Creeds vs. Hyper-Preterism
By Jared Olivetti
Measuring Days (http://measureofmydays.blogspot.com/index.html)
"My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my
tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me
know how fleeting I am!"
A comment in a post below contains a somewhat-common sentiment - Why use
creeds to determine orthodoxy? Why not just use Scripture? In response to
that question, and to encourage all of us toward more submission to the
creeds, I'd like to line out for some of the arguments given by Doug Wilson
in his chapter "Sola Scriptura, Creeds, and Ecclesiastical Authority" in
When Shall These Things
(side note: despite some recent controversy, Wilson does support and
submit to the church's creeds and offers clear thinking on the issue ...and
this chapter has nothing to do with the federal vision controversy.) The
length of this post reflects on the importance I place on this subject.
debate between the church and hyper-preterists isn't really about the
timing of eschatological events; people within orthodoxy debate those
things all the time. Rather, the debate is over things the church has
settled a long time ago, especially the resurrection of the dead. The
debate hinges on the question of authority.
the hyper-preterists are right, then the church has been wrong for a
very, very long time on some very, very important issues. This means
that the HPists must have for their goal the restoration of some purer
form of the church than has existed for two millennia. If this sounds
familiar, it's because this is the same thinking ("arch-restorationism")
behind Mormonism, who take the idea of restoring the true church to an
Wilson argues well that many semi-restorationists have been and are
orthodox; the Church of Christ (Campbellites) would fall into this
category. But they are orthodox through inertia, because they have
inherited from the saints before them creedal Trinitarianism and creedal
Christology, even though they would never admit it.
response from HPsts is "Sola Scriptura! We must submit to Scripture,
even if it means calling 2000 years and millions of saints dead wrong in
what they believe." Wilson: "But the definition of Scripture itself is a
creedal issue, and if one is consistent in a disparagement of the
creeds, he finds that 'just me and my Bible' is soon replaced by 'just
enemies of creeds love to proclaim their dependence on Scripture. But
how do they know what Scripture is? How do you know what books to
include and Scripture and which are apocryphal? They know because the
church has defined the canon through her creeds! "...restorationists of
all stripes have no foundation for their appeals, and hence their
appeals are consistently parasitic. They get their Bible from the
historic church, and then use it to attack the historic church. Another
name for this is sawing off the limb you are sitting on." Later: "If
everything in the creeds is up for grabs, then sola Scriptura
is up for grabs."
view creeds as helpful tools without any real authority, preferring to
stick with Sola Scriptura. (Ed
Stevens, a prominent HPist, wrote that creeds have "no real authority
anyway.") The problem: even sola Scriptura is a creed. The
second problem - they don't understand what sola Scriptura
really means. "Sola Scriptura, rightly understood, means that
Scripture is our only spiritual authority that is ultimate and
infallible. Other spiritual authorities exist and have genuine authority
over us." All the great theologians you love viewed church tradition, as
encapsulated in creeds, as a "subordinate norm" or a lesser, but very
real, authority. To fight Rome, the Reformers went back to the creeds,
to the church fathers, as well as to Scripture. Go page through the
Institutes and see how often Calvin is quoting someone with an odd
Though the church has never totally agreed on eschatology, she has
always agreed on this one point of eschatology, that Christ is returning
in the future to judge the quick and the dead and to raise the dead to
life. "In short, the only eschatological position that the universal
church has been able to agree on thus far is that hyper-preterism is
follows, "authority need not be infallible." Example 1 - parents'
authority over children. Example 2 - the church over the flock. The
creeds (namely, Apostles', Nicene, and Chalcedonian) are the height of
the church's real-but-fallible authority. If the fallibility of the
church presents a problem for you submitting to her creedal authority,
realize that she is also the pillar and ground of the truth - capable of
error, but also enabled by God to be the guardian of His truth. Or else
your kids don't have to submit to your fallible authority anymore...
Flippantly dismissing the creeds' authority shows a lack of historical
humility, something vital whenever considering important doctrines.
Sola Scriptura was never meant as a license for each individual to
come up with their own interpretation of Scripture for themselves -
though, judging from the American church, that is precisely what has
happened. Needed: a balance between overly-individualistic
interpretation of Scripture and overly-heirarchical interpretation of
Scripture. "Balance" itself is usually something rejected by those
pushing an aberrant exegetical agenda.
