Examining The Logical Foundations of Preterism

 

By Rusty Entrekin
 

Rev. C. Jonathin Seraiah has recently published a book entitled The End of All Things - A Defense of The Future.1   I highly recommend Rev. Seraiah's book for his defense of orthodox eschatology against full preterism. [Full preterists hold that all of scripture, including the second coming of Christ, was fulfilled in 70 AD, when Titus besieged and destroyed Jerusalem.]

Although Rev. Seraiah is a partial preterist and I am a futurist, and we disagree on points of prophetic interpretation, most partial preterists and futurists agree on the foundational and essential doctrines, which Rev. Seraiah does an excellent job of defending in this book.

Mr. J.E Gautier Jr. has responded to Seraiah's book with his own defense of full preterism. His critique is entitled "That Ye May Keep Your Own Tradition" - A Refutation of the Partial Preterist' "We" Excuse.2  The implication behind the title seems to be that partial preterists such as Seraiah are attacking full preterism in order to cling to man-made traditions, a very dubious accusation. It is one that Mr. Gautier devotes considerable effort to attempting to prove, however.

A friend of mine seemed nearly convinced of full preterism as a result of Mr. Gautier's critique. For my friend's sake, I felt compelled to write a response to it. After reading my response in draft form, Mr. Seraiah wrote to me, "Although I do not agree with every comment you made (I am not futurist), I believe that you made a solid, biblical, and orthodox response, and I will freely encourage others to read it. I myself have chosen not to respond directly to this article."

I believe that the positions which Mr. Gautier takes in his critique are reflective of much of the current state of preterist thought. Because of this, it is an example of the reasoning processes by which full preterists derive their beliefs, which we will examine for logical validity in the light of scripture. We will also direct our attention to the hermeneutic assumptions underlying full preterist interpretations of scripture. My purpose in doing this is not to single out Mr. Gautier, whom I do not know, but rather to evaluate the claims of full preterism.

The views and arguments that Mr. Gautier expresses in his critique do not constitute a "straw man." ( A "straw man" is a distorted caricature of an opposing viewpoint which is easy to refute, making the other side seem ridiculous.) Far from it. In his critique, Mr. Gautier has written one of the most persuasive articles promoting the full preterist viewpoint that I have ever read, so he is certainly not an unworthy representative. In fact, my friend, who was nearly persuaded by Mr. Gautier's critique, is a very intelligent man and a critical thinker.

In my counter response, which now begins, quotes from Mr. Gautier's critique appear in blue.

Mr. Gautier begins his critique by questioning Rev. Seraiah's choice of the title, "The End of All Things." He writes:
 

Apparently, Mr. Seraiah is taking this from I Peter 4:7, "The end of all things is near (or, at hand)." How does Mr. Seraiah interpret this verse?
Clearly his reference to the "end" being "near" shows that he is referring in this context to the end of all things in the Jewish age." (p.83)
So how did he come up with such a title? To support a future coming, he uses a verse that says "all things" would end in the Jewish age? That's peculiar. Peter said, "The end of ALL things is at hand." Mr. Seraiah, however, takes exception to Peter's statement. In defense of the future does Mr. Seraiah go on to prove how Peter was mistaken; and that it was actually the end of only some things?
Obviously, Mr. Seraiah does not endeavor at all to "prove" that Peter was mistaken. Nor does he "take exception" to Peter's statement. This is a twisting of Mr. Seraiah's meaning and intent, since he clearly interprets "the end" to be the ending of the Jewish age, and "all things" to be all things in the Jewish age. To criticize Mr. Seraiah for this is quite unfair, since preterists themselves do not interpret "all things" in this verse to include the material world! Is Mr. Gautier holding partial preterists to a higher standard than he himself is willing to embrace?

Nevertheless, to continue building his case, Gautier writes:

Partial preterists would agree that both verses, I Peter 4:7 and Luke 21:22 are within the context of the fall of at AD 70. Both verses say that "all things" would see their fulfillment by that time. Christ emphasizes the statement further by saying that it is "all things which are written;" but the partial preterist says, "No. Not all things."

There is a very big difference between saying "the end of all things" and "all things which are written," so contrary to Gautier's reasoning, these two statements are not necessarily equivalent in meaning. Although it is true that Jesus said that certain events must happen in order for all things which are written will be fulfilled, that does not mean there are not other things which must happen as well. To otherwise insist is to read too much into Luke 21:22.

Gautier then jests,

Perhaps a better title for Mr. Seraiah's book would have been
The End of Some Things - A Defense for the Futurist.


I find that strange coming from someone who adheres to the classic full preterist position that "all things" in 1 Peter 4:7 does not refer to the end of the material physical world. Mr. Gautier doesn't believe that the verse refers to "all things" either!

Next, Gautier writes:

The "Hyper-Preterist" name-calling didn't work. It still had the word "preterist" in it. So they've come up with a new one -- "pantelist," and hope that it sticks. As one brother noted, "Well, doesn't this make them partial pantelists?"

Just for the record, only those who believe that the Scriptures teach that ALL the events related to Christ's Parousia (i.e. "Second Advent," the resurrection and judgment, etc.) are PAST deserve the name "Preterist." All others are simply futurists of a sort.

Surely Gautier realizes that he can't have it both ways! Either partial preterists rightfully dissociate themselves from full preterists, or they deserve the name partial preterist.

Then, muddling his own position even more, Gautier writes:

And Dr. Sproul actually gives an excellent definition of who should rightfully be called a Preterist, and who should not - "Both are preterist with respect to some eschatological events, but both are not preterist with respect to all eschatological events." (p.156)

Doesn't this quote of Dr. Sproul indicate that partial preterists rightly deserve the name partial preterist?
 

Does "Sola Scriptura" Mean
That the Creeds Are of No Value?

