This blog is for almost exclusively book reviews. As a matter of fact, up to this point that’s all you’ll find (except for one DVD review). However, I recently read an article on a web site (http://worldwithoutend.info/wwewp/?p=569) by Ken Gentry that was so horrendously bad, either by the fact the he is ignorant of which he speaks or just completely lying (either way he is disqualified from writing on the topic), that it merited correcting.
In the article in question an inquirer asks Gentry how it is that he can hold to Reformed Theology and at the same time reject one of it’s most important and widely held tenets, that is, it’s eschatology. Now before going any further I would like to make two things clear for the reader. One, yes, I do hold the eschatological position popularly branded Hisoricism. Two, no, I do not consider myself “Reformed” as it is understood today for the reason that men like Gentry are considered Reformed. If you compared my doctrine to Gentry’s I would agree with the Reformers more often than he would. However, because what the Reformers believed has nothing to do today with being Reformed (yes folks, the Reformers where not reformed in their theology!) I don’t fit the title or want it. So it’s actually a silly article to begin with since it operates on the assumption that “Reformed” has anything to do with the Reformers.
Now then, Gentry, though not truly reformed in his theology but only in a modern meaningless sense (And I would like to point out that this is not an attack. There is nothing wrong with not being reformed. Let’s just call a spade a spade though.) attempts to defend, not just his being non-reformed (in the proper sense) but most of modern “Reformed Theology” being unreformed. To do this he makes 10 claims on Reformed Eschatology all of which are erroneous and which we shall now review.
Claim 1: Revelation was not well received among some of the Reformers.
This is false. It is true that Martin Luther doubted the canonical nature of Revelation but he later recanted. The rest of the Reformers (so far as I have discovered in my readings) had no problem with it. Gentry attempts to use lack of proof-texting by Zwingli and the fact that Calvin never wrote a commentary on it to prove they were anti-revelation even though reading there writings (especially Calvin) proves they did believe it and even teach on it. In fact, I dare say that more reference was made to the book of Revelation in some form, either direct or indirect, than from any other book in The Bible. When you read the Reformers (and statements like this make me wonder if Gentry actually has done this very much) they come across as down right obsessed!
Claim 2: The Reformers let application override interpretation in some situations.
This is a logical fallacy. Just because the Reformers were persecuted by Rome and took the Historicist interpretation does not prove that that is why they did so. In fact, if they were not persecuted by Rome in what sense could Rome have been the fulfillment of prophecy as Historicists believe? So it boils down to either (a) Rome does not persecute them so it is not the persecuting force they believed it to be or (b) Rome does and people like Gentry accuse them of reinterpreting The Bible against there enemies. It’s one of those screwed of you do and screwed if you don’t situations. And even if Gentry was write about the Reformers being biased Scripture twisters it still doesn’t prove that Historicism is false. Just that the Reformers held it out of bad motives.
Claim 3: The Reformers and other Historicists always interpret The Bible to say they are the last generation.
This is false. Read Historicist commentaries and you find the opposite to be true. They almost always acknowledged that The Bible demands much more time before the end and that they should not see it. It is true, however, that a few claimed that God could (or some even probably would) shorten the days until the end and they would see it but that proves nothing. You don’t judge the majority by the minority.
Claim 4: No critical New Testament scholar today advocates the historicist view.
Quoting someone else Gentry makes this claim. Is it true? No. This is a word game. If a scholar does hold this interpretation (as many scholars do) they are trying to discredited him if he is not a New Testament scholar. The number of scholars who are specifically New Testament scholars is very low. In addition, if a New Testament scholar does accept this view they simple claim he isn’t “critical.” What do we hear all the time? “No real scientist believes in creation instead if evolution.” It’s the same thing. Word games. A very cunning word trick but shamefully misleading. Further, what if it was true? So what. Adherents have nothing to do with the truthfulness of their claims. If no one believes it that doesn’t make it false. If everyone believes it that doesn’t make it true.
Claim 5: Historicism suffers from a constant need of revision and is always being revised.
This is also false. No revision is needed unless a prophecy is made that does not come to pass as interpreted. And shockingly historicists have an amazing record of predicting events hundreds of years in advance sometimes to the very year. Have some missed on predictions? Yes. But again, you don’t judge the majority by the minority. As to the always being revised, that’s also false. As prophecy is fulfilled (or fails to be as expected) it is accepted by Historicists but never has their been a revision of it’s doctrines.
Claim 6: Joachim of Floris (d. 1202) popularized the historicist view.
Also false. The whole history of the church is unanimous in it’s acceptance of historicism up until the 19th century. This is as credible as the old earth creationists who claim Seventh Day Adventists invented the idea of six day creation.
Claim 7: Historicisms relevance is confined to the Western world.
Again, false. He has never read a commentary by a Historicist I’m sure. They all talk about events in the east. Particularly the Muslim armies that devastated the east for centuries.
Claim 8: Historicism is a money making scam.
Gentry claims Historicism was targeted towards the west where more money could be made from book sales. As already noted Historicism was already unanimous before the Reformation (I also wonder how someone so “Reformed” could call the Reformers money hungry con-men like that). Also, Historicism was not targeted at the west as noted above. Lastly, this is just childish name calling. Grow up Ken.
Claim 9: Historicist tends to lose its relevance for its original persecuted audience.
This is a popular Preterist claim against not only Reformed Eschatology but also Futurism. The problem (besides being totally untrue which I won’t delve into since I don’t need to)? All of the prophecies of Christ, for example, as well as all Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Revelation were fulfilled after the original audience had died. So was the Old Testament irrelevant for people in the Old Testament?
Claim 10: Harmony among Historicism’s proponents is almost wholly lacking due to its subjectivity.
Oh yes, the most popular argument against Historicism. This is used more than all other arguments combined. So what’s the problem? Well, in my personal library I have a ton of commentaries by Historicists including Matthew Henry, Albert Barnes, John Wesley, David Steele, (my favorite) E.B. Elliott and more. On top of that I have tons more books on prophecy by Historicist including Jospeh Mede, Jonathan Edwards, H. Grattan Guiness and more. Plus, I have written my own commentary and have my own views on Revelation. I know what Historicist think. And guess what. The claims that Historicists can’t agree is a myth. Don’t believe me? Buy some of the commentaries mentioned above and author’s books mentioned above and compare them. Not only do they display somewhere around 95% agreement even though they wrote at different times (which according to Gentry Historicism should have been totally revised between the times these authors wrote) but I actually see more uniformity of belief among Historicists than among Futurists or Preterists! Are there some disagreements? Yes. But if two people think exactly alike then one of them isn’t thinking. There are no major doctrinal differences and only minor differences in the interpretation of individual verses or sections.
My conclusion here is not that Gentry has in any way failed in this article (though he has). This is very typical of all non-Historicists who try to critique Historicism. None, at any time, has ever leveled a competent attack on Historicism. A big reason for this is poor scholarship. As can be seen above, for example, Gentry has no idea what he’s talking about. I very much doubt he’s done any real research of his own. He probably read this things in someone else’s books and repeated them. The main reason though is that Historicism is true. It’s possible to create a convincing (though not accurate) critique against the truth, but it’s not easy.