases is only one of the many reasons why we need the entire communion of saints past and present and the boundaries of orthodoxy. If the mere presence of presuppositions in individuals always leads to invalid conclusions, then we are all in serious trouble.
Dr. Birks next repeats Ed Stevenís claim that if partial preterists refuse to engage full preterists, the full preterists "win by default." This was a rhetorical tactic commonly used by Dr. Gary North in an attempt to force a debate on the subject of theonomy. Generally his challenges were simply ignored, but the main point is that nobody "wins by default" simply because someone else fails to debate them. The claim is continually made by full preterists that the partial preterists and futurists have failed to respond and that full-preterism is winning because it is spreading like wildfire. I have no statistics on the growth of the full-preterist movement, so I cannot confirm or deny the claims, but I can state without hesitation that the rapid growth of full-preterism (if it is in fact happening) is not any kind of evidence of its truth. Otherwise the recent rapid growth of the Toronto Blessing movement would demonstrate its validity. And the rapid growth of Dispensationalism earlier this century would demonstrate its veracity. Mormonism, Islam, and a number of false religions have experienced phenomenal growth, and yet they are 100% false. I would simply urge readers not to jump to any conclusions based on any real or perceived rapid growth of full-preterism.
How to Ignore the Time Texts of Scripture
In paragraph 11, Dr. Birks attempts to address my criticism of the full-preterist understanding of the millennium, but he has not done so because he has failed to address the criticism itself. I continue to maintain that an interpretation of the term "thousand years" to read "forty years" is equally as invalid as reading "this generation" to mean "that generation." If the term "generation" cannot be taken as a reference to a thousand years or more, then the term "thousand years" cannot legitimately be taken as a reference to one generation. If preterists expect others to take the short-term time frame statements of Scripture seriously, then for the sake of consistency they must take long-term time frame statements seriously. In the case of the millennium of Revelation 20, full preterists completely ignore the long-term time frame reference.
Dr. Birksí conclusion about what the "at hand" statements in Revelation must mean places him in another dilemma regarding the millennium. He states that, in his opinion, the millennium took place between AD 30 and 70 (a common full preterist interpretation). Elsewhere he states that the "at hand" statements in Revelation mean, "The things, including the Chilia of chapter 20, must shortly be done." A serious difficulty arises, however, when we take into consideration the date that Revelation was written. Most, if not all preterists (partial and full), believe Revelation was written sometime during the persecution of Nero (AD 64-68). But if the millennium began in AD 30 as Dr. Birks affirms, then what sense does it make for John to say 35 years later that it must occur shortly? If most of the millennium is already past, what is the sense in saying that it must occur soon? This isnít a difficulty if one adopts the position I explained in my book in which all of the redemptive events from the birth of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 are part of a complex of events that inaugurate the millennium. But anyone who claims that the millennium is the period of time between AD 30 and 70 has some difficulty explaining why John referred to something as "soon at hand" that had begun almost 40 years earlier. "Soon" certainly does not mean "in a few thousand years", but neither does it mean "forty years ago." Perhaps Dr. Birksí oversight of this problem is due to a blind spot caused by one of
his presuppositions or prejudices.
What Happens When You Assume?
Near the end of paragraph 11, Dr. Birks repeats one of his false assumption about my beliefs. He asks, "But isnít he [Mathison] just assuming that because a goal is reached in Godís eschatological plans, that it must of necessity mean that God is now going to destroy everything and start over?" The answer is no. I am not assuming this at all. This is one reason why it would have been beneficial for Dr. Birks to have read the 233 pages of my book that precede the appendix he is critiquing. If he had done so he would surely have noticed that I never assert or assume such a thing. The term I used more often than any other to describe the effects of redemption upon the created order is "restoration" (e.g. pp. 86, 87, 107, 120). Restoration is not the same thing as destruction.
In II Corinthians 5:17, Paul says concerning believers, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." Paul refers to this as an already accomplished fact, not a soon to be accomplished event, so Paul isnít referring to the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem in this passage. He is speaking of the saved believer in Christ. When a man becomes a believer, God does not "destroy" him physically and then re-create him from scratch. There is a physical continuity. He is the same human being he was before.
Notice what John writes in Revelation 21:1, "Now I saw a
new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had
passed away." There is a distinct parallel between the way John describes the redeemed creation and the way Paul describes the redeemed individual. Both are described as "new creations." And in both cases, the old has "passed away." My point is that there is a parallel between individual and cosmic redemption. Since the term "new creation" as applied to the individual does not entail his physical destruction, the same term when applied to the heavens and earth does not require its physical destruction either. And since a believer can be described as a "new creation" at the same time he is experiencing an incomplete but ongoing progressive sanctification, there is no fundamental contradiction in stating that we are living in a "new heavens and new earth" that is also, in its own way, experiencing an incomplete but ongoing "progressive sanctification."