When accused of heterodoxy, preterists appeal, as one would expect, to Sola Scriptura (the hermeneutic or interpretative  principle that our doctrines must be founded on scripture only).  Preterists do this because their teachings violate important creedal statements. Gautier is no different in this matter. He brings against partial preterists the very serious charge that they have abandoned Sola Scriptura and other interpretive principles in order to avoid denying the creeds, and proclaims that full preterists are the only ones who consistently apply these principles:
 

As we shall see, the partial preteristsí predilection of a still future-to-us coming of Christ, forces them to find passages that actually support it. In the process, they must reject the hermeneutical principles (rules of interpretation) set forth by the Reformers. Only true Preterists adhere to these principles; and by so doing, have  found that the New Testament teaches only a (one) past Parousia of Christ. Partial preterists pick and choose at their convenience when to comply with these rules. Because this future-to-us coming cannot be found in Scripture alone, the rules are abandoned, and tradition and name-calling become their tools. And as we shall see, since these have not worked to counter Preteristí arguments, some  have resorted to another tactic that will certainly  prove to be their downfall.
Dr. Sproul from his book, Faith Alone -

No church tradition can bind the conscience. But the Word of God must bind the conscience and take precedence over any and all other loyalties. (p.191)

What Dr. Sproul writes here is very true, but we must not twist the doctrine of sola scriptura (or Dr. Sproul's words) to mean that the teachings of those whom God has appointed as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are inconsequential. Let us not forget that these men have been given to us by God to equip us so that we will not be "carried about with every wind of doctrine," as Ephesians 4:12-14 teaches. To contend otherwise is to ignore the fact that the Holy Spirit has been actively gifting men with the ability to properly interpret scripture throughout church history, and amounts to an effective denial of the plain meaning of Ephesians 4:14.

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura itself leads us to assign weight to the interpretations of gifted teachers. If God did not grant to his people the ability to interpret scripture, He would not command us to allow ourselves to be persuaded by the sound reasonings of our leaders (Hebrews 13:17). Scripture teaches us that there is such a thing as sound doctrine:

2 Ti 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

Titus 2:1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:

Sound doctrine simply means "correct teaching." If God holds us accountable to adhere to sound doctrine, this means two things:

 
1) He grants to gifted teachers, through His Holy Spirit, the ability to properly interpret scripture, and

2) He grants to believers, through His Holy Spirit, the ability to accurately judge the truthfulness of those teachings.


 If correct teaching exists, then so does correct interpretation. If correct interpretation exists, then the interpretations of men (including the creeds) may accurately represent the truth. When the interpretations of gifted teachers do represent the truth (i.e.., agree with scripture), then they should not be lightly dismissed on the grounds of "sola scriptura."

To summarize, using Sola Scriptura as justification to discount the relevance of "sound doctrine" is to turn Sola Scriptura on its head. If we could not be certain that anything was an accurate interpretation of scripture, then scripture would be of little use to us, because we could never know for sure what it means!

What Sola Scriptura means is that the interpretations of men must always be considered subject to the scrutiny and test of scripture. Sola Scriptura leads us to reject some interpretations, but to affirm others. Thus, it has the effect of affirming the importance of statements which pass the test of scripture. The early creeds have always been rightly subject to the test of scripture, and they have stood that test for over one and a half millennia. Thus, the doctrine of sola scriptura leads us to affirm the importance of the early creeds, not to discount their importance, as full preterists would have us do.

The title of Mr. Gautier's next section is "One 'Second Coming' -- Not Two." Of course, the term "second coming" is nowhere to be found in scripture, so building a case on this term does not prove that there could not be multiple comings, as partial preterists believe.
 
 

Do Partial Preterists Violate
the Analogy of Faith?

Note that in a quote above, Gautier claims partial preterists "reject the hermeneutic principles (rules of interpretation) set forth by the Reformers." In addition to accusing them of violating the principle of Sola Scriptura, he also accuses them of violating the analogy of faith:

The partial preterist position is by nature inconsistent. The knowledge of a type of coming of Christ in AD 70 forces them to deny, in many passages, the analogy of faith (comparing Scripture with Scripture).

As a futurist, I agree with Gautier's claim that comparing the scriptures leads one to believe that there is only one Parousia. However, I do not agree with his accusation that the partial preterists posit two comings because of a departure from the analogy of faith. Rather, I see their position as an attempt to remain true to the analogy of faith.

It is true that the analogy of faith involves comparing scripture with scripture, but that does not mean adopting an interpretation of one scripture which forces one to deny the literal meaning of another. For example, some scriptures teach that God is one, but others teach that there are personal distinctions within His nature. The analogy of faith calls us to in faith look for an interpretation which affirms and harmonizes these statements, not an interpretation which affirms one scripture in such a way that we are forced to deny the literal meaning of another.

The oft quoted preterist motto, "Time determines nature," is indicative of a preterist departure from the analogy of faith. By saying this, full preterists mean that one's interpretation of scriptures concerning  the nature of the Second Coming should conform to their interpretation of scriptures regarding the timing of it. However, statements regarding time and nature must both be taken at face value if we want to be true to the analogy of faith. In their struggle to do this, partial preterists posit two comings of Christ. By contrast, The full preterists, who like to call themselves "consistent preterists," spiritualize or allegorize scriptures regarding the second coming quite consistently.

To quote Martin Luther:

{The Holy Spirit's} words cannot have more than one, and that the very simplest sense, which we call the literal, ordinary, natural sense. . . . We are not to say that the Scriptures or the Word of God have more than one meaning. . .We are not to introduce any . . . metaphorical, figurative sayings into any text of Scripture, unless the particulars of the words compel us to do so.. . . For if anyone at all were to have power to depart from the pure, simple words and to make inferences and figures of speech wherever he wished. . . [then] no one could reach any certain conclusions about . . . any article of faith. . . {Quoted by W. G. Kummel, The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of its Problems (Nashville/New York: Abingdon, 1972) 22-23.}

And so we clearly see that it is the preterists, not the partial preterists, who are departing from the Reformer's concept of the analogy of faith, at least as Martin Luther understood it. Gautier's claim reflects a misunderstanding of the analogy of faith, one that has tragically led the preterists down the wrong road.

Along the same lines, in A Brief Theological Analysis of Hyper-Preterism, Dr. Kenneth Gentry notes:

I deem my historic, orthodox preterism to be exegetical preterism (because I find specific passages calling for specific preterist events); I deem Max King and Ed Stevens' views to be theological preterism or comprehensive preterism (they apply exegetical conclusions drawn from several eschatological passages to all eschatological passages because of their theological paradigm.)
 

Gautier attempts to detract from this assessment by noting that Dr. R.C. Sproul did not find the term "theological preterism" to be the best choice of words. Nevertheless, Dr.Gentry's choice of a not altogether appropriate term does not alter the accuracy of his assessment.

Next, Gautier points out some of the problems caused by the partial preterist belief in more than one coming. He then notes that this position creates more difficulties than it claims to solve.

