A Statement from Chalcedon on Walt Hibbard's Position Concerning Full Preterism
by Andrew Sandlin
No copyright; designed for wide distribution
I was forwarded the text below that the sender asserts appeared in a Reconstructionist electronic forum as a response to an inquiry about Walt Hibbard's views concerning preterism. Beneath this cited text, attributed to Walt Hibbard, I issue a statement which assumes the text actually to have been written by Hibbard. If it was not, the statements regarding him do not apply, though our position concerning consistent (i. e., heretical) preterism certainly does. My response applies to the writer of the text. Now to the text itself:
My dear brother:
I share your concern for the teaching and propagation of sound doctrine that is truly biblical. Our company was founded back in 1970 with these goals strongly in mind. Our Lord has blessed our humble efforts over these nearly 30 years.
Of course I do not agree with you that preterist books are a threat to a truly biblical presentation of truth in the area of eschatology. Preterist ideas have been around for a long time, going back in history as far as the first century! :=) Full preterism is merely a studied effort to be more consistent than the so-called partial preterism, and to give full weight to all of the biblical passages that deal with these matters. In brief, this school of interpretation has arisen as a result of unsatisfactory explanations of so-called "end time event" from the pre-mil, a-mil and post-mil perspectives. None of these groups take seriously the imminency passages that Gary DeMar says are so crucial to a correct understanding of Bible prophecy. Only the preterist understanding comes to grips with the "time statements" taught by our Lord and His disciples. Partial preterists begin well, but falter when they encounter areas that seem to challenge statements in the creeds and confessions, and swiftly pull back from the very strong implications of full preterism. It must be remembered that early church history does not record any extensive controversy over eschatology; the church fathers seemed to just pass on rather vague and general ideas that were common in their day. While preterist ideas did show up in some of the earliest writings by some of the church fathers, there was no consistent expression indicated in any way that could be described as a systematic view of eschatology. The beauty of the early church creeds was that they arose from much controversy on such vital matters as the Diety of Christ, the Trinity, the whole soterological framework, etc. But nothing much in the area of eschatology. In fact, the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed exhibit phrases lifted from the Scripture and set into the creed, often word for word, which showed just how unsure these early fathers really were in this field of study.
I was really surprised that you would cite 2 Tim. 2:18 as support for trying to refute the preterist view. OF COURSE, the resurrection was future to the N.T. writers! They wrote prior to A.D.70 and this verse says absolutely nothing about any possible fulfillment after the date 2 Timothy was written. Stop and think about this a moment. For the sake of argument lets say a day in our future witnesses the resurrection of the body and it really comes to pass, say in the year 2005 for example. And YOU see with your own eyes this event! Would you want to have someone quote 2 Tim. 2:18 to you at that time and brand you a heretic? Would you want someone to wave the creed in your face and begin charging you with error at that date? Would 2 Tim. 2:18 be applicable at THAT time? What becomes of the creedal statement at that juncture? Do we all become heretics at that time?
Preterism begins with taking the imminency statements seriously, but it doesn't end there. Read Luke 21:22 regarding the "all that has been written." Partial preterism just won't hack it! Peter say that "the end of all things is at hand." I Pet. 4:7 What does the term "all things" refer to? We dare not pass these verses by lightly, nor ones such as Matt. 16:27-28 or even Matt 24:34 and a host of others.
There has been so little study lately about the winding down of the Old Covenant and the ascending of the New Covenant in respect to the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in A.D.70. Ministers of the Gospel are beginning to realize this void in theological studies.
I hope these brief comments will help you understand that full preterism deserves a closer look than it has of late received from some of the reconstructionist quarters. This group of scholars have been badly treated by other Reformed men, unjustly so. But now let's see how charitable these same men can be when they begin to accuse others of theological shortcomings!
