What About the Creeds and Church History?
by Don K. Preston
In the ongoing controversy about Covenant Eschatology, one of the main arguments being proposed by the opponents of true preterism is that of church history and the church creeds. The church simply could not have been wrong for so long on such a critical issue . No church creed espouses true preterism. Thus, preterism is false. This argument seems to carry a good bit of weight with those of the Reformed school especially, and, as we shall see, this is a strange irony to be sure.
I intend in this brief article to simply set forth a few “bullet points” as food for thought in regard to the issue of the creeds. For a fuller, excellent discussion from the Reformed perspective, see House Divided: A Reformed Response to When Shall These Things Be, available from this website.
The Reformation and The Creeds
To say the very least, those who appeal to the historical creeds as proof that true preterism is false are involved in an irony of major proportions. In fact, they are making the precise argument that the Roman Catholic church offered against Martin Luther! Read the words of the Roman Emperor Charles V: “For it is certain that a single brother is in error if he stands against the opinion of the whole of Christendom, as otherwise Christendom would have erred for a thousand years or more.” (Cited in Beyond Creation Science, Timothy Martin and Jeffrey Vaughn, www.truthinliving.org).
Likewise, Yohann Eck, arguing against Luther said to him: “Your plea to be heard from Scripture is the one always made by heretics! How can you of so many famous men and claim that you know more than they all? You have no right to call into question the mostassume that you are the only one to understand the sense of Scripture? Would you put your judgment above that holy orthodox faith, instituted by Christ the perfect lawgiver, proclaimed throughout the world by the apostles, sealed by the red blood of the martyrs, confirmed by the sacred councils, defined by the Church in which all our fathers believed until death and gave to us as an inheritance, and which now we are forbidden by [Mother Church] and [her Creeds] to debate lest there be no end of debate.”(Found at http://en.believethesign.com/index.php?title=Martin_Luther).
That sounds amazingly close to, “If preterism is true we have been wrong all these years! This doctrine violates the creeds!” It sounds like, “The creeds set the boundaries of orthodoxy.” It sounds like, “Preterism is false because it is not in the creeds.”
The question is therefore, if the enemies of true preterism are going to appeal to the creeds and church history to invalidate Covenant Eschatology, why was the argument of Emperor Charles and Yohann Eck, and the pope not valid? Let me frame their argument like this:
Any doctrine that is in violation of a thousand years and more of church history and the creeds must be false (Eck, Emperor Charles, the pope).
The doctrines of the Reformation Movement were in violation of a thousand years and more of church history and the creeds (Eck, Emperor Charles, the pope)..
Therefore, the doctrines of the Reformation Movement are false.
Will those who are claiming that the lack of attestation in the creeds and church history falsifies the true preterist paradigm stick to their argument? If not, why not? Why was the argument of Eck and the pope not valid against Luther, but it is valid against thecurrent reformation movement?
Will they tell us that, “No, the doctrines of the Reformation Movement are not false, because they are founded in the scriptures, and the Reformation Movement simply rediscovered lost truth”? This sounds plausible. However, it opens the door for the preterist to make his case.
The historical fact is that eschatology has never been the focus of any creedal council. As scholars have noted many times, eschatology is the last unexplored frontier in Christian theology. Is it not therefore possible that the preterist movement is, just as Luther and his followers, in the process of rediscovering truth that has been long lost? Logically, there is no reasonable way to deny this possibility. After all, Luther rejected the councils and creeds, not because he did not respect them, but because of Scripture.
Is it not the irony of ironies that those who claim to be adherents of the Reformation Movement are now abandoning the very thing that Luther argued, i.e. Sola Scriptura? It is, in fact, stunning to see what is happening right before our eyes.
