Responding to the Critics| Howard Denham and Straw Man Arguments #2
I am currently responding to several syllogisms offered by Howard Denham, a caustic opponent of Covenant Eschatology. Be sure to read my first article which was the introduction to this series, because there are some important things to understand about Denham in that first article. For space considerations I am only examining one syllogism at a time. Before doing that, however, let me take note of Denham’s “response” to my first article. Here is Denham’s response, sent to me by a man named Doug Post, an acolyte of Denham. (I have shortened it for space considerations, but, not altered the substance of his claims).
“I was going over one of Preston’s “responses” to a syllogism I posted on 2 Thess. 2:2. He posted it at the behest of Steve Baisden, which means that Baisden by implication has endorsed Don’s actions and statement. Preston blunders a number of times, misrepresents some key reference sources (as usual), demonstrates dishonesty in handling my material (in fact ignores the evidence I posted in support of the argument while accusing me of begging the question — a clear no no on his part!), and even gives material irreparably damaging to his case. I’ve had a good laugh reading it! If that’s the best he can do, then he knows he’s headed for a beating in a debate with any of us who have training in logic along with the Scriptures. He clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing, even though he is pretentious about it all through his article. In fact he attacks the syllogism while ignoring the two paragraphs IMMEDIATELY ABOVE IT IN THE SAME NOTE, which paragraphs briefly summarize the evidence for the syllogism, and then he ignores the five or six notes that were posted in support of that evidence. In other words, he lied to his readers about me not having supported the syllogism with evidence. These notes were all available to him before he wrote his piece, and are posted on the very same site (my notes page with public access) from whence he took the syllogism!!! He could not have read the syllogism without being fully aware of this evidence. This is the kind of duplicity and deceit that Don K. Preston does not want exposed in public debate. Also, his misuse of reference sources is another reason why he is hiding out. He knows that I can expose his deceitfulness in that area as well.”
I will note take the time to analyze every error in Denham’s “response,” (it is rife with falsehoods) but let me make a few observations.
Responding to the Critics – The Proper Use of Logic
By demonstrating, as I did, that the minor premise of his first syllogism was false, I thereby negated any materials that he might have given in support. If the premise is wrong, then all “evidence” offered to “prove it” – no matter if it is 1000 pages – is falsified.
His minor premise was that the parousia was not imminent in 2 Thessalonians 2. That premise was based – as I demonstrated – on a false translation of the Greek of the text. Thus, to reiterate, no matter what other supposed evidence he might have presented, his minor premise, and thus, his entire argument, was falsified.
Just a quick note: Denham says I took his notes off of his website and then mishandled them, ignoring the rest of his arguments. He says I am therefore a liar. This ungodly type of name calling and attitude is, lamentably, characteristic of Denham.
First of all, I did not personally take the syllogism, or anything from his website – period! I did not even visit his site – period! So, his claim that I went to his site, and selectively and deceitfully took only part of his material is flat wrong. I stated very clearly that Steve Baisden had cut and pasted the list of Denham’s syllogisms and sent them to me. Baisden was under no obligation to send me anything else because as noted, in the correct use of logic, all I have to do is to falsify the premises of the syllogism.
Okay, with that said, here is Denham’s second syllogism.
Responding to the Critics| Denham’s Second Syllogism
“Major Premise: The church of the New Testament is the kingdom of heaven on earth (Matt. 16:1-19; Col. 1:12-13; 1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:5-6).
Minor Premise: The divine institution that God established on earth on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is the church of the New Testament (Acts 2:41, 47).
Conclusion: Therefore, the divine institution that God established on earth on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Thus, the kingdom of heaven on earth was not established in A.D. 70 as Realized Eschatology claims. Steve Baisden and his minions are false teachers on the subject of the kingdom!” (EoQ)
It is stunning how Denham could actually claim that this in any way refutes Covenant Eschatology! This “argument” supposedly devastates preterism? This is nothing but a straw man, based on Denham’s own false concepts of what preterists believe. Let me illustrate:
Denham’s major premise is: “The church of the New Testament is the kingdom of heaven on earth (Matt. 16:1-19; Col. 1:12-13; 1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:5-6).”
Response: Can Denham find preterists who deny that the church and the kingdom are inextricably related to one another? Did he document where preterists reject this idea in totality? So, in premising that the church and the kingdom are the same and inferring that preterists deny this, Denham has set up a straw man. But, he is arguing against the wind!
Denham’s minor premise is: “The divine institution that God established on earth on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is the church of the New Testament (Acts 2:41, 47).”
Response: Okay, so what is the problem? Denham is clearly implying that preterists deny that the church came into existence on Pentecost! Here is the problem with this second “straw man” argument: I have been actively teaching Covenant Eschatology since approximately 1990. I know many of the “leading” preterists. Let me say this clearly: I have never met, heard of, and never known of a single preterist that ever affirmed that the church was not born on Pentecost!
