A Note About David Chilton and Full Preterism
Don K. Preston D. Div.
I have been contacted by numerous people asking about David Chilton and his full preterist eschatology. It seems that some, both within the preterist movement and without, are denying that David Chilton had ever become a full preterist. I believe that it is necessary to set the historical record straight on this.
In 1997, I was privileged to help organize, along with Bob Chellin, a prophecy conference in Oklahoma City. The speakers at that conference were: David Chilton, Max King, William Bell, Jack Scott, Larry Siegle, Bill Kanengiser, and Don K. Preston.
For several months leading up to the conference, David and I spoke on the phone frequently, several times a week at times, discussing a variety of subjects, with eschatology being at the core of those discussions. So, when I speak of what David expressed about full preterism, I am not speculating. I am speaking from direct personal knowledge of what was said in our conversations. With that in mind, let me say something as kindly but as candidly as possible….
Anyone denying that David Chilton openly stated that he had embraced the full preterist eschatology is not telling the full truth.
Anyone denying that David Chilton had fully embraced the full preterist paradigm is either speaking out of “hear say,” from speculation, from wishful thinking, or from some other motive. I cannot judge motives. I can only judge facts. But make no mistake: David Chilton openly stated to me in private conversation, many times, that he was indeed a full preterist.
On one occasion, which I remember as if it was yesterday, because it was so humorous, I said to David: “How could anyone write the things that you did in Paradise Restored, and not be a full preterist?” With his matchless wit, David responded: “I have wondered that many times myself!”
But, those private conversations are not the only thing that proves David was a full preterist. At the aforementioned conference, in David’s speech on “The New Heavens and Earth,” David spoke of how many people had wondered about his journey to the full preterist position. He then said: “Here I am as a full preterist.” He then began a discussion of why he had come to reject the theonomic position of Greg Bahnsen and those who followed him.
Chilton pointed out that the key text upon which theonomy is based, Matthew 5:17-18 actually refutes that theology. He offered several quotes from Bahnsen’s book, Theonomy and Christian Ethics taking care to observe that Bahnsen and the Theonomists quote the text, but then deny what it actually says. Theonomists says that some of the Law, the ceremonial and sacrificial feast elements of Torah, have been done away, but, that the moral code remains valid.
Chilton then began to critically analyze that position, showing from Bahnsen’s writings that when Jesus said, “not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law until it is all fulfilled” that, “every jot and every tittle” does not refer to generic moral codes or laws, but to the minutea of the Law. This necessitates the continuance of those jots and tittles, i.e. the sacrifices and feast days, until they were all fulfilled– in AD 70. David spent a good deal of time on Hebrews 8:13 showing that Bahnsen and the Theonomists pull “theological tricks” with the text, by saying that the Law has become obsolete– which is of course true now, post AD 70, but, it had not passed when Paul wrote. It was “ready to vanish away” when Hebrews was written. It is wrong to impose what is true now, in our chronological position, onto the text of Hebrews for it was not true when Hebrews was written.
I could continue to chronicle Chilton’s statements and his open assertions of belief in the full preterist view, but this is sufficient. There is in fact much more in his speech. I personally own the rights to that conference, and offer it for $39.95 + $4.50 postage.
Some might say that, “Well, he might have said he was full preterist at the conference, but before he died (a short time afterward) he had begun to doubt that position.” Two things falsify that claim.
First, David and I continued to speak on the phone on a regular basis after the conference. Not once, let me emphasize that, not once, did David ever express reservations or doubts about the full preterist position. To the contrary, he had begun a commentary– a full preterist commentary – on 2 Peter 3. He and I shared thoughts on the project and he even commented to me on one occasion that he probably did not need to do a commentary because my book covered the ground that he intended to cover. I told him that he had too much to offer for him to cancel his project. The world needed to read what Chilton had to say on 2 Peter 3. To my knowledge he never cancelled those plans, but his death prevented its completion.
So, let me repeat: In several conversations after the 1997 Prophecy Conference, David Chilton never, not even one time, gave the slightest indication that he had any reservations whatsoever about his adoption of the full preterist eschatology. If he had such reservations he never, not once expressed them, and our discussions gave plenty of occasions to express such doubts if he had them. Anyone that knew David knew that he was very candid and open about expressing what was on his mind.
