Tag Archives: debate recaps

Second Realized Eschatology Debate Recap — David W. Hester

Editor’s Note:  The October, 2016 issue of the Carolina Messenger featured an article written by Dr. Hester in which he shared his thoughts and perspectives about a debate he had participated in with Don Preston in Ardmore, Oklahoma concerning the doctrine of realized eschatology.  Since then, Dr. Hester and Mr. Preston have conducted a second debate over this erroneous doctrine and Dr. Hester has agreed to share his thoughts on this debate with us again.  This misguided doctrine, also known as the “AD 70 Doctrine” or “AD 70 Theory” among other designations, has slowly gained a degree of prevalence in the brotherhood in recent years and needs to be scripturally refuted.  We appreciate the efforts of Dr. Hester and others to show from the entirety of God’s Word the numerous errors and contradictions found within this theory.

———————————————————–

The second debate between myself and Don K. Preston took place June 15-16, 2017 at the Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL. This was the fulfillment of a pledge I made in the original agreement I signed with Preston in 2016. The propositions for this debate were the same as the first: “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, is yet future, and will occur at the end of time.” Affirm: David Hester; Deny: Don K. Preston. “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.” Affirm: Don K. Preston; Deny: David Hester. Kyle Massengale, of Madison, AL served as my moderator, with Mike Kiser of Sylacauga, AL assisting; Preston brought with him William Bell of Memphis, TN as his moderator. Steve Wages, Director of the Cloverdale Center for Family Strengths at Faulkner University, served as the independent moderator and timekeeper.

Since I was to be in the affirmative the first night, it was my intent to “set the table,” so to speak, and to control the agenda. At the beginning—and before I defined the proposition—I brought up one of the assertions I made in the Ardmore debate. For Preston’s doctrine to be true, one has to redefine words, phrases, and passages of Scripture. The approach he and his cohorts take is very much like that described in the book Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. In it, Alice meets with Humpty Dumpty, who is sitting on the wall. They engage in conversation, which quickly goes nowhere; Humpty Dumpty is using words very differently from Alice. After she challenges him, he gruffly says, “When I choose a word, it means what I choose it to mean; nothing more or less.” That is the approach taken by AD 70 advocates—the “Humpty Dumpty Hermeneutic.”

I then made 10 affirmative arguments—a mix of formal logical syllogisms and arguments from specific biblical passages. They are as follows:

  1. A nine point argument, in proper logical form, concerning the resurrection of the dead and the second coming of Christ—which proves my proposition to be true. It had as its foundation the fact that when Christ comes again, he will do so “literally, visibly, and personally” as he went into heaven in Acts 1:9-11.
  2. An argument which focuses on the fact that Jesus will come upon the wicked unawares—in contrast to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, which was certainly not unaware to the wicked Jews!
  3. Christ will convict the wicked at his second coming (Jude 14-15). Who was convicted by the Roman general Titus at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70?
  4. The Lord’s Supper stands as a rebuke to Don and his disciples; if the Lord has already come, then why take the Supper now (1 Cor. 11:26)?
  5. The Greek structure of Revelation 1:7 indicates that “every eye will see him,” indicating actual sight, “all the tribes of the earth” will wail because of him, indicating the nations of the earth (compare the LXX text in Gen. 12:3 and 28:14), and “those who pierced him” utilizes the word translated “pierced” that is only used one other time in the NT—John 19:37. This involves the very people who crucified Christ! Where were they in AD 70?
  6. The “Day” in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 is certainly not the destruction of Jerusalem, and the “fire” contemplated in the text is not the fires of Jerusalem burning. Whose works were revealed by the conflagration Titus imposed?
  7. The “end” described in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 is at the end of time, when Jesus will deliver the kingdom back up to God.
  8. In Luke 20:34-36, Don and his disciples stand rebuked—for Christ declares that “in that world” (heaven) they neither marry nor are given in marriage, and cannot die any more.
  9. In Matthew 13:47-50, when Jesus describes that his holy angels will separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into a fiery furnace, did anything akin to that happen at the destruction of Jerusalem? Could the godless armies of Titus be likened unto the angels of heaven? And, where was the fiery furnace located in Judea where such could have taken place?
  10. A seven point argument from Hebrews 9:26 was employed, focusing on the phrase “the end of the ages,” and the fact that Jesus only made one sacrifice of himself for sin. I followed that with a quotation from a debate Don had in 2006, where he said that “the process (and ground) of taking away of sin undoubtedly began at the Cross, as Hebrews 9:26 affirms. It was not perfected and completed there, however.”

I reserved time at the end of my speech to address some of the responses to written questions I asked Don prior to the debate. His replies were stunning, to say the least.

For example, Question 2: “Is it your conviction that the literal global flood of Genesis is the type of the localized destruction of Jerusalem, seeing that it was used by Peter in a universal call to baptism (1 Peter 3:21)?” Don’s response: “Yes, the flood was definitely a type of AD 70.”

Also, Question 4: “Was Jesus, the Son of God, spiritually separated from God when he died?” Don’s response: “Yes.”

