Opinion

My Facebook Encounter with a Confused Seminary Student

After posting my article “Prophecy Writers Making Predictions Again,” it got quite a few comments. One particular commenter (TDS) was very frustrating to deal with because he refused to acknowledge facts that are not in dispute. This is not unusual. Facts don’t speak for themselves. They are always interpreted.

I often see Christians going to extraordinary lengths to hold onto a prophetic system even though it has been dismantled piece by piece. For many people holding on to an end-time futurism, there’s more at stake than prophecy. Some people have jobs that they would lose, as well as family and friends. Their churches would no longer hold the same value since the preaching would be very different.

But it’s one thing to argue well and another thing to argue poorly. As you will see in the following, TDS argued very poorly, and I’m not the only one saying it.

A number of people commented on how patient I was with TDS. Some asked why I wasted so much time with him.

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I have a saying: “Don’t ever give anyone a reason to reject your position other than the position itself.” First, I don’t want someone saying, “Well, that Gary DeMar is a jerk. Even if he’s right, I don’t want to be associated with a position whose advocates are mean spirited. Second, there have been a lot of people over the years that were equally stubborn and later abandoned their prophetic views because they saw how weak their arguments were, although I’ve never encountered someone like TDS. Third, it’s good practice. I always learn new things every time I have to defend my position.

The dialogue begins with TDS making his first response to the article I posted: “Prophecy Writers Making Predictions Again.” My comments are identified as GDD. Added material is found in [brackets].

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TDS: If you do not see the convergence of Biblical prophecy, I’m not sure what more there is to say. These aren’t stupid people. Men such as [John] MacArthur, [John F. Walvoord], [Ron] Rhodes, (J. Vernon) McGee, [Les] Feldick and others, who have Th.Ds. There are scores of others, such as Christians accepting unChristian lifestyles. I also find it interesting that as the last days approach, people are discarding Biblical truth, whether it be something like homosexuality, attending church or other commands.

GDD: There isn’t anything that’s going on today that hasn’t gone on in the past, in some cases much worse.

TDS: Well, I disagree.

GDD: Disagreeing is not enough. A biblical argument needs to be made.

TDS: For one thing, Preterism is younger than Darby.

GDD: For one thing, TDS is woefully misinformed. Preterism has a long history. All one has to do is look at www.preteristarchive.com to disprove his wild assertion. Even dispensationalist Thomas Ice had to admit that “there is early preterism in people like Eusebius [A.D. 263–339]. In fact, his work ‘The Proof of the Gospel’ is full of preterism in relationship to the Olivet Discourse.” That’s about 1500 years before Darby.

GDD: TDS [I’m] still waiting for your response to your preterism claim.

TDS: Gary, the statement that Preterism is younger than Darby did not originate from me, but Dr. Ron Rhodes (which is maybe why you attack him in this article). I also have a B.A. in Bible & Theology. 5 years of B&T, O.T. History, N.T. History, Church History and scores of other classes (graduated 1990). Why didn’t it come up in any of those classes? BTW, one of my teachers aided in The Quest Study Bible (Gianolius). Another of my teachers (Hustad) studied under Millard Erickson, and edited some of his books as well. Not a peep, as I can recall, about Preterism. I cannot find it in any of the books such as “4 Views on the Book of Revelation” where Premill’s, amill’s and others who debate each other on various views. While we studied Amillennialism, Premillennialism and others, never studied Preterism. Strange that even such giants in the faith as John Calvin, who authored his own commentaries on every book of the Bible, except for the Book of Revelation (I had to do a double-take on this and thought this was the result of someone stealing one of the books in this multi-volume set. Certainly, Calvin had the ability. Your claim that there were Preterists throughout church history reminds me of Oneness Pentecostals, who, in an effort to prove that the church was Oneness/Jesus Only prior to 325 A.D., look for anyone, and I mean anyone, who baptized in Jesus’ name, spoke in tongues or had a modalistic view of the Godhead. Gary, your earlier claim that “There isn’t anything going on today that hasn’t gone on some time in the past, in some cases much worse” is the same thing that atheists claim when I warn them of Jesus’ return. But the Bible has an answer to that in 2 Peter 3:3-4.

