An Encouragement: Buy This Book!

There have already been a few reviews of the new book by Douglas J. Douma entitled, The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (Wipf & Stock, 2016).  I have a pretty good grasp of Clark’s philosophy, but learned a great deal about the man himself from this work.  I had no idea that Billy Graham was a student of his!

My son is enrolled in a university pursuing Philosophy as his major.  He has often asked me over the years why Clark is not as celebrated (or quoted) as other contemporaries.  This book answers that question.  Clark was not out for fame or to make a name for himself.  He was, first and foremost, a dedicated academic of the highest caliber.  Back in the day, of course, and mostly during his tenure at Butler University as Chair of the Philosophy Department, many knew Clark and his work.  Perhaps one of the best and most known students of his was Carl F.H. Henry.

Reading the book, though, one sees that Clark was a “behind the scenes” kind of guy.  J. Gresham Machen?  Clark was there along his side.  Westminster Theological Seminary?  Clark was there in the beginning.  Evangelical Theological Society?  Clark.  Carl F.H. Henry and the magazine Christianity Today?  Yep.  Orthodox Presbyterian Church?  Yep.  Fuller Theological Seminary?  Wheaton?  Harold Lindsell?  The list goes on and on (throw in a little chess, too).

I started the book and simply could not put it down.  I do not wish to write a review (that’s been done), but merely to encourage anyone, everyone to get this book.  Evangelicalism is what it is today because, somewhere back there, Clark put in his two cents.

A large part of the book, of course, is centered around the so called “Clark-Van Til” controversy.  It’s amazing to me (and this book makes me even more amazed) that such a “controversy” came about at all.  Both men were stalwart defenders of the Faith at the highest level.  Another contribution of this well researched, excellently written work is a chapter on Clark’s contributions.  The section on Logic is so well stated that one wonders how in the world Bertrand Russell could ever defend the negation of subalterns.  Clark, back in the day, and because of his non-seminary position at Butler, was able to interact with secular academia on their own level.  Hardly anyone was reviewing the works of William James, John Dewey, Russell, Wittgenstein and A.J. Ayer, but he was.  These greats would (and have) shaped American culture.  Defeat Ayer’s brand of Atheism and, well, do I even need to read Dawkins or Sam Harris?  Pound the pragmatism of James, and do I even need to read what postmodernists are saying today about Education?  Clark (and his student Carl Henry) already did the work – read Henry’s 6 volume God, Revelation, and Authority – buy it, sell your dog if you have to).

I read a ton of books, and this one was refreshing.  Now, I am going back to read, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and The Experimental Life (Shapin and Schaffer, Princeton University Press, 1985).  Clark taught me how to read critically.  He taught me how to ask questions about hidden assumptions.  Knowing more about his personal life as provided by Douma shows me that all that Clark did and stood for is not lost.  If only one will shut off the idiot box and read a book (rather, reading doesn’t teach anyone anything, the Word does, illuminating the mind and granting comprehension….wink, wink).

Vestments: A Defense for Dressing Like A Clown

Recently I have become more active in teaching and writing.  This came about in two ways.  First, Don Preston utilized a book I had written many moons ago when I was pastoring a congregation in St. Petersburg, Florida.  This book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection was written from a now discarded view I once held called Full Preterism (a view I now hold as heretical).  In his You Tube series, Preston touts my work as a “must read” and, of course, wanting to distance myself entirely from this so-called “movement”, I responded with my own You Tube presentations.

This was all during a time when my Dad was gravely ill.  The subject matter was “resurrection of the dead”, and of course, the timing was a bit strange.  I ministered to my dad in those final weeks and days with a heaviness I have never known.  Death became very real.  “The last enemy to be defeated is Death,” Saint Paul wrote.  “Enemy”?  That word leaped out at me. For Paul, Death (“the Death”as he penned it, personifying it) is a spiritual “principality” or “power” that is at work within all of us.  We do not ever die “from natural causes.”  An enemy is on the attack.  Although so-called natural causes are the visible manifestations (cancer, disease, blood clots, or heart attacks), they are, rather, to be seen as spiritual effects.  The Cause is Death itself (Lemmy Kilmister, rest in peace, of Motorhead opined in a great song called, ‘Killed By Death’).  Death is an enemy.  My Dad, a once lively, rowdy soul was being taken from us.