Those difficulties are part of the reason why I remain a futurist. However, I strongly contend that the full preterist position creates many more problems than the partial preterist position does. Although the full preterist position may better harmonize the passages regarding the Parousia, it stands in utter contradiction to the plain, literal sense of a host of scriptures regarding the creation of the new heavens and earth, the bodily resurrection, and the ultimate fulfillment of God's redemptive plan for the nation of Israel.

Next, Gautier writes:

One reason to be suspicious of the partial preterists' conclusions is the fact that it exists in such varying degrees. What one partial preterist says was fulfilled at AD 70, another says has a yet-future fulfillment, and vice-versa. Reminds me of plucking the petals off a daisy -- "AD 70, AD 70 not." You never know where a certain partial preterist posits a particular verse until you see it in writing. And then that may change tomorrow. Milton S. Terry in Biblical Apocalyptics wrote this in reference to the arbitrary "splitting" of Matthew 24, but it applies well to all attempts by partial preterists -

The attempts to show a dividing line between what refers to the fall of Jerusalem and what refers to a yet future coming of Christ, the remarkable differences of opinion as to the point of transition from one subject to the other are of a nature to make one suspicious of the hypothesis. (pp.213-252)

There are varying degrees of full preterist thought as well, especially concerning the resurrection. Following Gautier's line of reasoning, doesn't that give us good reason to be suspicious of full preterism, too? Suspicion alone should never be used as a basis for judgment. This is because suspicion usually arises an observed result may have more than one cause.

Gautier's next statement reflects a tragic misunderstanding of the analogy of faith, one which has led preterists to deny historic, orthodox tenets of the Christian faith:

In his comment, "[Preterists] apply exegetical conclusions drawn from several eschatological passages to all eschatological passages," isn't Dr. Gentry giving us the perfect definition of what happens when you allow Scripture to interpret Scripture?

Of course not! Dr. Gentry is rather giving us a perfect definition of what happens when you use your interpretation of one scripture to run roughshod over the plain meaning of other passages of scripture!

Read on as Gautier points out:

Church history has always recognized ONE Second Coming of Christ.

That's true, but Mr. Gautier has left out an important word here. Church history has always recognized one FUTURE Second Coming of Christ!

Next, Gautier writes:

Now partial preterism comes along and "splits" in two what the Church, by the analogy of faith, has always recognized as one. The partial preterist is taking the previous work of the Church and "splitting" it. The Preterist, however, takes the same work and applies it to the time statements (audience relevance); that the creeds and confessions never did.

Mr. Gautier criticizes the partial preterists for splitting, but not contradicting the creeds. Then, in his next breath, he praises full preterists for teaching things that the creeds never did! Well, which is it? Are partial preterists dishonorable for "splitting" the creeds, or are full preterists worthy of praise for contradicting them? You can't have it both ways!

In light of Ephesians 4:14, this should make us examine the claims of preterism very carefully.

Although the partial preterists are splitting the creeds, they are not outright denying them. If one's interpretation of scripture forces him to do one or the other, which interpretation is better?

Next, Gautier makes a good point:

Remember, the WCF [Westminster Confession of Faith] uses both of these as proof texts for a yet future (one) coming of Christ -

...They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds,from one end of the heavens to the other. (Mtt.24:30-31)

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God...we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (I Thess.4:16-17)

And the Preterist is said to be driven by a paradigm? The analogy of faith (Scripture interprets Scripture) demands that these two passages are speaking of the same one coming of Christ; and the WCF agrees. Church history has agreed.

This is a good example of a correct application of the analogy of faith: using scripture to interpret scripture. Let's remember that we must not favor one scripture over another when doing so. All applicable scriptures should interpret each other if we want to be true to the analogy of faith. For example, the passages which say that God is one and those which indicate that God has personal distinctions within must each interpret the other. If BOTH are not allowed to do so, then you end up being a unitarian or a tritheist rather than a Trinitarian. I would challenge preterists such as Mr. Gautier to take this principle which he has just illustrated, and apply it to the statements which deal with the nature of the eternal state.

Why "We" Statements In Scripture May Refer To Others In Addition To Those Being Addressed

Gautier writes:
 

How do "We shall not all sleep" and "we which are alive and remain" NOT fit into these verses that partial preterists (All Things p.14) posit at AD 70?


Let's look at these verses, which Mr. Gautier then lists, and comment on them one by one:
 

When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Mtt.10:23)


Jesus is here speaking of the intensity of persecution that preachers of the gospel will encounter in some Jewish cities. It will be so intense in some cities, that the evangelists will be forced to flee in obedience to Christ's command, with the effect that this job will still not be complete when Christ returns. This was not to be a time statement.

For the Son of Man is about to (Gr. mello) come with His angels in the glory of His Father. And then He will give reward to each according to his works. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Mtt.16:27-28)

According to Vine, "mello" can also express certainty of occurrence rather than nearness in time. For example, Mello is used in John 6: 71 to speak of the upcoming betrayal of Jesus by Judas, which DID NOT happen immediately afterwards. "Now he meant Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for this same was about to betray him, whereas he was one of the twelve.

Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Mtt.26:64)

Since Jesus is coming to judge the quick and the dead, we can expect the dead (including the high priest) will see Him, too, because scripture teaches us that "EVERY eye" will see him!

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. (Mtt.24:34)

NT usage of the Greek word autay makes it likely that Jesus meant "This generation [I am talking about]', not "this generation [I am talking to]". Please see the chapter entitled "What Does this Generation Mean?" in my e-book, A Scriptural Critique of Full Preterism in Light of Matthew 24 and Related Passages.

After quoting these verses, Gautier concludes:

In all of these verses, some of that generation would still be alive to witness Christ's coming. What does "some of you here shall not taste death" mean? Doesn't it mean that some would live, and some would die? Doesn't that fit perfectly into "This generation"? -- Before this generation passes, some of you will die, yet some of you will live to see the Parousia of Christ in the destruction of Jerusalem. This is how the partial preterists understand Matthew and 24:34 together. Again, how is it that "We shall not all sleep" and "we which are alive and remain" do not fit into this understanding? Some would live, and some would die.

This is inconclusive, since when Paul wrote "we shall not all sleep," he may have had Christians as a group in mind rather than only those who were living at that time. Speaking of audience relevance, how about the audience of Christians down through the centuries that the Holy Spirit knew would read these words? To claim that the Holy Spirit could have had only the recipients of Paul's letters in mind wherever Paul penned the words "us" or "we" is to ignore the omniscience and foreknowledge of the Spirit.

