The appendix to Gary North’s new commentary on First
Corinthians is called
"Full Preterism": Manichean or Perfectionist-Pelagian?
This article is a response to that appendix.
Here are the main points of this response:
1. Preterism is not Manicheanism.
2. Preterism does not imply an eternal “parallel” (equality) between sin and righteousness.
3. If preterism does necessarily imply an eternal parallel/equality between sin and righteousness, then futurism must necessarily imply a temporary parallel/equality between sin and righteousness until the “end of time.”
4. The doctrine of a temporary parallel/equality between sin and righteousness until the “end of time” is Neo-Manicheanism.
5. Preterism necessarily implies the ever-increasing dominion and triumph of the Church over sin, “world without end,” though sin will continue to exist. This doctrine is not Manicheanism.
IS PRETERISM MANICHEANISM?
The main contention of Gary North’s article is that preterists are “Manicheans” because preterists believe in the eternal existence of sin and righteousness on Earth with no future final judgment.
According to North, a (full) preterist worldview must logically see a Church that is forever in bondage to Satan’s work, Satan’s influence, sin, struggling, suffering, and the Curse of sin itself: Death. ("FULL PRETERISM": MANICHEAN OR PERFECTIONIST-PELAGIAN?, Was He Really a Manichean?) Preterism, North says, must logically see a world where God’s enemies and God’s sons have equal, open-ended claims to the earth. Or in North’s words, preterism sees “the equal ultimacy of good and evil forever, world without end, amen” (Ibid., Conclusion). North calls these alleged implications of preterism “Manicheanism.”
We will demonstrate in this article that these inferences of North do not follow from preterism. But first, let’s answer this question:
Is the doctrine that sin and righteousness will exist on Earth forever “Manicheanism?”
Let’s set the record straight right now:
Manicheanism (Manichaeism) taught that from eternity past there existed two separate, opposite and equally ultimate Principles (or Kingdoms): the Light and the Darkness. This concept is known as “dualism,” and it is the heart and soul of Manicheanism. (Note: Preterists do not believe that sin / evil existed from eternity past.) Though Manicheans believed that these two Principles (Light and Darkness) were “equally ultimate,” they did not believe the two Principles were equally ultimate in their respective effects in history.
Manicheans did not teach, as North leads his readers to believe, the doctrine of a never-ending non-victory of good over evil. Manicheanism had an End. The “eschatological” goal of Manicheanism was the release and gathering of the “Particles of Light.” This concept was similar to Buddhism’s “Nirvana.” It was to be realized, for the most part, through the purifying works of certain followers of Manichaeus who were called “the elect.”
It was taught that when the gathering of the Particles was finally realized, the material cosmos would be destroyed in an inferno that would continue for 1,486 years. After the universe eventually burned itself out, the separation of Light from Darkness would be complete. Then the Darkness would be closed off forever, and eternal peace would reign in Light.
In Manicheanism, the two Principles of the cosmic struggle were eternal. The struggle itself was not eternal.
Here is an ancient, blasphemous hymn that expressed the futuristic “eschatology” of the Manicheans:
Gary North called preterists Manicheans about thirty times in his appendix, defining Manicheanism as the doctrine of “an eternally unresolved struggle between good and evil.”
Did North accuse preterists of “Manicheanism” using a popularized, laymen’s misconception of the ancient heresy?
But North did not do it accidentally:
After about the twentieth time that he said that preterism is Manicheanism, he qualified the term “Manicheanism” with a one-word modifier: “Operational” (which he never repeated elsewhere in the article). Toward the very end of his appendix North inserted the statement that preterists affirm “an operational Manicheanism: a world without end and also without deliverance from sin” [Emphasis added] (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?)
North knows that Manicheanism did not actually teach “a world without end and also without deliverance from sin.” He also knows that the doctrine of the “future eternality” of sin on Earth (which is implicit in preterism) does not imply that sin always existed from eternity past, and it therefore does not imply that sin is co-equal with God (dualism). North himself believes in the “future eternality” of sin in the Lake of Fire. That does not imply the “past eternality” of sin (dualism).
So in qualifying the word “Manicheanism” with “operational,” North was hinting that preterists affirm a quasi-Manicheanism, that is, a “Manicheanism” that is not truly Manicheanism, but that operates / functions like that ancient heresy.
