Responding to the Critics| A Gross Abuse of Logic and Eschatology
On Steve Baisden’s FaceBook page “As It Is Written” we have seen a number of “defenders of the faith” appear, and claim that they could (easily) refute the truth of the Lord’s coming in AD 70. In addition, at the recently completed Bellview church of Christ lectureship, with the theme of “Refuting Realized Eschatology” speaker after speaker boasted of the ease with which Covenant Eschatology is, or can be, refuted. In fact, speaker after speaker boasted that I was afraid to openly debate! Anyone that knows my history, and my record of formal debate can quickly realize that those claims are empty boasting, made from behind a bully pulpit, where there no real intention to meet in formal debate. It is, as the saying goes, all blow and bluster– with no content. I recently wrote an article responding to the boastful claims of some of those speakers. A Response to Bellview church of Christ.
The reader also needs to know that William Bell and I will be responding to each of the lectures given at that lectureship, on Two Guys and A Bible radio program, that airs each Tuesday evening, 6 PM Central time. You can listen to the program “Two Guys and A Bible” on www.fulfilledradio.com.
On Baisden’s FaceBook page, most of the challengers, after a few brief exchanges, completely disappear never to return. This has happened repeatedly. Sometimes these men are respectful, sometimes hateful. One of the later was Howard Denham. After only a few brief exchanges he completely withdrew. But, he has not been silent. No, on his own FaceBook page, he constantly, and caustically, writes against preterism, claiming no one can answer his logical syllogisms.
Denham constantly boasts of his prowess in logic. However, his presuppositional theology has distorted his use of logic to such an extent that his “arguments” are literally laughable, they are that bad, and patently false. Steve Baisden has asked that I respond to a series of syllogisms by Denham.
The reader needs to know that Denham, along with others at the Bellview Lectureship, boasts that I will not debate him. The fact is that when Denham challenged me, he attempted to dictate every detail of the proposed debate, dates, venue, propositions, etc. with absolutely no mutual negotiation. This is unheard of in the world of proper debate – not to mention patently unfair. This is mere pontification. I refused to submit to his unreasonable – and illogical – demands. In addition, his hateful, un-Christian demeanor completely turned me off. I refuse, as much as possible, to engage in debates with men who cannot conduct themselves with Christian decorum (see 2 Timothy 2:24).
I repeatedly told Denham that if he would conduct himself with proper decorum and respect, I would debate him. I even urged him to take a look at my debate with internationally known Premillennial scholar, Michael Brown, on YouTube, for a “primer” on how Christian controversy should be conducted. But, Denham is clearly not interested in courteous, honorable, respectful debate. He insists on impugning my integrity, name calling and otherwise un-Christian behavior. My request was met with name calling, and more hate filled rhetoric. Therefore, I will not debate him.
With that said, in the “calmness” of a written article, I am glad to examine Denham’s syllogism / arguments. Due to space limitations, I can only examine one or two at a time, but, will provide enough food for thought that the reader can see how shallow, illogical and false Denham’s arguments are.
Responding to the Critics| Looking at Howard Denham’s First Syllogism
Here is the first syllogism from a list that Steve Baisden sent me. It was cut and pasted, with no changes or alterations of any kind.
Major Premise: If it is the case that Paul taught in Acts 17:31 that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent at the time of Paul’s sermon on Mar’s Hill, then it is the case that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent at the time of the penning of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10.
Minor Premise: It is not the case that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent at the time of the penning of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10.
Conclusion: Therefore, it is not the case that Paul taught In Acts 17:31 that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent at the time of Paul’s sermon on Mar’s Hill.
This is a horrible “argument.” While properly “framed” the minor premise is false to the core. Since the minor premise is false, the entire argument is false. Let me illustrate.
The major premise is true: If Paul taught that the parousia (Second Coming) of Christ was imminent in Acts 17, then it was likewise near in Thessalonians. And in fact, Paul actually told the Athenians that the judgment was “about to come.”
Paul used the word “mello” in the infinitive. The Blass-Debrunner Greek Grammar says: “mellein with the infinitive expresses imminence” (Blass-DeBrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1961)181). See the Analytical Greek Lexicon, Revised, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1978)262: “to be about to be, be on the point of.” In a newer work, among many that could be cited, Robinson and House say: “with the infinitive I am about to, I intend.”(Analytical Lexicon of New Testament Greek, Edited by Maurice Robinson and Mark House, (Peabody, Mass., 2012)231). Among many Greek commentators that could be cited, The Expositors Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1970)379), Knowling says the meaning of mello in the form used in Acts 17 (with the infinitive, DKP) “may equal its use in Acts 12:6″ and therefore mean – to be “on the point of judging.”
Denham knows that if mello indicates imminence his entire eschatology is false. He has thus, in the past made some astoundingly bad arguments in his desperate attempt to negate that imminence. But, all he has done is to expose his desperation. In his claimed examples of the use of mello where imminence is supposedly not present, he demonstrates his abuse of language. The fact is that the primary meaning of mello with the infinitive is “about to be, to be on the point of.” This does not mean, as with many words that there are no exceptions to the rule. But, proper logic knows that exceptions to a rule do not negate the rule! Now to look closer.