I read my Book of Common Prayer (1928) to him.  The same one I used while pastoring a church.  After the passing of his body and reception of his soul into the arms of Christ (so I hope with full confidence), I helped administer the service – again, using the Book of Common Prayer, my ever faithful companion.  Something in me, and I realize this is entirely subjective at this point, but I will deal with that in a bit, awoke.  A few days later I found while rummaging through his personal items, pictures of my ordination ceremony (with Presiding Elders Kelly Birks, Officiant, and Mike Delores, a Reformed Christian Church presbyter).  Dad also kept the ordination program handout and wrote the time (he had traveled all the way from Indiana to Florida to see it).  He also made note of it in his public journal of sorts.  I realized that he never saw me the same way again.  I was the “preacher” (think of the hills of Kentucky).  Very deep stirrings.

Now, I have always been enamored with the Cross of Jesus since a child.  My mom came home one day only to find in the front yard a huge cross made from two-by-fours.  That’s not something you want to see in Indiana!  White sheets and a vocabulary with a lot of “K’s” comes to mind.  I was about 8 years old.  I drew pictures of Jesus, and wanted a huge coffee table Bible for Christmas.  I begged a Catholic neighbor of mine to let me have her crucifix, which she had on her wall.  She relented (it can be seen in my You Tube lectures on the wall).  Jesus.  The Cross.  A man died for me.  I couldn’t get enough as a child.

Without going into a testimony about myself, for there are much better subjects than that, when I was a Full Preterist, I had received a call from a Bible study group who wanted to found a regularly ordered congregation (a “church”).  I had a Master’s degree by that time (and later completed my Theologiae Magister, Th.M. in 2012 from Whitefield Theological Seminary), and I certainly had a desire to teach and preach.  This lead to a full investigation, theologically and historically, as to what constituted things like “ordination”, “congregation” and “tenable status” as Minster.  How does one become a credible, recognized Minister in a day when anyone can get an ordination license on the internet?

Now, of course, in my undergraduate and seminary work we certainly covered those topics.  The first major verse that always popped up was 1st Timothy 3.1, ‘Faithful is this saying: If anyone aspires to oversight (episkopos in Greek), he desires a good work.’  From this it is recognized that the aspiration and desire arises from an individual’s heart.  That’s where it begins.  Now, in St. Petersburg we, as a congregation, were faced with the problem that we were, according to all things Orthodox, heretics.  We taught a doctrine (Full Preterism) that was not accepted (and still is not accepted) within any mainline denomination.  Of course, at the time, we thought of ourselves as enhancing historical Christianity, having solved a theological thorn in the side of the Church-at-Large when it came to the so-called, “end times”.  As a corporation entity in the State of Florida, we drew up our Constitution and By-Laws (which I still have) and, in those documents, made it plain to all that we wish nothing more than to be accepted, eventually, within a recognized denominational affiliation.  There were other Full Preterist churches, and we even sought to create our own denomination, as I have seen done many, many times in the history of Christianity.  These denominations, as they are called, were formed usually from breaks with an already formed one over doctrinal differences.  Well, we had a doctrinal difference.  What, then, is preventing us from establishing our own “denomination”?

The principle of Independent Churches, self established congregations with no affiliations with any major one (Baptist, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc) ran deep in Christianity since the time of the Reformation (1517).  When one, however, began to look at the founding of these now “mainline” denominations, one saw that they, too, had a “beginning” not in any association with something “legitimate.”  The Anglican Church (Church of England, the Episcopalians) split from the Roman Catholics.  The Lutherans split from the Roman Catholics.  The Methodists broke from the Anglicans, and so on.  Today there are churches called, “non-denominational” (which is sort of oxymoronic, since the phrase means, “no name”).  Regardless, when one reads their documents for establishing ecclesiastic bodies (which Catholics have a good laugh over, and the Greek Orthodox laugh at all of us) there are all sorts of justifications sought for – in the Bible.

It is indisputable that two main sources of church polity came from Die Juden, the Jews.  One was the synagogue and the other the Sanhedrin.  Later, after the third century A.D., a third source became a fixed form: Rome.  Considering Christians were largely made up of Jews in her earliest years, and spread to Rome in her ongoing years of Expansion, the coupling of these two(three) sources can be found in nearly every church building that can be called a church building.  That brings me to Vestments ( I would get there eventually).  Vestments (vestimentum, Latin for “clothing”) have a long history. The synagogue has them, and even the business suit and tie the Baptist preacher wears on Sunday is a vestment.  Thus, logically, it is not whether ministers and choir singers (choir robes) have clothing, but what kind of clothing they do wear.