The original 1948 edition.

GDD: TDS wrote: “Gary, the statement that Preterism is younger than Darby did not originate from me, but Dr. Ron Rhodes (which is maybe why you attack him in this article).” I didn’t attack Ron Rhodes. I pointed out that if he’s going to write a book on great debates of Bible prophecy, then he needs to supply adequate source material showing why preterism is one of the great debates. If Ron Rhodes claimed that preterism is younger than Darbyism, then he has no business writing on the topic of prophecy. But he does know better, and that’s what’s so disturbing. It’s hard for me to believe he said such a thing given that he wrote the following: “This approach to interpreting prophecy [preterism] appeared in the early writer Eusebius (263-339) in his Ecclesiastical History. Later writers who incorporated this approach include Hugo Grotius of Holland (ca. 1644), and, in modern times, David Chilton.” [This same quotation appears in his book The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy (132).] But even this is less than partially true. There were and are many preterist scholars. Can you send me the source of Ron Rhodes’ “younger than Darby” claim? As to modern times, Marcellus Kik is credited with adding to the revival of preterism with the publication of his short commentary on Matthew 24 published in 1948 [and now part of the book An Eschatology of Victory]. I have no idea why you weren’t taught about preterism. Charles Spurgeon mentions it in his book Commenting and Commentaries: “1. Preterists. The prophecies contained in the Apocalypse were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of heathen Rome.” Why include this definition if there weren’t preterist commentaries prior to 1876 when Commenting and Commentaries was published?

As I suggested, you need to take a look at PreteristArchive.com. It’s the single best repository of preterist material available. You bring up Oneness Pentecostalism. There is no comparison between Oneness Pentecostalism and preterism. Trying to make a connection shows me that you do not have much of a grasp on the [subject of] eschatology and are instead grasping at straws. Some of the best Bible scholars and commentators the church has ever produced were preterists on large sections of Scripture. It’s not one or two men: Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Adam Clarke (1762?-1832), Thomas Scott (1747-1821), John Gill (1697-1771), John Lightfoot (1602-1675), John Owen (1616-1683), John Brown of Edinburgh (1784-1858), N. Nisbett (work published in 1787), Thomas Newton (work published in 1754), Milton S. Terry (1840-1914), author of Biblical Hermeneutics and Biblical Apocalyptics, Alexander Keith (1791-1880), Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), David Brown (1803-1897), James Farquharson (1781-1843), Philip Mauro (1859-1952), F. W. Farrar (1831-1903), and many others. Most of these commentators had their commentaries and/or works published long before Darby published his novel prophecy works. You mention John Calvin. Much of Calvin’s commentary on Daniel is preterist, and there is a great deal of preterism in his other commentaries. Here’s a portion of the Preface to the translation of his commentary on Daniel: “Our readers will remember, that as an expositor of prophecy, Calvin is a Praeterist, and that his general system of interpretation is as remote from the year-day theory of Birks, Faber, and others, as from the futurist speculations of Maitland, Tyso, and Todd.” One of the reasons you may not have studied preterism [in seminary] is because it is devastating to premillennialism. Maybe you should request a refund.

Four Views on the Book of Revelation[TDS wrote that he could not find preterism “in any of the books such as ‘4 Views on the Book of Revelation.’” He mustn’t have read it, because one of the authors, Kenneth L. Gentry, is a noted preterist scholar who has a ThD and contributed the postmillennial entry to Four Views on the Book of Revelation. Actually, he didn’t have to read the book since the cover includes the word “Preterist.” Here’s what one reviewer wrote: “The first writer is Kenneth Gentry, representing the Preterist view. His work is the best presented of the four positions, worthy of five stars. If anyone wants a very good explanation of the Preterist view in a nutshell, Gentry offers it here.”

There’s also Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond where again Gentry is a contributor. Let’s not forget Steven Gregg’s Revelation: Four Views (1997), one of which is the preterist view. On 2 Peter 3:3-4, see my book Identifying the Real Last Days Scoffers, especially chapter 10, “The Passing Away of Heaven and Earth.”]