In North’s mind, preterism operates like Manicheanism insofar as it puts sin and righteousness on Earth for future eternity, and thereby makes sin and righteousness practically / functionally / operationally co-equal. (We will address this argument below.)
Because the one word, “operational,” toward the end of North’s lengthy article was the only place that he inserted the qualification that preterism is not truly Manicheanism, North’s liberal repetition of the accusation of Manicheanism throughout the rest of the article was misleading and inflammatory, especially in light of the fact that Manicheanism also taught that Manichaeus was the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was the serpent in the Garden, that the human body is the product of a devil, and that Satan and the Father are co-eternal and therefore co-equal.
It is notable that North employed the same misleading and equivocal method of demonization elsewhere in his article:
North said that preterists are guilty of "recruiting in the shadows” (Ibid., The Structural Necessity of Subversion), that they have a “strategy of subversion” (Ibid., Heretical Preterism; "But I Don't Believe That!”; Dealing Institutionally With Heretical Preterism), and that they "clandestinely …seek to recruit [fellow laymen]. (Ibid., The Structural Necessity of Subversion; "But I Don't Believe That!")
North repeatedly affirmed these things as absolutes, as though such things are the very definition of preterists’ behavior.
But then, almost at the very bottom of the appendix, North unexpectedly qualified the accusation and, as before, inserted a one-word adjustment:
"[Preterists] are sometimes clandestine in their promotion of these opinions." [Emphasis added.] (Ibid., Dealing Institutionally With Heretical Preterism)
North equivocated when he repeatedly called preterists “Manicheans,” and he equivocated when he repeatedly portrayed preterists as those who behave like the ancient Manicheans.
Ironically, North’s own belief (postmillennial futurism) has much more in common with Manichean “eschatology” than does “heretical preterism.” North and Manichaeus are in a sense, eschatological brothers. They have extremely similar expectations:
The burning up of the universe, followed by the absolute separation of light / good and darkness / evil (Ibid., Church Militant and Church Triumphant).
Preterism rejects both North’s and Manichaeus’ sensational “melting galaxies” doctrines as much as it rejects Manichaeus’ “gathering of the Particles” doctrine. Both mythologies are equally extra-biblical.
As we will soon see, North is not only in basic agreement with Manichean “eschatology,” but his appendix demonstrates that, in his attack against preterism, he is implicitly in agreement with Manichean cosmology as well.
NORTH’S ALLEGED IMPLICATIONS OF PRETERISM
So far, we have demonstrated that preterism is not Manicheanism, and that the doctrine that sin exists on Earth forever (which is an implicit doctrine of preterism) does not imply “dualism” (which is the heart and soul of Manicheanism).
However, is the doctrine that sin eternally exists on Earth practically the same as Manichean dualism? If it is not actually Manicheanism, does it nevertheless and for all practical purposes result in a Manichean worldview? Does it imply an eternal "parallel" between good and evil on Earth? This is the underlying argument of North’s article.
North is right that preterists believe that sin and suffering on Earth will exist forever, or at least into an indefinite futurity. However, North infers too much from that premise. Here is the preterist’s first response to North’s alleged implications of preterism:
The Church on Earth, generation after generation, is eternally and increasingly triumphant over sin. The eternally increasing triumph of the Church over sin is not the doctrine of a “parallel” (equality) between sin and righteousness on Earth.
North anticipated this response, and briefly addressed it. This was all he said:
“…Progressive sanctification without final sanctification, i.e., the permanence of residual sin forever …[is] Manicheanism.” (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?)
According to North, the doctrine that the Church on Earth enjoys victory and dominion over sin, generation after generation, forever and ever, world without end, is actually “Manicheanism” if “residual sin” (original sin) continues to exist. Or in other words, no matter what Christ accomplished on the Cross, if sin continues to exist then the result is Manicheanism.
Surely North knows that the existence of sin in the members of Christ’s victorious Church does not imply an “operational Manicheanism.” Victory over sin is not negated by the existence of sin. The existence of christologically-defeated sin is not a characteristic of a world wherein sin and righteousness are "equal and opposite" forces. The existence of sin today does not make the Christian Age a “Manichean age” until the discontinuous transformation of the universe at the “end of time.”