When not arguing against true preterism, Keith Mathison says, “We must turn to scripture, not Augustine or Calvin, to verify the truthfulness of a doctrine.” (Keith Mathison, Premillennialism, Rightly Dividing the People of God?, (New Jersey, P and R Publishing, 1995)49). Yet, when arguing against preterism, Mathison has the temerity to argue, “Why did the Reformers continue to maintain that Scripture must be interpreted within the boundaries of creedal orthodoxy? If creedal orthodoxy is not maintained as a boundary, biblical interpretation necessarily sinks into the sea of subjectivity and thereby loses claim to absolute authority. it becomes impossible to declare anything to be heresy.” (Keith Mathison, Postmillennialism An Eschatology of Hope, (Phillipsburg, NJ, P and R Publishing, 1999)239).
As Frost has cogently noted, “According to this line of reasoning, the Bible is to be interpreted within the boundaries of the creeds. This makes the creeds the standard, and not the Bible.” (Sam Frost, Misplaced Hope, (Colorado Springs, Co, BiMillennal Press, 2002)45). I agree with Frost as he continues, “Mathison, Seraiah, Gentry and Sandlin have it reversed, and I consider this far more dangerous than any eschatological understanding, based on an attempt to be solely Biblical” (Hope, 46). I highly recommend Frost’s book as a refutation of the inordinate appeal to the creeds. Frost has a “creedal” background, and yet rightly sees the fallacy of trusting in them for doctrine and faith. Frost’s position is that history is to be honored and respected, but should never be made the litmus test of orthodoxy.
Mathison’s statement is an unbelievable rejection of the Reformation principle and the entire principle of Sola Scriptura! It sounds amazingly like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who argue that if one reads the Bible and the Bible alone (and not Watchtower literature), that they will go into apostasy!
Are we to believe that scripture cannot determine what is heresy? Must we have uninspired men defining orthodoxy, and not theinspired scripture?
To claim that the creeds and church fathers taught that orthodoxy is determined by the creeds and not scripture is patently false. The creeds themselves, especially the Westminster Confession of Faith, say unequivocally that the final word is not the creeds, it is not the church, it is not history, it is scripture and scripture alone: “The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees and councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture.” (my emphasis, DKP– cited by Kenneth Gentry, The Charismatic Gift of Prophecy, (Memphis, Tn. Footstool Publications, 1989)121).
Mathison, Gentry and other opponents of Covenant Eschatology have abandoned their Reformed heritage and their own creeds by affirming that the supreme judge is no longer the scriptures. Orthodoxy is to be determined by creeds! Shades of Roman Catholicism! Shades of Yohann Eck! Perhaps these men should return to “mother church” and abandon the Reformation Movement that is so contrary to the ancient creeds!
Are The Creeds Inspired: Yes or No…A Critical Question
We have a serious question to pose for those appealing to the creeds over the scripture: Are they willing to affirm the following:
“All scripture creeds are given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
I am sure that some would call “Foul” at such a bold question and assertion, but, this is precisely what is happening in the anti-preterist camps. This is what is demanded by Mathison’s bold assertion that orthodoxy is determined, not by scripture, but by creeds. This is logically demanded by those who claim that church history, in spite of clear declarations of scripture as to the time of Christ’s parousia, cannot have been wrong. This is what is demanded by arguing that since the creeds do not endorse true preterism, therefore, preterism, in spite of its scriptural support, is wrong.
Thus, creeds and history are the arbiters of orthodoxy, they are what is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction!
Here are the choices:
If one says that, “No, only scripture is inspired of God, infallible and authoritative,” then this means that anyone disagreeing with scriptures, including the historical church and the creeds, are in error.
It means that the church is not authoritative– and is this not the Reformed position after all?
It means that church history is not authoritative.
It means that creeds are not determinative.
On the other hand, if one argues that the creeds are the arbiters of orthodoxy, per Mathison, this means that you are in fact in violation of the creeds! See again the statement from the Westminster Confession of Faith. The WCoF says that the final authority, the ultimate authority, the only authority in all matters of faith is the scripture. It says that all creeds, councils and assemblies must bow to the authority of Scripture. Period! There is no room for Mathison’s dogma in the Confession.