Scripture was given to the church as a whole, not
only individuals - "orthodox
creeds, councils, theologians, and individual layment line up against
their heretical counterparts...the Word of God is given to
us so that
we might come to confess it together."
some corners of the church, anti-intellectualism still reigns - look for
those who proudly claim to be a "layman with no formal seminary
education." This is a good thing?? Of course we don't believe that
seminary education renders one infallible or necessarily more capable.
But there is a reason the church has valued the training of her pastors
for centuries - because when unsubmissive men with little exegetical
skills study God's Word apart from the historic teachings of the church,
very bad things happen (see: Jehovah's Witnesses).
Also, be wary of those who want a "New Testament church" - rather, view
the New Testament church as the New Testament does, as "an historical
phenomenon, one that was intended to develop over time...into greater
and greater maturity..." Remember the gifts Christ gave to the church
(Eph. 4:11-16), gifts intended to make the church able to grow. And
though the church isn't perfected by any means, there have been great
points of catholic like-mindedness, teachings of Scripture which
everyone in the church got behind - for one, the coming return of Jesus
Christ. For two, the idea of sola
Scriptura (which is, to repeat, a creed itself).
those who would call for us to show more charity to HPists, to spend
more time in debate, etc., we only need to remember that loving the
sheep means fighting wolves. If we're not sure if someone is a wolf or
not, we extend charity until we're sure one way or the other; but if
they growl and devour the sheep like wolves (my, what big
anti-resurrection teeth you have!), we don't wait around for our
asssumptions of their wolfiness to be confirmed.
Charge: Adherence to creeds is inherently Romanist (oh snap! he said "romanist")
because it gives authority to infallible men. Response #1: The HPsts are
closer to Rome because they believe "that there can be no church
authority without church infallibility. Rome agrees with this fully."
Response #2 - HPists maintain the church cannot speak authoritatively
unless she speaks infallibly; apply this to marriage and see how your
wives start acting. Response #3 - The HPist himself must submit his own
"readings" of Scripture under this charge; is he infallible? If not,
then he ought to toss his writings into the fire along with the creeds!
Charge: The creeds were "Hellenistic" and therefore their relevancy is
bound to that culture. Response - rather, the Nicene and Chalcedonian
creeds stood strongly against any who would make accommodations to
Hellenism, strongly supporting the real, corporeal body of Jesus Christ
(a totally anti-Hellenistic idea). The creeds were used by God to keep
Hellenism at bay.
Charge: Adherence to creeds keeps folks from really examining any
theology which contradicts them. Response #1 - great! This is what
they're for, to "help many laymen recognize faulty theology when they do
not have time to study everything for themselves." Response #2 - The
truths of the creeds are "theological prerequisites. A student is not
going to get on very well in fifth grade if he has to restudy and
reexamine everything he learned in first grade." Assumption of truth
gets us going somewhere! Rejection of it, contra HPist rhetoric, is
boring and stagnant. [I.e., there is no semper reformanda
apart from the creeds. The church is progressed
and beautified when she stands upon the foundation of the forefathers,
not when she forgets how to speak and babbles like an infant again.]
to do with HPists? If they are teachers of HPism, they are wolves and
must be treated as such. And the church's shepherds must name them for
what they are. If the HPists in question are followers but not teachers,
"we must...grab them by their baptism." We must exhort them to repent of
their beliefs and be faithful.
we are headstrong and unwilling to study the faith of our fathers
carefully, then we are headed for trouble. If we insist on individual
'veto power' over all the creeds of men, we have not successfully gotten
away from all man-made creeds. We have simply submitted to the creed of
one, a creed that is often composed on the fly...which conveniently
leaves me by myself, in charge of myself."
to be thankful to God for the creeds of the church; we ought to know them,
measure our beliefs by them, measure our teachers by them - not as a denial
of sola Scriptura, but as the only
real way of holding to sola Scriptura
What do YOU think ?
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Date: 03 Nov 2007
What a Laughable premise you prop about the heretical creeds (A sure
sign that men were falling from the faith once delivered to the
saints.)If your premise is true we must then either revise our bibles
and add the creeds to our bibles with the way you folks give such
augthority to those creeds which are actually diametric to the teaching
of the scriptures.I don't buy what your selling concerning the creeds
and neither should anyone else,The creeds are not the words of God but
rather men who knew nothing of truth.