There is a reason that North only briefly addressed preterism’s anti-Manichean doctrine of the eternally increasing Kingdom of Heaven among sinful men on Earth. His labeling of that doctrine as Manicheanism was self-refuting and ultimately antichristian. If the existence of defeated sin implies Manicheanism, as North said, then it necessarily follows that Christ’s Cross is ineffectual until sin is absolutely exterminated at the discontinuous “second coming” at the “end of time.”
This is why North quickly went past that argument in favor of a different approach. He chose not to elaborate on his position that the ever-increasing work of the Holy Spirit on Earth (sanctification) results in a Manichean world as long as “residual sin” continues to exist. Instead, North put his efforts into building a case that the ever-increasing work of the Holy Spirit on Earth is not even an implicit doctrine of preterism.
North made his case by two main arguments:
1. Since preterism is silent about the ultimate destiny of the human race on Earth, preterists can be either optimistic or pessimistic about history, and the future is therefore “open-ended” for preterists. Either good or evil can have dominion on Earth for eternity (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?).
2. "Since preterism is not necessarily postmillennial, [it] can be interpreted as teaching that the church militant will suffer ever-more grievously at the hands of covenant-breakers in history, which will never end." (Ibid., Heretical Preterism)
In response to the first argument: The belief that we do not have specific knowledge as to what the ultimate “destiny of the human race” on Earth will be does not suggest anything contradictory to the doctrine of the eternal, progressive dominion of the church on Earth. Will our sun burn itself out in A. D. 1,000,000? Will mankind live on other planets in A. D. 2,000,000? Who knows? Ignorance of future events on Earth does not imply a “toss up” between good and evil in history. Ignorance of “the secret things” of God does not change the fact that the Church will have dominion over the earth forever (Deut. 29:29; Rev. 22:5). The fact that we don’t know “the beginning” or “the end” does not somehow negate the doctrine of the triumphant church in history (Eccl. 3:11).
In response to the second argument: It is not correct that “preterism is not necessarily postmillennial” (i.e., optimistic). It is only correct that partial preterism is “not necessarily postmillennial.” True preterism is necessarily "postmillennial" (optimistic / dominionistic). Partial preterism is not, because in accordance with the arbitrary hermeneutic of partial preterism, many partial preterists postpone the fulfillment of the “progressive dominion” passages in the Bible to a yet-future, post-Christian age. For this reason, partial preterism can be absolutely pessimistic about the future of the Christian Age.
True preterism is invulnerable to that mistake. True preterists are necessarily “postmillennial” (i.e., holding to an optimistic worldview of increasing Christian dominion) because preterists necessarily believe that God’s name today will “increase as long as the sun shines...." (Ps. 72:17), and that from today onward, “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace….” (Isa. 9:7). It goes without saying that for true preterists, such “progressive dominion” prophecies are fulfilled and are therefore being fulfilled every day.
Even the “progressive dominion” passages that preterists say were fulfilled in A.D. 70 (such as the parable of the wheat and tares) necessarily define the Church’s character and work throughout the ages. The Church did not stop being the Church after it reached maturity in 70. It was born conquering, it was established conquering and it forever conquers to the glory of Christ, “world without end! Amen." (Eph. 3:21)
North’s ultimate attempt to make sin and righteousness “parallel” (equal) in the preterist view is found in his Conclusion, where he argues that preterism implies, “the equal ultimacy of good and evil forever.” In other words, if both good and evil exist on Earth forever and ever, that necessarily makes them “equally ultimate,” and therefore “parallel” (equal).
There is an easy answer to this objection. I say “easy,” because the answer comes straight from Gary North. In offering the objection of “equal ultimacy,” North apparently forgot his own distinction between “equal ultimacy” and “ equal effects.” The words of Gary North:
(Dominion & Common Grace, Chapter one, The Favor of God ; Equal Ultimacy, Unequal Effects ; pg. 32)
What I am arguing in this book is that the two aspects of the covenant --blessing and cursing-- are not equally ultimate in their respective effects in history, just as they are not equal in their eternal effects. ...The working out of the principle of covenantal blessing can lead to the positive feedback operation: Historical blessing to covenantal reaffirmation to greater historical blessing . . . (Deut 8:18). (A theonomic postmillennialist should argue that it does eventually operate in history in this fashion, leading to millennial blessings.) The working out of covenant cursing leads to temporal scattering and destruction (Deut. 8:19-20).
