Chalcedon (Brian Abshire & Andrew Sandlin)
Vine & Fig Tree (Kevin Craig)
|Subj: RE: OPEN LETTER TO LIGONIER
Date: 2/13/99 11:38:53 PM Pacific Standard Time
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rev. Brian M. Abshire)
Theonomy-L submission from "Rev. Brian M. Abshire" <email@example.com>
David (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes:
David here makes a good point and since it is late and I still have to finish the bulletin for tomorrow's service, I am going to cheat and quote from a recent email exchange from Andrew Sandlin where he quotes from several historic sources.
|Greetings in Christ!
If I didn't have a past affiliation with Chalcedon, and if I didn't still care about that ministry, I wouldn't bother writing this letter.
I am disturbed by the willingness to excommunicate preterists and the hesitancy to dialogue. I see it as part of a spiritual problem which has long hamstrung the Reconstructionist movement.
I don't pretend to know all about "hyper-preterism." Even though I am largely sympathetic with the position, for sake of the argument I do not claim to be a "consistent" or "full" preterist (1 Cor 9:22). I'm not sure I know what that position teaches (if there *is* a single teaching of "that position," especially WRT the bodily nature of saints after death). But I am 100% convinced that Andrew Sandlin and Brian Abshire have the wrong attitude:
|In a message dated 2/12/99 1:02:27 PM
Pacific Standard Time, Brian Abshire <email@example.com> writes:
We do not debate them, we refute them. We also excommunicate them. We say loudly and publicly and often, "These men are not of us. They have departed from us. They are not Christians."
|To say that someone is not a Christian because of their eschatology is, IMHO, dangerous.|
|In a message dated 2/14/99 9:40:59 AM
Pacific Standard Time, Brian Abshire <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
The HP's deny one of the cardinal doctrines of that Faith. Therefore they are not brothers. Therefore we do not debate them, we evangelize them.
|But "evangelize them" turns out in practice to mean "shun them and don't interact with them."|
|Ed Stevens has made a valuable point. If
Sandlin ever hopes to stop the Full Prets, he has got to be willing to get down in the
trenches and show them FROM CORRECTLY EXEGETED SCRIPTURE (not creeds) where they are at
variance. He has not done that. Christ did not tell us to "Go into all the world and
anathematize all the unbelievers into submission." He said to "teach (or make
disciples out of) them." Paul reasoned and debated with unbelievers in the
marketplaces of the Greco-Roman world. That's why the Preterist movement is growing so
fast. Most of them are "teaching" people what Scripture says, instead of running
around spouting creeds and anathematizing anyone who won't worship them.
Church catholic needs in the area of eschatology is DEBATE, not excommunications. The
creeds teach error. Maybe the "hyper- preterists" teach error as well, but it is
a matter of inescapable fact that it is *the creeds*, in their affirmations of
premillennialism, which are in hermeneutical error.
It is now elementary that the first half of Matthew 24 refers to the coming of Christ in AD70 against Jerusalem. Every post-mil agrees with this: M. Kik, Rushdoony, Gentry, Sandlin and Abshire. These all claim to be "partial preterists." Preterism WRT this text is now "orthodox."
Premillennialism denies this. Premillennialism is the doctrine of anti-Christ, as I have attempted to prove:
Unfortunately, the creeds are partially premillennial. The Westminster Standards are premillennial in Larger Catechism Q. 56, where it asserts that Christ "shall come again at the last day in great power." The prooftext is Matthew 24:30. This is wrong. It is error. It reflects a basic hermeneutical mal-presupposition, that of premillennialism. It would be better to have a millstone tied around you than to teach error which might lead people astray. The creeds teach error. Scripture alone is our infallible guide.
Postmillennialists have accepted the seeds of preterism. In this, they depart from the creeds and medieval theology. They have thus opened the door to debate: Just *how many* texts should be given a preterist interpretation?
But with hypocrisy and inconsistency, Sandlin and Abshire now say that only a certain
amount of deviation from the creeds will be acceptable, and such deviation may occur in
one seminary class (New Testament Exegesis), but not another (Systematic Theology). When
they exegete Luke 21:27, they will insist (against the premillennialists) that it was
fulfilled in AD70. But in the Systematic Theology class they turn around and insist that
we believe the Confession when it teaches the premillennialist interpretation of that text
If the Mormon church wants to say I'm not a Christian because I don't accept their
definition of Christ, too bad for the Mormon church.
I think this proves that a re-thinking on eschatology is in order.
Chalcedon should be sponsoring a debate, not decreeing excommunications.
That is the end of my venting. The rest of this letter consists of questions which the reader is free to skip.
|David here makes a good point and since it
is late and I still have to finish the bulletin for tomorrow's service, I am going to
cheat and quote from a recent email exchange from Andrew Sandlin where he quotes from
several historic sources.
"He . . . sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
|Suppose I taught that Jesus was here with us. Have I
denied the creed? Abshire and Sandlin both believe He is *with us* "til the end of
the world" (Matt 28:20). Is He with us, or is He at the right hand of God? On the
other hand, are we here, or have we been resurrected, and are we now seated with Him
in the heavenlies? (Eph 2:6)
In other words, Scriptural truth is broader than the creed. It would be wrong to condemn someone on the basis of the words of the creed because he believed something more than is taught in the Creeds (e.g., Eph 2:6).
