By Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.
I thought it would be good if I could place on one page a link to all of the debates I have had over the years with the Hyper Preterists. Surveying the materials again, it becomes clear to the unbiased watcher/listener that Hyper Preterism has pushed virtually every boundary of Historic Christianity into interpretations entirely at odds with it.
One of the main lines of defenses I used to use, as found in the book I co-authored, House Divided: A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be? (Vision Publishing, 2009), was that Full Preterism – the idea that every single unfulfilled prophecy in the Bible reached maximum fulfillment in 70 AD – could be “traced” out in terms of “development”. That is, what is viewed in theology as a development of revelation (God revealing himself over time in the Scriptures) was placed on theology itself which began to express itself in terms of dogma and doctrine. Of course, this necessarily involved interpreting the Scriptures – and it is not a hard task to see that the churches across the centuries have greatly differed on many important matters. Eschatology (the Doctrine of Final Things, Life and Death) is one of them.
There can be no conversation about Eschatology without referring to the events of the well documented Jewish Wars of 66-70 AD (and 114, the Kitos War, and 132-138, the Bar Kochba Revolt). Remember, Jesus lived in the early thirties, and the “good news” preached by the Apostles and found in the New Testament writings places them in the decades leading up to those wars. This can be seen from the earliest references after the Apostles like Epistle of Barnabas (mid second century AD), Shepherd of Hermas (second century AD), and the early Apostolic Fathers (second century). The Roman Historians of that time as well document the war, none more notably than Joseph ben Matityahu (or, in Greek, Josephus), a Jewish teacher turned Roman advisor to Titus, the son of Vespasian the Emperor who crushed the Jewish rebellions in Judea (modern Israel). Josephus also interprets some of the events of the wars as referring to prophecies of his Bible, the Tanak, the Jewish Scriptures (what Christians call, The Old Testament). That’s been going on ever since.
Thus, the multitudinous verses and passages in the Bible that deal with the “future”, “the end” and “the last days” have been variously slotted into three categories:
1. What has been fulfilled?
2. What is now being fulfilled (what is God now doing in present history through Jesus Christ)?
3. What shall be fulfilled?
Each interpretational school has placed every verse in these three categories, some more, some less. Let’s say there are 100 prophecy verses concerning these things. The Dispensationalist places 12 in category 1, 3 in category 2, and 85 in category 3. The Amillennialist places 45 in category 1, 30 in category 2, and 25 in category 3. The Postmillennialist/Preterist places 65 in category 1, 25 in category 2, and 10 in category 3. The Full Preterist, on the other hand, places 100 in category 1. There is no category 2 or 3. How did they get to that radical difference?
Well, by taking the numbers of category 1 in all of these views they argue that “if one is consistent” such large numbers would “lead to” the Full Preterist view when all is “put together”. Hence, “development” from what is seen as “fulfilled” within the various camps would, if consistent, lead to “all”. All the other camps are viewed as inconsistent, and therefore erroneous. What the Full Preterist fails to mention in this argument, however, is that although they may be “inconsistent” in the various ways by which various authors have taken some verses as “fulfilled”, and others as “not fulfilled”, whereas still others take verses that they think are “fulfilled” that the others say is “not fulfilled”, all of these camps understand and are constrained in their disagreements because the subject matter of what they all see as “unfulfilled” is plain to them all. The “resurrection of the dead”, the finality of the “last day”, the “judgement of the world”, and the ultimate restoration of the Cosmic Order of Creation are “just as clear” to them as are their various and often at odds interpretations of what is and is not “fulfilled”. The Full Preterist pays no heed to this, and rather redefines these major doctrines upon which all of these “inconsistent” views (and they are inconsistent, of that there is no doubt) agree.
Thus, it does not matter whether a scholar in the past takes 2 Peter 3 as “fulfilled”, but not Romans 8.19-ff. It does not matter whether one popular teacher takes virtually all of Matthew 24 as fulfilled, but does not take I Thessalonians 4, or I Corinthians 15 as unfulfilled. In other words, the inconsistencies within these various camps are irrelevant to the fact that they all agree on the finality of things in terms of history. How they arrive to the Conclusion of All Things is one thing. What they are arriving to is in firm universal agreement. And, it is precisely here that the Full Preterist runs aground because he or she has no finality of all things, no end, and no conclusion to time, space, or history. This was the point I missed in my Full Preterist days when I wrote, Misplaced Hope (Bi-Millennial Publications, 2002).