Question 5: “Were the dietary laws of the Law of Moses still binding upon the Jews after Acts 10?” Don’s response: “Yes.”

To say that I was champing at the bit to address these responses is the understatement of the year. Preston asserts three outrageous things: first, the flood was not global, but local; second, Jesus was spiritually out of fellowship with God at the time that he died on the cross; and finally, the Law of Moses was not completely done away with after the cross—even after Cornelius and his household had obeyed the Gospel.

In preparing to answer Don’s assertions, I came across a book he endorsed: Beyond Creation Science, by Timothy P. Martin and Jeffrey L. Vaughn. In his endorsement, Don called belief in a global flood a “sacred cow.” He further called the book “scriptural.” Yet, the authors claim that Genesis 1-2 actually picture the establishment of the Jewish economy, with Adam and Eve being poetic symbols in a “temple motif.” In other words, Genesis is a myth; an allegory. During our debate, Don took particular umbrage to that particular suggestion; yet, what other conclusion can be drawn?

After the first night, I received a private message from a preterist. In part, it read: “Thank you for reading the message and replying. I confess I hold to a fulfilled eschatology view. However, I disagree with the Beyond Creation Science view strongly. I thank you for pressing Don on this subject because he has in the past refused to talk about it to any extent. Don replied to my post of what I sent you as ‘I have not taken a firm stand in the local flood issue, versus universal. Still open to studying that concept.’” This same individual said the following about the authors of the book: “Covenant Creation holders, while nice guys on other topics and in real life, seem to be the Climate Change holders of the fulfilled eschatology world. They tend to act like, ‘How dare you question this view. It is established fact and indisputable.’ Sounds like Climate Change holders.”

During my first speech, I used the phrase “Don and his disciples” over and over again. “Don and his disciples teach;” “Don and his disciples affirm;” etc. That was calculated to get under Don’s skin. However, I wasn’t counting on it raising the ire of William Bell. During the first break after my speech, Bell came over to our table on my side, leaned over with both of his hands on the table, glared at me with fire in his eyes, and said that I was violating the rules of the debate by attributing beliefs to the men at Don’s table that they did not hold. I immediately stood up from my seat (which put my eyes at Bell’s chest when he stood up), and said, “If Don has a problem with it, let him address it when he gets up there. Otherwise, what I said stands.” He subsequently left and went to sit down at his table. This exchange was revealing. Apparently, Bell thinks of himself as a disciple of Don! Also, Don never mentioned it during his speeches as an issue. Interesting.

I also thought it was revealing that during the second night Don said that I misrepresented his position when I pointed out his redefinition of “the end of the age” by inserting “the Jewish age” in every NT passage where it occurs, thus pointing out the absurdity of it. He had a big issue with that…but, wait! If he does not believe that the phrase refers to the Jewish age, then down goes his belief system. If it does not refer to the end of the world, though, then what DOES it refer to? Something else that Don and his disciples are working on?

Of all the ten affirmative arguments I made the first night, Don responded to none of them. He apparently thought he was in the affirmative. At least he defined the proposition, though, on the second night. Don kept wanting to rehash the first debate throughout his speeches. This was indicative of the fact that he had nothing new to offer, and no replies to anything I said. We, on the other hand, responded to every one of his arguments the second night. Don cast disparaging comments about my teaching ability (thus sounding more like a disgruntled student who receives a failing grade than a mature, dignified speaker), and said that my first negative speech was the “worst he’d ever heard” in all his years in debate. Well, of course he would say that, because I answered his assertions! He himself called his doctrine “strange” in his first negative speech—and strange it is, indeed. It is “strange” because it is false doctrine.

It is my hunch that the debates we have had will go a long way towards diminishing the influence of Preston among our brethren. I know for a fact that some preterists who have been privately grumbling about Preston are now becoming emboldened to step forward and challenge him. It will be interesting, indeed, to see this play out over the next few months.

The debate will be made available very soon on DVD via Eastern Meadows Church of Christ. The Gospel Broadcasting Network, which recorded the debate, provided us with high quality video and audio (Parts 1 and 2 can be accessed on their YouTube channel) and are making us master copies to use for the DVDs we will distribute.  Debates are very helpful, when conducted properly. It is my hope and prayer that more of them will take place concerning a wide variety of subjects. It is in this format that the Truth of God shines.

dhester@faulkner.edu

David is on the faculty of the F. Furman Kearley School of Theology at Faulkner University, where he also is Director of the annual Bible Lectures.  David is also Education Director at Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL.

 

Infant Baptism Debate Recap — Wes McAdams

I previously wrote an article on why it’s not biblical to baptize an infant. Because of that article, I was invited to join Presbyterian minister Randy Booth on the Moody Radio program Up For Debate to discuss the issue of infant baptism. After accepting this invitation, I took some time to educate myself about Booth’s position. I was actually surprised to learn I was mistaken in my assumptions about why many denominations baptize infants.

I had previously assumed all infant baptisms were done for the same reason, to wash away “original sin.” The Catholic church, of course, teaches children are born with sin and when the priest administers the water, inherited sin is washed away. There are several problems with this understanding, but this is actually not the understanding of many religious groups that practice so-called “infant baptism.”