Later, Gautier states:

"Some of you standing here shall not taste death" = "We shall not all sleep" = "we who are alive and remain."

Granted, "Some of you standing here shall not taste death" MUST refer to the generation of the apostles, but the other two quotes need not. Bill Grimes makes an excellent case that Jesus was referring to his first Parousia, not his second, when he spoke these words in Matthew 16:28 - A Time Statement for What?

Regarding the above three supposed equivalencies, Gautier adds that "All three fit perfectly into "this generation." That is the case only if "this" means the then-living generation, and the partial preterists are wrong in theorizing two comings. As I noted earlier, NT usage of the Greek work autay indicates that "this" probably means the generation Jesus is talking about rather than the generation he is talking to!

Gautier asks,

In I Thessalonians 4:15, who are the "we" and the "you"?

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

This epistle is from "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy," the first "we" of verse 15. Unless one can prove that all three, Paul, Silas and Timothy did not live to see the Day, then the -- "Paul couldn't have been meaning that he would live to the Day because he died before it, and therefore the 'we' is for countless generations" excuse, won't work. At the time that Paul wrote this epistle, he knew that it was possible that he could live to see it; so he said "we." Don't forget that within the "we" there are two groups of people -- those who would live to see the Day, and those who would die before it came. In that he says "we," he includes himself in either group. Simply because Paul died before AD 70, in no way gives us free license to change a letter written "to the church of God which is at Corinth" or "To the church of the Thessalonians," into one written TO US 2,000 years later.

Finally! Preterists now feel compelled to acknowledge that the word "we" can refer to a group in general without referring to every single last individual member of that group! This acknowledgment will serve to undermine one of their most critical positions, as we will soon see.

Like most full preterists, Mr. Gautier asserts that the mortal bodies of Christians will remain in the grave, an interpretation which goes against a plain, literal reading of I Corinthians 15. Full preterists make the body disappear from 1 Corinthians 15 with such sleight of hand that even David Copperfield would be envious!

When Paul wrote, " For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality," What could "this corruptible" refer to but the fleshly bodies of the saints? The spirits of believers were raised incorruptible at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 2:6), so the only thing left that is corruptible is the bodies of the saints!"

Mr. Gautier also takes the classic full preterist position that the word "you" in Paul's letters to the Thessalonians must apply only to those being addressed by the writer, rather than to Christians as a whole. I have already noted how Gautier has undermined this position by the acknowledgment he made above. Nevertheless, to support his position he quotes the American Heritage Dictionary:

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition 1996 -
you - pronoun 1. Used to refer to the one or ones being addressed.

What Paul had in mind as he wrote his letters is important, but we do not always know whether or not he has Christians as a whole in mind or only those he is writing to. However, what Paul had in mind is not nearly as important as what the Holy Spirit had in mind. Let's not forget that the Holy Spirit could have had things in mind which Paul, given his limited human intellect, could not possibly have realized. To declare otherwise would be to infer that Paul was all-knowing!

Gautier quotes Ernest Hampden-Cook in The Christ Has Come (1891):

The belief that Christ's Second Advent, with its accompaniments of a resurrection and a judgment, took at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem rests on precisely the same basis as the expectation of the events ever taking place; namely, on the plain, emphatic, and continually repeated statements of our Lord and His apostles given beforehand...He himself predicted that these events would take place at the close of the Jewish dispensation. To Christian believers this affords the strongest possible presumption that they did take place...The burden of proof in the argument rests not on those who assert, but on those who deny the past advent...To deny the truth of His predictions because we are unable historically to verify a certain portion of them is simply to make manifest the shallowness of our faith in Him. To disprove the truth of those predictions would be to shake the Christian religion to its very foundations. Let God and God's Son be true, and, if need be, every mere man a liar!

Yes, let God and God's Son be true, and, if need be, every mere man a liar. However, when we make this statement, we must be careful to make certain that our zeal is for the words of Christ, and not our own interpretation of them. Otherwise, we may blind ourselves to the truth. In their zeal for their interpretation, preterists have been blinded to the plain meaning of our Lord when He speaks in the scriptures of the salvation of Israel, a new earth wherein righteousness will dwell, the elements being destroyed with fire, and a future paradise on earth in which there will be no more pain sorrow or death. Let us not forget that ALL of God's words are true, not just Matthew 24:34! Could I not, with just as much validity, say that preterists are allegorizing and spiritualizing the plain and simple meaning of Christ's words when He said,

27 "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

28 "For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

29 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

30 "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

31 "And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
 

Yes, let God be true, and every man a liar!

Gautier also quotes Dr. Sproul in Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Interpreting the Bible):
 

The chief rule of biblical interpretation is "sacred Scripture is its own interpreter." This principle means that the Bible is to be interpreted by the Bible. What is obscure in one part of Scripture may be made clear in another. To interpret Scripture by Scripture means that we must not set one passage of Scripture against another passage. Each text must be understood not only in light of its immediate context but also in light of the context of the whole of Scripture...The Bible is not to be interpreted according to our own desires and prejudices. We must seek to understand what it actually says and guard against forcing our own views upon it. (pp.25-26)


Then, amazingly, Gautier attempts to turn the words of Dr. Sproul, who is a partial preterist, against partial preterists! To be certain, this was not the intent of Dr. Sproul's words.

When it comes to I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4, partial preterists must jettison another aspect of "interpret[ing] Scripture by Scripture" -- namely that -- "What is obscure in one part of Scripture may be made clear in another."

Note that Gautier ignores Dr. Sproul's next sentence, "To interpret Scripture by Scripture means that we must not set one passage of Scripture against another passage." As I have already pointed out, this is exactly what Preterists do when they insist that the time statements of scripture mean that passages which speak of future material manifestations of Christ and His kingdom should be spiritualized or allegorized.

Gautier then writes:

What is clear is that Paul said "We shall not all sleep." What is clear is that nowhere in the Scriptures is there any indication that Jesus or the apostles ever taught anything but one Parousia.

The implication behind this is that if we would just compare "We shall not all sleep" with the scriptures concerning the Parousia with one other, we would see that there is only one Parousia, and that it must have happened in 70 AD!

While I agree that there is only one Parousia, we must recognize that the reason Partial Preterists postulate two comings is not, as Gautier would have us believe, because they have failed to compare scripture with scripture. Rather, it is precisely because they have compared the time and nature statements of scripture with one another, and are unwilling to deny either.

