Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Gospel Of Judas As A Backdrop For The Canonical Gospels

The Gospel of Judas is a fragmentary, poorly written second century Gnostic document, written by an unknown author, which contradicts earlier and more credible sources. It doesn't give us any significant new information about Jesus, Judas, or first century Christianity. It's more relevant to second century Gnosticism than it is to people and events of the first century Christian mainstream.

Though the document doesn't have the sort of significance that its media coverage suggests, it does serve as a useful backdrop for the canonical gospels in another sense. One of my initial impressions after reading the Gospel of Judas was gratitude for the Biblical gospels. In dating, credibility, composition, and other respects, the canonical gospels are of far higher quality than the Gospel of Judas.

Critics often make much of the differences between the gospel of John and the Synoptics, but those differences aren't contradictions, and they're minor in comparison to the differences between the four Biblical gospels and the Gospel of Judas. If you want some idea of how different the canonical gospels would have been from each other if the authors didn't have much concern for historicity, then read the Gospel of Judas and compare it to the canonical gospels. The Jesus of the Gospel of Judas has some general similarities with the Jesus of the New Testament, such as a tendency to address spiritual matters and to correct his disciples. But the behavior and teachings of the Jesus of the Gospel of Judas are also radically different from those of the New Testament Jesus.

The Jesus of the Gospel of Judas is frequently laughing, which is a characteristic that the New Testament authors know nothing about. If Jesus laughed that often, you would have to wonder why that characteristic isn't reflected in any of the canonical gospels, which are relatively lengthy documents that address many aspects of Jesus' life. And the fabricated Jesus of the Gospel of Judas, unlike the New Testament Jesus, doesn't show much love for his disciples, aside from Judas.

The Gnostic teachings of the Jesus of the Gospel of Judas are also radically different from the teachings of the canonical Jesus. Again, if the New Testament authors were as unconcerned about or as careless about historicity as many modern critics suggest, then why don't we see the sort of wide divergence among the canonical gospels that we see between those gospels and the Gospel of Judas? Reading the Gospel of Judas ought to remind us of how unified, how historically credible the canonical gospels are in contrast.

Years ago, when I was reading some portions of Philip Schaff's church history, I put together some of Schaff's comments on the significance of the Bible. I want to close with that quote, which some of you may have seen me post before in other forums. The contrast between the canonical gospels and the Gospel of Judas reminds me of what Schaff wrote:

"Although these [New Testament] books were called forth apparently by special and accidental occasions, and were primarily addressed to particular circles of readers and adapted to particular circumstances, yet, as they present the eternal and unchangeable truth in living forms, they suit all circumstances and conditions. Tracts for the times, they are tracts for all times; intended for Jews and Greeks of the first century, they have the same interest for Englishmen and Americans of the nineteenth century. They are to this day not only the sole reliable and pure fountain of primitive Christianity, but also the infallible rule of Christian faith and practice. From this fountain the church has drunk the water of life for more than fifty generations, and will drink it till the end of time....Theological systems come and go, and draw from that treasury [of scripture] their larger or smaller additions to the stock of our knowledge of the truth; but they can never equal that infallible word of God, which abideth forever. 'Our little systems have their day, they have their day and cease to be: they are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God, art more than they.' The New Testament evinces its universal design in its very style, which alone distinguishes it from all the literary productions of earlier and later times. It has a Greek body, a Hebrew soul, and a Christian spirit which rules both. The language is the Hellenistic idiom; that is, the Macedonian Greek as spoken by the Jews of the dispersion in the time of Christ; uniting, in a regenerated Christian form, the two great antagonistic nationalities and religions of the ancient world. The most beautiful language of heathendom and the venerable language of the Hebrews are here combined, and baptized with the spirit of Christianity, and made the picture of silver for the golden apple of the eternal truth of the gospel. The style of the Bible in general is singularly adapted to men of every class and grade of culture, affording the child the simple nourishment for its religious wants, and the profoundest thinker inexhaustible matter of study. The Bible is not simply a popular book, but a book of all nations, and for all societies, classes, and conditions of men. It is more than a book, it is an institution which rules the Christian world....We now descend from the primitive apostolic church to the Graeco-Roman; from the scene of creation to the work of preservation; from the fountain of divine revelation to the stream of human development; from the inspirations of the apostles and prophets to the productions of enlightened but fallible teachers. The hand of God has drawn a bold line of demarcation between the century of miracles and the succeeding ages, to show, by the abrupt transition and the striking contrast, the difference between the work of God and the work of man, and to impress us the more deeply with the supernatural origin of Christianity and the incomparable value of the New Testament....Not one [of the church fathers] compares for a moment in depth and spiritual fulness with a St. Paul or St. John; and the whole patristic literature, with all its incalculable value, must ever remain very far below the New Testament. The single epistle to the Romans or the Gospel of John is worth more than all commentaries, doctrinal, polemic, and ascetic treatises of the Greek and Latin fathers, schoolmen, and reformers....If we compare these [post-apostolic] documents with the canonical Scriptures of the New Testament, it is evident at once that they fall far below in original force, depth, and fulness of spirit, and afford in this a strong indirect proof of the inspiration of the apostles....For by the wise ordering of the Ruler of history, there is an impassable gulf between the inspiration of the apostles and the illumination of the succeeding age, between the standard authority of holy Scripture and the derived validity of the teaching of the church. 'The Bible' - to adopt an illustration of a distinguished writer - 'is not like a city of modern Europe, which subsides through suburban gardens and groves and mansions into the open country around, but like an Eastern city in the desert, from which the traveler passes by a single step into a barren waste.' The very poverty of these post-apostolic writings renders homage to the inexhaustible richness of the apostolic books which, like the person of Christ, are divine as well as human in their origin, character, and effect....The Bible is a book of holy men, but just as much a book of God, who made those men witnesses of truth and sure teachers of the way of salvation." (The Master Christian Library [Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1998], History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, pp. 457-458; Vol. 2, pp. 22, 495-496, 500-501; Vol. 7, p. 26)

Material On The Gospel Of Judas

Christopher Price has written a good article on the Gospel of Judas, including links to other relevant material.

Defining our terms

uppityphilosophertype said:

ii) Perry is obsessed with the word “nature.”

This evidently triggers in his own mind a whole lot of conceptual baggage.

But the use of the word “nature” in discussing original sin need not carry so much ontological cargo.

a) The Bible uses picturesque metaphors like “tree” and “heart.”

“Nature” can simply be an abstract synonym for this colorful, concrete usage.

Of itself, “nature” does not denote any particular conceptual scheme.

b)”Nature” is just a linguistic placeholder, the way we use the word “gravity.”

This is an excellent point, especially in this context, since Perry appears to be conflating the various popular uses of this term throughout the course of his reasoning, burdening Evan with all sorts of specious puzzles. In discussions about the relation of humanity to sin, there are at least two uses of the term "nature" that need to be distinguished if one's exposition is to have any hope of avoiding the most absurd equivocations or incoherance.

The first is what we might call the *kind-property* view of natures. This account of natures answers the question: What *kind* of entity is the given individual? This account treats natures as *natural kind* properties, where properties are *abstract* objects of a certain sort. Among the important characteristics of such objects: (a) they have the property of possibly having instances, or possibly having individuals stand in the *exemplification relation* to them, and (b) the posited objects are causally inert. That is, the objects do not *cause* any object to be such-and-such, or thus-and-so.

The second is what could be called the "constituency" view of human natures, where human natures are (complex) dispositions (or in Evan's preferred terminology "predispositions"), inclinations, or similar entities; where each of these entities is a constituent, or a (mereological) *part* of some concrete individual, like a moral agent or a personal substance. This account of natures makes no attempt to tell us what *kind* of entity a given individual is, but rather, it attempts to tell us what constitutes a moral agent, and what relation his relevant constituent "parts" bear to his actions or behavior. The thing to note here is that the posited entities are *causal* entities of some sort (which alone should clue one in to the fact that this account of "nature" differs significantly from the kind-property view mentioned above).

Here are some important consequences to note about these two uses and their differences:

(1) when the kind-property account of natures is in view, it makes no *literal* sense to ask whether human nature or humanity *itself* is morally good or evil. Humanity and human nature are neither good nor evil. The reason why is obvious: only moral agents can be good or evil, and natural kind properties (or any properties at all for that matter) are not moral agents. They are causally inert, abstract objects. On this understanding of natures, it makes no more sense to say of humanity that it is morally good or evil than it makes sense to say of the number 8 that its morally good or evil.

(2) when the kind-property account of natures is in view, the claim that any morally significant action A performed by some individual was *determined* by the human nature of that individual is *false*, since no morally significant behavior or properties are *kind-essential* properties of humanity or human nature. At best, such moral qualities are *contingent* properties of humanity. This is evidenced by the moral goodness of prelapsarian humans like Adam and Eve (and Christ), as well as the postlapsarian sinfulness of humans like you and I. And this despite whatever Perry interprets Edwards as saying.

These two distinctions alone render much of Perry's exposition a wash. Here are some examples of his conflated usage from the thread with Evan:

"Persons are sinful, not natures since persons do acts and natures do nothing... persons subsist in a nature which is good, but insufficiently good such that it can will the good, but not in a way that pleases God."

In the first sentence, Perry seems to have the *kind-property* account of natures in view when he correctly notes that moral evil is a property of persons and not abstract objects like humanity or human nature, which are causally inert, or in his words - they can "do nothing". Unfortunately, he either contradicts himself, or equivocates in the sentence that immediately follows, where he appears to predicate of that same (?) abstract property "...which is good", the property of being insufficiently good to perform the act of willing, presumably meaning that its causal powers have been mitigated by some qualitative lack in its moral properties.

"Grace perfects nature and hence natural capacities, it doesn’t obliterate them."

Here's a more clear divergence in his usage of terminology. It makes little sense to say of some natural kind property like humanity that it gets "perfected" You can no more "perfect" humanity then you can "perfect" the property of being evenly divisible by 5. A property is what it is, and can't be made any better or worse than it is.

Maybe what he means is not that the natural kind *itself* gets perfected, but rather, the individuals who exemplify that nature kind get perfected. Or maybe he has the constituency model in mind where grace perfects some of the inhering parts or powers of human beings, rather than the abstract kind-property they exemplify. In either case, assuming he understands and acknowledges the distinctions that have been drawn here, the burden lies with him to clean up his prose and minimize the guesswork of his readers.

"I equate human nature after the fall with pre-lapsarian nature because they are the same. There aren’t two species of humans. On my view, after the fall human nature is intrinsically the same but is weakened-it lacks the divine power but it isn’t fundamentally different. It is the same kind, essence, ousia, pick your term."

While the first two sentences looks agreeable enough (his use of the term "species" signaling that he has the kind-property model of natures in view once again), what follows is another equivocation in his use of the term. He goes on to say of human nature that it now lacks certain causal powers or "divine power". But of course, on the kind-property account, natures don't have powers.

"If human nature is neither good nor evil in creation, what are we to make of the divine statements where God called creation very good?"

Here's a better question: if human nature is an abstract natural kind property that necessarily exists, what relevence does God's calling all of "creation" good have to do with Perry's infering that therefore human nature is good? Are necessary beings like properties part of "creation" on this view? Its far from obvious to me that they are. In anycase, he's still left to explain what it could mean to say of some abstract object like a property, that it is "good".

Then again, maybe he no longer has the kind-property account of natures in mind, but has switched back over to the constituency account, or perhaps some other view. Whatever he's trying to say, he isn't displaying much skill in saying it.

Isn’t there then a fundamental difference between the Son and the other members of the Trinity since they are not determined or necessitated to do anything and completely free whereas the Son is predestined and determined to do certain acts?

Here's a parallel equivocation on some more terms. For starters, its presumably *wills* that are relevantly "free", rather than persons simpliciter. This is obviously important given that Christ has two wills, and the properties had by one will might not be shared by the other.

In anycase, the sense in which Christ is "determined", "predestined" or "necessitated" in his actions or mission, is not at all the same sense in which the other members of the trinity are undetermined, or unnecessitated in their actions. Christ is just as "free" as the other trinitarian members in that respect, assuming we can meaningfully predicate freedom of persons rather than their wills. Conversely, the other Divine Persons are just as "necessitated" in Their actions as He is in His.

The preceeding should be sufficient to show that Perry's theological exposition is muddled. He seems to have an aversion to defining his use of terms, he doesn't blink when imputing the undefined usage to others, and generally feels comfortable reveling in the polysemy of the theological lexicon. This wouldn't be so bad if he was at least uniform in his use of the undefined terminology, but as shown above, this clearly isn't the case.

4/08/2006 7:48 AM  

"The Church Really Could Not Have Made A Better Choice"

I don't listen to Glenn Beck's radio program much, but I heard about half an hour of it this past Friday. He was responding to the claims being made about Christianity in light of the discussions of the Gospel of Judas and The Da Vinci Code. During the discussion, Beck made some misleading claims, such as suggesting that Constantine arranged for the choosing of the Biblical canon in the fourth century. I don't know whether Beck corrected himself or was corrected by a caller later in the program. But comments like his probably will be common in the coming months, given the attention that will be received by the Gospel of Judas and the Da Vinci Code movie, for example.

What I want to do in this article is address Christianity's choice of the four gospels. Why were those four documents accepted, while others were rejected? The answer isn't as unclear or as disreputable as a lot of people suggest.

The early church viewed the apostles as having unique authority, so books written or approved by the apostles would have such authority. We see apostolic books referred to as scripture from the earliest church fathers onward. If the gospels attributed to Matthew and John were written by those men, and Mark and Luke had apostolic approval, whereas other gospels didn't have such an apostolic status, then that fact would explain why the early church accepted the four gospels of the Biblical canon while rejecting others.

None of this is meant to say that other factors weren't involved. Some people would accept a document because of church tradition, without knowing much about its history. And documents would sometimes be evaluated according to whether their content was consistent with what was perceived to be apostolic doctrine. But these various standards for evaluating the documents co-existed. Even if we disagree with what some source or another tells us about his reasons for accepting document X as part of the canon of scripture, we can still trust what other sources say about the document, and we can still have good reason to accept the document as apostolic. The issue here isn't whether every source who commented on the selection of the four gospels gave reasons we would agree with for accepting those four documents and rejecting others. Rather, the issue is whether the process of selecting those books in general is credible. I believe it is. Even if church father X or church council Y had some bad reasons for accepting the four gospels, the fact remains that we have good reason to believe that all four documents are apostolic. We don't have comparable evidence for other gospels, such as the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Thomas.