TDS: The statement about Preterism being younger than Darby attributed to Ron Rhodes (if I remember correctly) was on one of Jan Markell’s programs “Understanding the Times” in which Rhodes was a guest. I believe it was sometime this past summer [2014]. It has stuck in my head ever since. As far as Preterism itself, it seems it did not become popular, or en vogue, until after I graduated in 1990. I remember someone in our church trying to teach it after leaving college, and I grew frustrated in following it because the Preterist method of hermeneutics seems to change with every Bible verse. I just gave up.

GDD: Did you read my long comment? I quoted Rhodes: “This approach to interpreting prophecy [preterism] appeared in the early writer Eusebius (263-339) in his Ecclesiastical History.” He agrees with what I wrote in an earlier comment. I found the Rhodes’ citation online, [and it’s also in his book The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy]. The other noted writers I mentioned, whose commentaries have been around for centuries, wrote prolifically on the subject of preterism. I can’t help it if you got a poor seminary education. I was introduced to preterism in the 1970s when I was in seminary. I don’t know what you are referring to about “changing with every Bible verse.” On the Olivet Discourse, there is a great deal of agreement. Dispensationalists don’t have to prove anything since all their prophecies are said to be fulfilled after the so-called pre-trib “rapture.” It’s a convenient position. Almost every week [I learn about more] preterist authors whose writings have been obscured by the sensationalism of dispensational prophetic prognosticators.

After the above comment, LB, a new poster, made the following comment:

“Very poor scholarship here. It’s easy Gary DeMar to go after Chuck Smith and Darby but why don’t you go after any of the Calvinistic Dispensationalist who are scholarly John Macarthur, Dr. Thomas Ice, Robert Saucey. Instead Gary fights with dead guys who can’t hit back or who are very poor students of scripture like Chuck Smith.”

Here was my response to LB:

Apparently, you are not familiar with my work. I’ve debated Thomas Ice 9 times in various venues. You may be able to find them online. I did an extensive study of Ezekiel 38 and 39 [The Gog and Magog End-Time Alliance] referencing Ice and Mark Hitchcock. [I wrote the book The Debate Over Christian Reconstruction that’s a point-by-point critique of a debate Dr. Gary North and I had with Thomas Ice and Dave Hunt in Dallas, Texas, in 1988.] I’ve probably responded to Thomas Ice more than any other living writer. Ron Rhodes is still alive, and so is Mark Hitchcock. It was TDS who brought up Darby, not me. Chuck Smith wasn’t dead when I wrote several critiques of his work (http://goo.gl/WTNaCO and http://goo.gl/R43UKi). I’ve written several articles dealing with MacArthur on eschatology. Here’s one and here’s another. There are others. [Probably my most controversial article, that got Phil Johnson hotter than a branding iron, was “John MacArthur’s Defense of Dispensationalism,” a response to MacArthur’s book The Second Coming: Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age. Johnson is the Executive Director of Grace to You, the Christian tape and radio preaching ministry of John MacArthur. Johnson “has been closely associated with John MacArthur since 1981 and edits most of MacArthur’s major books.” I suspected at the time that the reason Phil Johnson attacked me so viciously because he edited The Second Coming and took it personally.] Robert Saucy is a Progressive Dispensationalist. He has a small following, as the number of books that he and others in his camp have published over the years demonstrate. If more people referenced him, I would spend time responding to his work. Progressive Dispensationalism is not that popular [of a position]. [Saucy’s book] Progressive Dispensationalism was written more than 20 years ago. The position has not caught on among the dispensational masses. So, LB, I’ll end this with, no offense, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. Here’s what I’ll do. You set up a time and place for John MacArthur and me to discuss the topic, and I’ll be there.

Also, Progressive Dispensationalists do a lot to undermine popular dispensationalism. That’s probably why their works aren’t that popular among the end-of-the-world crowd.

Some of those posting here need to get up to speed on the facts before they comment. It’s embarrassing. There is a great body of work in the pipeline that is easily accessible to everyone. For example, Kregel published a point/counterpoint book with Ken Gentry and Thomas Ice: The Great Tribulation–Past Or Future?: Two Evangelicals Debate the Question.

[He never posted again.]

To be continued… Click on the following links to read the second and third installments.

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