Let me put this in a way that makes it easy to understand. Let’s say we are playing baseball. A “home run” is hitting the ball across the fence line, out of the park, over the wall, to the moon. We all agree on that. You have to hit it over the fence to have a home run. Now, let’s say we get a group of folks that have no real knowledge of baseball. They are given a bat, a ball, and told by the manager, “this is what a home run is. See that fence? You have to hit it over that.” The manager leaves. When he comes back the people tell him, “we made 2000 home runs!” The manager, totally bewildered, says, “that’s impossible!” Then they begin to explain to him that Johnny carried the ball to the fence, and threw the ball up and hit it over the fences. Home run! Mary golfed the ball with the bat over the fence. Home run! Larry balanced the ball on the bat, lifted the bat and ball above the fence, heaved the ball with the bat, then hit it over the fence. Home run! They all arrived at the same goal in various ways because the goal was made clear to them. How they each got their home runs is messy, but that they got them is not! They all agreed that a home run was getting that ball over the fence.
Thus, in these debates, one will hear on one hand a total depreciation of Christian history and the “early church fathers”, and on the other hand an appeal to them so that the Full Preterists can make their case of “development” and “progress”! But, if the church fathers and the scholars throughout history are not to be appealed to on one hand, but appealed to on another so that Full Preterism can champion itself as the necessary development from them, then clearly we have a case of petitio principii, or, “begging the question.” Copi and Cohen explain: “To beg the question is to assume the truth of what one seeks to prove, in effort to prove it” (Introduction to Logic, Tenth Edition, Irving Copi, Carl Cohen, p. 186, Prentice Hall, 1994). What is assumed by the Full Preterist is that the End of All Things happened in 70 AD. By doing so, history (the last 1900 years of interpretation in the Church) is interpreted as a development to this conclusion. The reason why “development” must be used is because no one prior to the twentieth century ever reached such radical conclusions as they do. No one. Not one Creed, Council, Confession, Articles of Faith, Synods, or Statements of Faith in all of Christendom (and in the Jewish Faith). But, “development” is employed because the very thing in question is assumed. The thing(s) in question is/are: have the dead been raised, the living changed, the just and the unjust judged, the world restored and the new heavens and new earth come in all of its force and meaning? These things must be redefined from their universally understood meanings under the rubric of “development” – and “development” is by cherry picking “quotes” here and there from the fathers and scholars so that they can “add them all up” together to reach the Full Preterist conclusion – but what is lacking in all of this is that they have zero mention of anyone suggesting that the resurrection of the dead “already happened”, or that there is no Finality to History and Time – none. What they have is several quotes from several fathers and scholars that contradict each other (some saying this verse is fulfilled, and others not fulfilled, with the ones saying that those unfulfilled verses are fulfilled). And that’s it. Thus, by assuming that the Full Preterist view is correct, they must appeal to history through an assumed historiography (interpretation of history) under the eye of “development”. Anyone can do this with any subject. Darwin “interpreted” history under “evolution.” Marx interpreted history under “class struggle rooted in economics”. Nietzsche used “will to power”. Hegel used “The Good”. The list is almost endless.
What further exacerbates the problem for the Hyper Pret is that he or she must also assume that their God planned it this way. That is, that God fulfilled every unfulfilled prophecy in 70 AD, yet left the scholars, thinkers, church goers, translators, scribes and teachers almost completely in the dark only centuries later to recover what, in fact, He did in 70 AD! This would mean that He has been “guiding” the church through “development” to “arrive” at the Truth of Full Preterism – and would this not mean that the promise to “guide the church into all truth” was not fulfilled in 70 AD? This is a devastating blow to their entire enterprise. It is built upon assumptions, not history. It is built upon fabrications, not facts. It is built upon theory and conjecture, not hard data. And, why would they need to appeal to the history of the Church anyway to make the claim “the Bible teaches” Full Preterism? If the Bible teaches it, who cares what history has said? Why would it matter at all to appeal to any scholar? But, appeal they do, and they do so misleadingly. They do so by pointing out “inconsistencies” in various authors, contradictions among them on various verses. These “contradictions” are thus used as “proofs” that their view is the correct view – which must first be demonstrated from the Bible. But, they do not just use the Bible. They use the very scholars that are “inconsistent” and appeal to the fathers who were “influenced by their flesh”! If the Hyper Pret were truly, truly consistent he or she would throw out every such appeal and appeal solely, entirely and completely to the Bible and the Bible alone. But, they can’t do that, because the very translation they rely on was done so by the very inconsistent and confused scholars that provided them! Further, since Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic are the original languages, they must appeal to the Lexicons, Grammars, Theological Dictionaries and the various authors of those works who are, in fact, inconsistent and not to be trusted! A very tangled, tangled web.