P.S. I hope you and your group will investigate the full preterist position with an open mind to the Scriptures alone, regardless of the uninspired writings of church fathers, creeds or confessions. Keep in mind that if we say, as one reconstructionist said, (loosely quoted) "the creeds of the church will not ALLOW you to interpret the Scripture in that way" that we are thereby placing the creeds ABOVE the Scriptures to be judge over them! This must never be. But if we do take that position, we might as well jettison the doctrine of Sola Scriptura that was the hallmark of the Protestant Reformation!
Andrew Sandlin's response:
It is always vexing to disagree publicly with one whose life has been evidently devoted to disseminating outstanding Christian literature, including Reformed and Reconstructionist materials, and whose labor has been a source of benefit to many, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Christians, churches, home school families, pastors, teachers, and many more. In light of Walt Hibbard's apparent public endorsement of so-called full preterism, however, we find it grievously necessary to issue a stern, unequivocal response.
It is superfluous for Chalcedon to re-assert its Biblical and theological refutation of full or consistent (read: heretical) preterism (it is now being called, and with great justification, Hymenaenism, after the tragic figure mentioned by St. Paul in 1 Tim. 1:20). Jim West, Ken Gentry and I addressed the matter extensively in the July, 1997 issue of the Chalcedon Report. I will make the following observations about this recent posting, however:
1. To assert or imply that the doctrines of the physical resurrection of Christ and of believers and the physical second Advent of Christ are subject to elimination on the grounds of the consistent employment of the dictum of sola scriptura is not, as it is often audaciously proposed, to pit Holy Scripture against man-made creeds, but rather to pit a modern understanding of Scripture against the understanding of Scripture by 2000 years of faithful believers in all Christian communions on matters at the very heart of the Christian Faith.
This is the summit of arrogance.
2. To enlist the Reformers in this enterprise is to commit scholarly malpractice. The Reformers countered Rome with the claims not only of Scripture (whose authority they rightly deemed always supreme), but also patristic theology (see, e.g., Jaraslav Pelikan's Obedient Rebels). The Reformers attempted to recover ancient catholic orthodoxy from the hands of what it considered the very un-catholic Western medieval church.
It is often not understood that every act of interpretation is an implied confessionalism, and to assume that one can employ the fully valid dictum of sola scriptura in a confessionally unconditioned way is to evidence theological naiveté of the highest sort. Confessionalism, to use Rushdoony's language, is an inescapable concept. Confessions are either Biblical or un-Biblical, good or bad, in line with Christian orthodoxy or not in line with Christian orthodoxy.
But they are not optional.
3. The implication that the patristic fathers (post- A. D. 70!) were unsure of such eschatological issues as the physical resurrection of Christ and of believers and the physical second Advent of Christ is patently false. The corporeal aspect of Christ's person, death and resurrection were sticking points in Nicene Trinitarianism and Chalcedonian Christology, just as they had been for St. Paul (1 Cor. 15); and our orthodox patristic forebears (and all following them) interpreted Scripture to teach that the corporeal resurrection of believers is secured by Christ's own corporeal, and not merely spiritual, resurrection ( vv. 12-23 ).
I urge the reader to investigate, for starters, Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines, and move from there to the standard English translation of the Church Fathers set (both titles, ironically enough, Hibbard has sold). The doctrines of the physical resurrection of Christ and of believers and the physical second Advent of Christ were overwhelmingly givens in the patristic eraexcept among the Gnostic and similarly -tinted heretics. The Athanasian Creed, which all orthodox Christians affirm, declares that those who deny the catholic faith, including the physical resurrection of the just and unjust at the second Advent, cannot be saved. Tertullian's The Resurrection of the Dead, written c. 210, long after the Hymenaeans' supposed spiritual resurrection and second coming of A. D. 70, is a ringing testimony to the future physical resurrection of the dead, a doctrine on which the very Faith itself hinges. But why multiply citations? The heretical preterists acknowledge their deviation from Christianity on this point. Their own acknowledgments damn them.
4. The implication that one may not at some future date after the resurrection of the body employ 2 Tim. 2:18 to brand somebody a heretic ignores one crucial fact: the Christian view is that the final resurrection and judgment occur at the end of history.
