As many of you know, the late David Chilton, a rather prolific author and brilliant Christian scholar, converted from postmillennialism to preterism near the end of his abbreviated life. He’d had a massive heart attack prior to his commitment to preterism, and many of his detractors attributed a loss of mental clarity with his departure from “orthodoxy”—therefore rather unabashedly crowning him as a de facto heretic. Gary North, writing about his former friend David Chilton’s “conversion” to preterism, made the following comments. (For those that make a living taking every line out of context, by Chilton’s “conversion” it is presupposed that his faith-initiated “conversion to Christ” [that came many years earlier] is the one and only “conversion” of eternal significance) You be the judge as to the appropriateness of North’s tenor.
GARY NORTH: “As the publisher of Days of Vengeance and Paradise Restored, let me say, without hesitation, that the post-1994 David Chilton is indeed a heretic who has denied the Church’s historic creeds and confessions on the question of the Second Coming of Christ and the Final Judgment. [CWC note: Sounds like hyper-credalism to me. Since when were the creeds canonized?]
It is always sad when a defender of the faith abandons orthodoxy on any point. When he abandons it on the very point on which he had made his intellectual reputation, it is double sad. In Chilton’s case, it is pathetic, for no matter what he writes on this topic from now on, his critics will be able to say, justifiably: “His heart attack disrupted his ability to think clearly. It distorted his judgment.”
NORTH continues: “We can and should pray for the restoration of his mind, but to debate with him publicly will almost certainly drive him deeper into this heresy. He will feel compelled to defend himself in public. Let him go in peace. It is not our God-given task to confront him at this point. That is for his local church to do. It is not as though he were some unknown church member who has stumbled into this heresy unknowingly. He is self-conscious, to the extent of a victim of a massive, brain-affecting heart attack can be self-conscious. He is not the man we used to know, as he has admitted here. That man died in 1994, he says. I agree. So, let us say now, David Chilton, RIP.”
Shortly after North’s public flogging, Chilton finally did rest in peace and by faith I’m certain he found himself in the arms of Christ. How sad is it that he went to his grave disfellowshipped by those he faithfully stood by for so many years. Eschatological Phariseeism at it’s best!
I struggled with this for many years and only recently came to realize that no theological camp had a monopoly on being bigoted, narrow-minded and nasty. What’s so sad is these vitriolic types truly think they are doing God’s work—but then again so did Paul when he was persecuting and killing Christians.
I have no problem with those that want to engage in theological debate—matter of fact that’s what we should be doing. Tim Martin kindly sent me his latest co-authored book, “Beyond Creation Science”. Very cool cover I might add! Jim Kessler ought to be proud. There has been quite a bit of acrimony surrounding the underlying views of this book but in my opinion none of the nastiness was necessary. I trust the future will be bright in that regard.
I will review this book to the best of my ability while attempting to read it with as open a mind as I can muster. Granted, I do have a paradigm that does not at this point fit well with what I’ve “heard” to be the book’s conclusions, nonetheless I realize that at one time neither did my preteristic conclusions fit well within my then current futurist presuppositions. Times can change and we all need to be given space to be effective Bereans.
At any rate, this is what it should be all about. Engaging one another in dialogue and when not coming to a meeting of the minds on non-essential doctrinal issues, agreeing to continue to love one another in the bond of peace. Some have snarled at this notion as though I am suggesting that we engage in a sort of doctrinally deprived lovefest. Hogwash! I think we should be forever mindful that the greatest theologian of all times was also the author of the “love chapter”. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13 to the most morally decrepit church in existence. He chided them to attain to sound doctrine and righteous living but not in the absence of brotherly love.
There are foundational principles regarding Christ that set all Christians apart from the cults and they are the unifying positions that should be the basis for our love one to another. But the cowardice of name calling and audacity of deliberate doctrinal distortions should be put away as we mature in Christ. I think some of the most aggressive “heretic-hunters” are those who hail under the reformed label. “Reformed and always reforming?” Great motto but rarely employed.
I will say that we have good reason to adhere to the doctrines of our forefathers and only through painful toil, careful exegetical study and much prayer, should we ever consider departing from them. I’m not bound by creeds but I am guided by them.