So, to argue for the ultimate authority of the creeds is anti-creedal. You simply must catch the power of this! Remember that it is being argued that all of the creeds agree on a futurist eschatology. Well, okay, do not all the creeds likewise, in the final analysis, agree that the final authority in theology lies in scripture, and not in the creeds? So, if the creeds agree that the scriptures are the final authority, then if the scriptures determine that the church has been wrong in its futurist eschatology, then a person is following the creeds to reject the man-made futurist eschatology! To accept the ultimate authority of the scripture opens the door for the possibility that the church has been in error, for it is not the church that is the arbiter of truth, but scripture alone. This is precisely what true preterists affirm.
How ironic then that just like Luther, true preterists refuse to be bound by the creeds and church history, appealing to scripture and scripture alone. How ironic is it that true preterist accept the statements of the Westminster Confession of Faith in regard to the ultimate authority of Scripture, while its supposed adherents, Reformed theologians, are in open defiance of the Confession? The so-called Reformers, just like the Pope, Yohann Eck and the emperor appeal to the creeds and church history! Isn’t there something ironic, bitterly ironic, about all of this?
The bottom line is this: unless the detractors against true preterism are willing to affirm the inspiration of the creeds and the infallibility of church history, over the authority of scripture, then the argument from the creeds is invalidated and falsified.
Where is this Creedal Unity?
Do those who appeal to the creeds argue that all of the creeds agree on every point of theology? Do those who appeal to the creeds argue that the creeds cannot disagree with one another? Do those who appeal to the creeds agree with all the creeds? Anyone following the current discussions of Covenant Eschatology cannot help but being struck by the overt self contradictions on the part of those who insist that we must bow to the creeds.
As well noted in House Divided, two of the most outspoken opponents of true preterism are Kenneth Gentry and Keith Mathison. Both of these men claim to be creedal and orthodox. But, let me stay this, these men are now defining orthodoxy based on their own theological tenets, not on the historical creeds, and they (tacitly) admit it! Furthermore, the opponents of the postmillennialism espoused by these men state vigorously claim that postmillennialism itself is specifically condemned by the creeds!
Now, of course, Gentry and Mathison will argue– in essence– that as long as they agree that the eschaton is still future, that they are still creedal and orthodox. In other words, you can take virtually any position that you want, as long as you say the Lord is still coming! The problem with that is that if you take theological and doctrinal positions that logically demand the true preterist position, then you are logically inconsistent to reject Covenant Eschatology. In other words, your claims to orthodoxy are mere words, if the logical consequences of your theology demands the true preterist position, and this is precisely where Gentry and Mathison are! I am naturally more than willing to defend this charge in formal debate, if either man is willing. For the moment however, let me substantiate with just a few examples, of how these men are themselves in violation of the creeds and they know it.
Just recently, Gentry was asked, in light of his non-historical, non-creedal view of Revelation and the identity of Babylon, how he could justify such a break with history and the creeds. Gentry openly acknowledges that his views are not historical, not creedal. However, he justifies this violation of the creeds by offering seven reasons why it is okay to reject the historical, creedal view of Revelation. I will list his reasons and make a very brief observation on each.
Gentry’s Reason #1 for rejecting the creeds: “Revelation was not well received by some of the Reformers.”
Response: So, because some of the Reformers did not like Revelation, it is okay to reject the creedal view of Revelation? Can this seriously be offered as a legitimate reason for rejecting the Creeds? Let’s use Gentry’s own logic.
There are Reformed scholars today who reject postmillennialism as heretical. Does that make it so? Professor David Engelsma, a Reformed amillennialist, says, “Postmillennialism has no basis in the Reformed creeds. Postmillennialism conflicts with the Reformed creeds. Postmillennialism is condemned by the Reformed creeds, explicitly by the Second Helvitic confession of 1566, implicitly by others.” (“A Defense of (Reformed) Amillennialism,” a series of articles on the Internet. Found at www.prca.org). So, if Gentry can reject the creedal position on Revelation because some Reformed scholars did not like Revelation, we are perfectly justified in rejecting postmillennialism because some Reformed scholars do not like it, and because the creeds condemn it!