North teaches that though blessing (for obedience)
and cursing (for sin) are both equally ultimate, they are
equally ultimate in their respective “effects”
in history. Sin leads to cursing, which leads to
scattering and destruction, but righteousness leads to blessing and increased
This is exactly what preterists are bound to believe. Preterists necessarily believe that the dominion of the righteous on Earth today increases forever, whereas the wicked experience scattering and destruction.
To sum up:
1. The doctrine that sin exists on Earth forever does not imply an eternal “parallel” (equality) between sin and righteousness.
2. The doctrine of the ever-increasingly triumphant Church on Earth “world without end” is not Manicheanism, even if “residual sin” continues to exist.
3. Preterism necessarily implies the doctrine of the ever-increasingly triumphant Church on Earth “world without end.”
4. “Equal ultimacy” does not imply “equal effects.” Though sin and righteousness are “equally ultimate” in future eternity, their “effects” in history are not equal: The Church necessarily enjoys eternal increase while the wicked experience increasing defeat.
Where is the supposed Manichean equality (or “parallel”) of sin with righteousness on Earth that is allegedly implicit in preterism?
It does not exist.
If we look at North’s arguments closely, we can detect a disturbing presupposition. North, who is an “optimistic” postmillennialist, is actually arguing against preterism from a basis other than that of postmillennialism. His argumentative premise is actually a kind of Neo-Manicheanism.
What Gary North says preterists must logically believe about eternity, North himself must also believe about the present age, until the discontinuous “end of time.” If, as North said, “progressive sanctification with …the permanence of residual sin forever …[is] Manicheanism” (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?), then it necessarily follows, in the futurist view, that the Christian Age is a “Manichean age” because “residual sin” continues to exist in this age.
If preterism necessarily leads to the doctrine of sin and righteousness being “parallel” ("equal and opposite" forces), and if the only thing that distinguishes North’s view from preterism is the discontinuous, history-ending, cosmos-burning, matter-transforming, sin-exterminating, divine Intervention at the "end of time," then it necessarily follows that in North’s view, before the “end of time” takes place, sin and righteousness are “parallel” powers, and God and Satan are "equal and opposite" forces in the Christian Age.
There is no escape for North on this, as long as he says that preterism is necessarily “Manicheanism.” What North says that preterists must believe about the eternal Christian Age, North himself must also believe about a temporary Christian age. If preterists are necessarily “eternal Manicheans,” then North is necessarily a “temporary Manichean,” and the Christian Age is necessarily a “Manichean age.”
The implications of North's anti-preterist attack are “Neo-Manichean” (i.e., rooted in a presupposition that God and Satan are "equal and opposite" forces on Earth, until the “end of time”). In North’s own words, the implications of his anti-preterist arguments are, "heretical, and not just a little heretical." (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?)
North needs to answer these three questions in writing:
1. Is the sin that the church militant struggles against equal to (i.e., "paralleling") the righteousness and triumph of God and the saints in heaven, until Judgment Day at the end of history?
2. Are the righteousness of God in heaven and the sinfulness of man on Earth "equal and opposite" forces, until Judgment Day at the end of history?
3. Are the Church and Satan on Earth in a deadlock / stalemate, until Judgment Day at the end of history?
If North says no (and as a postmillennialist, he must), then he is confused (Ibid., "But I Don't Believe That!"), and his accusation that preterists are necessarily “Manicheans” is nonsense.
North should have given more serious consideration to the idea that in preterism, the Church militant must necessarily be increasingly triumphant over sin "world without end" (Eph. 3:21). The existence of “residual sin” does not nullify the victory of Christ’s Cross in history. Even if North is right and preterism is false, North is in serious error to refute preterism by characterizing the historic, New-Covenant Church on Earth by non-victory, imperfection, curse and sin. Other postmillennialists routinely rebuke Dispensationalists for making that very same error.
When postmillennialists refute Dispensationalists, they wax eloquent about the progressive dominion of the Kingdom of Christ. They teach that the now-present Kingdom will triumph in history, and that it will someday blossom into a kind of Paradise on Earth through the power of the Cross. They rebuke the Dispensationalists for being so pessimistic about history and about future history. They say the Bible teaches an optimistic worldview, one in which the Gospel of Christ will eventually be victorious in converting the vast majority of humanity. How glorious the Christian Age will eventually be, they say, and its wonders might even increase for a million years or more, who knows?
