PMW 2021-011 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Well, I promised myself I would never engage in a land war in Asia. But against my better judgment, here I go. In this two-part series I will briefly respond this one last time to Don Preston’s responses to my series on Matthew 24:3. I will not be interacting much with his exegetical errors, since I am working on a commentary where these should be exposed. Rather, this article and the next one function more as a testimonial on my part. That is, it explains why I do not like interacting with Hyper-preterists.
It is totally frustrating to read their challenges and arguments. They live in a different world and have a whole new theology. And I guess in my Preston-diagnosed “desperation” I fear that they might pull out a ray gun, set it on “phase,” then fire a death-beam at me.
If Preston would just dispassionately present his arguments without all the exaggerations that would be fine. For instance, he claims that evangelical scholars who hold that the Apostles were confused in Matt. 24:3 judge the Apostles as “completely ignorant,” “totally ignorant,” suffering from “abject ignorance,” because they were “so ignorant,” “horribly confused,” “lamentably ignorant,” “amazingly dumb,” and “abysmally ignorant” in that they had “thick skulls,” were “dimwitted,” and “blithely ignorant.” But as I show in my four-part series on Preston’s views on Olivet, the arguments too often go overboard.
I must confess, though, that I am pleased that Preston titles his own article series properly as: “Confused, Confusing, Desperate.” Though I am not entirely sure he meant that as an apology for the character of his articles.
So, in this and the next article I will just quickly highlight a few of Preston’s frustrating challenges, then offer a very brief counter to them. Again, I will not be rebutting his exegetical arguments since I am dealing with those in a larger book, Olivet in Context: A Commentary on Matthew 21-25.
PRESTON’S FIRST ARTICLE
“What point is [Gentry] trying to make by commenting on my denominational affiliation? Is there a logical connection?”
Most of my audience is made up of Reformed Christians. Therefore, my point was to alert my readers to a larger complex of doctrinal errors that may help explain the Hyper-preterist error itself. It does not prove it, but it does suggest a pattern of theological error. Thus, it forewarns the unwary reader that danger may lurk ahead.
The Church of Christ has numerous troubling doctrines — several impacting the doctrine of salvation itself. For instance, the Church of Christ is (1) Arminian; (2) holds to works salvation; (3) does not accept the security of the believer, and (4) believes that believers’ baptism (by immersion) is necessary for salvation. These are big mistakes; they are not secondary issues. And they result from poor interpretations of various Scriptures. Such things should send up red flags warning that the Church of Christ has a tendency to wrongly interpret Scripture.
I do not know if Preston holds to all of the doctrines associated with the Church of Christ or not. But I suspect that he taught them along the way in his pastoral ministry and probably does still believe them.
Have We Missed the Second Coming:
A Critique of the Hyper-preterist Error
by Ken Gentry
This book offers a brief introduction, summary, and critique of Hyper-preterism. Don’t let your church and Christian friends be blindfolded to this new error. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
For more Christian educational materials: www.KennethGentry.com
“Mr. Gentry makes a huge leap in logic, when he claims that because the apostles were surprised, that this necessary [sic] means they were confused. But, surprise does not suggest ignorance, and does not demand confusion.”
I did not argue that; so there is no leap of logic. In fact, this statement by Preston is a leap of logic. What I actually said was, the Apostles’ “surprise at his prophecy led to their confusion.” What is illogical about that? Their surprise led to the confusion; it did not “demand” it.
“Another thing that Gentry must answer is why would the apostles think about the end of the Christian age, when Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple? That temple did not represent the Christian age! Gentry knows this! And yet, he insists that Jesus’ prediction prompted the apostles to think, not of the end of the age that the Temple represented, but the end of the Christian age which had no connection to that temple!”
Preston is not only misreading my view of history into this but assuming his view is the Apostles’ view. I do not argue that “the end of the age” is “the end of the Christian age”; rather I argue that it is the end of world history. His “two-age” analysis of Scripture dramatically differs from my evangelical “two-age” view (see below).
“Gentry once applied Daniel 12:2 to the end of human history resurrection of human corpses out of the ground…. However, he has radically changed his position on this.”
I have certainly changed my position on this passage, as I myself have stated. I would imagine that Preston and others have changed some of their positions from time to time — unless they are omniscient, inspired, and inerrant in their presentations. But my “radically changed” view is not that radical. That is, it is not a doctrinal change in my theological system, but an interpretive change on one passage of Scripture. After all, theologically I still hold to a future bodily resurrection — though not based on this passage. Had I changed my view to say I no longer believe in a physical resurrection, that would have been radical. My concerns with Preston’s views is not so much his different approaches to certain Scriptures, but the theology he draws from them. His theology is “radical” in its opposition to historic orthodoxy.
