Responding to the Critics|Christian, What Say Ye??
“Time makes the Christian doctrine of a second coming of Christ’ lose all credibility. If Jesus promised to come back shortly and the disciples expected so strongly to see Jesus return and establish the kingdom of God and neither event occurred, for what can the church still hope? In essence, Christian theological speculations on the “second coming of Christ” represent nothing more than the systematization of a mistake.
No amount of Christian theological acrobatics will ever solve the problems engendered by the historical reality that a promised imminent fulfillment made two thousand years ago did not occur as expected by the New Testament. Simply stated, Jesus is never coming back, not then, not now, not ever.” Source
The historical reality and veracity of Christianity is under an all out assault, as can be seen in the quote above. The enemies of Christ know that he and his disciples predicted the end of the age and the parousia in the first century. They also know– or they think they know– that Jesus and the disciples were wrong. And as one our readers, who sent us this quote stated: “Isn’t it interesting how most of Christian eschatological hope today rests upon the same factors that create Christian eschatological denial in other religions.” Interesting and ironic, to say the very least!
Responding to Christian Critics!
Do you catch the power of this problem? The entire evangelical Christian community admits, as John MacArthur wrote, “James, Peter, John and Paul, and the writer of Hebrews all believed Christ’s return was very near–‘at the door’ (James 5:9); ‘at hand’ (Philippians 4:5; 1 Peter 4:7); ‘approaching’ (Hebrews 10:25); ‘coming quickly’ (Revelation 3:11; 22:7).” (John MacArthur, The Second Coming: Signs of Christ’s Coming and the End of the Age (Wheaton, Ill, Crossways, 1999)56).
He continues, “Skeptics often ridicule Christianity or challenge the inerrancy of scripture on that very ground…How can it be, then, that 2000 years later Christ still has not returned? Could the disciples have been in error about the timing?” (Coming, 56+) He then claims that the NT writers were not mistaken and that, “The judge is still at the door. The day is still at hand.” To claim however, that events that were near in the first century are still near today is specious and illogical.
So, the Jews say Jesus did not come, even though he said he would, and the evangelical community says he did not come, even though he said he would!! What is the difference between critics, here?
Be sure to get a copy of my book, Can God Tell Time? for a thorough examination of the time statements in scripture, and how God kept His promises.
Christian, what say ye?
The modern evangelical community must awaken to this long standing problem, and realize how serious it truly is! The skeptics will not go away. They are pressing forward on the attack! The Jews, the Muslims, the atheists believe they have found the Achilles Heel of Christianity, and much to our shame, most Christians are either blissfully unaware of the problem, or, they hide their heads in the sand as if the critics do not exist! Where are the Christian apologists that are set for responding to the critics?
The Bible and Responding to the Critics
Peter, inspired apostle, urged his readers to be ready to offer an apologia, a logical, orderly, formal defense of their faith (1 Peter 3:15f). In other words, Peter said believers should be responding to the critics! Yet, for too long, Christian ministers and leaders have failed to either equip their flocks to meet the challenges, or, worse, they have failed to equip themselves to answer the skeptics.
It is undeniably true that many modern pastors have been trained at institutions where the dominant view is that Christ did in fact fail to fulfill his eschatological prophecies. That view of a failed savior dominates the seminaries of today far more than many would like to think. So, if ministers do not know how to answer the skeptics, because they themselves, at least tacitly, agree with the skeptics, how can the pew packers be instructed on how to defend their faith? They are not even being taught enough to have faith!!
The kind of “faith” that says, “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart,” will convince no one that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God! The kind of “faith” that disparages logic, hermeneutics, contextuality, audience relevance, and solid evidence, will only contribute to the further erosion of the Christian faith. “Better felt than proven” is not the Christianity of Jesus!
Jesus challenged his unbelieving audiences: “Do not believe me for my words sake, believe me for my works. If I do not do the works that my father has given me, do not believe me.” (John10:36f). Yet, far, far too many Christians claim that we don’t have to prove anything, all we have to do is believe! Let me be very blunt here: That is nonsense, and it is as unbiblical as it gets!
Let’s apply Jesus’ challenge to the issue of eschatology.
One of the works that the Father gave the Son was the work of judgment and the resurrection (John 5:19-23).
Jesus said that if he did not do what the Father gave him to do, we are not to believe him (John 10:36f).
So, if Jesus did not come in judgment and the resurrection, then the skeptic, the Jews, the Moslems are right, we are not to believe him! The reality of faith in the heart is to be based on the historical fulfillment of what Christ predicted he would do! No fulfillment means no faith!
Christian, what say ye? Is the fulfillment of Jesus’ eschatological promises important, indeed, vital, to the Christian faith, to Christianity itself?
Covenant Eschatology, i.e. preterism, is the only Christian view of eschatology that can and does answer and refute the skeptics.
Preterism and Responding to the Critics
Only the preterist does not have to attempt to explain away an entire vocabulary of words. (In numerous formal debates, my opponents have sought desperately to negate all times statements. In one four night debate with a Messianic Millennialist, he said “at hand” means a long time. So, I asked what “not at hand” meant if “at hand” actually means not near. He insisted that “not at hand” meant a long time, but that “at hand” can mean a long time as well! Such self contradictory double speak is a shame on the cause of Christ and language.
Only the preterist fully acknowledges that Christ did in fact predict his coming in the first century. Were it not so serious, it would be comical to read the attempts of the critics to deny this reality.
Only the preterist fully acknowledges and teaches that Christ kept his word.
Only the preterist fully acknowledges that Jesus did the works that the Father gave him.
Only the preterist does not have to make excuses for Christ’s supposed failure. How sad is it, when prominent Christian ministers admit that Jesus did not keep his word, tacitly admitting that the critics are right!
Only the preterist can appeal to the historical fulfillment of the parousia as the sure ground of faith for today and the future.
Christian, what say ye?
Will you continue to ignore the problem posed by the enemies of Christ? Will you continue to act as if the problem does not exist? Will you seek to discount the problem? Will you claim that all that is really important is faith, regardless of whether there is ground for that faith or not?
To depreciate the problem does not solve the problem.
To deny the problem does not refute the skeptics.
To seek to negate the importance of proving our faith is to deny the words of Christ.
The issue is real. The challenge is great. The need is before us. The body of Christ needs men and women who are determined and set for responding to the critics.
Christian, what say ye???
For an even more in-depth examination of the time statements in scripture, and a response to those, both within and without the Christian community that seek to negate those statements, get a copy of my Who Is This Babylon? It contains one of the most effective responses to the critics to be found anywhere.
3 Replies to “Responding to the Critics| Christian, What Say Ye?”
Good article. I just started to read some of John MacArthur’s article that you were referencing and he says “The NT is consistent in its anticipation that the return of Christ *might* occur at any moment.” and “From the very earliest days of the church, the apostles and first-generation Christians nurtured an earnest expectation and fervent hope that Christ *might* suddenly return at any time to gather His church to heaven.” (*emphasis mine)
I noted that he says *might* but I’m not sure any of the scripture references he quoted include that term! In fact a quick search on that page only shows the word *might* in his statements.
There is no doubt that MacArthur, and most modern commentators, are guilty of adding words like that to the inspired text. There are no “maybes”, “mights”, “could possibly” etc. in the NT. They all affirmed, with inspired authority that the end was near, Christ was coming soon. It is wrong for MacArthur or anyone else to deny, alter and pervert that language.
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