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If Futurism Is True, Are Preterists Anathema?

But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:16-18).

In the above scripture, Paul said the following about those who say “the resurrection is past”:

1. Their words are to be shunned.
2. Their words increase to more ungodliness.
3. Their words are “profane and vain babblings.”
4. Their words eat like a “canker” (gangrene).
5. They have erred (missed the mark) concerning the truth.
6. They “overthrow the faith of some.”

If preterists today are wrong when they say “the resurrection” of 2 Timothy 2:16-18 is past, are preterists under the condemnation of Hymenaeus and Philetus?

Absolutely.

A: IF “the resurrection” of 2 Timothy 2:18 is not past, and
B: IF preterists say that it is past,
C: THEN preterists are to be shunned. Our words advance ungodliness. Our words are profane and vain babblings. Our words eat like gangrene. We have missed the mark concerning the truth. We are faith-overthrowers.

IF A and B are true, then it irresistibly follows that C is true, according to 2 Timothy 2:16-18.

There are only two ways a futurist can avoid viewing preterists as “Hymenaeans”:

1. A futurist can hold that it is possible that “the resurrection” in 2 Timothy 2:18 does not refer to the yet-future resurrection of the dead, but that it refers to a resurrection-event that occurred in AD 70. (Keith Mathison allows for this possibility. Kenneth Gentry and James Jordan both teach that there was a resurrection in AD 70.)

2. The futurist can hold that it is theoretically possible that futurism could be wrong. This admission would allow the futurist to (at least tentatively) embrace preterists as brothers in Christ.

Short of these two options, there is no way for a futurist to avoid condemning preterists and remain obedient to Scripture (2 Timothy 2:16-18) as it is interpreted within the futurist framework.

This, however, is not the end of the story. Under the futurist assumption, we preterists are teaching a false gospel only because of 2 Timothy 2:16-18. If those three verses did not exist, futurists would have no compelling, biblical basis (under the futurist assumption) for saying that preterists are teaching a damnable heresy. Under the futurist assumption, preterism is an error of course; but there is no systematic, theological basis for anathematizing preterists. There is only 2 Timothy 2:16-18 suspended in midair in an exegetical vacuum.

This clues us in to the fact that the preterist-anathematizing, futurist approach to 2 Timothy 2:16-18 is not on solid biblical ground. The anathema is based on one proof text. We cannot authoritatively base a doctrine on one proof text. How much less can we base an anathema against professing Christians on one proof text?

Futurists must ignore this exegetical and ethical problem and simply smuggle the assumption of futurism into 2 Timothy 2:16-18 in order to maintain their anathema based on those three verses. Their anathematizing use of 2 Timothy 2:16-18 is based on the fallacy of “question begging” and on their a priori (extra-biblical) assumption of our doctrinal guilt. In essence, those verses condemn us only because futurists assume (based on their framework) that those verses condemns us. Without that extra-biblical assumption, the anathema cannot be long maintained.

So yes, within the futurist framework there is a theologically baseless justification for anathematizing preterists, based solely on 2 Timothy 2:16-18 as it is interpreted under the futurist assumption. It is only within the context of proof-texting, logical fallacy, and assumption of guilt that futurists are “justified” in anathematizing preterists.

David Green

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