We should keep in mind that the recognition of four gospels is explicitly advocated long before the time of Constantine. We find it mentioned explicitly in sources of the late second century, and it surely dates even earlier. Martin Hengel, one of the foremost New Testament scholars in the world, writes:

"the knowledge of a widely recognized collection of the four Gospels which is used in worship is certainly substantially older than Irenaeus...Evidently Clement [of Alexandria] took it for granted that the collection of four Gospels was based on recognized church tradition and was unchallenged, since he does not have to defend it anywhere." (The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], pp. 14, 16)

Around the middle of the second century, Justin Martyr writes about the gospels being read in church services along with the Old Testament scriptures (First Apology, 67). He refers elsewhere to "the memoirs which I say were drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them" (Dialogue With Trypho, 103). Notice the plural: "apostles" and "those who followed them". The use of the plural matches our four gospels: apostles (Matthew, John) and those who followed them (Mark, Luke). Justin doesn't cite the number four anywhere, but his comments are consistent with the collection of four gospels that sources living just after Justin's time refer to. In another place, Justin refers to the apostles composing gospels (First Apology, 66), so he can't just be referring to the apostles as the subject matter of the gospels. Justin isn't as explicit as a source like Irenaeus, but what he reports is consistent with what Irenaeus and other sources tell us.

Justin, like other early sources, tells us a lot about the content of the documents he's relying on, and that content is consistent with the four gospels of the Bible. Justin refers to the magi (Matthew's gospel), Jesus' discussion with Nicodemus (John's gospel), and other material that we can identify with the canonical gospels. The same is true of other sources who lived earlier than Justin.

Regarding Papias, a contemporary of the apostles who probably was a disciple of the apostle John, Eusebius writes:

"But now we must add to the words of his which we have already quoted the tradition which he [Papias] gives in regard to Mark, the author of the Gospel. 'This also the presbyter said: Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord's discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.' These things are related by Papias concerning Mark. But concerning Matthew he writes as follows: 'So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able.' And the same writer uses testimonies from the first Epistle of John and from that of Peter likewise. And he relates another story of a woman, who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. These things we have thought it necessary to observe in addition to what has been already stated." (Church History, 3:39:14-15)

Notice that this section of Eusebius comes at the end of the third book of his church history. And notice that Eusebius abruptly moves from one topic to another. It seems, from other sources, that Papias gave more information relevant to the Biblical canon than Eusebius mentions, much as we know that Irenaeus said more about the canon than Eusebius tells us when writing about Irenaeus and the canon. Apparently, Eusebius was trying to close out his third book, so he didn't take the space to describe everything Papias said relevant to the canon. Nobody should conclude that Papias must not have known about other books Eusebius doesn't mention, such as Luke and John. There would be no need for Papias to mention every book he was aware of, and there would be no need for Eusebius to mention everything Papias said relevant to the canon. However, from what Eusebius does tell us about Papias, we can see that the gospel of Mark and its apostolic character were known early on, and we can see that Matthew was known to have been involved in writing about Jesus in some manner.

Aristides, another source of the early second century, refers to how non-Christians could read about facts such as the virgin birth and the resurrection in what he calls "the gospel" (Apology, 2). (The earliest church fathers often refer to the gospels collectively as "the gospel". Even some of the sources who distinguish between different gospels sometimes refer to more than one document together as "the gospel", so we shouldn't assume that the people using such terminology only knew of one document.) Notice that the gospels are, at the time of Aristides, not only available to Christians, but also to any non-Christian who wants to read them. Similarly, in Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho, which is about a debate set in the 130s, Justin's opponent Trypho (a non-Christian) refers to how he had read the gospels (Dialogue With Trypho, 10). Thus, we once again see that the gospels were widely available, including to non-Christians, early on. Eusebius tells us that Christians of the early second century distributed copies of the gospels as they traveled (Church History, 3:37:2).

Notice, again, that we can tell what some of these documents were even if the early sources don't name them. Aristides refers to a document (or documents) that contains an account of the virgin birth, so he seems to be referring to Matthew or Luke or both together. When Justin Martyr cites Jesus' comments in His discussion with Nicodemus, we know that the gospel of John contains such an account. Thus, although the pre-Irenaeus sources aren't as explicit as Irenaeus, they don't have to be as explicit in order to give us information that supports Irenaeus' conclusions. Whether in something more explicit, like Papias' reference to Mark's gospel, or in something less explicit, like the comments of Aristides, we have a lot of early evidence supporting Irenaeus' acceptance of the four gospels. Thus, when commenting on Matthew's gospel, Martin Hengel can refer to how, several decades before Irenaeus wrote, "the First Gospel [Matthew] already established itself quickly and tenaciously in the church at the beginning of the second century" (The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], pp. 71-72).

Notice, also, that sources like Papias and Justin Martyr put the issue of gospel authorship in a historical context. Papias is attempting to describe the historical origin of Mark's gospel. Justin is describing how the apostles are the historical source of the gospels. The early Christians weren't just speculating about what seemed philosophically appealing, nor were they just associating documents with whatever names they associated with the principles contained in those documents. Rather, they were trying to identify the historical authorship of the gospels. Thus, we see with the gospels what we also see over and over again in other contexts: the early church was highly concerned with historical events and eyewitness testimony.

What we have, then, is a situation in which a wide variety of sources from a wide variety of backgrounds give us evidence leading to the conclusion that the early church made a good decision in choosing the four gospels and rejecting other documents. Critics who cast doubt on the choice of the four gospels do so on the basis of unlikely speculations about how the early sources could have been wrong. But historical conclusions are matters of probability, so coming up with possible alternative theories doesn't have much significance. We have four gospels because the evidence warrants it. Martin Hengel is correct in writing (and these comments are all the more significant when you consider that Hengel isn't a conservative):

"They [the gospels] exercised a unique influence in the history of the church, indeed of humankind. At the same time, according to all our historical knowledge and an impartial, sober comparison between the apocryphal Jesus traditions and the four Gospels, indeed the New Testament generally, the church of the second century could hardly have made a better choice....To emphasize the point once again: in its selection and ordering the church of the second century showed historical and theological understanding. I would like to repeat emphatically here the remark made above (33): the church really could not have made a better choice." (ibid., pp. 115, 140)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Speculating For An Infallible Church

Ben posted another response at Al Kimel's Pontifications blog earlier this week. Steve has already responded to Ben's latest post, and I want to add some comments to Steve's.

Previously, Ben argued for an infallible church largely on the basis that such an entity would hypothetically be the best entity God could use, and he argued that following sola scriptura would be too difficult. After Steve and I mentioned that some hypothetical entities would be better than Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, and we mentioned some of the difficulties involved in identifying an entity like Catholicism or Orthodoxy as an infallible church, Ben changed his approach. In his latest post, Ben suggests a series of circumstances in which a person might be led to conclude that the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church is infallible. Ben gives us a series of "intuitions" people might have on issues like masturbation and Trinitarianism. Eventually, Ben comments:

"This implies that my argument is able only to function in certain settings wherein certain subjects feel themselves confronted by certain types of basic beliefs, so that at any rate my argument cannot be ‘neutral’ with respect to these beliefs themselves. To the extent that a given subject feels that the above standpoint matches his own (and given his admission of certain other considerations that I have already spelt out), he will feel himself persuaded by my argument."

The problem is that much of what Ben has suggested as "intuitions", "basic beliefs", etc. hasn't been shown to be true, but instead has only been asserted. The concept that following sola scriptura is too difficult, for example, hasn't been proven. When presented with the difficulties of making judgments about the existence of God, the Messiahship of Jesus, the authority of the apostles, when the church is speaking infallibly, etc., Ben ignores those difficulties, appeals to "intuition", or proposes resolving those difficulties in the same sort of way in which a follower of sola scriptura would resolve his difficulties. Ben doesn't know how easy a rule of faith has to be. His suggestion that sola scriptura is too difficult, whereas Roman Catholicism isn't, is unproveable. If he wants to try to avoid the difficulties of Roman Catholicism with appeals to intuition and using our reasoning capabilities, for example, then advocates of sola scriptura can do the same.

Ben keeps referring to Catholicism and Orthodoxy as the only options for fulfilling the role of an infallible church, but he still hasn't given us any verifiable reason to expect an infallible church. And if following sola scriptura is too difficult, why isn't choosing between Catholicism and Orthodoxy too difficult? Ben's attempt to limit our options to Catholicism and Orthodoxy is itself something that's far from easy to follow. He writes:

"Given then the extrinsic consideration that Christ had founded a church and had indeed authorised it to transmit His teachings in His earthly absence (an extrinsic consideration which Richard Swinburne contends is utterly uncontroversial); and given then the further fact that the church in question would have then had to be a visible entity in order for it to have been in a position to accomplish the purpose which Swinburne has ascribed to it; it would seem to follow therefore that such a visible church would be a prime candidate for being the source of true doctrines in the actual world, if such a church were still to be in existence....Now of all the entities which are in existence today and which publicly claim for themselves the sort of commission that Swinburne ascribes to the Church founded by Christ, it would seem to me that it is only the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church which are able credibly to lay claim to any sort of historical link with the visible church that Swinburne has described. I take my conclusion on this score as uncontroversial since other entities which may publicly claim a similar sort of commission lack the credibility of the aforementioned entities."

And later:

"Firstly even if we can all agree as to how the term ‘Christian’ should be defined (so that we would all know to whom it ought to be applied) there would still be a problem with finding out how the majority of ‘Christians’ will have believed at a certain given time and in respect of a certain given issue; secondly, even if we are able to ascertain the opinion of the majority of Christians at this specific time and on the specific issue in question, it is yet unlikely that at other times and in respect of other issues, we would be able similarly to feel that we could have recourse to the majority opinion (as defined in this sense) for the purposes of finding out what we are to believe; thirdly, it is unclear that a majority of the ‘Christians’ will at any given time be able to communicate their collective opinion on the issue in question in sufficiently detailed a form as will be able to satisfy the conditions for being the sort of formal knowledge that I have defined above; fourthly, there would be the problem of how such persons could fulfil this role in a manner in keeping with the requirement that they should be able to do this visibly (so as to ensure that their pronouncements are rendered publicly accessible), and so that the Church which Christ had founded to transmit His teaching, would be able to be seen as endorsing this majority opinion."

Where does Ben get all of these qualifications about what the church must be? How does he know that the church must "publicly claim" this role Ben is referring to? How does he know what "other issues" the church must teach about? How does he know what's "sufficiently detailed" in a church's teachings?

I don't deny that there would be difficulties involved in discerning something like what a majority of Christians or all Christians believe on an issue. But there are difficulties involved in the systems Ben is recommending as well. Roman Catholics disagree among themselves about papal infallibility, which council rulings are infallible, etc. Catholic and Orthodox disagree with each other about how to define the church, how to judge the infallibility of church councils, etc. Discerning a Christian consensus on an issue like the deity of Jesus or the resurrection is far easier than sorting through Catholic disagreements about papal infallibility or arguments between Catholics and Orthodox about how to define the church, for example. If Ben wants to claim that issues like Jesus' deity and the resurrection aren't enough, and he wants to argue that we must have a church that infallibly speaks on issues like masturbation as well, then I would again ask how he knows which issues the church must address. If he appeals to intuition, then a Protestant could do the same, and we're no longer presenting arguments that can be publicly verified in a setting such as an online forum.

Ben thinks that an infallible church should give teachings that have the sort of specificity that we see in ecumenical councils, for example. But, as I said before, we don't need Catholicism or Orthodoxy in order to have a belief in infallible councils. Somebody could accept Nicaea, for example, as an infallible council on the basis of a Christian consensus (or on some other basis) without being Catholic or Orthodox. There isn't any way for Ben to limit the options for an infallible church to Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

Ben cites Richard Swinburne, but Swinburne wasn't referring to an infallible church. Parents, church leaders, and government officials carry out various roles given to them by God, including teaching, without being infallible. And infallibility isn't necessary for a church to be visible and hierarchical.

On the subject of the perpetual virginity of Mary, Ben writes:

"The Jews mockingly insinuated that Christ had ‘many brothers and sisters’ by way of an attempt on their part at making it seem that Christ did not have a credible claim to be their Messiah. In other words, they seemed to acknowledge that the Messiah would be more credibly thought of as having been the only child of his mother than as having been one of several children. Intuitively, these Jews seemed to realise that any woman who bore the Messiah would not thereafter want to have any more children. Additionally, the Jews who mocked Christ by suggesting that He was not the only Child of His mother, may well have known that He was indeed His mother’s sole Child; but in making a claim to this effect they may only have been intending to draw attention to what they conceived was the fact that for anything which anyone might have been in a position reasonably to know, the children with whom Christ grew up, could well have been conceived by His mother."

Since Ben doesn't cite a passage of scripture, we have to guess what he has in mind. Maybe he's thinking of Mark 6:3-4, for example. But that passage doesn't just mention Jesus' siblings. It also mentions His mother. Elsewhere, Jesus' father is mentioned as well. Nothing in such passages suggests that having siblings would be unacceptable for the Messiah. Rather, the siblings are mentioned, along with Jesus' mother, because these people are referring to their familiarity with Jesus. He had relatives with whom they were familiar. As Mark 6:2 suggests, the issue in view is familiarity, not some alleged inappropriateness of Messianic siblings. If Ben is going to derive from this passage (or others) a concept that having siblings was viewed as unacceptable in some manner, then he needs to explain how he derives that concept from the text. Nothing in a passage like Mark 6 logically leads to Ben's conclusion.

Ben continues:

"Can it credibly be supposed that that St Joseph would have ever approached Mary with a view to having carnal relations with her? How could he have dared to do this when he knew that his wife had conceived and brought to term God Incarnate? He was a holy man, as the scriptures tell us, and this sort of action (given his state of knowledge concerning the Christ) would seem to have been impossible to him....Moreover, since Christ was present at the time it is doubtful whether (even if we may suppose him to have been inclined to form sinister intentions towards his wife) he would have dared to risk the anger of Christ by seeking actively to deprive Christ of one of the symbols of Christ’s Messianic glory."