There is a much history on clerical dress that I simply cannot get into here, and I have taken way too much of your time already.  The way I see it, Ordination, regardless of where it comes from, arises from a desire in the heart.  There is always succession involved since the founding of the “Church”.  That is, from Paul in Asia Minor, to Jerome, to Augustine to Pope Leo, to Luther to that guy (or gal) preaching down the road in the local Church of Christ or The Nazarenes there is a succession of Christians laying hands on other Christians in recognition of their desire to the episcopate.  This, in continued reading of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, is in keeping with the recognition of others (credentials) who are close to the person aspiring such an office.  Now, these two things, in and of themselves, do not mean that the person is, in fact, called of Christ.  David Koresh was not called.  Neither was Jim Jones or Charles Manson, even though they claimed it.  The Bible, then, becomes a “witness”, too.

In other words, two or three witnesses is needed, for anyone can say they have a desire to such an office or calling.  There must be an establishment of credulity in principle.  All recognize this in their own denominations.  1. The Call of Christ (which is subjective).  2. The testing of such calling (establishing credibility).  This latter point comes in a variety of ways today.  Training, internship, degree programs, etc.  Finally, some sort of ceremonial aspect plays a role in the finalization of all this (“laying on of hands” which is from the synagogue).  No single Christian just says, “hey, I ordained myself, I am called of Jesus, follow me.”  Don’t follow them.  L. Ron Hubbard comes to mind.  While each denomination today has their own “criteria” (some more rigorous than others), all of them have these principles at the bottom line.  These are biblical principles.  I recognize, then, all ministers that have them, even if they are Independent, Reformed, Catholic or Greek Orthodox (unified by our shared reading of the Nicene Creed).  If a Nazarene Minister has them, then he is a Minister, period.  I am not at all concerned with whether or not he can show “succession” from Luther or Calvin.  Can he show succession from other Christians in recognizing his own, personal desire and does he preach and teach the word of God in line with our inherited Christian Faith as found in the unity of the Nicene Creed?  Good enough for me.

Now, back to vestments and I why I wear them.  As a fool in attempting to justify my wearing of these clerical items of cloth, I do so for a couple of reasons.  1.  I do meet the principles already slightly elaborated on (much more elaboration can be done, filling a volume).  I have endeavored to meet them with full intention of meeting them.  Although I do not “have” a congregation at the moment, or might seek one through another ecclesiastical agency (denomination), there is an audience.  Paul had papyrus as a medium, we have the internet.  Media is media and communication is communication (although I am with a ministry that is allowing me to teach as well).  Second, historically, those who desire such an office usually have distinctive garb that represents such a call.  Look around, uniforms are all around us designating offices and job-callings.  So, there is nothing wrong with it, even if it is not commanded in the Bible (following the principle that we are at liberty in the Church to do things not expressly forbidden in Scripture, rather than the rule that we should only do those things expressly commanded).  It does have a history even within the old Israelite custom when the Tabernacle of Moses was active (and, in some part, forms a source for such vestment symbolism today).  For me, it connects with history, symbol and rite.  It’s personal.  I like it for all the right reasons.  Though some may have a power trip over wearing a clerical collar, as if that gives them some mystical prestige over others or something, or a “look at me” narcissistic ego thirst, it’s not the case with me.  I realize I look like a clown to many.  There is a humbling aspect about it.  In some ways, it is demeaning (the “stole” is a burden on the shoulders, the collar is a slave ring, and the alb is a simple piece of fabric, not elaborate or showy at all).  It is preparation.  I am getting ready to expound on the revelation of God’s word.  I must be careful here.  I will be judged for this.  God does care deeply about what others say concerning his revealed, written words.  This is not a calling one should aspire to, or take lightly in any way, shape, or form.  Lives have been wrecked.  We we all stand before the Throne of Christ and give an account.

Anyhow, that’s my two cents.  I am sticking with it.  It’s a pursuit my Dad put his mark on, and in the light of his passing, the passing of his body, rather, awaiting resurrection in Glory, a refreshing wind has blown.  Whither it goes, I do not know, but I am letting it blow in my sails and so far, the ride has been pretty tasty.

