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Posts Tagged ‘preterism’


In preparation for my SS class on the Revelation, I’m reading lots of books. One of them is Four Views on the Book of Revelation, edited by C. Marvin Pate who is also a contributor to the book. The first view presented in the Preterist view, written by Kenneth Gentry. Gentry represents a moderate or partial preterist view, not a full preterist view which is (in my opinion) a view outside the bounds of orthodoxy.

Gentry, who has written a few tomes on Revelation, is more than capable of writing on this subject. He was well chosen. He is thorough, knowledgeable and not prone to attacking those who disagree in the course of his presentation. One of the issues often raised against preterists, and particularly the post-millennial ones, is the ways they use excessive sarcasm in showing the weaknesses and faults of other systems (this is not a problem particular to them, however). Gentry does not fall into this trap. He makes a great spokesman so the case is evaluated on its own merits instead of excesses in presentation.

In looking at the structure of The Revelation, Gentry notes the progressive parallelism that is present. This is a common feature of apocalyptic literature, as the same events are viewed from different angles with increasing intensity. This is very different from the chronological approach which sees the different visions as referring to different events. In this aspect, Gentry’s argument is similar to that proposed by the Idealist perspective which will be examined next.

As apocalyptic literature, we must be careful not to approach it with straight forward literalism. He notes that in the Gospel of John, people often erred by taking Jesus too literally when he was using figures of speech. We see this problem in nearly every chapter of the Gospel.

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A Good Response to Ed Steven

I’ve begun preparing a Sunday School series on The Revelation (note to all Hollywood screenwriters, there is not “s” on the end!).  This is no simple undertaking.  There are so many presuppositions that play a role in interpreting Revelation that is just is insane.

One of the things I’m doing early on is to address the four primary views of Revelation: historicist, futurist, preterist and idealist.  These views feed into millennial positions, but are foundational.  They include presuppositions and interpretative issues.  Though I am a partial preterist and idealist (yes, I use bifocals in looking at Revelation), I wanted to spend some time trying to understand the full preterist position.

Why?  I ask myself that same question.  It is such a minority viewpoint that it seems pointless.  But, sometimes I do crazy things.

Years ago I worked my way through someone’s personal library after their death.  It had been willed to a few people, one of whom I knew, who no longer lived in the area.  They asked me to catalog it in exchange for the books they did not want.  Oddly, they didn’t want the eschatology.  The deceased had a thing for eschatology, but not the Hal Lindsey thing.  He liked full preterism.  So I kept those.

This past week I spent some of my spare time going through What Happened in A.D. 70? by Edward Stevens.  It is a booklet.  In this booklet, the author seeks to demonstrate that all of the prophecies regarding the end of time and the return of Jesus were fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem.  I know, most of you are not just thinking, but saying out loud, “Is that guy crazy?”

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The second chapter of R. Scott Clark’s book, Recovering the Reformed Confession, begins his more in-depth analysis of the crisis he laid out in the first chapter.  Here he tackles The Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty.

This chapter begins oddly by offering a few examples of this quest in Reformed circles.  Those are KJV-only advocates (I’ve missed this movement in the Reformed community), arguing against women in the military (I’m not sure I see the connection here as he explains it), and the Biblical Counseling movement (since he seems to view counseling as a medical issue instead of a sanctification issue in many cases).  He just drops those, without anything to back up his claims.  There is no smoking gun that these are related to the Illegitimate Quest.  Full preterism and denying the free offer of the gospel are about the only ones that I see as connected to this quest.  And those 2 are problematic.

But he spends the chapter focusing on a literal 6-day creation, theonomy and covenant moralism.  His argument is that in the shifting sands of modernity (or would that be post-modernity) some look for a solid place to stand.  Their insecurity, he says, leads them to seek certainty in all the wrong places.  He sees the role of fundamentalism as important in this.

“In fact, it is not a belief that the Bible is true which makes on a fundamentalist; rather it is the belief that one’s interpretation is inerrant which qualifies one as a fundamentalist.”

An interesting definition or defining factor.  But is he certain they are wrong?

6 Day Creation

He begins with the “rise” of a literal 6-day creation as a boundary marker.  In recent years, this was an issue in the PCA as they tried to determine if ministers should subscribe as strictly to this part of the Confession as other parts of the confession, like justification.  He notes that the RCUS adopted this as their denominational position in 1999.  I have not even heard of the RCUS.  The  OPC and URC have all studied it as well.

They defend this position from Scripture and the Westminster Confession of Faith (4.1).  This is what is so interesting to me.  He tries to say that the meaning of the Confession is not clear.  Since they may have been arguing against Augustine’s instantaneous creation instead of modern science’s evolution, 6 days doesn’t mean 6 days- it might mean something else.  This is a doctrinal statement, not a literary genre that may use figurative speech.

