It should be pretty plain from the things I have written on eschatology that I am what is called a partial preterist, and so I don’t think I am giving away any secrets here. At the same time, I don’t believe that I have ever written down my reasons for rejecting full preterism, at least not in one place. So why do I not go all the way? If one’s good, two’s better, right?
My arguments on this are both theological and exegetical, but I do confess right at the beginning that some might categorize some of these reasons as somewhat off the beaten path. So brace yourselves. Some of this is odd, and some of it is not.
A word about method. It is a basic principle of exegesis that you not use the much disputed Daniel 12:2 as the key to unlock Phil. 3:20-21. As many wives have said to their spouse, while standing on the front porch in the dark, with him fumbling at the lock, “it goes the other way.”
Clear passages should provide the framework for understanding the difficult ones, and not the other way around. This of course raises the question of how to identify which ones are in fact the clear passages, about which more in a little bit. But it also means that we have to allow the obscure passages to remain obscure until we have better light (which is why my view that Dan. 12:2 is about the general resurrection of the dead remains tentative). We are not allowed to establish a system with the clear passages and then force-fit the unclear passages into our system. That would be to put together a jigsaw puzzle using the ever-alluring tools of scissors and a mallet.
So here goes. There are ten of these, and they are all interrelated. Not only are they interrelated with one another, they are also interrelated with all the reasons I failed to bring up here. Keep that in mind as well. Because they are so interrelated, I have not tried to place them in any particular order. You will just have to read them all, and I will begin in just a moment:
But if you are pressed for time, or you have other reasons for jumping to the areas that interest you most, here is a cheat sheet. 1. Chesterton taught us not to take down fences rashly; 2. We should consider the eschatology of Martha, sister of Lazarus, friend of Jesus; 3. What is the doctrine of the resurrection in 2 Maccabees?; 4. Remember that the created world is pregnant with the eternal order; 5. The firstfruits and the harvest must resemble each other; 6. David was still dead on Pentecost; 7. The millennium cannot represent just a few decades ; 8. Preterism is precious and must be defended; 9. The role of the ecumenical creeds must be carefully defined in all of this; 10. And I finally get to what I mean by theological jenga.
Default Assumptions & Chesterton’s Fence
Although it is actually not in his oath, the ancient physician Hippocrates once wrote that a physician should, in the first place, “do no harm.” You never want to come to the aid of somebody, and make everything worse. But in order to not make everything worse, you need to have a deep knowledge of interrelated systems. How are all these things connected? Too many people approach the question of full preterism as though it were hang nail surgery when it is actually quadruple by-pass heart surgery.
And an essential part of being able to heed the advice of Hippcrates in this is to understand what has come to be called Chesterton’s Fence.
There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”G.K. Chesterton
In its distilled form, Chesterton’s Fence is expressed this way:
Do not remove a fence until you know why it was put up in the first place.
So we need to begin by recognizing that it is the testimony of thousands of biblical and systematic theologians that the doctrine of the final coming of the Lord Jesus is an essential part of the system of faith that we call the orthodox Christian faith. The fact that some do not see any conceivable reason why it should occupy that space is an argument for leaving it in, not for taking it out.
Now, to the merits.
The Confession of Martha
When the Lord delayed coming at the sickness of Lazarus, that delay resulted in Lazarus dying. When the Lord arrived, Lazarus had already been in the grave for four days. Martha heard Jesus was coming to them late and went out to meet Him. Jesus then told her that Lazarus was going to be raised, and Martha said this in reply:
“Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
John 11:24 (KJV)
In common with faithful Second Temple Jews, Martha believed in a general resurrection at the end of history. She calls it “the resurrection.” And Jesus in no way contradicts this conviction of hers—rather He is about to give her a potent proleptic sign that the resurrection that was coming at the end of history was going to be grounded in Him. This is why He says to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He was going to give her this sign by raising Lazarus from the dead.
Now this raising of Lazarus was not the same kind of resurrection that will happen at the end of history because Lazarus eventually died a second time. What happened with Lazarus was more akin to a resuscitation than a resurrection, and this is why I call it a sign, and not part of the ultimate reality itself. The Lord’s resurrection body was the embodiment of an indestructible life (Heb. 7:16, ESV), which was not true of the raised Lazarus. Christ was raised, “never to die again” (Rom. 6:9). The son of the widow at Nain also died again (Luke 7:11-16).
So the last day has not yet arrived, which means Martha’s hope stands secure. We know what Second Temple Jews thought about the resurrection at the last day. We know, in broad outlines, what their eschatological assumptions were. The Sadducees were the ones who denied the general resurrection, and recall that Jesus refuted them and took all their lunch money (Matt. 22:29-32). In debating them, the Lord was defending the resurrection (te anastasei). The Pharisees taught a general resurrection at the end of time, Martha agreed with them, and Jesus obviously agreed with her.
This means that when we debate whether or not we agree with the doctrine of the resurrection, we should not begin our studies with a blank sheet of paper, a sharpened pencil, and a mind full of theories. We must begin with the outline of history that had already been hammered out by the orthodox believers before the time their Messiah arrived. Like Martha, we also stand by graves with the knowledge that the resurrection is coming at the last day. We stand in the same place, and we stand with the same hope.
2 Maccabees gives the account of the martyrdom of seven brothers who defied Antiochus Epiphanes. That cruel ruler had demanded that they eat pork, and when they refused to do so, they were all tortured to death. As they died, one by one, the surviving brothers all witnessed what would happen to them if they didn’t buckle, and yet they continued to defy the beast. As this gnarly drama unfolded, a number of the brothers repeatedly testified to their faith in the coming resurrection, with their mother looking on, encouraging them to stay strong.
Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shaped the beginning of humankind and brought about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”
2 Macabees 7:23 ()
And of course we know this is not Scripture. But this episode is mentioned in the eleventh of Hebrews, and the example of these martyrs is commended to us by Scripture as a good example to follow—along with the reason they had for staying strong. That reason was the resurrection of the dead, and their tenacity in holding to that reason is endorsed by Scripture.
“Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:”
Hebrews 11:35 (KJV)
Paul here points to women in the Old Testament who received their dead back to life, as the Shunammite woman did (2 Kings 4:36). But others accepted torture rather than deny their faith, and they did it so that they might receive a better resurrection at the resurrection.
Again, for Jews of the Second Temple period, this resurrection was going to occur at the end of history, and again, that should be our starting point. As a matter of historical fact, it was the starting point for the early church, which is why the broad outlines of this eschatology was so widely accepted by the Christian church. When the Christians connected the resurrection at the end of history with the final coming of Christ, the doctrine of that resurrection was already old.
Subtract the Sadducees from it—because Jesus already took them out of contention. What did conservative Second Temple Jews believe about the end of the world? They all believed the same thing that I do, and were willing to be tortured on the basis of that faith. And that faith is set before us in the book of Hebrews as a model for us to follow.
This Pregnant World
When Adam fell, the realm over which he had dominion fell also. And when the sons of God are revealed and manifested (Rom. 8:19), everything will be restored again. Adam was the lord of this world, and his defection from God had massive implications—red in tooth and claw—for that created order. The created order, naturally, longs for its release, and we learn in the pages of Scripture that it is a promised release.
The created order was reduced to corruption because of the sin of mankind. The created order will be liberated from that corruption when we believers receive our final adoption as sons, the redemption of the body. The future of this world and the future of the elect are inextricably linked.
The telos toward which the whole creation groans is therefore the consummation of all things.
“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”
Romans 8:22 (KJV)
This is the world that is pregnant with a future glory. So we do not believe that an external force is going to come down at the end of time and zap everything to make it different. We believe He already came down, and He already rose in the middle of history, such that things are already different—just as a pregnant woman is already a mother and not yet a mother. The transformation of the cosmic order is working its way out from the inside. A decaying world was infected with radical life and the infection site was a tomb outside Jerusalem.
It is not possible for a man to come back from the dead in this world without that altering forever the nature and prospects of this world. Christ rose from the dead two thousand years ago here, and this is the reason why this world cannot continue on in the same old way. If Christ had wanted to leave this world as it was, He wouldn’t have come back from the dead here. He would have been given a brand new body up in Heaven, and sent us pictures.
So this creation, this world, will be delivered “from the bondage of corruption” and will be ushered into the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). This is why our resurrection is something that the whole created order is longing for. Paul here calls that resurrection the “redemption of the body,” and he also teaches us that when we are raised, the whole created order will be put right as well.
“Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
Romans 8:21 (KJV)
But if we are not raised, then this poor world would have to continue to stagger and weave down a road of endless history, no end in sight. And if that sorry world asked me for an inspirational quote to sustain it on the way, I would encourage it with this . . . why isn’t God keeping His promise?
What Fruitfruits Should Tell Us
The death, burial and resurrection of Christ was an eruption from the end of history right in the middle of history. The beginning of the end of the world happened two thousand years ago.
Now Christ was raised in a very specific way. He had a grave, and after He rose from the dead that grave was empty. We are told in many places that this event was the down payment on our salvation—and our salvation extends from the purpose of the Father in eternity past all the way up to our own individual resurrection. So Christ was raised from the dead. The Spirit of God was then given to us to serve as an earnest money guarantee that the very same thing was going to happen to us (2 Cor. 1:22; 2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:14).
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”
1 Corinthians 15:20 (KJV)
So Christ’s resurrection was given to us as a template, or pattern of our own resurrection. Now if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy (Rom. 11:6). And just as a man reaps what he sows (Gal. 6:7), so also a man harvests that which first appeared as the firstfruits.
Now it makes no sense to say that the firstfruits rose from the grave in this particular way, but then to have the harvest show up in a completely different way. As my friend Jared Longshore put it, “If the firstfruit rose in manner A, will the lump rise in manner B? If the root in manner A, will the branch in manner B?”
God is not mocked. You cannot plant thistle and harvest wheat. But neither can you plant wheat in one field and harvest the crop in another field. Still less can you harvest the crop in different world.
The Tomb of David
There is an odd little passage at the end of Matthew (that Christopher Hitchens actually asked me about one time) that says that the earthquake at Christ’s death opened many tombs, and after the Lord’s resurrection a number of the previously deceased went into town to look folks up and say hey. I can easily imagine a young widow saying to her resurrected husband, “Don’t do that to me!”
“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
Matthew 27:52–53 (KJV)
But after this happened, when Peter was preaching on the day of Pentecost, he told the assembled there that David was still dead and buried, and that they could walk over to his tomb if they still wanted to see it.
“Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.”
Acts 2:29 (KJV)
This leads me to believe that those who appeared to the folks in Jerusalem when Christ rose were not sum total of all the saints of the Old Testament era, but rather were just recently deceased—they had people in the city that they knew. So perhaps these people were simply resuscitated, as Lazarus had been, and eventually died again, or perhaps they had new bodies and were taken up to Paradise when Christ ascended. I suspect it needs to be the former.
But in any case, David was not in their number, which means that this was not the general resurrection that Martha was looking forward to. That is still to come.
As all preterists know, not all the language of Scripture needs to be taken literally, or woodenly. I do not believe that the one thousand years of Revelation 20 has to mean a literal one thousand trips around the sun. But when language is symbolic, we have to remember that the symbol is always less than the reality. The wedding ring is a symbol, and the marriage is much the greater. The flag of a nation is the symbol, but the country it represents is far greater than the symbol.
