I didn’t get as much reading done in July as I would have liked, but here’s the one book I did finish:
- The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller. The chapters address:
- The idea that there cannot be only one true religion
- The problem of evil — how can a good God allow suffering?
- The proposition that Christianity makes one narrow and restricts one’s freedom
- The accusation that Christianity is the source of many injustices
- Science and Christianity (I have a quote from the author here)
- The historical reliability of the Bible
- The clues of God
- Moral obligation
- Sin and its consequences
- The cross
- The resurrection
- The Trinity
I highly recommend this book for skeptics and doubters, as well as for Christians who want to add some tools to their apologetics toolbox.
Here are some additional books I worked on in July:
- The History of the Ancient World, by Susan Wise Bauer. I’ve been plugging away at this for several months now.
- Beyond Creation Science, by Timothy Martin and Jeffery Vaughn. This book is as much an argument for strong full preterism (the idea that Jesus already came back in 70 AD) as it is for old-Earth creationism. The authors do seem to be making a good case that the Bible doesn’t teach a young Earth or global flood, with some insights I hadn’t seen before. So far, this book is strengthening both my old-Earth creationism and my Premillenialism. So I guess the authors are being half successful.
Grace and Peace
7 thoughts on “Reading — July 2009”
I tend toward partial preterist, but it’s a pretty slight tendency. For the most part, I don’t really care right now. “Partial preterist” gets a couple different definitions, but it generally goes with the view that many prophesies came to pass in 70 AD, but not all of them. The details vary a bit as to which prophecies were completed in 70 AD and which were prophecies talking about the future return of Christ with a renewed creation.
My first views were generally pre-mil, but not emphatically set until a Bible class in college where the prof was pre-mil. He sent me screaming toward the preterist-style views mainly because they were the most opposite of what he was saying. (he was a “helicopters are locust, tanks are horses, and nukes are elements melting” sort of guy – straight from newspaper headlines and expecting the return at any minute along with some general dates he felt were significant)
I’ve moderated quite a bit since the college days, took an actively anti-pre-mil phase when the Left Behind books came out, but after they faded away I’ve calmed down again.
I’m still a premillenialist, but easily could have been driven away by the date-setting, read-the-Bible-with-your-newspaper crowd. I stopped reading end-times prophesy books in the late 80s, about the time that it became clear that Hal Lindsey was wrong about just about everything and the book 88 Reasons the Rapture Will be in 88 came out. Recently I have started to look into it and have been refreshed to find out that there are plenty of non-Left Behind premillenialists out there.
The nutso pre-mil seems to be a mostly American thing. There are a few over in Europe, but I think the nuttiness is a combination of cultural predilection with the pre-mill view.
Hank Hannegraaf (or however he spells his name) is the closest public figure I know to my own view on the topic. At least I think so: he tends to be vague on details of what he does believe than on what he believes are wrong understandings, so I can’t say exactly what he holds, but he seems to be roughly around my views.
A good friend of mine is strictly amillennial and until I met him, I didn’t know of anyone with that view (outside book authors). He puts up a solid enough explanation, not quite convincing, but solid enough that I respect him/it.
Any more, I’m more interested in how various people’s histories have brought them to a certain belief than the specific arguments pro and con. By the time Christians get into discussions of end-times, I view it as roughly the equivalent of theoretical multidimentional physics – the core physics and math are the same, but extrapolations and views of the evidence can vary widely. It makes for highly entertaining conversations!
There are a lot of amillenialists out there, such as many or most Lutherans, Anglicans, Reformed, and Roman Catholics. However, few of these are full preterists, advocating that all of the prophesies, including Christ’s return, were fulfilled in AD 70.
The ESV Study Bible has this note in its introduction to Revelation: “Full preterism—which insists that every prophecy and promise in the NT was fulfilled by A.D. 70—is not a legitimate evangelical option, for it denies Jesus’ future bodily return, denies the physical resurrection of believers at the end of history, and denies the physical renewal/re-creation of the present heavens and earth (or their replacement by a ‘new heaven and earth’).” (p. 2457).
If one spends their time exclusively in some Evangelical circles, one can get the impression that everyone is a premillenialist. My own denomination (the Evangelical Free Church of America) is officially premillenialist. There was an attempt a few years ago to broaden the doctrinal statement on this point, but it failed to get enough support to pass. I am fine if someone is amillenialist or postmillenialist, but I see full preterism as having some serious problems.
In all the debates I’ve seen online (and while they aren’t as bad as Calvinism or Creationism debates, they still get pretty headed), I have yet to see a full preterist. Not that they don’t exist, but like you said, they’re in a pretty tiny minority. Just from reading some written defenses of the full preterist view, it seems to require a lot of “allegorizing” of things that have absolutely no evidence of being allegories or anything close. (that’s about as nicely as I can phrase it)
I attend an AG church, and even preach on the occasional pastor vacation along with being the church’s youth Bible study leader. The AG is definitely pre-mil as a primary doctrine. While they don’t officially state a young earth, they all but do so. However they keep it relegated to a “position paper” and not a fundamental doctrine sort of thing. My pastor is young-earth but views it as a tertiary sort of item to hold. There are a couple big Ken Ham fans in the congregation, but only a couple.
I think the AG is pre-trib but I’m not 100% sure. I’ve had discussions with the pastor and several others, and they’re pretty uniformly pre-mill. Ditto for most Baptists I know.
How do you like the ESV study Bible? I’ve heard a couple people really rave about it, but I don’t normally use a study Bible. The raving though sounds good enough that I’m tempted.
I’ve requested [i]The Reason for God[/i] from my local library. I should have a comment in a couple of weeks.
Just picked up the book, and gave it the 2-hour skim through.
I have to say, my initial impression is that it’s “easy answers” which won’t stand up to hard questions, but I’ll give it a more attentive read before the end of the month.
I was particularly amused by his treatment of the problem of evil, since we’re discussing that over on the “Seeing God in Nature” topic. He says:
“If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know. Indeed, you can’t have it both ways.”
This is just incredibly facile special pleading. If you could stop a tsunami from killing thousands, and didn’t, your lack of action would be condemned by decent people the world over. The best anyone could say is that you’ve shown inhuman indifference; the worst would start at “evil negligence” and go downhill from there. And that’s assuming you had nothing to do with causing the tsunami.
But for those who believe in God, it’s somehow reasonable to just wave it away with “There’s probably a good reason.”
When we hold imperfect humans to higher standards than we demand from the perfect beings we worship, that’s some serious cognitive dissonance.