In our first article on this issue, I shared how Amillennialists, Postmillennialists and Dispensationalists all resort to what is commonly called an argument from silence. To illustrate, the Dispensationalists claims that because the word “church” is not found in Revelation 4-22 that the subject cannot be there. In response, Dominionists such as Kenneth Gentry, Gary DeMar and others (seemingly) reject that hermeneutic, even openly castigating it.
For instance, Kenneth Gentry comments on the dispensational argument from silence: “But how can this (the use of different words, or missing words in given texts, DKP) prove a distinction between the rapture and the second advent? Does not Walvoord admit a limited design for the passage: to comfort Christians concerning the resurrection of deceased loved ones? Why would Paul have to provide a whole complex of eschatological phenomena? The dispensational argument is one from silence, based on a preconceived theory” (He Shall Have Dominion, Powder Springs, GA., American Vision, 2009, 286).
Likewise, Gary DeMar when seeking to expose the fallacy of Dispensationalism, cites Gundry in response: “Unless we are prepared to relegate large chunks of the NT to limbo of irrelevance to the Church, we cannot make the mention or omission of the term ‘church’ a criterion for determining the applicability of a passage to saints of the present age.’” DeMar then adds: “Is the Bible interpretation based on word counts? The same reasoning process has been taken with the book of Esther: There can be no doubt that the historicity and canonicity of Esther has been the most debated of all the OT books. Even some Jewish scholars questioned the inclusion in the OT because of the absence of God’s name.’ If word counts are to be so heavily relied upon then Lindsey refutes himself. He finds the Antichrist all over the book of Revelation, but the word is nowhere to be found.” (Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness, Powder Springs, GA., American Vision, 1994, 184).
So, DeMar and other Dominionists rightly reject the argument from silence, showing the logical fallacy of doing so. That is, if the absence of a given word means the absence of that doctrine, the anti-Christ is not in Revelation, because the word anti-Christ is not in Revelation! This is solid, sound logic, but of course, the Dominionists then turn around and argue from the silence of scriptures when they are seeking to maintain their futurist eschatology!
Both Gentry, DeMar, McDurmon, Mathison, etc. all seek to delineate between comings of the Lord in the NT, because, well, because this text does not use the same word that another text uses, and because, well, a given word is missing from this or that text, therefore, the doctrine is not in the text! In other words, they incorporate the very argument from silence that they decry among the Dispensationsationalists. Let me illustrate now just how illogical, how flawed, how contradictory the Dominionist, Dispensational, Amillennial argument from silence really is, by examining several texts, all of which are applied to the final coming of Christ, at the so-called end of time. What becomes evident when we examine these texts is that all futurist eschatologies are totally inconsistent. They condemn each other for arguing from silence, when it is convenient for them, but then they turn around and make the very argument that they condemn in others.
Take a look now at Thessalonians, as interpreted by several of the leading Dominionists, and note how Paul uses totally different words.
In 1 Thessalonians 4-5 – 2 Thessalonians 1-2 Paul uses at least seven different words to speak of the same coming of the Lord!
“That day” / “The Day of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 5).
Elthe– from erchomai;, (2:1:7) ; reveal from apocalupsis (2:1:10)
Parousia – (1 Thes. 4:15f; 2 Thes. 2:1, 8).
Episunagogee (2 Thess. 2:2).
Epiphany – (2 Thess. 2:8).
Now, the Dominionists differ, radically, among themselves about the application of these different texts.
Gentry, DeMar, McDurmon, all apply 2 Thessalonians 2 to AD 70. In fact, DeMar says chapter 1 is AD 70 (Madness, 1994, p. 341). In contrast, Gentry says 2 Thessalonians 1 is the end of time, because of the absence of certain words, and because it mentions angels and chapter 2 doesn’t! Of course, Gentry conveniently fails to inform his readers that he applies Matthew 24:29f to AD 70 and that Matthew speaks, just like 2 Thessalonians 1, of Christ coming with the angels!
Notice that in 2 Thessalonians 2, we find parousia, episunagogee, epiphany, Day of Christ, and there is agreement among the Dominionists that this chapter refers to AD 70. Now notice the irony, and the inconsistency.
Remember that DeMar rejects the Dispensational claim that 1 Thessalonians 4 predicts a future rapture. He notes that Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2 uses episunagogee (translated gathering), and argues that 1 Thessalonians 4 and 2 Thessalonians 2 must be different events. Why? Well, because Paul uses different words!: “For those who claim that it is (the gathering, episunagogee, being the rapture, DKP) we must ask why Paul would use a different word in his second letter to clear up a supposed misunderstanding about what the Thessalonians thought he meant concerning ‘our being caught up to him’ in his first letter. Why didn’t Paul write, ‘With regard to our being caught up to Him? The answer is quite obvious: Paul is discussing two separate events.”
So, 1 Thessalonians 4 cannot be the same event as 2 Thessalonians 2 because Paul used different words! Oh, wait, DeMar conveniently failed to note that in 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul used parousia, and he did so in 2 Thessalonians 2 as well! So, what is the magic hermeneutic to tell us that these two chapters really do speak of different events? It is the very kind of theological presupposition that Gentry, DeMar, etc. reject in the Dispensational arguments from silence.
The Dominionists tell us (seemingly) that Paul could not speak of the same event as the Day of the Lord, even the parousia, the episunagogee, the apocalupsis, and the elthe. And yet, as we will see in our next installment, when not arguing against Covenant Eschatology, these men do, in fact, apply passages that use totally different words, and that omit major words, to speak of the same event! But, for now, let me continue.
Gentry, DeMar, McDurmon etc. all are insistent that the parousia, the day of the Lord, the gathering, of 2 Thessalonians 2 must be AD 70 because of the statements of imminence (Madness, 1994, 318). Well, 1 Thessalonians 4 contains statements of imminence that are every bit as powerful and clear as those in 2 Thessalonians 1 or 2!
We must ask what seems to be a very valid, very relevant question at this point. Does a writer not have the liberty, the journalistic freedom, to use different words to speak of the same event? What rule of journalism says that the same identical words must be used every time a writer is speaking of the same event? Would it not be unreasonably restrictive to impose such a rule on writers? I believe most people would call such an imposition restrictive, unrealistic and illogical. And yet, this is precisely what the Dominionists are arguing, is it not?
I think we have a perfect right to also ask: What kind of hermeneutic is this being employed by the futurist world? It is patently wrong, clearly misguided, patently false. Yet, it is the only hermeneutic they have to maintain their futurism. More in our next article.