Is full preterism just as bad, if not worse, than dispensationalism? That was the question rolling around in my mind after reading and watching Don Preston’s latest commentary on the March 11th tsunami in Japan.
In the article, Don predicts that the “machinery of the dispensational world” will begin to crank once again, capitalizing on the recent tsunami as yet another ‘sign’ that the end is near. Don’s concern is certainly legit. And it’s not that hard to predict. Last days hysteria has been going on for centuries and it was that same “machinery” at work in September of 2001 that i seriously began to question and eventually rejected. 9/11 was not a sign of the end.
However, we are creatures of extremes. We get out of one ditch (dispensationalism), only to walk across the road to fall into another ditch (Don’s full preterism). I’ve been in both ditches. The truth, as i have recently come to see, is somewhere in the middle.
Full preterism goes to the extreme by saying that ALL BIBLICAL PROPHECY was fulfilled within that generation. One could say that what we have here is new machinery at work. In fact, after hearing about the tsunami, like Don, i immediately thought about how this catastrophe would be pointed to by dispensationalists as another sign of “the end”; but i also thought about how full preterists would be quick to argue in the other direction. You don’t even have to give it much thought. One camp automatically points to catastrophes as signs; the other camp automatically removes any significance at all to catastrophes.
And voila, there’s Don’s article.
In this sense, the machinery of full preterism seems to be no different from the machinery of dispensationalism. The dispy boy is always crying wolf. The full pret boy never cries wolf. Which leads me back to my question ~ is full preterism worse?
In one of his videos, Don gives three reasons why the tsunami was not a sign of ‘the end’, but goes even further in claiming that there was no judgment from God involved at all! Here are his reasons:
- “God always sent His prophets to warn those He was about to judge.”
- “He also specifically named the nations He was about to judge.”
- “The nations He judged were those nations that opposed and oppressed His covenant people (Israel).”
Couple of observations here:
First, throughout the video, Don mixes up questions about “the end” in Mt 24 with questions about “judgment from God”. These are two different things. The “end” of the old covenant economy certainly involved a “judgment from God”, but not all “judgment from God” involves the end of the old covenant economy.
Second, Don writes in his video description that “God always sent His prophets” but when he makes this first “critical point” in the video, he pauses for a second and says that “the prophet [pause] was sent to that nation, in most instances.” Well, which is it? Most or Always? This isn’t some minor question. If there were times when God judged a nation without sending a prophet, then how can Don dismiss the recent prophetless tsunami as not a judgment? One has to wonder if Don paused and changed his wording from the “always” in his description to “most” out of fear of boxing God in.
Third, while it is obvious to anyone who has read the Bible that God often named the nations He was about to judge, Don is committing an inductive fallacy to argue that this “pattern” necessitates some rule that must always be present in future judgments. Perhaps he would pause here as well and say that it isn’t a logical necessity; but if not, then wouldn’t that destroy his whole point?
Put another way: Don’s argument only works if there MUST ALWAYS be a naming of the nations from a prophet. If there doesn’t have to be a naming of the nations, then Don can’t argue that this wasn’t a judgment from God, thus making his whole exercise futile. But if there MUST ALWAYS be a naming of the nations, the question that then follows is ~ where does the Bible teach this rule? Giving us examples from Scripture where God names nations before judging them doesn’t answer the question anymore than the fact that the sun has always risen necessitates that it MUST rise tomorrow morning.
Fourth, Don’s inductive fallacy can also be seen in his point 3. True, there is a “pattern” of judgment of nations in Scripture that occurred as a result of that nation’s opposition and oppression of Israel. But does this “pattern” logically NECESSITATE that all future judgments MUST contain this element? NO! One may ask then, “So why is this ‘pattern’ so prevalent?” Well, one obvious reason is because the Scriptures were largely focused on the story of Israel and her place in redemptive history…hello? When you visit the “Bradfield blog”, you are going to read, hear, and see experiences largely associated with the Bradfield family; does this then mean that no other families go through similar experiences? Of course not.
Fifth, in the video Don asks, in light of his third point, what relation Japan has to “modern Israel”. If Japan has not oppressed and opposed modern Israel, then we can’t say, according to him, that the tsunami was a judgment from God. I thought his insertion of “modern” was a little strange because with Don’s full preterist views, modern Israel plays no significant “covenantal” role whatsoever. Modern Israel is no different from any other nation. If one did not know his beliefs, they might be led to think that if Japan DID oppose modern Israel, then this might have been a judgment. Again, just seems a little strange for him to say “modern” Israel. But this leads to another problem ~ if modern Israel plays no significant covenantal role today and if judgment calls (literally) can only be made on the basis of one’s relation to covenant Israel, wouldn’t this then automatically rule out ANY future judgments from God?! If opposing and oppressing covenant Israel is a necessary element for judgment to occur and “covenant Israel” hasn’t existed since ad70, then “judgment from God” no longer exists!
SO WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOD DOING TODAY?
This is when the question of whether full preterism is worse than dispensationalism crept up in my mind. If what Don is saying is true, then what are we left with?
True, i cannot know every single exact detail as to why God sent a tsunami into Japan. But i can deduce from Scripture that tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, and the like, are all sovereign acts of God. Contrary to the materialists and confused ‘Christians’, there is no such thing as “natural law.” Or have you not read in the Scriptures that:
“He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.”
God uses these destructive forces to judge reprobates and discipline his children. Despite Don’s claims, i believe we CAN make “generic” claims based on Scripture. Else, what are we left with? While the last days crazed dispensationalist may go overboard and beyond Scripture in declaring exact pronouncements concerning every single individual and why they were put through the tsunami, at least they leave God in the tsunami! With Don’s view, God did not do ANY judging at all. We are left with just random acts of nature of which we can attribute no signifigance to whatsoever.
Yes, the dispensationalists need to stop crying wolf every time something bad happens. But with full preterism, the wolf doesn’t exist! What is worse? Wrongly reading, perhaps, a little too much “judgment” into a tsunami or taking God out of the picture altogether?
I am reminded of the story of the blind man in Jo 9: “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
We could say here that the disciples displayed the “dispensational machinery” that automatically assumed that God made this man blind because of sin. Answering the dispensationalist, Jesus would caution them for assuming that “sin” is always the cause. It wasn’t the case here. But, in answering the full preterists, who might go to the other extreme of removing any significance because the blindness did not fit a pattern of three essential elements that he fallaciously induced, Jesus would affirm – along with the dispy – that God was still behind the blindness. God caused the blindness to “display” His “works”.
Now, take this same approach to a tsunami that affects thousands. Did everyone who perished in that tsunami die because of their “sin”? I can’t say that. But should i then go to the extreme of saying that not one person was “judged” and perished because of their sin? I can’t say that either.
Let’s correct the last days madness, but not with the practical atheism of full preterism.