Partial-Preterist Post-Millenialist

One of the courses I am engaged in this term has been a look at the Doctrine of the Last Things or better labeled “Eschatology”. In this class we have barely yet to scratch the surface as far as ripping apart the pertinent texts like Matthew 25, Revelation 20, 1 Thess 4 & 5, and 2 Thess 2. Before taking this course I had not thought through this stuff very much as where I was before put little to no emphasis on these type of subjects and never had a reason to “stake out a territory” so to speak. So after reading other books prior to this class and in reading an excellent book by Cornelis Venema (an optimistic A-Mill) and beginning a work by Marcellus Kik (a Post-Mill) I have come to the following conclusions (for now)…

1) I believe in Partial Preterism.

What does that mean? Basically it means that I hold that the majority of the events prophesied in Scripture dealing with the “end times” refer to and were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple cult by the Romans in A.D. 70.

2) I believe the Millennium is symbolic.

The literal 1,000 years that Dispensational Pre-Millennialists push is not Scriptural or in keeping with the Biblical text. In other words the reference to 1,000 years in Revelation 20 is not meant to be taken as a literal 1,000 years.

3) I believe that Christ will come back at the end of the Millennium

Which makes me a post-millennialist (also one thing that A-Mills and Post-Mills share).

4) I believe that Revelation was written before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

I would highly recommend Ken Gentry’s work here. Basically that the Book of Revelation was written during the reign of Nero. Also that Nero Caesar is the sixth king who is the one who is in Revelation 17:10.

Suggested Reading List

An Eschatology of Victory by Marcellus Kik

The Last Days According to Jesus by R.C. Sproul, Sr.

Before Jerusalem Fell by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

He Shall Have Dominion by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Post-Millenialism: An Eschatology of Hope by Keith Mathison

Days of Vengeance by David Chilton

The Promise of the Future by Cornelis Venema

This will be the first of several posts on Eschatological issues that will help flesh out my beliefs and illustrate how and why the Scriptures teach what I have professed above.

Loose, Good-Faith, or Strict Subscription?

How does your ecclesiastical tradition hold to your standards? How should they? Is loose subscription just a surefire way to allow liberalism into the church? Is Strict Subscription “mean”? These are some questions I would like to look at in following posts.

Here is a couple of snippets from an article by J. Gresham Machen citing Charles Hodge:

The question put to every candidate for ordination in our Church, is in these words:  “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?”  It is plain that a very serious responsibility before God and man is assumed by those who return an affirmative answer to that question.  It is something more than ordinary falsehood, if our inward convictions do not correspond with a profession made in presence of the Church, and as the condition of our receiving authority to preach the Gospel.  In such a case we lie not only unto man, but unto God; because such professions are of the nature of a vow, that is, a promise or profession made to God…

The Principle of Creed-Subscription

It is no less plain that the candidate has no right to put his own sense upon the words propounded to him.  He has no right to select from all possible meanings which the words may bear, that particular sense which suits his purpose, or which, he thinks, will save his conscience.  It is well known that this course has been openly advocated, not only by the Jesuits, but by men of this generation, in this country and in Europe.  The “chemistry of thought,” it is said, can make all creeds alike.  Men have boasted that they could sign any creed.  To a man in a balloon the earth appears a plane, all inequalities on its surface being lost in the distance.  And here is a philosophic elevation from which all forms of human belief look alike.  They are sublimed into general formulas, which include them all and distinguish none.  Professor Newman, just before his open apostasy, published a tract in which he defended his right to be in the English Church while holding the doctrines of the Church of Rome.  He claimed for himself the Thirty-nine articles in a “non-natural sense”; that is, in the sense which he chose to put upon the words.  This shocks the common sense and the common honesty of men.  There is no need to argue the matter.  The turpitude of such a principle is much more clearly seen intuitively than discursively.  The two principles which, by the common consent of all honest men, determine the interpretation of oaths and professions of faith, are, first, the plain, historical meaning of the words; and secondly, the animus imponentis, that is, the intention of the party imposing the oath or requiring the profession.  The words, therefore, “system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures,” are to be taken in their plain, historical sense.  A man is not a liberty to understand the words “Holy Scriptures,” to mean all books written by holy men, because although that interpretation might consist with the signification of the words, it is inconsistent with the historical meaning of the phrase.  Nor can he understand them, as they would be understood by Romanists, as including the Apocrypha, because the words being used by a Protestant Church, must be taken in a Protestant sense.  Neither can the candidate say, that he means by “system of doctrine” Christianity as opposed to Mohammedanism, or Protestantism, as opposed to Romanism, or evangelical Christianity, as distinguished from the theology of the Reformed (i.e., Calvinistic) Churches, because the words being used by a Reformed Church, must be understood in the sense which that Church is know to attach to them.  If a man professes to receive the doctrine of the Trinity, the word must be taken in its Christian sense, the candidate cannot substitute for that sense the Sabellian idea of a modal Trinity, nor the philosophical trichotomy of Pantheism.  And so of all other expressions which have a fixed historical meaning.  Again, by the animus imponentis in the case contemplated, is to be understood not the mind or intention of the ordaining bishop in the Episcopal Church, or of the ordaining presbytery in the Presbyterian Church.  It is the mind or intention of the Church, of which the bishop or the presbytery is the organ or agent.  Should a Romanizing bishop in the Church of England give “a non-natural” sense to the Thirty-nine articles, that would not acquit the priest, who should sign them in that sense, of the crime of moral perjury; or should a presbytery give an entirely erroneous interpretation to the Westminster Confession, that would not justify a candidate for ordination in adopting it in that sense.  The Confession must be adopted in the sense of the Church, into the service of which the minister, in virtue of that adoption, is received.  These are simple principles of honesty, and we presume they are universally admitted, at least so far as our Church is concerned.

