The following is an exchange of e-mails that recently took place between myself, ***, and Gene Cook, minister of Covenant Baptist Church of San Diego and host of unchained radio.
Gene Cook has been very outspoken against the full preterist view of eschatology. Over the past few years, I have listened to a number of debates, sermons, and radio programs Gene has had on this topic.
Since I have spent a good deal of time in recent years studying eschatology, and since Gene Cook has been very outspoken against the full preterist view, I was very much wanting him to step up and debate one of the leading members of the full preterist movement, Don K. Preston. I contacted him for one reason and one reason only: the pursuit of truth. I have heard Don Preston make a number of compelling arguments for the full preterist position that I have yet to find anyone be able to successfully refute. If in fact the full preterist view is wrong, I would like to see more of the leading men against the movement stand up and debate some of the leading members for the movement.
My reason for posting this to the internet is not to speak evil of Gene Cook. Nor do I wish to detract from the good that Gene Cook does. For example, he spends a good deal of time working with atheists and Jehovah’s witnesses, and has in fact done a bit of good teaching on eschatology too. For all this I thank him, and wish him to continue. My reason for posting this is:
- Those who spend a lot of time refuting a certain view ought to be willing to continually engage in open dialogue with those who hold the opposing view. When they are unwilling to do so, they should be held accountable.
- I hope that someone will see this and realize that writing books, preaching sermons, hosting radio programs, etc., against a certain view is not enough. We need men that are willing to have their views put to the test in open debate to see if their view holds up when scrutinized and tested against scripture. I hope someone will see this and take that action.
- The pursuit of truth. Anyone who sees this is welcome to contact me. I am still studying many things regarding eschatology, and while Gene Cook was not willing to help out but rather dodged each direct question and changed the subject, I am hoping someone will see this and assist. You are welcome to e-mail me at ***.
***’s original message to Gene
I just finished listening to the program you did last week with Dee Dee Warren. I have listened to a couple of other programs you have done on Eschatology, including the one with Gary DeMar that you and Dee Dee discussed-the one where Sam Frost, and then Dee Dee herself, called in.
There are a lot of questions I would like to ask, and a lot of thoughts I would like to share, but I know you are busy, so I will be brief.
I myself am torn b/w a full preterist and partial preterist view, but I have come to lean more towards the full preterist view. I have contacted and exchanged a few e-mails with individuals such as Dee Dee Warren and Dan Trotter, among others, in an attempt to pursue nothing but the truth and have the opponents of the full preterist view draw me back from error, if in fact I am headed in that direction.
Gene, as a man who vehemently opposes the full preterist view, and seems to want to do anything and everything possible to refute it, I ask you the following two questions, with much greater emphasis being on the second.
1-Have you tried to set up a debate b/w yourself and Kelly Birks on the timing and nature of the resurrection? In your recent program and in others, you alluded to the debate you had with him before regarding Jesus’ words on his return, which I have listened to a couple of times. In that debate, Kelly at first did not answer your question on the resurrection, and his reason was that such was not the topic the two of you agreed to debate. I personally disagree with his response, and feel like he should have answered you the first time, but he did then go on to say that he did believe the timing of the resurrection was the timing of the “second coming” and he said that he would be willing to debate you on that specific topic. Have you taken him up on that offer?
2-You have of course debated a few full preterists, such as Kelly Birks and HL James. If you are so convinced of your view, and so eager to prove the FP view wrong, why debate these men, but back out of a debate with one of the top leading members of this view-Don Preston? I am sure you have seen his post regarding the correspondence between the two of you, located at www.planetpreterist.com/modules.php?name=News&file=printpdf&sid=843 . Did you respond to this? Is there anything under the sun that can be done to get you to debate Don Preston? This is a hot topic and an important topic that needs to be debated. I cannot say that he would still be willing to debate you, although from what I know of him I’d be surprised if he wasn’t, but I would go out of my way to do anything I could to help make the debate happen.
Dee Dee menioned on your program that she was at one point leaning towards the FP view. I, along with so many others, are at that same point. I lean towards the FP view, but if it is wrong, I would very much like to be saved from such error. When men like Don Preston are eager and able to debate the issue publicly, but you and others hide behind your radio programs, saying you’ll debate any FP but then back out when one steps up, it does not make the PP view look good. By your refusal to debate Don Preston, you are aiding the spread of the FP view that you so vehemently oppose.
I have not come to hold to all the tenets of the FP view, but again, I and so many others are leaning heavily in that direction, and if I am wrong in doing so, I humbly request your help. If indeed I’m standing at the edge of a cliff, please pull me back before I fall off.
In the pursuit of truth,
Call me up on open phones Friday and feel free to ask me whatever you like. I will try to be of assistance.
***’s reply, after calling into the program and talking to Gene:
You said that if I could call you up on the show you would try to be of assistance. Instead, when I called, you changed the subject, speaking out against the church of Christ, and talking about water baptism. That was not what I called you about.
You asked the question “why would I debate Don Preston when he’s a member of a church that can’t get the basic doctrine of salvation right?” Why? To save others from what you believe to be a damnable heresy!
You kept saying “it’s already been refuted.” Had Judaizing teaching, or any other error in Paul’s day, been refuted? Yes. Did he say therefore “That’s already been refuted. I don’t need to deal with it again.” No. He dealt with each issue that needed to be dealt with, as it needed to be dealt with. Why then would you not do the same? If you believe FP to be a damnable heresy, why refuse to debate the topic further so that others may be saved from it?
You changed the subject and did not deal with matter at hand.