So if someone wants to say that the millennium represents ten thousand years of gospel glory, they have not lost me. But if they want everything to fit in between 30 and 70 A.D.—without using a shoehorn and a copious amount of axle grease—I begin to manifest a significant amount of incredulity.
Preterism is Precious
Preterism has been a huge hermeneutical gift in my life. It has been a key that has opened up countless passages of Scripture. It has deepened my faith, and strengthened me in my walk with God. Preterism really is precious to me. It is hard for me to express how grateful I have been for this hermeneutical gift. But precious things must be defended, and things left undefended are not precious—whatever words are used.
Now I regard full preterism to be a threat, not to futurism, but rather to partial preterism. Full preterism is actually a major boon to the futurists. It makes it possible for futurists to argue, and to argue plausibly, that to adopt partial preterism is like trying to be partially pregnant. If you accept just a little bit of it to help you navigate the tough parts of the Olivet discourse, the first thing you know you will find yourself denying that Christ will ever come back again at all.
Speaking of the Olivet discourse, my thought is that the divide between the first century and the final coming of the Lord is at least by Matt. 25:31. Not to change the subject.
The questions raised by full preterists represent a border that simply must be guarded, and partial preterists are the only ones in a position to do it. If I were a dispensationalist (and a Machiavellian) I would be cheering the full preterists on. I would be standing on my chair and whooping.
It is as though you were among evangelicals with an extremely low view of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, such that they observed it quarterly, with grape juice and crackers, and with a mere memorialist vibe. But you somehow discovered Calvin’s view of the sacrament, and it bowled you right over. You introduced it to your congregation, and they received it warmly, and were gladly growing in their understanding of the richness of Reformed worship. That’s the moment when a couple of your former students decide to become Roman Catholic, and another one starts flirting with becoming EO.
You know, you guys aren’t helping. Not even a little bit.
The Only Eschatological Truth that the Universal Church Has Ever Agreed On
One of the reasons for rejecting full preterism needs to be the fact of the overwhelming teaching of the universal church. Throughout the two thousand years of church history, the only eschatological doctrine that has ever garnered universal agreement has been the conviction that full preterism is in error. That’s the only thing we all agree on. From the Apostles Creed on, we have confessed that “from thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.”
I have not listed this one near the end because I am somehow sheepish about it, or embarrassed to argue in this way. I am not surreptitiously tiptoeing away from sola Scriptura. I am not trying to trump a passage of Scripture with my Nicene card. But at the same time, we believe in sola Scriptura, not nuda Scriptura.
There really is a complex interaction between the creedal confessions of the church and the Scriptures. What I want to do here is just (briefly) sketch the outlines of the problem, and to do so without opening up another battle on my right flank with Roman Catholics. To them I say that testimony can truthfully point to authority without aspiring to become an equal authority itself. To use Martin Luther’s example, John the Baptist can point to Christ and say, “Behold the Lamb of God,” without setting himself up as Christ’s equal.
When a full preterist says that he does not recognize the authority of “the creeds,” but wants to rest his case on the authority of Scripture and only Scripture, he has set himself a real problem. The boundaries of the Scripture he is appealing to are creedally defined. Put another way, the Table of Contents in his Bible is not inspired. Nobody maintains that the Table of Contents is God-breathed. The Table of Contents is actually the foundational Christian creed. So anyone who appeals to Scripture cannot do it in a way that is entirely “creed-free.” That’s the first thing. No Christian is ever creed-free. To take a “Scripture, not creeds” approach is logically incoherent.
And here is the second thing, one that follows hard on the first. There are many instances where we have to grant some measure of “creedal” authority to lexicons and other forms of extra-biblical knowledge. This is especially the case when we are dealing with a hapax—a word that occurs only one time in the New Testament. Take the word Tartarus, which Peter uses once (2 Pet. 2:4). Not only is it used only once in the New Testament, it is also a basic word describing an important place in ancient cosmology. We are not bound to every detail of that broader cosmology, of course not, but we are bound to what Peter says about it. And we need to know something of how the word or concept is being used outside of Scripture to even know what we are talking about.
So if the Scriptures were to say in some place that “Christ will not return at the end of the history to judge the quick and the dead,” we should not be able to negate that by pulling out the Apostles Creed, which says that He will. That’s not how the orthodox should ever use the Creed. Rather, I use that confession as yet one more piece of evidence (and there are many such pieces) that reveals the outlines of first or second century thought forms. I also see those same thought forms throughout the pages of the New Testament. The creed tells me what believers were saying in the second century A.D., which turns out to be basically the same thing that Jewish believers were confessing in the second century B.C.—which is that history will end with the resurrection. And it is also the same set of thought forms that I am operating with twenty centuries later.
And if we wanted to connect these two points, the Apostles Creed is about two centuries older than the Table of Contents Creed. Neither creed is inspired, but both of them are true, which means they are infallible. Two plus two is not inspired, but it is true, and therefore infallible. The truth is always infallible.
As Uri Brito pointed out in a couple of his podcasts (here and here), the implications of this issue are massive. It is not a matter of abandoning congregational polity for presbyterian polity, or deciding to baptize with heads upstream from now on.
I could not embrace full preterism without that undoing the entire architecture and fabric of my mind. And I say this as someone who knows what it is like to go through theological paradigm shifts—I have been to the fair, and ridden on all the rides. Got sick on some of them. I have transitioned from Arminianism to Calvinism, from credo to paedo, from premillennial to postmillennial, and you know. One of those guys. If any one of those transitions was like bumping into the table and spilling a glass of water, full preterism would be like the Great 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
I am telling you all that all Reformed theology hangs together, and this is a theological jenga game—and full preterism is like trying to pull out a long block second from the bottom. It is not possible to talk about this issue all by itself.