Gentry’s Reason #2 for rejecting the creeds: The Reformers were locked in a “life and death struggle with the Roman Catholic church and they tended to develop their view of judgment passages through the lens of their opposition to Rome.”
Response: Well stated indeed! But, what this means is that Gentry is arguing, convincingly I think, that the historical creeds were subjective. They were not inspired by the Spirit! After all, did the Spirit cause the creeds to formulate a false theology about those judgment passages? Gentry is acknowledging that the eschatology of the creeds was formulated by men who were not doing solid, objective exegesis! This is an incredible, self defeating admission. This observation by Gentry must be seriously considered by anyone making their arguments against Covenant Eschatology!
Incidentally, Gentry takes note of the Westminster Confession of Faith and its affirmation that the pope is the anti-christ. I want the reader to ponder how serious this is! There is nothing more eschatological, nothing more inextricably related to the time of the end and the parousia of the Lord than the doctrine of the Man of Sin and the anti-christ! But the Reformed Creeds are, per Gentry, in error, in regard to this fundamental, critical, eschatological tenet! Notice the argument that can be made in regard to Gentry’s amazing affirmation:
The eschatology of the creeds in regard to the Man of Sin and the anti-christ is in error.
But, the futurist eschatology of the Reformed creeds is based on their understanding of the Man of Sin and the anti-christ.
Therefore, the futurist eschatology of the Reformed creeds is in error.
This is inescapable and unavoidable. Now notice a corollary argument, based on the statements of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the absolute authority of Scripture:
The final authority in doctrine, faith and theology is the Scripture and the Scripture alone (Westminster Confession of Faith).
Any doctrine, any issue of faith and theology at variance with Scripture is wrong, and is to be rejected.
But, the Westminster Confession of Faith is in error in its eschatology (Kenneth Gentry).
Therefore, the Westminster Confession of Faith is in error in its eschatology and is to be rejected.
Gentry’s Reason #3 for rejecting the creeds: The Reformers formulate their eschatological views–their views of Revelation– on their contemporary times and events, not on exegesis. Gentry says that the historicism of the Reformers is “impossible today.”
Response: Since Gentry says it is okay to reject the eschatology of the Reformers because of this, are true preterists not likewise justified to reject Gentry’s postmillennialism, when they see that his theology is not exegetical, not objective, not scriptural? If not, why not?
Gentry’s Reason #4 for rejecting the creeds: “Historicism suffers from a need of constant revision…As a consequence, beliefs are in a constant state of revision, especially for Revelation commentators in this school.”
Response: If constant revision falsifies a given theology, then Gentry’s (and Mathison’s, and Seriah’s, and ….) own postmillennialism is falsified! It is an understatement to say that Gentry’s own views on major, fundamental eschatological texts continues to be in a state of revision! See my upcoming book, We Shall Meet Him In The Air, The Wedding of the King of kings, for several examples of major changes in Gentry’s take on critical eschatological texts,including texts on the resurrection!
Gentry’s Reason #5 for rejecting the creeds: The relevance of historicism is confined to the Western world: (“apparently where book sales are most profitable!”).
Response: Historicism was the view in Europe, with the Reformers, was it not? Is Gentry’s postmillennialism popular in the Middle East? Is it popular in the Far East? To say that a given doctrine is or is not true based on geography is misguided and illogical. There are many who feel that Christianity itself is now relevant only in the western world – “apparently where book sales are most profitable!” Does this invalidate Christianity?
Gentry’s Reason #6 for rejecting the creeds: “In addition, it tends to lose its relevance for its original persecuted audience.”
Response: Well said, but self defeating! If we are, as Gentry often argues, to consider the audience relevance of the epistles, which were all, to use Gentry’s term “occasional letters” then this very argument destroys Gentry’s postmillennialism! See my extended discussion for instance of 2 Thessalonians 1 in my upcoming We Shall Meet Him In The Air, The Wedding of the King of kings. But let me ever so briefly outline Gentry’s problem.
Postmillennialism posits a glorious, golden age in the future, brought on by the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The Jews, as a people, are converted.
At the parousia of Christ, this golden age is in full swing.
