Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Tough Topic Tuesday: Four Views on Revelation, Pt. 2

This is post 2 in our 4 pt. series featuring the article "Four Views on Revelation" written by Pat Zuckeran.  Our goal in this series is to help readers gain a basic understanding of each view.

Pt. 1 is here.

The Preterist View

The second view is called the preterist view. Preter, which means “past,” is derived from the Latin. There are two major views among preterists: full preterism and partial preterism. Both views believe that the prophecies of the Olivet discourse of Matthew 24 and Revelation were fulfilled in the first century with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Chapters 1-3 describe the conditions in the seven churches of Asia Minor prior to the Jewish war (AD 66-70). The remaining chapters of Revelation and Jesus’ Olivet Discourse describe the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans.

Full preterists believe that all the prophecies found in Revelation were fulfilled in AD 70 and that we are now living in the eternal state, or the new heavens and the new earth. Partial preterists believe that most of the prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem but that chapters 20-22 point to future events such as a future resurrection of believers and return of Christ to the earth. Partial preterists view full preterism as heretical since it denies the second coming of Christ and teaches an unorthodox view of the resurrection.

Church historians trace the roots of preterism to Jesuit priest Luis de Alcazar (1554-1613).  Alcazar’s interpretation is considered a response to the Protestant historicist interpretation of Revelation that identified the Pope as the Anti-Christ. However, some preterists contend that preterist teachings are found in the writings of the early church as early as the fourth century AD.

Crucial to the preterist view is the date of Revelation. Since it is a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, preterists hold to a pre-AD 70 date of writing. According to this view, John was writing specifically to the church of his day and had only its situation in mind. This letter was written to encourage the saints to persevere under the persecution of the Roman Empire.

Preterists point to several reasons to support their view. First, Jesus stated at the end of the Olivet Discourse, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mt. 24:34). A generation usually refers to forty years. The fall of Jerusalem would then fit the time Jesus predicted. Second, Josephus’ detailed record of the fall of Jerusalem appears in several ways to match the symbolism of Revelation. Finally, this view would be directly relevant to John’s readers of his day.

There are several criticisms of this view. First, the events described in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse and in Revelation 4-19 differ in several ways from the fall of Jerusalem.

One example is that Christ described his return to Jerusalem this way: “[A]s lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Mt. 24:27). Preterists believe this refers to the Roman army’s advance on Jerusalem. However, the Roman army advanced on Jerusalem from west to east, and their assault was not as a quick lightning strike. The Jewish war lasted for several years before Jerusalem was besieged, and the city fell after a lengthy siege.  Second, General Titus did not set up an “abomination of desolation” (Mt. 24:15) in the Jerusalem Temple. Rather, he destroyed the Temple and burned it to the ground. Thus, it appears the preterist is required to allegorize or stretch the metaphors and symbols in order to find fulfillment of the prophecies in the fall of Jerusalem.

Another example of allegorical interpretation by preterists is their interpretation of Revelation 7:4. John identifies a special group of prophets: the 144,000 from the “tribes of Israel.” Preterist Hanegraaff states that this group represents the true bride of Christ and is referred to in Rev. 7:9 as the “great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people, and language.” In other words, the 144,000 in verse 4, and the great multitude in verse 9 are the same people.  This appears to go against the context of the chapter for several reasons. First, throughout the Bible the phrase “tribes of Israel” refers to literal Jews. Second, John says there are 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. This is a strange way to describe the multitude of believers from all nations. Finally, the context shows John is speaking of two different groups: one on the earth (the 144,000 referenced in 7:1-3), and the great multitude in heaven before the throne (7:9). Here Hanegraaff appears to be allegorizing the text.

Robert Mounce states,

"The major problem with the preterist position is that the decisive victory portrayed in the latter chapters of the Apocalypse was never achieved. It is difficult to believe that John envisioned anything less than the complete overthrow of Satan, the final destruction of evil, and the eternal reign on God. If this is not to be, then either the Seer was essentially wrong in the major thrust of his message or his work was so helplessly ambiguous that its first recipients were all led astray."

Mounce and other New Testament scholars believe the preterists’ interpretations are not consistent and utilize allegorical interpretations to make passages fit their theological view.

