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House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 10 The Charge of Gnosticism

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven

The Resurrection of the Dead 

Part 10 The Charge of Gnosticism


David A. Green

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Strimple Argument #10: Because preterists deny the physicality

of the resurrection of the dead, preterists are teaching a new form of

the old heresy of Gnosticism (313). Preterism is therefore a physicalbody-

disparaging doctrine.


Answer: Before answering this argument, we must first note that

though preterists deny the physicality of the resurrection of the dead,

preterists do not agree with the Gnostics on the meaning of “resurrection.”

Preterists do not believe that “resurrection” is a mystical attainment

that is realized through knowledge, secret or otherwise. The Reformed

preterist understanding of life in Christ is radically other than

the Gnostic understanding.


We believe that we are raised to life through one thing, and one

thing only: Faith in the historic (real, actual, physical) death and resurrection

of God the Son, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The Gnostic

denial of this core gospel truth is one of the central errors that made

them heretics in the worst sense of the word.


As for the idea that preterism necessarily leads to the Gnostic view

that the body is to be despised or that it is evil, this can be quickly dismissed

with a look at Matthew 22:30. It is in that verse that Jesus said

that those who had physically died would, in the resurrection of the

dead, “neither marry nor be given in marriage.”


The opponents of preterism accept this teaching of the Lord, but

they do not realize that if the preterist interpretation (a non-physical

resurrection) necessarily implies that the physical body must be despised

or viewed as evil, then Jesus’ teaching (no more marriage for

those who participate in the resurrection of the dead) necessarily im-

plies that marriage, and by implication sex and reproduction, must also

be despised or viewed as evil.


If the preterist teaching that the physically dead saints were raised

non-physically necessarily implies that the physical aspect of man is

to be despised or that it is evil, then Jesus’ teaching that there is no

marriage for the physically dead after they are raised must likewise

necessarily imply that marriage, sexuality, and reproduction are to be

despised or considered evil. If one conclusion is necessarily true, the

other is necessarily true. If preterism is necessarily anti-body Gnosticism,

then Jesus was, by the same logic, necessarily anti-marriage, anti-

sex, and anti-reproduction. Therefore, the futurist claim that preterism

is necessarily Gnostic (physical-body-disparaging) is fallacious.


The truth is that marriage, sex, reproduction, and the physical body

are all good and temporary (Job 14:12; Eccles. 9:6; 1 Cor. 6:13). “Temporary”

does not equal “despised” or “evil.” As with the temporality of

marriage, sex, and reproduction, the temporality of the physical body

in no way minimizes or negates the eternality of the Spirit-empowered

works that are wrought by means of it. A temporal “tabernacle” (2 Pet.

1:13-15) in which and through which we obey and worship God “in spirit

and in truth” is by no stretch of the imagination evil or to be despised.


Ironically, the reason that the physically dead saints who were raised

in AD 70 did not get remarried and procreate again is because they were

raised in a non-biological manner. They were and are spirits, “like the

angels” (Matt. 22:30; Heb. 1:7). The Sadducees, like the futurists after

them, did not understand this.


Before I conclude this answer, there is another, related charge of Strimple

against preterists that I should address here, and that is that preterists

are naturalistic rationalists and skeptics. This accusation comes as a surprise

because it is difficult to understand how one could simultaneously

be a Gnostic and a naturalistic rationalist. How can preterists believe in

an over-spiritualized resurrection of the dead and at the same time be

steeped in, as Strimple puts it, old-fashioned, blatantly naturalistic, “the

universe is a closed system” rationalism? (307, 310, 328, 339)


As though these accusations were not contradictory enough, Strimple

admits elsewhere that preterists are devoted to the defense of the

divine origin and the divine authority of the Scriptures: “ . . . [T]he motivation

behind their theology and their exegesis is apologetic” (289). The

question now is how can preterists be defenders of the divine origin and

authority of Scripture and also be naturalistic rationalists and skeptics

and Gnostics at the same time?


While it is true that we can find certain preterists who have argued

that a physical resurrection of the dead is an impossibility because of the

dispersal of molecules throughout the aeons, it is not correct to paint preterists

in general as people who argue in that manner. I am sure that I speak

for the vast majority of preterists of Reformed background when I say that

God is able at any time to physically resurrect all people of all generations.


Preterists do not reject a physical resurrection of the dead because

we believe in a “closed universe,” or because we think that God lacks

ability, or because we are skeptics or rationalists or naturalists, or because

we have a Gnostic, matter-despising bent. We reject a physical

resurrection of the dead for one reason and one reason only: Because

we believe that the Word of God—the divine origin and authority of

which we are championing—teaches a spiritual, non-physical (yet

bodily”) resurrection of the dead in the end of the old covenant age.


Our belief in the inerrancy and divine authority of the Bible, and in

the deity of Christ, and in the goodness of God’s physical universe, and

in regeneration by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone does

not prove that we are correct in our understanding of the resurrection

of the dead, but it does prove that we are not “naturalistic Gnostics.”