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To: Larry Hall, Sword of the Spirit Apologetics
Re: Are Preterists Saved?
Greetings to you in the name of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. I received the recent issue of Sword of the Spirit Apologetics on “The ‘Preterist’ Heresy” and thought I might offer a few comments. It has been just over a year now since the events that led to my resignation from Central Baptist Church (now New Covenant Baptist Church) and I have had a good deal of time to reflect over the issues and attitudes of that whole episode.
Let me start by saying, for what it’s worth, that in the year I have had to step back, reflect on and study the issue, I am more convinced than ever that the preterist position is "orthodox" if the Scriptures are the measure of "orthodoxy" rather than the creeds or church history. Further, I can say with total honesty, that my current understanding of eschatology has magnified the glory of Jesus Christ a hundred times over!
But more than that, I am convinced that no one’s eschatology will stand in the way of hindering me from loving them as a fellow child of God, begotten of the Father (1 John 5:1). I will dispense love to other Christians, not because we are in agreement on eschatology (or some other doctrines that could be named), but because they are loved by my heavenly Father.
Now, where do I begin in addressing your article? It’s difficult to say the least. We are teaching our daughters the skills of critical thinking. In learning how to think well, they must learn to identify common errors in reasoning – “proof” by selected instances, special pleading, faking a connection, ad populum (because the majority says. . .) and ad hominum (attack on the person) arguments, innuendo, generalities, etc.
Your article is a virtual cornucopia of most of these! I hope to address all of your points, but for every legitimate point I want to address, I feel I have to address five illegitimate ones. It will take longer to cast the rod because I have to spend time untangling the line. All that’s to say this is the first of several installments.
To begin with, Larry, I would like to address your belief that full preterists are not Christians. You say, “It should become quite evident to you that preterists cannot be considered as Christian even in the broadest sense of the word” (p. 1). You further associate full preterists with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gnosticism, Marshall “Do” Applewhite and the Heaven’s Gate cult, Jim Jones and the Mormons (pp. 3, 4), which, I assume (correct me if I am in error), you would not consider Christian.
This is consistent with the last words I heard from you on the night of May 29, 2002 when you cited from the creeds and history and ended by saying, in effect, “Anyone who believes this (full preterism) cannot call themselves a Christian.” Again, correct me if I am in error or have misrepresented your beliefs.
Finally, you end your newsletter by closing and locking the door to any possibility that preterist’s may possess eternal life: “. . . we believe preterism is a cult that is far removed from Christianity. We agree with the apostle Paul in letting these enemies of Christ be ‘anathema maranatha.’ (1 Cor. 16:22)”
In my journey of understanding what the Bible teaches about the end times, my early days saw me influenced by the writings of Hal Lindsey and John Walvoord. I was a believer in the dispensational view of the Bible, the pre-millennial coming of Christ, and the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. During that time, I believed that I – and anyone else – was saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
In my college days, I took time to read the Bible straight through from Genesis to Revelation. Upon doing so, I discovered that the pre-millennial position was not as strongly supported in Scripture as I had been led to believe. I rejected this position until I had time for further study. In the meantime, I continued to believe that everyone was saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
After further study, I cannot say I was completely satisfied with my findings. I was a tentative a-millennial with some admiration of the views of the historical pre-millennial position. And in all of this, I continued to believe that everyone was saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
After being convinced of preterism, I continue to believe that sinners are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. And for the sake of clarification, I still hold to the tenants of the historical church (as you find this to be authoritative) when it comes to Christology – His virgin birth, His deity, His vicarious sacrifice, His bodily resurrection, His kingship, His prophetic office, His intercession for the saints, etc.
Larry, the impression one would get by reading your newsletter is that you deny that sinners are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. By reading “The ‘Preterist’ Heresy,” one is led to think that a sinner is saved by faith in Christ plus holding to a futurist eschatology.
As to His coming, as a full preterist, I do not deny that Jesus taught a future coming and the apostolic writers taught the same. No preterist denies that the Bible teaches these things. Nor does a preterist deny the judgment or resurrection of the dead. I admit, I have an interpretation that differs from the other views, but I do not deny the doctrines. And as to salvation, I do not deny now, nor will I ever as God gives grace, that everyone is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
Don’t get me wrong. I can understand your concern if I had come to a belief that would have diminished the glory of Jesus Christ that is rightfully due Him. But my belief in preterism has done no such thing! As I said, I see Him as more exceedingly divine, glorious, majestic, kingly, and worthy of worship than I ever have before. Life in Christ now, is more glorious, liberating and exhilarating than it ever has been before.
Larry, are you guilty of adding non-essentials to the gospel of Jesus Christ? In your newsletter, you are not just answering the claims of preterists. You are setting yourself up as a judge of how wide or narrow our disagreements can be before one is rejected by God and the church. If you are not affirming this most basic principle of the gospel – that sinners are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone – how can you call yourself an apologist, a defender of the faith?
Second, I would like for you to address an issue of consistency. You’ll allow pre-millennials, post-millennials and a-millennials to remain within Christ’s fold, though there are significant interpretive differences between them. The differences between them and preterists are interpretive. How have you come to determine that their interpretive differences keep them in a state of grace while the differences of the preterists cause them to be reprobate?
When it gets right down to it, the differences are interpretive; that is, each is responsible to apply good hermeneutical principles to arrive at a proper understanding of what the word of God is teaching. I (and most preterists) are in agreement that there are places where it is necessary to interpret things literally (like with the timing statements). But you yourself admit that there are times when the context calls for a spiritual or symbolic interpretation (p. 5).
I will probably deal with this more in the future, but I have questions that I would like you to answer: What is the rule that you use that makes the preterist’s interpretation of the Scriptures worthy of condemning them to hell? What is the criteria that you use that says their interpretation brings automatic rejection by Christ in whom preterists have put their trust for salvation? Please state the rule or principle that you invoke that sanctifies your interpretations but damns the preterist?
I will answer more of your article as days go by, but I urge you Larry, if you are going to contend against preterism, fine. But please make clear what the Lord requires for us to “draw near” to Him. Is it a certain position on eschatology? Then say so from the Scriptures. If a preterist cannot be saved, don’t just say so, say why. Otherwise, be very careful about setting yourself up in a position of separating the sheep from the goats, a task that Christ reserves for Himself alone.