Evidence That Facts and Sound Arguments Aren’t Always Persuasive
Facts do not come with interpretation tags, telling us how to view them. . . . Both sides haggle over the facts. Both sides search for new facts to add to their arsenals. Both sides raise accusations, yet it’s a rare day indeed when both sides acknowledge that their differences stem from something much more basic than facts. Their differences are rooted in opposing worldviews, which in turn are permeated with philosophical assumptions and commitments.1
The following is the second part of “My Facebook Dialogue with a Prophecy Student with Various Theology Degrees.” No matter what I present to him, he tenaciously holds on to his position. It’s not just unbelievers who have underlying assumptions that are used to ignore, discard, or reinterpret facts to keep their worldview intact. Jesus encountered them on a regular basis.
TDS: I’m pretty certain it was Rhodes who made the statement in regards to Preterism. As to why I wasn’t taught Preterism by my Professors (all of whom had Th.D.’s) in Bible College, it’s probably because Preterism is a just “bunch of hooey.” If it was mentioned at all, it probably took up no more than 5 minutes of dismissing the silliness of it all.
GDD: It’s so much hooey that dispensationalists can’t answer it without making so many concessions to their claim of interpreting the Bible literally. A few years ago I did a radio debate with a big name dispensationalist [Joel Rosenberg] on Ezekiel 38 and 39. He came at me charging that as a preterist I “didn’t interpret the Bible literally.” It turned out to be a huge mistake [on his part]. I went through the chapters taking a very literal approach and showed that the prophecy was fulfilled in Ezekiel’s near future. He was almost speechless. His No. 1 misrepresentation flew out the window, especially after I was able to demonstrate that he was not being consistent with his claimed literal hermeneutic. Even after I’ve shown TDS that Rhodes traces preterism to the 4th-century writings of Eusebius, and there are many preterist scholars who lived long before Darby, he’s still trying to peddle the canard that preterism is younger than Darbyism.
What Ron Rhodes says one way or the other is irrelevant in light of the facts. Here’s something from Richard Kidder’s “Demonstration of the Messiah. In Which the Truth of the Christian Religion is Proved, against all the Enemies Thereof (But Especially against the Jews) (1726: [note the date is 100 years before Darby]:
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I shall prove, when I come to consider them. The destruction of the city of Jerusalem, and temple, and Jewish state is fitly enough expressed in such terms, as seem to imply the final conflagration, and end of the world, and the great day of judgment. Thus ’tis called the end of all things, I Pet. 4.7. with Luke 21.9. and the last days, James 5.3. The destruction of a particular country or land is frequently described as the destruction of the universe. Of this we have many examples, [See Isa. 13. 10,13. Ch. 34.4. Ezek. 32.7. Jer 4.23,24. Joel 2.10. Amos 9.5. Dan. 8.10. with I Maccab. 1.28. Isa. 2.19, 21.]” (p. 173).
Then there’s this from John Home:
“The Scripture History of the Jews, and Their Republick: “Nor did he cease till he made a final End and Dissolution of the Jewish Oeconomy (1737, also nearly 100 years before Darby]) which St. Peter calls the End of all things (I Pet. iv. 7) and St. James, the Coming of the Lord (Jam. v. 8) and which our Saviour calls the Coming of the Son of Man (Mat. xiv. 27, 28) the last of which verses may probably be an Allusion to the Roman Eagle, which was the Ensign of the Roman Empire” (p. 303).
John Lightfoot (1602–1675):
“Hence it appears plain enough, that the foregoing verses are not to be understood of the last judgment, but, as we said, of the destruction of Jerusalem. There were some among the disciples (particularly John), who lived to see these things come to pass. With Matt. xvi. 28, compare John xxi. 22. And there were some Rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these things, that lived until the city was destroyed.”
John Gill (1697–1771):
“This is a full and clear proof, that not any thing that is said before [v. 34], relates to the second coming of Christ, the day of judgment, and the end of the world; but that all belongs to the coming of the son of man in the destruction of Jerusalem, and to the end of the Jewish state.”
