Friday, July 8, 2011

Geisler vs Preterism, Part 2

Geisler discusses four objections to premillenialism that he considers worthy of some discussion, but only two (the third and fourth) touch on anything I might say. So we'll skip the first two.

Objection Three: Premillennialists are not Consistent It is objected that even the premill view takes some prophetic passages symbolically and figuratively, such as the seven “stars” (angels),“lamp stands” (churches), and “beasts” (world powers) in the book of Revelation. If so, why should not “a thousand years” be symbolic of a long period of time and “144,000” from the “twelve tribes of Israel” (Rev. 7, 14) be symbolic of the Church, and so on.

This is indeed a point similar to one I would make: Really, preterism and dispensationalism both recognize some level of metaphor in the text; but the dispy view takes more literally than the preterist view. Geisler offers six responses.

First, figures of speech are not contrary to a literal interpretation since even they are based in a literal meaning. For example, just because there is a “key” (a symbol of secure containment) to the bottomless pit where the Devil is consigned for a thousand years does not mean there is no real Devil.

I agree. But I know of no one who is saying there was no real devil, so I have no idea what specific application Geisler is trying to make here.

Second, the Book of Revelation identifies many things as symbols, but it gives their literal meaning (cf. Rev. 1:20).

Also agreed. So again, what point is being attempted here? This is not a rebuttal in any sense to arguments concerning to what level symbols are symbols, and literal things are literal things.

Third, all these symbols represent literal people, things, and events. Fourth, the worlds “tribe” and “resurrection are never used figuratively in the Bible. Even symbols have a literal meaning (Rev. 1:20).

Agreed and agreed. And none of this (again) rebuts and preterist point, save that heretical hyperpreterists reinterpret "resurrection".

Fifth, the rule of thumb still stands: “If the literal sense makes good sense, then seek no other sense lest it result in nonsense.”

Actually, this "rule of thumb" -- Geisler's first real "argument" here -- is heavily biased towards a Western and modern literary view. Biblical peoples, as we have noted, had a much more "dramatic" orientation in their language, and that means we'd best be a lot more cautious before assuming that a "literal sense" actually makes "good sense." Beyond that I can say nothing without specifics.

Finally, amillennial interpretations are inconsistent for in the same passage (Rev. 20) they take one “resurrection” literally and the other one spiritually.

The inconsistency is merely on the surface. See on that point the link below.

Objection Four: The Prophecies about Israel are fulfilled spiritually by the Church. According to this “replacement theology,” Israel was disobedient and lost the conditional promises God made to them. Thus, God replaced Israel with a new “spiritual Israel” (Gal. 6:16) known as the Church who fulfill the “new covenant” made with Israel (Jer. 31 cf. Heb. 8).

My view is slightly different. Mine is not a "replacement" theology, but a grafting-in theology. Israel always has been defined as those loyal to YHWH, according to Romans 11. Today that can be anyone -- whether they are descended from Jacob or not.

Geisler responds to the above objection, but it is of none effect against a point I made Wednesday: The Deuteronomic covenant requires Israel to be on the lookout for a prophet like Moses. That's Jesus, as Geisler and I would both agree. And that means as long as an adherent to the Deuteronomic covenant isn't listening to Jesus, they're in disobedience -- continually. So there's no way they can be granted the blessings of Deuteronomy -- and in turn, the only possible fulfillment now existent can be that in which Jesus reigns over his Body, those who are now loyal to YHWH. That doesn't mean we get the Holy Land, of course; that's not in the new covenant.

In conclusion: Geisler sides with those who call premilleniallism a "fundamental." He concludes by threatening a slide down a slippery slope, but as I have said in an E-Block article to John Walvoord, who made the same kind of threat:

The main point here is Walvoord’s appeal to a “slippery slope” which he apparently felt would cause us to cascade down the whirlpool of misinterpretation. In a sense he was correct, though: Once the door of possibility opens, it does open more. But that begs the question of whether the slope is one we ought to be going down in the first place. Walvoord looks into the maelstrom and sees darkness and death; we see paradise and Pellucidar. I see Walvoord warning us that we should not understand the Bible as people in its day would understand it – though he would not have seen it that way, but rather as taking us away from a proper hermeneutic – that happened to match with modern perceptions as opposed to ancient ones.

In the end, the “slippery slope” warning is little more than an attempt to coerce by way of threat that something held dear will be lost. And it is true that some Christians hang on to the modern hermeneutic, kicking and screaming, lest they lose other parts of it as well. On the other hand, much thankful feedback has come my way from persons who saw the dropping of the hyper-literalist hermeneutic as a burden from which they were gladly relieved. And I daresay those reflections were from persons I’d regard as more mature on their faith.

Geisler calls premillennialism "a safeguard against liberalism," but as far as I can see, it's mainly a safeguard against being exposed to new ideas that threaten the status quo.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your many articles on preterism. I was raised and trained as a premillenialist and always went along because my teachers were experts and a "lot smarter" than I am. I first discovered partial preterism through your web-site and the light bulbs began going off. For the first time the New Testament began to fall into place. This led to a wonderful journey of research and study in which the prophecies of Scripture came alive to me in a way they never had before. Thank you so much for your efforts and your ministry.