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Books on postmillennialism are rare these days, because postmillennialists are relatively rare (though the number is growing).  200 years ago, a very large number of Christians were postmillennial.  I have friends who are postmillennialists, one of whom wrote a book.  I’ve finally read that book.  Keith Mathison wrote Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope because many people misunderstand this view, and he wants to persuade more Christians that this is the biblical eschatology.

Disclaimer: I probably should get my eschatalogical journey out on the table since this can often color how we view this subject.  As a young Christian, I read lots of books by Dispensationalists on eschatology (because, sadly, they seem to be the ones inundating the market with books).  So, from 1986-1990 or so I was a dispensational premillennialist. But I was finding that Scripture was disabusing me of this view.  By the time I went to seminary in 1991, I was an historic premillennialist without realizing what my view was called.  I was initially suspicious of amillennialism and postmillennialism.  By the time I left seminary I was an amillennialist, and have remained so for 15 years.

Hermeneutical Considerations This is where Keith starts, and for good reason.  He lays out some Presuppositions and Definitions.  He lays out his presuppositions about the existance of God, His willingness to communicate, the authority of His Word, our being made as image bearers and ability to receive that Word before hitting interpretive considerations.  He concisely lays out the necessity of faith, the need to let Scripture interpret Scripture, the role of community and tradition in intrepreting Scripture.  It is only after this that Keith defines the 4 most common eschatalogical views (quiz, I’ve named them all already- what are they?).

“The thesis of this book is simple: Postmillennialism is the system of eschatology that is most consistent with the relevant texts of Scripture, a covenantal approach to Scripture, and the nondisputed doctrines of Reformation theology.”

He just dropped a term he hadn’t mentioned: Covenant Theology.  In the second chapter he distinguishes between Covenant and Dispensational Theology.  He was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary before he went off the theological reservation and I met him at Reformed Theological Seminary.  This is a SHORT chapter, but he concisely defines & critiques Dispensational Theology and then explains Covenant Theology since most American Christians are essentially unfamiliar with Covenent Theology.

Historical Considerations What the church has believed on this issue is important.  It is not definitive or authoritative.  It is also a mixed bag as various theologies came into being and were clarified over time.  The last of these to come into being is Dispensational Premillennialism (though there have been premillennialists for quite some time).  He shows that the historical claims some have made for their positions just don’t hold water.  Postmillennialism was the main position during the time of the Puritans and into the early 20th century, however.

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The subtitle of R.C. Sproul’s book The Last Days According to Jesus is When Did Jesus Say He Would Return?.  That seems a bit misleading.  But first…

I think this is the first Sproul book I’ve read since I was fired from Ligonier in 1998.  This is also the first time I’ve read a book in less than 24 hours in quite some time.  Some guys (Al Mohler & Gary North) do this regularly.  I don’t.

This book is about defending the authority of Jesus (and therefore legitimacy of Christianity) from attacks that Jesus was wrong with regard to the timing of events mentioned in the Olivet Discourse.  Sproul was talking about this in his Systematic Theology III class back in the early to mid 90’s. 

In this book he lays out the case for partial preterism.  What this means is that most/all of the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  Most people probably haven’t heard of this idea unless they inhabit  the nerdy world of people like me.  But plenty of people use the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 in particular) to prove Jesus is coming back soon.  They fall into the hands of higher criticism and atheists like Bertrand Russell.  So, this book is important.

Sproul does what he does well.  He explains what James Stuart Russell, Ken Gentry and others have argued, though in considerably fewer pages and in terms the average guy can understand.  He ablely does this through the first 3 chapters.  His work on the Olivet Discourse is good, as is chapter 5 (What Did John Teach in Revelation?).

Where he lost me, in the sense that I didn’t agree with him, was in applying preterism to Paul’s instruction.  Actually, he didn’t seem to argue for it so much as present the arguements of Russell and DeMar.  Many of the events Paul talked about don’t seem to have happened yet (hence, partial preterism).  It was just a confusing chapter.

Sproul does a good job when it gets to the Resurrection in explaining the differences between full and partial preterists, and the very real problems full preterism has.  Yes, there are people like Max King and Edward Stevens who think the whole shebang has been fulfilled.  And former classmates of mine like Keith Mathison and Jonathan Chori Seriah have taken them on.  Truly, far too many trees have been killed on this topic.  I can’t take King & Stevens seriously.

R.C. surveys the topics of the antichrist and the Millennium at the end of the book.  These chapters were not incredibly informative, and deviate (I think) from the overall goal of the book.

I do recommend this book if you want to gain a better understanding of the relationship of the Olivet Discourse to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  This is significant for the broader approach to eschatology, and means that most of the guys you see on tv are wrong, wrong, wrong on this one.

Unfortunately, it didn’t help me prepare my sermon on Revelation 12:7-13 like I’d hoped.

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