Saturday, February 25, 2012

Touching On Evolution & Hermeneutics

I’ve already mentioned that I was raised in the RCC. My first years were spent being taught by the nuns and I must admit they actually did a fine work of presenting the Gospel message to me and I understood Christ died for my sins, and that He was my savior. It was there I was taught that the OT sacrifices – especially the Abraham-Isaac story – pictured Christ’s future sacrifice. It was also there I was taught a literal Adam and Eve.

When I reached my teens I found myself in a secular school and confronted with the “fact” of evolution. Now I’m not particularly bright but those nuns had done a great teaching job and I immediately saw the ramifications of evolution; a mythical Adam and the need for a savior or even a creator. In search of an answer I consulted the priests and ministers who taught our half-hour weekly Christian Education classes. Sadly, getting answers from them was not fruitful. They wouldn’t or couldn’t refute evolution yet avoided addressing the implications of subjectively choosing which portions of the Bible were to be understood as truth or literal events. Those men were no better than social workers dressed up in clerical garb.

Later, I spent some time in a church which produced some impressive refutations of evolution. Unfortunately, that same organization also claimed to be the true spiritual Israel and the only authentic church led by a modern day apostle – in other words, it was a cult. On the one hand we were encouraged to diligently study the inerrant Bible in a literal manner for ourselves, yet on the other hand we were fed various “codes” to use. For example, whenever we came across the word “Israel” in the OT or NT we mentally inserted – not just the word “church” – but the name of that particular organization. That exercise never sat comfortably with me.

That I later embraced the New Age and other erroneous ideas is the subject of another story. I must take full blame for having gone down that path. Had I been more diligent and discerning I would have found my answers years ago. Except for the grace of God, I might still be lost in it.

Now I’m back on track and I see the same two issues plaguing some Christians. One is the compromise of evolution and the other is hermeneutics.

Some Christian evolutionists take an elitist stance. They assume creationists are in denial and/or cannot meet the so-called academic challenge of evolution. Creation Ministries International addresses the implications surrounding Christians accepting the evolution hypothesis in Evolutionary syncretism: a critique of Biologos. Also worthwhile reading is CMI’s Refuting Evolution and Refuting Evolution 2. CMI is run by scientists like Jonathan Sarfati. They aren’t exactly intellectual lightweights – many of the technical papers they write are peer reviewed. Spend enough time reading at their website and you will see CMI successfully interacting with skeptical “boffins” who write in questions hoping to trip them up. There is no valid scientific excuse for a Christian to embrace evolution. The ramifications of doing so are dire.

The other issue comes down to how some Christians deal with scriptural references which would seem to contradict their theology. The amillennial treatment of Revelation (literal thousand years & binding of Satan) and a multitude of OT references to Israel’s future and relationship to the church, are uppermost in my mind here. One good example is how Kim Riddlebarger deals with Isaiah 65:20 HERE. Essentially, he appeals to the likes of Motyer and argues that Isaiah had to use “metaphors” to express what he couldn’t fully comprehend about the glorious future. Of course, Riddlebarger et al take the view that Isaiah couldn’t have understood it because his report doesn’t comply with their own understanding of how it should read.

During some recent online discussions I’ve been called “blasphemous”, “heretical” and “clueless” for rejecting supercessionism and Amillennialism. The individual even offered to pray for my salvation. I’m glad we weren’t discussing the rapture! Sadly, this attitude is a growing trend.

I feel greatly indebted to Paul Henebury’s recent outstanding work in addressing (and exposing) the methodologies people use to get around OT passages which don’t comply with their respective theologies. I encourage people to visit his blog and spend some time studying his commentaries. A great place to start is HERE and then work your way to recent installments.

Other notable articles by Paul:

Forty Reasons For Not Reinterpreting The Old Testament By The New: The First Twenty

Forty Reasons For Not Reinterpreting The Old Testament By The New: The Last Twenty

Saturday, February 18, 2012

On The Dating of Revelation

“No can do.”

That’s what David B Currie informs us in “Rapture – The End-Times Error That Leaves the Bible Behind” (p 456). He’s talking about Rev 22:10 where “rapturists attempt to place the fulfillment [of the time is near] twenty centuries later!” Currie argues that most of the events of Matthew 24 and Revelation have already taken place. However, he doesn’t believe that the second coming of Christ occurred at 70 AD. In fact he takes hyperpreterism to task for teaching that (p 465).