To me, that represents an honest attempt to remain true to the analogy of faith. By contrast, the full preterist credo, "Time determines nature!" is a violation of the analogy of faith because it denies the plain meaning of the nature statements to make them fit a particular interpretation of the time statements. Better to look for an interpretation which fits them both. Although there are problems in the partial preterist view, I simply can't see how full preterists can be more comfortable with denying the bodily resurrection, the visible return of Christ, and the creation of a new heavens and earth than positing two comings. They charge that the Partial Preterists are being inconsistent, and it does appear that way when we narrowly focus on certain passages. But when we look at the whole of scripture, we find that it is the preterists who are being the most inconsistent.

Gautier:

All Preterists have to do is show that partial preterists are not honest with the plain language usage of the word "we." That's what this whole argument boils down to-- Who is going to allow God's Word to speak for itself, and is not? When Paul's plain language teaching is allowed to happen, then, as Dr. Russell stated, "every fact fits easily into its place."

I am surprised that full preterists even dare to so brazenly use the "plain language argument." They themselves deny the "plain language" of so many scriptures, such as the following:

Micah 4:3 And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Isaiah 65:25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock; and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain," saith the LORD."

Revelation 12:5 And she brought forth a manchild, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron...

Daniel 2:35 Then were the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them. And the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

1 Corinthians 15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."

Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.

Gautier, again:

It should be obvious, just by some of the arguments shown in this paper, that partial preterism is nothing more than a compromise of the Truth (and not easy to follow, at that).

By contrast, even as a futurist, I see partial preterism as an effort to come to grips with scriptures which seemingly stand in tension with one another. I do not see such a struggle of faith embodied in full preterism, which allegorizes, spiritualizes, and explains away scriptures which do not fit into its mold. That is lazy theology. Better to struggle to accept all of scripture for what it plainly says, which the partial preterists attempt to do, than to compromise in this way.

Why The Creeds Are Useful
For Determining Orthodoxy

Preterism stands in direct opposition to certain tenets of the creeds of Christendom, and this Preterists do not deny. Because of this, they seek to discredit the creeds. Gautier, for example, produces quote after quote which very effectively demonstrate that corruption, superstition, and lust for power have historically infiltrated the church. For example, he quotes Henry C. Lea's 1883 work Studies In Church History :
 

Among the ecclesiastical privileges of the Caesars had always been assumed the right of to the church its form of belief; and, whether the reigning conscience were orthodox or, Eutychian or Monothelite, efficacious means were always found on enforcing conformity on the part of the hierarchy.
There is no reason to doubt the historical veracity of these quotes, and they make for interesting, albeit very depressing reading! But this does not mean that the true church became so hopelessly corrupt that she became incapable of discerning sound doctrine. Let's not forget that from the time her foundations were laid, there has always existed a true spiritual church, although the enemy has sown tares among the wheat, as these quotes aptly demonstrate.

Yet despite the tares, she has always persisted in her battle with heresies, just as she still endeavors today to keep herself pure. Did not our infallible Lord say that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her? What motive, then, do the preterists have in trying to persuade us that she has become so corrupt as to render herself incapable of judgment?

Next, Gautier quotes from History of Christian Doctrine, Vol. 1, third period, AD 726-1517, Scripture and Tradition:

In the Latin Church, tradition no doubt was practically an authority of vast import; in the actual control of thought and belief, it took precedence of Scripture, since it both governed to a very large extent the interpretation of Scripture, and also insured acceptance of tenets having no distinct Scriptural foundation.

Tradition, as heretofore, was commonly assumed to have an apostolic basis, being founded upon oracles as distinguished from the written word of the apostles. But meanwhile there was no care to prove the apostolic basis by the use of searching historical investigation. Long-continued currency of a tenet in the Church was taken as a sufficient evidence of its being substantiated by valid tradition. This, of course, gave a fictitious breadth to tradition. Church authority, that is, the existing hierarchy, had it in its power to seal as dogma that which was confirmed neither by Scripture nor by the opinion of the primitive Church.

This was a very unfortunate trend, and of course we should never exalt tradition over scripture. But let's not throw out the baby with the bath water! If the opinions of learned Christian men of the past are of no value to us, then let's throw out the works of Luther and Calvin. After all, we can demonstrate that these men committed some very unrighteous deeds as church leaders themselves! If the way that men of the past interpreted scripture is of no value to us, then we should also consider the interpretations of those now living to be completely worthless. For that matter, how can we even trust our own ability to interpret scripture? How can we ever know if anyone is right in his interpretation?

Next Gautier produces quotes which prove that there have been councils which have issued judgments which are obviously in error. However, we should note that these were merely Provençal councils, so it is difficult to see how this could advance his argument very much.

In The End of All Things, Mr. Seraiah wrote:
 

Throughout history, the primary creeds that have been used by the Spirit to unite the Church (the Apostles' and Nicene) have affirmed the three essential doctrines of the Final Advent, the physical Resurrection, and the Day of Judgment. This is certainly not to be taken lightly. (p.12)

[T]he Holy Spirit has led her [the Church] to respond by stating the truth in written format - the creed....[It] is not intended to supersede the Scriptures but rather to be an authoritative interpretation of them....In the creeds we are confronting an authoritative body, which has, through the illumination of the Spirit, declared the truth of certain doctrines. (pp.193-195)

Regarding this, Gautier comments:

Unless you are willing to put the -- "it was not they who spoke, but the Spirit Himself of God" stamp upon these councils, as some in the early church did, and as Mr. Seraiah has done (above), then this is a reality that must be faced -- God does allow for His Church to be wrong. If not, then you are claiming an extra-Biblical authority (the early Church fathers, creeds and councils) as equal to the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of interpreting the Scriptures!

To declare that the church can be wrong at times about nonessential issues, and even wrong for long periods of time, in most (but not all) locations, about an essential issue such as repentance from dead works, is accurate. But to declare that until recent times she has ALWAYS been wrong about what Hebrews 6 teaches is a FOUNDATIONAL doctrine calls our entire faith into question! Full Preterism claims exactly this in regard to the resurrection of the dead. Is it any wonder, then, that the apostle Paul said that such a teaching overthrew the faith of some? Claiming this amounts to a practical denial of the Holy Spirit's role in preserving purity of doctrine through gifted men through the ages, as reflected in Ephesians 4:11-15:

11 And indeed He gave some to be apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers
12 with a view to the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ,
13 until we all may come to the unity of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
14 so that we may no longer be infants, having been blown and carried to and fro by every wind of doctrine, in the underhandedness of men, in craftiness with a view to the trickery of error,
15 but speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the head, the Christ, {Green's Literal Translation}]

 

To demonstrate that "God allows his church to be wrong," Gautier writes:

How does Mr. Seraiah explain the fact that the Calvinism versus Arminianism argument has gone on for close to 500 years now; only one can be correct, yet both exist?
Perhaps, from God's broader perspective, they are both right, like the blind men in Aesop's fable who argued over what an elephant was like. One believed an elephant was like its trunk; the other, its tail. It may be that freewill and election are both true in respects that our limited human intellects cannot comprehend.

