Monday, July 11, 2011

Geisler vs. Preterism, Part 3

We next have a look at Geisler's review of Hanegraaff's Apocalypse Code (AC). Again, since I have not read AC, my comments will be limited to what affects my own views directly -- which turns out not to be much.

After outlining some points of agreement with AC, Geisler outlines what he perceives to be "logical fallacies" in AC. Most of these can't be adequately judged without reading AC itself, but I find some hard to swallow even as phrased. For example, Hanegraaff is accused of committing the "straw man fallacy" by using what is said to be extreme views in LaHaye's works to dismiss all premillennial views. However, Geisler does not quote anything in AC to indicate that this is what is being done, and indeed says that it is only an "implication" he gets from the text. In the same way, the fallacy of "guilt by association" is charged, but no quote is offered to show what is claimed, and again it is only said to be found "implicitly".

Quite frankly, this sort of mind-reading has no place in any serious critique. It is tempting to ask (imply) if Geisler is simply so out of his element here that he feels the need to impress readers with a listing of logical fallacies -- the sort of tactic I have seen atheists use frequently.

Yes, I just did to Geisler what Geisler did to Hanegraaff. I'll leave it at that.

It takes a while for Geisler to get past his list of reputed (or implied) fallacies in AC, and there's little to nothing to evaluate in terms of actual argument against a preterist view in general. Some points about the land promise, which we discussed in a prior entry, are used here as well, but there's still nothing that reverses my observations concerning the inevitable and continuing disobedience of any person who signs on to the OT covenant but ignores Jesus as the predicted prophet like Moses. Other points, like a first and second resurrection in Revelation, we have noted earlier as well.

I can gather from some of Geisler's comments what some of Hanegraff's arguments are (or at least, what he THINKS they are), and they don't seem to reflect any I would use; for example, it would be of no relevance to me that the "loss" of ten tribes means that the dispensational promises can't be fulfilled; the "loss" of those tribes isn't a certainty at all (link below).

One point of notice for me is where Geisler asks

Also, how can a thousand years represent eternity. The thousand years have a beginning and an end.

I don't know if AC says that the thousand years is "eternity" -- but I don't. I say it is a long, unspecified time of length unknown to humans.

After all this, we finally get to some arguments on various topics, and I'll comment according to topic if I find anything that connects with my views. In some cases I have no comment as I would not use the same arguments as AC.

The Use of Words Like “Shortly” and “Quickly” -- Geisler finds preterists inconsistent on this point:

Yet, by the same token passages about the resurrection and second coming (which partial preterists admit is yet future) are relevant. Indeed, they are used to comfort and exhort believers in the present (cf. 1 Thes. 4:18; 2 Pet. 3:11).

That's true, but irrelevant: For an agonistic person, as with Jesus, resurrection would be a significant vindication of personal honor, in contrast to also-then-present sufferings and judgments by the world; it would therefore not matter in the least how far in the future that resurrection would occur, for it would still be a comfort to believers.

It is also added:

Further, if terms like “soon” mean in the near future, then the resurrection and second coming must also have been before AD 70 since Revelation speaks of both of these events as part of the revelation that would be fulfilled “quickly” (1:1,3: 22:6-12, 20).

Well, no, not really. These are quotes from the open and close of the book, and the promise of resurrection of all men is divided from the rest of the chronology with the thousand-year block. So that divorces it from the "quicklies" in Chs. 1 and 22. However, just in case, Geisler adds that "quickly" in Greek can also mean "speedily" -- with which we do agree. However, for my part, the time text that tells the story is in Matthew 24, not in Revelation, and we'll get to that shortly.

The Use of “This Generation” -- Yes, this one I do use, and Geisler doesn't offer a lot to convince me he's got a solution. It is rightly noted that "this generation" used by Jesus always refers to Jesus’ contemporaries. Geisler's retort that this "begs the question by assuming references given in a prophetic context must be understood like all the other ones which are not" is actually itself a rather shameless effort at special pleading, and itself a begged question that "prophetic context" in some way changes the meaning of "this generation" in a way that conveniently accords with his point of view. Geisler also hauls out the standard idea that the word "generation" can also mean "race," but this too amounts to special pleading in light of the other usages, and Geisler's bare citation of a single lexicon entry is not sufficient scholarly evidence upon which to draw a conclusion. (See also critique by DeMar linked below.)