Futurists and partial preterists disagree with one another about numerous passages of Scripture. But we don’t disagree with one another about the structure and framework of human history. We line the books up differently, and sometimes have fierce debates about that, but we both use the same bookends—creation and the eschaton.
What this means is that my difference with the full preterist does not fall in the same category, not at all. It is actually a difference about the meaning and teleology of all human history in its entirety. This is not a trifle, in other words. The ramifications are massive.
I like living where I do, and have no desire to move to an Arminian dispensational neighborhood. Let us be frank, I would have trouble adapting. But if an angel told me to move there, and to grow some five-point tulips in my backyard as a testimony to them, I think I could do it. Moreover I think I could do it without quarreling with the neighbors. But moving to a full preterist neighborhood would be like moving to an alien world. If an angel told me to move to Jupiter in order to grow giant cabbages, I confess that I would not even know where to start. I would be at an utter nonplus. And not only would I have difficulty not quarreling with the neighbors, I think I would have difficulty not quarreling with the angel.
Some of you might be saying aha! “He wouldn’t change his mind even if an angel told him to.” Yeah, well (Gal. 1:8).
It will not have escaped the notice of some of you that I am writing about all of this shortly after a debate on the topic broke out between Andrew Sandlin, Ken Gentry, et al, on the one hand, and Gary DeMar on the other. As it happens, I was also a signatory to the letter that was sent to Gary. Now I believe that Gary mentioned in one of his podcasts that I had contacted him privately with a suggestion for heading all of this off, which is the case, and I wanted to mention here what that suggestion was.
It is my belief that Gary ought to make a statement something like what I have written below. If he were to do that, I would be happy to request that my name be removed from the letter. If not, then my name remains—but without throwing any rocks at Gary personally. As the other signatories have indicated, I owe too much to Gary to treat him that way.
But if Gary were to say something like this, or anything in this ballpark, I would be more than delighted to drop my name from the letter.
Here it is:
“I am willing to affirm the three doctrines you mention in your letter (the return of Christ, the general resurrection, and the end of a fallen creation). But for the sake of intellectual honesty, I also need to register a clear distinction as I do this. In my current understanding, I am unable to make a strong exegetical case for these three doctrines, and virtually all my work on eschatology has been exegetical in nature. At the same time, I do understand that these doctrines are theologically crucial, and on these theological grounds, I am willing to submit to the teaching of the broader church regarding these doctrines. I say this knowing that all sound theology has to be ultimately grounded in Scripture, and I accept that it is. It is just that I am not the man to make that case.”A hypothetical Gary
Sorry, Not Sorry
This has been lengthier than most posts, but let’s be honest. You are the one who kept reading, and that part was certainly not my fault.
What was my goal? I hope it demonstrates an irenic spirit on eschatological issues, while at the same time testifying to my belief that full preterism represents much more than a mere eschatological issue. Way bigger than that. Full preterism is not an eschatological debate. It is a total world and life view debate, and needs to be treated as such.
Comments are open, and please behave.
I’m a bit new to this debate. Can someone point me to a recorded debate between a full and partial preterist that both represent their positions well? P.S. …. First!
Joel McDurmon debated Don Preston some years ago. https://livebytruth.com/preston-vs-mcdurmon-debate/
Before he turned into Joel McWokemon and went bat guano crazy. American Vision has been such a helpful organization over the years…it’s sad to see this now taking place after Joel almost ran it into the ground a few years ago.
Questioning southern politics was nothing compared to the heresy at the helm of American Vision now, questioning the foundations of the faith, which is the subject of this article.
There’s a lot more to this than Southern politics. McDurmon had doubled down repeatedly on things like critical theory (which is godless to the core) and recently said “What if much of so-called “deconstruction” is actually revival?”
That’s “deconstruction” as in people questioning and turning away from Christianity. I’d take full pret Demar over Joel any day of the week.
I remember McDurmon debated Preston on the topic. Should be available somewhere.
No partial preterist will debate a full preterist. They’re way too scared of what might happen.
1) You mention Arminian dispensationals. You do know it’s possible to be a 5-point Calvinist and a dispensational, right?
2) Are you planning to read this book when it comes out? https://scspress.socalsem.edu/discovering-dispensationalism/
If your understanding of a Reformed and/or historically orthodox Protestant hermeneutic is strictly limited to “5-point” Calvinism, then yes it’s possible to remain dispensational.
But the building of one’s cumulative and coherent Reformed systematic theology, and not just Calvinistic soteriology, if researched and analyzed honestly, should* inevitably lead to, at the very least, a move toward a Classical Historic Pre-millennial eschatology.
You’re right, I’m just a soteriological Calvinist.
I tend to think we 5-point Calvinist dispensationalists are somewhat on the rare side. But yeah, we do exist. John MacArthur is probably the most well-known.
I think so too, although I’m trying to change that :-). Nothing contradictory about the two systems. Also, I think Doug Wilson would be much more at home in a Calvinistic Dispensational neighborhood than a Arminian Dispensational neighborhood.
As I listen to Gary and his friend these 3-4 podcasts, and as I review my copy of Keith Mathison’s book on Sola Scriptura, it seems to me we all need a strong refresher course on the same, especially American Reformed Christians. As a man once said, “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Nice reference to “The Princess Bride”.
Thank you Pastor Doug this was a very helpful article.
Doug, thanks for responding. As a longtime (circa 1990’s) follower of Gary I’ve been troubled by this whole controversy and the FV overtones. Your approach seems perfectly reasonable but given the circumstances I would understand if Gary decided to pursue his current path.