The church is not undergoing a massive, world-wide persecution at the time of the parousia.
Postmillennialism is flatly contradicted by 2 Thessalonians 1!
Gentry applies 2 Thessalonians 1 to the “end of history” coming of the Lord.
But, 2 Thessalonians 1 depicts “the church” undergoing persecution at the time of the parousia.
It is the parousia that gives “the church” relief from that persecution! (See my In Flaming Fire, (Ardmore, Ok. JaDon Management Inc., 2005, available at www.bibleprophecy.com, or www.eschatology.org), for a full exposition of 2 Thessalonians 1. Also see myWe Shall Meet Him In The Air, The Wedding of the King of kings for an extensive examination of Gentry’s take on 2 Thessalonians 1.
For Gentry to apply Thessalonians to an end of time event as he does, he must reject his own hermeneutic by which he determines that Revelation does not predict a future coming of the Lord! Gentry’s hermeneutic to prove that Revelation must have been written of first century (pre-AD 70) events is this: A.) It was written to seven specific churches. B.) He expects them to heed what he says. C.) They were undergoing persecution “and would surely be unconcerned with events thousands of years in the future.” D.) They were promised imminent vindication and relief. (The Beast of Revelation Revised, Powder Springs, GA, American Vision, 2002)9.
I ask the reader to consider Gentry’s Revelation hermeneutic in light of Thessalonians.
Was the Thessalonian epistle written to a specific historical church? See 2 Thessalonians 1:1.
Was the Thessalonian church “under severe trial”? See verses 4-7.
Would the Thessalonian church, “be unconcerned with events thousands of years in the future”? Why would the Thessalonians be concerned about the church thousands of years in the future from them receiving relief from persecution–but not be concerned about receiving relief themselves– just as the churches in Asia were promised relief, per Gentry?
Was Paul’s epistle an occasional letter, prompted by the then on-going persecution of the Thessalonians, just as Revelation was prompted by the severe persecution of the churches?
Was 2 Thessalonians 1 relevant to the Thessalonians Christians, in the same way that Revelation was “relevant to first century Christians” in Revelation (Gentry, Beast, 9)? If not, what makes 2 Thessalonians 1 irrelevant to the suffering, first century, Thessalonians?
Paul emphatically said that Christ’s coming would be in judgment of, “those who are (present active participle in the Greek), troubling you.” It was the Jews, not the Romans, not the Catholic church, not some unknown, unnamed future anti-christ, not some far distant, vague, ambiguous persecuting entity. It was “those who are troubling you.”
Gentry says that to posit Revelation in the future, or our present, applied to some unknown “beast” makes the Revelation “blatantly narcissistic.” He says, citing Thompson, that Revelation is not “‘a floating specter’; rather we must understand him (the beast, dkp) as a figure securely rooted in the first century.” (Beast, 9). Well said indeed! However, how much more “rooted in the first century” can 2 Thessalonians 1 be? Paul speaks– four times– of the then present suffering of the Thessalonians and the impending judgment of “those who are troubling you”?
So, the question is, why is Gentry’s hermeneutic valid in regard to Revelation, but not in regard to Thessalonians, or Romans 8, or any other eschatological text?
Okay, so Gentry says it is justified to reject the creeds because their eschatological positions ignored the audience relevance of Revelation. He says that the late date of Revelation– and of course by implication this means the eschatology based on the Apocalypse– is “not due to internal indications within the Revelation itself, but to church history” (Beast, 5).
Is Gentry’s futuristic application of 2 Thessalonians 1 based on “internal indications within Thessalonians” to borrow his words, or, is Gentry’s futuristic application of the text not based on “church history”? Very clearly, “the internal indications” of 2 Thessalonians 1 belie Gentry’s futurism.
Are we not therefore justified in rejecting Gentry’s futurism– and thus all futurism– since he ignores the audience relevance of the fundamental, paradigmatic eschatological texts? Are we not justified to reject the centuries old “church history” application of Thessalonians, by honoring “the internal indications” of the inspired text? If not, why not?
