An archive of works against hyper preterism aka full preterism from a confessionally Reformed perspective.

Missing the Forest for the Trees…that are carved into lifeless idols.

The standard, confessionally Reformed understanding of the nature of death is that it is three-fold: spiritual, temporal, and eternal. Sam Frost, who claims to be operating within the parameters of the Westminster Confession, has now rejected this definition, restricting it solely to the temporal. “Spiritual death,” we are told, is a gnostic-like over-spiritualization of death, that eventually could lead someone to hyperpreterism.

Nowhere, claims Sam, does the Bible speak of living, breathing unregenerate people on this earth as being “dead” now. If your mind immediately goes to Eph. 2, where Paul writes of those who “were dead in [their] trespasses,” indicating that before regeneration, they were really dead, in some sense, at that time…you’d be wrong because, according to Sam, that was a proleptic reference to temporal death (physical death) that will be experienced at the end of one’s life. Likewise, being “made alive” is a proleptic reference to the resurrection of the body. And so the places that are explicit are turned into proleptic references….how convenient.

In light of this, i made the following comment to Sam:

By your same over-simplistic rationale, we might as well dump the idea that unregenerate people are “blind” and “deaf” too. I mean, after all, my unregenerate neighbor is not only “alive,” but has “eyes” and “ears”, and can “see” and “hear” me. So, i guess he’s not really “blind” and “deaf” after all, even though Scripture says he is. 

Or, could it be that when Scripture points out the blindness and deafness of the unregenerate, it speaks of blindness and deafness in a sense that is different from the sense we mean when talking about bodily (physical) blindness and deafness? 

Thus, we qualify it. My unregenerate neighbor can actually hear my voice and see me. But at the same time, he is “blind” and “deaf” to spiritual realities. Hence, we may call it “spiritual blindness” and “spiritual deafness.” And qualifying it as such doesn’t make us gnostics, or leave a door open for hyperpreterism. That’s stupid. 

Jesus called some of the pharisees and scribes “blind guides” and “blind fools.” I can just see you standing there, saying, “Actually, they’re not really blind. They can see you, Jesus. Blind means blind.”

The word “Death” in Scripture is NOT restricted solely to the body returning to dust. And to insist that it is, is just ignorant.

I have not been the only one to make this argument. Yesterday, someone made a similar argument on Sam’s FB page, to which he responded:

i am fascinated in how everyone wants to literally turn every description using alienation, deaf, blind, prisoner, diseased, etc into representing something these metaphors do not mean: dead people.

Prior to that interaction, Sam wrote this to me:

As for “blind”, “deaf”, “diseased”, “incurably ill” (Isaiah 1), etc, these metaphors are perfectly fine in conveying the idea of “alienation”, “estranged”, “lack of understanding”, “can’t see the truth”, etc. They do not convey, however, “dead”. Dead means dead. 

Perhaps i have made a grave error here. See…i assumed that Sam, who is continually calling himself a “scholar” and claims to know this stuff inside and out, would have put two and two together and made the connection. But, i was wrong. I should have elaborated further.

As G.K. Beale (an actual scholar who happens to love the phrase “spiritual death,” using it 22 times in his Revelation commentary) notes in his book “We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry,” the language of deafness and blindness in the New Testament is often designed to make the connection to idolatry. How so? Because in the Old Testament, not only does God mock wooden and metal idols for being deaf and blind (among other impediments), but explicitly states that those who worship them “become like them.” In other words, the blindness and deafness of the scribes and Pharisees to the “things of the Spirit of God” (1 Co 2.14) were a manifestation of their idolatry.

But now, that leads me to God’s mocking of the idols.

When God mocks the idols, He doesn’t just pick on one impediment here and there, as if to suggest that an idol can be blind, but still hear; or, be deaf, but can still walk. Rather, God runs through the entire gamut of activities. And He does so to make the over-arching point: the idols are LIFELESS.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 

They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 

They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 

They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 

Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them

Ps 115.4–8, ESV

We have a parallel text in Ps. 135, but notice what it adds:

15  The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 

16  They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; 

17  they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths

18  Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them. 

Ps 135.15–18, ESV

Are you getting the picture?

The idols…these “figures of a man” (Is 44.13)…that are carved out of cedar, cypress, or oak trees (Is. 44.14) have ears, but can’t hear; eyes, but can’t see; feet, but can’t walk; noses, but can’t smell; hands, but can’t feel; and mouths, but can’t speak; AND, if that wasn’t enough to convey to you the idea of lifelessness, it is added, “nor is there any breath in their mouths.” “They are lifeless statues.” (John Gill)

Public Service Announcement: If you get home from work one day, and find your cat on the ground with no breath in its mouth…it’s dead.

By isolating these impediments from one another, and treating blindness and deafness as random metaphors, Sam completely misses the big picture. There are not idols who can’t see, but can hear. Rather, all of these impediments are grouped together to paint the picture that idols are nothing and they profit nothing. They’re lifeless. They’re dead. And God said, “Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.” Thus, “all who fashion idols are nothing” (Is 44.9) and “they know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.” (Is 44.18)

Hence, you get real simple, easy to understand, uncomplicated comments like the following in the Reformation Heritage Study Bible on Ps. 115.8:

Idolatry makes people as spiritually dead, powerless, and mindless as the things they worship

Jesus did not tell the scribes and Pharisees that they will become blind and deaf, but said that they were at that time blind and deaf; and such language not only points to their idolatry, but also that they were, at that time, lifeless like their idols.

There is at least one more feature that suggests Jesus is conducting a polemic against idolatry. Isaiah 40-66 prophesied that in Israel’s future exodus out of captivity, God would defeat and judge the idols and their spiritually dead worshipers. Accordingly, Rikk Watts has argued persuasively that the Gospels portray Jesus as beginning to fulfill Isaiah’s second-exodus prophecies (e g , he is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53) by inaugurating the deliverance of sinners out from under the captivity to sin, demons and Satan, who ultimately are behind the idol of tradition. The charge of idolatry could even be leveled against any first-century Jew who “turned away [from God]” and committed himself to “the idols of his heart,” (1QS 2:11b-12).

Therefore, Matthew 15, Mark 7 and other related texts show that Jesus’ application of Isaiah 6:9-10 and Isaiah 29:13 to his Israelite contemporaries indicated that what had happened in Isaiah’s day was happening again: Israel was being judged for idolatry—committing itself to something else besides God. And remember what the punishment was in Isaiah 6:9-10: God was saying, “Do you like idols? If you like them so much, then I am going to make you become like them: idols cannot see, hear or understand, nor do they have any spiritual life, and you are going to become as spiritually insensitive and inanimate as the idols that you worship.” Now, Israel of Jesus’ day was becoming as spiritually dead as the human-made, stale, empty tradition to which they had committed themselves. Their dead tradition was as empty of life as were the “whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness,” to which Jesus directly compared the religious leaders (Mt 23:27-29), the main teachers of tradition in their time.

G.K. Beale, “We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry”, p. 175-176

hmmm….whitewashed tombs full of death. But i guess that’s proleptic too. ‘They weren’t really unclean at that moment. They weren’t really blind and dead, in any sense, at that moment. But they will be.’

Friends, there is really nothing here too complicated and confusing. And it hasn’t been for thousands of Reformed people for hundreds of years.

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