I’ve been following the debate, and greatly appreciate this solid defense of historic orthodoxy by Rev. Wilson. I also appreciate Gary DeMar’s exegetical work that supports partial preterism, and do hope that he and “hypothetical Gary” end up landing in the same place.
Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
I was formerly an Arminian dispensational Baptist now turned post mill (still Baptist, but confessional) thanks to you, and the likes of Gary DeMar, and Ken Gentry, and others. I may also mention that my very first exposure to the faults of dispensationalism was by Duane Garner and some family friends in Monroe (of all places!) who recommended his “Why the End is Not Near.” Anyway, can you point me to some resources (or articles you have published, as I’m sure there are some I’ve missed) that specifically address, and possibly reconcile to the partial-preterist conversation, or apply that hermeneutic,… Read more »
Search for John Owen’s interpretation online and that will you get you going in the right direction
I second John Owen’s work on the passage. Volume 9, Semon X, (titled) “Providential Changes, an Argument for Universal Holiness”.
Also, on Canon+, if I may plug Canon+, Peter Leithart does a review of 2 Peter, called the Promise of His Appearing, read by Aaron Wells, and he covers much of the same material.
Thanks, Pastor Doug!
As it relates to the 3 Questions to Gary DeMar and the “messengers” involved, the world is seeing that this entire thing has originated NOT with the last 30+ years of Gary interacting favorably with Full Preterists, as we all have seen it. But this new coming at Gary to respond looks more like an agenda, an agenda foisted by a specific group: Ex-Full Preterists associated with Whitefield Theological Seminary and its new novice interim president, who not so ironically is an EX-Full Preterist. It seems to those of us in the know, that many of you “partial” or “orthodox” preterists… Read more »
So, Doug, did you hear that? You got “tricked” by me and Jason Bradfield. We “played” you, and you didn’t even know it! Or, it could be that this Roderick Edwards fellow is simply making things up…I can prove the latter.
Here’s your people Doug Wilson, using my name ^^^ impersonating me. More than likely this is Jason Bradfield as this has been his behavior in the past.
Or you could just BYPASS Jason’s little attempt to imitate other people and just go directly to the site where he lifted all of this stuff. You’d think as a seminary president he wouldn’t have time make entire bogus sites. https://unpreterist.blogspot.com/search?q=talbot
The issue isn’t what I’ve thought or said CONSISTENTLY about Gary DeMar over the years, as you can see I’ve never purged my past, but the ISSUE is why NOW are the Talbotites going after DeMar when he’s said and behaved favorably towards Full Preterism for 30 yrs. It isn’t new so WHY NOW?
Doug is always so eloquent with his literary prowess! He brings up a good, but faulty, premise… That is… >>”my difference with the full preterist does not fall in the same category, not at all. It is actually a difference about the meaning and teleology of all human history in its entirety.”<< Doug’s honesty is much appreciated, and at the same time I think shows the confusion of so many… NO WHERE in God’s word does God say there will be an end to ALL HISTORY… In fact what DOES He say…?? Genesis 8 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said… Read more »
Daryll, When do we get our new bodies like Jesus’ resurrected body? And where will we live with these new bodies if not in the NEW heavens and NEW earth? “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23 ESV “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will… Read more »
John Carnahan, Why do you believe that Jesus’ resurrection body was not the same body that went into the grave? And what happened to the body that went into the grave? I find this teaching troubling.
“As long as the earth endures”–this does not mean that the world will go on forever and ever as we know it. According to science, the sun will go red at some point (albeit in several billion years, I think), and then the people on earth (if there will be any left) would die. This goes with St. Peter’s statement that the world will go up in flames someday. Jesus also said that he would come back on the clouds, as he ascended into Heaven, and that we won’t be able to miss it. This is indication of a second… Read more »
Very helpful, thanks Pastor Doug.
Doug Wilson is undoubtedly a great communicator, and a lot of fun to read and/or listen to; even when you are left unconvinced of what he has to say. Partial preterists repeat what they believe, as though repeating it one more time is the equivalent of defending it. I kept asking myself how do I know that second temple Judaism taught end of the world, and why couldn’t they be wrong about that as they were so many other things about which Jesus corrected them. I kept asking myself, end of what? end of the aeon? cosmos? old covenant era?… Read more »
I have challenged Gary DeMar to a debate. So what?
I have been following this… controversy? Debate? Those don’t seem like the right words. Like Doug said, a shift to radical preterism would be totally world shattering for someone’s theology. I can even feel some of that dread when I consider the possiblity. I do have a partial preterist take on most scriptures but am learning that I need some more tools in my toolbox to to divide the sheep of past from the goats of future. Although I don’t believe this 3 question letter thing has been handled as well as it should have been, all sides do have… Read more »
Thanks, Pastor Doug, that was an excellent article (and the first thing I’ve ever read from you) which I found more helpful, and certainly more succinct & scriptural than numerous podcasts, and the many articles posted on Facebook over the last few months. It would be interesting to read a response from someone holding to full preterism. I have DeMar and Gentry to thank for helping me move from being a dispensationalist to a partial preterist-which I also feel was a hermeneutical gift in my life.
Thank you – this is entirely sensible. And as usual, you’ve done so with pithy “everybody knows-es.”
I like the suggested statement from Gary that Doug offers. If Gary were to agree to it, I think this could all blow over. However, if he doesn’t (or won’t, I suppose is the better expression), is Doug willing to apply the “H” word to Gary’s beliefs. A big part of the equation here is making sure the alarm is sounded loudly and clearly regarding the danger of the sort of ambiguity that Gary is giving a large and wide stage to in American Christendom (or at least that part of professing Christendom that is at least marginally awake).
