JACKSON – V – PRESTON FORMAL WRITTEN DEBATE
Jackson’s First Negative Presentation
Christian greetings to the debate moderator’s, my friend & opponent Mr. Don Preston, & to the reading audience near & far.
The idea of a ‘written formal debate’ is certainly a resource for comparison & critique in difference’s of belief & practice within the Church of Christ. I wish to thank Mr. Nathan Longhenry & all who have worked with him for providing this opportunity for Don & i to do some verbal jousting. It is my hope & prayer that we both may be firm in our convictions…without being unkind. To Christ our Creator/Redeemer be honor & glory, now & forever.
In his introduction, Mr. Preston admits that although he personally has experienced the ‘power of prayer’…he is careful to make it clear that the presence of the supernatural or miracle played no part in his prayers for himself, for his family, & for others. So he says. I see here in the very beginning of this debate Don anticipating the frustration caused by traditional Church of Christ belief relative to christian prayer when viewed outside of one’s theological construct. What exactly happens when Mr. Preston prays for the sick in the Name of Christ? Since God is limited to working through ‘natural’ processes only… per D. K. Preston…what can God do that wouldn’t be done anyway, with or without the addition of prayer? How about it Don? Why do you pray for the sick, the injured, the lonely, & the addicted? I will contend throughout this discussion that cessationists of all stripes have straitjacketed the sovereign ministries of the Spirit of Christ in the ir attempt to confine the charismata to the first generation of believers only.
Let me hasten to say however, that i agree with Don that personal experience cannot & will not be the determining factor in this debate. We want to hear not the mouth of man, but the word of our God as to which of us is presenting the truth, the whole truth, & nothing but the truth in regards to this exalted theme.
WITH REGARD TO PRESTON’S DEFINITION OF TERMS…
I believe i understand his definition of the proposition, & i accept this as a statement of his belief in the matter before us. Perhaps a little more from Don as to a fuller description of ‘miracle’ would be helpful. I ask this of Mr. Preston because although it may be said that all charismata could be considered ‘miraculous’… & yet one of these very gifts is described as ‘a working of miracles’, along with the naming of other Spirit inspired manifestations…all of which are evidently supernatural, & yet to be distinguished from that special manifestation of the Spirit enabling ‘a working of miracles'(see 1 Co. 12).
If a miracle is a manifestation of supernatural power…& in some sense all charismata is obviously miraculous in nature…how do you understand a ‘gift of working of miracles’ along side of lets say ‘the gifts(plural) of healing’, or ‘the gift of speaking various kinds of tongues’? Was there a degree in intensity & a distinction of difference in these graces as they were manifest in early christian communities?
DON’S PRETERIST INTERPRETIVE METHOD & THE END OF THE WORLD…
I hope the local church of Christ of which Don is a member is one which is known for it’s compassionte tolerance of erring brethren…because Don is one of the first church of Christ preachers i have ever debated who admits from the scriptures that miracles & gifts of the Holy Spirit were to remain in the church until the return of Christ from Heaven. He is one of the truly few who understands the implied inference of Paul relative to the duration of the charismata when in writing to the believer’s at Corinth he notes that that the ‘testimony of Christ’ had been confirmed in them(the believers at Corinth), “so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ”(1 Co. 1:4-9) ASV
Most of his brethren would have him removed from the pulpit for this admission. Why? Because Mr. Preston knows that between the first & final comings of Christ is that time period identified in scripture as the ‘last days’…a time during which the spiritual kingdom of God is manifest with power(Acts 2:14-21).
If i show in my first negative that Don is mistaken as to the apostolic predictions & fulfillment of our Lord’s return to this world…i will have saved him from not one…but two fatal errors! Furthermore, if i can show from the scriptures that Christ has not returned for His church…that 70 A.D. was not the final end & consumation anticipated by biblical prophets…then it will be established that we who are alive now are living between the FIRST & SECOND appearings of Jesus the Christ. This is the age of gospel proclamation & the in-gathering into Christ’s church all who believe, until the ‘fullness of the gentile has come in'(Rom. 11:25). The problem of preterism(in all it’s forms) is that as a system of interpretation it is simply too simple.
