Responding to the Critics| Howard Denham’s Abuse of Scripture and Logic
Unless memory fails me or I have over-looked something, this is the last of the syllogisms that Howard Denham submitted to Steve Baisden, claiming that his arguments against Covenant Eschatology cannot be answered. As we have demonstrated in our responses however, we have shown that Denham grossly abuses the scripture. He likewise abuses logic, or which he claims to be a master. The truth is that his arguments are presuppositional in the extreme.
Furthermore, as we demonstrated in our last article, Denham grossly misrepresents what true preterists actually believe. If he has actually read our literature, he knows that he has slandered the preterist community. If he has not read the literature, and does not know what we actually believe, he is guilty of sloppy, unprofessional, un-scholarly action. In either case, he is guilty of un-Christian behavior that is reprehensible to those who value Christian integrity and decorum.
Here is Denham’s final argument:
Major Premise: If it is the case that John 8:51 is a prophecy that applies to Steve Baisden, then it is the case that John 8:51 must have a scope as to its fulfillment that, at the very least, includes the time period from A.D. 70 until now.
Minor Premise: It is the case that John 8:51 is a prophecy that applies to Steve Baisden. (NOTE: Baisden’s own use of the text).
Conclusion: Therefore, it is the case that John 8:51 must have a scope as to its fulfillment that, at the very least, includes the time period from A.D. 70 until now.
In this syllogism, Denham wrongly believes that he is responding to the argument that all eschatological prophecy has been fulfilled. This argument demonstrates – once again – how badly Denham mis-understands the Biblical narrative and how willing he is to misrepresent the true preterist view of eschatology.
Imagine that you tell all of your friends: “I am going to build a house! I am going to build a wonderful house!”
When that house is completed, and you are living in that house on a daily basis, is the house still under construction? That is clearly absurd, but, Denham wants his readers to believe that this is precisely what is going on.
The completion of the house is the goal, the aim. Living in the house is the direct result of the completion, the fulfillment of the promise to build the house! We thus have prophecy, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the result of the fulfillment of prophecy. Lamentably, Denham seems to think that as long as you are living in the house that the prophecy of building the house is on-going. This is horrible logic.
In the first century, the “house of God” was under construction (Ephesians 2:19f) – notice that Paul used the present active indicative to tell the Ephesians that they were “being built up” as a habitation of God. Likewise, Peter told his audience, the Diaspora Israel of his day, that they were “living stones being built” into the New Covenant Temple of God. The Temple of God was “under construction.” The goal of eschatology was the completion and the glorification of that “house of God” so that from that point on it would be said “The tabernacle of God is with men!” (Revelation 21:1-4). Denham totally misses, or abuses, this story line. But there is something else here, something fatal to Denham’s theology.
Responding to the Critics| Has Christ Abolished Death?
You must understand that one of the key objections that Denham and associates make against Covenant Eschatology is the claim that if AD 70 was “the end” this means that there is no such thing as spiritual death today. And, if you are not of the Calvinist persuasion, you must realize how strongly Denham and his brethren reject the idea of the “security of the believer.”
Make no mistake, I do not accept the Calvinistic view of the security of the believer. However, the view held by Denham and brethren – the view that I once held – says that the possibility of apostasy is not only true, but, it is actually the “probability of apostasy!” One sin condemns. One sin demands that you “walk down the aisle,” confess your sin and ask the brethren to pray for your forgiveness. (Kinda calls into question the priesthood of the believer, does it not?) I will not develop what I believe to be the proper view of the security of the believer here. My only point is to expose the utter fallacy of Denham and his brethren, who believe they have discovered a fatal flaw in true preterism.
Denham’s fellowship claims that now, in Christ, we are spiritually resurrected. This is absolutely critical to know. They appeal directly to Romans 6, where Paul told the Romans that they had been crucified with Christ, buried with him in baptism, and raised to walk in newness of life. He then said, “if we have been buried together with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be with him in the likeness of his resurrection.” There is an “already-but-not-yet” resurrection reality going on here. Denham’s fellowship says Paul means that they had been spiritually resurrected and they and we are now waiting on the physical resurrection. This bifurcation of resurrection is un-Biblical, but for now, take note of two main points.
