Sunday, January 3, 2010

Recovery Room — Installment #4: Critiquing the Critics

It is time to turn our attention toward the critics of hyperpreterism. Our first question is, should every critique of hyperpreterism be lauded as a good thing simply because it is being critical of what we consider an error? This concept of being happy with all critiques of hyperpreterism is perhaps based on the old axiom; “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. We do not agree with this sentiment because often, the critiques are the very “enablers” of hyperpreterism. For instance, Thomas Ice is the general editor of an anti-hyperpreterist book called “The End Times Controversy” – the book’s authors are mainly from a dispensationalist background. Dispensationalism is as much an error as hyperpreterism & is probably the very thing that has caused so many people to over react & embrace hyperpreterism. Therefore, joining with one error to refute another error is ultimately self-defeating & hypocritical.

Another approach to refuting hyperpreterism is to simply rely on what I call the initial shock factor. The initial shock factor works simply by stating the basic premises of hyperpreterism & waiting for people to respond in shock; “They believe what?? That’s crazy!” Sometimes the refutation goes no further. Such a course of refutation will only embolden hyperpreterists to claim they & they alone are making an “exegetical” case whereas they will claim their critics are merely using “fear” & shock.
The most honest attempt at refuting hyperpreterism comes from a verse-by-verse (completely exegetical) interaction with the premises of hyperpreterism. The only problem with this approach is that hyperpreterism so redefines accepted theological terms that trying to interact with hyperpreterism exegetically is like trying to interact with Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witness theology who also claim to quote from the Bible but also have redefined theological terms and ignore historical Christian interpretation.
There are some points where those attempting to refute hyperpreterism need to do a better job so that there is no confusion & no cracks to let hyperpreterism continue to seep in. Here are a few points where I think historic Christianity can do a better job at refuting & preventing hyperpreterism & other yet to be born heresies.


  1. Explain the difference between Sola Scriptura & Solo Scriptura.
  2. Do not advocate a “type” of coming of Jesus in AD70.
  3. Explain something better than the “already-not-yet” premise.
  4. Do not arbitrarily split chapters/verses where no indication to do so is given.
  5. Explain that the time-texts speak not of Jesus’ return to earth but His coming into His Kingdom.
  6. Clearly, boldly refute the error of dispensationalism. (name names if needed)
  7. Explain that “creed” simply means “belief” thus all Christians have a “creed”


I have said this over & over many places but the root of all heresies, be it Arianism or hyperpreterism or some yet to be born heresy – all seem to have one thing in common – each claims it is simply interpreting only the Bible. Yet, also each of these heresies have done so by ignoring historic Christian interpretation & striking out completely disconnected from historic Christianity. We need to do a better job at explaining what Sola Scriptura really means. It does not mean private interpretation or a “just me & Jesus” approach. It means Scripture is the ultimate source of truth but that even Scripture must be considered in light of that God has led the Church throughout all of history & thus the historic Christian interpretation takes precedent over our private interpretations.


When historic Christians advocate Jesus “kind of” came back in AD70 but only in judgment they fall into the trap of hyperpreterism which will immediately ask how the historic Christian can advocate three comings of Christ. Whereas if the historic Christian understands that many of the New Testament texts speaking of Jesus’ “coming” do NOT speak of His coming BACK TO EARTH, but rather of His coming INTO HIS KINGDOM before the Father…before the Ancient of Days (compare Dan 7:13 with Mt 26:64). The judgment seen in the N.T. upon the Jews as the judgment exacted not by the Son but rather by the Father – it is the judgment spoken of in the Landowner/vinedressers parable in Mt 21:33-46. Jesus didn’t “come back in judgment” in AD70 but indeed the Landowner did exact judgment on the vinedressers for their many years of killing the prophets & ultimately their attempt to kill the heir so that these violent men attempted to take the kingdom by violence (Mt 11:12) but instead the kingdom was handed over to those who bear the fruit of it. THAT is what was going on in AD70, NOT some earthly return of Jesus.


There are some historic Christians that when they attempt to refute hyperpreterism, they speak of the “now-not-yet” or the “already-not-yet” concept. This is a duality concept that purports that N.T. prophecy was being fulfilled in the first-century AND is yet to be fulfilled. At first, hyperpreterism would seem to easily counter this claim but think about John 11:1-44 – this is the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. I don’t think even a hyperpreterist would deny that this was a physical bringing back to life of Lazarus. But what I want to point out is the exchange Jesus had with one of Lazarus’ sisters:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
What is this distinction Jesus is making here? We know that hyperpreterism claims that the Resurrection was in AD70 & was merely the “Resurrection of Israel” but what is it Jesus is saying here…waaaaay before AD70? This is what I mean by hyperpreterism often sees a word or term & thinks it means the same thing every place it is used. Rather, Jesus seems to be endorsing the “already-not-yet” concept. Martha thinks the Resurrection only pertains to the “last day” but Jesus makes the point that those who believe on Him even now (before AD70) have life & never die. The irony is, that this entire object lesson is framed around an obvious PHYSICAL resurrection of Lazarus. Three TYPES of resurrection encapsulated in these verses & hyperpreterism has the nerve to claim historic Christianity’s concept of rebirth/resurrection at the moment of belief AND a specifically appointed day of resurrection is contradictory?