The question however is, What is the true sense of the phrase, “system of doctrine? or, What does the Church understand the candidate to profess, when he says that he “receives and adopts the Confession of Faith of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures”?

There are three ways in which these words have been, and still are, interpreted.  First, some understand them to mean that every proposition contained in the Confession of Faith is included in the profession made at ordination.  Secondly, others say that they mean just what the words import.  What is adopted is the “system of doctrine.”  The system of the Reformed Churches is a known and admitted scheme of doctrine, and that scheme, nothing more or less, we profess to adopt.  The third view of the subject is, that by the system of doctrine contained in the Confession is meant the essential doctrines of Christianity and nothing more…

The First View:  “Every Proposition of the Confession”

As to the first of these interpretations it is enough to say:  1.  That it is not the meaning of the words.  There are many propositions contained in the Westminster Confession which do not belong to the integrity of the Augustinian, or Reformed system.  A man may be a true Augustinian or Calvinist, and not believe that the Pope is the Antichrist predicted by St. Paul; or that the 18th chapter of Leviticus is still binding.  2.  Such a rule of interpretation can never be practically carried out, without dividing the Church into innumerable fragments.  It is impossible that a body of several thousand ministers and elders should think alike on all the topics embraced in such an extended and minute formula of belief.  3.  Such has never been the rule adopted in our Church.  Individuals have held it, but the Church as a body never has.  No prosecution for doctrinal error has ever been attempted or sanctioned, except for errors which were regarded as involving the rejection, not of explanations of doctrines, but of the doctrines themselves…

The Second View:  The Doctrines of the “System” Enumerated

The same strain of remark might be made in reference to the other great doctrines which constitute the Augustinian system.  Enough, however, has been said to illustrate the principle of interpretation for which Old-school men contend.  We do not expect that our ministers should adopt every proposition contained in our standards.  This they are not required to do.  But they are required to adopt the system; and that system consists of certain doctrines, no one of which can be omitted without destroying its identity…

The Third View:  “Substance of Doctrine”

There has, however, always been a party in the Church which adopted the third method of understanding the words “system of doctrine,” in the ordination service, viz., that they mean nothing more than the essential doctrines of religion or of Christianity….

It is said by some, that in adopting the “system of doctrine,” the candidate is understood to adopt it, not in the form or manner in which it is presented in the Confession, but only for “substance of doctrine.”…

This system has been tried, and found to produce the greatest disorder and contention.  Men acting on the principle of receiving the Confession for substance of doctrine, have entered the ministry in our Church, who denied the doctrine of imputation, whether of Adam’s sin or of Christ’s righteousness; the doctrine of the derivation of a sinful depravity of nature from our first parents; of inability; of efficacious grace; of a definite atonement; that is, of an atonement have any such special reference to the elect, as to render their salvation certain.  In short, while professing to receive “the system of doctrine” contained in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms they have rejected almost every doctrine which gives that system its distinctive character.

The Abandonement of Hermenuetics, Part 1.

