A Futurist Review at Last!
House Divided: Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology has been selling now for about two months. In that time, the responses from futurist critics have been less than substantive. There were complaints that the title is a “rip off” of Bahnsen’s and Gentry’s book, House Divided: The Break-Up of Dispensational Theology (1989). There were complaints that the back cover contains an unattributed five-star “review.” (“A Must Read!”) One critic noted that we use the word “hyper-preterism” on the back cover, and then proceeded to declare that we “self-apply” the word and therefore accept it as an accurate description of our belief. He failed to notice the significance of the fact that we put the word in quotation marks. We were referring to so-called “hyper-preterism.”
Many other critics see no need for a further criticism against the book beyond, “Your book disagrees with 2,000 years of church history!” Ah, the joys of hyper-traditionalism. These critics still have not read our response to Charles Hill (chapter two), which deals specifically and directly with this “argument.”
The most stinging of the negative criticisms have come, ironically, from those who have not read the book. One such critic advised everyone to let their pets defecate on it. Another proposed having a public “book burning” in his back yard and posting the event on YouTube. There have been three or four inflammatory, one-star reviews on Amazon. Most, if not all of them, were obviously written by people who had not read the book. All but one of those reviews (so far) were deleted by Amazon.
So much for the first two months of critiques. It was a fun and glorious time. But it ended a week ago on September 4th. That’s the day that a futurist actually began posting a series of critical reviews wherein the arguments of the book are actually addressed. (We understand that there are one or two other such reviews in the works by other futurists.) It’s a fascinating development. The reviewer’s name is Jon/Jonathan Rollen, and he is writing at The Preterist Blog. http://www.preteristblog.com/?p=3083
What follows is the first of my (or our) responses to Jon’s forthcoming series of criticisms:
On page 162 of House Divided, I wrote that futurists are guilty of “question begging” when they anathematize preterists based on 2 Timothy 2:16-18.
Jon responded: Now, Green claims that the futurist is “question begging”, but, in reality, either side can claim that of the other, as even David says, “if we read the passage on the basis of [hyper] preterism, we should reason…” How is this not begging the question?
My response: My argument was not that preterist-anathematizing futurists are guilty of question begging simply because they read 2 Timothy 2:16-18 on the basis of futurism. My argument was that they are guilty of question begging because they smuggle the assumption of futurism into the passage while the passage itself resists that assumption.
There is no indication in 2 Timothy 2:16-18 that it was Hymenaeus’ teaching regarding the nature of the resurrection that Paul called “profane and vain babblings.” All we have in the passage is Paul’s condemnation of Hymenaeus’ teaching regarding the timing of the resurrection. Paul did not condemn Hymenaeus for saying the resurrection is spiritual or non-material. He condemned Hymenaeus for saying, “The resurrection is past already.” Paul condemned Hymenaeus’ timing of the resurrection, but futurists, based solely on the futurist framework, say that the damnable error of Hymenaeus was his teaching concerning the nature of the resurrection.
Therefore, one “begs the question” and makes an exegetically unwarranted assumption if one says that 2 Timothy 2:16-18 condemns those who hold to a non-biological resurrection of the dead. For all we know from the context, Paul stood shoulder to shoulder with Hymenaeus regarding the nature of the resurrection.
On page 168, I said that although Paul agreed with the Pharisees about the fact of the resurrection in Acts 23:6, “there is no reason to assume that Paul agreed with the Pharisees about the nature of the resurrection of the dead.”
Jon responded: Re: “no reason to assume…”, what else would, “I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees” mean other than assuming that Paul agreed with the Pharisees about what “the resurrection of the dead” meant. Declaring himself a Pharisee would be meaningless!
This argument would be weighty if the debate Paul was involved in was: Physical resurrection versus non-physical resurrection. But it wasn’t. The controversy was: Resurrection versus non-resurrection. In that context, we know whose side Paul was on. As Jon put it: “The Pharisees found the resurrection of the dead in the Torah [So did Paul!], but the Sadducees did not.” Well said. In that context, even “hyper-preterists” today stand squarely in the camp of Paul and the Pharisees against the Sadducees.
We cannot judge Paul’s argument by the standard of our own situation. We are in the midst of a debate about the nature (physical versus non-physical) of the resurrection of the dead. That was not Paul’s context or situation. The debate he was in was: afterlife/resurrection/judgment versus no afterlife at all. In that context, Paul was a Pharisee, no matter what he thought the resurrection would be like. Paul and the Pharisees agreed that there was an afterlife, and that there was about to be a “standing up” (resurrection) of the dead to be judged by God, and that this event was prophesied in Scripture. Paul and the Pharisees were not “worlds apart” on those crucial, ethical and eschatological doctrines. They were only “worlds apart” on what the resurrection of the dead would look like –which was a non-issue in Acts 23:1-10.
Jon argues that there is no indication that Luke (the writer of Luke and Acts) changed the usage of the word “resurrection” so that when it referred to Christ it meant a physical resurrection but when it referred to the resurrection of the dead it suddenly meant a non-physical resurrection:
If “resurrection” does not mean what it has meant from Luke 24 to this point [Acts 23], which is always the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, then these comments make no sense historically or to his friend Theophilus, because Luke has defined resurrection for him the narrative. At this point in the narrative, resurrection means a physical body leaving a tomb.
My response: Why begin at Luke 24 to find Luke’s meaning when he refers to the resurrection of the dead? Go back to Luke 20:27-36. There Luke recorded for Theophilus the Lord’s teaching regarding the nature of the resurrection of the dead. Jesus taught there that the resurrection would be non-biological; that there would be no marriage and no cycle of reproduction and death for the biologically dead after they were resurrected, because they would be “like angels,” i.e., “spirits” in heaven (Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:7; cf. Heb. 12:23).
If we are going to say that Jesus’ resurrection-experience was going to be exactly the same in every way to the experience of those who would be resurrected in the end of the age, then we will have to say that when Jesus was raised, He was like an angel (a spirit) in heaven and that He had no sex organs. We will also have to say —in the futurist framework— that Jesus had no blood in his resurrection body, because Paul said that “flesh and blood” cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
These are some of the absurd and Gnostic implications of consistent futurism. Thankfully, not many futurists are consistent in their futurism.
We look forward to Jon’s next installment.