One of the things I have seen/heard in this discussion more locally from a full preterist, is that he has reinterpreted (among other things) the creation account, using Isaiah as his guide where it speaks about the decreation of the world in God’s judgment – to conclude (to the best of my knowledge) that the creation account in Genesis is not intended to be taken literally/physical but covenantally – thus from the beginning – everything in scripture is symbolically covenantal and nothing needs to be physical – including the final resurrection, including the new heavens and the new earth. though… Read more »
It’s called “covenant creation” to match “covenant eschatology.”
There is a website that is a clearinghouse of books and related material.
Gary DeMar interviewed the author (full disclosure — me) after he read the main book titled Beyond Creation Science.
DeMar’s interview about the book is listed on the home page.
I have not read your book (though I will try) but I have read others who apparently site your study – I did not know your view of the flood until I looked at your website and it highlighted my problem with your premise…you have taken typology and detached it from its historical event – making the event largely symbolic in creation using reverse exegesis from Isaiah – while I think you largely interpret the Isaiah passages correctly you undermine scripture as a whole. If creation is symbolic and an event is not important, do that with the flood –… Read more »
I haven’t listened to this but apparently David Chilton became a full preterist before he passed away.
Passing of Heaven & Earth – Chilton | International Preterist Association
DeMar and Burgess discuss the section in Romans that Wilson points out on their latest podcast. https://sites.libsyn.com/453213/the-glory-to-be-revealed
Wilson doesn’t believe that God’s glory has been revealed?
Doug, I really appreciate your willingness to take a stand when needed. Many times there are issues plaguing the body, and the “leaders” seem to avoid the controversy. I appreciate the willingness to engage. However, in this particular case I have read the statement over at the unorthodox eschatology site and associated scripture “proofs,” and because a few of the passages cited are contested by orthodox believers as to what they refer to (AD70 or Final Judgement) this seems to muddy the waters and lessen the impact of the statement. I don’t feel I would be comfortable signing the statement,… Read more »
Which is exactly what Gary does if you listen to his 5 podcast responses to all this.
Wow, this is the first time I have listened to you are even heard of you. I quite enjoyed your views and discussions. I also listen a lot to RC Sproul. Your views on being a Partial Preterist sound a lot like his. Though I am a pre-Trib person you must have had some discussions with RC over the years. He like you was a very smart and thoughtful man.
Would the main thrust of this article be an appeal to the consequences?
I think so. It seems they’re trying to hedge off any potential heresy and false teaching since so many who have gone full preterist have gone that way. The concern is justified, but I’m wondering about the method they’re taking to hedge any potentially damnable fallout. It may be another self fulfilling prophecy where they help drive him to those beliefs. Still researching the issue.
Forgive me, but what is the source of this controversy, and where can I get caught up? Who is pushing Full Preterism?
Very helpful distinctions, Doug. Thank you for posting this. Good stuff. Phil Kayser
The fat-computer between my temples wants to connect Galatians 6:7 to the portion of this article where the eruption of some first fruit entered center stage. Being relatively new to Post-mil thinking forgive me if I say something stupid. Christ obviously is the first fruit, can we draw implications from Gal 6:7-10 to point toward the necessity of a post-mil understanding? Or am I acting like a hammer seeing every passage as a post-mil nail?
Maxwell, I don’t think it is a proof, but I believe it is full consistent with a postmill vision.
The real issue here is that God works in simultaneous layers. The Jew-Gentile “Land and Sea” SOCIAL construct was a temporary arrangement within the PHYSICAL order to avoid another PHYSICAL flood. Full preterism conflates the two. An analysis of the Bible’s cyclic, layered structure actually shows that many verses that partial preterists rely upon do in fact refer to AD70. But the same analysis ultimately gives the game to the partial preterists in ways they currently can’t seem to comprehend. Proof texting simply isn’t enough when we are dealing with a 3D object. Gary’s openness to Scripture is why he… Read more »
The polarized division between these two parties of partial preterist and full preterist could easily be resolved if both parties could recognize that scripture presents not just one general resurrection but a total of three bodily-resurrection events. God planned three bodily-resurrection events to align with Israel’s three harvest feast celebrations taking place at Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Two of these “harvests” of the bodies of the saints out of the ground have already occurred at Passover week in AD 33 (Christ and the Matthew 27:52-53 saints who were the “First-fruits” of the “First resurrection”) and later at… Read more »
Agreed on the three resurrection events, but a simpler referent is the “Garden, Land, World” architecture established in Genesis and its model in the three domains of the Tabernacle/Temple. We await the third reckoning—the Court of the Nations.
Thank you Doug, I love your ministry and you have been a blessing. But I am glad Gary is finally trying to deal with questions that I have had for years. I was sad that you added your name to the letter and believe you should withdraw your name and discuss the issues involved. Your argument here was not fully convincing. We need honest debate on the issues involved. Listen to Jeff Durbin’s sermon, New Covenant Heavens and Earth. Sounds like full preterism to me.
Thank you, Pastor Wilson, for your helpful words. For my part, I too hope that Gary will clarify his position in such a manner as you suggest. God bless you and your ministry.
You claim that Martha and the Jews believed the resurrection would be at the end of history. You are reading your assumptions into the text. They believed it would be at the end of the age, at the beginning of the age to come, at the restoration of Israel. What needs to be established is what is the last day? Here is a quote from N.T. Wright “The second step builds on what I was saying in the first part of this lecture about Jewish expectations of the resurrection. As we saw, “resurrection” in second-Temple Judaism functioned within a controlling narrative… Read more »
I think of the slide of Chilton and Sutton late in their lives toward full preterism.