His issue is with the word “tachos” in Rev 1:1 regarding the “things which must ‘soon’ take place”. Perhaps the real problem is that Currie wants to place the events of the seals back to 70 AD to defend his adopted Roman Catholic eschatology. Yet his own argument is precarious because a similar expression is used in Rev 3:11 (tachu) and other places where the Lord warns the churches that He is coming quickly. We know that the Lord didn’t come then – or the early church fathers would have noted it – now it’s “twenty centuries later” and He still hasn’t come.

So, we actually “can do”.

Tony Garland provides insight into this alleged quandary in his excellent commentary on Revelation HERE. Robert L Thomas also addresses the issue in his exegetical commentary on Revelation 1-7 (pp 54-56). Dr Thomas cites Henry Alford (among others) and his expository can be read HERE. Alford uses Luke 18:7-8 as one example where similar expressions imply “long delay”.

One of Currie’s contentions is that Revelation was written around 68 AD. If he can support that conclusion then he can gain some traction in arguing that most of the Olivet Discourse and Revelation events were fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. If John wrote Revelation later than 70 AD then Currie’s eschatological assumptions suffer a fatal blow.

Currie somehow sees internal evidence for an early date in the fact that only seven churches were addressed by the Lord. On page 457, he says: “By 96 A.D., there would have been many more than seven Churches to address.” He rejects the suggestion that the seven “encompass the entire scope of St. John’s concern”. However, we need only look at Paul’s Epistles to realize that, in fact, there were many more churches prior to 68 AD that weren’t mentioned in Revelation. It should seem obvious that there were instructive reasons for the Lord to single out those churches that were mentioned.

In “Ancient Witnesses” (p 460) he rejects the argument that John was imprisoned by Domitian between 81 and 96 AD (as per Irenaeus). Currie appeals to Epiphanius who states that John was first imprisoned under Claudius who reigned from 41 to 54 AD. Claudius was another name for one can see where the argument is heading. He then cites Dr Robert Young (Young’s Analytical Concordance) to discount Irenaeus’ witness. According to Currie (p 462):“Dr Young held that the original word Domitianou was later ‘stupidly mistaken’ (his words) as Domitianakos...” So if Domitianou refers to Nero and Domitianakos refers to Domitian then Currie has his early date.

Irenaeus (130-202 AD) wrote: "We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For [he] was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign.”

That last statement fits the later 96 AD date rather than the mid to late 60s.

For various reasons, Nero doesn’t fit the Antichrist’s credentials despite the fact that one can force the number 666 to equal his name (p 457). Nero committed suicide in 68 AD. There was no wound that he was miraculously healed of (Rev13: 3, 12, 14), no miraculous signs and wonders (Rev 13:14) and he didn’t sit in the Temple at Jerusalem proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thess 2:3-4). One can only conceivably fit Nero into the role if one takes great liberties with the texts - which flies in the face of Scott Hahn’s assertion in his Forward to Currie’s book that, “The Fundamentalist tendency is to read each biblical context in isolation from the other texts and from the larger context.....”(p viii).

Of course, given Irenaeus’ observations, he also seemed to have missed the alleged connection between Nero and the Antichrist.

One example of Currie’s circular reasoning occurs on page 451. Consider that he believes that the Roman Catholic Church (the Magisterium) has equal authority with Scripture in the sense that it can proclaim doctrine that hasn’t been taught in the Bible. His premise is that some early church fathers doubted John’s authorship of Revelation because of its perceived “millenarianism”. He notes that “an apostle would never have held the millenarian position that they thought was integral to The Apocalypse.” They objected to the “Jewish” concepts in Revelation. Currie’s solution is that Augustine came along and “conclusively showed that the book does not have a millenarian slant (unless the reader brings it with him).”

To that I would add that only if one does NOT take Revelation at face-value (Rev 20: 1-14) can one then discount millenarianism (Rev 22:18-19).

