This is installment #4 of my response to Kenneth Gentry’s recent attack of my book, Watching for the Parousia: Were Jesus’ Apostles Confused? Gentry has written a four part response, with the first two devoted almost exclusively to a a caustic, acerbic adjective saturated attack on me personally, and what Gentry calls my “attitudinal problem.”
Be sure to read the first three installments of my response. I will be interacting with each of Gentry’s articles, especially what he considers to be the key fallacy of my book. I can assure you that you will be amazed at how facile and untenable – and self contradictory of Gentry’s own writings– his argument is.
The reader will remember that in his first article Gentry appealed over and over again to the traditional, orthodox, consensus of the historical church. It is interesting that he wants to present himself and his eschatology as totally orthodox, totally creedal, totally traditional. But not everyone agrees with that assessment!
For instance, Dr. David Engelsma, prominent Reformed Amillennialist, says of the Postmillennial view of Gentry, DeMar, et. al,
Postmillennialism has no basis in the Reformed creeds. Postmillennialism conflicts with the Reformed creeds. Postmillennialism is condemned by the Reformed creeds, explicitly by the Second Helvitic confession of 1566, implicitly by others. (David Engelsma, “A Defense of (Reformed) Amillennialism,” a series of articles on the Internet. Found at www.prca.org.)
And speaking of Dr. Engelsma, Gentry had this to say:
Despite regularly displaying this rhetorical bravado, Englesma has refused to publicly debate this author regarding theonomic ethics/ or eschatology despite having received numerous invitations to do so over the years.” (Kenneth Gentry Thine is the Kingdom, (Vallecito, CA, Chalcedon, 2003)223, n. 3).
So, according to non-Postmillennialists, Gentry’s eschatology is non-creedal, non-historical, and heretical! And where Gentry criticized Engelsma for his refusal to debate, Gentry has, for many years, in spite of many, many invitations from me, refuses to debate me.
When reading Preston be aware that you will constantly bump into two words: “logic” and “desperate.” When Preston faces a disagreement on interpretation, he paints his view as demonstrating “logic” and his opponent’s view as defying logic (e.g., pp. 6, 8, 9, 29, 62, 86, 89). And simultaneously, when anyone states a point of disagreement with him, Preston will introduce and conclude his response by claiming his opponent has adopted a “desperate” measure (e.g., pp. 28, 50, 59, 80, 83). Apparently, Preston believes that those who disagree with him live in a world of intense angst.
Preston’s charges of being “desperate” are simply his way of discounting his opposition. That which he calls “desperate” is simply an alternative interpretation to his own. I wonder what he thinks of books like Gleason Archer’s, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties or Walter Kaiser’s Hard Sayings of the Bible? These books take Bible verses that present apparent contractions, seeming historical errors, and so forth and explain them in a way that maintains the integrity of Scripture. For instance, Matthew appears to present Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree as occurring after his driving the moneychangers from the temple (Matt. 21:12–17). But Mark appears to present him doing this before he drove them out (Mark 11:11–19). Are Archer and Kaiser “desperate” in attempting to explain the apparent contradiction?
Would Preston be “desperate” if he explained that Jesus’ statement “you are gods” does not mean that those people were actually gods, such as God is? Would he be “desperate” in defending the full deity of Christ over against the seeming contradiction of this in John 14:28, where Jesus says “the Father is greater than I”? Would he be “desperate” by explaining away the alleged contradiction between Matt. 21:2 and Mark 11:2, wherein Matthew mentions a donkey and a colt tied up, though Mark mentions only “a colt”? Would he be “desperate” in explaining why John 1:18 can state “no one has seen God at any time,” whereas Exo. 24:9-10 states that “Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.” I suspect that he would attempt to “explain away” these difficulties. And rightly so. But he would not be “desperate.”
I am amazed at how desperate Gentry’s comments here truly are! (See what I did there?)
