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When You're Losing a Debate, Keep Changing the Subject

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This is the third installment of a three-part exchange I had with a man who disagreed with me on certain prophecy topics. Here are parts one and two.

GDD: Your claim that "both sides will not change their view" is off the mark. Many people have changed their views after studying preterist works. I changed my view after reading J. Marcellus Kik's commentary on Matthew 24. Many have changed their view after reading my book Last Days Madness.

TDS: Gary, you're just too eager for a fight. But one thing I have noticed about your friends commenting here. There seem to be a lack of Futurists/Dispensationalists willing to debate you. That's the same thing I've noticed about an atheist whom I'm FB friends with as well. Lots of atheists, very few Christians. He and his Facebook friends essentially chase off the Christians through ridicule, and eventually the Christians grow tired of the ridicule. The same seems to be true of you here when it comes to Futurists. As to Calvin, what I said was that if Calvin were a Preterist, he (who wrote hundreds of pages on other topics) would have had no problem writing a commentary on Revelation. It also seems that Preterists think that we read everything by every Futurist writer out there. We do not.

GDD: I'm not eager for a fight ... I'm eager for the truth that many dispensationalists can't handle.

TDS: Gary, what truth? Preterists treat this Preterist vs. Futurist issue as an essential of the Christian faith, or so it seems. They claim that Futurists write about this "in order to sell books." But then I see Preterists like Hanegraaff "pimping out" his books every chance he gets, or at least used to. Hanegraaff's head of CRI, and ironically, you can only find his books on a list of resources on any given topic, when there are more in depth authors who would put "his research" to shame. Add to that, the fact that Hanegraaff has plagiarized the work of others, such as D. James Kennedy. You too, mention your book at every turn as well. As J. Vernon McGee said, some people can't seem to handle the idea that God dealt with his people differently at different times, or dispensations. If Futurism was false, Israel would have never become a nation in 1948. If futurism is false, why were people claiming that Christ would return again as far back as 1,000 A.D.? They may not have used words like "rapture," but there seems to have been a constant, almost endless series of predictions about the future. And many futurists have pointed out that it did not begin with Darby.

GDD: You are not up on your history. Darbyism/Dispensationalism is not the same as a general futurism. Long before dispensationalism, postmillennialism predicted a future for Israel. See Iain Murray's book The Puritan Hope. See the work of the preterist John Owen. Also, see the Westminster Confession of Faith Larger Catechism Question 191. [1] These were all before Darby. Actually, dispensationalism predicts another Jewish holocaust. Rapture is not the same thing as the Second Coming. I deal with the Israel issue in "The Myth That only Dispensationalists Have a Redemptive Future for Israel" in my book 10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed and Answered.

TDS: I think the coming holocaust isn't just limited to the Jews. "10 Popular Prophecy Myths?" I'll remember that when another Preterist claims that it's only Futurists write "just to sell more books." BTW, one of the reasons I have difficulty with Preterism is that in many ways, it seems to resemble A-Millenialism.

[GDD: I don’t make any money on any of the books I write. I write these books so I don’t have to keep answering the same questions over and over again. I point someone to an article or a book. It’s a test. If a person is not willing to read a chapter or an article, then that person is not worth spending time with.]

GDD: There are amil, premil, and postmil preterists. You are confusing preterism with millennial perspectives.

TDD: And then there's Partial Preterism and Full Preterism. You almost need a scorecard to keep up on it all.

GDD:  It's not difficult [unless you go to Bible schools and seminaries that ignored the position out of feat of exposing the weakness of their own positions.]. What I find frustrating is you raise points that I answer then you move on to something else.

TDS: Because I'm really not into trying to change your mind. I don't care if you're a Preterist. I'm into debating Oneness Pentecostals and co-authored a small book on it, which I am hoping to write a Revised Version of the book. BTW, there are Oneness Pentecostals who are Preterists, such as on the web site "Apostolic Friends Forum."

GDD: I'm not into trying to convince you. All I'm trying to do is to get you to get the facts straight.

TDS: I had an overdose of end times stuff in the '70s and '80s. I accept Futurism over Preterism. That's enough for me.

GDD:  That's fine, but get your facts right about preterism. In what I've read so far, you don't know much about the subject.

TDS: Reading Preterist stuff is often like reading Garrison Keillor. Snooze-ville.

GDD: It may be, but it doesn't change the fact that you misrepresent it over and over again and get so much history about eschatology wrong. It's no excuse. You should say, "I don't know enough about the subject to comment on it in an informed way."