But now the postmillennialists are encountering "heretical preterists." Suddenly, the postmillennialists (or at least Gary North) are beginning to adopt some kind of an “operational Gnosticism” as an argumentative premise. Suddenly the Church is actually in need of “deliverance from history!” (Ibid., Heretical Preterism) Suddenly, the prospect of a million years of Kingdom-increase through the power of the Cross of Christ is "some hope" for the Church on Earth, as Gary North said sarcastically:
"Some hope!" (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?)
It is difficult to believe, but if North is representative, this is now the postmillennial response to preterism:
Because of the existence of original sin and physical death, history is a prison for the Church. The ever-increasing Kingdom of Heaven in history is an anemic hope for the Church on Earth.
It is incredible, but that is North’s implied defense in his attack against preterism!
How depressing. Not only is it fundamentally un-postmillennial, it is not even Christian.
It appears that this is what has happened: In order to refute historical pessimists (Dispensationalists), they became optimists (postmillennialists). Now in order to refute optimists (preterists), they are beginning to argue again from a presupposition of historical pessimism.
They are moving targets.
This immediately raises a serious question:
Are men like Gary North truly long-term legacy builders? Or are they just "spoilers of other men's legacies?" (Ibid., The Structural Necessity of Subversion)
CONCLUSION: THE QUAIL OF FUTURISM
Gary North is correct about one thing. Preterists see no prophecy in the Bible that says that believers on Earth will one day be absolutely and literally and in every sense free from all sin and suffering. Preterists in fact see verses that teach that the existence of sin will continue forever.
For instance, let’s look at the last verse of the last vision of the last book in the Bible. It is a sign that depicts the final, full establishment of the “eternal Age.” It describes the time in which the saints reign on Earth “forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). It is the state of things in the “post-millennial,” “post-resurrection” Age. In other words, it is a prophecy that goes as far into the future as the Bible ever goes. Rev. 22:14-15 relates the “final state” on Earth, and it explicitly speaks of sinners living on Earth:
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying” (Rev. 22:14-15).
In the same passage, the "Tree of life" is said to yield its fruit every month, and its leaves are "for the healing of the nations." (Rev. 22:2) This teaches us that in the new earth, "the nations" are in need of continual healing “forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).
In light of Scriptures such as these, it must be understood that the existence of sin on Earth in no way implies the victory of sin. Nor does the continued existence of sin on Earth at all imply a stalemate (“parallel”) between righteousness and sin. If it did, we would be forced to say that God has as of yet won zero victories over sin on Earth, since sin still exists. The idea that the existence of sin on Earth implies the non-victory of righteousness on Earth is at best an existential philosophy that devalues all that has thus far been wrought by the Cross of Christ.
Sin exists, yet God is victorious over sin every day:
Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the Land, so as to cut off from the City of the Lord all those who do iniquity" (Ps. 101:8).
The problem we are seeing today is that futurists like Gary North are ultimately discontented with the eternal Ministry of Christ’s Cross (Ps. 110:4; Rev. 14:6). For them, an eternal age wherein Christ Jesus increasingly brings healing and peace to generations of terrified consciences is not good enough.
Like atheists, futurists like Gary North have been driven to ultimate dissatisfaction with the Age of Christ’s Cross, because of the continued existence of sin and suffering.
Like Gnostics, they are beginning to see history as something from which the reigning Church needs to “escape” (Ibid., Heretical Preterism).
Like the first-century Jewish leaders who were disappointed with the Messiah, futurists are ultimately disappointed with Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, as they are yearning for a radical, discontinuous change.
Like the Israelites of old, futurists desire the termination of the Manna from Heaven, and are crying out for the "quail" of futurism (Num. 11:4-33).
And like wicked youngsters, they are longing for the day when their entire house (the universe) will burn to the ground, so that they can be free from the "curse" of their father’s loving and “light and momentary” discipline and training (II Cor. 4:17; Heb. 12:4-11).
God said that His creation is "very good," and He promised to never again curse the ground or destroy mankind as He did in Noah's day. It should come as no surprise then to find that the Scriptures tell us that the Kingdom, and the generations of man, and the earth itself are all to continue "forever" (Ps. 104:5; 145:13; Eccl. 1:4; Dan. 4:3,34; 7:14,18,27; Lk. 1:33; Eph. 3:21).