To further his case, Gautier writes:

How does Mr. Seraiah explain the fact that we have so many denominations within His Church today? How does Mr. Seraiah explain the fact that premil-dispensationalism is error, yet it is the predominate view within the Church? Could it be because -- God allows His Church to be wrong? It is ONLY the Scriptures that are never wrong!

Upon first reading, that last statement seems very true. But it is actually quite wrong, because men can write accurate interpretations of scripture will NEVER BE WRONG as long as they survive. All declarations of sound doctrine should be tested by scripture, and the early creeds have been, both when they were formulated and afterwards, and they have stood that test for over one and a half millennia. Should we lightly regard these time tested interpretations of scripture in favor of a new and novel interpretation of it, as Preterism asks us to do?

Mr. Gautier quotes Philip Schaff in The Creeds of Christendom:

In the Protestant system, the authority of symbols, as of all human compositions, is relative and limited. It is not coordinate with, but always subordinate to, the Bible, as the only infallible rule of the Christian Faith and practice. The value of creeds depends upon the measure of their agreement with the Scriptures. In the best case, a human creed is only an approximate and relatively correct exposition of revealed truth, and may be improved by the progressive knowledge of the Church, while the Bible remains perfect and infallible. The Bible is of God; the Confession is man's answer to God's Word. The Bible has, therefore, a divine and absolute (authority), the Confession only an ecclesiastical and relative authority. Any higher view of the authority of symbols is unprotestant and essentially Romanizing. (Vol. I, p.7)


Note that Schaff says that the creeds MAY be IMPROVED with progressive knowledge. He doesn't say that they should be outright discarded!

Mr. Gautier also quotes Dr. Louis Berkof, in his Systematic Theology:
 

[I]t must be said that there has never been a period in the history of the Christian Church, in which eschatology was the center of Christian thought. The other loci of Dogmatics have each had their time of special development, but this cannot be said of eschatology...The Reformation adopted what the early Church taught respecting the return of Christ, the resurrection, the final judgment, and eternal life...It can hardly be said that the Churches of the Reformation did much for the development of eschatology...In general it may be said that eschatology is even now the least developed of all the loci of dogmatics. Moreover, it was often given a very subordinate place in the systematic treatment of theology...Reformed theologians on the whole saw this point very clearly, and therefore discussed the last things in a systematic way. However, they did not always do justice to it as one of the main divisions of dogmatics, but gave it a subordinate place in one of the other loci. (pp.662-665)
Although I believe this to be true, that does not invalidate the few creedal statements that the church HAS developed in regard to eschatology!

Next, Gautier informs us of how the Roman church called the early Protestants heretics, and writes:

How is this not exactly what is happening now? Today, 500 years later, the sons of the Protestant "heretics" are appealing to tradition and screaming, 'Let him be accursed!'
But what is happening now may not be the same thing. If preterism actually is heresy, then we are talking about two very different things.

Nearly every heretic uses scripture to justify his doctrines. Any heretic planted among Protestants with a little sense today will cry "sola scriptura!" to anyone who accuses him of heresy. But if we take his plea to heart and present to him what we believe is a plain refutation from scripture, and he still refuses to listen or repent, what else can we tell him but, "We believe that you are interpreting the scriptures wrongly."?

To that, of course, he will say, "only God can know who is right." But is that true? Has God actually made the truths of the Bible so ambiguous that man cannot conclusively comprehend them? Consider the following verses:

1 Timothy 1:10 For fornicators, for them who defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and whatever other thing is contrary to sound doctrine:

2 Timothy 4:3 For there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers having itching ears:

Titus 1:9 Embracing that faithful word which is according to doctrine, that he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine and to convince the gainsayers.

Titus 2:1 But speak thou the things that become sound doctrine:

It is true that God is the authoritative, final discerner of what constitutes sound doctrine, but these verses indicate that God also expects us to discern sound doctrine. God would not expect something of us without also graciously giving to us the means by which to do so.

The creeds were never intended to replace scripture or to compete with it; they were intended merely to be pronouncements of sound doctrine. The concepts of sound doctrine and correct interpretation are inseparable. To isolate Sola Scriptura from historical interpretations of scripture, as preterists are asking us to do, is to immerse ourselves in a cloudy, ambiguous world where right and wrong cannot be discerned and no one can be certain of anything. For as I mentioned above, if no interpretation of scripture, historical or otherwise, is of value as a tool for discerning sound doctrine, how can we ever be certain if anyone is interpreting scripture correctly? That would completely nullify our biblical obligation to discern sound doctrine! 

Let me again emphasize that we should never exalt the words of men above inspired scripture, or equate them with inspired scripture. But when they agree with scripture and correctly apply it, we can - and certainly should - affirm them, heed them, learn from them, and make valuable use of them. That is why we have the biblical office of teacher - because teachings can help us understand and apply scripture. The creeds are teachings intended to help us understand scripture and "sound the alarm" when someone introduces an extra-biblical doctrine. When that alarm sounds, we must carefully investigate the cause of that alarm in the light of scripture.

Let's approach this from another angle. The Constitution of the United States is the final rule in our courts for judging the validity of our legislated laws. No justice should ever equate a legislated law with, or exalt it above, a constitutional clause. But this does not mean that legislated laws have no authority!  If a law agrees with the Constitution, the Constitution actually affirms the authority of that law. In the same way, scripture is our final and sole rule for judging doctrine, but this does not render the words of gifted Bible teachers without authority. Instead, to the extent that they agree with scripture, it affirms their validity. Likewise, scripture denies the validity of teachings which do not agree with it. Because of this, the Full Preterist contention that acknowledging the validity of the creeds is a departure from sola scriptura is without foundation. So is their accusation that believing in the creeds means exalting the words of men to the level of scripture. Believing the words of gifted Bible teachers doesn't necessarily mean that you equate their words with scripture!