TDD: Considering the fact that you claimed earlier that "Geisler is a poor source on the subject," I consider that a compliment.

GDD: Once again, you make a comment that isn't an answer to anything. One of Geisler's own co-authors [Frank Turek] is a preterist! On Geisler see this article.

TDS: Considering the fact that Preterists consider men such as MacArthur, Jeremiah, Rhodes, and others, who have Th.D's not worthy of anything, I'm not ashamed that my answer isn't an answer to anything, either.

GDD: There you go again with red herrings and misrepresentations. Whoever said these guys "aren't worth anything"? I've never said any such thing. I know guys with PhDs and ThDs who are preterists. [You mentioned Les Feldick. Feldick “has not had any formal Bible education.”] Since when are advanced degrees the basis for truth? If you take that position, then you would have to give a lot of credibility to evolutionists with PhDs.

TDS: The simple fact is, there is only one person with a ThD with a good reputation who is a Preterist (that I am aware of): R.C. Sproul. All of the rest, including yourself, do not have a ThD. That says a lot. And then there's Hank Hanegraaff, who hasn't taken a single class at any Christian institution, yet speaks as if he's a Rhodes Scholar. Perhaps when Preterists can add a few more men with ThDs to their ranks, they'll be taken seriously. And as I said before, Preterists only seem to take the word "soon" in Rev. 1:1 literally. After that, they read it figuratively. That's where they lose me.

GDD: Once again TDD is avoiding the issue and is now making some ridiculous arguments. Have you noticed how he has changed the terms of the debate? Only people with ThDs "with a good reputation" can be trusted, [unless it’s someone like Les Feldick]. All the scholars throughout history who were preterists don't qualify under TDS’ standards, even though they had more theological training than any dispensationalist. They knew more languages, etc. (e.g., John Lightfoot, John Gill, John Owen). Some of them wrote commentaries on every book of the Bible. Then there's Greg L. Bahnsen who earned Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees as well as a Ph.D. I can assure you that Greg could handle a Th.D. Ask any Th.D. "with a good reputation." Kenneth L. Gentry earned a Th.M. (1986) and a Th.D. (1987, magna cum laude). His dissertation was on the dating of Revelation: Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation. There's Paul L. Maier, a graduate of Harvard University (M.A., 1954) and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (M. Div., 1955). On a Fulbright Scholarship, Maier studied at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and Basel, Switzerland, where he received his Ph.D., summa cum laude, in 1957. These are all preterists. There are probably others. If we ever get to the point, however, that a person has to have an advanced degree to be able to comment on this subject, the church is in big trouble.

TDS is making more ridiculous claims when he writes: "And as I said before, Preterists only seem to take the word 'soon' in Rev. 1:1 literally. After that, they read it figuratively." Of course, for those who know anything about preterism, they know this is untrue. It would be like me saying dispensationalists who claim to interpret Revelation literally almost never do. Moreover, notice how he completely changes the subject to avoid dealing with the facts.

When someone pulls degree rank over someone, you can be sure he or she is losing the argument. I hope you have noticed that I never do it. It's petty and copies what liberals have done. Dr. Gary North (another preterist) told me that the reason he got a Ph.D. was so he could criticize the Ph.D. No one could accuse him of sour grapes because he did not have a Ph.D.

The great thing about preterism is that you don't have to have an advanced degree to understand it. Actually, academic degrees like TDS insists on can be a hindrance. They have too much to lose institutionally.

TDS: Gary, why bother "debating (if you can call it that)" you? We don't agree on anything regarding this and you do not see scripture being fulfilled even today. There's passages in Genesis that have yet to be fulfilled, yet you think that Revelation was already (and completely) fulfilled in 70 A.D.??????? Anyways, have a great and blessed Christmas.

GDD: Because the integrity of the Bible is at stake, and as some of those posting here have shown, they've been convinced by such "debates" which are really discussions about what the Bible actually says. I always find it interesting that the people who complain the most about debating this subject always seem to be the ones debating this subject. Actually, the debate concerning dispensationalism and all its attendant end-time positions is over. The work that's left is to do more exegetical work on some of the more difficult passages.

TDS: I bring up the fact that most of the people with Th.D.'s hold the Futurist position because one of the first "arrows" that Preterists (and others) claim, or at the very least imply, is that everyone who believes in the idea of a rapture are just backwoods hillbillies and that it was begun by the same. And yes, I've had debates with Preterists, and before they begin anything else, they insist that "soon" in Rev. 1:1 is literal, but then go on to claim that all the rest is figurative.

