Responding to the Critics

Responding to the Critics| Howard Denham’s Abuse of Logic and Scripture #8 – The Great Apostasy- #2

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Howard Denham’s abuse of the doctrine of the Great Apostasy

Responding to the Critics| Howard Denham’s Abuse of Logic and Scripture #8 – The Apostasy Part 2

This is our second installment in response to Howard Denham’s argument concerning 2 Timothy 4, where Paul foretold the apostasy that was to come before the parousia of Christ. Here is what Denham argued:

Major Premise: If it is the case that the judgment of the quick and the dead at the appearing of Christ and His kingdom occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, then it is the case that the prophecy of the apostasy of 2 Timothy 4:1-4 and the preaching of the Word to counter it were limited to a two year period from A.D. 68 to A.D. 70 and the dstruction (sic) of Jerusalem.
Minor Premise: It is not the case that the prophecy of the apostasy of 2 Timothy 4:1-4 and the preaching of the Word to counter it were limited to a two year period from A.D. 68 to A.D. 70 and the dstruction (sic) of Jerusalem.
Conclusion: Therefore, it is not the case that the judgment of the quick and the dead at the appearing of Christ and His kingdom occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

It is readily apparent that Denham is “hanging his hat” on the idea / claim that Paul’s prediction in Timothy was a “new” prophecy, unrelated to Jesus’ prediction of the “Great Apostasy” in Matthew 24. Be sure to read our previous article in which I document Jesus’ prediction. And don’t forget that Jesus’ prediction is in the so-called “first section” of Matthew 24 (v. 4-35) that the Amillennial school of Denham historically applies to the time leading up to Christ’s coming in AD 70. So, even though Denham and his crowd would historically agree that what Jesus said in Matthew 24 applied to AD 70, and even thought what Jesus foretold there was to be an apostasy of “the majority” of believers, we are to think that in 2 Timothy 3-4, Paul foretold another Great Apostasy for the last days.

But, focus on Denham’s claim. He is arguing that if Paul was referring to the events leading up to AD 70, “then the prophecy of the apostasy of 2 Timothy 4:1-4 and the preaching of the Word to counter it were limited to a two year period from A.D. 68 to A.D. 70 and the dstruction (sic) of Jerusalem.” But of course, he then argues in his minor premise that this was not the case (although he gave no proof, no evidence, to show why it was not and could not be the case! But, there are several issues to consider here.

1. First of all, just for argument sake, why could it not be the case that that Paul was writing of events to be fulfilled within a very short time frame? What prevents us from believing that Paul could have been speaking of imminent events, and the urgency of using the word to confront what was “about to be”?

Jude and the Great Apostasy

2. Take note of the book of Jude:
“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4).

Notice that Jude wanted to write a “general” letter of commendation about the faith. However, a situation had arisen among the churches that was so real, so urgent, so pressing, that he had to forgo that intended epistle to write “the word” to them, to help them confront what happening!

We must take note also what Jude wrote:
““These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts.”

So, Jude told his readers to remember what the apostles had warned them about.
The apostles had warned them that scoffers would come in the last time / last days. This is an undeniable echo of both 2 Peter 3 and 2 Timothy 3-4!
What was happening right then, among them, was in fulfillment of what the apostles had foretold! They had foretold the great apostasy and it was happening!
And don’t forget, Jude also tells us, just like Peter did, that what was happening was foretold by the OT prophets! (More on that later).

This is undeniable and irrefutable proof that you cannot take Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3-4 and extrapolate them to predict events 2000 years (and counting) beyond those times – ignoring what was happening then! This is proof that Paul was not making a “new” prediction of a great apostasy, different from Jesus, and Peter. Jude is emphatic that what was happening was what the apostles foretold for the last days! And, since the apostasy that the apostles had foretold was to occur in direct connection with the parousia – leading directly to it, this places the parousia within Jude, and Peter and Paul’s generation. After all, the false teachers and scoffers that the apostles foretold would be – according to Jude – destroyed at the coming of the Lord with “ten thousand of his saints!” Denham’s argument is exposed as specious and untenable, but, there is more.

If Denham’s argument, (that Paul was giving a prediction of an apostasy that was different from that of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse) has any validity, then of logical necessity he has rejected the “traditional view” of the churches of Christ. Here is why.

