Partial Preterists: Don’t Fudge
There are some texts in the New Testament that legislate against every eschatological-related text as being only fulfilled in the yet-to-be future. There are words and phrases that demand that some of these events must be interpreted from a preterist (past) perspective. In other words, PP don’t fudge.
Why do I write so much on the Aquila Report? Because in Reformed circles I am in a minority on a few theological issues, and because Dominic Aquila believes in the freedom of the press. Maybe too, because my articles are short and concise. Dr. Aquila deserves much accolades and praise for providing an open forum on theological issues of our day which typically do not get a full hearing in a Christian college or even in a conservative Seminary. I have found him very fair and even-handed.
Now what about Mr. Davis’s theory (Preterism – Exposition and Critique) that Partial Preterism (PP) inevitably leads to Full Preterism (FP)? Let it be known that Partial Preterism assumes the position of the standard confessional statements of the historic church, in that there yet lies in the future a physical resurrection of the dead, the second coming of Christ, and the final judgment. These are the default lines of the PP confession (see Unorthodox Eschatology (hyperpreterism.com) ). We believe that the Scriptures are very clear on these default teachings. All these events did not occur in AD 70 (FP).
However, there are some texts in the New Testament that legislate against every eschatological-related text as being only fulfilled in the yet-to-be future. There are words and phrases that demand that some of these events must be interpreted from a preterist (past) perspective. In other words, PP don’t fudge.
The PP hermeneutic defends from the Scriptures the default eschatological positions of our confessions unless the words and the context of a particular passage demand otherwise. PP is not the fallow ground that must of logical necessity bare the fruit of full preterism (FP), no more than reconstructionism ever led theonomists into the theological deviation of Federal Vision (see Theonomy and Straw Men (theaquilareport.com). It was an error to infallibly assert the Theonomic-Federal Vision connection years ago, and likewise it is an error to infallibly assert the PP-FP connection again today. Yes, there have been converts, but they remain in the minority on both issues.
Indeed, Matthew 24:34 is a major text used by partial preterists. After years of struggle, I finally concluded that to read into the word “generation” any other meaning contrary to our common vernacular language was an abuse of the text. Then, tracing the meaning of the Greek word for “generation” throughout the New Testament pushed me to conclude that this word must be understood as it is used everywhere else in the Bible – a period of about 40 years. Again, taking any other position was nothing but fudging.
Also, in writing a commentary on the Book of Revelation (Blessed Is He Who Reads: Ball, Larry E. ) I had to deal honestly with phrases like “the things which must soon take place” (Rev. 1:1), and “for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3). To impress on these time-texts any alternative interpretation than what is literally written meant that I could not be honest with the text. Add other texts like Matthew 23:36, “Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”
If my wife were stranded in a car in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee where there are all kinds of wild beasts, and if she called me for help, then I would tell her that I would be there soon or shortly. If two thousand years later I showed up to help, then she would look at me straight in the eye and call me a fraud. Worse than a fraud – a liar! The readers in the seven churches of Revelation were living in days of great persecution, and they expected that the help promised soon would be coming quickly, not in millennia to come.
I cannot belabor the PP position endlessly. Too many books have been written. However, I would say that Mr. Davis’s characterization of the Reformed past as being the haven for amillennialism is misleading. Post-millennialism, which generally depends on PP, is not an abnormal phenomenon. It is easy enough to mention names like Rev. David Brown, a Scotch Presbyterian minister, R.L. Dabney, Charles and AA Hodge, B.B. Warfield, and W.G.T Shedd, all stalwarts in the Reformed world. More recently, we could add names like Loraine Boettner and R. C. Sproul.
This is indeed a movement in Reformed circles, but not a novel one. In my view it is just a return to the old paths.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.