Throwing It All Away
In paragraph 12, Dr. Birks writes, "The scriptures Mr. Mathison gives do not, in fact, teach what he is asserting they teach." He then uses the next 8 paragraphs (13 - 20) to repeatedly criticize me for saying that these scriptures teach that once Godís goal for the present age is reached, He will destroy everything and start over. Unfortunately, the fact that I do not believe this renders all of these criticisms irrelevant. At the end of this lengthy series of criticisms, Dr. Birks concludes by asking, "What passages are there that teach that one day, this planet will cease to exist, along with the present generations of humans? We may be waiting for an answer for some time yetÖ" Actually, Dr. Birks doesnít have to wait long at all, since the answer is "none." (Although I do believe that the passage in II Peter 3 is referring to the consummation of the present age rather than the destruction of Jerusalem, I also believe the language Peter uses is typical Old Testament apocalyptic language). The only point I was making, however, by citing those passages of Scripture is that the ongoing process of conquest during this present age reaches a conclusion - a victorious conclusion at which point all of Christís enemies have been put under His feet. Nowhere do I say that once this victory is achieved God throws it all away and starts from scratch.
Full Preterism vs. Full Preterism
Beginning with paragraph 21, Dr. Birks proceeds to criticize me for some of the direct questions I asked of full-preterists. The most glaring problem in his responses is the way he seems to assume that he speaks for a unified full-preterist position. The differences of opinion on significant questions between various proponents of full-preterism are conveniently ignored in order to make my questions seem silly at best or blasphemous at worst. The fact is that most of these questions were raised in my mind because of the statements of published proponents of full-preterism such as J. S. Russell, Ed Stevens, Max King, Ward Fenley, John Noe, Don K. Preston, and Ron McRay. For Dr. Birks to repeatedly exclaim with indignation, "Full preterists DO NOT believeÖ" as if he spoke for all of them and when some published full-preterists in fact DO BELIEVEÖ is a clever way to discredit me in the eyes of readers but it is ultimately misleading and unworthy of a man of Dr. Birks education.
In paragraphs 22 and 23, for example, Dr. Birks responds to some questions I had concerning Christís physical body and whether or not in the full preterist system He was resurrected with it or ascended with it. Dr. Birks informs us, "At no time did Christ shed His human body and cease being fully human or fully divine since the time of His resurrection, unto the present day." But is this the full preterist position? In a paper entitled, "Christís Post Resurrection Mode," the full-preterist author Ward Fenley says that the purpose of his paper is to respond to those full preterists "who do not believe Christ had a temporal physical and visible body after His resurrection and before His ascension" (emphasis mine). In his book Coming in the Clouds: An Evangelical Case for the Invisibility of Christ at His Second Coming, Randall Otto describes the nature of Christís resurrection body as "evanescent and vaprous" and as "basically immaterial and invisible" (pp. 242, 248; cited by Vern Crisler. See his article "The Escahtological A Priori of the New Testament: A Critique of Hyper-Preterism" for a good critique of Ottoís aberrant views).
Furthermore, in a number of places, including the quote above, Ward Fenley seems to indicate that Christ had a physical human body, but only until the ascension. He writes, "In other words, Christ being made under the law, as a man and a servant, in the likeness of men, was considered of no reputation and humiliated. Farbeit [sic] for the Almighty to carry that state into heaven. Christ prayed for no such thing." The point is that my questions were raised because of statements by published full preterists such as Fenley. For Dr. Birks to respond to my questions by categorically claiming that "no preterist" believes such a thing is simply inaccurate.
The Full Preterist Doctrine(s) of the Resurrection
In paragraph 24, in response to my third question, Dr. Birks again speaks as if he represents the full preterist position. He claims that it is at the point of death that "believers did and do receive their immortal bodies that have been prepared for them." Once again the full-preterist Ward Fenley provides us with a counter-example. He has devoted an entire paper "The Dilemmas of Resurrection upon Physical Death" to demonstrating the unbiblical nature of the view that Dr. Birks endorses. I personally have encountered in my reading at least three or four different full preterist explanations of the resurrection. Russellís view is different from Kingís. These two are different from Stevensí view. Fenley has his own twist to the doctrine. In any case, it is a dramatic over-simplification for Dr. Birks to claim that my disagreement with his view is due to a lack of common biblical knowledge. If it were that common, it seems that there would be a little more agreement on this issue among the relatively small group of full preterist spokesmen.
I Believe in the Replacement of the Body?