Second, the preterist position rests on a pre-AD 70 date of writing. However, most New Testament scholars date the writing of the book to AD 95. If John had written Revelation after AD 70, the book could not have been a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem. This presents a significant argument against the preterist position.

Preterists point to several lines of evidence for a pre-AD 70 date of writing. First, John does not mention the fall of the Jerusalem Temple. If he had been writing two decades after the event, it seems strange that he never mentioned this catastrophic event. Second, John does not refer to either Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the Temple (Mt. 24, Mk. 13, Lk. 21) or the fulfillment of this prophecy. Third, in Revelation 11:1, John is told to “measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.” Pre-terist argue that this indicates that the Temple is still standing during the writing of Revelation.

The preterist view, particularly the partial preterist view, is a prominent position held by such notable scholars as R. C. Sproul, Hank Hanegraaff, Kenneth Gentry, and the late David Chilton (who later converted to full preterism after the publishing of his books). [1]

What do you think of this view?  Please feel free to share in the comments!

Courage and Godspeed,

1. All references are included in the original article found here.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Brian Fisher on Ignorance About Abortion

Ignorance about abortion, its impact on women and the family, and its destructive power is harmful and deadly.  If the church is to grow in its influence and impact to protect families, we must educate ourselves, our small groups, our congregations, and our church leadership about the silent holocaust.

Stand firm in Christ,

1. Fisher, Brian. Deliver Us from Abortion:  Awakening the Church to End the Killing of America's Children. Page 183.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Debate Video: David Wood vs. Shabir Ally- "Is Jesus the Son of God?"

This video features the first of six debates between Christian David Wood and Muslim Shabir Ally.

Their fifth debate will take place Monday, October 5 at 6:30 (EST).  

You can learn about their debate series here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Friday, October 02, 2015

How Does One Develop the Mind?

During the recent intro sermon to the "Foundations" series at my home church, the congregation was challenged with the question "How does one aim to be transformed by the renewing of the mind?"

J.P. Moreland gives some good suggestions in the article below taken from the Apologetics Resource Center:

First, it is a mind that has formed the habit of being focused on God constantly throughout the day. It is a mind preoccupied with God and directed regularly towards Him in prayer and meditation (Ps 16:8; Is 26:3, Lk 18:1; Ro 12:12; 1Th 5:16-18). But how can one do this and still perform one’s daily tasks? Fortunately, people can do more than one thing at the same time. While driving a car or centering one’s attention on some other task, one can still be aware of God in the boundaries of one’s attention. And one can bring God to the center of prayerful focus at various times throughout the day. There are two habits that facilitate focusing on God constantly. First, memorize four or five Bible passages that really speak to you. Now make it a practice to pray these passages to the Lord all throughout the day. As you pray through a passage phrase by phrase, use it to pray about things of concern to you. Second, regularly ponder these passages or other scriptural readings, thinking of what they mean. of how you can internalize them, and how you can promote them to others.
The second aspect of a mature Christian mind is one that sees all of life in light of a Christian worldview and is growing in intellectual excellence. A worldview is the sum total of the things one believes, especially in regards to reality, truth, knowledge and value. A Christian worldview is a biblically grounded set of beliefs about all of life, from work, recreation, and finances, to God, life after death, and morality. One tries to think of all of life in light of the teachings of Holy Scripture and, more specifically, of the Lord Jesus. There is no secular/sacred separation in such a mind. All of life is an occasion for discipleship and worship for a mature Christian mind. Further, an intellectually excellent mind is one that is informed, that makes important distinctions when a less mature mind fails to do so, and that develops deeper and deeper insights into issues of importance. To develop such excellence, one must regularly read and expose oneself to excellent teaching. Try to tread books that are a bit challenging to understand. One must also be willing to engage others – believers and unbelievers – in conversations about important worldview issues. Such regular practice, if combines with a growing ability to listen non-defensively, will bring motivation and opportunity for regular growth in intellectual excellence.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Bill Nye the Abortion Choice Guy, Pt. 1

Bill Nye may be known as the "science guy," but he is unbelievably ignorant when it comes to the issue of abortion. In a recent viral video, Nye's arguments were so bad that we decided to respond to each one.  We will take each claim in the order they appear in the video.

Claim #1: Human embryos should not be protected by law, because many of them perish from natural causes before they implant in the womb.