Mr. Gautier makes the following observation regarding Mr. Seraiah:

Example: I Peter 4:5 reads (emph. mine) -

Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

Then, just two verses later Peter states -

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

Let's take a look at how Mr. Seraiah contends with these verses, that are in such close proximity to each other (emph. mine) -

It becomes obvious that Peter here is speaking of the Final Judgment of all men at the end of all things in the future....Clearly his reference to the "end" being "near" shows that he is referring in this context to the end of all things in the Jewish age. (pp.82-83)

Well, which is it?

Mr. Gautier assumes here that verse 5 refers to 70 AD, and that "the end of all things" in verse 7 refers to that event as well. He implies that Mr. Seraiah is being inconsistent because of the close proximity of these two verses. But verse 5 does not refer only to Christ's coming, after which the dead will be judged. This verse also refers to Christ's readiness to judge the living. Men are often called to give account to God while they are still alive. 70 AD is but one example of that. Therefore, we are not compelled to believe that both verses refer only to the same event.

Next he writes:

Look at what Mr. Sproul Jr. actually says -- In the first part he states that partial preterists in the past have used "powerful weapons" and have "warn[ed] the [Preterists] that they have strayed from the confessions of the Church since its beginning." Then in the same breath he goes on to say how those same "powerful weapons" (the creeds and confessions) may err! This is ridiculous argumentation. This is exactly how their inconsistent exegeses of the Scriptures are produced -- He demands us to read the Scriptures through a lens that has erred, simply because that's what has "define[d] historic orthodoxy."


Wait a second! Mr. Sproul Jr. did not say the creeds have erred, but that they MAY err! There's a big difference between those two statements. Even if they did err, a tank is a powerful weapon, even if its aim may be slightly off.

Then Mr. Gautier also writes:

The Scriptures Alone should define what is Orthodox! "The Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture" NOW, Today! It is only God's Word that has always been alive with the Truth, not man's interpretation!

Let's examine these statements one by one:
 
"The scriptures alone should define what is orthodox!"
Doesn't Mr. Gautier realize that if orthodoxy can be determined by the scriptures, then it logically flows that the creeds may be useful for judging heresy? The word orthodox means "right opinion." If orthodoxy can be determined by the scriptures, then the opinions of men can be orthodox, and therefore useful for determining sound doctrine. If all of the opinions of men are worthless in determining orthodoxy, then there can be no "right opinion." If there can be no right opinion, then orthodoxy cannot be determined by the scriptures.

"'The Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture' NOW, Today!"

The Holy Spirit speaks to His church in the present, but he has also spoken to her during the past 2000 years, and we should not ignore what He has spoken to her.

" It is only God's Word that has always been alive with the Truth, not man's interpretation!"

Man's interpretation can be in agreement with scripture, and therefore also alive with the Truth.

" Church history is replete with misinterpretation, but God's Word has never changed!"

That's true, but it is also replete with examples of sound interpretation. Should we assign as much weight to the novel opinions of Preterists as to the historic interpretations of the church? The preterists are very few in number compared to the vast witness of gifted teachers that God has given us down through the ages who have not held to these opinions. We would expect a smaller number of men to have a greater a tendency to err, since there is safety in a multitude of counselors. That is why some of the creeds generated by the Provencal councils erred.

Should we appeal to the scriptures before we appeal to the creeds? Of course! But when we attempt to reason with unorthodox men from the scriptures and they will not be persuaded, what recourse do we have (besides prayer) but to point out that their interpretations contradict what the church for two thousand years has recognized as sound doctrine? When they reply that the opinion of man is fallible and therefore means nothing, crying "Sola scriptura!", We feel as frustrated as the children described in Matthew 11:16-17:

16 ¶ "But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets and calling unto their fellows,

17 and saying, `We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.'
 

Full Preterism & The Resurrection

Preterists deny the doctrine of the physical resurrection of the material body. They believe that it remains in the grave forever. Preterists appeal to the beliefs of Origen regarding the resurrection as support for their opinion. Many heterodox groups can find individuals with beliefs similar to theirs in church history. The Jehovah's Witnesses, for instance, point to Arius (who, I hasten to add, should not be lumped together with Origen). But that does not demonstrate that the opinions of such people were considered to be orthodox views. Origen's views, for instance, were condemned 15 times in 553 by the fifth ecumenical council.

All views which leave the body in the grave are in clear violation of John 5:28-29:

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the sound of His voice,

29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Gautier quotes M.C. Tenney and his book, The Reality of the Resurrection, written in 1963, to support the Preterist view of the resurrection. In this particular quote, Tenney makes observations regarding the apostle Paul's seed analogy in I Corinthians 15:36-38:
 

When a grain of wheat is dropped into the ground, its husk quickly decays, and even the live core disintegrates. The life of the seed, rather than its material substance, provides the continuity of existence. As the rootlets begin to grow, they draw nourishment from the earth, and by the chemistry of sun and rain the small seed soon becomes a large plant. The plant bears no external resemblance to the seed, nor is the bulk of its tissue drawn from the seed; nevertheless, the continuity is undeniable. There is persistence of type, because a given seed will always produce its own kind. Identity of type is not incompatible with discontinuity of substance.

Continuity of individuality is assured by the persistence of the personality, which God will reclothe with a body. Jesus' statement, "all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment" (Jn 5:28-29), assumes the preservation of individuality, since those that have been buried will be restored to life. The restoration, however, is not a reconstitution of the original body that was interred, but a new structure patterned on the resurrection body of Christ. "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (I Cor.15:49).

If by this Tenney means that the body will remain in the grave, then the very verse he has quoted demonstrates that he is wrong. The Greek word translated "tombs," mnemion, only refers to actual, physical sepulchers or grave monuments in the NT, never to the spiritual abode of the dead.

We may reconcile the full meaning of the scriptures concerning this matter by saying that the original bodies will be raised, but that they will be transformed as they rise, just as the bodies of those who are alive at Christ's return will be transformed from corruptible to incorruptible.

Preterists claim that just as the shell of the seed falls away, the body remains in the grave.

But when we read 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is comparing the body to the entire seed, not the shell! A seed consists of the shell, endosperm, and germ. There is no contextual reason at all in this passage to believe that Paul is talking about two different "its" in the very same phrase. It (the seed) is sown in corruption, and it (the seed) is raised in incorruption. Most of the seed consists of its inner parts, the germ and endosperm, not the outer shell, so MOST OF THE SEED IS RAISED. Likewise, our bodies need not contain all, but only most, of their original particles when they are raised. As it is raised, it is transformed into a new body, just as the inner part of a seed is transformed as it is raised.