What is the "symbol of Christ's Messianic glory"? In this context, it would be Mary's virginity in carrying Christ, not her virginity afterward. Her later sexual relations with Joseph wouldn't change the fact that she had been a virgin when Christ was conceived.

And since there's nothing sinful in marital sex, we have no reason to view later sexual relations between Joseph and Mary in the sort of negative manner Ben has suggested. Other Biblical figures had sexual relations after giving birth to children God had given them supernaturally (1 Samuel 2:21). God used sexual relations to bring about the conception of John the Baptist, who was filled with the Spirit in the womb (Luke 1:15). How could the Holy Spirit associate Himself with such a womb, if Ben is correct?

Ben continues:

"Christ asked St John to acknowledge Mary as his Mother, and thereafter (effectively) committed the care of His own mother to St John. The scriptures tell us that ever since that day Mary lived with St John, which seems to indicate strongly that Christ was an only Child. I doubt whether the supposed unbelief of Christ’s supposed siblings could ever have been the reason why such a drastic measure was adopted; for the unbelief or lack of acceptance on the part of these supposed sibilings as to Christ’s messianic claims, would hardly seem to justify that Mary should cease to regard herself as a mother to them, which is what we are asked to believe that Christ had supposedly been concerned to ask His mother to do (as by way of asking Mary to regard St John as her son and so to live with him to the exclusion of her other supposed natural children)."

Where does John 19 suggest that Mary was to "cease to regard herself as a mother" to Jesus' brothers and sisters? Nothing in the text suggests Ben's conclusion. Mary can be a mother to John in some sense without ceasing to be a mother to Jesus' siblings. The fact that Mary would live with John rather than the siblings of Jesus wouldn't make her cease to be the mother of the siblings. Similarly, Mary remained Jesus' mother even as Jesus lived away from Mary's home in Nazareth during His public ministry.

Ben goes on to suggest that the brothers and sisters of Jesus may have been cousins. Whoever they were, we know that they were associated with Mary in other passages. They're referred to as traveling with her, for example, in other contexts. It's highly unlikely that Jesus was Mary's only living relative. Therefore, denying that the brothers and sisters were Jesus' siblings still leaves unanswered the question of why Jesus didn't entrust Mary to some other relative. If the brothers and sisters were cousins, why didn't He entrust Mary to those same cousins who were repeatedly associated with Mary and traveling with her in other contexts? The best explanation is their unbelief and/or the quality of John's spiritual maturity as compared to the maturity of others who could have cared for Mary. The idea that nobody else was available who could have given Mary the common care relatives would usually give is implausible. Some other factor had to be involved. I see no reason to dismiss the spiritual factor that Ben dismisses.

Regarding the New Testament's terminology, Ben tells us:

"Certain scholars contend that the ‘brothers and sisters of Christ’ are in fact merely the cousins of Christ. These individuals are described as ‘brothers and sisters’ because the Jews (as is sill the case with many other communities today) tend to refer to their cousins as ‘brothers and sisters’. The Greek has a separate term for ‘cousin’ but there is no compelling evidence to suppose that the nonuse of such a term on the part of the relevant writers implies that they must have conceived of these persons as being Christ’s actual siblings. They could simply have carried over the Jewish practice into their writings unreflectively."

We know that the New Testament authors repeatedly used phrases like "relative" and "cousin". Whether they were willing to use such terminology isn't in question. Rather, the question is why they didn't use such terms when referring to Jesus' brothers and sisters, but instead chose the terminology we would expect to be used for siblings. What Ben is suggesting is that multiple New Testament authors repeatedly chose language that would more naturally lead us away from the perpetual virginity doctrine, even though they believed in the doctrine and did use terms like "relative" and "cousin" in other passages. And these cousins of Jesus are repeatedly portrayed as traveling with Mary and are mentioned with Mary when Jesus' background is discussed, which would more likely be true of siblings than cousins. What Ben is asking us to do is interpret a series of authors (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul) in a less natural manner. Why would anybody do that, unless he comes to the text with a desire to reconcile it with later belief in Mary's perpetual virginity?

As I mentioned previously, the earliest patristic sources to make comments relevant to this subject suggest that Mary wasn't a perpetual virgin. And even when the perpetual virginity doctrine became popular in the fourth century, Basil of Caesarea refers to many orthodox Christians rejecting it at the time. Yet, Ben has told us that Mary's perpetual virginity is an "intuition" of Catholics and Orthodox. Again, should we conclude that the textual evidence suggests that the Biblical authors weren't Catholic or Orthodox, then? Were the people who rejected the perpetual virginity of Mary during the patristic era neither Catholic nor Orthodox?

This doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity is an example of how Catholics, like Ben, will reject the most natural reading of scripture in order to follow philosophical speculations about how Mary should have related to Joseph after giving birth to Jesus, how appropriate it seems to be to have an infallible church, etc. It's not as if Ben is advocating an unavoidable philosophical concept like the law of non-contradiction. Rather, he's rejecting the most natural reading of scripture (and the earliest church fathers) in order to follow philosophical preferences that can't be shown to carry the sort of probability that the Biblical text carries. Ben's opinion about how later sexual relations between Mary and Joseph would dishonor Jesus isn't in the same evidential category as the meaning of multiple Greek words used by multiple Biblical authors in multiple contexts.

What Ben is doing, on the issue of church infallibility and on the issue of the perpetual virginity of Mary, is appealing to unverifiable philosophical speculations when no other method of arriving at his conclusions is available. Other people could use similar reasoning to arrive at some other infallible church and other doctrines that Ben doesn't believe in. We don't have the sort of evidence for Ben's infallible church that we have for scripture.

Semantic quibbles

Continuing our running commentary on Robinson’s remarks over at Evan May’s weblog:

“What I have asked from you is an explanation of what ‘fallen’ constitutes.”

Here is one classic definition: “The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby his is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually, which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions” (WLC Q/A 25).

See also:

WLC Q/A 27.
WSC Q/A 18.
WCF 6:2-6.

“As I stated before, does the predisposition determine or incline the agent’s action?”

It determines to sin in general, an inclines to sin in particular.

But let us remember that Evan’s explanation didn’t hinge on making the word “predisposition” capture the entire concept all by itself. That’s what sentences are for.

What Evan said was: “the unregenerate have a predisposition to sin to such a degree that they are unable to do otherwise.”

Notice how Robinson has sheared the original statement of all its qualifiers: “the unregenerate”; “to such a degree”.

Predispositions vary in their intensity. And they vary with the moral status of the agent.

The Bible uses figures of speech like “tree” or “heart.”

When we get into philosophical theology, we need to isolate and identify the literal concept, and verbalize that concept in terms supplied by medieval and modern psychology, viz., ego, psyche, person, personality, self, conscience, consciousness, subconsciousness, faculty, habitus, inclination, disposition, predisposition, motive, incentive, intention, animus, velleity, appetency, conatus.

No one word is going to give us an exact match between the word and concept.

In addition, when dealing with states of the mind, we’re dealing with self-presenting states, and there comes a point at which we can offer no noncircular definitions or explanations since these are primitive, bedrock causes by which we explain effects.

“Is the predisposition a desire?”

A desire to sin.

“What is the difference then between a predisposition (desire) and a volitional act (a willing)?”

A predisposition is passive until it’s presented with a suitable stimulus. The predisposition is a necessary condition as well as a constraint on the range of the will. To be a sufficient condition requires the addition of a suitable stimulus: an object of choice.

“Is the predisposition to sin of human nature or of the person?”

Could be either since the person is a concretized human nature. A property-instance of human nature.

“What would willing/desiring in opposition to what is good amount to?”

A conditional desire for an alternative good.

Remember that the cross is an evil means to an ultimate good.

“And if Jesus is determined by God’s decretive will, how is it that the second person of the Trinity, God, is determined or necessitated to do anything?”

A conditional necessity. God is a covenant-keeping God. He voluntarily binds himself by freely entering into covenantal arrangements.

The Son is a coequal party to the decree.

“Isn’t there then a fundamental difference between the Son and the other members of the Trinity since they are not determined or necessitated to do anything and completely free whereas the Son is predestined and determined to do certain acts?”

In the economy of salvation there is a Trinitarian division of labor. All three persons assume a redemptive role: the Father in election and justification, the Son in atoning for sin, and the Spirit in the renewal and preservation of the elect.

“And isn’t the distinction between decretive and perceptive simply a judgment or distinction we make and not a real difference in God? That is, since God is not composed, then the decretive and the perceptive are in God one and the same thing but we just think of them differently. Is that not so? Or do you think that God is composed in some way?”

Notice how Robinson tries to lay a trap by weaseling in the doctrine of divine simplicity, hoping that Evan will take the bait, and which point Robinson can once again exhume his putrescent objection to Calvinism.

God is indecomposable, but that admission doesn’t commit us to extreme reductionism.

The preceptive will subserves the decretive will as a means to an end.

“As for Adam, I am just applying your Edwardian line about natures, desires and actions throughout your theological system. It seems to me that you cannot apply it consistently which signals that your explanation is mistaken. The fact that your system putters out and becomes inconsistent at that point isn’t a concern of mine, but it should be for you. I just don’t understand how someone can make that kind of ad hoc appeal to ignorance legitimately. If the theory, on its own principles fails to explain pertinent data and in chief cases, then it seems like a pretty poor theory.”

A general theory of the will is not going to specify any particular decision by any particular agent. Perry commits a level-confusion.

“The question wasn’t, I don’t believe, of why Adam sinned or what was going through his mind. The question was, given the Edwardian line that natures determine desires, and desires actions, plus your gloss that Adam had neither good nor evil desires, how is it possible to Adam to even act? How is that not a Buridan’s Ass case?”

Edwards’ theory of conative freedom is not at all the same thing as liberty of indifference, where the will is in a state of equilibrium.

“Didn’t you tell me before that it was the strongest desire that wins out and that is what it is to will something? Well what strongest desire “won out” in Adam?”

Notice that Robinson now reverts to the very question he just denied asking. To identify Adam’s strongest desire, we would need to be privy to Adam’s state of mind. But what considerations induced him to sin we are in no position to say.

“And you ignored all of my questions about the good tree. Was Adam a good tree or a bad tree?”

This is a metaphor. In order to answer the question, the metaphor needs to be cashed out in literal terms. Perry should rephrase his question and define his terms.

Back by popular demand

Through the inimitable and illimitable abilities of Dr. Anderson, a new and improved version of my topical index can now be found in the sidebar.

The nature of nature

Continuing our analysis of Robinson’s comments over at our sister blog:

“What then is the difference between nature and grace? How do you distinguish between them?”

We might begin with the fourfold state of man:

(a) Unfallen man enjoys a sinless nature;

(b )The unregenerate enjoy a sinful or fallen nature, without benefit of saving grace, but under the preservative of common grace;

c) The regenerate enjoy a sanctified nature, capable of good as well as evil, but incapable of apostasy,

(d) The glorified enjoy an impeccable nature.

“If civil acts are “good” in what sense are they good?”

Objectively good, but subjectively speaking they are morally compromised by mixed motives. Due to common grace, the motive to do what is objectively good may be a motive with some good intentions; but due to sin, the motive is never pure, but impure—being adulterated by sinful motives as well.

“Is nature good apart from grace or is grace instrinsic to nature?”

Fallen nature is good to the degree to which common grace conserves the remnants of common decency.

Whether grace is intrinsic or extrinsic to nature depends on your definition of instrinsicality or extrinsicality.

Grace is not artificial. It is not grafted onto human nature like a freak mutant hybrid or cyborg—half human, half machine.

But saving grace is purely gratuitous. Some have it, others don’t. Those that have it do so due to the selective and unmerited mercy of God.

“On what moral theory can the effect have a moral value apart from the agent?”

You could have this in teleological ethics or deontological ethics or divine command theory.

It’s possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason. If the Nazi commandant of a POW camp sees that his side is losing the war, he may treat the POWs humanely to avoid prosecution for war crimes.

Isn’t it a good thing that he didn’t torture or execute the POWs, even if he refrained from doing so for cynical reasons?

“If without common grace humans would only be able to do sinful acts (both intentionally and consequentially), does this mean that you think that human nature is intrinsically evil and opposed to God?”

i) Perry is trying to maneuver Evan into an incautious statement which would then expose Evan to the charge of “Manicheanism.”

ii) There is also an ambiguity in the question. Is this a question of moral evil or metaphysical evil?

There is no such thing as pure ontological evil. Evil is a moral property of a metaphysical property-bearer.

iii) Here’s a question for Perry: what is the moral status of the damned? In what sense are they opposed to God?

“Can acts be intrinsically good without being meritorious?”

Bracketing the ambiguous adjective (“intrinsically”), an act can be good without being meritorious.

“If it takes divorcing an act from the actor to call it good, how then can the value of the act necessarily depend on the intention of the actor so that the act has no moral value abstracted from the intention of the actor? In short, if the intention is what determines the value of an act, how can we talk about good acts apart from intentions?”

No one is “divorcing” the act from the actor. It all depends on what we are attempting to evaluate.

If our objective is to assign praise or blame to the agent, then his intentions are germane to the moral valuation of the act.

But if our objective is to evaluate the act in and of itself, then we needn’t take his intentions into account.

This is a necessary distinction. Motivation is a necessary, but insufficient, condition of ethical decision-making.

For some choices are intrinsically evil. Good intentions do not transvaluate otherwise illicit options into licit options. A well-intentioned agent must choose from morally licit options. Alternative goods.

He doesn’t need an array of choices, but whatever choice he makes must be licit in and of itself.

“If human nature is neither good nor evil in creation…”

Human nature in creation is good.

“Moreover, if you think of the will as desires…”

Simplistic. They are distinguishable, not equatable.

Not all desires translate into a resolve choose one course of action over another. Only the strongest desire.

“Then how did Adam perform any act if he wasn’t inclined to good or to evil and hence lacked any strongest desire?”

Adam enjoyed a general inclination to good, but he wasn’t impeccable.

The fact that he sinned goes to show that at the time he committed sin, his general inclination to good was overridden by a countervailing desire.

“And, do you think that Jesus’ humanity was neither good nor evil like pre-fall Adam’s?”

Jesus’ humanity was good because it was sinless—possibly impeccable.

