Are There Seven Problems with Pretrib?

Are there seven problems with pretrib? Some prewrath folk recently came together and contributed to a documentary highlighting problems with pretrib. My first thought was, “Only seven?” Of course I’m being sarcastic.

Incidentally, one of the gents involved produced a video ominously asserting that the pretrib rapture is dead! Apparently they’re still trying to kill it.

Thoughts on past interactions with prewrath

The system operates on a “catechism” often beginning with the phrase…after the tribulation. While proponents “compare Scripture with Scripture” their interpretation is filtered through this catechism. They seem obsessed with converting pretribs as if salvation may depend on it.

Note: One also hears the ubiquitous charge that there isn’t a single verse supporting pretrib. In fact all rapture timing positions are inferences drawn from many texts. The PW system is no exception.

What about the seven problems?

There’s nothing startling or new. The doco was a rehashing of grievances against pretribulationism. Of course this observation doesn’t make them wrong. In fact in one or two areas I may agree.

The problem with responding to these docos (over two hours in this case) is that it’s time consuming. Also, nothing will convince someone who’s bought stocks in the other team. That said; if I find time I may interact more. For now I’ll just briefly look at the last one since Pettegrew’s Forsaking Israel is fresh in my mind, and since it discusses the patristics.

The Early Church Fathers, etc.

The last Pretrib Problem that we will cover in this film concerns patristics which is a name for the study of the writings and beliefs of the early church. The writings from the early church fathers date back to the first century, and of course, we should never take their writings as proof of one doctrine over another. The Bible is always the ultimate source for our doctrine. (“7 Pretrib Problems,” Emphasis mine)

This is the same language George Ladd used in “The Blessed Hope.” Yet he ultimately appealed to the ECFs. Our “seven problems” folk do the same. See John Walvoord’s review of Ladd’s book.

Our non-pretrib friends can be congratulated for engaging Stitzinger, Crutchfield etc. However their goal is to focus on ECFs keeping the church in the tribulation, (like Ladd) despite the rhetoric about Scripture being the “ultimate source.”

Paradoxically, I agree with the pretrib naysayers: The ECFs weren’t pretribulational. You won’t find any pretrib statement in their writings. Sorry. Assertions to the contrary by pretrib defenders fail to convince me.

That Pseudo guy

In one instance Charles Cooper talks about Pseudo-Ephraem. He poisons the well by stating the obvious that pseudo means false. Cooper says, “But the fact that the Pretrib system would use one of those writings as a basis for the proof of their position, to me, is unconscionable.” His next tactic is to question what PE might have really meant.   

I’m not aware of any sober pretribber who uses PE (or any early pretrib statement) as “proof.” More to the point, non pretribbers are clearly biased against acknowledging any possible pre-Darby pretrib statement. The goal has always been to link pretrib exclusively to a tainted John Darby.

For Ice’s thoughts on PE read here and here. Morgan Edwards’ (1740s pre-Darby) rapture statement is nigh impossible to dismiss. See also Dispensationalism before Darby (p. 256).

Cooper claims that he first thought PE possibly depicted “Midtrib” – “certainly not Pretribulational.” He asserts there’s no support for a rapture before the 70th week has started. He’d say the same for Morgan Edwards. The salient point is that Edwards (and possibly PE) kept the church out of “Antichrist’s” Great Tribulation.

70th Week & the Great Tribulation shortened

How far back is there any statement of a futuristic premil Daniel’s 70th week? When was the first teaching of prewrath’s pivotal shortening of the Great Tribulation? – Certainly not from Irenaeus! Why shorten it in the 20th century? This brings me to the next point…

Prewrath is obvious when you study Scripture

Some claim to have discovered PW via Scripture only. I remain unconvinced. Why had no one heard of PW until Robert Van Kampen formulated it in the 20th century? If PW distinguishes itself from modern futuristic posttrib, where are ECF affirmations? If you say there’s been “refinement” then you tacitly admit that eschatological thinking has evolved.

See also Darrel Cline’s review-response to Van Kampen’s idea of “plain & simple” here, contents here. If “The truth of the matter is, Scripture could not be clearer on this issue…” why did it take so long?

Back to the ECFs

The ECFs were “ordinary” men who often differed. Abelard even wrote a book citing the “theological inconsistencies and contradictions of the church fathers” (Forsaking Israel p13). Within a hundred years of John’s death some were teaching, “baptismal regeneration, the ransom theory of the atonement, salvation only through the organizational church, legalism, and ascetism and celibacy as a means of sanctification” (p 14).