The Bible describes the Kingdom of Christ as a kingdom that would increase until it covered "the whole earth" "as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9; Dan 2:35; cf. Matt. 13:33). According to the Scriptures, it would grow on Earth until all of God's enemies were "under His feet" (I Cor. 15:25). The Scriptures further say that the Kingdom would bring blessing to "all the families of the earth" (Gen. 12:3; Ps. 22:7); to "all the nations" (Matt. 28:19; Ps. 72:17; Ps. 86:9); to "all men" (Isa. 66:23), even to "the very ends of the earth" (Ps. 2:8; 22:27; 72:8; Isa. 11:9; Zech. 9:10; Acts 1:8; 13:47).
Though preterists see the above "dominion verses" as being fulfilled in 70 (and so interpret the verses synecdochically and hyperbolically), preterists necessarily infer from those passages what is the divine character and work of the Church on Earth. The above descriptions of the Church's first-century victory in the world invariable betoken the Church's progressive dominion throughout eternity. As we said above, the Church did not stop being the Church after it was established in 70. Rather, it was born conquering, it was established conquering and it forever conquers to the glory of Christ! As the Scriptures teach:
"May his name endure forever; May his name increase as long as the sun shines...." (Ps. 72:17)
"There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore...." (Isa. 9:7)
Gary North says that preterists teach that, What we see now is what we Christians will get in history forever” (Ibid., Heretical Preterism), but that is not what preterists say, either implicitly or explicitly. Postmillennialist North himself does not say, “What we see now is what we Christians will get in history during the Millennium before the discontinuous end of time.” Neither do preterists say that, “What we see now is what we Christians will get in history forever.” How could we say such a thing? History for true preterists is defined as:
The eternal increase of God’s name and of Christ’s government. Amen.
Preterists do not know future events, but we know that whatever the conquering Savior pleases to do, He does, “on Earth as in Heaven” (Ps. 135:6; cf. Dan. 4:35). Surprisingly, North does not believe that Ps. 135:6 is true yet. He does not believe that God’s will will ever be done "on Earth as it is in Heaven,” until the “end of time” when there will be biological, motivational and behavioral errorless-ness throughout the universe (except in the Lake of Fire). (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?)
Contrary to North’s unbiblical imagination, "Your will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10), was a prayer of agreement with and submission to the Purpose of God (cf. Lk. 22:42; Acts 21:14); and God’s Purpose in the apostolic generation was the fiery death of the old-covenant world and the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, i.e., the Christian Age. “The Lord’s Prayer” is not a request for a literal "Paradise On Earth" as per the fancies of teachers such as Gary North and Charles Taze Russell (Ibid., Dealing Institutionally With Heretical Preterism).
The eternal, ever-increasing Kingdom is here now, and not in an “already-but-not-yet” sense. It is not marked by non-biodegradability, but it is "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17), and it is fulfilled in Christ: "...His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation" (Dan. 4:34).
If this is the case, and if sin continues to exist, and if history is not going to end, then toward what is the eternal Kingdom on Earth progressing? The goal of the Gospel of the Kingdom is this:
That forever and ever, every generation in every nation will attain unto "the chief end" for which man was created:
To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40; Mk. 12:30-31; Lk. 10:27-28).
The goal is as simple as it is profound. Its power is the indwelling Spirit of God. Its evidence is our obedience to God’s Law, and its implications are as vast as the cosmos. We must not imagine that the continued existence of sin invalidates the possibility or the perfection of the realization of that goal.
“Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. …If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (I Jn. 2:5; 4:12)
"There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace…" (Isa. 9:7)
North says that preterist church members
"should be brought before the church's session or other disciplinary body
and asked the following six questions in writing." (Ibid., "But I
Don't Believe That!")
Submitted below are answers to North’s six questions:
1. Is God's final judgment (Matt. 25:31- 46; Rev. 20:12-15) behind us historically?
God's corporate judgment of all men is behind us historically, and God continues to judge all men of every generation, in history (Zech. 14:16-19) and at each man's death (Heb. 9:27).
2. Is the physical resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15; I Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:12-13) behind us historically?
No. The spiritual Resurrection of the dead is behind us historically.
3. Will the church militant struggle against sin in history forever, parallelling the church triumphant's eternally sin-free existence in heaven?
