Preterism and Reformed Theology

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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).
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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.
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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.
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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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