1. No, I don’t believe that anyone that disagrees with me is inherently “desperate.”
When Gentry says: “That which he calls “desperate” is simply an alternative interpretation to his own” – This is specious and totally misrepresentative. I fully recognize, and I stated in my opening remarks at Criswell, that good, sincere and honest people differ with one another on theological points. I did not and do not call all who disagree with me as desperate. But, when they employ arguments that have no sound exegetical basis, no logical support, and when they are grasping at flimsy straw “evidence” and which in reality violate the rules of hermeneutic, then yes, I do say they are desperate arguments. In my response to Gentry’s arguments on Matthew 24:3, I will show why I consider his argument as the very epitome of desperate.
2. So, what I mean by desperate is when an argument or arguments are offered that truly have no exegetical, hermeneutical or logical support. This is what I call “argumentum ad desperatum” a NON-LATIN, “Latin” term that I coined years ago, to describe the facile, weak, and straw man arguments that the opponents of Covenant Eschatology so often make. The very kind of argument that Gentry made on Luke 21:22– see below.
Personally, the examples given by Gentry are completely irrelevant! For you see, I think that Gleason Archer, and Kaiser have done some marvelous, scholarly work defending the integrity of Scripture! The evidence, their logic, their analysis is solid and sound. So, when Gentry asks if their work is desperate, in the first place, I don’t disagree with them, therefore, Gentry’s application is misguided. Secondly, since their logic and analysis is sound, then it is not desperate, or specious. Likewise, it would not be “desperate” in any way to affirm and defend the Deity of Christ and to harmonize the Biblical statements on this subject. I defend the Deity of Christ on a regular basis.
3. To reiterate, what I mean by desperate is when commentators, such as Gentry, make arguments that are so patently illogical, so self defeating, so glaringly bad, that it is manifestly obvious that they (he) was grasping at straws to find some argument, any argument, to use against the preterist perspective. Let me illustrate.
In an attempt to respond to the true preterist appeal to Luke 21:22 where Jesus said that in the events of the Jewish War, “all things written must be fulfilled,” Gentry, as noted, says that preterists are “naive” and use a false hermeneutic. Taking note of the Greek grammar, Gentry argued that what Jesus meant was that all things written before the time when he spoke the words of Luke 21:22 would be fulfilled in the War. Here is the summary of his argument that I presented in an article responding to his post:
When Jesus said (Luke 21:22), that “all things written must be fulfilled,” he referred only to those prophecies (and all of those prophecies), that had been written prior to his statement in A.D. 30.
All New Testament prophecies of the resurrection (e.g. John 5:28f, 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians, etc.), were written after A.D. 30.
Therefore, all New Testament prophecies of the resurrection were not part of the “all things that are written” that were to be fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Here is what Dr. Gentry concludes: “Thus, Jesus is referring to all things written in the Old Testament. At this stage of redemptive history those are the only prophecies that had already been written.”
So, Gentry thought he had a dagger at the jugular vein of preterism. For him, as clearly stated, “all things written” that would be fulfilled by the time of AD 70 was “all things written in the Old Testament.” And be sure to note that he did not qualify his, “all things written in the Old Testament” comment.
Here is how I responded (just a small part of my response, the entire article can be found here):
All things written in the Old Testament, i.e. all Old Testament prophecy, was fulfilled by the time of, and in the events of, the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (Kenneth Gentry).
But, the Old Testament prophesied of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 24:14f; 26:6f; 26:21f, Romans 8:23-9:1-4, 1 Corinthians 15:55-56).
Therefore, the prophecies of the resurrection of the dead were fulfilled by the time of, and in the events of, the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Do you see what I mean by “desperate”? Do you see what I mean by “illogical”? Do you see what I mean by “self-defeating”? BTW, to my knowledge, Gentry never kit a keystroke in response to my article. But, I invite Gentry to examine my argument and to show where my logic is false, misguided and wrong. Even better, perhaps Gentry would be willing to meet me in formal public debate to defend his claims? If he is too busy to meet me in public debate, perhaps he would be willing to engage in a two night, radio debate, to be carried on Two Guys and a Bible?