This question has ambiguities, making it impossible for a preterist to answer it with an unqualified yes or no.
Does the church's "struggle against sin" imply the church's non-triumph over sin on Earth? If so, then No, the church militant will not “struggle against sin in history forever.”
What does "paralleling" mean? Does it mean that the power of sin and Satan on Earth is equal to the power of God and His Righteousness in Heaven? If so, then No, the church militant's struggle against sin in history will not forever "parallel" the church triumphant's eternally sin-free existence in Heaven.
Let us put it this way:
The church militant will increasingly triumph over sin and sinners in history forever, paralleling the church triumphant's eternally sin-free existence in Heaven. God's will is being done “on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
4. Will sin and its curse, including physical death, continue throughout history, parallelling sin-free eternity in heaven?
Sin will continue throughout history, but believers have been forgiven of their sins. Death is no longer a curse for believers who fall asleep. Death no longer has any sting for them. There is nothing for them to fear (Heb. 2:15). Because they trust in Jesus and keep His word, they will never die (Jn. 8:51; 11:26).
Again, what does "paralleling" mean? Does it mean that sin and its curse on Earth are equal to the Righteousness of God in Heaven? If so, then No, sin on Earth is absolutely not equal to (parallel to) the Righteousness of God in Heaven. There is no "parallel" between sin and God's Righteousness. God wins. Sin loses, even if sin continues to exist.
North understands this, since he is a postmillennialist. The mere existence of sin and suffering does not imply the non-triumph of righteousness. If it did, we would be forced to say that the Cross of Christ has as of yet won zero victories, beyond Christ Himself.
5. Is original sin a temporary condition of mankind in history?
No. Otherwise, how could Christ Jesus be a “Priest forever?” (Heb. 7:21-25)
6. Are the Nicene Creed and Apostles' Creed incorrect when they identify Christ's final judgment of the living and the dead as being in the future?
Gary North believes that since the Ecumenical Creeds
teach a yet-future final judgment, this
“[God’s final judgment] cannot have been an event in the past" [Emphasis added] (Ibid., Creeds and Confessions on the Final Judgment), and preterism is therefore, "of necessity a permanent movement of laymen.” [Emphasis added] (Ibid., The Structural Necessity of Subversion)
These statements are examples of the “creedal presuppositionalism” that is so prevalent among protestant preterist-haters today. The term “creedal presuppositionalism” is not meant as a criticism of creedalists like North for presupposing that the Gospel is effectively communicated in the Ecumenical Creeds. It is a criticism of the refusal of the creedalists to even entertain the possibility that the creeds might contain a serious, yet nonfatal, eschatological error.
Preterists are saying that the historic creeds are seriously wrong eschatologically, but preterists do not reject the general bindingness of the creeds, because preterists believe that traditional futurism is a nonfatal error. They therefore call only for creedal revision, not abandonment. Disputing the accuracy of the eschatological statements of the creeds does not necessarily necessitate a wholesale rejection of the creeds, as North and other creedalists imply.
It is ironic that Gary North himself actually believes that the Ecumenical Creeds should be challenged and revised as the Church advances in theological progress:
"Look at the Apostles’ Creed. Then look at the Westminster Confession of Faith. Only a fool or a heretic would deny theological progress. ...The creeds have been steadily improved."
"[Van Til’s] ideas have made creedal revision mandatory, but he was unwilling to call publicly for a revision of the creeds leading to more biblically precise definitions."
Dominion and Common Grace,
Van Til's Version of Common Grace, Differentiation and Progress,
pg. 101; Chapter 5,
Eschatology and Biblical Law, Postmillennialism and
Van Til's Dilemma, pg. 115)
North courageously and publicly calls for creedal “revision.” Now that the preterists have arrived and the time for creedal revision has begun to appear on the horizon, North refuses to even momentarily consider the theory that the church has been in a serious, nonfatal eschatological error.
Instead, North rushes headlong to announce to the world an ecclesiastical and theological emergency on the level of Y2K.
Gary North's response to this article (a revision of his original article):
DUALISM'S DOCTRINE OF THE ETERNALITY OF EVIL: A CRITIQUE OF HERETICAL PRETERISM
My response to Gary North's revision / response:
SCRIPTURE'S ANTI-DUALISTIC DOCTRINE OF THE ETERNALITY OF EVIL
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