Edward’s Chief Objection
This is article #2 in response to Roderick Edwards, a former preterist who imagines himself now to be the “final answer” to refute Covenant Eschatology. He has written to books in his attempt. Be sure to read my first article to set the stage for this one.
We move now to consider Edward’s chief objection, based on his interpretation about the Sovereignty of God. Here is what Edwards claims is the fundamental issue:
The challenge to preterism is then primarily one that asks preterism to explain how God could have failed to properly teach His people His eschatological plan.
. . . if God is sovereign and in control of His message and plan; it is clear His intention was that His new Covenant people; especially as manifested as the Church would comprehend His message and plan.
What preterism must do is get you to reject this notion. Preterism must get you to either believe one of three things:
1. Christians were not better off at understanding and teaching God’s eschatological plan than the Jews.
2. God was unable to relate His plan in a way that Christians could understand and teach to future generations.
3. People actually corrupted what God related and thus foiled God’s intention.
This is where every interaction with preterism must begin. It cannot and should not begin with an examination of a person’s interpretation of any specific verse but rather it should begin with what the person thinks of God’s sovereign ability to carry out His intentions.” (About Preterism, pp 54, 56-57).
So, for Edwards, although “the perspicuity of Scripture will win the day every time” he clearly holds the view that this is NOT true, since we are to discuss issues of God’s Sovereignty independently of what the Bible may say about eschatology. In reality, Edwards is demanding that a person accept his view of the Sovereignty of God independently of what the Bible says about eschatology. Or at the least, we must view eschatology through the prism of his personal interpretation of God’s Sovereignty. This is a massive case of petitio principii (i.e. begging the question, assuming that his view of God’s Sovereignty is the correct view). And once again we would ask, where would Edwards go to prove his views of God’s Sovereignty? It would be to the Scriptures, which he says can’t be interpreted privately– yet he does just that).
A concise summary of Edward’ s view can be stated like this:
Point #1 – If God is sovereign, man could never distort it or prevent it.
Response: One thing that must be kept in mind is that there are conditional and unconditional promises in Scripture. See Jeremiah 18. The fact is that the parousia, judgment and coming of the kingdom were never conditional. God’s Sovereignty would ensure their fulfillment, in spite of man (cf. Psalms 2). So, Edwards needs to explain to his readers how it is that God’s Sovereignty failed to fulfill those hundreds of time indicators all of which pointed to a first century fulfillment.
Point #2 – Was God unable to relate His plan in such a way as to be understood?
Response: What about the hundreds of temporal indicators that pointed – undeniably so- to the first century fulfillment of the end of the age, Christ’s parousia, the judgment and resurrection? Can God Tell Time? And can He, did He, communicate truthfully about the imminence of those events in Scripture? Edwards denies that God communicated truthfully about the imminence of those events in Scripture. For Edwards, soon did not mean soon. Shortly did not mean imminent. At hand did not mean temporally near, “in a very, very little while” meant, well, who knows what Edwards says about this! The reality is that man has, most assuredly, distorted and perverted God’s time statements! Is that God’s Sovereign fault?
Point #3 – If preterism is true: “People actually corrupted what God related and thus foiled God’s intention.”
Response: There is an admixture of Edward’s presuppositonal theology and bad logic, not to mention ignorance of scripture at work here.
Remember, in Edward’s view of God’s Sovereignty if God is sovereign, man should not have been able to pervert the truth about eschatology to such an extent that the truth was lost. Consider the following:
Some Critical Facts to Consider
Fact #1 – Jesus himself said that there would be a massive apostasy in the first century, so much so that “the love of the majority” would grow cold (Matthew 24:10-12- NASV). That apostasy was to be so widespread that Jesus pondered, “When the Son of Man comes, will he even find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:6-8- It would not matter if Edwards would apply this text to the future. The text still demands a massive apostasy prior to the Lord’s coming, and that fact negates Edward’s objection). Not only so, but Paul said that before the parousia and resurrection could occur “the apostasia” had to take place (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5).
One has but to read the NT epistles to know that a massive apostasy from the truth of the Gospel did happen in the early church:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9).
Ask yourself the question: Was this apostasy God’s will? Was He not sovereign enough to prevent it from happening? Did the Judaizers so pervert the Gospel of Christ as to thwart God’s will for the Galatians – and the other churches? What about the doctrinal aberrations and distortions that took place at Corinth? Was that a violation of God’s Sovereignty? Was man more powerful than God? Where did Paul lament the fact that God was unable to prevent this apostasy – as Edwards seems to demand?
These questions pose a serious threat to Edward’s preconceived doctrine of God’s Sovereignty. He is entirely ruling out that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7) and that God granted to the earthen vessels the freedom – and responsibility – to read, to know, to understand and to obey the truth.
Edwards poses a question about eschatology: // The challenge to preterism is then primarily one that asks preterism to explain how God could have failed to properly teach His people His eschatological plan.//
More straw man argumentation based on Edward’s faulty view of God’s Sovereignty.
Did God communicate truthfully about the time of the parousia (we can also ask if He communicated about the nature of that event, (Luke 17:20-21) – but we are keeping this as basic as possible). If He did, then any misunderstanding lies, not with God’s ability or will to communicate truthfully, but either in man’s ability to understand, or (and this is critical) their refusal to bring their understanding of the nature of the event into conformity with the timing of the event.