N. A. Nisbett (1787):
“Nor can I agree with him when he says, that our blessed Lord knew very well that he should not come, while that generation, to whom he preached, was alive, and that all his Apostles knew this, as well as he; for this is expressly contrary to our Lord’s own assertion, in many parts of the gospels, that the Son of Man would come before that generation was wholly passed away.”
Philip Doddridge (1702–1751):
“‘And verily I say unto you; and urge you to observe it, as absolutely necessary in order to understand what I have been saying, That this generation of men now living shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled, for what I have foretold concerning the destruction of the Jewish state is so near at hand, that some of you shall live to see it all accomplished with a dreadful exactness.”
Thomas Newton (1704–1782):
“It is to me a wonder how any man can refer part of the foregoing discourse to the destruction of Jerusalem, and part to the end of the world, or any other distant event, when it is said so positively here in the conclusion, All these things shall be fulfilled in this generation.”
Thomas Scott (1747–1821):
“This absolutely restricts our primary interpretation of the prophecy to the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place within forty years.”
Adam Clarke (1762–1832):
“[Matthew 24] contains a prediction of the utter destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, and the subversion of the whole political constitution of the Jews; and is one of the most valuable portions of the new covenant Scriptures, with respect to the evidence which it furnishes of the truth of Christianity. Every thing which our Lord foretold should come on the temple, city, and people of the Jews, has been fulfilled in the most correct and astonishing manner; and witnessed by a writer [Flavius Josephus] who was present during the whole, who was himself a Jew, and is acknowledged to be an historian of indisputable veracity in all those transactions which concern the destruction of Jerusalem. Without having designed it, he has written a commentary on our Lord’s words, and shown how every tittle was punctually fulfilled, though he knew nothing of the Scripture which contained this remarkable prophecy. His account will be frequently referred to in the course of these notes; as also the admirable work of Bishop Newton on the prophecies.”
Clarke writes the following in his commentary on 1 Peter 4:7:
“Peter says, The end of all things is at hand; and this he spoke when God had determined to destroy the Jewish people and their polity by one of the most signal judgments that ever fell upon any nation or people. In a very few years after St. Peter wrote this epistle, even taking it at the lowest computation, viz., A. D. 60 or 61, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. To this destruction, which was literally then at hand, the apostle alludes when he says, The end of all things is at hand; the end of the temple, the end of the Levitical priesthood, the end of the whole Jewish economy, was then at hand.”
TDS: Gary, I disagree. I could refute your arguments, but am leaving a marriage where we could argue over something as mundane and innocuous as a glass of milk. I have no desire to debate right now. Did that too much at home. Nothing personal.
GDD: You can’t refute my arguments. Ron Rhodes refutes your argument. The quotations I cited refute your argument.
TDS: Oh Pooey!
GDD: Quite an argument!
TDS: This is beginning to sound like my marriage.
GDD: And I can understand why if this is the way you ‘argue’ [with your wife. She presents facts, and all you can say is “I disagree” and “Pooey!”]
GDD: I do marriage counseling, too.
TDS: Hahahaha. Tried that. For 3 years I brought up the fact that the judge ordered us to counseling when I filed the first time. The other half always refused. Just in no mood for debate right now. 30+ years of it in the marriage. By all accounts, after having lived through all of the 70’s and 80’s predictions about the end times in Bible studies and churches, I should be your biggest ally. Despite all of the Hal Lindseys, Edgar Whisenants and others claiming something’s up, and nothing happens, something’s there. Perhaps the biggest reason is that while Dispensationalists have scores of men with Th.D.’s on their side (Geisler, Swindoll, Rhodes, MacArthur), Preterists only really have R.C. Sproul on their side (who has a Th.D.), and people like Hanegraaff, who have no Bible training at all.
By the way, I looked at Norman Geisler’s 4-volume set on theology. In the 4th book, he deals with your claims about Calvin being Preterist. Perhaps not as in depth as you may like. But he does answer it. The thing that gets me about Preterism is that they’re literal only when it comes to words like “soon” in Revelation 1:1. After that, everything seems to be figurative.
And the fact that after we’ve exhausted all our arguments, both sides will not change their view.
- William D. Watkins, “Whose Facts Anyway?,” Christian Research Journal (24:2), 60. [↩]