In paragraph 26, Dr. Birks points readers to the manifestly clear passage of I Cor. 15:35-49 in order to demonstrate that our resurrection body is "not the same body as that which was buriedÖbut is rather the spirit of the redeemed believer that is given literally, a new body." The problem with this, as I have pointed out elsewhere, is that if the same body that died is not resurrected then what has occurred is by definition not a resurrection of the body; it is a replacement of the body. This is nothing more than the ancient Gnostic heresy of redemption from the body in a new garb. Since our resurrection is like Christís (cf. Phil. 3:21; Rom. 8:29), this substitution of "replacement" for "resurrection" has enormous implications on the doctrine of Christís resurrection. If His resurrection was of the same body that died, and it clearly was (cf. Luke 24:37-40), then our resurrection is of the same body. If our resurrection is actually a replacement of the body, then so was Christís and the tomb was not really empty.
There is obviously a glorious change in the body when it is resurrected. Paul writes, "It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." (I Cor. 15:42-44). But notice the fact that in all of the comparisons Paul makes, the same "it" that is sown is the "it" that is raised. To use Dr. Birks analogy, God doesnít reach the goal of sanctification in the believer and then throw it all away in order to start over from scratch. With Paul, orthodox Christians await the redemption
of the body (Rom. 8:23), not a Gnostic redemption from the body.
Between the Rock and a Hot Place
The resurrection passage in I Corinthians 15 is extremely important for another related reason. On the Kingdom Publications website, Ed Stevens has posted a paper by the full preterist Mr. David A. Green entitled "Preterism and the Ecumenical Creeds." I highly recommend that every reader of this discussion read Mr. Greenís article. In it he has inadvertently pointed out the fatal flaw of full preterism. He writes,
Inasmuch as "God Himself" is forever "among men," (Rev. 21:3) so is the Church eternally among us (Eph. 5:28-33; Rev. 19:7; 21:2,9). This is the promise of the eternal covenant (Rev. 21:5-7). It follows from this that the Gospel is also with us forever, since without the Gospel there is no Church, and there is no God among us. Because of this, God can never and will never allow His Church to everywhere proclaim a false gospel, as the Church is "the pillar and ground of the Truth" (I Tim. 3:15). As the Lord says in another place, the Church continuously declares the glory of the Lord (Ps. 19:1-4; Rom. 10:18).
To say then that the universal Church has preached a false gospel throughout history is to refute Godís covenant, and the power of His Gospel, and the authority of His Church. It is to, in essence, call God a liar.
Although there are likely no preterists who maintain that the universal Church has been "always and everywhere" preaching a damnable lie subsequent to the days of the apostles, the biblical principle of the eternality of Godís covenant does have an effect on the debate over preterism and creedalism. For if the creedalists are correct that preterism is a doctrine that is so radically
other, that it makes what the Church has always preached throughout history a damnable heresy-- then
preterism must necessarily be absolutely false. (emphasis Greenís).
The question we will ask below is whether or not full preterism is in fact "a doctrine that is so radically other, that it makes what the Church has always preached throughout history a damnable heresy." Because if it is, then according to Mr. Green that would mean that full preterism must necessarily be absolutely false. It is imperative that the reader grasp the radical significance of the point that Green is making here. He continues,
If preterism makes the historical gospel of the Church into a salvation-forfeiting lie, then preterism must inevitably be nothing more than an invention of modernity --a damnable, liberal heresy.
He then adds the following paragraphs which, because of their importance, are quoted in full.
The ancient ecumenical creeds have been deemed by all members of the universal Church --western, eastern, even Roman-- throughout history as containing the fundamental rudiments of the true Gospel of salvation. If, as we stated above, the Church must necessarily remain perpetually in possession of the true Gospel of Christ, and if the ecumenical creeds contain a reflection of the message which all believers in the universal Church have historically believed and preached --and it is reasonable to believe that this is the case -- then this must follow:
The creeds must contain the Gospel.
If the creeds do not contain the Gospel (and therefore do contain a false gospel) while they accurately reflect the historic message of the universal Church, then it would follow that the historic Church was preaching a false gospel, and therefore was never the Church. Since no one can accept that idea without utterly forsaking the Christian religion and blaspheming God, one is drawn to agree that the creeds of the Church contain the Gospel.
What does this mean in the creedalist/preterist controversy? For one thing, it means that the creedalists are correct when they say that we may not refute the elemental traditions of the Gospel which are contained in the creeds. They are right that such things are "not up for debate." The rudiments of the Gospel are indeed divine presuppositions without which the historic Faith and the Church would completely disappear. We are not free to refute or nullify any of the cardinal elements of the Christian Faith.
It is true that our freedom as preterists to challenge the ecumenical creeds is restricted, though not because the traditional, cardinal doctrines were engraved on creedal paper by the Finger of God, but because the Scriptures and the Church
together confirm the rudimentary doctrines of the Gospel (found in the creeds) as being the foundational truths of salvation.