Taking on Don K. Preston’s Jesus

In a recent and rather long, written “debate” with Full Preterist leader and teacher Don K. Preston on Facebook, it has become clear to this theologian that Mr. Preston advocates a different version of Jesus than espoused by the Church.

First, some preliminary remarks.  Mr. Preston teaches a view of Eschatology (or “end times” thought) that is called, Full Preterism.  That is, every single prophecy that can be called a prophecy in the Bible is fulfilled within the generation of Jesus’ original hearers and followers.  The culmination of this was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (and their alliances) in 66-70 A.D.  Much can be said about the importance of this event for biblical interpretation of prophetic events and has been said.  However, by and large, the message Preston brings is rejected within Christendom because it does not do justice to the “purpose of God” (Ephesians 1.11), which is seen as encompassing all human history from beginning to end.  Preston utterly rejects the idea that the Bible anywhere speaks of the end of history or time.  All Christian theology that has come down us and being worked out even today is based on the notion that time and history will end with the Jewish-Christian hope of a new heavens and a new earth (Christianity in Jewish Terms, 2000, Westview Press, xx).

It may seem entirely strange, indeed “bizarre” as one leading theologian put it, that someone professing the Christian faith would argue for such a proposal, but argue it they do.  Although there appears to be no groundswell among its adherents, one would not get that from their constant appeals to the “success all over the world” they claim.  This claim is not the point of my article.  It’s the doctrine of Jesus.  For Preston to make his claim, which in and of itself is outside the pales of orthodoxy for Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodoxy and mainline Evangelical communities, he has to redefine the nature of the Son of God as is commonly understood and believed.

First, then, allow me to define the Nature(s) of the Son of God (or, the Logos – Greek for “Word”).  I will utilize three references so as to show complete unity of doctrine on this matter from Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and mainline Protestant (Evangelical) churches.  First, the Creed of Chalcedon (451 A.D.): “We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body.”  It’s this last part that I wish to point out, “reasonable soul and body.”  This is the Christ that Christians “confess” and believe. This is what is reflected when the Nicene and Apostles’ Creed states, “Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man.”  “Was made man” means, “a reasonable soul and body.”  Greek orthodoxy expresses the same sentiment, and the Westminster Confession, following this tradition-based-on-Scripture does the same, “On the third day He arose from the dead, with the same body in which He suffered, with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of His Father, making intercession, and shall return, to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.”  The phrase, “with which also he ascended into heaven” is to be noted.  Thus, from this brief consideration Jesus, who is worshiped and confessed by the one, Holy Church is a man with a reasonable soul and body, with which body he ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father.  The God-Man, Two Natures, One Person.  Preston flatly denies this, and as we shall see, mocks it.

Now, to be fair, Preston acknowledges that the Son of God, the Logos, the Eternal, Uncreated Son, who is God the Son, became a human being (“flesh”) and had, had, mind you, a body.  However, this body was “shed” at his ascension recorded in Acts 1, and what remains of his human “nature” is not that which is “of the same substance with his Father according to his Divinity, and of the same substance with us according to his humanity; for there became a union of two natures. Wherefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord.”  As of the “substance” with us, Preston changes this.  The “nature” of Christ as it presently regards his humanity is merely the retaining of the “knowledge and understanding” (memory) of his days in the flesh.

In the “debate” with Mr. Preston I pressed him over and over to answer a question concerning this matter, “did the man, Christ Jesus, die twice?”  Preston would not answer the question but rather went on with pointing out my inconsistencies about all matters eschatological.  In other words, Eschatology, as we shall see, controls the entire doctrinal catalogue of Christian Theology proper.  Everything is read through the lens of Full Preterism.  It’s not that I cannot answer Preston on exegetical matters concerning Eschatology, it’s that in my view, Christology is more important than Eschatology.  If we can’t get WHO we worship correct (Christology), then it matters not about WHAT he has done or will do (Eschatology).  Mormons also say, “Jesus is Lord”, but when you ask them, “Who is Jesus” you get an entirely different answer than you would from the Church.  For Preston, this is not so important as is the matter of Eschatology.  If you get Eschatology wrong, then you get all the other doctrines wrong (and, he admits, as we shall see, that the Church has, basically, got it all pretty much wrong because her Eschatology is, pretty much, all wrong).