Denham Versus the church of Christ on the Great Apostasy

In the churches of Christ, by far the majority view is that 2 Thessalonians 2 was Paul’s prediction of the rise of the apostasy that gave rise to the Roman Catholic church and the papacy, that is to be destroyed at the Second Coming of Christ. (As I wrote this article, I consulted several church of Christ lectureship books. While a few speakers refused to take a hard line, specific view on the man of sin, nonetheless, the dominant view was that the Catholic church / papacy was what Paul had in mind). What does that mean? It means that Denham contradicted himself and the common view in the churches of Christ, when he made the argument above!

Notice again that Denham argued that if Paul’s prophecy of 2 Timothy 3-4 was about the impending judgment of Jerusalem, that it only had two years or so to unfold and be fulfilled. (Again, let me remind the reader that this is not a serious problem! After all, when Jesus foretold his own Passion, it played out in a very short period of time! There is nothing to prevent an imminent fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3-4! Paul told Timothy to prepare himself to confront it. And, in 2 Timothy 4:1, it speaks of the “about to be” coming of the Lord).

But, if it is the case that Denham posits 2 Thessalonians 2 as the same great apostasy as 2 Timothy 3-4, then his argument is self mitigated. If Thessalonians and Timothy speak of the same apostasy then it is undeniably clear and true that Denham himself does not believe that: “the prophecy of the apostasy of 2 Timothy 4:1-4 and the preaching of the Word to counter it were limited to a two year period from A.D. 68 to A.D. 70 and the dstruction (sic) of Jerusalem”!

Denham set up a straw man (false) argument that he does even believe in himself. He thinks (if he agrees with the traditional c of C view) that in approximately AD 51-52 Paul was predicting the same Great Apostasy that he would later (circa 64 AD) speak about! That means that Paul was not speaking of a time period, “limited to a two year period” because Denham himself believes that Paul was speaking of that same Great Apostasy at least a decade earlier!!

We must also point out that in Galatians 1, Paul marveled at how quickly the Galatians had departed from the faith (Galatians 1:6f). Now, if that apostasy was taking place in approximately AD 49, how would one: a.) Delineate between that apostasy and Jesus’ prediction of the Great Apostasy foretold in Matthew 24, or, b.) How would they distinguish that apostasy from what Paul spoke of in 2 Thessalonians 2 (written only a year or so after Galatians!) Or 2 Timothy 3-4? Where is the distinction? Where is the proof that Paul spoke of two apostasies? There is no proof – and Denham did not even try to offer any.

Let me summarize:
☛ Denham ignores Jesus’ prediction of the Great Apostasy that was to occur prior to his coming in AD 70. Denham totally ignores any application of Jesus’ prophecy to the epistles!

☛ Denham ignores the epistle of Jude, which spoke of the same apostasy foretold by Peter and Paul – and how Jude said it was present in his day. Denham must ignore the overwhelming sense of urgency and imminence – and the present tense reality of the fulfillment of the “last days” predictions of the Great Apostasy.

☛ Denham must ignore the fact that if he agrees with the traditional application of 2 Thessalonians 2, his own straw man argument is totally falsified! Thessalonians was written well before 2 Timothy. So if / since they spoke of the same thing, Denham’s appeal to the imagined restricted two year window (from AD 68 to AD 70) for fulfillment is just another demonstration of how Denham is out of touch with the harmonious Biblical narrative of eschatology. He is clearly grasping at straws. His argument is eminently illogical.

☛ To even begin – even slightly – to maintain his argument, Denham has to divorce the apostasy prophecy of 2 Timothy 3-4 from Thessalonians, and from Jude! (Not to mention that he must divorce 2 Timothy 3-4 from the OT prophecies of the last days. We will examine that later). This is something virtually unknown in the churches of Christ – and Biblically untenable.

☛ Denham would have to prove that it would be impossible – even given the premise of his argument about the shortness of time for fulfillment – for Paul to speak of something that was to be fulfilled within that short period of time! We have shown that this is not the case either contextually or linguistically. Denham offered no proof. He offered not a word of exegesis. All he did was assert. Assertion is not proof, and Denham’s syllogism is exposed, once again, to be without merit or substance. Instead of being an argument against  the true preterist view, the predictions of the Great Apostasy offer total confirmation!