Even more dangerous is condemning someone who refuses to believe something taught in the creed when that teaching has no Scriptural support:
|From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. . .||Sandlin and Abshire both believe the Scripture when it
teaches that Jesus "came" in 70AD to judge Israel. But this was not physical.
(Was it?) Non-bodily "comings" are therefore possible.
Jesus clearly and undeniably "came" with His angels in AD 70. Is there a verse which says Jesus will "come" again in the future (a verse which is unmistakably NOT speaking about AD70)?
Which verse proves that this yet-future second coming must be bodily, and *cannot* be like His coming in AD70?
How can we condemn to hell someone who asks these questions? (Especially when their questions are prompted by patent error in the creeds?)
|I believe in the resurrection of
the body [flesh]. . ."
|I believe there was a resurrection of the body (Matt
27:52-53). I don't spiritualize this verse. But I can't find the Scripture which
says the particular phenomenon experienced by these saints in "the last
days" and by others like Lazarus is to be experienced by all believers, and that the
event spoken of by Sandlin and the creed did NOT take place in 70AD.
Question 87 of the Larger Catechism tells what we are to believe concerning the resurrection. The chief texts are 1 Cor 15, 1 Thes 4, and John 5:27-29. I think it possible that John 5, if not speaking of a spiritual resurrection (Eph 2:6) is speaking of the resurrection in Matt 27. That means that a person can be said to be an unbeliever (i.e., "not a brother") based on his interpretation of two admittedly mysterious texts. It should be noted that such a hermeneutical excommunication in the past would have been based on many more texts, such as Matthew 24, but all these other texts have been shown by preterist exegesis to have been fulfilled in AD70, and Sandlin and Abshire admit this, because they too hold that these verses were fulfilled in AD70. These two texts (1 Cor 15, 1 Thes 4) are the only plausible texts left in the non-preterist arsenal.
And upon his agreement with a certain interpretation of these verses, we will declare a person to be saved or unsaved, believer or unbeliever, brother or outsider?
The deeper spiritual problem lies not with those who don't understand these texts, and who raise questions, and direct us to the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) but with those who consign the Bereans to hell. IMHO.
|"He [Christ] ascended into heaven, he
sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he shall come to judge
the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies.
. . . This is the Catholic Faith: which except a man believe faithfully [truly and firmly], he cannot be saved" (Athanasian).
|The WHOLE CREED is "the Catholic Faith," not
just the part about eschatology. Those who deny the creedal affirmations concerning
Christ's nature are in hermeneutical error; I agree with Sandlin on that. Great Councils
worked through the Scriptures to decide between Arianism and Trinitarianism.
Regrettably, there has never been a similar council to resolve preterism vs. premillennialism.
|Tertullian (c. 155/60-240/50) confessed
"was crucified, rose again on the third day; and having ascended into heaven, sat at the right [hand] of the Father; ... sent the only Spirit with vicarious power to lead those who believe; is going to come in glory to take the saints into the enjoyment of eternal life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the godless to eternal fire, after the resurrection of both classes and their restoration in the flesh.... This rule, as will be proved, was taught by Christ, and admits of no questions among us, except those which heresies bring in and which make men heretics."
|The Westminster Standards likewise teach that Christ is
going to "come in glory . . . with all His holy angels." The prooftext is
Luke 9:26. That this verse is erroneously interpreted by the Catechism (Q.56) is
seen in the very next verse, which ascribes the event to that generation
(AD70). The parallel in Matt 16:27-28 is inescapably clear.
With all due respect to Sandlin and the Creeds, I must follow the Scriptures over both the Mormon church and the Presbyterian church where either are in error.
|Andrew goes on to say:
The Bible and Christianity teach that Christians will be resurrected and glorified at the last day in the same bodies they presently possess.
|I will not deny this. It is too hard for me to shake the
understanding of the prooftexts for these verses which I have inherited (1 Cor 15:51-53; 1
Thes 4:15-17; John 5:28-29; see WLC Q. 87). However, I note that in John 5 Jesus says the
hour of resurrection "is coming, *and now is*." (verse 25). I note as well that
the creeds being wrong on Matthew 24, there is at least the possibility that they
may be wrong on 1 Cor 15 and 1 Thes 4. If Sandlin is going to anathematize me for
rejecting the creedal interpretation of 1 Cor 15 and 1 Thes 4, he must also
anathematize me for rejecting the premillennial interpretation of Matt. 24, which is also
found in the creeds. I would be hard-pressed to imagine a more frightening
decision: anathematizing someone for rejecting a clearly-erroneous interpretation. It is
only a little less frightening to pronounce such heavy-handed judgment on someone for
disagreeing with (or questioning) the interpretation of passages which must be
admitted to be quite mysterious (cf. 1 Cor 15:51).
The appropriate response is dialogue, not decrees.
|The HPs teach that they are given
"spiritual" bodies when they die, the last day being past.