Question … is there a common cause why these these theologians have began to doubt the orthodoxy of the final coming?
Probably has to do with their study of the issue.
If Gary DeMar does away with a part of the early creeds he does away with the whole thing. As I’ve listened to many write about “covenant eschatology” and DeMars podcasts I have come to the conclusion that DeMars rejection of the bodily resurrection of the dead strikes at the heart of Christianity. I do not say this lightly but can only come to that conclusion while studying scripture, the apostles creed, and the patristic fathers. While Gary seems to believe he can separate the resurrection of the body at Christs return from the rest of the creed, nothing is… Read more »
Do you believe that, as the Apostle’s creed says, Jesus descended into hell? Considering Luke 23:43, I think, at best, the creed saying that He descended into hell is not so helpful in this regard as it’s using the wrong word for our context. Is it not okay to review that part of the creed and perhaps give it more clarity (fix it) as to exactly where Jesus was after his death? The creeds and confessions are not fullproof. In fact, the WCF is totally wrong on the Catholic Church and the Pope, as well as it’s approval of remarriage… Read more »
The Creed says Hades, which is quite different.
Well, yes, Hades is quite different, but yet I’ve recited the Apostles’ Creed in PRCA, URC and OPC churches and every single one of them uses ‘hell’ rather than Hades.
Actually, it doesn’t say Hades. It says: descendit ad inferos. Inferos translates directly into hell.
Yes I do believe he descended into hell. As Calvin stats “Nothing has been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death.” From talking with Gary online and from his podcasts he is questioning the future general and physical resurrection of the dead and has stated that when we die are bodies are not resurrected in the future but we receive a new spiritual body at death.
Squabbling over the word hell, hades, inner parts of the earth and such is radically different than denying that the words resurrection of the body or dead in the future means we are given entirely new spiritual bodies right when we die.
It’s not a squabble if you believe Jesus descended into hell to experience punishment and spiritual death. Every single Gospel presentation I’ve ever heard from any faithful church or Christian has never made the specific resurrection of the body in the future an essential part of the Gospel. I think it’s very important, for sure, because we are both body and spirit, and it aligns with so many other clear teachings of Scripture, but it’s not an absolute must have when considering justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. The belief in a spiritual… Read more »
I ,along with Paul and all of the historical Orthodox Church denominations , believe the resurrection of the body in the future is a core element of the Gospel. 1 corinthians 15 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. Here is a part of the Athanasius creed excepted by orthodox denominations. he is seated at the Father’s right hand; from there he will come to… Read more »
So are you going to answer my questions on whether Jesus experienced spiritual death and punishment in hell (not Hades)? You conveniently sidestepped the issue, chalking it up to a squabble over a little word. Saying our savior went to hell is no small matter. Is it more likely that the authors of the creed made an inaccurate word choice or believed something antithetical to Scripture in believing that Jesus went to hell rather than the more appropriate term of hades? Again, I agree with you on the resurrection of the body, but those who claim that there is only… Read more »
I don’t think you realize the enormity of error in the FP position. They believe the final judgment along with the resurrection was fulfilled in AD 70. How can one believe in the resurrection if we receive NEW spirit bodies at death. What has been resurrected? Did his soul die along with his body so the soul is resurrected? If it is a whole new spiritual body how in any sense can we say it is a resurrected body? Let me ask you this, in what hope have we been saved? Romans 8 says this. 20For the creation was subjected… Read more »
dodging again on the issue of the creed… DeMar hasn’t affirmed a full preterist position (yet). Also, my hypothetical wasn’t even based on a complete FP position. It was moreso based on ignorance. Many people who profess Christ today think of Heaven as some spirit-only, ethereal world where we’re free floating and in complete bliss. Gary is far from that kind of Christianity given how much he harps on having a biblical worldview for all of life. It is evident that he loves the Word and is trying to figure things out; in that regard, he still has some humility.… Read more »
I will not answer your question now on hades and hell in the same way I will not answer questions challenging other areas of the creed. It is a distraction from the whole conversation about FP beliefs especially related to their rejection of Christ coming in the future, the resurrection of the body, and the final judgement.
So then aren’t you doing exactly what DeMar is doing? You guys are losing credibility fast.
Many have directly used scripture as I have talking with you on this topic. Creeds, confessions, councils are secondary sources obviously but sources none the less and they do have authority as much as they agree with scripture. I find it crazy though that when someone uses the creeds, confessions, council to make a point they are immediately accused of Roman Catholicism or blind creedalism. Many preterist will refer to Josephus and historical finds that testify to scripture but using the creeds, councils and confession is out of line? Why? Because they disagree with scripture or because they disagree with… Read more »
I love the creeds and confessions and I don’t make that accusation lightly. I’ve had some interactions, and continuously am having interactions, that prove some measure of blind creedalism and confessionalism, and traditionalism, within the CREC world. Within the last year I have left the anti and non-confessional baptist world because I butted up against those gross-shortcomings. How disappointing is it that I’m butting up against the opposite problem now in the CREC world? And the formulation on justification I used was to speak in your (and mine) language in order to get a clear answer from you, but none… Read more »
I understand your concerns and get the difficulty leaving denominations or churches for another. I was in the PCA 20 years and became a member of the WELS 5 years ago. I love the creeds, confessions, and the early councils not because they are above or equal to scripture but they do connect us to the whole church throughout history. They also serve as clear summary statements of what the universal church believes regarding scripture. While we hold these things in high regard and use them accordingly we will not join Rome in saying they are over the scriptures.
The funny thing is that I have been specifically trying to get me and my family in a church that is more creedal and confessional because of what I experienced by first 10 years as a Christian. You put it well that they do help connect us to the whole church throughout history. I like that and I want that for me and my family.