Thus, Denham’s massive Straw Man argument goes down in flames! He cannot document from preterist writings that we say the church did not begin on Pentecost! I know for a fact that Max King said it began on Pentecost. I challenge Denham- or anyone else – to prove otherwise! Can’t be done.
Had Denham taken the time to read what preterists actually say – something he patently has not done, or, if he has done it he purposely perverts what we say – instead of setting up his Straw Man arguments, he would know that we say that the church was born on Pentecost, but not perfected and mature until the coming of the Lord in AD 70. This raises a significant point.
Was the kingdom “established,” or born, on Pentecost? Some may think that this is a word game, but, not really. As just noted, preterists affirm that the church was born, but, it was not full grown or perfected, may I use the term “established” on Pentecost, and, Denham must agree with this, or else recant an entire theology of the churches of Christ!
Did the church have her full “constitution” i.e. the completely revealed and confirmed New Covenant, on the day of Pentecost? I do not know of anyone in Denham’s camp that would affirm that the New Covenant was fully revealed and fully confirmed on Pentecost! You must catch the power of that! If the church did not have its fully delivered, fully confirmed, “constitution” how in the name of reason could it be fully “established”?
So, was the church fully established? Had it arrived at “that which is perfect”, “the perfect man, the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” as Paul described it in 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4:8-16? Once again, I know of no one in Denham’s camp that would affirm this. In fact, they vehemently teach that “that which is perfect” is the New Covenant revelation that was not yet complete in 1 Corinthians 13. The church was in a state of immaturity.
Now, since the church is the kingdom of God on earth, and since the church had not yet arrived at “the perfect man” and “the fulness of the stature of Christ” then the church / kingdom was not fully “established.” Born yes, established (full grown, fully confirmed) No! Would anyone in Denham’s camp deny this?
I will let this suffice to turn now to the concept of the “establishment of the church” after Pentecost. This will be brief, just some “bullet points.”
In Daniel 7– following the judgment of the little horn – in the days of Rome- “the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the Most High” (v. 26). Wait! This is the kingdom being given to the saints at the time of the judgment of the little horn! This is patently not Pentecost!
Matthew 16:27-28- Jesus predicted his coming in judgment and the kingdom, in the lifetime of his audience- This is Daniel 7. Lamentably, many insert a 2000 year, and counting, gap between v. 27 and v. 28. But the grammar of the text forbids this, as I prove in my book, Can You Believe Jesus Said This? This is the “coming of the kingdom” to be sure, but, it is the coming of the kingdom in judgment!
This cannot be Pentecost! Does that mean that the kingdom would not have been “born” prior to this? No, but it means that his coming would fully “establish” (confirm, perfect and glorify) the kingdom at his parousia. (Vindication of the martyrs is the context here, but we cannot develop that here).
Revelation 11:15f – Skipping over many texts that prove the same thing, note Revelation 11. We find the judgment of the city “where the Lord was slain” (11:8). The identity of that city cannot be seriously disputed. What happens at that judgment? Read verse 15f: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” This is Daniel 7.
Notice the direct correlation with Luke 21:28-31, a text Denham would (ostensibly) agree foretold the events leading up to the destruction of the city where the Lord was slain. Jesus said: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.”
What? The kingdom would be near, at hand in the events leading to AD 70! Had it not been born on Pentecost? Yes, but now, in these texts, it was coming! It was coming in power, glory and judgment, to be fully established. No amount of wrangling of the text can remove it from the context of the judgment on Jerusalem. This is the direct parallel to: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ”– that happened at the destruction of the city “where the Lord was slain”! The kingdom would be “at hand,” “even at the door” (James 5:9) in the events leading up to the judgment of Jerusalem!
It is indisputably clear that the full arrival of the kingdom and the judgment are inextricably tied together. Scripture focuses, generally, on consummation, not initiation. It does not deny or ignore initiation– i.e. Pentecost – but it focuses on maturation, vindication, glorification and consummation.
So, Denham’s syllogism states Biblical truth, truth that preterists have never denied, when properly understood. But, Denham is arguing from a false presupposition that preterists do not believe the church began in any way at Pentecost. A slanderous and false accusation.
The truth is, as demonstrated, that Scripture posits the “full establishment” perfection, glorification and maturity, not at Pentecost, but, at the coming of Christ in glory, in power – and in judgment (Matthew 25:31f)! And, that judgment was the judgment of “the city where the Lord was slain.” These are explicit, irrefutable facts.
It is truly sad – and revealing – when the only way Denham can “make a point” is to totally misrepresent what preterists truly believe – and by denying what the Bible has to say about the time when the kingdom would be “established” (confirmed, matured, perfected). More to come in our series on Responding to the Critics, and Howard Denham’s syllogisms.