Responding to the Critics| Paul and the Imminence of the Parousia
Did Paul, not only at Athens, but in other texts, preach the imminence of Christ’s coming? The answer is unequivocally, “Yes!”
Among a host of texts that could be cited, for brevity, consider Hebrews 9:28- 10:37. Hebrews 9:28 is almost universally recognized as a “Second Coming” text. Christ would come for salvation. Well, in chapter 10:35-39 which has no break from the discussion of the coming parousia and judgment, Paul said: “And now, in a very, very little while, (Greek mikron hosan hosan) the one who is coming will come and will not tarry.” That coming would be to give “the great reward” to those who endured to the end and did not draw back to prediction. There is no difference between “the great reward” and the salvation to be given at the parousia.
So, granting the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, we have an explicit and undeniable prediction of the imminence of the Second Coming. That leads us to Denham’s minor premise.
Responding to the Critics| Denham’s Minor Premise
Denham argues that in 2 Thessalonians 2 Paul taught that the parousia was not near. Patently false.
The coming of the Lord would be in the lifetime of the Thessalonians, per 2 Thessalonians 1! Follow me here, as I must be brief: (I develop this extensively in my book, In Flaming Fire).
☛The Thessalonians– 2000 years ago– were being persecuted (2 Thessalonians 1:4f). Paul was not writing to, or about, a far distant, as yet not occurring persecution, by unknown persecutors.
☛ They- the Thessalonians – were being persecuted by the Jews (Acts 17; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).
☛ Paul said it was a righteous thing with God to give persecution to “those who are troubling you.” God would turn the tables on their Jewish persecutors – they would become the persecuted! Note that Paul did not say, God will give tribulation to those– unknown persecutors- who will, one day, persecute the church, in some far distant, unknown generation!
☛ Paul promised that the Thessalonians would be given “rest” – from anesis – which means relief, not reward.
☛ Paul said that relief and persecution of their persecutors, would be given, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven.”
Proper logic demands that the Thessalonians would have to be alive, under persecution: “When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven” for Jesus to give them relief from persecution. Jesus could not give them relief from persecution at his coming, if they were not being persecuted when he came! That is logically impossible!
Thus, Paul affirmed the imminence of Christ’s coming, in the very book in which Denham says he denied it! In fact, Paul did not deny the imminence of the parousia, he denied that the Day had already come! Paul did not say, as the KJV says: “Do not be deceived that the Day of the Lord is at hand.” That is a misleading translation, as I prove in my book How Is This Possible? An examination of well over 50 translations reveals that only a tiny fraction of them agree withe KJV. What is more, the tense of the word translated as “at hand” by the KJV simply does not allow the “at hand” rendering. It is in the perfect tense. In all occurrences of the word in the perfect tense, it is rendered past (or even “now present”). Denham is simply wrong.
With this in mind, ask yourself the question: If the Day of the Lord is what Howard Denham claims– an earth burning, time ending event, when every human who has ever lived is instantly raised and restored, how in the name of reason and logic could anyone, convince anyone that event had already happened? It is patently impossible to convince anyone that time ended last week, that the earth and the cosmos was annihilated! And yet, that is patently what is demanded if the parousia is what Denham and all futurist eschatologies claim!
I have been asking for years for someone to explain this conundrum. I have been given some of the most fanciful, the most illogical, the most patently false “explanations” imaginable, but, I have never, ever been given a logical, textual and contextual response that makes even good “half-sense.” I urge the reader to get a copy of my book, How Is This Possible? for a full discussion of the problem in this text. I can assure you that neither Denham or anyone else can explain the problem properly.
Denham might, perhaps, say that Paul was arguing that two things had to occur before the parousia, and thus, those two events, not having occurred, per Denham, would prove the non-imminence of the parousia. But, once more, Denham’s presuppositional theology is proven wrong.
1. Paul said the apostasy had to occur.
Fact: Jesus said the apostasy (of the majority) would occur in his generation, prior to his coming in AD 70. See the NASV of Matthew 24:10-12 to catch the full power of the text. Read Galatians 1:6f and see how early apostasy was setting in.
2. The Man of Sin had to be manifested.
Fact: The Man of Sin was already alive and operating, but not yet fully manifested when Paul wrote (2 Thessalonians 2:5f)! Now, if the Man of Sin was already alive, but not manifested, then Christ’s coming had to occur in the first century generation– i.e. in the lifetime of the Man of Sin– not 2000 years after the Man of Sin was alive! Thus, the parousia was near!
Let me summarize:
Denham’s conditional major premise is true: Paul did preach the imminence of the parousia in Athens.
Denham’s minor premise is false. Paul emphatically affirmed the imminence of the parousia in Thessalonians- and in a host of other texts. We have not even touched the hem of the garment of the number of texts that prove this beyond doubt.
Denham has to deny the imminence of the parousia in 2 Thessalonians 1.
He has to pervert the Greek of 2 Thessalonians 2 in order to maintain his minor premise.
He has to deny that the apostasy was a first century event- contra Jesus.
He has to deny that the Man of Sin was already alive, contra Paul.
Thus, his minor premise is false on several levels.
Since his minor premise is false, Denham’s conclusion – and his eschatology – is falsified.