The Alleged Early Date for John’s Writings -- Geisler notes the equation of 666 with Nero, but rather than answer this, offers a wide variety of wild speculations about what else it could mean. However, in not one case does he offer any serious argument for why any of his alternatives fit the data better than Nero, and to the extent that he also offers candidates he would obviously never agree with (e.g., the Pope's name in Latin!) it is clear that Geisler's intention here is merely to cloud the waters, not actually analyze Nero as a candidate and determine his fitness.

Geisler further provides a very brief argument for dating Revelation early, but it is not overcome by our own analysis (link below). He further dismisses the preterist reading by assuming literalist and fundamentalist exegesis for predictions of such things as the rivers drying up (Rev. 8:10). Here it is clear that Geisler has not studied preterism to any serious depth, for otherwise he would know that it requires no literal drying up of rivers to be fulfilled; rather, within the genre of Revelation as an apocalypse, this is symbolic language, most likely representing the destruction of commerce and sustenance, which for ancient peoples was what a river was all about. Geisler does not deal with these genre considerations at all; he simply dismisses them as a "resort" (and later "spiritualizing") to avoid a literal meaning. But whether a literal meaning is required is the very point at issue, and until Geisler comes to grips with both the genre of apocalypse AND the dramatic orientation of speakers and writers in agonistic societies, his own "resort" to literalism is merely a case of spinning his exegetical wheels.

Spiritualizing --A good example of Geisler's failure to come to grips with this reality is found here, on a point with which I agree with AC, based on the description:

For example, the mark of the Beast on their forehead is said to be symbolic of identity with. But if it was not an observable mark, then how could it be recognized for identity in marketing?

Well, that's really rather simple: In the agonistic and collectivist world of the NT, there was no privacy, and plenty of what we'd call gossip: A Christian who behaved as he ought to have would stand out like a sore thumb in that pagan setting, and word of that would spread to everyone in town. So there's your recognition. Geisler is unwittingly anachronizing modern ideas of privacy into the text.

Genre analysis also fails Gesier when he says:

The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 a said to be “figurative” (130) witnesses to the Antichrist. The Code calls them “literary characters” forming “composite image” of the Law and the Prophets(131). Yet The Code urges us to interpret the New Testament in the light of its Old Testament background. But there two literal witnesses (Moses and Aaron) brought down literal plagues on the Antichrist of their day (Pharaoh).

True, but Exodus is in the genre of historical narrative, while Revelation is -- again -- an apocalypse. The two witnesses of Revelation may well hearken to Moses and Aaron; more likely I think is that they mean a "sure" testimony to the truth, based on the legal stricture that what is said by two witnesses is true. Whatever the case, genre tells us a message Geisler apparently does not hear.

Tribulation -- Geisler doesn't even deal with any arguments for the 7 year period as fulfilled in the Jewish war of 67-73; that is merely dismissed once again based on the assumption of literalism being the only option.

There's nothing of note in the rest, or nothing new, or applicable specifically to anything I've written. Geisler closes:

It is sad that a man who has fought so hard for so long against cults and aberrant teachings has himself succumbed to a method of interpreting the Bible that is not significantly different from those used by the cults which he so vigorously opposes.

Well, then, let me put in my two cents: it is sad that a man who has fought so hard for so long against cults and aberrant teachings has himself advocated a method of interpreting the Bible that is misinformed, decontextualized, and enslaves us to Western and modern presuppositons, in ways that are not significantly different from those used by snake handlers, King James Onlyists, and other fringe groups.

I'm being somewhat facetious. But as I said in an E-Block article on a related subject:


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.

This is an ideological battle, however, and we cannot afford to lose it. A church body that will not move off immaturity will not be equipped to equip, much less convert, an entire world.

Lost Tribes

Demar critique
Date of Revelation

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