Mr. Preston concedes that ‘specialized abilities’ in addition to the Spirit’s inner transforming work was to remain active in christian communities until the coming of ‘that which is perfect’. Don does not believe that this expression by the apostle has reference to inscripturated revelation. He correctly identifies the thrust of 1 Co. 13 to the purpose & consequence of Christ’s final appearance. But…he incorrectly identifies the events of Jerusalem’s destruction by Roman armies in A.D.70 as the hope of the early church. Let’s get down to some debating.
1. “The christian age has no end…”(DP). While i am certainly no classical dispensationalist…both Don & i recognize the biblical usage of ‘age’ as a term descriptive of an indefinite period of time during which God’s activities in the world are executed…with the events of any particular age & it’s limits being determined only by the context or the nature of the thing spoken of. I understand that Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D.70 put a catastrophic end to what may be referred to as the Jewish Age…well put by Don when he says this historical event broke “…Israel’s power(and) her covenant relationship with God”(DP). But this spiritual coming of Christ in judgment upon Jerusalem, the temple, & the people can only be looked upon as a precursor, prophecy, & type of the judgment at the end of the ‘final age’ described by God’s prophets & apostles. Because these two events are described in connection with each other(Matt.24 & amp; Mark 13)…preterism was conceived & brought forth, & developed into it’s radical form by many men…including my friend & opponent Don K. Preston.
Refer to it as you like…this age…the church age, the christian age, the gospel age, the age of grace…is only one ‘age’ preceded by several ‘ages’ & will be succeeded by a series of ‘ages’ all of which are working out the redemptive purposes of the Eternal God climaxing only with the eterna
l state(Eph. 3:5, 2:7).
2. The emphasis in early christian documents was upon that age’which is now’… an age or time period as a result of the incarntion & first coming of Christ with it’s predicted events…& that ‘age which is to come’…secured only by His second appearing & those events associated with it. Now Mr. Preston will think that i do not understand his view of ‘last things’…but i do. But i agree with the great preacher Spurgeon who said of an earlier preterism that is was interesting, but ‘failed reason'(source upon request).
3. New Testament writers persistently set forth that the church of Christ lives between these two great ages & that it will be a time of conflict & tension. We who are the children of the kingdom(Mt.13:38) still live in this evil age of darkness, mortality, & of Satan’s power(Gal.1:4, Eph. 2:3). Although Christ by His death & resurrection, has broken the power of Satan…he is nonetheless referred as the ‘god of this world or age'(2:4:4). And he will as long as this age lasts, oppose God’s redemptive plans & persecute the people of God. We know that behind the events covered on CBS, NBC, & ABC…(smile)…human history during THIS age is a spiritual struggle between demonic evil & the Kingdom of God(Rev.12). Yes Mr. Preston…the church is an eschatological people having been transferred out of the realm of darkness into the Kingdom of Christ…we have experienced a transforming power by virtue of which we have been set free &a mp; are no longer under the domination of this age…nevertheless we still live in the old age…& can expect tribulation, even satanic opposition(Col.1:13 Rom.12:2, 5:2, Acts 14:22, Eph. 6:11&12).
What a leap of faith it requires to think that God’s Christ returned to earth in 70 A.D., raised the righteous dead & translated the living saints, judged the world, bound the devil & locked him up that he could deceive no more…& ushered in a new heavens & a new earth in which the will of God & righteousness is at home…with no more pain, no more tears, & no more death. Good God. What evil wind has blown through the the lord’s church in these recent years!
The New Testament sees in the incarnation of Christ the fulfillment of the Old Testament hope, & in His second coming the consummation of that hope. Fulfillment & consummation are two parts of a single redemptive work.
By no stretch of the imagination can the events of Jerusalem’s destruction in the first century be identified with that blessed hope beating in the heart of every child of God…a hope which has produced lives of watchfulness, fidelity, wisdom, activity, simplicity, self-restraint, prayer, & continual abiding in Christ.
Mr. Preston set himself up for failure in his very first argument…for he knows that miracles & spiritual gifts remain in the church throughout & until the return of messiah from Heaven(by his own admission)…& clearly CHRIST HAS NOT COME FOR HIS CHURCH & TO JUDGE THE WORLD, so the presence of the supernatural as a ministry in the church by the Holy Spirit is for the church of Christ today.