According to Mr. Green, a full preterist himself, the "creedalists" (a full preterist term for all orthodox Christians) are correct when they say that no one is free to refute or nullify any of the cardinal elements of the Christian Faith. The question, then, is whether or not full preterism has in fact distorted, changed, refuted, or nullified a cardinal element of the gospel.
The remainder of Mr. Greenís article is an attempt to prove that full preterismís rejection of traditional eschatology is not a distortion or rejection of the historic Christian gospel. The problem, however, is that he does not deal with the profound effects that full preterismís eschatological changes have upon doctrines which are unquestionably cardinal elements of the Christian faith.
Full preterismís eschatological changes necessarily result in changes in the historic Christian gospel - a situation in which either the historic church has always and everywhere proclaimed a false gospel or in which full preterism is proclaiming a false gospel. If full preterism forces us to choose the first option - that the historic church has always preached a false gospel, then according to Green, full preterism must be "a damnable, liberal heresy." And if the second option is true - that full preterism is preaching a false gospel, then by definition it is "damnable heresy." Either option forced upon us by full preterism leads to the same result - that full preterism is a damnable heresy.
Full preterists deny that their eschatological system has made any such changes to cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith, but do the facts of the case support such a claim? Unfortunately they do not, and this can be readily demonstrated by asking two simple questions.
In other words, the historic doctrine of the resurrection of believers is an unchangeable and non-negotiable doctrine. Since full preterism has radically altered both the timing and nature of this cardinal element of the historic Christian gospel then, according to Greenís reasoning, this would demand that either the church has always and everywhere preached a false gospel - an option that refutes full preterism, or full preterism is preaching a false gospel - another option that refutes full preterism. Regardless of whether you decide that the church has always been preaching a false gospel or that full preterism is preaching a false gospel, full preterism refutes itself.
Missing the Point
In paragraphs 27-29, regarding my fourth miscellaneous question, Dr. Birks has again missed my point. In fact all of his criticisms in these paragraphs would equally apply to the paper by the full preterist David Green. I am not responsible for the fact that many full preterists, including Dr. Birks, seem to have given virtually no thought to the issues raised in the first half of Mr. Greenís paper. And the fact that Dr. Birks apparently failed to read any of the sources I cited in my book to support my contention that his version of
sola scriptura is actually an Anabaptist aberration is simply irresponsible in light of the fact that he immediately accuses me of the blasphemous sin of idolatry because I reject that particular version of the doctrine.
Full Preterist Chaos Theory
Dr. Birks spends very little time on my fifth question in paragraph 30 of his paper. He doesnít explain why, but I would have to assume it is because, many full preterists have expressly declared that the "perfect has come" and that we do now see "face to face." And since, as I mentioned in my first point, Dr. Birks believes that in this present age we have been experiencing the rule and kingdom of Christ in all of its eternal fullness and splendor, I believe my question remains relevant. According to full-preterism, believers have been experiencing Christís kingdom and His presence in all of itís fullness, and yet, according to full preterists, most believers for 2000 years have been oblivious to this fact and only now are beginning to figure it out. The question remains, if Christ returned in AD 70 and has been present in fullness with His people ever since, why has that extremely important reality escaped His people? Why has some version of futurism been dominant in the Churchís teaching since the first century? Full preterism seems to imply that Christ came back to His Church, but never bothered to inform His Church of that fact.
I find it amazing that full preterists act so surprised when their critics wonder how experiencing Christís kingdom in
all of its fullness (i.e. perfection) after He has put all of His enemies under His feet,
after Satan has been destroyed, and after death has been destroyed, is compatible with a Church, a world, and individuals in such disarray. Progressive sanctification (individual and cosmic) is compatible with such a state of affairs because it is a state of battle, or war. But when full preterists indicate that the battle is completely over and that we are experiencing Christís kingdom in all of its fullness and splendor the implication is that all of the death and suffering and sin we experience every day is nothing but some kind of mass delusion or hallucination. It also implies that Christ is either a grossly incompetent or dishonest King. The full preterist claim that death, sin and Satan have been completely conquered and destroyed is reminiscent of the Christian Scientist denial of the reality of sickness and death, and like Christian Science, few are ever going to take it very seriously.
Paragraph 31, in response to my sixth question, is another example of a non-response. Dr. Birks writes, "It is assumed by Mathison that upon the return of Christ, the church will exist in a perpetual state of doctrinal perfection." That is a true statement about what I believe. Dr. Birks apparently does not believe this, but it is Dr. Birks who states that we are presently experiencing Christís kingdom and rule in all of its fullness and splendor. Are there degrees of perfection? To state that we are simultaneously experiencing Christís kingdom and rule in all of its fullness and not experiencing Christís kingdom in all of its fullness (e.g. doctrinal chaos) is absurd. In addition, I do not "blame" the present state of doctrinal confusion on the return of the Lord, I claim that full preterists cannot explain the present state of doctrinal confusion in light of their claim of the past return of the Lord and the subsequent establishment of His kingdom in all of its fullness and splendor.