The study of Hermeneutics or better said the way in which we read and study biblical text is a dying art in the evangelical, let alone the liberal, world. There used to be a very serious set of principles that a person would employ when they came to the Biblical text that was nearly as sacrosanct as the text itself. For those of us in the Reformed circles this was done in the guise of reading the Scriptures in the framework of the Covenants between God and man. In other words when a Reformed pastor or theologian would come to a biblical text he would read it first with the idea that the Bible was constructed with a certain organizing principle, constructed by the Holy Spirit so that we could both understand the larger picture and how the little things work for the overall Glory of God in history. We all come to the text with presuppositions about the nature of the text, the way we understand God to work in his creation, etc. Through all this we take things like God’s covenant with Noah and Abraham through different eyes than Talmudic or Dispensational scholars. The Talmudic scholar will read the promises to Noah in relation to the modern Jewish milieu. The Dispensationalist will see the Noahic Covenant as the beginning of a new dispensation that is different than the one given to Adam or Moses. Once we come to this understanding the question that comes before us is why do we think we can read Scripture in such a way that it does not inform on itself? For example in the arguments between those who support Women in Ordained ministry and those who do not the defenders of the egalitarian position often posit the observation that Jesus employed women to bring the news of his resurrection to his Male disciples as one fact supporting ordained female clergy. In other words Jesus uses women to bring the Good News to the disciples, therefore women can be messengers of the Gospel, ergo Women can be preachers of the Gospel and enter ordained ministry. Understand the argument? Ok. This argument sounds pretty good on the surface and looks secure in its logic, which if taken by itself it is logical.

Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees in Matthew 12:38-41 is a good place for us to start in working with a Biblical hermeneutic. What are the details in this text? Pharisees and Scribes are asking Jesus for a sign after the crowds call him the “Son of David” for healing the blind and mute man possessed with a demonic force. The Pharisees want him to prove that he is this person whom the crowd claims him to be. So after Jesus and the Pharisees exchange pleasantries Jesus reminds them of Jonah (whom Jesus recognizes as both real and verifiable, which is another issue for another day) and what it was that happened to Jonah. He also reminds them of Nineveh and Nineveh’s repentance and applies this text not only to himself but to the recompense that is coming. All in order to show them that the signs have already been given to them in the Law and the Prophets (cf: The Rich Man and Lazarus) and that they have no need of new signs because why? Because there is nothing new in what Christ is teaching and what he is coming to do in their time. Jesus understands (and so does Zacharias) that the Law and the Prophets not only speak of him but are about him. This is all to say that a proper Biblical hermeneutic takes into account more than just what is in front of us on the page, more than the bare logic of a pericope.

Which brings us back to Matthew 28:1-10 (also Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-10) and the reporting of the Resurrection. Now as we saw before the argument brought forward by egalitarians makes perfect sense, in isolation. Now how does the story look in context? We’ll answer that in the next post. But for now I want you to think about it and come up with your own explanation using a Covenant hermeneutic.

My Preliminary Statement of Faith

Below is the preliminary Statement of Faith I sent in with my Form 3 for my annual Consultation. Please feel free to critique as necessary. Just as a side note I found the one-page (single-space) limit to be unnecessarily brief and constricting.

VIII. IF THIS ANNUAL CONSULTATION COVERS THE TIME PERIOD OF THE SECOND YEAR OF THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION, WRITE A PRELIMINARY STATEMENT OF FAITH

The ministry of the Word and sacrament is not a job nor is it strictly a vocation but it is only to be taken upon those called by the Holy Spirit to be overseers of Christ’s Church. As a person who is called to this ministry of the Word and sacrament I lay forth this statement of my faith.

I believe that a person who is called to pastoral ministry is not only called for a ministry of reconciliation but to teach, instruct, and lead a particular church in righteousness and obedience to the Word of God. Ministers are called also to guide a particular church in the lawful celebration of the Eucharist and the observance of proper discipline.

I believe that the Holy Scriptures from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 to be the inerrant and holy Word of God, the only infallible rule for faith and practice for all who shall call upon it and wish to be members of Christ’s Church. The wisdom of mankind or the ruling of councils or synods shall not supersede the authority of Scripture. As it is written in the Westminster Confession of Faith I believe the Holy Spirit speaking in the Bible is the supreme judge of all religious controversies, all decisions of religious councils, all the opinions of ancient writers, all human teachings, and every private opinion.

I believe in the holy Doctrine of the Trinity as spoken in the confessions and in Scripture. I hold that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is only way that the Trinity may be named. I believe in the Sovereignty of the Father and that we are all subject to His perfect will and that He seeks our perfect obedience to His will and command alone.

I believe that all mankind, created first perfect in Adam, shares in his rebellion to God’s perfect will. We can never of our own accord choose to do that which has been laid down for us to accomplish. It is only through Jesus Christ’s substitutionary atonement and the satisfaction of his Father’s wrath by his death on the cross that any of us can have hope in eternal life. I believe that Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient for all but efficient only for whom it pleases God to save.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah of Israel. I believe in the Federal headship of Christ. I believe in the hope that is promised to those who call upon Christ’s name for deliverance and rescue from this fallen world. I believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one, no matter how “good or sincere” may come to the Father and therefore receive eternal life apart from Faith in Jesus Christ alone, the co-eternal second person of the Godhead, begotten not created, and born of a virgin.

I hold fast in the hope of the quick return of Jesus Christ so that we may be eternally delivered into his hands. I stand ready to witness to the Grace and the Glory of God Almighty until that day shall come. Amen.