Allow me to let Mr. Preston speak for himself.  “I want everyone to pay particular attention here. We have Mr. Frost offering this: “I could care less who you think Babylon is….but, “who do you say that I am?” THAT’S fundamental to me. FAR more important than your eschatology. But, if your eschatology gets you to deny the Continued Incarnation of our Holy Lord, then it is WRONG, period, end of story.””  Yes, I wrote that.  I do not care what Preston thinks concerning his identification of Babylon in Revelation 17.  I do care about the identification of Babylon, just not his, and I note that (which he takes to mean that I have no care at all about who Babylon is in Revelation 17, but that’s not what I said, even in his quote from me!).  From my quote, Preston goes on: “Folks, here we have a man openly– overtly- scoffing at Biblical doctrine and truth. Scoffing and MOCKING the importance of properly understanding the identity of Babylon! Sam Frost does not care who Babylon was, in spite of the fact that I have shown, the coming of the Lord, the judgment and the resurrection were to occur at the destruction of Babylon! So, to mis-identify Babylon is to miss- to negate- to pervert, the Biblical narrative of eschatology! But, Mr. Sam Frost does not care! Instead, all he cares about is MOCKING the Biblical, exegetical arguments about the heavenly existence of Jesus.”  Again, that’s not what I am “mocking” (actually, I am not mocking anything).  I said, I do not care what Preston thinks about his interpretation of Babylon, not about who Babylon is (I have my own opinion on that).  But, Preston is right on this matter: I do care about the mocking of the present heavenly existence of Jesus, who I worship.  Correct.

Preston continues, though, and watch the slide into even greater exaggeration: “HE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT ESCHATOLOGY, AS LONG AS HE CAN HOLD ONTO HIS PRECONCEIVED, MISGUIDED, BUT, CREEDAL!!!- VIEW OF JESUS STILL POSSESSING A PHYSICAL, BODY OF BLOOD, FLESH AND BONE! It is truly a sad day when a man openly says he does not care about what the Bible says about the subject that is mentioned more times than any other subject– eschatology!”  (his words are capped by him).  From “I do not care what you (Preston) think about Babylon” to “Frost does not care about who Babylon is” to “Frost does not care about what the Bible says about Eschatology.”  Somehow, Preston thinks himself of such great importance that to not care what he thinks about a topic is not to care at all about that topic (Babylon), to not caring at all about the entire subject matter (Eschatology) of which that topic is contained!  I can’t make this stuff up.

I’ll let all of that slide, for Preston is prone to self-importance.  In this last quote he admits that my position is, in fact, “creedal.”  Thus, my position, which is in full creedal agreement with the Holy Church, Greek, Roman and Protestant Evangelical on this matter of Jesus’ heavenly existence is “misguided”.  Further, Preston writes, “Mr. Frost says that I MOCK, the doctrine of Christ and his body. No, Mr. Frost, I simply reject your distorted view of Christ’s body.”  My “distorted view of Christ’s body” as it is in heaven is “creedal”.  Therefore, by strict logic, the creedal view is “misguided”, “distorted” and to be “reject[ed].”  This is as clear as an admission as one can get: Preston’s Full Preterism rejects the creedal doctrine of Jesus’ continuing Incarnate body.

Mr Preston does indeed mock the Christian position: “It means that the coming of the King of kings, was not to be– and was not– the physical, literal, coming of Jesus as a 5′ 5″ man in a body of flesh, blood and bone descent out of heaven on a literal cloud! The NATURE of the parousia– and the RESURRECTION– is fully established and it repudiates Mr. Frost’s position.”  In other words, the confession of the Church is that Jesus will return bodily at the end, when he will destroy all rule, power and authority and raise the dead at the last day, bodily. I say, “bodily” because the doctrine of the Continued Incarnation of the Lord is bodily.  That is why it is added in some Christian creeds, “and we believe in the bodily, visible return of the Lord.”  Preston mocks this bodily Jesus, rejects its very idea, and scorns those who hold to it: the Church.  Now, it is hypothesized that Jesus, while on earth, had weight, height and occupied space (in theological terms, localized, spatial, limited).  The Logos, however, although dwelling with the “reasonable soul and body” of the man born of the Virgin Womb, is , was, and always will be, God, Omnipresent, without locality, dimension or weight and height.  Two Natures, One Person, the God-Man (as expressed by the Holy Church).  There is the man, Christ Jesus, who is also, presently, “the man from heaven” (and keep in mind, Man, as defined, is a “reasonable soul and body”).  But, for the sake of argument, let us say that this Hebrew was 5’5″ tall.  Let us say, with all conjecture (I might be off a foot or an inch or two, but that’s irrelevant), that this is the man the Disciples saw ascend in a cloud.  For Preston, this man is no longer at all in any way, shape or form, that man “with a reasonable body and soul” any longer from that point onward.  The Church believes that he is.  Has always taught that he is.  That he, a man, a priest, a king and Lord entered into the Most Holy Place and redeemed his people.  That he, a man, is also, God, the Logos, the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, two natures, One Person.