Response: James D. Agresti of Life News responds to this claim appropriately:

"That statement is irrelevant to the issue of abortion, just as the statement that “all people eventually die” is irrelevant to the issue of murder. Both of these issues are about people actively ending the lives of others, not nature taking its course." [1]

Agresti also goes on to point out that Nye's logic and his use of the phrase "didn't become a human"suggests that Nye does not believe that life begins at fertilization and this is absolutely contrary to modern science.  

Agresti explains:

"The science of biology has revealed that there are four empirical attributes of life (growth, reproduction, metabolism, and response to stimuli), and the science of embryology has shown that all of these are present at fertilization.

Furthermore, the sciences of genetics and embryology have proven that the genetic composition of humans is formed during fertilization, and as the textbook Molecular Biology explains, this genetic material is “the very basis of life itself.”

In accord with these facts, the medical textbook Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects states: “The zygote and early embryo are living human organisms.” And an organism, in the words of Webster’s College Dictionary, is 'any individual life form considered as an entity.'" [2]

The irony of Nye's video is that he implores us to "respect the facts."  We implore Mr. Nye to take his own advice.

In the next "Bill Nye the Abortion Guy" post we will deal with Nye's ridiculous claim that opposition to abortion is based on an “interpretation of a book written 5,000 years ago” that makes people “think that when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse they always have a baby.”

Courage and Godspeed,

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Trinity Is Not a Contradiction

I found this concise explanation at ligonier.org via The Gospel Coalition:

Classically the Trinity was defined in these terms:

God is one in essence and three in person.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard or seen this formulation described as a “contradiction.” Why is it called a contradiction? We are accustomed to thinking in terms of “One person equals one essence.” This equation may be a convenient one, but it’s not a rationally necessary one. The Trinity is indeed unusual and mysterious, but it is not inherently or analytically irrational.

If the formula for the Trinity asserted that God is one in essence and three in essence or that he is three in person and one in person, we would be engaging in the nonsense of contradiction. Something cannot be one in A and three in A at the same time and in the same relationship. That’s contradiction.

The classical formula of the Trinity is that God is one in one thing (one in A, essence) and three in a different thing (three in B, persona). The church fathers were careful not to formulate the nature of God in contradictory terms. The distinction among persons of the Godhead may be “essential” to Christianity, but the distinction itself is not an essential distinction about God. That is, though the distinction among persons is a real and necessary distinction, it is not an essential distinction.

Lest we seem to be guilty of equivocation here, let me explain further. When I say that the personal distinction among the Godhead is not an essential distinction, I mean by “essential” that which refers to being or essence, not to that which is “important” or “necessary” for other reasons. The distinction is “essential” in the sense that it is important and necessary for our understanding. It is not “essential” in the sense that it distinguishes being or essence in God.

The formula is not meant to say that essence and person are the same things. Essence refers to the being of God, while person is used here as substance within being. Essence is primary and persona is secondary. Essence is the similarity, while personal is the dissimilarity in the nature of God. He is unified in one essence, but diversified in three personae.

This excerpt is taken from Not a Chance by R.C. Sproul.

But don't take my word for it, read the book, don't wait for the movie.

Have a little hope on me, Roger

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tough Topic Tuesday: Four Views on Revelation, Pt. 1

Many Christians I know seem to be very excited about the book of Revelation.  Whether they are discussing "blood moons" or the next economic downfall, most are very intrigued by what is going on in our world and seem determined to line up current events with the book of Revelation.  While I too find the book of Revelation fascinating, I fear that many believers and unbelievers are unaware that there is more than one way to understand the book of Revelation.

Over the next 4 weeks in this series we will be exploring an article written by Pat Zukeran entitled "Four Views on Revelation."  My goal in the forthcoming posts is simply to make people aware of the various views on Revelation.  I certainly lean toward one of the 4 views we'll be considering, but do so with a loose grip.  Please feel free to share what you think of each view in the comments and thank you for your readership!