WITH REGARD TO THE PROPHETIC WORD OF DANIEL…
Generally, the churches of Christ have adopted a rather harmless amillennial system of interpretation toward biblical prophecy…until the recent reappearance of amilleniallism in it’s most radical form usually referred to as ‘preteristic eschatology’. My opponent is representitive of this heresy. Please note my harsh words are not directed toward Don…but are meant only to point out the seriousness of that view which ‘somehow along the way’ Mr. Preston has embraced as ‘truth’. I appreciate Don, & would like to see him come back(smile).
In the quiet of my study…i read again these interesting prophetic utterances from Daniel the prophet. There is something, however, askew in Mr. Preston’s interpretation & application of the prophet’s words.
The thrust of Don’s paper relative to this debate on miracles & spiritual gifts is that if the words of Daniel have complete fulfillment in certain events within the first century of the christian movement…including the idea of a ‘sealing up of visions & prophecy’ meaning their cessation…then i am in the wrong to affirm that miraculous activities are yet available to the christian community.
But again Don sets himself up for failure because if i show in this first negative of his proposition that the words of Daniel DID NOT completely come to pass in 70 A.D., & if Daniel’s 70 weeks have not run their course…it follows that supernatural manifestations of God’s power can be anticipated in the ministry of God’s word, & in the worship of the church until the events spoken of by Daniel have fully come to pass.
1. It cannot be denied by Don that the christian church is somewhat a ‘mystery’ in God’s program for the ages…that the concept of a ‘suffering messiah, & a persecuted church’…was difficult in light of the more glorious predictions regarding the ultimate future of God’s people Israel(Eph. 3:3-6), & that further, certain features of God’s eternal plans relative to His people Israel likewise contain a mystery aspect as well(Rom. 11:25). My point? It appears at first that Daniel’s seventy weeks runs a smooth, unbroken course…but that it did not is seen in the light of New Testament revelation. The King came, was rejected, & this altered the flow of prophetic history, which makes this whole study of Daniel’s 70 weeks a bit more complicated than is admitted by my opponent. AND I REPEAT FOR THE SAKE OF THIS DEBATE…THAT IF DANIEL’S PROPHECY HAS NOT SEEN IT’S COMPLETE & CONSUMATED REALIZATION, THEN MIRACULOUS CONFIRMATIONS ATTENDING THE MESSAGE ABOUT JESUS , & SPIRIT BESTOWED GIFTS TO THE CHURCH HAVE NOT CEASED ACCORDING TO DIVINE DESIGN. If they appear to have ceased, one must look to another cause other than a divinely planned discontinuance because ‘vision & prophecy’ continue until the end of Daniel’s 70 weeks per Don Preston.
Mr. Preston bases part of his first affirmative argument upon the premise that Daniel’s 70 weeks have come to pass…therefore the function of miracles & prophecy have fulfilled their design & are no longer needed. This is bad theology on all counts. And by the way, the five references used by Don relative to the cessation of prophetic ministry in the words of Daniel ‘to seal up vision & prophecy’…i doubt very much if any of the author’s quoted by Mr. Preston held to a ‘consistent preterest’ view of last things. Charles Ellicot believed whole heartedly in the ‘personal & visible second advent of Christ’…& further declared that ‘the time when the gifts shall cease is the end of this dispensation’…never once confusing Jerusalem’s judgment in the first century as the final terminus of ‘the age which now is(see Elicott’s commentary notes on Paul’s letters to the Corinthian & Thessalonian churches). Reviewing our Lord’s Olivet discourse i n the gospel according to Matthew, Ellicot remarks that much of what Jesus says here to his disciples ‘take a wider range, passing beyond the narrow limits of the destruction of Jerusalem TO THE FINAL COMING OF THE SON OF MAN'(Ellicott’s Bible Commentary).