Now, to be fair, Preston does state, “I have never- ever- denied that Christ has a body in heaven.”  What body?  What other “body” would it be?  It can’t be the Logos, for the Logos, in and of Himself, God, may He forever be praised, has no body.  The only “body” the Logos has was added at the Incarnation of our Blessed Savior in the conception of his mother’s womb.  That’s the only body mentioned in the Bible: “Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it…” (John 19.40).  Maybe he got another body at his ascension.  I digress.  Preston never explains or defines what this “body” is.  In another place he wrote, “And, the Logos– who had taken the form of man, the body of flesh- did not die when he divested himself of that flesh.”  Thus, whatever “body” Christ has “in heaven”, it isn’t the same body he had on earth!  Now, this gets back to the original question I posed for Preston: did Jesus, the man, die twice?  He never really answers that explicitly.  In a round about way, he says that the Logos “did not die” when he “divested himself” of the flesh Jesus had while on earth.  But, “divest himself” is simply a way around saying that Jesus “died” again.  Preston calls it “divested” flesh, and I call it “dead flesh.”  A separation of soul and body is, well, for all ordinary folks, “death.”  Jesus “died” when he “gave up his spirit” on the cross.  The Logos, of course, did not “die” (let’s hope not, since the Logos holds all things together in creation!).  But, that was never my question.  I didn’t ask, “did the Logos, die?”  But, in divesting himself of the flesh, the man Christ Jesus, of a reasonable soul and body, died….again.  Once at the cross, and another at the Ascension.

Apparently, Preston equates the Logos (the Divine Nature, God the Son, Eternal, Uncreated) with the Man, Christ Jesus (created, incarnate, with a reasonable soul and body).  The Logos “became man” and the result of this was the Two Natures, Divine, Eternal, and Human, created.  In other words, the Creeds state that the two natures are “distinct” with  a “hypostatic union” yet not “co-mingled.” The Man in heaven is with a reasonable soul and body and is the Logos, Eternal, Uncreated, God.  Just so that I am clear, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) states, “Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection” and he ascended to the right hand of the Father “where he…is seated bodily” (Part 1, Art. 6, 659-663).  I can hear the remarks now coming from the Full Preterists that I am quoting the Catholic catechism.  Well, yes.  The catechism here expresses what the Westminster Confession states, the Belgic Confession states and what is found in literally all mainline churches in their “doctrinal beliefs.”  It is not the intent of this paper to prove such assertions from the Bible (the catechisms and confessions of each particular church has what are called “scriptural proofs” supplementing these propositional assertions).  My intent is to point out what the Church believes in unity over and against what Preston believes (rather, what his Eschatology forces him to believe).

If I may add a little more from W.G.T. Shedd, whose Dogmatic Theology (3 volumes – 1888-1894) has long been considered a classic.  The human nature the Logos took upon himself, and in this nature “made himself nothing” (Philippians 2.7), was fully human, “a real substance having physical, rational, moral and spiritual properties” (Vol 2, 289).  Jesus Christ is, thus, One Person with Two Natures, fully human, fully divine.  To deny this is to deny the teaching of Scripture.  Jesus “died, was buried, and was risen.”  The man, Christ Jesus.  The Logos did not “die” and was not “risen” from the dead from the standpoint of the Divine Nature.  From this a question has arose.  Is the human being, Jesus, present wherever the Logos is present?  That is, is the man, Christ Jesus, omnipresent?  No.  The man is present in heaven, local and spatial.  But the hyspostatic union of the Divine and Human natures are not separated, though distinct, so that “Christ’s deity never is present anywhere in isolation and separation from his humanity” (327).  Shedd’s illustration is suffice: a man partaking of the Eucharist in London enjoys the Presence of the Divine Nature in his soul.  The Divine Nature is conjoined with the Human Nature, which is in heaven and not in London.  “This conjunction of both is equivalent to the presence of both” (327).  In other words, Shedd respects the Divine Nature (Eternal, Uncreated, God the Son) and the Human Nature (Man, reasonable soul and body, will and conscience, created, risen from the dead, ascended into heaven).  The very idea of Jesus “taken from you” (Acts 1.11) and “must remain in heaven” (Acts 3.21) is in relation to the man, Christ Jesus – spatial, distant.  Obviously, millions of pages have been written on this matter, and I cannot do justice here to this doctrine other than asserting that this is what the Church believes, historically and presently.

