A Look at Roderick Edwards book, About Preterism
Former preterist Roderick Edwards has written two books attempting to refute the truth of Covenant Eschatology. I will be presenting a couple of articles in response that will address what Edwards claims is the foundational issue that is being all but overlooked by all anti-preterists except him. (Interestingly, it “seems” at times that every former preterist thinks that they have the “silver bullet” with which to destroy preterism, that others have not seen. This makes, in a bit of irony, his own “private interpretation” to be the key to refuting preterism!
A few preliminary thoughts from Edward’s book.
Edwards’ Bold Claim
Edward’s claims, “Preterism by nature is a private interpreter’s paradise.” Of course, he is appealing to Peter’s statement:
knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20).
Edwards’ take on this passage, is actually a distortion of what it says. He claims that no individual has the right to interpret the Bible for himself. This is where Edwards’ own presuppositions come into full view. Edwards believes in the authority of “church history,” the creeds of the church and even the patristic writers. But, all of those early writers were simply giving us their interpretation of the Bible! His claim is specious.
What is more than revealing is that Edwards cautions his readers not to hastily engage in Biblical discussions with preterists, because as a rule, preterists have, “often spent large amounts of time honing their arguments” (p 50). He warns, however, that because preterists have engaged in in-depth study for long hours, this does not prove that preterism is true. That is true, of course. I know people who have spent literally thousands of hours reading the Bible but whose entire theology is misguided- like that of Edwards.
On page 54f, Edwards gives lip service to Scripture, “the perspicuity of Scripture will win the day every time.” So, the Scriptures are (ostensibly) the ultimate authority and will win the day, but students should be cautious about engaging preterists on what the Bible says about eschatology! Instead, Edwards says that the only proper way to address preterism is, “primarily one that asks preterism to explain how God could have failed to properly teach His people His eschatological plan.” As we shall see in a later article, this objection quickly backfires on Edwards.
Edwards says the proper way to defeat preterism is to not engage in discussions about what the Bible says about eschatology (Catch the power of that!)– but to discuss God’s Sovereignty! Makes one wonder where Edwards would appeal to for an understanding of God’s Sovereignty, does it not? Does he suggest a philosophical discussion of this issue, or a “Biblical” discussion? And would not that discussion of the Sovereignty of God not be a discussion of the private interpretations of the respective sides?
Is Edwards’ appeal to 2 Peter valid? Notice what the text does not say. It does not say that individuals have no right to study the scripture for themselves and determine the truth. Paul’s own teaching would refute that, when he spoke: “how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3f). Notice carefully that Paul told the Ephesians that when they read what he had written, they could understand the mystery of God.
This text perfectly reflects 2 Peter 1:20 – Revelation (prophecies and doctrine) did not originate in the minds of men. They were given by the Holy Spirit to men who wrote them down, confirming that Word with miracles. Those written records were distributed to the churches, and when read, were to be understood – read that “interpreted” by the readers / listeners. But in Edwards’ paradigm, the individual members had / have no right or authority to read, or to hear and understand. They must be told -by someone else – what it means. This smacks strongly of Catholicism in which members have historically been told that they have no need – or responsibility – to study the Bible. The church will tell them what it says and means. I have had Catholics boldly tell me this very thing! Of course, Edwards would have you to believe him, when he seeks to inform his readers about the errors of preterism.
The point is that 2 Peter 1 does not disparage or condemn private (individual) study of the scripture. Notice Acts 17:11- “The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonika in that they studied the scriptures daily, to see if the things that he (Paul, DKP) said were true.”All they had were the scriptures– the Tanakh – and they – individuals – studied the OT to determine whether this man who claimed to be inspired was telling the truth! Consider also that Paul commended Timothy because “from childhood you have known the holy scriptures which are able to make you wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15-16). So, Paul commended Timothy for studying the OT and understanding it! But that is not Edwards’ view of things! Since Timothy was so young, how could he know what the Bible actually taught? Didn’t he have to have “guidance”?
This utterly falsifies Edwards’ claims, and his disparagement of “private interpretation.” The Bereans – nor Timothy – did not have any church council, creed, or church history to tell them if Paul was right! They did not have any “rabbinic counsels” to guide them. They could not be guided by ANYTHING except Scripture, and when they used the Scripture, and Scripture alone (no history, no creed, no council) they came to the truth. Yet, Edwards cautions his readers against following the example of the Bereans!
It should be obvious that Edwards actually disparages reliance on Sola Scriptura. He castigates “private interpretation” based on a distorted application of 2 Peter 1:20. Scripture no where- EVER – devalues private study, individual interpretation as Roderick Edwards does. Thus, the very foundation of his objection crumbles to the ground.
In our next installment we will examine Edwards’ main argument. You will be amazed at how illogical – and un-Scriptural – it is. Stay tuned!