Today Southern Baptist-founded Criswell College is holding a one-day conference on eschatological views of the millennium. It is called “Future Kingdom: Perspectives on the Millennial Reign of Christ.” Several speakers were invited to represent the various positions. They even invited our friend Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., to speak on “The Millennium from a Postmillennial Perspective.”
But reading through the list of speakers and positions, something very strange—indeed dangerous—appears: alongside the standard range of positions, for some reason, someone at Criswell invited full preterist Don Preston to represent “The Millennium from a Preterist Perspective.” No one else was selected to represent preterism—only someone from the extreme, minority, and heretical version, full preterism.
Why, given the fact that there are many notable scholars who could have been invited to represent the standard view of preterism which remains within the circle of orthodox Christianity, would the people in charge of this event choose someone from the heretical fringe as their sole representative of preterism? I can think of only two reasons:
Either 1) they didn’t know better, or 2) they are trying to poison the well of preterism.[product id=”183″ align=”right” size=”small”]
While it would be more charitable to assume the former, it seems unlikely at this point. More than one scholar I know at this point contacted Criswell, it’s president and key faculty, to inform them more fully of Don’s positions. I sent them a letter, which can be read below, warning them. Not only did the letter have no effect, the contacted parties never even responded.
Now it’s possible it was a mistake and they just learned the truth too late to withdraw the invitation without causing some kind of a scene. After all, we’re talking about academia here, which means bureaucracy and public relations. There’s nothing bureaucrats and PR folk hate worse than a scene. But had this been the case, you would expect them at least to have responded to the information.
Besides, these guys are scholars. I find it hard to believe they don’t already know the difference between full preterism and partial.
So, I believe the choice was conscious. Which leads one to ask, “Why”? There can only be two answers to such a conscious choice: 1) someone put up money for them to include Preston (quite possible, but unprovable), or 2) the scholars want to squash the growth of preterism, and are thus using an extreme representative of it to poison the well.
Southern Baptistdom is largely a dispenational and premillennial world. Criswell is a Southern Baptist haven. The reassertion of the preteristic view of Revelation and Matthew 24, among others, in this century, has led to the virtual collapse of dispensationalism in anything close to academic circles. It lives on in a couple of Bible colleges, but mainly persists only in popular fiction. Especially after the publication of Ken Gentry’s definitive work on the early dating of the book of Revelation (Before Jerusalem Fell), there has been an exodus from premillennial and dispensational thinking into the camps of preterism. Students are now asking Southern Baptist professors tough questions about eschatology. They are adopting preterism, and the SBC old guard doesn’t like it.
So has Criswell College decided to poison the well of preterism by inviting an extreme exponent of it to represent it to their students, alumni, and paying conference customers? Are they saying to the inquiring minds, “You want that AD 70 stuff? Here it is: No future resurrection. No bodily resurrection. Nothing more to come at all. This means eternal evil upon the earth; eternal dualism between good and evil in God’s creation. No final judgment, no final eradication of sin, death, and evil. This is what preterism is! Don’t believe us? Hear it from Mr. Preterism himself. Don?”?
[product id=”1370″ align=”left” size=”small”]Of course, this is conspiratorial thinking, but it sure seems like the most logical explanation to me, all things considered. I would be glad to hear otherwise. But it seems even more strange when you realize they invited one of the most well-known exponents of acceptable preterism—the aforementioned Ken Gentry—not to speak on preterism, but on postmillennialsm. I sure hope he took a moment of his time to point out the obvious 900-lb gorilla in the room.
Either these scholars are incompetent, they were bought off, or they have an agenda. At any rate people need to know that preterism is indeed the way to go, but no full, hyper preterism. They need to know there’s a difference between the two views: that one is vital and necessary, and the other is doctrinally dangerous. Confusing the two is dangerous. For a scholarly organization to foist them upon unsuspecting people and students would be irresponsible and reprehensible.
Dear Drs. [names removed to protect the guilty—JM],
I am writing in concern for your inclusion of Don Preston in your upcoming “Future Kingdom” event. The concern is on two fronts: first, Mr. Preston’s views include and entail what most Christians have historically considered heresies: he outrightly denies the future bodily resurrection of believers and also denies the continuing incarnation of Christ Himself (instead holding that Christ shed His fleshly body when He ascended into heaven). He is thus outside of what most Christians would consider orthodoxy. If you include him, you may also consider including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventist perspectives in your event.
Second, Don’s version of Preterism is a very extreme (ultimate) form of it which some call “full preterism” and other critics “hyper-preterism.” His belief is that ALL Bible prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70—ALL OF IT. This view represents a tiny minority of the larger world which uses the term “preterist” but in a much more limited and nuanced way. As such, inviting him as the sole representative of “a Preterist Persepective” will be 1) misleading to the audience, 2) misrepresentative of those of us who, with a large portion of Christian scholars historically, hold “partial” preterist views, and 3) giving a a general evangelical platform to a fringe, extreme, quasi-cult, and thus giving it the appearance of acceptability and plausibility. [product id=”31″ align=”right” size=”small”]
Indeed, the hyper-preterist community is already touting this as their moment of arrival on the big stage, an important turning point that will advance their movement into evangelical respectability—their “Jackie Robinson moment,” so to speak.
As a partial preterist, I debated Don this past July for these very reasons. His view is doctrinally dangerous, subversive, and is causing problems and disruptions in several churches across America. Unfortunately, audio of that event is not yet available. I can, if you so desire, send you the written critique of the full preterist position which I used as the basis for our debate.
I would recommend the following possible courses of action: 1) retract your invitation with the explanation that Criswell was misled to believe Preston’s view was representative of Preterism in general, which in fact it is not, and that his view is an acceptable evangelical, fundamentalist alternative, when in fact you have now been informed otherwise that it is not; or 2) in addition to Preston, also invite a competent partial preterist to represent the larger tradition of Preterism, and make it clear to the audience that Preston’s view is a small minority among preterists.
It is my earnest desire, however, that you would do both: retract the invitation to Preston, and replace him with a truer representative of the Presterist tradition.
If I can be of any help to you in furthering this consideration and decision, please feel free to contact me via email or phone. Cell: [number removed]. I pray your efforts and event further the Kingdom of Christ, both present and Future.
Joel McDurmon, Ph.D. [product id=”1138″ align=”justify” size=”small”]