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Preterism and Reformed Theology

My Response to Dr. Kenneth Talbot’s Interview on Covenant Radio

At the beginning of the interview William Hill asked Dr. Talbot:

“How would you respond to the objection that says, okay, we are appealing to the historical analysis of this particular doctrine that has been explained for us for the last 2,000 years, and by doing so we are denying sola Scriptura. What would be your response to that particular argument?”

MY RESPONSE:

The question was invalid. I don’t know of any preterist who would say that “appealing to” an “historical analysis” is tantamount to “denying sola Scriptura.” So far as I know, no preterist of Reformed background has any problem with “appealing to” historical interpretations of the church.

The problem is in assuming that futurism is biblical in the absence of biblical proof, and then anathematizing professing believers based on that extra-biblical assumption. That is an implicit and practical denial of sola Scriptura.

Case in point: In his book, When Shall These Things Be? Keith Mathison admits that the eschatological time statements in Scripture are a “difficult problem” because they seem to contradict the creeds. He admits that the time statements in Scripture have “perplexed commentators for centuries” (WSTTB, 178, 201, 204). Yet later Mathison says that creedal futurism is “nonnegotiable” (354) and that preterists follow “a much different religion” than Christianity (213).

So then . . . what is Mathison’s SURE authority (his sola-Scriptura PROOF) for saying that futurism is nonnegotiable and that preterists are therefore false brothers? Since his sure authority is NOT the Scriptures, BY HIS OWN ADMISSION, his authority is nothing other than historic (post-apostolic) Mother Church (i.e., the creeds) alone —emphasis on “alone.” It is to this extent that the implicit battle cry of Reformed anti-preterists is, ironically, not sola Scriptura, but solum symbolum (by creed alone).

***

Dr. Talbot portrayed preterists as using a “straw man,” saying that we “misrepresent” anti-preterists by saying that they “believe that the creeds are the supreme authority.”

MY RESPONSE:

I am not aware of any preterist who considers himself Reformed who has said that anti-preterists “believe that the creeds are the supreme authority.” What I personally have said is that when it comes to their reaction to preterism, anti-preterists unwittingly, implicitly and practically put the creeds on a par with, and even above, Scripture, as we just saw in the case of Keith Mathison.

***

William Hill noted that “hyper-preterists” often say that the only argument anti-preterists have is “2,000 years of church history!” So he asked Dr. Talbot to present some of the scriptural problems with “hyper-preterism.” Dr. Talbot took more than 20 minutes to respond to the question. Here is the number of Bible verses he used:

Zero (0).

Dr. Talbot’s answer was essentially that he has no “desire” to use Scripture to respond to “hyper-preterism” because “hyper-preterism” is incompatible with orthodox Christianity.

MY RESPONSE:

Fortunately Athanasius did not take that approach in the face of Arianism. If he had, we might all be Arians today.

***

Dr. Talbot said that “hyper-preterism” and Calvinism are incompatible.

MY RESPONSE:

TOTAL DEPRAVITY: God brought the old covenant world to its end because it is impossible for man to become justified through an act of faithful obedience to God.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION: God sovereignly chose and created a spiritual nation from within the old covenant nation that embodied man’s impotent “righteousness.”

LIMITED ATONEMENT: God had mercy on the spiritual nation that He created, but He sovereignly hardened the old covenant nation.

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE: This was accomplished sovereignly by God’s Spirit, despite the sinfulness, ignorance and weakness of every man who was chosen.

PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS: God’s New Covenant nation –the Church– is permanent and eternal. Therefore, so are her children.

***

Dr. Talbot said that “hyper-preterism” and Reformed theology are incompatible.

MY RESPONSE:

Preterism confirms Reformed Theology and makes it stronger from its root. Here’s why:

If we are 100%, finally justified today (as per Reformed theology), then it’s because the Parousia has already happened. According to the Scriptures, justification (i.e., the reckoning of faith to God’s people as righteousness) is not complete or consummated until the Parousia. Romans 4:23-24a cannot be interpreted any other way:

Now not for [Abraham’s] sake only was it written, that [faith] was reckoned to him [as righteousness], but for our sake also, to whom [faith] is about to be reckoned [as righteousness, in the Parousia].”

The Bible teaches an eschatological, “already-but-not-yet” dimension of justification. In the same manner, if the outworking of Christ’s atonement is already 100% accomplished for us today (as per Reformed theology), then it’s because He has already appeared a second time in the consummation of the eschaton from out of the Holiest of Holies (Lev. 16; Heb. 9:28). Therefore preterism is what makes Reformed theology, at its heart, consistently Scriptural. It brings Reformed theology to the realization of its logical/scriptural conclusions.

David Green

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3 comments

  1. Excellent Dave! Never noticed the “mello” in Rom 4:24.

    You wrote: “Therefore preterism is what makes Reformed theology, at its heart, consistently Scriptural.”

    Hear, hear! This is what makes the charges of Talbot & Gentry so egregious and unwittingly false. Instead of preterism proclaiming “another Gospel” as has been the constant Scripturally unsupported charge, it is the perfect complement to reformed theology. In my view, had Calvin come to preterist conclusions, it would have significantly bolstered his arguments.

    Rom 8:18: “For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory about to be revealed in us;”

    How can we as a body of Christ continue to miss the fact that the glory was “about to be” revealed?

    Rom 8:22: “for we have known that all the creation doth groan together, and doth travail in pain together till now.”

    Are we still groaning in this laborious pain? Is the ktisis still languishing in the pain of expectation with no end in sight…a millennium that may persist another 38,000 years?

    Rom 8:38-39: “for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor messengers, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, 39nor things about to be, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”

    NOTHING can separate us from the Love of Christ. Not reformed futurists who attempt to anathematize us for recognizing the “about to be” first century consummation; nor church councils; nor creeds nor any other thing.

    Try as they may to strike fear into those who are yet to or already have considered the seriousness of their Berean call, they will not prevail. The truth of God’s Word will always rule in the hearts of His people. The accusation of “SOLO Scriptura” was as telling as it was demeaning and degrading to the battle cry of the reformers. “Don’t try this (understanding Scripture) at home. You need US to mediate it for you.” Re-chain the Bible to the lectern!

    Dave, I have no problem with my futurist friends who don’t yet see things the way I do. They’re my brothers in Christ for goodness sakes. But for a small band of theological zealots to accuse me of changing all the terminology much like the Mormons or a JWs, well, I find that particularly offensive.

    My obligation? Be vocal in opposition but charitable in spirit.

  2. Amen to that Chuck. I actually forced myself yesterday to listen to a podcast from Phil Naessens.

    He kept harping on why if we believed what we do that we aren’t out proselytizing like Mormons and JW’s.

    Well Phil…If you’re reading this. It is because we are not presenting something new as the two afore mentioned cults did. We are simply doing the work of Priscilla and Aquila. Correcting the error that has made itself manifest.

    I always thought it kind of odd that no one in the futurist camp consider it strange that the two afore mentioned cults are both futurist oriented.

  3. Good point Michael. Look what’s happened on the futurist’s watch, especially over the past 150 years. It’s sheer folly to point out the spec in the preterist’s eye while the major cults were conceived through a futurist paradigm. It they want to play the guilt by association game, it shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice that they have some rather unsavory associations…

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