Preston (correctly) quotes me as stating: “In the first two of my four-article presentation, however, I must express my frustration with Preston’s attitude. This attitudinal problem almost invariably annoys anyone who is not a Hyper-preterist (and there are 7.2 billion of those people).” Then he complains “Notice that [“he,” sic] resorts to an appeal to the popular / majority view (argumentum ad populum). How can 7.2 Billion people who are not preterists, be wrong?? Mr. Gentry, there are almost 2 billion Muslims in the world, all of whom reject Jesus as the Son of God. ”
Apparently, Preston was born without a sense of humor. My statement was simply an amusing way to say Preston’s attitude frustrates many people. I was not being literal. I would imagine that very few of the 2 billion Muslims in the world have even read Preston’s books and articles, much less are put off by his attitude. I am glad he did not waste a lot of time researching global population statistics to find out the world population was slightly different from the 7.2 billion figure that I gave.
But I must move along.
PRESTON’S SECOND ARTICLE
“Gentry’s comments [about the cultic tendency in Hyper-preterism] here are nothing but an attempt to ‘poison the well’, i.e. to poison the mind of his readers. After all, everyone knows the Mormons are false! Preterists are like those misguided, cultic Mormons!”
I am not attempting to poison the well; I am warning would-be readers of the aberrational nature of his theology. I am warning people that they should be aware that he is outside of mainstream evangelical theology. They can read on, if they like. They may also end up not liking standard evangelical doctrine either. But if they read my post, they will at least be alerted to the fact that they are reading heterodox theology. I have had numerous contacts from folks who were not aware of the full implications of Hyper-preterism, and who stepped back before fully endorsing the system.
Regarding my observations on Preston’s presentation at Criswell College, he writes:
“it is almost amusing to read Gentry say that my lesson caused perplexity among some of the listeners. Read what Gentry admits about his own views on Revelation: ‘The remarkable nature of our preterist assertion regarding the events of Revelation is met with bewilderment by most evangelicals today. Yet the evidence is there for all to see.’ (Beast of Revelation, p. 26). So, Gentry admits that his views are met with ‘bewilderment’ (you know, kinda like the ‘bewilderment’ that he says listeners of my Criswell presentation felt), and yet, he urges his readers to simply look at the evidence that he adduces before dismissing his conclusions.”
Preston is once again confused about what I stated and what my point was (thus, I do believe he is “Confused, Confusing, Desperate”). In the first place, I never used the word “bewilderment” regarding the impact of his Criswell presentation. And he quotes my article that shows I did not do so. I was talking about his presentation not his position. In my Beast book I was referring to a position that would cause bewilderment if only briefly announced “out of the blue.” I was not talking about my presentation of the position, as if I thought people would be bewildered by the way I argue the point. Someone can be correct in his position but awkward and confusing in his presentation. Preston obviously thinks he is correct, and that is fine — for why would he write something he believed was incorrect?
The problem I noted (which was based on the discussions afterwards) was that Preston’s presentation struck the scholarly panel as confused and meandering. They did not see his point. Thus one noted scholar there commented: “What was that all about?”
It is true (as he notes elsewhere) that we do have to connect the dots in Scripture. But we have to correctly connect the right dots. Which is what he failed to do in my opinion — and in the opinion of the other scholar-presenters at Criswell.
Preston cites my statement: “Preston, with his innovative Hyper-preterist theological construct governing his every word, thought and deed, challenges the charge that the disciples are confused here. As he does so, he admits that he has set himself against ‘a consensus among the commentators’ (p. 33), ‘most commentators’ (p. 34), ‘most commentators’ (p. 35), a ‘widespread agreement among commentators’ (p. 47), ‘the great consensus of very learned men through the ages’ (p. 93), and the ‘commentators [who] commonly ascribe’ (p. 105). Of course, in itself this is not deadly.” Then he replies: “Once again, Gentry offers a logical fallacy. He says that I stand in opposition to ‘longstanding and widespread scholarly consensus.’ This is an argumentum ad verecundiam (an appeal to the authorities).”
Preston once again is confused: he does not understand what I am saying. I am quoting Preston himself, showing that he recognizes he is outside of the consensus of commentators. But then I clearly state: “Of course, in itself this is not deadly.” My stating that Preston is outside of a scholarly consensus is not an attempt at a logical argument against his position on my part. iI is simply a warning to evangelical Christians that he is set against a widespread evangelical scholarly consensus on this matter. Furthermore, he tends to argue against my position as if I am the only one who holds it. It is certainly true that if I rested my case on this, then my argument would be fallacious.