Gentry’s Reason #7 for rejecting the creeds: “Its major problem, though, is that harmony among its proponents is almost wholly lacking due to its subjectivity.” (Gentry’s article, outlining why it is okay to depart from the creeds is found at: www.goodbirthministries.com/QA_Historicism-Reformed-Theology.php. Valid on 8-25-09).
Response: So, per Gentry, “lack of harmony” among the proponents of historicism– and thus the creeds themselves!– falsifies the Reformed eschatology of Revelation.
This is a troublesome argument for Gentry, considering the currently vacillating state of postmillennialism among its major proponents! Again, see my Meet book for a full vindication of this claim. For now, let me briefly take note of some of the major examples of a lack of harmony in the postmillennial view. I will not offer an extensive list here, but do so in my Meet book, and, the authors of House Divided likewise document more of these issues.
A.) Mathison now says–in a dramatic change from his past position– that the entire Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), was fulfilled in AD 70. Mathison is clearly at odds with church history and the creeds on this.
Gentry says the Discourse speaks of both AD 70 and the end of the world. Of course, Gentry has the audacity to say that it would present no doctrinal difficulty for postmillennialists if the Discourse was a united discussion of only AD 70. This is patently false as I demonstrate in my Meet book. I have also produced an audio critique of Gentry’s 2009 revision of his He Shall Have Dominion book. The critique is a devastating exposure of Gentry’s self contradictions. It is available from me.
B.) Many noted Reformed scholars have and do apply 2 Peter 3 to the AD 70 coming of the Lord (e.g. Owen). From a logical perspective, it is amazing that anyone could apply this chapter to AD 70 and not be a true preterist!
C.) Mathison applies Daniel 12 and its prediction of the resurrection to the end of the Christian age. Gentry once held this position, but now applies Daniel 12 to AD 70! You would be hard pressed to find a more substantive “lack of harmony” within the postmillennial paradigm! Of course, Gentry is now at full odds with the creeds and church history on this passage.
Of course, on the one hand, Mathison says Daniel 12 foretold the end of human history, but then he tells us that the end foretold by Daniel 12 was near when John wrote Revelation! See my article, “The Resurrection is Past– Keith Mathison,” on my websites for documentation and discussion of this glaring self contradiction.
D.) Gentry says that Babylon of Revelation was first century, Old Covenant Jerusalem. Mathison once took this view, but now says that Babylon was, after all, Rome. Of course, this puts both men at odds with the Creeds, although Mathison is a bit “safer.”
Note what Gentry says in regard to his views on Revelation: “The view that I shall present and defend below is contrary to what the vast majority of Christians believe today. Almost certainly you have been taught a radically different view at some point in your Christian journey. You may even be tempted to scoff at its very suggestion at this point. Nevertheless, I challenge you to bear with me as we wade through the evidence on this matter in Revelation. I am convinced that you will find the flood of evidence becoming a river ‘that no man can cross.’” (Kenneth Gentry, The Beast of Revelation, Revised, 2002, 18).
Okay, so no creed agrees with Gentry. The reformers did not agree with Gentry. The church fathers disagreed with Gentry. But, per Gentry, it is okay to reject what the vast majority of Bible students, church history, and thus, the creeds, have said as long as you do so based on scriptures! Amen, and Amen!
However, Gentry’s own argument is a total rejection and falsification of those who are seeking to reject true preterism because the church fathers do not discuss it, because it is not in the creeds, and because the Reformers do not agree with it!
E.) Gentry says, citing Bahnsen, that “the distinctive of postmillennialism” is that the eschaton is not always imminent. Mathison, who once held this position, now says that the end is always near!
As you can see, there are substantive, major differences between two of the “major players” within the postmillennial camp. And this is just a small sampling. The confusion that exists on this entire issue of the creeds, confusion within the Reformed camp, should cause any one to pause before adopting the “preterism is wrong because it is not in the creeds” argument.
Some creeds even condemn the postmillennialism of Gentry and Mathison. Will those who are arguing against true preterism now condemn postmillennialism? Why, no, for many of them are themselves postmillennialists! So, why should anyone accept the “preterism is contra the creeds” argument, but reject the creeds that condemn their own eschatology? Isn’t that being awfully selective about which creeds and church fathers to accept?