Have the promises in Daniel chapter nine been fulfilled to Israel? Have they ceased from sin? Have they been reconciled to God? Are they walking in everlasting righteousness? Have the vision & prophecy been sealed up? Has the most Holy been anointed? I answer in the negative to all of these questions. If these promises to Israel are to be taken seriously, we must allow for a much fuller fulfillment than what is generally presented by Mr. Preston & others currently under the preterist spell.
Daniel’s prophecy predicted six things which will be effected upon the Jewish people & Jerusalem. I understand these six things to mean the following.
‘to finish the transgression’…means that an age of obedience among the Jew’s is predicted.
2. ‘to make an end of sins’…means the redemption provided by Christ on the Cross(with it’s implied application to Israel).
3. ‘to make reconciliation for iniquity’…means the reconciliation effected through the cross(& it’s association with Israel).
4. ‘to bring in everlasting righteousness…means that which is partially fulfilled at Calvary, but only completely fulfilled after the second & final advent of Christ from heaven.
5. ‘to seal up vision & prophecy’…means the coming of Christ in both His first & second appearings, bringing with Him the fulfillment of Daniel’s seventy weeks.
6. ‘to anoint the Most Holy’…is a reference to The Third Temple existing in Jerusalem during the millennial reign of Christ on earth.
Now then…clearly i will take in this debate that position which sees an ‘already/not yet’ view of the prophetic word. Daniel chapter nine being a perfect example. I see some portions of verse 24 as fulfilled, & other portions to be fulfilled in the future. Thus if i am right, & Don is wrong on Daniel, then his position on the discontinuance of miracles & spiritual gifts is likewise in error.
Mr. Preston’s entire affirmative argument from Daniel hinges on his preterist approach to the words of this prophet. And again, if the historical futurist understanding of Daniel is the better hermeneutic, then ‘vision & prophecy’ has not been ‘sealed up’ in the sense understood by Don, & therefore it will follow that the presence of the supernatural in the world & more importantly in the church such as prophecy, tongues, healing, & miracles, have not ceased because of prophetic fulfillment.
Briefly then, how does Don misunderstand the prophetic work of Daniel?
1. A careful reading of the text(Dan. 9) treats the 70th week distinctly from the first 69 weeks…suggesting something unique about it. This uniqueness creates a need for a ‘possible time gap’.
2.A so called perfect continuity is impossible even according to Mr. Preston in light of the extension of 43 years between the cross & Jerusalem’s destruction. Gaps happen. Especially in the prophetic word.
3. Gaps in prophetic history become necessary in light of the various dealings of God with distinct groups of people in this world often denominated as Jew, gentile, & church of God in the scriputres(1 Co.10:32).
4. Both the true Christ & a future Anti-Christ seem to appear in Daniel 9…because the character & activities of the second ‘prince’ cannot be confused with the character & activities of the first ‘prince’. The everlasting covenant established by the true Christ cannot be the firm 7 year covenant made between the ‘prince & the many’ of verse 26. Mr. Preston tends to spiritualize those portions of the prophetic word which frustrate that view of prophecy he has chosen to pursue. Also, i would point out, that a free & full fulfillment of the words of Daniel demands both the first & final advents of Christ to give prophetic language plenty of space for it’s uncramped… & when possible…literal fulfillment.
Personal family tragedy has delayed this, my first negative to Mr. Preston’s first argument to his proposition. I appreciate both Don’s kind patience, words of kindness, & the patience of the reading audience.
This debate on miracles & gifts of the Holy Spirit has ignited a renewed interest in the overall place of the ‘charismata’ in the life of the church, & the individual within the church…but it is also causing some reexamination of the prophetic word in general, caused in part because Mr. Preston in this debate links the two as an attempt to establish his proposition. His peculiar system makes the return of Christ for His church past, the resurrection of the righteous dead past, the translation of the living saints past, the great general judgement past, the binding of Satan past, the new heavens & new earth past, & which means no doubt that we who are now alive… according to this revived heresy…are now living in the eternal state no more tears, no more sorrow, no more death. Bosh!
Mr. Preston has not established his proposition. He has two more presentations to do so. I look forward to next written effort to show why miracles & gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased in the church of Christ. I thank you.
ON THE CESSATION OF THE CHARISMATA
JACKSON’S FIRST NEGATIVE PRESENTATION