But, on to the Debates! The first debate was with Michael Miano, a Full Preterist Pastor in New York. This debate was held in South Florida, January 5th, 2013 and can be found here. There, Miano agrees with me that Full Preterism is “the new kid on the block” and that the “burden of proof” is on him to demonstrate that the Church has been wrong for 1900 years. One on hand, Miano states, “we have to be able to understand this language in the way the Jews understood it”. Then, when pressed on “resurrection” and what they believed (for there is absolutely zero documentation that they believed in what Miano believes, which is called, “The Corporate Body View” of resurrection), it is said the Jews did not understand the Scriptures. Here we see the flip flop game. The Jews understood their language, and we must think “in the Hebrew mindset” – but they did not understand their language so we must reject the Jewish view of bodily resurrection and the Finality of All Things. The same is said of the early church fathers, who apparently knew Greek (since they were Greek), but did not “understand” the Greek because they did not “understand” Jewish, apocalyptic motifs (which, apparently the Jews didn’t understand, either). This debate, which was a loss for Miano, also features a panel discussion with myself, Miano and Jason Bradfield.
The Second Debate I had was with Holger Neubauer. Neubauer is a Church of Christ member and minister who, along with Don Preston, Steve Baisden, Robert Buna, and John Watson have many conferences together. This debate was held in New Castle, Indiana in a Methodist building. Literally, no one showed up. Holger did, and Steve Baisden, and Robert Buna did, and the pastor of the congregation, Joel Troxell did – and there was my mom and another older couple. That was it. I could not get any one interested in the debate from the larger church community because the topic was – and this is what I gathered – pointless. Obviously, Jesus has not returned, and the dead have not been raised, so “why would we bother coming and listening to someone saying he did?”
The debate can be found here, here and here. Neubauer does not actually respond to any of my main points. I got that response from those who did watch the debate via the links provided and shared on Facebook. He continues to appeal to “the principle of parsimony” all through out the debate. The Oxford Dictionary defines that as, “The principle that the most acceptable explanation of an occurrence, phenomenon, or event is the simplest, involving the fewest entities, assumptions, or changes.” Let that sink in. Let the irony of that sink in. A Full Preterist, who teaches that every single unfulfilled prophecy, the resurrection of the dead, the changing of the living, the judgment of the world, and the Just and the Unjust, the New Heavens and the New Earth, the Last Day when Jesus would “raise all those given to me by the Father” (John 6.44) – all happened in 70 AD! That 70 AD is “the most acceptable explanation of an occurrence (these occurrences)…is the simplest“. And, yet, as one watches Neubauer, the reaction has been like that of Pastor Troxell who was bewildered at times: how in the world did he get that from that text?
The Third Debate was, again, with Michael Miano. This one was a tour-de-force against the Full Preterist view of Miano’s. I came out of the gate quoting a large collection of biblical texts – with no church fathers. Miano comes out with his Open quoting church fathers! The irony could not have been greater. I assumed Miano would think that I would make my entire case on the Creeds and Confessions. Instead, I used the Bible and barely mentioned those things. This debate can be found here. It was held in New York at the Church of the Intercessor, May 4th, 2019. The most devastating moment, where Miano is clearly caught in double-speak, and shown to be confused, is at the cross examination where, in John 6, Miano actually denies that resurrection applies to him today. It was a jaw dropping moment – and one that I got a huge amount of emails and Instant Messages. In fact, several, thank you Lord Jesus, wrote to me after that debate, that they no longer researched Full Preterism. It was a great moment. Eddie Pirro, a Deacon at the church, hosted and moderated.
Finally, the Fourth Debate was recently with (at the time of this writing) the Guru of the Full Preterist movement as a whole, Don K. Preston. Preston and I go way back, and we have spoken at many conferences together, talked endless hours on the phone over the years when I was a Full Preterist teacher. Preston published my book, Essays on the Resurrection (JaDon Publications, 2010), and still sells this (and House Divided) on his website. Needless to say, the demand for this debate was coming. Preston has debated many that had no real firm grasp on Hyper Preterism, but that could not be said about me. I know Full Preterism like the back of my hand.