“And if Jesus’ humanity isn’t opposed to God, how then do you explain Jesus having a human desire that is opposed to God?”

We have a natural desire to avoid pain.

We have a moral desire to avoid slander. It’s because Jesus is good, because he is innocent, that a false accusation is morally repugnant.

We have a psychological desire to avoid public humiliation.

It is quite possible to desire a given end while finding the means personally repellent.

“If we take the Edwardian line that natures determine desires and desires determine actions, then if Adam has a good nature, then he has good desires and hence only good actions.”

Let’s be clear on a couple of things:

i) Calvinism does not begin with a philosophical theory of the will.

Rather, Calvinism begins with the Biblical witness regarding original sin.

When a libertarian proposes a philosophical theory of the will, or when a libertarian raises a philosophical objection to the Reformed doctrine of original sin, then a Calvininist like Edwards may respond in kind by offering a philosophical theory of the will consistent with Calvinism, or respond with a philosophical objection to the libertarian theory.

This is a question of polemical theology, not exegetical or systematic theology.

Even if Edwards’ theory of the will were mistaken, that would go no distance in disproving Calvinism. Edwards is merely mounting a rational counterargument to a rationalistic objection.

ii) Perry is obsessed with the word “nature.”

This evidently triggers in his own mind a whole lot of conceptual baggage.

But the use of the word “nature” in discussing original sin need not carry so much ontological cargo.

a) The Bible uses picturesque metaphors like “tree” and “heart.”

“Nature” can simply be an abstract synonym for this colorful, concrete usage.

Of itself, “nature” does not denote any particular conceptual scheme.

b)”Nature” is just a linguistic placeholder, the way we use the word “gravity.”

When we say that an apple falls to the ground due to the law of “gravity,” that does not assume any particular theory of gravity. It could be Newton’s, or Einstein’s, or Witten’s, or Penrose’s.

The appeal to “nature” is simply a way of expressing a relation in the nominative case, just as we speak of possible worlds, which is nothing more than a handy circumlocution for divine omnipotence (what God could possibly do).

c) Another reason we use an abstract noun like “nature” is to avoid the nominalistic suggestion that human beings just happen to sin.

There is an underlying reason for the universality of sin. It isn’t just a fortuitous circumstance that otherwise autonomous agents, who could either sin or refrain from sinning, all happen to be sinners.

Rather, God has imputed the guilt of Adam’s sin to his posterity, and as a result of that imputation, it is also the case that every son of Adam is morally corrupt or depraved, and commits actual sin if he gets the chance.

“Doesn’t God’s nature being good make it impossible for him to sin?”

Depends on what we mean. God cannot sin. His moral attributes are such that God cannot sin.

But God’s nature is not something over and above God himself, which prevents him from sinning—like an external restraint. God’s nature doesn’t “cause” God to do this or refrain from doing that.

There is nothing which would “constrain” God from sinning. But, by the same token, there is nothing which would constrain or incline God to sin.

There’s not much more we can say without falling into a vicious regress.

“I don’t think its obvious that if nature determines desires and desires determines actions that Adam would be inclined by nature to do neither good nor evil. I am familiar with the distinctions between posse pecarre, non posse pacarre, etc. I just don’t see how it fits with your Edwardian line. Moreover, if the will just is the strongest desire winning out, simply asserting that Adam had no desire for good or evil doesn’t address how it is possible that Adam made any choice at all. If he has no desire either way then it should be the case that he never could make such a choice. Right? How does someone make a choice without an antecedent strongest desire on your view?”

i) As I’ve said before, I reject his characterization.

ii) Since I’m not Adam, I don’t know what Adam’s was thinking. His state of mind is inaccessible to me. So it’s useless to indulge in speculative psychology regarding the particular motive of any particular agent.

iii) There is a stock vocabulary to explain “why” people do what they do: “motive,” “incentive,” “disincentive,” “inclination,” “predisposition,” &c.

This is useful up to a point, but there is only so much it is intended to explain.

Why did the wife murder her philandering husband? Because she was jealous. That’s the explanation.

But why was she jealous, you ask?

Now you’re pressing the causal question beyond the limits of rational inquiry. Pretty soon we find ourselves bogged down in an infinite regress.

There’s nothing wrong with stopping with “jealousy” as the explanation. That is morally sufficient.

If you wanted, you could take it a little further. She was jealous because she was in love with her husband, and love, being possessive, brooks no rivals.

She felt betrayed and humiliated. We form an emotional bond with certain people. Her brain chemistry was addicted to her spouse.

Do these additional explanations improve on the original? Maybe, maybe not. They aren’t morally relevant.

Do they extend the causal chain, or are they merely paraphrasing the originating cause? Nice question.

You can’t go back a step, and back another step ad infinitum.

The only way to avoid a vicious regress or vicious circle is to stop asking for an explanation when there’s nothing left to explain.

“I seriously doubt that we have the same notion of original sin so that an appeal to it just relocates the problem.”

If it only relocates the problem, then that’s a problem for Perry as well as Evan. Perry has his own burden of proof to discharge.

Two Dozen (or so) Orthodox Arguments Against Hyper-Preterism

This paper, whose title is roughly based off Alvin Plantinga's paper"Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments", will constitute two dozen (or so) arguments against Hyper-Preterism. Before I begin I should, for those unfamiliar with this cult, briefly explain what Hyper-Preterism is and what it teaches.

Hyper-Preterism[1] is the position that all eschatological prophecy has been fulfilled. This means that the resurrection has occurred, we are living in the new heavens and earth, we have been definitively sanctified, we have been glorified, Jesus has returned in 70 AD, once and for all.[2]

Based on the above we can see that Hyper-Preterism (HP, hereafter) deviates from historic Christianity in major ways. In his "Introduction to Preterism" Tod Dennis writes: "Simply put, Preterist theology is a radical departure from other contemporary positions. How many other systems teach that the Second Coming of Christ already took place? None" (Dennis, "An Introduction To Preterism," p. 1, emphasis his). Now, since Preterist theology is a radical departure from historic Christianity (not merely "contemporary," either!) can they even be called Christians? Well, I suppose that just as the Mormons call themselves "Christians" the Hyper-Preterists can do the same. Indeed, this is why many refer to this group as a Christian cult or heresy. Furthermore, I assume that Dennis thinks he's in line with "biblical Christianity?" Since his view is a radical departure from ours then ours must be a radical departure from "biblical Christianity!" This would mean what the world has referred to as "Christian theology" for the past 2,000 years has not really been Christian theology. Indeed, this is not like some minor dispute between denominations but it's a radical departure. This a bold claim since it is claiming that what has been referred to as "Christianity," by Christians and non-Christians alike, is not Christianity but a radical departure from it.

Two Dozen (or so) Orthodox Arguments Against Hyper-Preterism

Historical and creedal arguments

[A] Will The Real Christian Please Stand Up ... Please Stand Up ... Please Stand Up ...: Above we noted that the implication of Dennis' statement about his doctrine being a radical departure from "contemporary Christianity" means that since he holds that his position is "biblical" then "Contemporary Christianity" is a radical departure from "biblical Christianity."[3] So then, the "contemporary Christians" are a new species which has evolved upon the landscape of the history of theology. Since "contemporary" means "of the same time or age" then we must be the mutated species the likes which have never been seen before. Our beliefs in a future return of Christ, a future bodily resurrection, a future judgment of mankind, and of reigning with Christ in a not yet heaven, are new kids on the block, right? Dennis, and other Hyper-Preterists like to say that they are a radical departure from contemporary Christianity. So, this should mean that these beliefs mentioned above do not have historical precedence. After all, if virtually every Christian since recorded time has held to the above beliefs then how is Hyper-Preterism a departure from contemporary Christianity? Wouldn't it be correct, if we can show that the above beliefs have been held by virtually every Christian, post apostolic era,[4] then wouldn't it be more correct to say that Hyper-Preterism is a "radical departure from historic Christianity?"

To set up the debate as Dennis has is to imply that Hyper-Preterism has departed from a modern paradigm. But if we can show that the above beliefs have been held throughout the centuries, by every orthodox Christian, then my above comments about the idea of "Christianity," which everyone has held (Muslim's, Atheist's, et al.) to, make the Hyper-Preterist's claim a very strange one indeed. Since it is accepted that "Christianity" is, among other things, a system of thought which adheres to the teachings found in the Bible, and if my inference from Dennis' statement is correct, then what is "Christianity?" The Hyper-Preterist expects us to believe that (upon my analysis) what has been referred to as "Christianity" is actually a "radical departure" from Christianity, and this new movement (one could say, contemporary movement) is really what Christianity has taught and believed, though no Christians (until recently) have taught and believed it (except for the Apostles, if the HPs are correct)!

Let's do a brief survey and see what history has to say about this:

Clement of Rome (ca. 81-95):

24.1 "Let us consider, beloved, how the Master continually proves to us that there will be a future resurrection, of which He has made the first-fruits, by raising the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.[5]

42.3 ..."they went forth is the assurance of the Holy Spirit preaching the good news that the Kingdom of God is coming."[6]

Zoker and James (Jude's Grandsons):

In a preserved work from Hegesippus, Eusubius tells us about how these two Christians (the Grandsons) answered a query about Christ's Kingdom: they "explained that it was neither of the world or earthly, but heavenly and angelic, and it would be at the end of the world, when He would come in glory to judge the living and the dead and to reward every man according to his deeds."[7]

The Didache: In this early Church manual (circa 110 a.d.) we read, "Gather it [the Church] together in its holiness from the four winds to thy Kingdom which thou hast prepared for it... Let grace come and let this world pass away."[8]

Ignatius: At the beginning of the second century Ignatius was taken as a prisoner to Rome. He wrote letters, here are some excerpts: "...who also was truly raised from the dead when His Father raised Him up, as in the same manner His Father shall raise up in Christ Jesus us who believe in Him, without whom we have no true life.[9]

The last one I'll cite (though there are many more quotes I could give, see Hill) is Polycarp. Briefly after the end of the first century Polycarp wrote a letter, in it he said: "[Jesus is the one] 'whom all breath serves,' who is coming as 'Judge of the living and of the dead...'"[10]

Now, the above men lived in the times of those who lived through 70 AD. They could talk to, and discuss things with, those with first hand knowledge of what the Apostles believed. Indeed, in some cases these men are family members of inspired writers. Amazingly, "Christianity" had "radically departed" from "biblical Christianity" with a few short years! All these men "just missed" the resurrection and the return of Christ to judge the living and the dead. So, it appears as if "contemporary Christianity" back then was the same, in these respects, as "contemporary Christianity" is today. Furthermore, in the oldest non-canonical creed we read:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell. [See Calvin]

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy *catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.


And so it appears that a creed, which identified what "Christians" believed 50 years after the New Testament was written, was a radical departure from "biblical Christianity." So when pagans called these men "Christians" what they didn't know was that these men held to a "radical departure" from Christianity. It also seems odd that not one apostate ever wrote that these so-called "Christians" had distorted the teachings of the apostles. Certainly there were men who no longer held to the faith but had sat under the preaching of, say, Paul. All one needed to do was to say, "Nooo you stupid ninnies, the resurrection and the final judgment already happened! Why are you distorting what the apostles taught?" Well, I admit that the last part was conjecture, but it makes me scratch my head.

Hyper-Preterism, therefore, expects us to believe that what has been referred to as "Christianity" throughout the ages is really a "radical departure" from "biblical Christianity" and this "radical departure" took place almost immediately! Very well then, what is "Christianity?"

Since HPism has asked us to believe that "contemporary" Christianity is a "radical departure" from "biblical Christianity," and since I've shown that historic "Christianity" holds to the same views as "contemporary Christianity" on these issues which caused the HPist to say that his position is a "radical departure" from "contemporary Christianity," then we can agree that it is at least these doctrines (the ones the HPist holds which break common ground with us) which define "Christianity." Of course things like: "believing in Jesus as the only mediator between God and man," and "there is but one God," and "within the Godhead there are three persons who are all God" are things which define "Christianity" as well. But(!) it can't be these confessions alone which define "Christianity." That is because "contemporary Christians" and HPs both hold to these beliefs. But if this were all one needs to hold the honorific title of "Christian" then why would Dennis say that HPism is a "radical departure" from "contemporary Christianity?" So, it is crystal clear that Dennis (and HPism) take these other beliefs (along with the traditional affirmations of God, salvation, etc.,) to constitute what defines "Christianity."

Another problem arises, though. Not all HPs agree on what to make of these other doctrines. In the first case, regarding as to why so many Christians would abandon the true teaching of Scripture, we have many different stories. Russell says that there was a rapture and all the "true Christians" were taken from the earth. Max King writes that it is because of the Hellinization of the early Church. Some have argued that people burned the writings of the early "biblical Christians." And, some have tried to show that the above early "Christians" really had traces of HPism running through their works and letters.[12] The basic fact to glean here, though, is that HPists see a problem. I think this intuitive response which leads HPists to having to give an answer to Church history is a little more telling than some may think. Secondly, regarding the resurrection, there are divergent views. Max King offers a "collective body" story about the resurrection.[13] But Ed Stevens says he doesn't apply this.[14] Noe and Harden also disagree. So which position is "biblical?" Does King or Stevens "radically depart" from "Christianity?" What is Christianity!? Thirdly, regarding the millennium, there are different views. Russell says that it could not be a 40 year period while others fit it between 30 and 70 AD; still others say that it was between 70 and 73 AD or between 70 AD and 132 AD. Who's radically departing here? Fourthly, not all HPs agree on taking the Lord's Supper (since the bible says that we proclaim His death until He comes by taking the Lord's supper). Fifthly, HPs are not in agreement on what happens to us after we die. So, what is it, exactly, to not radically depart from Christianity? The HPist is telling us that everyone else has been wrong, but they're right. We'll examine this claim later.