It’s sheer folly that preterism is blamed for lascivious living and a disdain for orthodoxy. That’s utter nonsense and what I find rather curious is those making these outrageous claims, although avowedly committed to preterism for many years, did not lapse into this supposedly guaranteed formula for antinomianism. The free exercise of sin is not a respecter of eschatological positions. Show me an adulterous preterist and I’ll show you 10 adulterous futurists (simply because there are more futurists).
- Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:13-15 (ESV)
I’m sick and tired of this nonsense of being told that preterism generates antinomianism. Some have even gone so far as trying to create some sort of a deprogramming for those who are “snared by preterism”. If they lapsed into willful sin then they need look no further than their walk with God. It is only a moment by moment faith walk with Christ that shields any of us from the snare of sin.
I am a bondservant of Christ Jesus and it is unadulterated rubbish to believe that preterism will automatically yield lives of lawlessness. I am committed to the law of Christ which supersedes all other laws last I checked. If some still want to live in the bondage of the Old Covenant, avoiding picking up sticks on the Sabbath, believing that this is somehow going to win them favor with God, then that’s their prerogative.
- Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 1 Peter 2:16-18 (ESV)
Freedom is never a license to live lives of debauchery. How dare those tell me that preterism will force me down that road. Shame on them! They ought to speak for themselves and stop transferring their own sinful leanings to all preterists. No one should be ignorant enough to think that believing that the Lord is faithful to do exactly as He planned in the time that it was prophesied, is obligated to deviate from the spiritual path that leads to maturity in Christ. Believing that our Lord faithfully returned in 70 AD does not give anyone the freedom to live a life contrary to His teaching any more than it does those who choose not to take Jesus at His word. No one who calls themselves a Christian is given the moral license to willfully violate the teachings and commands of Christ. Those who fully recognize His miraculous coming in real time should be ones dedicated to walking that very narrow road.
- I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:12-15 (ESV)
Very powerful language indeed! No one can doubt the Apostle Paul’s clarity. No one should trifle with our freedom in Christ but no one should use their freedom to abuse the grace of God. We live lives pleasing to God out of gratitude not from compulsion.
Some want to continue “to bite and devour one another” over doctrines that are not foundational. I’m quite frankly sick of it. Thanks Paul for that admonition!
Great Article! The Title says it all!
It is typical for those who cannot defend their position, according to scripture, to call one a heretic and attach one’s character; in fact, one individual e-mailed me the following on Friday; after we offered to purchase him a plane ticket to Nashville, for a public debate, to stand behind his comments.
“If you think I am going to leave my separated Agrarian life, fly to your fat worldly one, to debate some know-nothing gluttonous gnat with no audience, where I would have to throw down and reject not only the King James Bible, but the whole history of the Church, the testimony of eyewitnesses, the blood of the Martyrs, etc. and submit to your Gobbledygreek in front of your handful of family and friends… you are stupider than you come across in your inane ramblings. I debate with my whole brain and the Word of God, not the twisted translation of someone like you”.
The truth is, anyone can sit behind a computer and type out accusations filled with ad hominen’s. The real test comes when a man is willing to open himself up to cross examination in a public debate.
Well put Chuck. I have seen EXACTLY what you describe time and again in regards to the attacks within the Church. When I was part of Tota Reformanda I myself was persuaded and followed along in some of these ways and am ashamed to admit I did some attacking myself. When however, I moved from partial to full preterism the attacks were turned towards me, and I learned that lesson and will not repeat my error.
George Orwell in his work 1984 describes orthodoxy as “unconsciousness”. Now this wasn’t directed to the Christian faith but rather to the “Party” (the one all powerful political party) in his book, but I believe Orwell’s use still applies to the Church by and large. How much more intellectually lazy can we become as Christians? We are led along with this mind numbing sermons that don’t begin to touch upon the glories and the knowledge that have been revealed in Christ, and if someone dares to question, or reach out for more, they are heretics, or trouble makers or whatever label.
I have a great deal of respect for the orthodox views of our faith, but when understood correctly they shouldn’t be limiting our dialog and learning, but encouraging it.
Good piece, keep it up.
As always well put James. Yes, we have all made mistakes and will unfortunately continue to do. However, I trust that our errors will be less and less as more fully begin to appreciate and recognize the finality of God’s redemption program.
Thanks for chiming in.