The Bible and Christianity teach that Christ will return visibly and bodily (Ac. 1:11)
|I can't find the verse which proves that this did NOT take place in AD70 (along with most other NT prophecies of Christ's "coming").|
|to resurrect the just and unjust and usher in the eternal state. The HPs teach that Christ returned only in "judgment-clouds" in A. D. 70--not visibly and bodily.||Not all. I am perfectly open to the idea that He came
just as visibly (how many people saw Him in Acts 1:11?) and just as bodily as when He
left. I honestly don't know what kind of post-resurrection body Jesus had. Perhaps
we should "search the Scriptures" (Acts 17:11). Consider the following:
Luke 24:31,37,51; John 20:19,26; 21:4. Will our resurrection bodies look exactly
like Jesus' (Rev. 1:14-16)? These are not passages which justify dogmatism and
I know *this*, however: I reject premillennialism in all forms, even those forms found in the creeds.
|The Bible and Christianity teach that the
just and unjust will be judged at the last day in their resurrected bodies, and consigned
to heaven and hell. The HPs teach that they are not judged in their bodies, they are not
judged together, and they are not judged at Christ's Second Coming.
The Bible and Christianity teach that Christ arose in the same body (but glorified) in which he lived and died--and still and always will have that body. Some of the HPs teach that he did not rise in the same body--in other words, he was never resurrected.
|Is this true? Who teaches that Christ was not
resurrected? Ed Stevens (who is more familiar with the Full Pret movement than I am) tells
me that he doesn't know of anyone in the movement who denies that Christ was resurrected.
Sandlin better come up with some names.
But even assuming that there is somewhere a Full Pret who denies Christ's resurrection, how is this position a *logical necessity* given a denial of a future bodily advent of Christ?
I say, Resurrected, but changed.
I think it's debatable whether the *pre*-resurrection Jesus had the same kind of body we now have (Luke 4:30; John 8:59). It stands to reason we may not have the same kind of body Jesus had after His resurrection. (I emphasize the word "debatable.")
It is surely worthy of note that the disciples did not even recognize the body of the post-resurrection Jesus (John 20:14; 21:4; Luke 24:16) because of their unbelief (Mark 16:14). Could this explain why Roman historians did not mention the bodily coming of Christ in AD70?
|These are not matters over which there can be reasonable, exegetical dispute, any more than there can be over the single essence and three Persons of the Trinity, the hypostatic union, the deity of the Son, the creation of all things by the Father.||Eschatology cannot be debated any more than
The nature of Christ's post-resurrection body is crystal clear??
This is arrogance.
The Westminster Standards teach error.
I think Andrew makes a powerful case here. The ancient church clearly called those who rejected the second coming AS A FUTURE EVENT as heretics for they deny one of the cardinal doctrines of the faith.
|I'm not convinced Sandlin proved this. Check his ellipses. Make him prove that those who claimed that Matt 24:30 had been fulfilled in AD70 were treated as heretics. I'd like to see the evidence. (I'd like to see anyone who -- in the days of Tertullian -- taught that Matt 24:30 was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem. Then I want the evidence that he was dealt with as a heretic, and NOT as a believer.)|
|Hence, in this, I guess I would agree, that hyper-preterism is a damnable heresy for it strikes at the heart of revealed religion.||Exaggeration. Pompous puffing.
"Hyper-credalism" strikes at the heart of revealed religion, for it puts the traditions of men above the Word of God.
|If you reject this, the early creeds declared you to be a heretic. I see no reason to second guess them on this.||I do. Read Van Til on the syncretism of the early church fathers in his *A Christian Theory of Knowledge.* There has never been an ecumenical hashing-out of eschatology. Until there is, I will question the creeds on that point, especially where they are clearly in error.|
|If you can reject the literal, future second coming (or so reinterpret it so as to make the creeds nonsense) you can also reject as Andrew notes the deity of Christ, virgin birth, etc. There is no logical stopping point.||You CAN reject these doctrines, if your only purpose is to deny creeds. But if your only purpose is to follow the Scriptures as your sole infallible rule of faith and practice, then you won't. The fact that I can find no verses which inescapably teach a yet-future bodily return of Christ does not logically necessitate my denial of the virgin birth. *Abshire's claim is a complete non sequitur.* This kind of fallacious reasoning is usually due to a spiritual malady.|
|Who is really playing games with the creeds?
Ed Stevens has pointed out:
I think we should simply say the creeds are wrong on eschatology. They are infected with premillennialism. As unfashionable as it may be, we should listen to Gary North:
submissions to Theonomy-L@dlh.com miscellaneous requests to email@example.com
|No more excommunications until after The Big Debate,
Meanwhile, see you at the Preterist Conference in Orlando?
All comments appreciated.
|Brian Abshire's response: Part Two|
For further reading:
Response to Ken Gentry
Response to Gary North
Is Preterism a Denial of the Gospel?
Can an Individual Believer Critique the Creeds?
Vine & Fig Tree
12314 Palm Dr. #107
Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
[e-mail to V&FT]
[V&FT Home Page]