You are hereConversing with Controversy (Part 1)
Conversing with Controversy (Part 1)
Most in the Christian community should be pleased that Tim LaHaye & Thomas Ice have written this book. (The End Times Controversy) Although we have record of their eschatological views from other writings, this book will clearly display their entire arsenal.»»»»»»»»»»»»
What follows is a segment of a response I've been working on to the Tim LaHaye & Thomas Ice book. I hope to complete the response soon and then post the full assessment on www.thekingdomcome.com.
Most in the Christian community should be pleased that Tim LaHaye & Thomas Ice have written this book. Although we have record of their eschatological views from other writings, this book will clearly display their entire arsenal. One unfortunate point is that the uninformed reader of “The End Times Controversy” may believe that the book interacts with Preterism whereas it mainly addresses what advocates of Preterism call Partial Preterism. This is confirmed by even R.C. Sproul (an avowed partial preterist) who says "Maybe the terms that best describe the two positions are full preterism and partial preterism. Both are preterist with respect to some eschatological events, but both are not preterist with respect to all eschatological events..". Understanding this important distinction will allow the reader to have a more accurate grasp of what LaHaye and Ice are actually trying to refute. Partial Preterism is as inconsistent as a person that only holds three points of the Calvinistic TULIP acronym yet claiming to represent Calvinism. Refuting the inconsistencies of a so-called three or four point Calvinist is not too difficult of a task, nor is refuting the inconsistencies of partial preterism. So, when the day is done, even if the reader comes away feeling that LaHaye and Ice have done a sufficient job of refutation and of making their case, keep in mind they have only done so against a poor representation of preterism.
As I interact with The End Times Controversy, please be aware that this is not a review. I do not intend to interact with every element of the book. I’ll leave that up to other scholars. I simply want to draw out various points that seemed to capture what the book was saying overall.
THE ENEMY IS NOT US
An interesting but all too familiar tactic that comes out in the early parts of LaHaye’s and Ice’s book is the old propaganda ploy of painting one’s enemy as so dissimilar that the reader quickly disassociates with the opponent.
I call it the “label and dismiss” tactic. I’ve seen it successfully used by non-Calvinists against Calvinists. Or by KJV only advocates against non-exclusive KJV advocates. The ploy usually goes like this:
1. Claim opponent is liberal (often without any definition as to what liberal entails)
2. Claim opponent is arrogant (too intellectual, “leaning on own understanding”)
3. Claim opponent is non-literal (a spirtualizer, allegorizer)
LaHaye brings this tactic to bear within the first few sentences of the introduction.
“And surprisingly, their [preterists] numbers are growing – not because their arguments for what they are trying to believe are so convincing, but because many of their new followers have only heard one side of the argument.”
What an amazing statement in the light of futurism’s dominance over American Christianity. Until recently there has been only one really vocal view, and that has been the dispensational pre-Tribulational futurist view. America was originally predominantly post-millennial and amillennial until pre-millennial views came to the fore in the late 1800s. Most preterists were dispensationalist futurists for many years before they became preterists, so they indeed had a thorough education in the other side of the argument.
Further example of this label and dismiss approach is found in the first chapter where Ice divides preterism into three types; Mild, Moderate, and Extreme.
R.C. Sproul is quoted within Ice’s very assessment and Sproul labels himself as a partial preterist and not as a moderate preterist as Ice redefines Sproul’s views. Any time a person goes about redefining accepted terms or labels, the reader should become suspicious of the motives.
The motive in this case seems clear (The straw man debate tactic). Ice is attempting to label the predominant and truly preterist view as an extreme view, thus Ice can dismiss any interaction with real preterism. Ice relates:
“Moderate preterism has become, in our day, mainstream preterism. Today it appears to be the most widely held version of preterism.”
In reality, the so-called extreme preterist view is the most widely held version. A simple Internet search engine query will confirm this notion. But Ice and the other contributors of this book must have known they could not successfully interact with consistent preterism, thus they took on the more inconsistent form of partial preterism.
The approach being taken here by the contributors of the book is comparable to a person examining only the Baptist denomination to find out about Christianity. The end result would not quite give the full picture.