[B]: The Apostles Creed

[C]: The Nicene Creed

[D]: The Athanasian Creed

[E]: The Westminster Confession of Faith

[F]: The Heidelberg Catechism

[G] Creeds and Confessions Written by Teachers Which God Gave The Church: In Ephesians 4 we read:

11 And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ:

13 till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

14 that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;

15 but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ;

Now, Ephesians 4 teaches us that God has given the Church teachers for the building up of the body. This building up is a building unto unity, so that we may all be one and not believe false doctrine. What is interesting to note is that virtually every single creed and confession disagrees with the HPist schema. So, my creedal argument is based of Ephesians 4. I am not saying that the creeds and confessions are inspired like Scripture is. I'm saying that inspired Scripture authoritatively tells us that we have teachers who help us see God's word clearly. We are to submit to teachers because God has given them to the Church. Now, not all teachers will agree, and there is dispute on minor issues. But in the case of the HPist, all the teachers disagree with them. That is, all the teachers God has equipped His Church with disagree with HPism. The HP may say that I've begged the question against them because they are "teachers." But how can this be? Ephesians 4 is supposed to be fulfilled! So, the HP can't be the Ephesians 4 teachers, you know(?), the ones who bring us to unity, because those teachers are not around anymore!

Now, I suppose that the HPist reading this can just ignore the argument saying, "I have my Bible and so, so much the worse for the teachers." And, if your conscious is not bothered by the fact that a bunch of dudes on the internet figured out what the entire history of the Church couldn't see (which HPists, say is "plain and clear," by the way) then I leave you to it. It's not a bother to me because these are the weakest of the arguments.

Systematic and Theological Arguments

[H] A Failed Reedemer?: Representative of HPism is the view expressed here by David Green: "...[Hyper] Preterist’s believe that sin and suffering on earth will exist forever."[15] About the earth and death remaining the same forever, Green points out the "obvious", "It should come as no surprise then to find that the Scriptures tell us that the Kingdom, and the generations of man, and the earth itself are all to continue forever."[16] So, simply put, death and decay and sin will remain forever (yippee!). So, the HPist teaches that Christ's redemptive work is totally finished, nothing remains. Men's souls are what Christ came to save and redeem, not anything physical. But if the Bible teaches that the physical creation will be, and needs to be, redeemed, then we have a defeater for the HPist.

Romans 8:

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward.

19 For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God.

20 For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope

21 that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.

22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

23 And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Now, the HPist wants to say that Paul is referring to the Old Covenant, but the above passage, put within a broader framework of creation, should put that view to bed. It is certainly odd to say that Paul is referring to the Old Covenant since Paul tells us in many places that he is already in the New Covenant. It is also odd to say that the Old Covenant will be "set free." The Old Covenant was annihilated. It wasn't "delivered" but the curtain was ripped apart! The term "bondage to decay" implies some sort of entropy, where it started out good, or not as bad, and then became worse. Did the Old Covenant start out good? Was it a ministry that brought life before it brought death? Was it a reality that turned into a shadow?

I find none of the above in Scripture. I do find something that started good, and then became not so good.

Genesis 1:

31 And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

And, Genesis 3:

14 And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

15 and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy conception; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

18 thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

19 in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

In Genesis 1 God calls his creation (which includes the ground), good. In Genesis 3 God tells Adam that the ground is cursed, because of Adam’s sin. The ground will bring forth thorns and thistles. Was this the way it always had been? Could Adam have snickered and said, "That God, He said the ground would produce thorns and thistles, but it always has!" Why would God even mention that if it was not bad?

Notice, further, all the physical curses (child birth, jack-ass husbands, cursed ground, etc). It is painfully clear that things were not this way before the fall. If things were this way, then what was Jehovah telling them this for? So, the ground itself was cursed because of sin. Do we like our sin? Does creation like being "subjected" to sin? Does creation itself cry out for a redeemer? This last question leads us to the conclusion of the argument.

Christ rode into town on a donkey. This is referred to as the triumphal entry. "Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, Meek, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass" (Matt. 21:5). The King was coming! The Messiah was coming. He who "takes away the sin of the world" was coming. The savior, was coming. The people shouted Hosanna! Hosanna is a Jewish word which means "save." The people shouted for their savior!, the one who would save them from their bondage to the decay of sin. Mathew Henry comments:

"What they said; They that went before, and they that followed, were in the same tune; both those that gave notice of his coming, and those that attended him with their applauses, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, v. 9. When they carried branches about at the feast of tabernacles, they were wont to cry Hosanna, and from thence to call their bundles of branches their hosannas. Hosanna signifies, Save now, we beseech thee; referring to Ps. cxviii. 25, 26, where the Messiah is prophesied of as the Head-stone of the corner, though the builders refused him; and all his loyal subjects are brought in triumphing with him, and attending him with hearty good wishes to the prosperity of all his enterprises. Hosanna to the Son of David is, "This we do in honour of the Son of David."

The redeemer was coming. We read an interesting comment Jesus made during his triumphal entry. Luke 19:

37 And as he was now drawing nigh, even at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen;

38 saying, Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

39 And some of the Pharisees from the multitude said unto him, Teacher, rebuke thy disciples.

40 And he answered and said, I tell you that, if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out.

The people were saying "Hosanna," which means save. The people were crying out. Why? Because the Messiah, the savior, had come. But when the Pharisees told Jesus to quite the people Jesus said the stones would cry out. Why would the stones cry out for salvation? Is it because it has been groaning? Jesus' creation "knew" the savior had come. Henry comments:

"Whether men praise Christ or no he will, and shall, and must be praised (v. 40): If these should hold their peace, and not speak the praises of the Messiah's kingdom, the stones would immediately cry out, rather than that Christ should not be praised. This was, in effect, literally fulfilled, when, upon men's reviling Christ upon the cross, instead of praising him, and his own disciples' sinking into a profound silence, the earth did quake and the rocks rent. Pharisees would silence the praises of Christ, but they cannot gain their point; for as God can out of stones raise up children unto Abraham, so he can out of the mouths of those children perfect praise."

The stones would praise the Messiah if the people were silenced. Christ's substitutionary death on the cross caused the ground to quake. The ground that was cursed by Adam's sin. The same ground which is in bondage, just as we are, to the physical effects of sin. The creation, like orthodox believers, waits for this day:

Rev 22:

1 And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,

2 in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

3 And there shall be no curse any more: and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and his servants shall serve him;

It's your choice, you can have the redeemer of HPism who starts but does not finish the job, or you can have the redeemer of orthodox Christianity. We need not worry that the HPists are silenced regarding Christ's redemptive work because, one glorious day, the stones will take their place and cheer the savior of the world!

[I] A New Hope?: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..." (I Peter 3). Here we are told that the resurrection of Jesus' body gives us a hope. Amen! But, alas, the HP does not see it this way. They certainly agree that Christ's resurrection gave the believers hope, but upon analysis, this doesn't make muster. It is important to note that Hyper-Preterists view the resurrection of the dead as a spiritual event which is basically what the orthodox would call regeneration.[17] So, they would say that the believers (back then) had hope that they would be spiritually resurrected.

First off, we need to ask why the resurrection of Jesus would give believers a hope? Jesus only resurrected physically. His person went to be in paradise, upon His death (Lk. 23:43). Indeed, Jesus raised His body up from the dead (Jn. 2:19-21). It seems, though, that some HPs are implying that Jesus died spiritually.[18] (All the quotes below taken from a Hyper-Preterist discussion board. I will not post the link for a couple reasons, but if anyone (HP or otherwise, needs the link I'll be more than happy to give it)

"The passage you quoted does not say that "the resurrection of Jesus BODY begat in us a hope." It is speaking to the resurrection of Jesus THE PERSON."

"The “personal” resurrection of Jesus proved that He overcame death (“spiritual death”, our spiritual death) and is what birthed the hope."

Now, since the Bible tells us that Jesus' body died, not His person, then it is His bodily resurrection which gives us hope. The problem for the HP arises when we look at what they're claiming. That is, they are claiming that the resurrection of Jesus gave us hope for our resurrection. But they tell us that our resurrection is spiritual, basically regeneration. So, it follows that these believers hoped for regeneration. A problem arises when we look at Romans 8:24

"...But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?"

Thus we can see that the Bible tells us that if someone has something then they do not hope for it. Since the HPist wants us to take this as a hope in spiritual resurrection (regeneration) then these believers must not have been regenerate. So, it would do well to look at what regeneration is, I'll cite the Westminster Confession of Faith

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.

“To say that we are able by our own efforts to think good thoughts or give God spiritual obedience before we are spiritually regenerate is to overthrow the gospel and the faith of the universal church in all ages.”
- John Owen

"When a man is converted to God, it is done in a moment. Regeneration is an instantaneous work. Conversion to God, the fruit of regeneration, occupies all our life, but regeneration itself is effected in an instant. A man hates God-- the Holy Spirit makes him love God. A man is opposed to Christ, he hates his gospel, does not understand it and will not receive it-- the Holy Spirit comes, puts light into his darkened understanding, takes the chain from his bondaged will, gives liberty to his conscience, gives life to his dead soul, so that the voice of conscience is heard, and the man becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus.And all this is done, mark you, by the instantaneous supernatural influence of God the Holy Spirit working as he wills among the sons of men."


"Regeneration: a supernatural renovation of the dispositions which determine the moral purpose, and of the understanding in the apprehension of moral and spiritual truth, the whole resulting in a permanent and fundamental conversion in the actings of the whole man as to sin and holiness: the flesh and God. To such a change the human will is utterly inadequate and irrelevant, because the change goes back of the will. It is therefore a divine and almighty work of the Father and Son through the Holy Spirit, as Their Agent...the free agent chooses according to his moral nature, because his own moral nature decides how he shall view inducements. This character is, in the sinner, carnal. To make the conduct spiritual, the character must be renewed."
- R.L. Dabney

"Regeneration is described in the Scripture as a spiritual birth, a spiritual re-creation, and a spiritual resurrection."
-John Hendryx

"The resurrection of regeneration view generally sees the resurrection as the spiritual rising to new life. Thus, the resurrection is spiritual regeneration"
-Hyper-Preterist, Kenneth perkins

So, these believers hoped for a heart which did not hate God. They were unregenerate at the time. The problem here, as one can see by reading the above, is that unregenerate people would not, indeed, could not, hope for those things. Unregenerate hate God. They hate His law. They do not praise God for giving them a new hope. So, since one does not hope for what he has, and since these men had regeneration, they therefore did not hope in a spiritual resurrection. What's left? Well, the only resurrection Jesus went through was a resurrection of the body. This is all the passage can refer to. Thus Jesus' physical resurrection is what gave them hope. They did not hope for spiritual resurrection, they hoped for physical resurrection. Hyper-Preterism smashes our hope!

[J] Argument from, What The Heck Are You Talking About!?!: "Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised (I Cor. 15:12-13). So, the resurrection was future for these believers. But were they regenerate? Paul writes in his opening, "unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours" (I Cor. 1:2). Since regeneration comes before sanctification, then they had already been spiritually resurrected. Furthermore, Christ's resurrection was only physical. Paul says that if there is no resurrection of the dead then not even Christ has been raised. Obviously, if no physical beings have resurrected (or can), and if Christ is a physical being, then He has not been resurrected. If we take this to mean spiritual resurrection, then Paul is saying that if there is no spiritual resurrection then Christ has not spiritually resurrected. But who wants to say that Christ resurrected spiritually? The Bible only defines spiritual resurrection as the dead sinner coming to life. The passages are so plain that when you hear an HP interpretation you just want to say, "What the heck are you talking about!?"

[k] More Resurrection Zingers: Now most hyper-preterists do not deny the physical resurrection of Christ (i.e. they are inconsistent according to Paul) or the current enfleshment of Christ. However, this forces them into a bizarrely uncomfortable situation within their own theology. Hyper-preterists rely heavily upon the first half of 1 Corinthians 15:50: "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God..." as a classic "proof-text" for their position that the physical body raised cannot be raised. Many works have already been written demonstrating that "flesh and blood" is a culturally idiomatic _expression for the frail mortal condition. However, in evaluating this argument from the hyper-preterists' own interpretative grid, it paints them into a very painful corner. If "flesh and blood" (meaning a physical human body as we know it) cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, then this means either that Christ is no longer flesh and blood (and no longer truly human) or that Christ did not inherit the Kingdom of God. This conclusion can only be avoided by the most contrived of explanations, such as positing that Christ had not an ounce of blood in his resurrected body but only consisted of flesh and bones. Well if that is the case, using Paul's unavoidable connection of the nature of Christ's resurrection with the nature of ours, then we are not raised flesh and blood, but flesh and bone - still very physical and still very much like Christ. While the concept of a yet future bloodless physical resurrection might be properly classified as literalism run amuck, it likely passes the muster of orthodoxy and still contradicts the most basic of hyper-preterist beliefs. [19]

[L] Our Body Will Be Like His Body?: Paul writes in Philippians 3 that "20... our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself." Get that? Our body will be conformed to His body. This obviously refers to the resurrection. Note that Paul talks about "all things" being subject to Christ in verse 2i and in I Corinthians 15 Paul writes that "24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death." The similarity cannot be missed. So, this obviously refers to the resurrection. Now, the "body of His glory" is obviously referring to His physically resurrected body. What will our resurrected bodies be raised like? Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:43 that, it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory." So then, our glorious resurrected body will be like Christ's glorious resurrected body. The key word is: resurrected! It was only after Christ's physical resurrection that He had a glorious body. If our resurrected body is taken to mean a regenerated body (whatever that means!?) then Christ's must have been regenerated as well. If not, how, precisely, will our body be like his body?

[M] Argument from Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My! (AFLTBOM, hereafter!): AFLTBOM goes like this: Paul states in I Corinthians 15:32 "If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die." Calvin comments:

Now by those that fought with beasts, are meant, not those that were thrown to wild beasts, as Erasmus mistakingly imagined, but those that were condemned to be set to fight with wild beasts -- to furnish an amusement to the people. There were, then, two kinds of punishment, that were totally different -- to be thrown to wild beasts, and to fight with wild beasts. For those that were thrown to wild beasts were straightway torn in pieces; but those that fought with wild beasts went forth armed into the arena, that if they were endued with strength, courage, and agility, they might effect their escape by dispatching the wild beasts. :Nay more, there was a game in which those who fought with wild beasts were trained, like the gladiators19 Usually, however, very few escaped, because the man who had dispatched one wild beast, was required to fight with a second,20 until the cruelty of the spectators was satiated, or rather was melted into pity; and yet there were found men so abandoned and desperate, as to hire themselves out for this!21 And this, I may remark by the way, is that kind of hunting that is punished so severely by the ancient canons, as even civil laws brand it with a mark of infamy.22

I return to Paul.23 We see what an extremity God allowed his servant to come to, and how wonderfully, too, he rescued him. Luke, 24 however, makes no mention of this fight. Hence we may infer that he endured many things that have not been committed to writing.

