Response to the Preterist Position
Q: The church I attend is strong on salvation being "faith alone in Christ alone." It is also very strong on the sovereignty of God. I have a problem, however, with their position on eschatology. What is a good argument against the belief that Matthew 24 and Luke 21 have already been largely fulfilled?
A: This is a tricky question because it depends on who you are talking to. If you are talking to fellow futurists (pretrib, prewrath, posttrib), then you can use a straightforward analysis of historical events in light of scripture (for a presentation of this type of argument, see the Talkin' Rapture series responding to R. C. Sproul's book).
However, I've learned over the years that you cannot always evaluate different rapture positions from within your own framework because the fundamental assumptions and line of reasoning are entirely different. It's like looking at a calculation using metric numbers and trying to analyze it using Roman numerals. You aren't going to get an accurate answer.
I spent a number of years investigating preterism and historicism, and what I found — with a painful hit to my pride — is that when you understand their fundamental assumptions (which aren't always as wacky as futurists would like to believe) and begin to understand their arguments from the inside, the argument for these other positions is stronger than futurists often realize. Even if prewrathers don't agree, those arguments are worthy of respect. (Scan through the archive of past newsletters for columns on this topic.)
In order to properly respond to a preterist (or historicist or other non-futurist argument), you have to understand and take into consideration their fundamental assumptions, their hermeneutic principles, and their exegesis. Once you do this, only then can you analyze their line of reasoning. This takes a greater understanding of — and respect for — their positions than most people have. The result is that we kick back with arguments like those in my Talkin' Rapture series that satisfy non-preterists but don't address the core issue at all.
My suggestion is for you to seek, in grace, to understand their viewpoint from the inside. Ask questions. Try to understand why they believe what they do. Gently ask questions. Raise issues. But don't make it an issue. If your church is sound, teaching the Word of God and exhorting believers to holy lives, submitted to Christ, filled with grace and reaching out to the world around them, then be blessed to be part of such a terrific body. Iron sharpens iron, and that goes both ways.
Parable of the Fig Tree Now Available in E-books
The Parable of the Fig Tree, written by Ryan Habbena (pastor of teaching and preaching at Conquering King Fellowship in St. Paul, MN) and published earlier this year by Strong Tower Publishing, is now available in PDF and .mobi (mobile) formats. Cost is $13.95. To order, click here.