As our debate continued, Preston attempts to answer my question, “Did Jesus die twice?”  So that I am fair, read his own words: “The Transfiguration vision was the vision of Christ’s parousia, but, the Transfiguration is an utter rejection of Mr. Frost’s idea that Christ will come in his Incarnate body.”  He will not come in it because, as we already quoted, he “divested himself” of it.  Again, “Every description of the parousia is a total repudiation of the idea that Jesus will one day come out of heaven as a 5’5″ Jewish man in a body of flesh, blood and blood.”  In somewhat confusing fashion, Preston writes, “But, if believers now go to heaven when the die, they patently do not need biological, physical bodies of flesh, blood and bone, that Mr. Frost says Jesus MUST HAVE, in heaven!

“Mr. Frost, how is it that “billions of believers” have died and gone to heaven without biological, physical bodies of flesh, blood and bone, and yet, Jesus cannot be there unless he has a biological, physical body of flesh, blood and bone? (BTW, folks, did you notice Mr. Frost scoffing at the idea of the Logos “learning” the experiences of sympathy, empathy, i.e. the human experiences? Hmm, wonder why the author of Hebrews said “though he were a son, YET LEARNED HE OBEDIENCE THROUGH THE THINGS THAT HE SUFFERED”? Per Mr. Frost, the Logos did not even need to put on the flesh to experience and “learn” because he was omniscient.”  This is an amazing admission.  The Logos, apparently, needed to “learn” something.  This shows the considerable intermingling of the Natures of the Logos (condemned as heresy).  The human nature “grew in wisdom and stature” was “born” and “died.”  The Logos is the unification of two natures, not a transmutation of one nature into another.  “The properties of the Divine Nature cannot be either destroyed or altered” (Shedd, 266).  The Logos is the Person, the God-Man, who, by the human nature (incarnation), acquired the human experience of suffering, thirst and death.

Preston goes on, “I am arguing that although the Logos divested himself of the form of God– he put off the form- morphe– of God, but, he did not die although he DIVESTED himself of that form of God!”  Again, in biblical theology, the Logos, who is God the Son, divested Himself of no such thing in and of Himself as God.  By the Incarnation, the human nature, equal with God because of the union of the two natures in One Person (Logos), emptied himself (“made himself nothing”).  The Logos is the God-Man (God first, Man second).  The Logos took upon Himself, without any alteration of His Diety consisting in and of Himself, the human nature of Man, and this Nature “emptied himself” (did not rely upon, but was made fully man), and is now “exalted” to the right hand of God.  The Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, God, was not “exalted” (for He is eternally exalted with the glory of the Father), but the human nature was exalted, the Man Christ Jesus, of a reasonable soul and body.

In a more explicit way, Preston writes, “Mr. Frost, if the Word could DIVEST HIMSELF OF THE FORM OF GOD, WITHOUT DYING, please tell us why the Word, after the resurrection, and at the entrance into the Glory that he had with the Father before the world began – could not divest himself of the body of flesh, blood and bone– and still maintain the full knowledge, the full experience, the full empathy and sympathy “gained” by his Incarnation– the putting off of the form of God.
Are you going to tell us that the Omniscient Word would forget and forfeit the knowledge, the understanding of the “days of his flesh” because he divested himself of that form? (BTW, those days were past when the Hebrews writer wrote those words, Mr. Frost).”  This admission is in denial of what we have discussed thus far.  Apparently, the Logos, as he understands it, ceased being “in the form of God” while in the “days of his flesh.”  The Logos put off that form and took on himself another form, a human form, temporarily.  After his earthly life, the Logos sloughed off the human form and took back on the form he had in the beginning.  In other words, one form was exchanged for another form and then re-exchanged into the original form of God.  This is in complete and utter denial of the One Person, Two Natures, Divine and Human.  Now, after having divested himself of the human form, all that the Logos now has in heaven of that former form is memories.  This is not the God of the Bible.  It is not the God the Church worships.  Even if we were to emphasize the passages of Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven, he says, “you will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.”  The Logos is eternally the Son of God, uncreated, and the Son of Man, created together.  Two Natures, not one Nature (God) and some memories (former son of man).