So, the HP asks us to believe that the resurrection is not a physical, bodily one. What sense, may I ask, should then be made of Paul's claim that if the dead are not raised then how could it turn out good if he fought wild beats? I mean, they'd rip him apart and then that's it for his body! But Paul didn't care about physical death because the dead are raised. What sense can be made of the idea that Paul would fight physical animals, which could kill him physically, and not fear because he would be regenerated in 70 AD?!

Furthermore, the reference to the hedonists, who ate, drank, and were merry, is obviously physical as well. Why not do this because "tomorrow we die?" Die how? Physically! And, if the "dead" (what dead? The physically dead) are not raised then who cares if we die tomorrow? But, if the dead (what dead? The physically dead) are raised then it does matter how we live. Moreover, this death is future. Therefore it cannot be referring to spiritual death, because even though people ate, drank, and were merry, they were already dead in their sins! So, the death spoken of is physical and Paul ties that physical death to a resurrection. Can it get any clearer ladies and gentlemen? I think not!

[N] When Shall These Things Be?

[O] The End of All Things

[P] Preterism: Orthodox or Unorthodox?

[Q] Acts 1:9-11 And The Hyper-Preterism Debate

Arbitrariness With the Time Texts

[R] We Take The Time Texts Seriously: Oh yeah? Well then can you date 1 John more accurately than anyone else? After all, we read "Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour." So 1 John was written at 11:00 PM on December 31, 69 AD? No? So we don't take the time texts that seriously, do we? Hyper-Preterists tell us that if someone wrote you a letter and said that he was coming quickly, would we think that meant two-thousand years? Well, if someone called you on the phone and said they'd be there in an hour, would you think that meant 5-10 years? Hyper-Preterist, Don Preston, writes:

"Is there anything wrong with these statements? Well, if God cannot tell time there isn't! But if God can read a calendar, and if God truly meant to communicate with man there is something drastically wrong! Essentially, what these statements say is that while God said the kingdom was "at hand," God cannot tell time, therefore the "at hand" time statements mean nothing at all!"[19]

So, God really can't tell time after all. I mean, an hour doesn't mean many years, right.

[S] No, we really do take the time texts seriously: Revelation 20

1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.

2 And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,

3 and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished: after this he must be loosed for a little time.

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

5 The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection.

We remember above, though, that the HP takes this "thousand years" to be three years, at minimum, or around 60 years, at maximum. However, the HPist will reply that the word used for "millennium" indicates an indefinite period of time. But in Scripture, the word "thousand" either represents a literal one thousand years, or an unspecified, but very large, period of time. Never does the term "thousand" refer to 60 years (at best!). It frequently is used to represent a large quantity (Jehovah owns the cattle on a thousand hills, for example).

So, an hour can mean 10 years and a thousand years can mean 3 years. Are these people serious? This is Procrustean hermeneutics. You know, if the man won't fit on the bed then you "rack 'em" and stretch his arms and legs. If he's too big, you just lop of his arms and legs. Either way, you get 'em to fit one way or the other.

[T] All means All When We Want it Too, But Not When we Don't Want it Too. What Cha Gonna do About it?!: I remember when C. Jonathon Seraiah's book came out, "The End Of All Things" some hyper-Prterists responded that he left out the rest of that verse, which reads: " near" (I Pet. 4:7). They thought themselves witty. But, have the read:

Ezekiel 12:

21And the word of the LORD came to me: 22"Son of man, what is this proverb that you have about the land of Israel, saying, 'The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing'? 23Tell them therefore, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: I will put an end to this proverb, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel.' But say to them, The days are near, and the fulfillment of every vision. 24For there shall be no more any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel. 25For I am the LORD; I will speak the word that I will speak, and it will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, but in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it, declares the Lord GOD."

26And the word of the LORD came to me: 27"Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, 'The vision that he sees is for many days from now, and he prophesies of times far off.' 28Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: None of my words will be delayed any longer, but the word that I speak will be performed, declares the Lord GOD."

So, if we're going to be better Hyper-Preterists than the Hyper-Preterist we should conclude that the New Covenant, the coming of Christ, the end of all things, etc., happened within a generation of the Old Testament hearers! Oh, it must mean "all" when you want to refute Seraiah but not when you don't want to stick you foot in your mouth. This is arbitrary hermeneutics. Lastly, Hyper-Preterists tell us that what is going on in Ezekiel is what's called "Project Immanence." I find this funny because when orthodox Preterists speak of the "transition text" in Matthew 24, the HP remarks: "Yeah, I can just see the disciples saying, "Hey, did you just see the way Jesus transitioned in verse 36?" Likewise, can the HP just see the Israelite saying, “Wow, did you just see Ezekiel make use of 'Project Immanence?'"

Cults and the "We're Right and Everyone Else is Wrong" Attitude of Hyper-Preterism

[U] Cult-like Tendencies: Remember above (A) when we saw that the HP teaches that "some dudes on the internet figured out what no one else in the history of Christianity has?" We now come back and address that attitude.

I can remember when I first became acquainted with HPism. A pastor, some friends and I, went to one of their Bible study since I was a "prospect" for a possible "conversion." What stood out to me was the glassy-eyed and blank-faced look on everyone there. The group was made, mostly, up of people who did not attend church anymore because they had either been kicked out, or they left on their own accord. What's interesting is that one female in particular still attended church. She tried to fit in with Orthodox believers but would ask certain questions to get other church members to "think about things." Ultimately, she would invite them to the "Bible study" where a smooth talking salesman would critique this persons most cherished beliefs. This tactic is used, for example, in Mormon circles. Mormon girls will go and find non-Mormon boys. Ultimately the hope is that the boy will like the girl, or have his interest peeked, and then start attending Mormon Church services.

Furthermore, the majority of the members had all been involved in previous organizations which had been dubbed "cults" or "heretical movements." Apples don't fall far from the tree. One young man, in particular, was so enamored by his cult leader that he would attend his pervious church pastor's Bible studies and call the pastor out to debate him right then and there. He virtually had to be physically removed from the property, on pain of legal force.

Now, my purpose here is to link the number one thing that all cults which ape Christianity have in common. This should at least raise an eyebrow and hopefully cause pastors to be a bit leery if someone in their church is holding to HP teaching. For those pastors, I recommend cutting those people, after a plea for repentance, off the body. Paul says that their teaching is gangrenous. Do not let it sit while you and the elders "think about the best way to handle it." So, what is the number one thing that all cults which ape Christianity have in common? It is the claim that they alone have figured out the "true teaching" of the Bible and that the entire history of the church has been mislead or mistaken. What is needed is to look at things "their way" and see how everything "all makes sense." Typically, there is an over-emphasis on rationality. Cults prey on the teachings which may be "hard to understand" and then they give a humanly acceptable answer instead of trusting that "this to God will make clear to you." This is why cults attack doctrines such as the trinity, the deity of Christ, hell, and eschatology.

So, we can add to the list of those who have said the Church had it wrong, on some big issues. We have: Mormons, Jehovah's Witness, Moonies, Unitarian Universalists, Alamo Christian Foundation, Anthroposophical Society, Astara
Children of God, Christadelphianism, Christian Family Fellowship, Christian Identity Movement, Christian Science, Church of Armageddon, Divine Light Mission and HYPER PRETERISTS. It should make anyone cautious if an organization follows the key theme of all these other organizations, i.e., THE ENTIRE CHURCH HAD IT WRONG BUT WE GOT IT RIGHT!

The Book Of Revelation

[V] Antipas: Crucial to the HP system is the dating of the book of Revelation. Now, if it can be shown that Revelation has a late date then no worries for me. That is because, partial-preterism does not deny orthodox and essential teachings to hold to their position (e.g., redemption and resurrection problems). It is a bit much to place your hopes and dreams in a cultic, heretical movement whose system depends upon something as difficult as dating the book of Revelation. Here's one problem: Antipas is mentioned in the Book of Revelation as, "Antipas, my faithful witness, who was martyred among you, where Satan lives" Revelation 2:13. What's the problem? He was roasted to death in a bronze bull in 92 AD. So, if he was martyred among them then this would put the writing of Revelation in the 90's, where it has historically been put. So, we know an "Antipas" was martyred in the 90s and Revelation mentions an Antipas who was martyred. It certainly could be that there were more than one "Antipas'" running around getting martyred, but to hang your hopes and dreams in a heretical movement when this heresy hangs on a thread of a hotly debated book, is sheer foolishness.

[W] See Simon J. Kistemaker's Hyper-Preterism and Revelation, in When Shall These Things Be, ed. Mathison (P&R), pp. 215-254.

Philosophical Critiques (along with silly inferences of holding to HP)

[X] Some Things Hyper-Preterism Cannot Make Sense Of:

(1) Pain in childbirth. Genesis tells us that the increased pain in childbirth is due to the curse. Thus, Hyper-Preterists have secretly been behind the latest terrorist attacks on medical facilities, trying to deplete the supply of epidurals! This embarrassing fact causes people to laugh at HPs. HPs think it is a conspiracy by the Christian right. They seriously believe that women do not feel pain in child birth. So, let this be a warning to all you women who might marry a HP, i.e., you're delivery will not be a fun experience with your husband telling you to stop acting like there are curses not abolished by the redeemer!

(2) Conveniently, making sure you don't teach heresy is something done away with! Why? James 3:1 tells us that, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." But the judgment has already taken place! So, it's open season on teaching any distorted teaching that you wish. What basis is there to make sure you're a wise teacher, sound in doctrine?

(3) Someone can become a Christian and on the same day they can become and elder! Paul tells Timothy that and elder "must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil." But the judgment already happened and the devil is done away with. So, the reason for not having an elder be a recent convert is done away with. I guess we can say that the age of old elders was fulfilled in 70 AD.

(4) HPism allows elders to hit unbelievers over the head with baseball bats. Doubt me? Paul says that and elder "must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap." But there is no devil and no devil's trap. You see, the conclusion of having a good reputation with unbelievers is that the elder will not fall into the devil's trap. There are no more devil's traps, and so nothing to worry about, elders may now swing away with baseball bats at the heads of unbelievers.

(5) Women wear the pants in the HP family! What! Well, part of the curse in Genesis is that the husband "will rule over" the women. Since the curse is done away with then we'll have no more of this "submitting" business.

(6) News flash! HPs have flocked to nudist colonies. Why? Well, because of sin Adam and Eve had to cover their nakedness. Now that that has been done away with the HPs may remove their leaves and run around in the buff!

[Y] Hyper-Preterism, election, heaven and hell?: Many HPs consider themselves to be reformed soteriologically. That entails believing that God has ordained a particular number of people to everlasting life. The number is set, no more no less. So, it may be, 100,000 million, for all we know. The problem is that HPism teaches that the earth will remain forever and there will be people entering into the New Covenant for the "rest" of time. If so, there is not a specific number elected to eternal life but an infinite number.

Also, there will be an infinite amount of people in heaven and outside the city. Since the earth goes on forever, and people will forever be put into one of those places, then both places will have the same amount of people! This is like "Hotel Infinity:"

The Hotel Infinity is never full because it has infinitely many rooms. There is always room for any number of new guests. I think they use alternate dimensions in some way. One day, the Infinite Convention came to town, and they fit nicely into the Hotel Infinity, even though there were already guests staying there. Assume that there were already 100 guests, then the Infinite Convention moved into rooms 101, 102, 103, etc. No problem. Then one more person moved in. Again, no big problem, the management just asked the Infinite Convention to move into the next highest room (101 to 102, 102 to 103, etc.), and the new guest moved into the vacated room 101. Then Another Infinite Convention came to town. Was there room for them at the Hotel Infinity? Certainly. The management asked every guest to double their room number and move into that room (1 to 2, 2 to 4, 3 to 6, etc). That freed up infinitely many rooms for the Another Infinite Convention, who moved into the odd numbered rooms. I recommend the Hotel Infinity. I was able to stay there even though two conventions were in town simultaneously.

So, whichever persuasion you are, i.e., more people in hell than heaven, more people in heaven than hell, HPism says that both sides are wrong and there is actually an equal number at both places (however "both places" are defined, so as not to beg any questions).

[Z] The Transcendental Argument Against Hyper-Preterism: I'll reprint the argument here, then, after the original argument, I will briefly deal with the online "refutations" that have been put out against it:

Hyper-Preterism, as a doctrinal position, undermines itself. Hyper-Preterism cannot argue that their position is the true teaching of the Bible contrary to other eschatological systems, without destroying their position at the same time. This paper shall seek to show that Hyper-Preterism, as a contradictory view to other views, ends up opposing itself! The reason is because Hyper-Preterism cannot provide the transcendentals necessary for even asking if it is true. This argument will only be a brief version of the Transcendental Argument Against Hyper-Preterism (hereafter, TAAHP). Before I lay out the general argument of TAAHP we can start by briefly defining Transcendental Arguments (hereafter, TA) in general and also give a brief history and definition of HP. I shall begin with the former.

Transcendental arguments have a distinguished history. We can find them (in a rougher version) in the writings of Aristotle when he argued for the laws of logic. Elements of TA thinking can be found in Augustine when he argued that faith is the foundation for reason. TAs came to the forefront of philosophical argumentation with Immanuel Kant. Since Kant, they have been employed by philosophers as a way to answer the skeptic. These philosophers include Wittgenstein, Stroud, and P.F. Strawson. As Christians we can use transcendental argumentation to prove Christianity. Cornelius Van Til provided a valuable service to the Christian community when he took what philosophers like Kant did and put TAs into a Christian worldview. But what is a transcendental argument?

TAs prove something by arguing from the impossibility of the contrary. That is, they take an argument (or fact) and seek to find what must be presupposed in order to make the argument (or fact) intelligible (i.e., make sense). Proponents of TAs rightly recognize that arguments and facts are not brute. That is to say, facts are not uninterpreted. Any fact must be understood within a broader "philosophy of fact." Put differently, if I were to say that milk costs $2.35 I would be saying (or presupposing) many of things. For example: the reliability of my senses, the existence and reality of numbers and their relation to the world, the difference between milk and beer, causal ideas such as, milk comes from cows, then we could move into knowledge of animals, utters and such. Well, we can see that this can get pretty tricky so I will assume that the point has been made; i.e., beliefs are tied into other beliefs in order to make the asserted belief intelligible.

