Green’s Response to Mathison
With an Exchange on “If Futurism is True, Then Preterism Is A Damnable Doctrine”
By David A. Green
Thank you for forwarding me your brief comments on Preterism and the Ecumenical Creeds. Thank you also for your willingness to interact on this issue. Forgive me that in this brief response I repeat some of the arguments that were in my article; I do so only because, to my understanding, the arguments have not yet been sufficiently addressed by any of the creedalists.
As I understand what you wrote, the creedalists’ (and your) position essentially is this:
Because preterism changes a teaching of the historic Church regarding an essential, non-negotiable doctrine (the Resurrection), preterism must necessarily be a damnable lie.
I do agree that preterism changes a teaching of the historic Church regarding an essential, non-negotiable doctrine, but I do not agree with the necessity of the conclusion, that preterism must be an error. Here’s why:
An error about an essential, non-negotiable doctrine may be damnable, but such an error is not necessarily damnable. Some errors regarding the Resurrection are not, in themselves, damnable (for example, “Rapture Fever,” date-setting, etc.)
But in using that argument I am not saying that preterism “can be considered a non-damnable error.” (Indeed, if consistent futurism is true then preterism is damnable. —II Tim. 2:16-18) Instead, I am saying that futurism can possibly be a non-damnable error. (For if preterism is true, that does not mean that futurism is necessarily damnable.)
Since not all errors that touch upon the Resurrection are inescapably damnable, and since non-damnable errors can exist in the historic Church and in her Creeds, as we agree, and since (more importantly) the grammatical-historical exegesis of Scripture is offering strong support for preterism, then futurism could possibly be a non-fatal, historic Church error.
Ergo, preterism could be true, and the only way to determine if it is, is by “the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture” (WC of F, Chapter I, Section X).
At what point do you perceive the above reasoning to fail?
…then on what grounds could we say that denials of the Trinity or the deity of Christ are more than non-damnable errors?
Andrew Sandlin has asked a similar question:
“If we can jettison this aspect of Christianity [the physical Parousia/Resurrection], why not jettison the doctrine of the Trinity, or of Christ’s death for our sins?” (Andrew Sandlin, A Statement from Chalcedon on Walt Hibbard’s Position Concerning “Full” Preterism)
I have a similar question for the creedalists:
How do we know that Christ shed His blood for us, and that it is essential for our salvation that we trust in His blood for remission, justification, redemption and life? (Note: The blood of Christ is not mentioned in the Ecumenical Creeds; it is only mentioned in Scripture —Jn. 6:53; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:22: “…without shedding of blood is no remission.”).
When the creedalists answer that question, then perhaps they will be more receptive to the preterists’ scriptural answer to Andrew Sandlin’s question.
By the way, the Deity of Christ is also authoritatively taught, implicitly and explicitly, throughout the Scriptures (as you know). If you have time you may want to see my article on the overwhelming Scriptural testimony concerning the Deity of Christ.
The exegetical case for futurism however, is weak …at best. The creedalists demonstrate that this is so by their refusal (inability) to disprove preterism with the Scriptures.
…Mr. Green writes, “The basis upon which the creedalists have categorically rejected preterism (and preterists) is arbitrary: The creedalists unauthoritatively assert that God would not allow His Church to make a serious, non-damnable creedal error. Then from that assertion, they unauthoritatively pronounce preterism a damnable heresy.” This is an inaccurate statement as should be evident from the previous statements.
The creedalists presuppose that the Creeds absolutely cannot contain a serious, non-damnable error. Is that not one of the creedalists’ presuppositions? If it is, the creedalists have no biblical support for that belief. Yet, it is upon that baseless supposition that they condemn us.
I would obviously disagree with Mr. Green’s assertion that the only way the debate will ever be resolved is through Scriptural exegesis and reasoning.
Thank you again for writing me, Keith Mathison.
In your main paper you write, “We are not free to refute or nullify any of the cardinal elements of the Christian Faith.” But in your most recent response [to Keith Mathison] you wrote, “I do agree that preterism changes a teaching of the historic Church regarding an essential, non-negotiable doctrine…”
What exactly do you perceive as the difference between a “cardinal element of the Christian faith” (which you say we cannot reject) and an “essential, non-negotiable doctrine” (which you say preterists have rejected)?
I was making a distinction between a cardinal element of the Faith, and a teaching of the Church about a cardinal element of the Faith.
The Church is inescapably in possession of the non-negotiable, cardinal elements of the Faith; but it is possible that the historic Church may, for a time, teach non-fatal errors about some of those cardinal elements.