He cites my statement from my book The Beast of Revelation, where I write: “The view that I shall present and defend below is contrary to what the vast majority of Christians believe today.” He sees this a contradictory to my observations of his being outside of doctrinal orthodoxy.
My statement is certainly true — and I stand behind it. But my position is not contrary to historic orthodoxy. It is within the realm of theological orthodoxy as understood by the historic Christian church, for it maintains a future Second Coming, bodily resurrection, etc. I was only stating that the majority of Christians in the pews today do not hold to a preterist analysis of Revelation. But this is not a matter of theological orthodoxy. There is a world of difference between the two concepts. My concern with Preston is not that we count noses, but that he is outside of and opposed to historic, Christian doctrine.
Perilous Times: A Study in Eschatological Evil (by Ken Gentry)
Technical studies on Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, the great tribulation, Paul’s Man of Sin, and John’s Revelation.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
“Is Gentry espousing a view that is diametrically opposed to the Westminster Confession of Faith, and other creeds? Answer: Absolutely.”
This is not only mistaken in itself but irrelevant. In the first place, technically speaking, the Westminster Confession of Faith is not an ecumenical creed defining historic Christianity; it is a denominational confession defining historic Presbyterianism. For instance, Presbyterians hold to infant baptism, but do not believe that if you deny it you are outside of orthodox Christianity. Rather, denying paedobaptism sets you outside of Presbyterianism, which a Presbyterian minister should not be.
Second, my view of Revelation is not contrary to the Westminster Confession. The Confession does not take a position on the book of Revelation. In fact, one of the writers of the Confession was John Lightfoot who holds strongly to preterism and has even been approvingly cited by Hyper-preterists.
Regarding my view of the book of Revelation: “Does Gentry declare that the almost universal historical view of the church throughout has been wrong? Is Gentry presenting a view that is at odds with the historical (orthodox) view of the church? Answer: Undeniably.”
Once again, Preston is confused, mistaken, and irrelevant. One’s view of the book of Revelation is not a matter of creedal orthodoxy, for the ecumenical creeds do not commit to a particular view on the book. Notice that he confuses an “historical” view with an “orthodox” view. Many historical (i.e., long and broadly held) views are not matters of theological orthodoxy.
“Is Gentry presenting a view that is ‘innovative’? Without any doubt!”
Preston is confused again. My concern with Hyper-preterism is not a matter of a new or innovative way of understanding a particular passage of Scripture. The “innovative” problem with Hyper-preterism is that it changes foundational doctrines, not that it holds a minority view on several particular passages of Scripture. My problem with Preston is that his theology is wrong, not necessarily that he wrongly understands certain passages of Scripture. For instance, above I stated that I changed my view on Daniel 12:2. But in the process I did not change my view on a future, literal resurrection of the body. Thus, I changed my understanding of a particular passage, but not my theology.
In rebutting me, he writes that I believe that: “The great consensus of very learned men through the ages … have affirmed that the apostles were so lamentably ignorant, or confused.”
My point in citing Preston’s own statement was to expose its over-exaggeration. It is quite mistaken to say that “the great consensus of very learned men through the ages … have affirmed that the apostles were so lamentably ignorant, or confused.” Who says they were lamentably ignorant? Confusion does not necessarily entail lamentable ignorance.
And if you read my article, you will see how Preston emphasizes this mistaken reading of evangelical scholars. In his book, he claims that commentators who believe the disciples were confused in Matthew 24:3, believe that the disciples were “completely ignorant,” “totally ignorant” (p. 28, ¶3, 4, 5), suffering from “abject ignorance” (p. 29 ¶3), were “so ignorant” (p. 25 ¶2), “horribly confused” (p. 92, 117), “lamentably ignorant” (p. 93), “amazingly dumb” (p. 34), “dense” (p. 81), “abysmally ignorant” (p. 119), had “thick skulls” (p. 103), were “dimwitted” (p. 103), and “blithely ignorant” (p. 163). He has really gone overboard here!
In his writings, he frequently highly commends himself as presenting positions that are “obvious,” “logical,” “proven beyond dispute,” “unquestionable,” “indisputable,” “undeniable,” “undeniably true,” “irrefutably true,” and so forth. He charges me (and others who disagree with him) with “glaring logical fallacy,” with holding positions that are “remarkable — and illogical,” promoting “amazingly bad” arguments, and so forth. Not only so, but he also repeatedly provides a psychological analysis regarding my rejecting his views. He repeatedly charges that I am “desperate,” as even the title of his rebuttal series demonstrates. Perhaps I need to change my blood pressure meds to ease my desperation?
Unfortunately, it is 5:30 am. I am weary. Thus, I will continue this in my next article when I am tanned, rested, and ready.
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Source: Kenneth Gentry
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