Reader, when Gentry admitted that all Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled by and in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple he has effectively surrendered his entire futurist paradigm. He has surrendered everything he has written on the Olivet Discourse. The entirety of his diatribe against me becomes moot, empty and vacuous.
Preston’s arguments are too frequently superficial and depend on a Hyper-preterist blinders to guide him down his own “straight and narrow way.” But Jesus warns that when the blind lead the blind, they will both fall into a pit (Matt. 15:14).
One has the right to ask what is superficial about the argument that I just presented. Make no mistake, this one, singular argument is more than sufficient to destroy Kenneth Gentry’s futurism – from the head to the toes! I fail to see how that can be called superficial. In reality it is Gentry’s argument on Luke 21 that is superficial. It may “sound” good on the surface, but as you can see it is completely self defeating. Since it is in fact superficial, it is a desperate argument.
I will complete my response on Preston’s Hyper-preterist attitude in my next article. Then after that, I will focus on his argument against me and evangelical commentators.
Gentry concludes in his end notes:
3. Preston argues that we cannot say that the disciples were confused unless the text explicitly says so. On p. 91 he writes: “We have the undeniable fact that on all other occasions when the disciples did not understand what Jesus said, the Gospel writers record their misunderstanding, or Jesus himself speaks of their misunderstanding. In fact, the only way that we know the disciples were ever confused is because the Biblical text unabashedly tells us so!” But earlier, on p. 8 he wrote: “I have demonstrated that in virtually all other occasions, the only way that we know the disciples were mistaken is because the Gospel writers tell us so — very clearly.” Well, which is it? Does Scripture tell us so “on all other occasions” or does it tell us so in “virtually all other occasions”? “Virtually” means “nearly.”
Well, I suppose I should beg forgiveness for using the word “virtually.” I was not, in any way, conceding or suggesting that that there are some texts that do suggest that the apostles were confused. But to say that Gentry is “desperate” to find some straw to grasp is an understatement. My book makes it abundantly clear, as I stated repeatedly, (and cited by Gentry just above) and as I have done so in this response, that we have not one single text in which the apostles admitted confusion, implied their confusion, or in which Jesus or the NT writers ever speak of their confusion about the end of the age and Jesus’ parousia. So, for Gentry to grasp at such a weak straw truly does reveal his desperation.
Gentry scoffs at the power of the fact that on all occasions when the disciples were confused we have the firm statements of the text informing us of that confusion and yet, we have no such comments about the supposed confusion about eschatology. His entire position is therefore built on arguing that the silence of the texts concerning the apostles’ confusion about the end of the age proves that they were confused. So, because the text does not say they were confused, this somehow proves that they were confused? What kind of a hermeneutic is that? What student of hermeneutic would ever think that this was a sound principle of interpretation?
This concludes our examination of Gentry’s first installment. As the reader can see, it is mostly a hyper-critical, verbally abusive diatribe that seems more intent on insulting me personally, my books and the preterist community than on making any substantive argument. We can only hope that when, as he has promised, he will address my actual arguments, he will do a much better job. I will begin my response to his second installment shortly.
Note: Gentry has now posted his fourth installment, and it is difficult to express the degree of my disappointment. It is literally childish and petulant, the furthest thing from a serious, scholarly analysis of my work. The numerous logical fallacies, the abuse of proper hermeneutic literally shocked me as I read it! I will, naturally, be responding to it. And that will not be difficult- at all. (BTW, Gentry claims that he has found a critical, fatal error in my argument, and has promised to share that in another article. Honestly, I am on pins and needles in anticipation!)
Be sure to take advantage of my very special December, 2020 Two Book (actually three!) Special at an incredible price! Follow this link to save almost $20.00!
Be watching now for my response to Gentry’s article #2.