Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Messy Mathison Responses

Messy Mathison ResponsesIn 2004 a group of authors under the editorship of Keith Mathison published a book called When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism.  Since 2004 the “hyper-preterists” have had plans to respond to the response.  The original project was initiated by Edward Stevens of the International Preterist Association.  This project kept being delayed & delayed but the mess goes deeper.

Sam Frost, one of the original contributors to the “response to Mathison” project was eventually kicked off the project after a spat with Stevens concerning a debate Stevens and Frost had over Stevens’ first-century Rapture theory. 

Then in late 2007, two other contributors to the project, Dave Green & Edward Hassert pulled their contributions citing frustration with the constant delays.  Green then formed another group to author a separate response.  I was originally part of the Green group & was slated to write a response to chapters 2 and 5.  Later, another man named Michael Sullivan was added to the group.

The problem was, for about five years before signing on to the project I was already beginning to question many of the “full preterist” premises and conclusions.  Due to my criticisms not only of key premises and conclusions but also of main “leaders” within full preterism, I was already a pariah within full preterism.
I already had most of the material that would make up my part of the response and I merely needed to tweak it.  I was working on this when I asked the Green group what I intended to be more of a rhetorical question.  

The question was, “How do they deal with the fact that early post-AD70 Christians didn’t seem to see in the AD70 event, the things full preterists claim?”  

There really are only a few possible answers & I expected one of them to come forth.

  1. The early Christian writers have been mis-dated & actually wrote pre-AD70
  2. The Church has just been wrong for over 2000 years
  3. Hyper-preterism’s premises & conclusions are wrong
Or if you buy Stevens’ first-century Rapture theory, I guess you could say the true Christians having been removed from the planet left only “second-rank” Christians who apparently did not have all the information.
I had expected the group to answer, as I had for so long as a hyper-preterist with answer #2, but instead one of the men, Sullivan actually admitted he had never given it much thought. 

“I am the last person to ask that question.  I just haven't given myself to a deep study of that subject yet.” (Michael Sullivan on the question of how the early Christians didn’t seem to see the full preterist premises and conclusions)

What in the world?  How do these people think they can write such a response if they have never considered how the Church has appeared to have missed their entire premise for so long?  Indeed, if he is the “last person to ask that question” then he is also the last person that should be writing a book on the matter. This was the final straw.  I was already about to renounce hyper-preterism once and for all, but this was the depth of its arrogant delusion.  I removed myself from the project and have been removing myself from all association with hyper-preterism & even from people I still consider friends who are still stuck in that awful “movement”.

Meanwhile, the Stevens’ group was continuing to suffer.  Another contributor, Kurt Simmons was booted off the project after Kelly Birks (a replacement contributor) and Stevens wanted all the contributors to sign a statement affirming “eternal conscious punishment”, or more plainly belief in punishment of hell (source).  Simmons refused and was booted off the project. (I believe he wasn’t the only one kicked off the project for this refusal)  Simmons seems to lightly advocate for annihilationism.
Simmons also formed a group to respond to Mathison.  Frost joined this group, which also includes Don Preston and William Bell.

So now, there are 3 separate responses.  Why?  Because the hyper-preterists are not a cohesive enough group to put together a single response. (Which may be a good sign, since it may portend hyper-preterism’s eventual demise.)

But what is even more disturbing about the mess is how many hyper-preterists speak of their books.  For instance, Sullivan promotes his project as if it will be the book to bring the Reformed community into full preterism.

“Our book is going to have a major impact upon the eschatological scene of the evangelical and reformed church.  It will be a book that affects church history in the development of eschatology in a positive and healing way.” – Michael Sullivan on his book

How does he know this?  What arrogance!  But he is not alone in asserting lofty things about their books.  Another hyper-preterist book by Tim Martin & Jeff Vaughn that advocates Adam as only the first “covenantal man” rather than the first created human also thinks rather highly of itself.

“This book is sure to have an impact on the Genesis debate in the months and years to come.” (Promotion of the Martin/Vaughn book)

They could at least have the feigned decency to let others make such statements but the blinding arrogance of hyper-preterism, first with its glossing over 2000 years of historic Christian interpretation to hyper-preterism’s concept of everyone is a “private interpreter” version of “Sola Scriptura” is the deadly side-effect of the position.

The best advice to Mathison is to just ignore all of these responses if & when they are produced.  If men can’t answer basic questions about how for 2000 plus years, Christians have missed this novel “truth” that the hyper-preterists’ are trying to foist, then no one need take them serious & would only be feeding their arrogant delusion of grandeur by responding to them.  Even my comments here may embolden some of them to think more highly of themselves than they ought.  Rather, let us dwell on Psalm 131:1

LORD, my heart is not haughty,
         Nor my eyes lofty.
         Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
         Nor with things too profound for me.

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