GDD: TDS cite me one person who argues that "'soon' in Rev. 1:1 is literal, but then go[es] on to claim that all the rest is figurative." Of course, there might be some unstudied person out there who claims such a thing. But show it to me in people who write consistently on the subject of eschatology from a preterist perspective: David Chilton, Kenneth L. Gentry, Greg L. Bahnsen, James B. Jordan, or me. I've never heard anybody make such a claim. There are a lot of symbols in Revelation, something that EVERY futurist, even those with ThDs, will admit. I don't know any PhD-holding futurist who argues that the dragon, the sword coming out of Jesus' mouth, or the chain that binds Satan are "literal." Nobody interprets all of Revelation literally or figuratively. You should actually read what preterists write before you make such ridiculous claims and argue from a few uncorroborated personal examples. By the way, "literal" means "according to the literature." [With that definition, presented by the ThD-holding R.C. Sproul in Knowing Scripture, preterists interpret all of prophecy literally.] Here’s something I wrote about Norman Geisler's interpretation of "this generation" in Matthew 24:34: “Norman Geisler: ‘This Generation’ or ‘This Race’ Will Not Pass Away?”

TDS: Gary, why even bother debating this when your answer in an earlier debate about the 7 missing years in Daniel 9 (483 years between Daniel's prophecy and Christ's crucifixion) is "so what?" That's like Daniel only catching one of the two prophecies about the 7 lean years and the 7 fat years in Daniel.

GDD: Where did I say "so what"? I account for all 490 consecutive years down to the very event in Scripture that ends the 490 years. Please find the article or book where I don't account for all the years. TDS is probably the most misinformed person I've ever countered who claims to have gone to seminary. [Someone asked me if my book Last Days Madness includes my interpretation of Daniel’s 70 weeks of years (Dan. 9:24-27.]  I have a chapter on Daniel 9:24-27 [Chap. 25: “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.”] If TDS actually read what I and other Preterists have written, he would not make so many ridiculous claims.

TDS: Gary, you most certainly did say "so what?" in answer to Daniel 9. And the fact that the Arab words "In the Name of Allah" is identical in appearance to the Greek number 666? (The fact that Revelation was written over 500 years before the birth of Islam)? The fact that Muslims wear this mark of their right arm/hand or forehead? The fact that Revelation 13:18 can also read "Here is wisdom: let him that has understanding reckon (consider) the multitude of the beast: for it is the multitude of a man [Muhammed] and his multitude is "In the Name of Allah." Or the fact that the struggle that we still face in the Middle East has to do with the 2 sons of Abraham and their offspring. Yeah, I suppose that's just coincidence. It seems odd that while the author of Revelation also wrote the Gospel of John and 1st, 2nd and 3rd John, which can be read independently of the Old Testament, but if we read Revelation, we have to keep sticking our thumb in the 39 books of the Old Testament.

GDD: Link to the article where I said "so what?"

TDS: I can try. However, I do not have a computer at home, so I will have to do some digging and am limited on time. I only use the library computer. If you feel that this is just an excuse, then I'll just have to let you think that way.

GDD: I saw how you were never able to find the Rhodes' claim about preterism after I gave you a source where he agrees with me.

TDS: I could be wrong about Rhodes, but his name seems to stick in my head because of his distinctive voice. I did not purchase the CD which makes that claim, and it would mean going through Jan Markell's radio archives to find a link. Regardless of who it was, I also figured that with the regularity in which you attack Futurists, I figured you had already heard it, or the program long ago.

It’s at this point that TDS links to a video on how Islam Could be the Mark of the Beast: https://youtube.com/watch?v=Fpl_CwiTL3E

TDS: Trying to find the link (or topic). However, because Facebook essentially hides posts after about a month, I may have to keep digging.

GDD: I'm familiar with Joel Richardson's arguments. [I met and spoke with “Joel” (Joel Richardson is a pen name) at the “Take America Back Conference” that was held in Miami (October 15–18, 2010). I mentioned to him that I had been working on a response to his article “Preterism: The Marxist’s Theological Tool.” After our conversation, I believe he pulled the article, but I can’t be certain. It was poorly argued. For some reason, I am unable to find the original article I wrote but never published.] But once again you are going off-topic and refuse to admit the dozen or so times you've been wrong in these comments.