One other additional point must be made. In this same paragraph, Dr. Birks writes, "The first, second, and third centuries of the church were not flush with complete and correct manuscripts [of Scripture] that were available in abundance." One wonders why, if Dr. Birksí anabaptistic version of
sola scriptura is true, Christ would leave most individual Christians without immediate access to complete and correct manuscripts of the Scriptures for three hundred years. It should also be noted that most individual Christians did not have immediate access to a copy of Scripture for far longer than three hundred years. Because they had to be copied by hand, Bibles were very expensive and far more rare than they have been since the invention of the printing press. None of this changes the authority of Scripture, but it makes the subjective individualistic Anabaptist version of
sola scriptura difficult to maintain because most individual Christians in the history of the Church simply did not have their own copy of the Scriptures.
And God Saw That It Was Good
In paragraphs 32 and 33, Dr. Birks unfortunately resorts to a condescending type of sarcasm to answer a very real pastoral question. What the substantive part of Dr. Birksí response reveals is the full preterist denigration of Godís good physical creation. And when critics rightly point out the distinct parallels between this type of thought and the ancient Gnostic and Manichaean heresies, once again the full preterists cry foul.
The basic problem with the full preterist position stems from a failure to account for the basic goodness of the physical creation of God. Because of manís sin both he and all of creation were affected by sin and placed under a curse (cf. Gen. 3:17-18; Rom. 8:20-22). But the effects of redemption are as universal as the effects of the curse (Rom. 8:22-23). In Romans 8:23, Paul explicitly declares his hope for something full preterists adamantly deny - the redemption
of the body (Greek - soma). It is not just the spirit that is to be redeemed, it is also the body. Sin did not and will not permanently frustrate Godís original purpose for the physical creation. I refer readers to the main body of my book and other Reformed theology texts for further exegetical support of this biblical truth.
With Friends Like TheseÖ
Paragraphs 34 and 35 of Dr. Birksí paper are a re-statement of full preterist gnosticizing tendencies that denigrate the goodness of the physical creation and its redemption. In these paragraphs, Dr. Birks reveals once again how full preterism necessarily affects other crucial doctrines and leads to one heresy after another. He writes,
Physical death is not a result of the fall of Adam. Adam was designed to physically die according to Gen. 3:19, and 2:7. Because man was taken from the ground, before the fall had occurred, then to the ground, or to dust he was always destined to return.
This is a common doctrine among full preterists. It is apparently demanded by the changes in the doctrine of the resurrection caused by their eschatological changes, but one wonders if full preterists are aware of this doctrineís origin in the history of the Church. In the early church, the doctrine that human death was part of Godís created order and not the result of the fall, was first taught by Pelagiusí disciple Celestius. At the time of the Reformation the doctrine was revived by the anti-Trinitarian Socinians. And in our own century it was advocated by the neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth. It has been rejected by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant alike. When a Christian finds himself in this kind of doctrinal company, he should proceed with extreme caution. He should not immediately embrace the doctrine in question, while simultaneously condemning all of the orthodox students and teachers of Scripture, such as Augustine and Calvin, of prejudiced ignorance. To do so is simply unbridled arrogance and pride in oneís own abilities.
That human physical death, as well as spiritual death, is a result of the fall has been always and everywhere taught by orthodox Christians simply because it is taught by the Scriptures. In I Corinthians 15:21, for example, Paul writes, "For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead." The kind of death meant by Paul may be ascertained by examining the kind of resurrection to which he refers. When Paul says that "by a man also came the resurrection of the dead" he is undoubtedly referring to Jesus Christ. And undoubtedly physical death is one of the many things Christ overcame by His resurrection. Christ did not merely experience a spiritual resurrection. In the context of Paulís sentence then, the death that came by "a man" (Adam) must also include physical death. (There are literally scores of exegetical works explaining the Scriptural doctrine and defending it against those who advocate the Pelagian/Socinian interpretation. A good basic starting place for those interested in further study is Anthony Hoekema,
The Bible and the Future, pp. 79-85).