Consider: Did the apostles teach the truth about God’s grace? Did God inspire them to such an extent that they knew and taught the truth about Grace? He clearly did! But what happened? Well, some heard Paul teach about “the width and length and depth and height” of God’s love and grace, and came to the conclusion: “let us sin that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1f). Was that perversion of grace God’s fault? Was He not in control of the Truth concerning grace? How is it that, “People actually corrupted what God related” about grace, as Paul said they did? How could that perversion of grace become so dominant and widespread in the early church if God is in control and exercises His Sovereignty in the way Edwards suggests?
Would Edwards argue that God – in His Sovereignty – was unable (or unwilling) to communicate truthfully about the time of the end? After all, the Bible is very clear that, “of that day and hour knows no man, no not the angels or the Son, but the Father only” (Mark 13:30-32). And keep in mind that in Revelation it was the Father (who knew the day and the hour of the consummation) that told John to write of the impending destruction of Babylon (the city where the Lord was crucified), “the hour of her judgment has come.” That “hour” was the hour of the coming of the Son of Man at the harvest of the earth, i.e. the resurrection! Thus, the Father was revealing the time! But of course, Edwards rejects that, and claims that we still don’t know the time, even though the Father revealed it 2000 years ago!
Fact #2 – The NT records that there was an apostasy / perversion of eschatological truth at a very early time.
Let me ask the reader to consider this. Edwards is proposing (claiming) that if God is truly Sovereign (as he perceives that Sovereignty) it would not have been possible for the first century saints– or supposedly, the church through the ages – to so distort and pervert that truth to such an extent that it would result in loss of the truth. But there is another side to this issue of God’s Sovereignty.
In Edward’s view of God’s Sovereignty, i.e. in the Reformed / Calvinistic view, every single thing that is done or that occurs was / is predestinated. That means that if (since) there was an apostasy, a loss of proper understanding of eschatology, then that apostasy was foreordained / predestinated by God in His Sovereignty! It is thus not a question- in Edward’s paradigm – of whether, “God is or isn’t in control” (About, p. 59). His own argument is self defeating.
(Let me interject at this point that Edwards has been in the past a believer in the Reformed view. I could find nothing on his website that was informative as to his current beliefs in this regard but have no reason for thinking that he has changed his views. I am therefore basing my comments on what I knew from past interactions with him).
Now, let’s allow scripture to answer the question about a large scale apostasy:
Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Did Peter believe that men were, when he wrote, perverting eschatological truth? Undeniably. In so perverting that truth, would they have been leading others to lose that truth? Who could deny that? Was that distortion of eschatological truth “fatal” to those who were leading others astray?
In an even earlier epistle, written circa 50-52 AD, Paul addressed those who were teaching that “the Day of the Lord has already come.” And in a later epistle, circa AD 66-67, he spoke of Hymenaeus and Philetus who were teaching “that the resurrection is already past” (2 Timothy 2:18). We thus have several NT texts that inform us of a widespread apostasy, loss and distortion of eschatological truth as early as AD 51! Was this a violation of God’s Sovereignty? Was God not able to communicate sufficiently clearly to prevent this apostasy? How could this have happened if God is sovereign? (In Edward’s view of Sovereignty it could NEVER have happened, but it patently did. Therefore, Edward’s view of God’s Sovereignty is severely called into question).
Side Bar: Of course, Edwards and his supporters would note that Paul condemned Hymenaeus and Philetus for teaching that the resurrection was past, and that preterists are guilty of the same error. But that is an anachronistic argument (at best). It does not address the issue here: Would God’s Sovereignty prevent such distortions of the truth- as Edward’s suggests it must? Patently not. Furthermore, one must ask: If the resurrection is what Edwards and all futurists envision, a time ending, earth burning time when all the dead / decomposed bodies come out of the grave, at the destruction of creation, how could anyone, convince anyone that such an event was already past? See my book How Is This Possible? For an ind-depth analysis of this, as well as my book The Hymenaean Heresy: Reverse the Charges! Order both books and I will refund shipping. They are available from my website.
Another text informs us about eschatological apostasy in the first century – Romans 11. In that chapter Paul addresses the Gentiles who were claiming that Israel had been completely cut off (cf. 1 Corinthians 15– no resurrection for “the dead ones” was the claim there, the “dead ones” being Old Israel). The fact is that Biblical eschatology is inextricably linked with the end of Israel’s covenant history. Thus, to claim that God was through with Israel was to affirm that the Day of the Lord had come (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). It was to affirm that the resurrection was fulfilled (2 Timothy 2:18).
So, in Romans, circa AD 57 or so, we find a massive distortion and misunderstanding of the true story of eschatology and Israel’s role in it. (Lamentably, this same misunderstanding of the role of Israel in eschatology still dominates the Millennial and Postmillennial world). But, once again, in Edward’s book and in his claims about God’s Sovereignty, “God is either in control or He isn’t,” such an egregious and widespread abandonment of the truth of eschatology should never have taken place. And it should never have continued, as it most clearly did in the patristic writers.
Stay tuned for more!