The Bible does indeed often utilize just segments of an entire context & relate it to a specific fulfillment. You can see this all over the place in relation to Jesus when seeing O.T. texts referenced. Perhaps the one of most famous is Isaiah 7: 10-19 wherein is contained the sentence:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isa 7:14)
This verse is often given as a prophecy of Jesus’ miraculous virgin birth but if you look at the larger context of Isaiah 7, you will note that even if we accept this sentence as relating to Jesus, many other parts of the context are not carried over as relating to Jesus. Plus, we must realize that this prophecy is indeed a “dual” prophecy since the events of Isa 7 were specifically about events of that time AND used as a prophecy of the future.
Where hyperpreterists complain the most though is in Mt 24 where I have seen several historic Christians claim that verses 1-35 all speak of the events in the first-century but that starting at verse 36 the context changes & speaks of things yet future to us. The historic Christian is going to need to do a better job at explaining these verses even if the splitting of these verses is accurate, it often is not explained clearly & sounds weak.


Where hyperpreterism tries to build its strongest case is the so-called time-texts. These are texts in the N.T. that seem to speak of Jesus’ soon/shortly/at hand/about to be/within this generation return TO EARTH. What happens is that the dispensationalists will use these same verses to claim Jesus is soon/shortly/at hand/about to be/within this generation return any moment now whereas the historic Christians (sometimes specifically labeled “partial-preterists”) will agree with the hyperpreterists that the time-texts are confined to the first-century & therein the partial-preterists often insert that Jesus “came in judgment”. Again, this premise allows the hyperpreterist to badger the “partial-preterists” with the mantra of inconsistency. The hyperpreterists will further point out that “even the creeds do not speak of three comings of Jesus” & will claim that so even the partial-preterists are “unorthodox”. The pitfall comes in by the historic Christian’s assertion that the judgment was by Jesus – rather & again, the judgment was not by the Son, but by the hand of the Father in vengeance against the vinedressers attempting to kill the heir/Son & take the inheritance by force. (see point #2) The time-texts can be properly seen as first-century if we also understand that they do not relate to Jesus’ return to earth but only to His taking the throne at the right-hand of the Father. Indeed that was soon/shortly/at hand/about to be/within this generation & did happen just as Jesus had declared.


Any extended interaction with hyperpreterists will reveal most of them are former dispensationalists. It will also reveal their wounds. They seem to be over-reacting to dispensationalism’s horrid hermeneutic. Most hyperpreterists have very little background in solid Reformed or historic Christianity. Thus if we really want to stop the bleeding, we need to find the source & I believe that source is dispensationalism. We need to tie off that rupture as much as possible so that less & less people are apt to over-react when they figure out that the dispensationalism that they had embraced for so many years is bogus.


So many Christians, especially modern Evangelicals, Protestants, & even those embracing postmodernistic views are so conditioned to despise “tradition” & “creeds” that hyperpreterism has taken it open itself to assault “creedalism” whenever possible. To the on-looker it may appear that hyperpreterism is then the champion of “scripture alone” whereas historic Christianity is merely “churchianity”. This is appealing to many. But the problem is that many people do not understand that the word creed (from credo) simply means “belief”. Unless the anti-creeds people are claiming they don’t actually believe anything, then it is silly for them to reject the concept of creed. Yet, they will counter by saying they have “No creed but Christ” & the “Scripture alone”. These platitudinous statements are nonsensical because of course even these folks believe & don’t believe certain things and those things are their “creed”. What we historic Christians are asking is how these “no creed” folks have the gall to think they alone, disconnected from all of historic Christianity can decide what “creed” they hold & what creed they don’t. This really is the height of arrogance on their part. And saying they have no creed when they clearly MUST have a creed is just further reason to suspect they are either dishonest or very, very confused.


With that I leave you with an excellent link to a list of authors who have attempted to refute hyperpreterism. As you read their various books & articles, see if you can spot the things I speak about in this article. Perhaps even write them & help them better refute hyperpreterism from all angles. The more people are safe-guarded & rescued from this growing heresy of hyperpreterism the better.
See this great list compiled by Dee Dee, who attempt to refute the error of hyperpreterism


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks. The point about the Father coming in judgment, not the Son, is very helpful as are some of your other points.

The link at the end is not working:

Is there another way I can access the info they offer? If not, do you know of a site that compares verses in Revelation with the supposed fulfillment according to Preterists? For example, Revelation says fire reigned down from heaven, but preterists say it was fulfilled by flaming arrows going over the walls of Jerusalem.