Pettegrew shows how premil lost ground to amil among the ECFs (beginning with Origen). Even premil ECFs adopted supersessionism. For example, Hippolytus taught that the woman in Rev 12 was the church persecuted by the Antichrist in the Tribulation. Pettegrew writes,

They [the ECFs – Clement, Tertullian and others] believed that the church had permanently replaced Israel, that the church would be in the Tribulation…and that the church would be the focus of the millennial kingdom. (Page 21)

The Olivet Discourse

Further on Pettegrew discusses some non-pretrib interpretations of the Olivet Discourse. In PW’s case he engages its shortened-tribulation teaching and statements by Alan Hultberg (“A Case for the Prewrath Rapture” in The Rapture, Pretribulation, Prewrath, or Posttribulation).

Hultberg’s view is that Jesus “fulfills the role of Israel itself.” And, “Thus for Matthew, to belong to Israel one must belong to the Messiah, Jesus.” Again, “for Matthew the church is viewed as in some sense the inheritor of the Jewish Kingdom…” See page 279, Forsaking Israel. There isn’t space to sufficiently explore Pettegrew’s responses, but they’re to the point.  

Do the disciples ask Jesus about the future of the church or the future of national Israel? Were they not related to future Israel and her relationship to the temple, the Messiah and Kingdom? See also Acts 1:6-7. Why didn’t they ask about the rapture?

Making the Olivet about the church affects the identity of the “elect” and the nature of the gathering in Matt 24:31, among other things. Is this the rapture of the church or the promised episunago of ethnic Israel? Preserving Israel’s national identity in prophecy doesn’t prove pretrib; however, it helps support it when other texts are considered.

It would be nice to have ECF support. But they were divided in areas and silent on others. The case can be made that one reason they believed the church goes through the Tribulation (where they weren’t intra-tribulational) is that where they saw Israel in prophecy, it became the church.

One last thing…

One of the doco gents once challenged my use of Spurgeon on the positives of living with an imminent mindset. I’d written in response to a convoluted assertion that because of human nature imminency does not generate urgency

I was charged with giving the impression that because I thought Spurgeon believed in imminence it was good enough for anyone. Well, despite mentioning signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, etc. associated with Christ’s return, he certainly utilized and prized any-moment language (see pp. 146-147 of Showers’ Maranatha – Our Lord, Come). Take it up with Spurgeon when you meet him.

Then the lecturette against the fallacy of appealing to authority,

This mindset of appealing to authorities or suggesting a “consensus” is prevalent in pretrib circles: “what’s good for Charles Spurgeon should be good for me and just about everyone else.”

The irony given the ECF discussion! What was Rosenthal appealing to when he listed several eschatologically-diverse people who weren’t pretrib (p. 54 in his book)? This isn’t about fallacy-warning. It’s bias in action.

In conclusion, while I haven’t interacted with everything discussed in the 7th “pseudo” problem for pretrib, I’m afraid the discussion was generally inconsistent.

Maranatha!

Addendum:

It has come to my attention that an individual had issues with my article. I’m not going to thrash it out here or at the Facebook group where I saw the comments. For the record, I only responded to the last “problem.” There was no need to cite a lot of Scripture because it was unwarranted.

While I only mentioned one participant, I linked to the said video and the transcript on this line in the post. There you will find the names of the other people involved. I also provided links to my Google Blog where I mention imminence and where I linked to Alan Kurschner. I wasn’t being unfair or deceptive. 

Alf Cengia bio


Alf Cengia has a keen interest in politics (especially the Middle East), is a collector of books and dabbles in weight training. He is stepfather to Michelle, Sammy’s chief walker and his wife’s favorite coffee maker. He blogs at Zeteo316 and Thoughts on Eschatology.

324 reads
1061 reads

There are 3 Comments

Josh S's picture

Thanks for this review. As a younger man I held to a posttrib position but have sense come to a pretrib understanding. One of the turning points for me was the realization that no matter which view I took, I would have to make logical inference from a variety of different passages. No position can escape that and those who say they do are misrepresenting (either intentionally or unintentionally) the nature of the debate. 

Josh Stilwell, associate pastor,  Alathea Baptist Church, Des Moines, Iowa.

Don Johnson's picture

I get that the author is writing sort of "in the midst of an ongoing debate" but he uses too much shorthand for me to understand everything he is arguing.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

JD Miller's picture

I get that the author is writing sort of "in the midst of an ongoing debate" but he uses too much shorthand for me to understand everything he is arguing.

I had to become a bit of detective/code breaker to figure it out.  I figured I would pass on my code sheet.

doco=documentary

PW=pre-wrath

ECF=early church fathers

PE= Pseudo-Ephraem 

gents=people

Many will know this one, but in honor of Don, I thought I would also include that Maranatha=come Lord.

BTW (by the way) it is good to see you posting Don.  We have not always agreed as we sharpen iron here, but we agree more often than we disagree.  I really appreciate you.  Love Jerry.  

 

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.