The Idealist View

The first view of Revelation is the idealist view, or the spiritual view. This view uses the allegorical method to interpret the Book of Revelation. The allegorical approach to Revelation was introduced by ancient church father Origen (AD 185-254) and made prominent by Augustine (AD 354-420). According to this view, the events of Revelation are not tied to specific historical events. The imagery of the book symbolically presents the ongoing struggle throughout the ages of God against Satan and good against evil. In this struggle, the saints are persecuted and martyred by the forces of evil but will one day receive their vindication. In the end, God is victorious, and His sovereignty is displayed throughout ages. Robert Mounce summarizes the idealist view stating, “Revelation is a theological poem presenting the ageless struggle between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. It is a philosophy of history wherein Christian forces are continuously meeting and conquering the demonic forces of evil."

In his commentary on Revelation, late nineteenth century scholar William Milligan stated, “While the Apocalypse thus embraces the whole period of the Christian dispensation, it sets before us within this period the action of great principles and not special incidents; we are not to look in the Apocalypse for special events, both for the exhibition of the principles which govern the history of both the world and the Church.”

The symbols in Revelation are not tied to specific events but point to themes throughout church history. The battles in Revelation are viewed as spiritual warfare manifested in the persecution of Christians or wars in general that have occurred in history. The beast from the sea may be identified as the satanically-inspired political opposition to the church in any age. The beast from the land represents pagan, or corrupt, religion to Christianity. The harlot represents the compromised church, or the seduction of the world in general. Each seal, trumpet, or bowl represents natural disasters, wars, famines, and the like which occur as God works out His plan in history. Catastrophes represent God’s displeasure with sinful man; however, sinful mankind goes through these catastrophes while still refusing to turn and repent. God ultimately triumphs in the end.

The strength of this view is that it avoids the problem of harmonizing passages with events in history. It also makes the book of Revelation applicable and relevant for all periods of church history.

However, there are several weaknesses of this view. First, this view denies the book of Revelation any specific historical fulfillment. The symbols portray the ever-present conflict but no necessary consummation of the historical process.  Rev.1:1 states that the events will come to pass shortly, giving the impression that John is prophesying future historical events.

Second, reading spiritual meanings into the text could lead to arbitrary interpretations. Followers of this approach have often allowed the cultural and socio-political factors of their time to influence their interpretation rather than seeking the author’s intended meaning.  Merrill Tenney states,

The idealist view . . . assumes a “spiritual” interpretation, and allows no concrete significance whatever to figures that it employs. According to this viewpoint they are not merely symbolic of events and persons, as the historicist view contends; they are only abstract symbols of good and evil. They may be attached to any time or place, but like the characters of Pilgrim’s Progress, represent qualities or trends. In interpretation, the Apocalypse may thus mean anything or nothing according to the whim of the interpreter.

Unless interpreters are grounded in the grammatical, historical, and contextual method of hermeneutics, they leave themselves open to alternate interpretations that may even contradict the author’s intended meaning. [1]

Courage and Godspeed,

1. All references are included in the original article found here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Planned Parenthood and Baby Parts: How Did We Get Here?

In the subject blog series, Brian Fisher of Online for Life writes of how our society has gotten to the point where the trafficking of baby body parts can be discussed so casually. He also describes the foundations of Planned Parenthood. Below is an excerpt taken from the series:

Evil of this magnitude doesn’t happen overnight. It never has. When slavery was brought to the United States in 1619, it wasn’t delivered to colonists on a 200-foot slave ship outfitted with chains, crowded bunks, and whips to keep its “cargo” in line. No, slavery first came to our country in the form of indentured servitude, with a promise to work for seven years in exchange for a trip to and establishment in the New World. Within a century, that system evolved into the horrific practice of slavery that has left an immutable stain on our society.

Similarly, Germany’s Third Reich didn’t come to power one day and then Hitler began slaughtering Jews the next. No, it happened slowly over time. First, through economic persecution, then through Kristallnacht. Next, the Jews were segregated into ghettos, and slowly, town by town, they were deported on trains that took them to concentration camps… and almost certain death.

The same can be said about legalized abortion in America. Since the early 1900s, there has been a slow uptick in the acceptance of abortion in our culture. It began when radical eugenicists hijacked the women’s rights movement, followed by the strategic establishment of abortion clinics within predominantly African-American communities. And finally, gentle euphemisms were introduced into our society that delineate preborn babies as “tissue” and abortion as “choice.”

This is an eye-opening series. Fisher is committed to providing this nation with the wake up call that it needs.

You can read part one here. Part two can be found here.

Stand firm in Christ,

Sunday, September 27, 2015