Now, this passage, scrutinized beyond all scrutiny in the early church for two centuries before it codified our faith in the Christological affirmations, recognizes that Paul here is using the Greek term “form” (morphe) for “nature.”  It is also recognizing, utilizing all that the Scripture has to say on this matter, that the Logos is God.  The Second Person of the Trinity.  This Person “took upon” himself the nature of a servant, and this servant, Jesus Christ, counted equality with God as graspable.  Yet, this man emptied himself within his human nature of any such reliance so that, in union with the divine, unalterable, unchangeable nature of the Logos, he became fully man, relying on the power of God as would any of us would.  His human nature, the man Christ Jesus, did this.  The Logos (who is two natures) on one hand was lowly, meek, and a servant, and on the other was God, omnipresent, omniscient.  Hardly was God’s “form” divested as it relates to the Divine Nature of the One Person.  But, this is what Preston has explicitly stated.  Thus, in his view, the Logos ceased being God for a time, became a man for a time, and then became God again with human memories of the days of his being man.  As for the man, Christ Jesus, he also ceased to be except for the memories the Logos “maintains” while he was a man.  Having these memories allows for Preston to say that he still has a human dimension to him, but he won’t call it “human nature” which is defined as a “reasonable soul and body.”  Folks, this has been attempted before and the Church roundly rejected it from all four corners of the earth.

Now, and finally, why does Preston place himself at such odds with orthodoxy (he writes, “I make no claim to being “orthodox” since, orthodox basically means to run with the crowd, whatever the crowd deems to be correct at that time.”)?  We have already noted that Preston’s eschatology drives every other doctrine he entertains.  Every prophecy, including any coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead, the complete perfection of the saints, etc. are all fulfilled in AD 70.  Now, what happens when you have Jesus, the man, raised bodily from the dead and ascending bodily into heaven as a man?  Well, passages like “he has been taken from you” and “he must remain in heaven” take on a wholly different idea.  It localizes the human being, Jesus Christ.  It also defines the nature of Redemption and Resurrection: body and soul.  By sloughing off the body of Jesus, and his human nature for that matter, Preston can then argue for an entirely invisible resurrection of the dead and an entirely invisible coming of the Lord.  He can argue for an entirely invisible transformation of the living when He comes as well.  He must do this because he knows that these events did not take place in AD 70 on any visible scale.  Bodies were not raised, the living were not transformed (glorified) and no one saw a 5’5″ Jesus coming on clouds (and never will).  By effectively changing the nature of the eschaton discussed in the Bible from visible to invisible, Preston can effectively argue his case that all prophecy was fulfilled on the basis of several passages in the New Testament that speak of that generation, the destruction of Jerusalem, coming again on clouds in judgement, etc.  In doing so, even passages that speak of raising the dead in 1st Corinthians 15 is made invisible, as well as Jesus putting an “end to all rule, power and authority”.  Yes, even so far as saying that the last enemy, Death, is abolished at that time, too.  For, you see, death is not physical, but covenantal.  Death is merely separation from God in terms of justification.  Since Jesus now justifies believers, death is now abolished.  Sorry for you folks having to attend funerals with the misguided hope of resurrection and end to death.

This very strange theory Preston has of the Logos is entirely incompatible with the inspired record.  Yet, it is one that is needed in order for his eschatological musings to have any validity.  Thus, in order to follow Preston, one must not only abandon his Christology for another, but his Eschatology for another and in the end, neither is Christian except in name only.  I urge the reader to ponder these considerations in order to understand that Full Preterism is not just another eschatology, but is a serious error that jostles all the other received doctrines of the Church.

My New Blog

I have been urged by several of my peers, colleagues, friends and family to write again after what has been a few of years of absence from the public eye.  There are a couple of book projects I have been working on, one being a non-fiction theological crime novel concerning matricide.  As I tell my sons, if you want to write, just write.  Stephen King said that somewhere at some time and it always stuck with me.  Writers write, even if it goes no where but in the trash bin.  This discipline has been out of my soul for a awhile, but I can feel fresh waves ebbing in my mind.  Anyhow, hope you enjoy it.  I know I will.