We can see that beliefs require other beliefs then. Now, if another belief conflicted with what was being asserted we would say that that persons system of beliefs rendered itself unintelligible. For example, let's go back to the milk. Now, if someone asserted that milk costs $2.35 at the local store but also held that his senses were unreliable, we could say that his belief that milk costs $2.35 was epistemologically unjustified. That is, he couldn't know it. We would say, as presuppositionalists, that his system of beliefs do not provide the pre-conditions for the intelligibility (or make sense of) the price of milk at the local store. Thus, we can see that TAs are broad in scope. That is, they take any piece of experience and seek to show what system of beliefs (or worldview) would need to be presupposed in order to make sense out of the particular experience in question. This, in a nutshell, is the transcendental program. Having said that, before we offer TAAHP let us briefly look at what HP claims.

Hyper-Preterism is the belief that all eschatological prophecy has been fulfilled. Though I have noticed that there is disagreement between them as to what counts as an eschatological prophecy we can sum up their position by stating the basic things HPs are in agreement on. Firstly, they believe that the second coming has already taken place. This second coming occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This idea is based of time texts in Scripture. For example, Mathew 24 states that "truly, I say to you; this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." (v. 34). And, I Peter 4:7 reads, "The end of all things is at hand." The HP will say that we must take these time texts (i.e., this generation, at hand, etc.,) seriously. They say "Don't you think that God knows how to tell time?"

Secondly, HPs agree that the resurrection has already taken place. The idea of a future physical resurrection has simply been misunderstood by the Church for the last two thousand years. Instead it is thought that

Whereas the Reformed position teaches a physical resurrection of saints, Preterists agree with Paul, that "it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (I Cor. 15:44; cf. John 3:6). Preterists believe that Jesus Christ was physically raised in His resurrection, but that we spiritually ride in Him as our "ark" of resurrection. The spiritual nature of the general resurrection is, probably, the main factor that precludes Preterism from being absorbed into any other denominational position, unlike partial Preterism, which is conformable to nearly all. Simply put, Preterist theology is a radical departure from other contemporary positions. (from "Introduction to Preterism by Todd Dennis," a hyper-preterist.)

Simply put, the resurrection is spiritual in nature, similar to our understanding of regeneration.

Thirdly, HPs believe that we are in the New Heavens and Earth (hereafter, NH and E) right now. Again, this is spiritual. Heavens and earth represent covenant relationship with God. The old covenant is called the old heavens and earth the new covenant is called the NH and E. They say that with the passing of the law and the old covenant we are now in the NH and E. That is, we are living in new covenant (as opposed to old covenant) times. Hyper-Preterist Don Preston writes:

What have we seen in this little tract? We have seen that heaven and earth had to pass away before the Old Law could pass away! We have defined "heaven and earth" as the Old Covenant world of Old Israel. We have seen that instead of predicting the destruction of physical heaven and earth the Bible predicted the passing of Old Israel's world in order for God to create the New World of his Son-the Kingdom of God-the church of the living God. We have seen that the Bible very clearly tells when ALL prophecy was to be fulfilled--when heaven and earth would pass--in 70 AD with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, the very heart and core of Israel's world. We have examined several objections and found them to be based upon false suppositions. We have seen that if the Old Covenant has been abrogated then ALL OF ITS PROPHECIES INCLUDING THE PREDICTIONS OF THE "END" MUST BE FULFILLED OR ABROGATED. IF THOSE PROPHECIES HAVE NOT BEEN FULFILLED THEN THE OLD COVENANT STILL STANDS! We have seen that the Old Law could not pass until it had fulfilled its purpose and that purpose included deliverance to the New Covenant--that was not fulfilled until all the New Covenant was revealed and confirmed. That simply did not happen at the Cross or Pentecost!

Now, in a sense we are in NH and E. What we want to ask is if we are in the NH and E of Revelation 21 and 22? We will return to that question later.

We can see briefly what HP believes and we will now look at the transcendental argument against it. Before I do, though, I would like to say some words about exegetical work being done to refute HP. Exegetical work is a valuable service and we have seen tremendous blows to the HP camp through various exegetical papers. I would like to think of this TA as Van Til thought of his in relation to Warfield and Machen. Van Til thought that he was firing the huge 50 ton cannons so that the ground soldiers (exegetes) could do their work. I would like to think of this TA as the nuclear bomb dropped on HP, while the exegetical work is the valuable "mopping-up" or clearing away of debris. After a nuclear bomb has been dropped the ground soldiers can freely move about and do their tasks.

I shall now offer the TAAHP. The crux of the argument goes like this: If we were in the NH and E we would not be debating doctrinal issues (e.g., baptism, Calvinism/Arminianism, eschatology, etc.,). Since we are debating doctrinal issues then, we therefore cannot be in the NH and E. I will use two lines of arguments to show this. The first is that we will reach the unity of the faith in the NH and E. The second is that in the NH and E there will be no liars there, and I will attempt to show that teaching/promoting false doctrine is to lie. The unity argument is weaker since not all HPs believe that we have reached that. Some do (e.g., the HP who has been e-mailing us) so we can apply it to them. The second refers to the NH and E which we saw that all HPs hold to. This will obviously be more devastating.

(1) Argument from the unity of the faith. We are told in Ephesians 4 that:

10He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,[1] 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[2] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We can see that we have pastors and teachers for the "building up of the body" and once this body (Church) is built up we will "no longer be carried about be every wind of doctrine." This can be put into a syllogism. (1) When we reach the unity of the faith we will no longer believe any false wind of doctrine. (If orthodox Christianity is false then it is A wind of doctrine. Likewise if HP is false it is “a” wind of doctrine.) (2) Someone believes a wind of doctrine (by the law of contradiction). (3) Therefore, we have not reached the unity of the faith. Commenting on Ephesians Calvin writes:

13. Till we all come. Paul had already said that by the ministry of men the church is regulated and governed, so as to attain the highest perfection. But his commendation of the ministry is now carried farther. The necessity for which he had pleaded is not confined to a single day, but continues to the end. Or, to speak more plainly, he reminds his readers that the use of the ministry is not temporal, like that of a school for children, (paidagwgi>a, Galatians 3:24,) but constant, so long as we remain in the world. Enthusiasts dream that the use of the ministry ceases as soon as we have been led to Christ. Proud men, who carry their desire of knowledge beyond what is proper, look down with contempt on the elementary instruction of childhood. But Paul maintains that we must persevere in this course till all our deficiencies are supplied; that we must make progress till death, under the teaching of Christ alone; and that we must not be ashamed to be the scholars of the church, to which Christ has committed our education. In the unity of the faith. But ought not the unity of the faith to reign among us from the very commencement? It does reign, I acknowledge, among the sons of God, but not so perfectly as to make them come together. Such is the weakness of our nature, that it is enough if every day brings some nearer to others, and all nearer to Christ. The expression, coming together, denotes that closest union to which we still aspire, and which we shall never reach, until this garment of the flesh, which is always accompanied by some remains of ignorance and weakness, shall have been laid aside. And of the knowledge of the Son of God. This clause appears to be added for the sake of explanation. It was the apostle's intention to explain what is the nature of true faith, and in what it consists; that is, when the Son of God is known. To the Son of God alone faith ought to look; on him it relies; in him it rests and terminates. If it proceed farther, it will disappear, and will no longer be faith, but a delusion. Let us remember, that true faith confines its view so entirely to Christ, that it neither knows, nor desires to know, anything else. Into a perfect man. This must be read in immediate connection with what goes before; as if he had said, "What is the highest perfection of Christians? How is that perfection attained?" Full manhood is found in Christ; for foolish men do not, in a proper manner, seek their perfection in Christ. It ought to be held as a fixed principle among us, that all that is out of Christ is hurtful and destructive. Whoever is a man in Christ, is, in every respect, a perfect man. The AGE of fullness means -- full or mature age. No mention is made of old age, for in the Christian progress no place for it is found. Whatever becomes old has a tendency to decay; but the vigor of this spiritual life is continually advancing.

We can ask when will we all come together with one voice and worship Jesus. In Revelation 22: 3 tells us that in the NH and E only believers will be there with nothing accursed, and they will ALL worship him. Now, two possible objections that have been put forth by HPs are that, "debating doctrinal issues does not divide the body." And, "Eph. 4 is only talking about one type of doctrinal dispute." The Bible militates against this. Firstly, in Ephesians 4 we are told that when we reach unity we will not be carried about by every wind of doctrine. You see, it is not just ONE type of doctrine, but ALL false doctrines. As far as the second objection goes, I Corinthians 1:10 states that: 10 I appeal to you, brothers,[1] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Notice how it states that there be "no divisions", and that "all of you agree." We can then counter this objection by a syllogism. (1) ALL debating divides the body (proven by I Cor. 1:10, thus, true). (2) We are debating (obvious, thus, true). (3) Therefore, the body is divided (sound argument). (Note: I take this approach because most HPs believe that we are in the same body, even though I do not. The point still stands.)

In light of this, we can ask if HP is true and we have reached the unity of the faith which happens in the NH and E (cf. Calvin and Rev.), then why are we debating about whether HP is true or not. Debating about whether HP is true or not presupposes that HP is not true. Thus, HP borrows from the orthodox worldview in order to argue against the orthodox worldview!

(2) Argument from the NH and E-no Liars there. In Revelation 21:8 we read: 8But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." And in Rev. 21:27 we read: and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the Lamb's book of life.

I will be arguing that teaching/promoting false doctrine is nothing short of lying. Since there will be no liars in the NH and E it couldn't be the case that there are contradictory doctrines floating around. Therefore, if we were in the NH and E no one would be teaching false doctrines (i.e., lying)! Stated another way, when the HP argues for the truth of his position over-against the truth of contradictory positions, he has presupposed that liars (i.e., teachers of false doctrine) can be in the NH and E. Now, of course the HP has rebuttals to this since they seek to preserve their suppression of the truth (cf. Rom 1). We will examine the rebuttals that have been given to me and we shall find them wanting.

Objection 1: "The definition of lie is to consciously tell a non-truth." This is true that this is ONE definition of lie, but it is not exhaustive. Furthermore, the Bible defines it differently. Psalms 58:3 states that, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.”

Now, how could an infant knowingly tell a non-truth? Also, Romans 3:4 states, "Let God be true though all men are liars." Does this mean that ALL men purposely tell non-truths? Doubtful. Rather it speaks of God as the ultimate authority and His word as the standard. If He is denied you can be called a liar.

Objection 2: "Teaching false doctrine is not lying." Oh really? Prov.30:6 states: 6Do not add to his words, lets he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

Now, since the Bible only teaches ONE truth anything that we teach that is not the one revealed truth is adding to what the Bible says. For example, if I am wrong about paedobaptism then when I teach or explain it I am adding to what the Bible teaches about baptism, thus I lie. Likewise, based on the law of non-contradiction, either HP or orthodox Christianity is lying. I John 2:4 teaches us that: The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. You see, antinomian teaching is called lying. Teaching a warped view of, "we are under grace not law" is to teach a lie! Furthermore, look at all the passages which call false prophets liars. These people taught false doctrines and were condemned as liars by Jehovah. Some verses are: Ez. 22:28, Jer 28:15, Jer 27:16. Therefore, we can see that the Bible plainly and authoritatively states that teaching/promoting false doctrine is lying. We saw in Rev. 21 that there will be no liars there, and that no one who maketh a lie will be there.

Objection 3: "This is talking about the Jews who denied Christ." This cannot be the case for it falls into serious reductio ad absurdems: Really, only the Jews? So you are saying that we can teach the most blatant heresies in the NH and E? If it is only the Jews, who denied Christ, then what about Prov. 30:6? Are you saying that those liars can be in the NH and E? Also, Revelation teaches that ALL liars will not be there. It does not say that only one kind of liar will not be there. Furthermore, if ALL liars in Rev. 21:8 does not mean ALL, then ALL the overcommers in Rev. 21:7 does not mean ALL. The HP cannot have it both ways. Even more devastating is this: if ALL liars does not mean ALL then neither does ALL apply to the murderers and idolaters. Therefore, since ALL means ALL in this passage then we can also include the group of liars who teach wrong doctrine about God and his word. Since we can do that then we can dismiss the HP before he even begins to utter a syllable. Because when he begins to argue he presupposes that liars can be in the NH and E (unless he says that only HPs are in the NH and E, which will be addressed below). We can multiply this list ad-nauseum.

objection 4: "There are no liars and craftily subtle conspirators against Christ in the kingdom. Though oftentimes members of that spiritual union conspire against other fellow-ministers while on earth." So we can lie to men but not to God? This is untrue, isn't it? If you remember, when David sinned he said that he had not sinned against man but rather God. Based on that how could someone not lie (teach false doctrine) to man and not to God?

Therefore, the HP has again assumed that we are not in the NH ans E in order to debate about being in the NH and E. Since I have shown that teaching/promoting false doctrine is lying, and since HPs and orthodox peoples debate contradictory positions it cannot be the case that we are in the NH and E! The TAAHP is a Kantian hammer-blow from which HP cannot recover. If orthodox Christianity were Bobby Fisher we would say, "checkmate!"

Now there are a couple of last objections to overcome. (1) HP could say that, "well, fine, then only HPs are in the NH and E." The problem with that is: not all HPs agree on everything. So which HP is in the city? Furthermore, since we are finite we cannot be sure that we are 100% correct on all our doctrine, so what HP could epistemologically justify his belief that he is in the NH and E. (2) The HP will say that I have committed a fallacy of arguing against a straw man. They will say that they do not believe that there are no liars in the NH and E but rather, there are no liars in the city (cf. Rev. 22:14-15). This is fine because all my criticisms can be applied to that way out as well; just replace NH and E with city. Moreover, you cannot prove, logically, that there are liars in the NH and E but not in the city based on a verse which says "outside [the city] are the liars." There are a lot of things "outside the city," for example the lake of fire is outside the city as well. This would be similar to saying that all X's are in California simply because I said that all X's are "outside" San Diego. "Outside" San Diego could be New York, or Africa. The point is that you cannot prove that there are liars in the NH and E but not in the city simply because Revelation tells us that the liars are outside the city.