The answer will be given that while some creeds might reject postmillennialism, that scripture supports it nonetheless. Is this not conveniently adopting (re-adopting) the sola scriptura argument that is being rejected when arguing against true preterists? Mathison insists that the creeds, and not scripture, determine orthodoxy! Will Mathison accept the creeds that condemn his postmillennialism, and thus determine that it is unorthodox? Patently not. This is inconsistent to say the least.
It truly is sola scriptura then, in the final analysis. It really is not about the church fathers, the creeds or the Reformers. It is about the Word of God, and nothing else!
I would appeal to those being influenced by the arguments based on the church fathers, the creeds and the Reformed fathers, to rethink and reconsider. Let me reiterate that to accept the creeds and church fathers over the scripture is itself anti-creedal! While the formulators of the creeds were, without doubt, good, sincere men, they were not inspired, and they openly acknowledged this. Furthermore, since no creedal assembly has ever been called to discuss the topic of eschatology, this fact alone brings the entire argument based on the creeds and church history into question.
Let me state again how bitterly ironic it is that so called “Reformed” Christians are basing almost their entire polemic against Covenant Eschatology on the creeds and church history. As Daille, a Reformed scholar noted, this was the Catholic argument against the Reformed Movement. It seems to me that his thoughts are very relevant today. Instead of the Catholic church being the object of his argument and comments, however, insert “Reformed Clergy appealing to the creeds and church history.” Here is what Daille said: “When the avarice and ambition of the Roman clergy had, by working with the superstition and ignorance of the people, erected what they called their hierarchy, and digested an ecclesiastical policy on the ruins of the gospel of liberty, for the administration of it they found nothing of such use for the support of this lordly system, as the making the authority of the Fathers sacred and decisive…The decisions of the Fathers, therefore, they thought fit to treat as law” (John Daille, A Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers In the Decision of Controversies Existing At This Day in Religion, (Harrisonburg, VA., Sprinkle Publications, 2001 reprint of 1631 work. From the Preface (p. 9).
Now, we are not, by any means, accusing Gentry, Mathison, et. al. of being avaricious. We believe them to be good men. Misguided and mistaken, but good men nonetheless. However, their inordinate emphasis on the creeds and church history is misplaced and it is unscriptural. They are turning church history– at least that history that agrees with them– into law. They are turning the creeds, that emphatically disagree with their emphasis on the creeds, into the final authority. While they preach sola scriptura, they are in fact in open violation of that principle. They even admit this to be true. And, they openly admit that they are themselves in open contradiction of the creeds, all the while insisting that they are orthodox and creedal!
I appreciate what was said by R. C. Sproul, “Maybe some church Fathers made a mistake. Maybe our favorite theologians made mistakes. I can abide with that. I can’t abide with Jesus being a false prophet” (Last Days According to Jesus, 157).
The indisputable fact is that Jesus and his inspired apostles said that Christ’s end of the age parousia, the judgment and resurrection was imminent in the first century. The creedal councils never convened to discuss this troublesome truth, choosing mostly to simply affirm a future coming. Gentry has even admitted and argued that the creeds were formulated by men that were not doing serious exegetical work in regard to Revelation, i.e. eschatology.
So, I suggest that it is time to put aside all of the arguing about what the creeds and church history does or does not say, and to base our theology on scripture and scripture alone. Anyone basing their argumentation, their theology, their orthodoxy, on anything other than scripture is in violation of the Word. I would much rather stand in opposition to the man-made, uninspired creeds– not matter how much I might appreciate those who formulated them– than to stand opposed to God’s eternal Word.
As Martin Luther said long ago: “I am bound, not only to assert, but to defend the truth with my blood and death. I want to believe freely and be a slave to the authority of no one, whether council, university, or pope. I will confidently confess what appears to me to be true, whether it has been asserted by a Catholic or a heretic, whether it has been approved or reproved by a council.”
What about you?