On September 16, 2009, Kenneth Gentry and Kenneth Talbot were interviewed by William Hill on Covenant Radio. This is my response to Gentry’s part in the interview.
In the beginning, Mr. Hill asked Gentry to give “a basic definition” of “hyper-preterism.”
Gentry began his response by saying that the definition of “hyper-preterism” is a difficult question to answer, and that the question becomes more difficult day by day. This is because “the hyper-preterism movement,” said Gentry, is made up of divided, warring factions. It’s a fragmented and continually fragmenting movement that is continuing to “mutate.” It’s like “mercury” in that it “beads up in different directions.”
But then, oddly enough, Gentry immediately gave a basic definition of “hyper-preterism.” He said that “basically” hyper-preterism can be defined as the belief that all biblical prophecy (specifically, the Second Coming, the Resurrection, and the Final Judgment) was fulfilled by AD 70 and that history and sin on Earth will continue forever. Gentry added that this “basic,” “systematized” belief is “held across the board in all phases” of “the hyper-preterist movement.”
To sum up: Gentry was asked for “a basic definition” of “hyper-preterism.” He responded by saying that it is difficult to answer that question because the “hyper-preterist movement” is a continually fragmenting and mutating movement. But then he immediately gave a systematic, “basic definition” of “hyper-preterism” that is “held across the board” throughout the “hyper-preterist movement.”
As conspicuous as Gentry’s contradiction is, there is a much more important error to be addressed. Gentry does not seem to realize how his criticism of “the hyper-preterist movement” is a perfect echo of the Roman Catholic Church’s criticism of the Reformation and Protestantism. To see this, all we need to do is quote Gentry’s argument word for word, and replace the word “hyper-preterist”/”hyper-preterism” with the word “Protestant”/”Protestantism”:
Question: What is the basic definition of [Protestantism]?:
Gentry’s answer: “That question interestingly is a difficult question to answer, and it’s getting more difficult day by day, and what I mean by that is two things. In the first place, it’s hard to define because the [Protestant] movement is divided into so many warring factions that are running against each other, that if you critique one element then the other element will say, well you haven’t really gotten to the issue. Then if you go to them, another third element will come and say, well you haven’t dealt with our issues. So it is a fragmented movement. Furthermore, it is a continually fragmenting movement that is continuing to mutate. They are developing new doctrines all along the way, depending on which group you go with and how long you stay with them before they blow up. Basically though, [Protestantismconsists of the errors of Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura].”
Johann Eck could not have said it better.
Gentry later said that “hyper-preterists” are “very big on denying the legitimacy of the creeds.” He also argued, “How could the church be wrong for 2,000 years?” It was disappointing to hear Gentry use these tired, worn out arguments. Mike Sullivan personally gave him a copy of House Divided: Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology. Apparently Gentry hasn’t read it yet. As the book plainly demonstrates, it is misleading to say that preterists are “very big on denying the legitimacy of the creeds.” Certainly there are preterists who are anti-creedal, even as many futurists are anti-creedal. But preterists of Reformed background –the preterists with whom Gentry is interacting– cannot be painted with the broad brush of “denying the legitimacy of the creeds.”
As for the argument that the church couldn’t have been wrong about eschatology for about 2,00 years (or more accurately, about 1,800 years), Gentry is yet again using a Roman Catholic argument. How could the Reformers have been correct about “forensic justification by faith alone” when the post-apostolic church NEVER taught that doctrine until about the year 1500? According to Gentry’s fallacious reasoning, Reformed Theology must be an unbibical and damnable heresy. Gentry’s argument (“Hyper-preterism” is new in church history. Therefore it is false.) brings the Reformation down like a house of cards. “Forensic justification by faith alone” was just as “new” in the 1500’s as “hyper-preterism” was “new” in the 1800’s. Gentry, please read the free copy of the book we literally put in your hand. May it save you from using the methodology of Johann Eck.
When asked to elaborate on how “the hyper-preterist movement” is divided and fragmented, Gentry gave as one example that some preterists believe that Jesus’ resurrection “wasn’t really physical.” Can someone please help me with this? I’ve never heard a preterist say that Jesus was not physically raised from the dead. I don’t doubt that there has been some crackpot out there who has made this claim, but Gentry has been saying this about preterists for over 10 years now. He gives the impression that this is a prominent belief in “the hyper-preterist movement.” Someone please tell me, to whom is Gentry referring?
When Gentry was asked how he responds to the argument that he is largely responsible for the hyper-preterist movement, Gentry deflected responsibility by saying that “hyper-preterists” are building on the Bible as much as they are building on Gentry.
I must agree that Gentry’s partial preterism has been serving as a very effective stepping stone for multitudes of believers as they rely on Scripture to lead them to “hyper-preterism.”
Thank you, Ken. You have been serving “the hyper-preterist movement” well, even as, ultimately, Eck did for the Reformation. Keep up the good work, Brother. And God bless you.