Dr Mark Hitchcock has written an in-depth 229 page dissertation defending the Domitianic date of Revelation. You can read it HERE

He has also debated Hank Hanegraaff, who can’t seem to be able to decide whether he is a preterist or not. You can watch it HERE

Dan Phillips of Pyromaniacs has a great article on Henry Alford HERE

Henry Alford’s commentaries can also be accessed via Precept Austin HERE

Further reading:

Millennial Series

Theology Adrift: The Early Church Fathers and Their Views of Eschatology

The Reign of Christ and the Great White Throne (Rev 20:1-15)

The Danger of Teaching that All or Most Prophecies Were Fulfilled in 70 A.D.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

David B Currie - Born again Catholic

As an ex Catholic I’ve been reading David Currie’s “Born Fundamentalist – Born Again Catholic” and “Rapture – The End Times Error That Leaves the Bible Behind” with a good deal of interest.

The first thing I want to say is that I strongly disagree with those Evangelicals who hold the position that Catholics are destined to hell. My Catholic mother passed away last September at the age of ninety. She wasn’t well-educated and disagreed with much of the Catholic Church’s teaching but she didn’t have other options. Yet she read her Bible and many of the “fundamentalist” books I passed onto her. She put her faith and trust in Christ for her salvation (John 3:16) and was determined to spread that message wherever she went. In fact, as she lay in her bed waiting for her impending death, she took it upon herself to interrogate my brother and me as to whether we had “faith in the Lord”.

Having said that, so far from what I’ve read of Currie has me really puzzled. Without going into detail now (perhaps in future posts), the reasons he gives for leaving “fundamentalism” and converting to Catholicism just don’t gel with me. This is especially true of his acceptance and arguments for Catholic Marian dogmas. His commentary on scriptural authority involves circular reasoning and is strategic to his arguments for legitimizing Magisterial Authority - which is paramount to Catholicism.

His critiques of dispensationalism and premillennialism are also fraught with error. One of many examples is a statement he makes about John Walvoord (which he doesn’t cite) and the 70 years of Israel’s captivity, in the book of Daniel. He claims that Walvoord admits the 70 years were not literal 70 years etc. This is simply not true. John Walvoord’s Daniel can be read online as can Robert Culver’s book on Daniel.

Walvoord's "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" can be read HERE

See also Tony Garland's A Testimony of Jesus Christ

The real issue, of course, is that Currie’s eschatology is amillennial and, as such, much of OT prophecy and Revelation are literal sticking points for him. It requires a lot of “finesse” and/or equivocation to handle plain biblical statements that contradict one’s viewpoint.

Gary Gilley’s review of Currie’s book can be read HERE

Here are some articles on Catholicism by Mike Stallard, courtesy of Sharper Iron.

Part one

Part Two

Part Three

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wonderful Hope

I really like what Paul Henebury recently said at his blog:

"As the New Year rolls out I wanted to say something about some things I hope to achieve over the next 12 months – Lord willing. It would be wonderful if the Lord would return for his Church and make what follows academic..."

It warmed my heart. There’s a certain ineffable joy in believing that the Lord could come back at any time for His Church. It’s sobering as well.

Yet it has nothing to do with escapism or fear of a tribulation that other rapture pundits tend to minimize anyway.

As an ex posttribber I’m still willing to look at good arguments against pretribulationism. I shy away from proclaiming that it’s an iron clad, explicit doctrine. Yet most of the criticisms I read tend to highlight the weaknesses in the other systems. I recall the particular website that dissenters sent my “false prophet” pretrib teacher friend who was attending a Pretrib Conference. One of the “Questions for a Pretribulationist” was “Are there two parousias of Christ?”

Please, don’t keep telling pretribbers there’s only one second coming or parousia when your system is fundamentally multiple. That’s not honest. If you say the rapture occurs after the 6th seal and that the great multitude standing in front of the throne and the Lamb in heaven (Rev 7) is the raptured church then you have more than one coming (Rev 19). Hence one cannot get around the problem by simply asserting that it’s one coming that includes a number of events.

The same applies for the posttribulational location of the rapture at the 7th trumpet where Scripture is silent, and the so-called single “first resurrection” event. The only place where Revelation speaks of Christ’s coming and a resurrection (aside from the Two Witnesses) is Rev 19 & 20 which are separate events and not located at the 7th trumpet.

Don’t tell us there’s no gap between the rapture and the day of the Lord because 1Thess 5 follows after chapter 4. Especially when you insist the Antichrist isn’t destroyed at Christ’s “first” appearing at 2 Thess 2:8 but at the other (yet the same) appearing at a different time (and a gap) in Rev 19.

And the list can go on....