The second issue is this: Shortly after David’s untimely death, his wife called me. She strongly insisted that I withdraw the tape of the 1997 conference from the market, because it would hurt David’s name and harm the sales of his other material. And this is what is so important about that phone call: Not once did Mrs. Chilton say that David had changed his mind about his adoption of the full preterist view prior to his death. Not once did she say: “Yes, I know what he said at the conference, but he changed his mind.” The only issue in the entire conversation was that the tape would harm David’s name and hurt the sales of his other material. The issue was never that David had recanted or changed his views on full preterism.
My response to Mrs. Chilton was that David was an honest seeker of the truth, and that to withdraw the tape would actually be a disservice to his name as a Berean. He was adamant about following truth no matter where it led. I refused to withdraw the tape.
There is a third issue here also: Gary North, who had long been a supporter of Chilton, had this to say about Chilton’s new found eschatology:
“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.” He then went on to say:
I would suggest that we not encourage his heresy by interacting with him on this matter on this or any other forum. It is now a matter of Church discipline, assuming that he is under any.
I plan to hire Ken Gentry to write a refutation of heretical preterism. We should respond to these ideas, but not to Chilton personally. He is crippled now, and I do not think it is fair to beat him up in public. It is also unlikely to change what is left of his mind. (My emphasis, DKP)
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.
end of North response:
Vern Crisler adds…
Citation from: http://vftonline.org/xmaspiracy/1/northvschilton.htm. (Link good 2-15-11)
So, there you have it, both Gary North and Vern Crisler affirmed that Chilton had become full preterist, and, both say that there was no evidence that he had, or would change. (It goes without saying that the way North treated Chilton is nothing less than shameful and disgraceful).
So, to all of those who have contacted me asking my opinion of whether David Chilton had ever actually been a full preterist, or whether he had recanted, my response is this: David Chilton affirmed, in unmistakable terms, that he was a full preterist. He affirmed this before the 1997 Prophecy Conference. He affirmed it during the 1997 Prophecy Conference. He affirmed it after the conference. Not once did David Chilton ever express reservations about his full preterist views.
Thus, those who deny that Chilton was actually a true preterist are misrepresenting the historical facts that are available on tape (now in MP3 format). They are denying– without evidence — what I know from personal experience and numerous conversations with David, both before and after the conference, until very shortly before his death, to be true. He said he accepted the full preterist eschatology. Those denying Chilton’s full preterism are denying North and Crisler’s attacks on Chilton (not to mention attacks from others as well, who had no inkling that Chilton was actually still a futurist as is being claimed today).
I hope that this helps “clear the air” about what David Chilton truly believed about the full, true preterist eschatology.
A final thought. One might ask why such fevered attempts are being made to deny Chilton’s advocacy of the full preterist position. After all, whether he did or did not embrace the full preterist position is, in the final analysis, irrelevant. The validity of Covenant Eschatology does not depend on whether Chilton accepted or did not accept it! Not one thing is, in the objective sense, gained by those who say – falsely – that Chilton was not a true preterist.
The attempts to deny Chilton’s acceptance of preterism smacks of name dropping. If it can be shown that Chilton either did not actually accept preterism or abandoned it, then those who reject preterism feel justified somehow. But, it matters not. That would be a bit like someone in the first century abandoning Christ and justifying that departure by saying, “Well, after all, Demas abandoned Jesus too. In fact, there is no evidence that he ever truly accepted him!” All that is proven in such cases is that both parties abandoned the truth.
So, let me say this again: Anyone denying that David Chilton openly stated that he had embraced full preterist eschatology is not telling the full truth. He espoused it before the conference. He affirmed it during the conference. He advocated it after the conference. And even his most ardent enemies believe that he continued to espouse full preterism until he died.
It is mis-informed, at the very least, to deny these facts. At worst, it is a denial, distortion and manipulation of the historical facts to say otherwise.
The 1997 Oklahoma City Prophecy Conference, which includes Chilton’s speech is available from me here.
Price is $39.95 + $4.50 postage.
If you want to know what Chilton truly believed, from his own mouth, you need to order your copy of this conference.
These are the indisputable facts. David Chilton: “Here I am as a full preterist.”
Don K. Preston D. Div.