Sola Scriptura or O Solo Mio
In paragraph 36, Dr. Birksí begins to wrap up his critique by once again advocating the anabaptistic version of sola scriptura. He writes, "The biblical answer is that while scripture points to the necessity of having the office of elder over the lives of the local church corporate, it is equally relevant as expressed in holy writ, that the individual saint does have the responsibility to be a Berean (Acts 17:11-12)." While I would certainly not deny the need and responsibility of individuals to read and study Scripture whenever possible, what I find objectionable is the "every man for himself" approach to Christian doctrine. If Dr. Birksí version of sola scriptura is followed, it isnít Scripture that is the final authority. The real final authority is the omni-competent mind of each individual who determines by himself and for himself what is and is not Scriptural. In an attempt to elevate Scripture to the place of final authority, it is in actuality subjected to the subjective mind of the individual interpreter who becomes his or her own Pope. The position on Scripture that Dr. Birks advocates is not the Reformed position. It is the Anabaptist position. It does not place final authority in the Word of God. The real final judge of truth and error in Dr. Birksí scheme is the mind and reason of the individual interpreter of Scripture. It is the individual who judges the interpretations of the creeds. It is the individual who judges the interpretation of other individuals. It is the individual who decides what Scripture says. And what standard does the individual use to make such awesome judgments? His own individual interpretation of Scripture.
Any man who does not recognize that there is a distinction between the Scriptures and his fallible interpretation of those Scriptures and who also adopts the Anabaptist version of
sola scriptura has set his own fallible interpretation in the place of the Word of God and made himself virtually un-teachable. How could such a man ever be taught? He believes he is always citing the plain teaching of Scripture while everybody else is always citing a human interpretation. The only people he will hear are those who cite only the plain meaning of Scripture, in other words those who already agree with his interpretation of Scripture. That this is what has happened is readily seen in the existence of the thousands of other individuals and groups who, like the full preterists, claim to have found some "long lost key" to interpreting the Bible, but whose only common doctrinal feature is their rejection of orthodox Christianity. The real question full preterists should be asking themselves is why their particular idiosyncratic and novel doctrinal system should be taken any more seriously than the thousands of others based on a "plain reading of Scripture alone."
Multiple Parousia Disorder?
One final point must be made concerning a comment that Dr. Birks makes in the last paragraph of his paper. He repeats a common full preterist accusation saying that it is the partial preterists who in reality have added to the creeds by advocating a yet-to-occur third coming. Apparently full preterists have convinced themselves that by repeating this accusation often enough it will somehow become true. What is repeatedly ignored, however, are the facts concerning not only what Scripture itself says but what partial preterists say. Scripture uses the terms "to come" and "coming" to describe a number of events: Christís first coming (John 1:11; 10:10; Acts 7:52), His ascension to the Father (Dan. 7:13-14), the judgment upon Jerusalem (Matthew 24), and His return in like manner as the disciples saw Him ascend (Acts 1:11). In the Old Testament, as full preterists well know, Scripture speaks of God "coming" in judgment upon the nations. To recognize that Christís judgment upon Jerusalem and Israel in AD 70 is spoken of in the Old Testament manner of a "judgment coming" does not entail belief in two second comings any more than recognizing that Christís ascension is described as the "coming of the Son of Man" demands belief in two second comings. Such an assertion is simply absurd.
[NOTE] I am also well aware that different words are used for the verb "to come" in the New Testament, erchomai, ginomai, and anabaino being three of the more common, and that several words are used for the noun "coming," eisodos, eleusis, and parousia. But all of these are common words, not technical terms. Therefore the simple "presence" of one of these terms does not automatically determine which "coming" of Christ is being described. Even the word parousia cannot be taken as a technical term that must always refer to the same thing. Paulís own usage of the word demonstrates that it is not a technical term. In I Corinthians 15:23, he speaks of the resurrection of "those who are Christís at His coming" (parousia). Then in I Corinthians 16:17, Paul rejoices over "the coming (parousia) of Stephanus and Fortunatus and Achaicus." In II Corinthians 7:6-7, Paul declares that God "comforted us by the coming (parousia) of Titus; and not only by his coming (parousia), but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in youÖ" The point is simply this: these common everyday Greek words should not have technical theological meanings automatically read into their every use. Terms such as erchomai and parousia, by themselves, simply cannot determine the question of time. Other contextual factors must be taken into consideration.
The second coming of Christ, as it is expressed in the orthodox Christian creeds, is a coming in visible glory for the purpose of final judgment of all mankind and is concurrent temporally with the bodily resurrection of all mankind. I am unaware of any partial preterist who teaches that this unique event happens twice. The judgment of God upon Jerusalem in AD 70, while spoken of in Old Testament apocalyptic language as a "judgment coming," is qualitatively different from the coming of Christ as it is described in these creeds. Although far more significant in the history of redemption, the judgment coming of Christ upon Jerusalem is similar in kind to the judgment coming of God upon Egypt (cf. Isa. 19:1ff).
To date, the charge that partial preterists have added another second coming to the creed could be attributed to simple ignorance. >From this point forward, however, the repetition of that blatantly false and unsubstantiated charge can only be attributed to willful and malicious dishonesty. I trust that honest full preterists will not knowingly continue to contribute to a line of argumentation that is essentially slanderous.