The contributors of the book take considerable time trying to convince the reader that preterism is merely a German humanists and rationalists contrivance. (see pages 52-58). This is an interesting and almost humorous approach from semi-pelagians that all but made the humanist Desiderius Erasmus their champion over Martin Luther’s thorough reliance on the original intent and meaning of the Bible.
A LITTLE ABOUT THIS AND THAT
In chapter 4 of the book, Ice tries to put the death knell to what Ice considers the whole system of preterist interpretive approach, which simply is the “time texts” found in the Bible. A time text is the clearest portion of any statement. For instance, if I said; “Next week I’m having a party where everyone will see me” there are only two elements from the statement that are straightforward.
1. Next week (the time text of the statement)
2. I’m (the subject of the statement)
The other two elements of the statement are not so clear. What do I mean by party? Do I mean a birthday party, a swimming party, a political party? What do I mean by everyone will see me? Do I mean everyone on the face of the planet, everyone I know, everyone on my street, or more than likely every one that attends the event?
What often happens next when futurists approach such a statement in the Bible is that the only clear portions are rendered as obscure as the other portions. I mean, they will take the clear time texts and apply some strange and unwarranted elaboration. In this case a person could say next week doesn’t really mean within the next seven days but rather a week takes on a new time dimension such as 1,000 years. So the entire statement then becomes interpreted as: “Within the next 1,000 years I’m having a party where everyone will see me.” The entire statement is artificially catapulted into a future context. The other elements of the statement are left to stand but can now be interpreted however the interpreter imagines without being bound to the clear time text.
Futurists take a backwards approach to the statement, placing the event as the determining factor of the statement and then interpret the time to fit the supposed event. In this case they say as Ice says:
“Now if Matthew 24:29 is describing literal signs in the heavens, then these events have not happened yet. There is no record of such.”
Again, it is comparable to Ice saying after the fact about our analogous statement; “If the statement is describing a literal birthday party where everyone will see the host then these events have not happened yet. There is no record of such.”
The reason Ice would come to these conclusions is presuppositional. He presupposes that the party is going to be a certain kind of party and that the observers will literally be everyone on the face of the planet. Ice did not stay within the frame work of the time text of the statement and thus came to a faulty conclusion that will and can be altered as he goes along (as we see so-called prophecy teachers doing all the time).
Ice sets out to display that the time texts aren’t so clear. I believe he undermines the perspicuity of the Bible in this approach and lends credence to the fashionable practice of interpreting and reinterpreting the Scriptures based upon news headlines. In his efforts to prove his case Ice utilizes a statement by partial preterist Gary DeMar. DeMar says:
“Every time ‘this generation’ is used in the New Testament, it means without exception, the generation to whom Jesus was speaking.”
Ice goes on to take issue with DeMar, saying:
“DeMar’s assertion is simply not true! For example, ‘this generation’ in Hebrews 3:10 clearly refers to the generation of Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years during the Exodus.”
It is at this point in a debate that the reader should take the time to look at the texts being quoted. So I did.
Here is a comparative of Hebrews 3:10 from various translations:
“Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.” (KJV)
“That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.'” (NIV)
“wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, Always do they go astray in heart, and these have not known My ways;” (YLT – Young’s Literal Translation)
It is true that other translations such as the NASB and the Darby translation use this generation, but why did Ice neglect to tell the reader that the two most common translations (KJV and the NIV) both translate the text as that generation? To me this is a red flag against the credibility of the author. As I teach my children, a person’s credibility supply goes down every time they are caught in a lie or half truth.
This brings into stark focus the statement by Ice:
“The integrity of the Bible is at stake in the discussion of the biblical meaning of ‘this generation’. It is true that the integrity of the Bible is almost always at stake in the discussion of what any biblical passage may mean.”
And this is what I mean by undermining the Bible by undermining the clear time texts. Ice places the integrity of the Bible in peril when he not only ignores the clarity of the time text but even tries to hide the more common understandings of the text, such as the KJV’s and NIV’s use of that generation. I’ll let the Greek scholars battle out the proper translation of this or that, but in any case Ice was not up front with what the most commonly used Bible translations had to say about Hebrews 3:10. Lastly, I find it most telling that Ice ignores the translation typically favored by dispensationalists, the KJV. I guess you use whatever translation best suits your paradigm at the moment.
END OF PART 1