The HP now can feel free to believe his heresy but he cannot argue in support of it. You see, if the HP decides to respond he proves my position. By responding the HP presupposes that his worldview is not true and orthodox Christianity is true! HP cannot provide the pre-conditions for debate about HP. It is not ironic that all non-Christian worldviews end up falling prey to I Corinthians 1:20, "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" I can now say of the HP what Dr. Greg Bahnsen said of Gordon Stein in their famous debate: "Dr. Stein, by coming to the debate you lost the debate!" Likewise, by debating, the HP assumes that there can be contradictory doctrines in the city, i.e., liars in the city. But(!) Revelation tells us that there cannot be. So the HP, who tries to be consistent with the Bible has to believe that we are not in the city (or, NH and E) in order to debate whether or not we are in the city (or, NH and E). Thus, HP fails as a competitor to orthodox Christianity!

Since the publication of the above argument, on an internet discussion board, there have been about five "refutations" put out against it. These were done almost immediately! It caused me to ponder, though, if, say, the first one had really "refuted" my argument, then why the need for four more of them? Well, one can trace the history of the "refutations" and see that I had commented that they didn't deal with certain aspects of my argument, and so new critiques had to be written. This was all ad hoc and I think a telling criticism against the HPs, in that they needed to protect the sheep they put out critiques on my paper almost immediately, thus showing that winning, not truth, is what's most important to the cultic group of Hyper-Preterists. I'll now briefly look at the critiques. I say briefly because I'm not sure that any of them really address my argument.

The first one was titled Refuting The Transcendental Argument Against Hyper-Preterism, by Michael Krall. Essentially, Krall argues that the New Heavens and Earth (NH and E, hereafter) is the new covenant. He argues that I have mistaken the NH and E for "heaven" (where believers go after they die). But this has zero bearing on my argument at all. That is because, whatever the NH and E is, it will be of such a nature that there will not be debating about revealed doctrinal issues. So, at best, without critiquing my argument, all Krall has done here is to try and show that we are in the NH and E. But the dilemma posed is that we wouldn't be debating then, so his argument presupposes the falsity of his argument. Put differently, he had much more to overcome if he was to do his job properly. I take it that this paper doesn't need a refutation, since it doesn't refute my argument. Krall just tried to show similarity between the New Covenant promises and some verses regarding the NH and E. The problem is, he never dealt with my dissimilarity. Krall does eventually catch on, and so he offers more "refutations." We'll now turn to those.

The second one is titled, More Refutations of Paul Manata's TAAHP Argument Regarding Liars in the New Heavens and Earth, by Mike Krall. He begins by stating, "In Paul Manata's Transcendental Argument Against HyperPreterism, he states over and over again that since all liars, and all means all no matter what, will in no wise enter the gates of the New Havens and New Earth (hereby NH and NE) that is proof that the NH and NE cannot be what we are living in how." The problem here is that I never argued that "all means all no matter what." Now, Krall summarizes his premise which he asserts disproves my position:

All false doctrine is a lie putting all those that preach it in lake of fire, so therefore they are outside the NC as well as the NH and NE. This takes away his argument against the NH and NE being the NC. Either that or false doctrine is not a lie and us “hyperpreterists” are Christians and in the NC. Then his argument fails there too for then there would be no liars in the NH and NE since false doctrine would not be a lie.

To put it even more simply since there is no false doctrine in the NH and NE there is also then none in the NC for Jeremiah said concerning the NC “they shall ALL know me from the least to the greatest.” Since that is the case, no false doctrine is in either the NH and NE or the NC then where is the argument against them being the same thing.

Note that my argument isn't that the NH and E isn't the NC (New Covenant) but my argument is that, whatever the NH and E is, there will not be lies taught there. Secondly, I tried to prove that teaching false doctrine is a lie, does Krall deal with my arguments, no! Basically, his argument is like this: We are in the NC, and there are people who teach false doctrine (lies) in the NC, so it can't be the case that there are none who teach false doctrine in the NC. And my argument is, essentially, if we were in the NH and E (whatever that is) then there would be none who teach false doctrine, there are some who teach false doctrine, therefore we are not in the NH and E. So, this "refutation" deals with none of my arguments but simply argues that I can't be correct because there are people teaching false doctrine, and so that means there are some, on my interpretation, that lie in the NH and E. My paper was not dealt with and so I simply deny the entirety of Krall's "refutation."

There will be "no liars" in the NH and E (as the text says). I have proven that teaching false doctrine is one way to lie. So, the HP must deny that "no liars" means "no liars" (i.e., all in the class of liars). So, all liars will be in the lake of fire has 4 possible interpretations:

1) All liars will be in the lake of fire.
2) No liars will be in the lake of fire.
3) Some liars will be in the lake of fire.
4) Some liars will not be in the lake of fire.

Never mind that John repeatedly uses universal language in referring to the liars (repetitive universal language is an indicator that the writer is speaking universally), but it appears that the HP would have to translate the verse which tells us all liars will be in the lake of fire as either (3) or (4). So, either way, in the NH and E, WHEREIN RIGHTEOUSNESS DWELLS, we will have some liars. Now, we also read that there will be no murderers; does this mean some murderers will be in the place WHEREIN RIGHTEOUSNESS DWELLS? What about adulterers? Only some of them will be in the lake of fire? What about in Revelation 21:7, where we read that all the over comers will be in the NH and E? Does this mean all? So, that means all but the liars don't mean all and the murderers do mean all, etc! Again, this "refutation" fails since it fails to deal with my many arguments.

Thirdly, there is the Shoehorn Theology of Paul Manata. I do not take this to be a refutation and I am fine with people reading it. Krall argues, in one place, that we have been definitively sanctified. He acts as if my denial of this is problematic for me. If Krall wants to think that he never sins (which he must, otherwise he doth not understand definitive sanctification) then all I need to say is, "Open your mouth louder so that people can hear the implications of Hyper-Preterism." He also comments on my claim that Isaiah 65 is not the NH and E of Revelation 21. He wonders, what else could it be? is there a third NH and E? Well, the main difference is that in the Isa. 65 NH and E we have people dying, in the Rev. NH and E, we do not. We are told that there will be no more death! Krall notes that in Isa. 65 it cannot be the "eternal state" because people die. But he tries to locate this NH and E with the Revelation NH and E, where it says there will be no more death. Krall, as with other HPs, take this to mean spiritual death. But in Isaiah 65 Krall comments on vs. 20

"There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed."

Asking, "Now that does not sound like the eternal state where there is no more physical death does it?" So, in Isaiah the death spoken of there is physical, but in the Revelation NH and E Krall interprets that death as only spiritual. All can plainly see that this is selective eisogesis, and a bit of shoehorn theologizing.

Laslty, H.L. James "refutes" The Hole In Paul Manata's Donut. The first think to point out is the immoral nature of James' article. James tries to show that he can refute me by using the "indiscernibly of identicals" argument. James writes:

"In general, if "two" things are identical, then whatever is true of the one is true of the other, since in reality only one thing is being discussed. However, if something is true of the one which is not true of the other, then they are two things and not one.

The technical term for this is sometimes know as the "indescernibility (sic) of identicals." The mathematical equation to express this notion is as follows:

(x) (y) [(x=y) ---> (P) (Px <---> Py)]

The above equation simply states that for any entities x and y, if x and y are really the same thing, then for any property P, P is true of x if and only if P is true of y."

I thought this looked familiar. The above is a word for word plagerization of J.P. Moreland's argument against the mind/brain identity thesis found in Scaling The Secular City, p. 83 (Baker, 1987)! James does not credit Moreland and thus tries to pass himself off as a brilliant philosopher, taking credit. At best, James could have re-worded it, this way it wouldn't have looked so pathetic.

Next, James says that "What Paul Manata didn't know, is that by using the verse in Revelation 22:15 as his premise..." The problem here is that nowhere in my paper did I use Revelation 22:15! The bigger problem is that James uses this as his main weapon to defeat me by saying, "he was implicitly agreeing to verse 12, a verse who's (sic) "pastness" would ultimately make his argument a logical impossibility and thereby cause it to fail." So, James' entire article is predicated on a verse I never used!

James presses on not dealing with the verses I used, arguing that since in v. 12 Jesus said that He was coming quickly that means that I must accept that Revelation 22:15 had to have happened quickly also. Well, one can assert this if one wishes. It is not necessary that if I said I was coming quickly that other things would also have to happen quickly.

James' argument using the indiscernability of identicals argues that since I said that Christ came in judgment in 70 AD (from Rev. 22:12) then I was also saying that we were in the NH and E right now because in Revelation 20 we read that the judgment there had similar propositions to the judgment in Revelation 22, namely

1)"And the dead were judged according to their works,"
2)"And they were judged, each one according to his works"

But in Revelation 22:12 we read: "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work." And in Revelation 20:12 we read: "And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books." So, at this point James uses Leibniz's law to show how the one must have been the other. But we can see that in Revelation 22 we find no mention of the dead, great and small being judged. So, James had to import this into Revelation 22 in order to make his indiscernability of identicals argument stick. All he has done, in my eyes, is to use the HP system of "concordance exegesis" to refute me. That is, HPs constantly take passages which have some similar language to other passages and then import other concepts into both passages simply because they are in the one! Ken Gentry writes on this phenomenon:

Fourth, hyper-preterism suffers from serious errors in its hermeneutical methodology. When a contextually defined passage applies to the A.D. 70 event, the hyper-preterist will take all passages with similar language and apply them to A.D. 70, as well. But similarity does not imply identity; Christ cleansed the temple twice and in virtually identical ways; but the two events are not the same. Furthermore, we must distinguish sense and referent; there are several types of "resurrection" in Scripture: the dry bones of Ez. 37; spiritual redemption in John 5:24; physical redemption at the grave in John 5:28; Israel’s renewal in Christ in Rom. 11:15; and of the Beast in Rev. 13:3. I hold that passages specifically delimiting the time-frame by temporal indicators (such as "this generation," "shortly," "at hand," "near," and similar wording) are to be applied to A.D. 70, but similar-sounding passages may or may not be so applied.[21]

So, technically, James' argument works against him because there is at least one property (the property of all the dead great and small) being judged in the one, and not in the other, thus proving that they are not identical! Will James recant? All James has done is to assume his position, i.e., that judgment is referring to the last and final judgment. I obviously deny this premise and so James' paper is one giant petitio principii.

Lastly, none, zero, nada, zilch, zip, keine, nichts, of the "refutations" deal with my argument from the unity of the faith (Eph. 4 and I Cor. 1). How a cult puts out 5 refutations and doesn't even deal with one of the major arguments from my paper is beyond me. The closest remark was from some HPs on discussion boards which conflate the unity of the spirit (Eph. 3) with the unity of the faith (Eph. 4). One was a present reality, the other was not.

[1] Some Hyper-Preterists object to this term since they say it is disrespectful and causes Hyper-Prterists to get upset and is, therefore, not conducive to rational debate. One wonders, though, if Hymanaeus wrote Paul a letter and asked Paul if Paul would not call his teachings gangrenous since that was disrespectful and not conducive to rational debate? One wonders, did the teachers of the law ask Jesus not to call them dogs and son's of the devil since that is not conducive to rational debate. However, Hyper-Preterists respond that I am arrogant for comparing my use of "disrespectful" language to Jesus' and Paul's. But, this is actually arrogant for the Hyper-Preterist to say! The reason is that they presume that we should try and be more holy than Jesus was (or Paul!). I am reminded by Dr. Kenneth Gentry's remark on the Rich Agazino show. Dr. Gentry was on the show discussing his book, "God Gave Wine when a caller said that we shouldn't drink. Gentry pointed out that Jesus drank. The caller said that Jesus was different. Gentry replied in his Southern accent that, "we shouldn't try to be more holy than Jesus."

[2] Now Hyper-Preterists, like H.L. James for instance, will not like this since they say that I "create a side argument" by implying that the Hyper-Preterist believes X when their position is that the Hyper-Preterist says Jesus says X (James, "The Hole In Paul Manata's Donut," p.1). Obviously this is the case. It does not take a member of Mensa to understand that the Hyper-Prterist obviously thinks his position is Biblical. But, it's really no different since the Hyper-Preterist still believes Jesus taught X. Obviously "believing X" does not make X true. So I don't think it creates a side argument to say the Hyper-Prterist says X since it is assumed that they are trying to be intellectually respectable and so would hold the position that their "beliefs" are biblical. However, it must be noted that Jehovah's wittnesses hold the positon that, say, "Jehovah says," not merely "The Watchtower says."

[3] By "biblical Christianity" I obviously mean those doctrines which accord with the teaching of holy writ.

[4] I obviously believe the Apostles held to the beliefs I do, but I don't wish to beg the question.

[5] Chuck Hill in, "When Shall These Things Be?" edited by Mathison, P&R, p.65.

[6] Ibid, p.66. Hill also points out, among other things, to those who wish to argue that Clement was writting before the 70's, that Clement called the Corinthian Church, "ancient" (Ibid. pp. 66-67).

[7] Ibid. p. 67. These men, family of one of the authors of a New Testament letter, viewd the return of Christ and the coming judgement, as future. I guess the man who wrote that we are to "contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints" couldn't even keep his own Grandchildren in line!

[8] Ibid. p.70

[9] Ibid. p.73

[10] Ibid. P.74

[11] The "Apostles Creed" dates from within 50 years of the last New Testament document.

[12] See Hill, "When Shall These Things Be" for sources and refutations of the differing positions advanced above, pp.92-113. One can just imagine Zoker saying, "I remember my Grandfather, Jude, teaching me about a future judgement." Can one imagine a response that could have gone like this: "No, you twit! He didn't tell you that. You've been Hellenized!"

[13] King, "The Cross and the Parousia of Christ: The Two Dimensions of One Age Changing Eschaton," 1987.

[14] Stevens, "Questions About The Afterlife," p. 31.


[16] Ibid.

[17] As noted above, not all HPs understand the resurrection in the same way. For my purposes I'll take what seems to be the dominant viewpoint.

[18] A concern I have is that, logically, HPs will teach that Jesus needed regeneration. This is because the close tie between His resurrection and ours.

[19] Excerpt from Dee Dee Warren's article "Grave Error," available:



-Paul Manata