I will conclude this response by reminding readers of the words of full preterist David Green.
If preterism makes the historical gospel of the Church into a salvation-forfeiting lie, then preterism must inevitably be nothing more than an invention of modernity --a damnable, liberal heresy.
Unfortunately, Dr. Birks has associated himself with a movement, which by radically altering the doctrine of the resurrection of believers, has in fact made the historical gospel of the Church "into a salvation-forfeiting lie." Many people, including Dr. Birks, do not seem to be aware of the devastating implications of full-preterism. It is not simply another debate over some minor side issue in eschatology. It is a profound distortion and rejection of some of the cardinal non-negotiable tenets of historic Christian orthodoxy.
Full preterism not only demands that all Christians have been bearing a false gospel witness in their creedal and doctrinal confessions for 2000 years. It also demands that all Christians have been bearing false witness in the central and most sacred part of their worship for 2000 years. Full preterism demands that every Christian who has proclaimed his faith in the common confession of all Christians, and every Christian who has partaken of the Lordís Supper, an eschatological sacrament observed
in remembrance of Christ and by means of which we proclaim the Lordís death
until He comes, is guilty of proclaiming a false gospel and participating in false worship. Full preterism demands that the Church always and everywhere lost the historic gospel of Christ, and as accurately pointed out by one of their own, this necessarily means that full preterism is a damnable heresy.
For Further Reading
In addition to the books mentioned in the body of the article above, I would also suggest to readers the following books and articles which point out many more of the problems with the full preterist theological system.
Crisler, Vern. "The Escahtological A Priori of the New Testament: A Critique of Hyper-Preterism" The Journal of Christian Reconstruction. Volume XV (Winter, 1998), 225-256. - The majority of this article is an extremely helpful critique of Randall Ottoís work, Coming in the Clouds: An Evangelical Case for the Invisibility of Christ at His Second Coming, a book which full preterists have utilized as a foundational apologetic resource.
Gentry, Kenneth L., Jr. "A Brief Theological Analysis of Hyper-Preterism." Chalcedon Report, July 1997. - Also available as Appendix III in the second edition of He Shall Have Dominion.
Sandlin, Andrew. ĎHymenaeus Resurrected" Chalcedon Report, July 1997.
Seraiah, C. Jonathin. The End of All Things: A Critique of Pantelism. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999. - An exegetical critique of full preterism.
West, Jim. "The Allurement of Hymenaean Preterism: The Rise of Dispensable Eschatology"
Chalcedon Report, July 1997.
* This paper may be freely reproduced provided it is copied in its entirety without addition, subtraction, or alteration.
What do YOU think ?
What do I think? I think Partial-Preterism is nothing more than Eschatalogical 4 point Calvinism. We all know that no 5 Point Calvinist goes back. Either will any Preterist. Would love to hear when Keith Mathison thinks that Daniel 12 did (or did not) happen. Hey - if Daniel did not "RISE TO HIS INHERITENCE" - Then has anyone risen to their inheritance: which includes the "reward", "what has been promised", "the kingdom", "salvation", "eternal life", and being "God's son"? OF COURSE DANIEL 12 HAPPENED ALREADY - AFTER ALL THE RESURRECTION IN DANIEL 12 IS SURROUNDED BY VERSES THAT PARTIAL-PRETERISTS SAY HAPPENED AT 70 AD. =)
What I can't understand is Mathison's defense of two "comings" or the "apokalupsis" and "parousia" of Christ. If one would do a word study on these Greek words, one would easily come to the conclusion that the "apokalupsis" of Christ is concurrent with the "Parousia" of Christ. They cannot be divided. It just so happened that the Book we call "Revelation" is actually titled in the 1st chapter the "Apokalupsis" of Christ. This refers to the ENTIRE book of Revelation which includes the Parousia of Christ in the 19th chapter, as many believe. Mr. Mathison himself stated he believed that the AD 70 destruction was a "judgment coming" of Christ, which can be NO LESS than the "Apokalupsis" of Christ. And if the "Apokalupsis" then also the Parousia, etc., etc. Otherwise, NONE of Revelation has occurred and Partial Preterism as well as full Preterism is HERESY. And all we have left is the Dispeys!!! Cordially and pointedly Brian Hildebran
Daniel 12 presents a real problem to PP and Full Preterists. If you side with the above material you have a real issue with the timeing and events of Daniel 12. You simply redefine the whole of it or ignore it or cut it out of your bible. On the other hand the issues described in this paper under the heading "conclusion" in the third paragraph, are real issues to full preterists. The bottom line: even if one does not make the errors described here...even if you take into full view all creeds, you are still faced with the time statements of the crushing of Satan, of the comming resurrection, and of the "old passing away". The key seems not to be rewriting historical creeds or resurrecting old heresy, but in facing the fact that well worn symbols of the last 1800-1900 years may not match the biblical understanding of them. If we are to make any progress we must stop refuting each other's papers and start to look head on into the light of God's words. Even Calvin was too close to the old to fully see the new he was bringing. The Church had wrong information about the dating of Revelation for almost 1800 years, why would it be so hard to believe that mistakes about dogmas and doctrines could be wrong during these times? All protestants believe the church taught some major errors from 300AD to the reformation. Why is it so hard to think error could not capture Christ's Church for a time? The main tenet of doctrine we all agree on is Christ. So why do we now believe the scriptures, othodoxy, and the creeds give us eternal life? Isn't the real heresy here that of the ones Jesus spoke to in John about this? Hmmm. Before I can deside who is right on the matter of full or partial Preterism a lot more ground must be covered. It is not as simple as is laid out here. Michael Carney email@example.com
Amen Kieth! Keep up the good work. Pastor Gene Cook, Jr.
