Friday, January 1, 2010

New ‘Full Preterists’ (Part 3) — Effects of the Fall

Although new ‘full preterists’ are told or think that they are merely modifying their eschatological perspective, it soon becomes apparent that the radical alteration of their belief system actually begins with what happened in Genesis.
Since hyperpreterism claims a spiritual fulfillment of Jesus’ return, they claim Jesus was restoring what was lost in Genesis — namely, they will claim the effect of sin & the Fall was primarily if not completely a “covenantal” fall & therefore Jesus was merely restoring mankind to “covenantal” union with God.  That is to say, hyperpreterism mainly advocates that the Fall was NOT about Adam dying physically, thus the restoration by Jesus is also NOT about physical restoration.  This is why hyperpreterism MUST discount a physical resurrection of the believers.

The key text under examination is Gen 2:17, which is God’s admonition to Adam & Eve not to eat of a specific tree or they would die:
“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
According to typical hyperpreterist understanding of this passage, God did not have physical death in mind.  Here is a quote from a popular hyperpreterist leader:
“Traditionally, the Church has been teaching that Adam and Eve were physically immortal. This seems to be an assumption that has no Biblical validation. In Genesis 2:17 we read that God instructed man to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with the consequence being “for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die.” We know that according to the Biblical account, Adam and Even did not die in the day they ate from the tree; in fact they both lived much longer after the incident. It seems to be reasonable to suggest therefore that the death experienced by Adam and Eve was not a death of their physical bodied (sp), rather a spiritual death which came as a result of their separation from God, which did take place “in that day” when God removed them from his presence and from the garden of Eden.” (Hyperpreterist, Virgil Vaduva - source)
From the start, this hyperpreterist at least acknowledges that his hyperpreterist interpretation of the text is NOT “traditionally” Christian.  But the problem is, hyperpreterism tries to make it out that historic Christianity has ONLY seen the death Adam died as being physical death.  As a matter of fact, in the above quote, Vaduva tries to make it look like the “traditional” interpretation is illogical –since as he pointed out, Adam & Eve did NOT fall over dead instantly or even “that day”.  Historic Christianity (ie “traditional”) understands that the death was BOTH physical AND spiritual.  That the death was indeed instantaenous in effect AND in subsequence.  Hyperpreterists like Vaduva are interpretative minimalists & reductionists in that they don’t seem to understand the deep, rich contour of God’s Word.
Dr. Kenneth Gentry (a leading opponent of hyperpreterism) points out:
“the hyper-preterist view tends to diminish the significance of the somatic (bodily) implications of sin: Adam’s sin had physical effects, as well as judicial and spiritual effects” (source)
This diminishing of the physical effects of sin & the Fall play havoc with the hyperpreterist system.  This radical re-interpretation of the Fall & the effect of Sin leads hyperpreterism more & more into a universalistic conclusion (everyone saved) whether they like or admit to it.
Another leading hyperpreterist, Tim Martin had this to say,
I do not believe that physical life and death are the point of the biblical record of Adam’s fall or Christ’s redemption.” (source)
This is an underhanded accusation as if to imply “traditional” Christians DO believe physical life & death was & is the point of Adam’s Fall or Christ’s redemption.  Again, the Fall as Gentry pointed out has “traditionally” been understood to encompass three elements:
  1. Somatic (physical)
  2. Judicial
  3. Spiritual
The Reformed theologian John Calvin had this to say about the topic:
“But it is asked, what kind of death God means in this place? It appears to me, that the definition of this death is to be sought from its opposite; we must, I say, remember from what kind of life man fell. He was, in every respect, happy; his life, therefore, had alike respect to his body and his soul…Wherefore the question is superfluous, how it was that God threatened death to Adam on the day in which he should touch the fruit, when he long deferred the punishment? For then was Adam consigned to death, and death began its reign in him, until supervening grace should bring a remedy.” (source)
As you can see, Calvin understood the multifaceted effect of Sin, just as “traditional” Christianity has always understood.  And for good measure, while Calvin comes from the Reformed or “Calvinistic” soteriological perspective allow me to quote also John Wesley an “Arministic” Christian who concurs with Calvin’s AND “traditional” Christian interpretation on this matter:
“That is, thou shalt lose all the happiness thou hast either in possession or prospect; and thou shalt become liable to death, and all the miseries that preface and attend it. This was threatened as the immediate consequence of sin. In the day thou eatest, thou shalt die - Not only thou shalt become mortal, but spiritual death and the forerunners of temporal death shall immediately seize thee.” (source)
As the reader should now be able to see, the original hyperpreterist implication that somehow the “traditional” Christian interpretation only understood a physical effect of sin, hyperpreterism presented a false view of “traditional” Christian interpretation.  This either unintentional or intentional misrepresentation of the historic Christian view by hyperpreterists should raise red flags.  Why do the hyperpreterists need to paint historic Christianity as having only a physical view of the effect of Sin?
If hyperpreterism can isolate a potential convert & make him or her think that “traditional” Christianity has been way out of line hermeneutically — such as misrepresenting Christianity’s position on the Fall, then a potential convert will see the hyperpreterist view as the more plausible view.  Of course, the potential or new convert has been fed misinformation which eventually causes them to begin to show contempt for “traditional” Christianity.  This is the purpose of the hyperpreterist misrepresentation of “traditional” Christianity — be it how hyperpreterists MUST claim “traditional” Christianity only understands a physical effect & restoration to how hyperpreterists MUST claim 2000 years of united Christian eschatology has been in gross error.
Hyperpreterism MUST uproot, misrepresent, & redefine “traditional” Christian interpretation so that it can attempt to replace it with its “new” system.
Reformed theologian RJ Rushdoony had this interesting comment about “toleration” of one system within another:
“There can be no tolerance in a law-system for another religion. Toleration is a device used to introduce a new law-system as a prelude to a new intolerance… Every law-system must maintain its existence by hostility to every other law-system and to alien religious foundations or else it commits suicide.” (The Institutes of Biblical Law — The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973 pp. 4-5)
This is applicable to what hyperpreterism is attempting to do.  While you may often see hyperpreterists asking for “toleration” of their view among “traditional” Christianity, the ultimate goal is to “introduce a new system”.  Traditional Christians should NOT make the mistake of befriending the hyperpreterist view as if it is just another alternative eschatological system.  Hyperpreterism is at odds with ALL traditional Christian eschatological perspectives.  Christianity has been UNITED in affirming the exact things that hyperpreterism calls for us to deny.
Make no mistake, hyperpreterism ISN’T simply about eschatology — HYPERPRETERISM AFFECTS EVERYTHING, from the Fall to the Restoration.

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