And at the end of history, there will be no heretics, only sheep and goats.
Further, Hibbard's speculative scenario about the bodily resurrection in A. D. 2005 is quite odd, since full preterists routinely hold that the final resurrection which the Scripture envisions occurred in A. D. 70. Hibbard implicitly acknowledges this when he asserts, They [the Biblical writers] wrote prior to A.D. 70 and this verse [ 2 Tim. 2:18 ] says absolutely nothing about any possible fulfillment after the date 2 Timothy was written.
5. On the issue of the perishing of the old covenant, I recommend Bob Rayburn's masterly dissertation The Contrast Between the Old and New Covenants in the New Testament (I intend to review it in an upcoming issue of the Report). Rayburn documents that the NT does not depict the old and new covenants as religio-historical epochs (as if the old covenant were a Jewish or Old Testament-era order and the new covenant were a church-age or New Testament-era order), but as the subjective state of the individual in any era. Both new covenant and old covenant individuals are with us even today. The old covenant did not perish in A. D. 70; it perishes every time a sinner is regenerated. This understanding tends to erode any momentous theological significance of A. D. 70.
6. To aver that nobody but the full preterists take seriously the imminency passages [of Scripture] is not merely arrogant; it is historically irresponsible. What? No exegete since these johnny-come-latelys has come to grips with the imminency passages? This notion is reprehensible, whatever one's eschatological view may be.
7. I want to make clear that what Hibbard calls here the partial preterist view (e. g., as held by Ken Gentry) is fully within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. This view does not repudiate that the Bible predicts a physical resurrection of the just and unjust at the end of human history, coincident with the actual, physical second Advent of Christ.
8. Hibbard mentions the unfair treatment that we Christian Reconstructionists have received at the hands of other Reformed individuals, and cautions us not to imitate that treatment in dealing with the Hymenaeans. This is comparing apples to oranges, or better yet, fresh peaches to rotten potatoes. No one have ever indicted the Christian Reconstructionist position--certainly not Chalcedon--with deviating from catholic orthodoxy; it is the anchor of our position (read Rushdoony's The Foundations of Social Order). The Reformed may disagree among themselves on the specific application of Biblical law, church polity, millennial perspectives, details about the sacraments, and so on. But we all join with each other in affirming the great historic, orthodox Christian Faith.
Thus, to compare our stern opposition to heretical Hymenaenism with stern (but, we believe, mistaken) Reformed opposition to Christian Reconstructionist distinctives is misguided and perhaps disingenuous.
"Full" preterism constitutes on assault on the very heart of our Faith. If we can jettison this aspect of Christianity, why not jettison the doctrine of the Trinity, or of Christ's death for our sins? Chalcedon does not endorse it, and in fact considers it a pernicious heresy that should be avoided at all costs.
I conclude by appending the following statement drafted by Chalcedon trustee Wayne Johnson, and adopted by the Western Classis of the Reformed Church in the United States, March 13, 1997:
The Hymenaeans called 'hyperpreterists' allege, against the clear teaching of God's Inspired and Infallible Word, that there is no physical Resurrection of the body, and whereas
The Hymenaeans, called 'hyperpreterists' allege, against the clear teaching of God's Inspired and Infallible Word, that the Second Coming of our Lord is already past, and whereas
The Hymenaeans, called 'hyperpreterists' allege, against the clear teaching of God's Inspired and Infallible Word, that there is no future Great White Throne Judgment, and
Whereas, these views represent a Satanic attack upon the holy catholic faith once delivered unto the saints,
Therefore, in the certain Hope of the Resurrection, the Reformed Church in the United States does hereby find the Hymenaean heresy to be contrary to orthodoxy, and its adherents to be preachers of a false gospel. Let these enemies of Christ and His Kingdom be 'anathema maranatha.'
We further urge the Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States to broadly communicate the action taken this day to those of like precious faith, that the people of God may be warned against this false gospel, and encouraged to pray for the repentance of those lost souls who have been enslaved by it.
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