Pastor Cook - still waiting for your Chart on Daniel 12. You can AMEN Keith Mathison all you want. Too bad you can't do the same with Daniel 12 and the word of God =)
2 Timothy 4 1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; HEY PARTIAL PRETERIST - HOW BIG OF A GAP ARE YOU GOING TO INSERT IN THIS VERSE? IS HIS KINGDOM HERE YET? THEN HE MUST HAVE APPEARED. IF THIS IS 70AD - THEN DO YOU AGREE THAT THE KINGDOM CAME IN 70AD AND NOT AT THE CROSS? =)
(1) Have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob been resurrected yet? (2) Has David been resurrected? After reading Mathison it is becoming increasingly apparent that the banner of Westminster preterists is the statement in the Apostles Creed embracing "the resurrection of the body". So when they see scholarly research from others that review such a concept within the framework of Paul's historical useage of "body" and the results it leads to, their simple rejoinder is a suggestion of a "damnable heresy". But I take such a rejoinder to be merely a defensive profile. I say this because I have yet to see a Westminster preterist squarely answer the above two questions or to give a meaningful response to Paul's consistent useage of "body" in the context of the longstanding "hope of Israel". It would be timely if a Westminster preterist would set forth a thorough study on the resurrection and its timing. Hopefully, it would be thorough enough so that the reader can come to a conviction regarding the time of the resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And such a study would be most helpful and most elucidating if it would be responsive to Don Preston's recent treatise on the resurrection. Jay Allen
Having watched the ping pong ball bounce back and forth between partial preterists, full preterists and everything else in between for a couple of years now, I stand amazed at the awesome love and forebearance of our Almighty Father. Even though we mere mortals have misunderstood His Word, fought one another, written our own "creeds" to justify our positions, His Kingdom advances in spite of us! He is loving and patient with us as we "study to show ourselves approved" even when we hold wrong positions! "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I have become as a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecies, and KNOW all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing" I Cor. 13:1-2 In the Great Debate, let's not forget to love one another, stop removing the speck out of our brother's eye, treat others in the manner we want to be treated, and to show mercy to one another. These are the things God will hold us accountable for - not our exactly perfect beliefs. Truth always wins in the end and it will in this debate also! Instead of attacking one another, I'd rather see scriptural discussions and leave the emotions out of it.
Here's a good article on Daniel 12 http://www.caledonianfire.org/caledonianfire/docs/daniel.htm This should help clear things up :-) Rev. J.J. Goundry
If Mathison and his ilk are so confident preterism is wrong, why do they consistently refuse to debate the topic in a public venue? It is cowardly, at best, to write articles and books declaring brethren to be heretics and then refuse to debate the issue. They want their audience to hear only their take on the matter. It is time for Mathison, Sproul Jr., and all the rest to engage the discussion openly or give their reasons for refusing to do so. Even my post-mil friends who read Mathison are saddened by what they recognize as his cowardice. They would love to hear him debate the issue, but their champion "respectfully declines." It is men like these who are the true heretics according to the biblical usage of the word. They seek to divide Christians over this issue while preterists do not. That is biblical heresy and they are guilty of it. Proper Christian conduct demands they make their case in public with the accused allowed to confront them publicly. Time will tell whether they have the courage to do that. All the evidence to date suggests they do not.
Dr. Kelly Birks is a good man. I have heard how humble this Christian man is and what he believes. I agree that the creeds are not the authority of scripture and we should not treat them so. And because our forefathers did not do an exhaustive study on last things I think we have great problems in our Century today. Remember that dispensationalism started in the 1800's and so many Christians today believe this view.
Gene Cook sounds like a pretty desperate fellow who has nothing else to do but grind his axe. Yet, every time I have listened to or read him I see no evidence of the love of Christ or any meaningful exegesis. Sorry... Gene, you sound like a desperate polititian. JD
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