Preterists acknowledge that the Parousia and the Resurrection are definitely non-negotiable, cardinal elements, but preterists are proposing that futurism is a non-fatal, historic Church-error that has been taught about those cardinal elements.
Since it is possible that the Church can teach non-damnable error, and since the preterists are saying that futurism is a non-damnable error, the Church is drawn to go to the Scriptures to prove or disprove the preterists’ charge against futurism.
An Exchange With ‘Anonymous’ Regarding My Statement That:
If Futurism is True, Then Preterism Is A Damnable Doctrine
ANONYMOUS: I want everyone to know that you were forced to concede a MAJOR point to Keith Mathison. In your article Preterism and the Ecumenical Creeds, you originally said:
“If futurism is true, then [full] preterism is possibly a damnable doctrine.” Emphasis added.
Keith Mathison caught you red-handed on that watered-down statement and you had to back pedal frantically and admit a humiliating and crushing defeat for all of preterdom! You were deeply humiliated into recanting, my friend. 😉 I quote for all the world to see:
“Keith Mathison was correct on this point: If futurism is true, then preterism is definitely (not ‘possibly,’ as I said) a damnable doctrine.”
Here is the web page for everyone to see your shame and nakedness:
Mathison ground you into oblivion! He brought you to the dust! He forced you to admit what no other preterist has the guts to admit: That this is NOT merely an “in-house” issue but one of two separate houses! By your own words, preterism and futurism are two radically separate faiths. By your own words, one is the truth and the other is “a damnable doctrine.”
And guess what? Preterists are at variance with the message that the Church has preached throughout history. And since the historic message that the Church has preached throughout history ABSOLUTELY CANNOT be the damnable doctrine, guess where that irresistibly puts preterism? OUTSIDE the true faith, and in the garbage heap of damnable doctrines! By your own words, preterists are damned. Case closed! Thank you for thoroughly obliterating preterism for us, Dave! With enemies like you, who needs friends! LOL!!!!!
MY RESPONSE: Thank you for your thoughts. I’m glad that you’ve gotten so much enjoyment from my exchange with Keith Mathison. With your indulgence, I would like to clarify two points.
I think that you and Keith Mathison and I all agree that according to II Tim. 2:17,18, IF futurism is true and the Resurrection has not yet happened since the time that Paul wrote II Tim. 2:17,18, then preterism is indeed — in the words of II Tim. 2:17,18 — “ungodliness,” “gangrene,” a deviation from the Truth, and a Faith-overthrowing doctrine. If the Resurrection of II Tim. 2:17,18 has still not yet happened, then preterists are certainly heretics.
I think most or all preterists not only have the “guts” to admit this, but do admit it. This is not a new revelation among preterists.
More importantly though, you have missed or ignored the other half of the argument, which is the key point:
If preterism is true, then historic, traditional futurism is not a damnable doctrine. If preterism is true, then the historic, futurist Church still preaches the true Gospel. The error of the futurist Church is not that it has rejected the Gospel. Its error is that it has failed to connect all the right Bible verses to the Gospel that she truly, authoritatively and effectively preaches. As a result of its exegetical displacement, the Church has appended an extra-biblical scheme of future events onto her true Gospel-message. This is not a fatal mistake.
From the preterist perspective, traditional futurism is a significant error to be sure. It has ultimate implications which, by the grace of God, the Church soundly rejects, but futurism is by no means a damnable error.
If futurism is true, then we are two separate houses and two separate faiths — but not because of any theological necessity, but only because of II Tim. 2:17,18 in a vacuum. This is the exegetical weakness of the case of those who anathematize all preterists. Thus Keith Mathison’s position:
“I would obviously disagree with Mr. Green’s assertion that the only way the debate will ever be resolved is through Scriptural exegesis and reasoning.”
In contrast, if preterism is true, then we are one House and one Faith, even though futurism errs.
What do YOU think ?
Submit Your Comments For Posting Here
Comment Box Disabled For Security
Date: 14 Jun 2006
This is a great article. Those who are creedalists should read Jack Rogers, “Guide to the Book of Confessions.” On pages 22-25, he reminds us that the P.C.A. has always maintained a balance between individual freedom of conscience and the “Essential” beliefs. He says that the “Book of Order of the P.C.A. lists ten beliefs as essential: Trinity, Incarnation, Justification, Scripture, Sovereignty, Election, Covenant, Stewardship, Sin, and Obedience. A belief in the second coming as future is nowhere stated as being an essential.