The spirits of believers are raised with Christ at the moment of salvation, according to Ephesians two, so the only thing left to be raised is the body, which is transformed into a different body as it is being raised. The full preterist view leaves death unconquered, because an endless cycle of birth and death continues on Earth. By contrast, scripture tells us that "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."

In II Cor.4:18 - 5:1-4, the apostle Paul wrote:

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house of THIS tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in THIS we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in THIS tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

Mortality is swallowed up with life, indicating that the mortal bodies are not discarded, but rather raised and transformed.

Gautier writes:

The outer-shell of a seed (first) is dissolved, and the inner-germ (spirit) sprouts forth into its new plant body (second). You do not plant the body that will be.

But Gautier is leaving out the endosperm, which makes up the bulk of the seed, and is almost completely utilized by the germ for nutrition and sustenance. Although the outer shell falls away (even as our old nature does), MOST OF THE SEED IS TRANSFORMED INTO A NEW BODY.

Many Preterists would like us to believe that when Paul wrote, "You do not plant the body that will be," he meant that we will be given an entirely new body. But that amounts to a second embodiment, not a resurrection, and is a twisting of the meaning of Paul's words. Paul is NOT indicating that the body you plant will not be raised - just that it will be raised as a different body. Just as the pupae of a caterpillar is raised a butterfly, our body will be raised and transformed into the body that will be.

As Isaiah 26:19 says: "Thy dead men shall live; together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead."

Are Preterists Outside The Faith?

Next, Gautier makes what I consider to be a valid point regarding those who assert that preterists are outside the faith, some of whom have pronounced anathemas on them:

 
...the Gospel itself has taken on a new requirement. Their pure disdain for the Preterists' understanding of the nature of these things has led them outside of what is Protestant. No longer is sola fide (faith alone in Christ alone) sufficient enough for ones' salvation. No, now you're required to have a proper traditional understanding, their understanding, of "the return of Christ [and] the resurrection of our bodies." Now it's Christ plus an understanding of the nature of these things. How is this not a new Gospel being preached?


We should note the apostle Paul only accused Hymenaeus and Philetus of error, although it was serious enough error to deserve correction. A teaching can be heterodox, and even a very serious error, without denying the essentials of the faith. An error of interpretation is a serious one if it denies a foundational doctrine. These are identified in Hebrews 6:1&2:

Because of this, having left the discourse of the beginning of Christ, let us be borne on to full growth, not laying down again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2 of the baptisms, of doctrine, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of dead ones, and of eternal judgment. [Green's Literal Translation].

I might point out that nekron is genitive plural, so that is why Green translated it "dead ones." If Preterists denied the bodily resurrection of Christ, an essential of the faith, they would qualify as flaming Heretics with a capital "H." But as it is, since they deny a foundational doctrine [the resurrection of dead ones] but no essentials, I do not agree with those anathemas. Preterists are right, I believe, in saying that anathemas have sometimes been pronounced too hastily in church history. Although we should be careful not to repeat the same mistake again, we also should not allow serious errors which undermine foundational doctrines of the faith to slip in unnoticed.

Since the resurrection of dead ones is a foundational doctrine, we are compelled to classify full preterism as heterodox. Since the word heretic is so often associated with those who deny the essentials, I feel more comfortable using the word "heterodox" to describe full preterists, although the term "heretic" could be accurately used with qualification. Paul did not call Hymenaeus and Philetus unbelievers, but rather said that they had erred concerning the faith. Their error was, however, serious enough to overthrow the faith of some, because it undermined a foundational doctrine. That is why Paul considered this a church discipline matter. Following the third step of church discipline, he singled these men out, and publically corrected them.
 

Concluding Observations

Finally, near the conclusion of his article, Mr. Gautier wrote:

Today's partial preterists are fighting a two front battle. Because of this, they must violate both the analogy of faith (comparing Scripture with Scripture), and audience relevance. There are certain events they simply cannot allow to be fulfilled. Their preconceived notions are given precedence over sound hermeneutics; resulting in a desperate attempt to combine wrong tradition with the Truth of the Word. It won't work.

The Preterist, however, is the only interpreter who does not violate these rules. Through Scripture Alone -- without an appeal to tradition or a futurist predilection -- he "seek[s] to understand what it actually says and guard[s] against forcing [his] own views upon it.

Mr. Gautier must be overlooking the fact that the full preterist forces his views upon the scriptures concerning the resurrection, the nature of the second coming, the salvation of Israel, the "rod of iron" by which the nations will be ruled, the lion laying down with the lamb, the nations "learning war no more," the elements burning with fire, the harvest of the angels, the winepress of God's wrath, the millennial kingdom, and death being thrown into the lake of fire.

In conclusion, although Mr. Gautier sincerely contends that partial preterists are violators of sola scriptura and the analogy of faith, this contention is based on an inaccurate understanding of these hermeneutic principles. Because Preterists have misunderstood them, it is actually they who are violating these important rules of biblical interpretation. Tragically, this misunderstanding has led them down a path which has resulted in a denial of orthodox doctrines.

Preterist thought often seems right upon first reading, and Mr. Gautier does one of the most effective jobs of presenting it that I have ever read. But as we have demonstrated here, when the contentions of Preterism are closely scrutinized in the light of Scripture, the pillars of the structure are discovered to rest upon a foundation of subtly fallacious logic. We see this in their treatment of the "we" statements of scripture, and in their rejection of the creeds as a useful tool for determining orthodoxy. Lastly, we also see it in their opinions regarding the scriptures which concern the resurrection.
 

Reference Footnotes

1. Seraiah, C. Jonathin, The End of All Things: A Defense of the Future, 1999, P.O Box 8741, Moscow ID 83843

2. http://www.preterist.org/resources/articles/your_own_tradition.htm
 

2000, 2010 Marshall "Rusty" Entrekin.  The contents of this article may be reproduced for free distribution provided no changes are made to the contents.  I do ask that you include the URL to this site as a reference, however. "Freely you have received, freely give."

 


 

Rusty Entrekin is a theology graduate of Louisiana College. He and his wife Julie have seven children, with four still at home, and four grandchildren. Currently, he resides in Kennesaw, GA. He writes apologetic and theological articles to help people come to know Christ and grow closer to the Lord. If this article has blessed you, and you would like to free him up to write more, you may make a donation below.

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