TDS: I believe the comment about "so what” was your post on October 8th [2014] about the rapture. But I cannot find your "so what" comment. I'm wrong? How? Because I disagree with you? The fact that the Greek number 666 is identical in appearance to the Arabic words "In the Name of Allah" is frightening. I lived through the years when 666 equaled Ronald Wilson Reagan, a microchip, the Universal Price Code and scores of other claims to it being "The Mark of the Beast." This one is way too close to be mere coincidence.

GDD: Here's what James White, who can read Arabic, has said about the "in the name of Allah"/666 claim: http://goo.gl/RK7fWM. James White has debated Islamic scholar Shabir Ally and South African Muslim apologist Yusuf Ismail. [There’s also “Walid Shoebat Youtube Video on the Mark of the Beast” from Dan Wallace who teaches at the dispensational (futurist) oriented Dallas Theological Seminary. Wallace does a thorough job refuting what TDS and Walid Shoebat claim. As far as I can tell, Shoebat does not have a ThD, and much of his biographical claims are in dispute, while Wallace has a ThD and PhD.]

TDS’ claim that "the Greek number 666 is identical in appearance to the Arabic words 'In the Name of Allah'" isn't "frightening"; it's absurd.

666

[In an earlier post, someone pointed out that Monster Energy drinks have been linked with 666. Here’s a link to an article I wrote on the subject: http://goo.gl/E1UNWO]

The Greek ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ or χξϛ? It makes a difference for TDS’ "in the name of Allah" thesis. What manuscript do you use? The X in the Arabic image is not a letter but two crossed swords. There are also other anomalies that do not line up with χξϛ, 600, 60, 6.

TDS: It’s interesting that the very earliest manuscript (Codex Vaticanus, I believe) does not say Six hundred and sixty-six, but rather XES (I cannot find Greek letters on Facebook). Let's say John did see XES. However, he could not read Arabic. He also seems to be struggling to be explaining himself in Revelation 13:18, asking the reader to show wisdom. The X in Arabic (Two crossed swords) is identical in appearance to the Greek number 600. Again, John wrote Revelation 500+ years before the birth of Islam. As to 666 being Nero, the only way you arrive at that number is if you include the title Ceasar to the name Nero. That's cheating, kinda like adding the word President to a person's name to arrive at 666.

GDD: I guess Jesus was cheating when He said "render unto Caesar" and the Jews were cheating when they said "We have no king but Caesar" and Paul was cheating when he said, "I appeal to Caesar." The use of 'Nero' tells us what Caesar it was since the Caesar in Jesus' day was different from the one in John's day. The real cheating is having to manipulate the Arabic (turn swords into letters and turn the middle Arabic word so it faces right to make it look like the second Greek letter ξ in 666) to fit with the Greek. The way the letter looks positioned in Arabic looks like the Greek lower case letter omega (ω) [rather than the Greek letter ξ. See for yourself. A very early Greek manuscript has 616 (something Irenaeus references in 'Against Heresies,' which was written around 180, that completely destroys the Arabic association since the key middle letter is different). Codex Sinaiticus is older than Codex Vaticanus and reads hexakosioi (six-hundred) hexakon ta (sixty) hex (six). [Dan Wallace points out the following about the date of Codex Vaticanus: “But Shoebat did not read Codex Vaticanus. This codex is the famous fourth-century Greek New Testament (and Old Testament) manuscript that ends at Hebrews 9.13. The material added after Heb 9.13 is all in a much later hand. According to the authoritative Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments (Concise List of the Handwritten Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament) 2nd edition (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1994), the supplement (known as codex 1957) was written in the 15th century. What Shoebat saw was not technically Codex Vaticanus but Codex 1957, a text written over a thousand years after Vaticanus.]

TDS: Read the Alpha and Omega article. Interesting. As to Revelation, I just find it hard to believe that John would write something full of so much imagery that would take place 7 years later (assuming it was written in 63 A.D. and not 90-95 A.D.) when the O.T. prophets wrote of things that would take place hundreds of years later. As to flipping the E in Arabic, perhaps it would be no different than creatively writing 696, as some have done. It certainly is more plausible that the UPC code, which, in some cases, has a 6 in the beginning, 6 in the middle and 6 in the end. I'm also old enough to remember those who said that a person's SSN was going to be the Mark of the Beast. Interesting that Codex Vaticanus (or was it Saniticus?) also appears to have a crescent moon under the 666.

GDD: [After the above comment, I wrote that this was “my last comment. If TDS is the future of futurism, it will be dead sooner than I thought.

  1. “Q. 191. What do we pray for in the second petition? A. In the second petition (which is, Thy kingdom come), acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate; that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.”[]
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