Chris Arnzen, the Host of Iron Sharpens Iron Radio, is well known in Reformed/Presbyterian circles, and he agreed to host the three day debate. Day 1 can be found here. This is a podcast only. There was very limited time and I used that to my advantage. If I may, I used the “principle of parsimony”! It became very apparent that Don’s opening remarks concerning II Thessalonians 1 that he thought he had a grand slam. Basically, the argument runs like this: IF this passage is a “second coming” passage, and it can be shown that this passage was “fulfilled” in the lifetime of the Thessalonians, then the Second Coming must have taken place in the lifetime of the Thessalonians. Preston alludes to the fact that many scholars take this passage as a second coming passage, therefore, since some of them do, and since it can be shown to apply only to those in their lifetime, then the Second Coming took place in their lifetime, i.e., 70 AD.
What Preston fails to understand is that there are commentaries/scholars who do not interpret this passage as a Second Coming passage. Now we have a choice. Which “scholar” am I to pick? Well, simple. Since the Second Coming of Jesus Christ involves the New Heavens and New Earth, the bodily resurrection of the dead, the change of the living, the judgment upon all the Just and the Unjust in the Last Day when Death itself is once and for all removed, and these things did not happen in 70 AD (Don hyper-spiritualizes them away), then I pick the commentaries that agree with me. Simple. I mean, if we are going to appeal to scholars, right? Scholars who, no not one, state that these things happened in 70 AD (Don calls them, “inconsistent”, “confused” and “biased” – all quotes from him in responses to me on Facebook posts).
Now, part of my strategy, which came off exactly the way I was hoping for, was to note that the end of the 1000 Years of Revelation 20 is interpreted by Mr. Preston as having ended in 70 AD. That means, the Devil has been thrown into the Lake of Fire. Don, who used to believe that this was the Devil, has now changed his mind (which took me by surprise). The Devil and his Angels thrown into the Lake of Fire in 70 AD were “apostate Jews”. Catch the power of that! You can hear it yourself. I quickly responded to 20.2 where the Devil is clearly defined. The same Devil in 20.10 that Don called, “the old covenant Jews.” Amazing. Where is the “principle of parsimony” now?
Day 2, which is linked here, I open with a blistering attack on the ideas Don presents in his view, and how he must radically define his terms in total opposition to how the Church has defined him. That Full Preterism is a “framework” that is constructed and placed upon the entire Bible, every verse, so that every verse is to be interpreted in this framework. There is no toleration for any other framework at all. Unlike Tradition Theology and Eschatology, toleration can be utilized precisely because of what I have pointed out in the beginning of this article: we all arrive at the same place with the same view. The Hyper Preterist, however, does not. At all. Their framework allows for no error, no wiggle room, no fudging at all: 70 AD was The End, period. This becomes very clear in Day 2.
Day 3 was a set of questions from the audience. Most were directed at Don Preston – which meant that the listeners were asking Don to “explain” himself in light of other aspects. And, that’s precisely the point as I raised that issue several times, which can be found here. A person must first buy into the Hyper Preterist Framework in order to understand the Hyper Preterist definitions. This was, largely, James White’s response to the debate, found here. White totally understood the idea of “this complex framework” based on “time passages” which “takes over everything”. The very point I wanted to convey. I argued from a theological philosophy of drawing from the consensus of historical interpretations within the church, past and presently. This does not mean that every jot and tittle of particular passages cannot be reworked in light of different understandings (we see this done all the time in history, from Augustine to Acquinas, from Anselm to Luther, From Calvin to Wright). It does not mean that precisely because these kinds of reconstructions are still held and worked out within that larger consensus of the agreed upon fundamental and necessary elements of the Christian Faith, past and present. Preston, for example, tried to attack the fact that I am theorizing another angle concerning the “man of sin” in II Thessalonians 2, and that since this reconstruction is at variance with, admittedly, the great majority of interpreters past and present, then he charges that I am doing the same thing he has done. But, surely, any one with an ounce of common logic can see that this is not the case at all. My theorizing on a particular interpretation is not at all a negation of any major, fundamental doctrine that has garnered a unity in terms of the Finality of All Things. That Christian understanding remains intact regardless of how I may interpret Paul and his use of “the man of sin” (which I am currently researching for a book during the last year and hope to have finished this year).
Anyhow. Those are the Debates. I am please with them all. I thank my Lord and King for the opportunities to demonstrate His good grace and kindness to me to open my eyes and lead me from this dangerous and pernicious heresy.