Monday, May 16, 2011

Response to gracious mention on the New Covenant Eyes (NCE) 04.17.2011 broadcast

The hosts were extremely gracious in their response to my critique (in the comments of the April 3rd broadcast) during their April 17th show. My reply (combining two posts):

Wow, Brothers, I am humbled by your gracious response and interaction with my comments earlier in this edition of New Covenant Eyes! Sorry for the late response, I just find I am in one of those seasons that is especially busy and I am catching up with the shows ever so slowly.

Jeremiah, Alan, Mike, and Michael, again, I really appreciated you going into the basis for your characterizations of, for example, the eschatology of Presbyterian laity. I actually totally believe your experience, and that it is probably not uncommon, now that I think on it from the perspective you guys provided. It reveals my bias, that when I think of the 'beliefs' of a denomination, such as the PCA, I associate that with the Session, not the communing membership, but particularly the teaching elders. Of course, Alan mentions that he has been in Reformed churches where the leadership was premillennial (though the historic/early church variety is of course quite different dispensational), and I believe it, it has just not been my (narrow though it is) experience.

In our presbytery (Potomac), and a few others that I am familiar with, the elders are quite knowledgeable in the Reformed tradition, Puritan and scholastic, and none of the teaching elders to my knowledge are dispensational, but I would not be surprised if a number of the ruling elders out there were, or more likely simply uninformed or confused.

Thank you again for elucidating your perspective and experiences, and I cannot thank you again enough for such a loving response.

On the question of my own perspective, I am doing my best to reflect scholarship - evangelical and critical - as best I can, as I believe those that have most dedicated themselves to the study of the ancient scriptures and contemporaneous documentation and languages, interacting and challenging peers all the while, are the best able to discern meanings and intent. And I favor the exegetical and biblical-theological over the broadly systematic as a guide to interpretation (though as many have written, it is impossible to separate the two completely, and attempts at such are doomed to fail). So, as far as which eschatological persuasion I think describes how things will actually play out in our future, the amillennial expectation (i.e. resurrection and judgment probably sans future earthly or heavenly messianic or saintly reign) is probably the closest to the NT consensus view, or at least that of Paul and the gospels.

However, as anyone knows who has studied Revelation 20 and digested the top scholars of the last 100 years, the only passage that uses the term 'millennium' is unquestionably premillennial in structure (I have listed the plethora of scholars before, with the only holdouts usually those that are theological bound to conform the Apocalypse's presentation - an echo of abundant similar 2TJ parallels - to that of the rest of the NT; obviously Beale must come to mind). But I think it is also worth asking if the premil presentation of Rev 20 is not also an apocalyptic rhetorical device, not unlike the expectation of imminent persecution in Asia Minor and salvation at the parousia. This apocalyptic contextualization is not unlike Paul's in 2 Thess 2. Regardless, I do not feel an urgent need to reconcile the tension between the likes of the synoptic authors, Paul, and 'John' and am more at peace with simply a firm grasp of what each author's perspective and message was and do not feel compelled to force a harmonization.

So, that may just confuse things, but if you are familiar with scholarship today, you could pretty much throw a rock into the sea of exegetes and you'll hit one of the 90% representing the broad consensus, and me following them:
  - yes, most of the NT writers thought the parousia, resurrection, judgment, and NH/NE, etc. would happen relatively soon (not 40 long years down the road, much less 2,000);
  - the synoptics - notably Mark, and even more Matthew - contextualize the prophecy of the temple's destruction w/ the apocalyptic consummation (Allison and Adams of late have been particularly excellent on this point);
  - Paul (unquestionably) and Jesus (as recorded/conveyed) are inline with the general pharisaic expectation of the future, individual bodily resurrection of the saints (at a minimum) and the condemned (more broadly but with less support), the major Pauline innovation(/conveyance) being the two-stage actualization: Christ, raised the first-fruits, and the saints raised bodily at his coming again (practically every non-'Jesus Seminar' scholar agrees on these points);
  - the author of the Apocalypse is the only one that interacts heavily with the 2TJ concept of the earthly Messianic reign, but he broadly affirms the expectation - this is overwhelmingly agreed upon in scholarship as basically 'premil' in convention (so Mealy - who academically dismantles the amil - and postmil - quite well, quoting Roman Catholic interpreter J. Sickenberger, "The Augustinian [i.e. amil] approach 'does violence to the text'." (After the Thousand Years (JSNTS 70),  p19 n3)), with the innovation being that the martyrs in Asia Minor who persevere to the end  will be resurrected _before_ the reign begins, with the honor of reigning with Christ, as opposed to the traditional 2TJ understanding of resurrection as following the earthly Messianic reign (e.g. 2 Bar 30);
  - the author of the Apocalypse is speaking to a community that anticipates persecution probably late in the 1st century from Babylon (undeniably Rome; see Yarbro Collins, Crisis and Catharsis, for an extremely able defense of the consensus view concerning date, theme, and audience, recognizing the limitation of former dependencies on the anti-Flavian historians).

There are many more that press the preterist outside the mainstream of exegetical thought that could be cited, but these I think are some sufficient examples that should give the preterist that attempts to interact with scholarship reason to pause and re-evaluate. Thank you again for your interaction and allowing this critic to post. Peace to you all!


No comments:

Post a Comment