I disagree with a number things regarding the FP view, but I am always in the pursuit of truth. Those who genuinely seek truth want to hear different views so that we can test all things and hold fast that which is good. Hearing you and Don on your respective radio programs does not have the same benefit as hearing the two of you debate publicly would, in a format where each of you is challenging the other, without a radio program or anything else to hide behind.
If the FP view is wrong, then those who teach it are teaching a damnable heresy, and fall under the same condemnation of Hymaneus and Philetus. Therefore, regardless of what I hear Don Preston, Sam Frost, Todd Dennis, Max King or anyone else say about this, I am not going to believe it without extensive research and without consulting those who disagree, such as yourself. But when folks like Don Preston are so open to a public debate and folks like yourself shy away from it, you have to realize how that looks. It’s reminiscent of when Stephen spoke in Acts 7, and those that heard him could say nothing against it, so rather than challenge him, they just lashed out at him.
By refusing to debate Don Preston, it makes it look like there is something to what he is saying that you don’t know how to deal with, and it makes him look good, and as a result, by refusing to debate him, you are aiding the spread of the FP movement that you so vehemently oppose.
Nevertheless, my pursuit of truth will continue. I will read the article you mentioned. I would also be interested in hearing your response to the following. I would like to ask you these in person or on your radio program, but obviously that cannot be done, for if I were to ask you such, you would change the subject, and then cut me off when I call you on it.
How do you respond to the following arguments? And yes, these came from Don Preston in his Audio commentary on the Hymanaen Heresy.
Major Premise: The resurrection would be the time of the end of sin-I Cor. 15.
Minor Premise: The end of sin is confined to the 70 weeks of Daniel 9.
Conclusion: The resurrection is confined to the 70 weeks of Daniel 9.
You cannot say that God has fulfilled all his promises to Old Covenant Israel without affirming that the resurrection has taken place, because the resurrection was a promise to Old Covenant Israel.
The sting of death is sin, the strength of sin is the law. You remove the law, you remove the strength of sin. You remove the strength of sin, you remove the sting of death, which is what resurrection is all about. If the law (and when Paul uses that term, he pretty much always refers to the Old Law of Moses, unless he states otherwise) has been fully destroyed, which it was in AD70, the death has been defeated and the resurrection is an accomplished reality.
I am not saying I agree with all of these arguments as it is a matter I am still studying and can’t say exactly where I stand at the moment. I’m just saying I don’t know how to refute them, and wish you were willing to help myself and others that are seeking the truth.
Again, I do not fully believe all the tenets of FP. I am simply in the pursuit of truth, and in such pursuit, I wish men that opposed FP such as yourself would be more willing to continually engage in an open dialogue, rather than having just a couple of debates and then saying “It’s already been refuted. I don’t need to deal with this any more.”
Ever in the pursuit of truth,
It has been refuted!
Thank you for the link. I will read it and give the matter due consideration.
Next message from Gene:
2 Timothy 2:16-17
16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,
17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,
What did Paul mean by avoiding it? Did he mean that we shouldn’t deal with the issue? If so, it seems he broke his own rule, as he was dealing with it in this text.
If that is your understanding of this text, then I trust that you will not debate any matter again, but will rather avoid them altogether.
I have no ill intentions. I’m just trying to find the truth, and call on those in positions such as yourself for help. At least Dee Dee Warren and a few others have been willing to engage in dialogue with those who hold an opposing view. Wish you would do the same.
A follow up note from *** to Gene:
By crying “It’s already been refuted!” it seems (and correct me if I’m wrong) that you are saying there is no further need to refute it. Yet you continue to speak out against it, and continue to have folks on your program to help refute it. It seems that you do not see the need to stop refuting it, but that you would rather do so from behind your own pulpit and radio program rather than in an open public debate where your comments could be put to the test.
You accuse full preterists of being a “one trick pony”. I guess Don Preston and others (potentially myself one day, unless I can get some opponent of FP to help me out here) are two trick ponies-one being baptism, the other being preterism. You’ve debated the former. I wish you would debate the latter.
I have contacted Don Preston regarding this, and his offer to engage in a cordial open debate still stands should you change your mind.
Also, please stop accusing Kelly Birks of refusing to deal with the resurrection question in the debate you had with him. I have heard you accuse him of that many times, including in our conversation today, and it is a flat out lie. He did not refuse to answer the question, he just did not want to do it in a debate where the two of you agreed to debate a different topic-Jesus’ return according to his own words. He did end up answering you, saying that the timing of the resurrection is indeed the timing of Christ’s return, but folks who never listen to the debate and just listen to you from behind your bully pulpit would never know that.
I just listened to my call on your program online. I asked if you wanted to continue teaching the orthodox preterist view. You said yes. I asked “Do you not think a public debate is a good way to teach?” What was your response? You dodged the question and started talking about water baptism.
In your debate with Mr. Reeves on baptism, it was agreed that in the last speech of the week, no new arguments would be brought up, as it would not be fair, for the opponent would not have a chance to rebut it. In the last speech of the week, which belonged to you, you brought up a new argument that Mr. Reeves had no chance to respond to.
In your debate with Kelly Birks, the topic at hand was Jesus return according to his own words. You spent the majority of your time dealing with other passages rather than looking at Jesus’ own words, and got mad at Kelly when he wouldn’t play along.
In your e-mail exchange with Don Preston, you changed the topic away from Eschatology and into rhetoric about the church of Christ. When he wouldn’t play along and insisted we keep with the topic at hand, you said “”Forget it. I will not debate you.”
In our conversation today, when I pointedly asked you “Do you not think a public debate is a good way to teach?” you changed the topic, and started talking about water baptism again.
It has become rather clear the kind of debater you are, which shows clearly why you will not debate Don Preston. Simply stated, you refuse to engage in a debate with someone that will not allow you to change topics play these kinds of games.
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