#1 – Denham’s argument violates God’s modus operandi – His method of operation. Throughout scripture, God always operated from the physical to the spiritual. The physical sacrifices, the physical temple, the physical city, the physical circumcision, etc. of Old Covenant Israel, foreshadowed the spiritual counterparts in Christ. Even Denham would agree with this! But, what does he do? He says that the spiritual resurrection (of conversion) points to (foreshadows?) the coming physical resurrection! He turns God’s “history” on its head!
#2 – Denham’s own argument destroys him. Read what Paul had to say in 2 Timothy 1:8-10:
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Note that Paul said Christ had brought life and immorality to light through the gospel. Man’s questions about “life after death” are answered by Jesus through his resurrection!
Take particular note that Paul said Christ “has abolished death.” What??? Christ has (past tense) abolished death? Well, that is what Paul said, is it not? So, how does this fit into Denham’s theology? It doesn’t; it destroys it.
Responding to the Critics| Denham and the Abolishment of Death
The word that Paul uses for “abolished” is katargeo. It can mean to annul or, it can mean to abolish, to take out of existence, to make “non-functional.” This is the same word that Paul used to speak of the abolishing of death in 1 Corinthians 15:26 “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (It should be noted that Paul uses the present passive indicative in 1 Corinthians 15:26. It is literally “the last enemy that is being destroyed.” This is powerful, but mostly overlooked).
So, Paul anticipated the abolishing of death in 1 Corinthians 15. Denham says that is when physical death is totally, well, abolished. It will cease to function. There will be no more physical death!
Paul said when writing to Timothy that Jesus had – past tense – “abolished death.” Denham says that is the spiritual resurrection of conversion. However, Houston, we, No, read that, Denham, you have a problem!).
You see, Paul used the identical word to speak of what Christ had done and what Christ was about to do. Was Paul speaking of two different resurrections, of different natures, at two different times? That is Denham’s view for sure. But, back to our point above.
Denham says that katargeo in Corinthians must mean to to cause to cease to function or exist. But, if Katargeo means to cease to function– and that is a primary meaning and cannot be denied – then that demands that in 2 Timothy 1, Paul was affirming that “spiritual death” had been caused to cease to function when Paul wrote! But, if one accepts the normal meaning of katargeo, then Denham’s argument against true preterists turns on him, and demands that he in fact, now take the position that there is no spiritual death! After all, Paul said Christ already had “abolished death!” Here is Denham’s problem:
Preterists are heretics because they affirm that Christ has abolished spiritual death – Denham.
Paul said Christ had – past tense – already abolished death and brought life and immortality to light – 2 Timothy 1.
To abolish means to cause to cease to function.
The death that Christ had abolished in 2 Timothy 1 was spiritual death – Denham.
Therefore, per Denham, Christ had done the very thing that he condemns preterists for affirming. Christ had caused spiritual death to cease to function! Denham must join the preterists in affirming the “death of death!”
If preterists are to be condemned for agreeing with Paul that Christ was in the very process of annulling death, then Denham is equally condemned. The only way Denham can counter this argument is:
1. To show definitively that Paul was using katargeo differently in 2 Timothy 1 from how he used it in Corinthians. Denham has no contextual evidence for this. It is specious.
2. He must prove beyond doubt that there are in fact two deaths that are the focus of Christ’s soteriological and eschatological work. He can’t do that either. There was but one “the death” that Christ was to conquer and that he did. (2 Timothy 1 must be viewed proleptically).
3. He must justify his reversal of how God had always operated – from the physical to the spiritual. There is no justification for this. He cannot show where the spiritual ever foreshadowed the physical.
Denham’s caustic castigation of true preterists is uncalled for. We have shown repeatedly how he contradicts himself, he violates scripture, he distorts logic, and makes gross false claims and misrepresentations. This is inexcusable for anyone claiming to be a Christian, much less a minister of the Gospel! In our on-going task of Responding to the Critics, we have exposed Howard Denham as incapable of refuting Covenant Eschatology.
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