Praying you find that for you and your family! It’s a huge blessing!
I’m sorry if I that came off rude but I am not dodging your question but simply don’t have enough time in this limited space to answer you question about hell and hades. Here is a good article on such and you can study the topic on your own to delve in further.
In standard fashion, the GC is dodgy. But let’s look at what it says Calvin’s view was: Calvin believed that the phrase referred to Jesus’s vicarious suffering of the Father’s wrath on the cross for those who repent and believe. Unlike the Orthodox and Roman Catholic views, Calvin saw Jesus’s descent occurring on the cross instead of in his burial. You said you believe he descended into hell and you aligned yourself with Calvin. At least from this article, that was not Calvin’s view. We know that Jesus suffered on our behalf, but was that just during Good Friday, or… Read more »
I am trying to answer his questions along with many others using scripture, creeds, confessions, catechisms, councils and many other sources. If you were to talk with some one who denies the diety of Christ would you not speak of the trinity and the hypostatic union and use scripture to show them the truths of these doctrines? Why then when someone denies the Resurrection of the body is it ridiculous to appeal to the same doctrines put forth in councils and creeds and argue them from scripture?
I think the issue is denying the inherent problem of preterism: how far it’s taken. Some measure of preterism must be used to be postmill, as you know. It seems to me that the questions Gary is asking are at a deeper level within the scriptures than the level that others are willing to engage with him on. There’s the scriptural references used by the confessions, but the willingness to do the deep exegetical work is not there. This whole thing is a mess because of the potential error Gary can find himself in, but also the fact that the… Read more »
Calvin agreed to the wording Christ descended into hell and argued that it should not be changed or taken out of the creed. In his institutes he argues that scripture does clarify what this means. FP have wanted to change the creeds and have wanted a new counsil on eschatology to change the wording. Big difference. They are not arguing over the meaning of a word but are wanting to change the whole doctrine of the future judgement, return of Christ, and the resurrection of the dead.
It wasn’t over whether Calvin agreed with the wording. You said you believed he descended into hell and you used Calvin to justify your belief. I’ve said that line of the creed and I’m good with the church expounding on what that means as long as it’s not that Jesus literally went to hell to experience further punishment and/or spiritual death on our behalf. He took our sin on the cross, not in hell. Given all of the various eschatological views out there, wouldn’t it be proper to have a council to at least try to settle the matter, and… Read more »
The matter of of the future coming of Christ in Judgment and the bodily resurrection have been settled in the early councils which every orthodox Christian church agrees with. The reformed and Lutheran confessions have statements against millennialisn. A new council is not only unneeded but it is impossible to repeat the level of agreement in the early councils with the division between denominations in our day. I mean some can’t even agree to accept the early councils so what would a new council gain?
Besides that let’s just say hypothetically all the churches agree to the FP to have a council. All the FP are complaining now about the use of creeds, councils, and confessions are they not? Would they suddenly change their opinion if the council said FP was heterodoxy again? Don’t they trust the work of the holy spirit in redemptive history?
I had provided my reasoning on why a new council would be beneficial even if no concensus was reached and the fact that there’s a whole lot of disagreement about matters up to the future resurrection, judgment, etc. I think there enough godly, rational men in our midst that could take the discomfort and disagreement to at least attempt to hash out things while remaining gracious to each other. There would always be some who would cause a stink because they weren’t invited.
Here you appeal to “justification alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone”. Is that an appeal from scripture or is that an appeal from a reformed formulation of faith? In the same way I appeal to the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the body, and A final judgment. Yes from the creeds and scripture.
Then how do you square descending into hell with Luke 23:43? There’s no way paradise can be construed as hell in this passage. Also, if he did descend into hell to experience punishment there, how do you reconcile that with 1 Pet 3:18-20? It could be that He descended into hell, not to experience punishment there, but do what the text says: proclaim(ed) to the spirits in prison because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared. Was He there to just make a proclamation? I think that’s… Read more »
I was reading a bit today on your question about Jesus descent to hell. As a Lutheran I take the view that Christ descended to the place of dead (hell or hades) to announce his victory over death and hades. This was the view of the church fathers and that put forth in the creeds. Here is a quote from my studies that you might enjoy. Historical Importance and Creedal Inclusion This basic threefold importance of Christ’s descent—solidarity in experiencing death as all humans do, proclaiming victory to all the dead, and releasing the OT saints—was virtually ubiquitous in the… Read more »
Thanks for reading more on that and providing some additional information. I want to be specific, though: I’m not contending a problem with the belief, and truth, that Jesus did indeed die bodily and went to the place of the dead. I’m contending that the word ‘hell’ in English is a wholly inappropriate word to use in the Creed, yet we recite it over and over without any thought. Strict creedalism says that we can’t change the word or phrasing because to do so would almost be akin to changing Scripture. It’s not. Even the Apostles Creed was based on… Read more »
Could some provide me resources/source/material that DeMar has affirmatively gone full preterist?
Pastor Doug, responding directly to the blog post this time. The Apostles Creed does not say hades, as you had previously responded that it does. It says inferos, which translates directly in hell. I’ve recited the Apostles Creed in PRCA, OPC and URC churches and all use ‘hell’. Given Luke 23:43, hell is not the correct word to use. I’ve even seen a CREC church that omits ‘he descended into hell’ altogether. I’ve seen others that make exceptions to the WCF. Obviously the WCF is wrong on the Pope being the antichrist and the simple notion that there is a… Read more »
I would love Doug to tell us which specific scriptures he sees as describing the final second (or third) coming of Jesus and have nothing to do with AD70.
Which specific parts of the Book of Revelation have not yet been fulfilled?
Please tell us. Thank you.