My opponent in the debate, Randy Booth, not only explained his position on the radio program, but he also explained his position in his book, Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism. His two primary arguments are these:

  1. He believes the Old and New Covenants are one covenant, the New Covenant simply being a more inclusive version of the Old Covenant.
  2. Because he believes the Old Covenant is still in force, he sees baptism as merely a new form of circumcision, an outward sign that a person belongs to God’s covenant community.

Based on these two arguments, he (and millions of others who hold the same position) have concluded that infant baptism should be just as important for Christians as infant circumcision was for the Jews. Booth is so confident that baptism correlates directly with circumcision that he wrote, “Any argument against infant baptism is necessarily an argument against infant circumcision.”

The Old and New Covenants

The primary problem with Booth’s doctrine and practice is that it springs from a misunderstanding about how to read the Bible. His belief that the Old and New Testaments are one covenant is a fundamentally flawed understanding. The Hebrew writer, quoting from the prophet Jeremiah, expressly said a New (and better) Covenant had been established by Christ. He said this this New Covenant “makes the first one obsolete” (He. 8:13).

Ironically, one of the hallmarks of the New Covenant is that within the covenant people of God, “no one will have to teach his brother, “saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (He. 8:11). What does this mean? Why do New Covenant people (Christians) not have to say to their brethren, “Know the Lord” and why is this different from the Old Covenant?

Under the first covenant (the Old Testament), people became a part of the nation by simply being born and being circumcised as infants. They could (and many did) grow up not being taught about God. One Israelite could say to another, “God says such-and-such,” and his brother could respond, “Who is God?” and honestly not know the God with whom he was supposed to be in covenant. But that cannot happen under the New Covenant.

Under the New Covenant, the only way to come into the covenant community is by faith. You have to know the Lord before you ever come in. You have to hear who He is and what He has done, and upon this knowledge pass through the waters of baptism.

This is why an infant cannot enter into the covenant. If an infant could enter the covenant, the promise that no one would have to teach his brother to know the Lord would be invalidated. You can only enter the new and better covenant by faith in Jesus Christ (see Romans 10).

Baptism Is Not Circumcision

In his book, Booth spends the vast majority of time comparing baptism to circumcision. The problem is, there is only one verse in the Bible that makes any sort of comparison between baptism and circumcision and it is far from a one-to-one correlation. Paul wrote in Colossians 2:11-13:

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…”

If you’ll notice, Paul is saying Gentiles were two things: they were uncircumcised AND dead in their trespasses. Paul says, in Christ we receive a spiritual circumcision; that is, our sin is done away with.  He also says, with another metaphor, we are “buried with [Christ] in baptism.”  And when we are buried with Him, we can be “made alive together with Him.”

Do you see?  Baptism is not even called circumcision; it is called a burial (see also Romans 6).  There are two different metaphors being employed here: a spiritual circumcision that Christ performs and a burial with Christ in baptism.  Yes, these things happen simultaneously, but the simple truth of the matter is, Paul did not call baptism a circumcision.

Baptism Is Not An “Outward Sign”

Booth was actually a Baptist minister before he transitioned to the Presbyterian denomination, changing his position on infant baptism. It probably sounds strange to many Baptists that someone would go from the biblical pattern of immersing adults upon a confession of faith to sprinkling babies. But if you consider the Baptist position on baptism, it actually makes perfect sense why he would make that transition.

Most Protestant denominations—whether they sprinkle or immerse—have essentially the same understanding about baptism. They believe baptism is “an outward sign of an inward grace.” In other words, like circumcision, they believe baptism is the sign of the covenant.

It is true that with a covenant, there needs to be a sign, seal, symbol, or token. When God made a covenant not to flood the earth again, He said about the rainbow, “It shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Ge. 9:13). Paul said about Abraham’s circumcision, “He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised” (Ro. 4:11). So the rainbow and circumcision are examples of how God signifies His covenants with man.

But the problem is, baptism is NEVER called a sign or a seal. Never. Not once. This doctrine is completely made up. It is not taught in Scripture at all, but sadly it is believed by millions.

In fact, by saying baptism is the sign of the covenant, they are ignoring what the New Testament actually teaches about the sign of the covenant. The New Testament teaches, “[You] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Ep. 1:13-14). And, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ep. 4:30). And, “[God] has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Co. 1:22).

The Holy Spirit is the sign (or the seal) of the covenant, not baptism. There is no biblical support for saying baptism is an “outward sign” of being God’s covenant people.

Wedding Rings

I was not given an opportunity to respond when Booth made the argument in the radio debate that baptism is like a wedding ring. He said a wedding ring does not make people married, it is simply a sign that they are married and belong to one another. He said baptism is like the wedding ring—it doesn’t put us into a relationship with God, it is simply a sign that we are already in a relationship with God.

But a biblical comparison would be to compare baptism to the wedding ceremony (which actually does make the couple married) and the Holy Spirit would be like the wedding ring. Our baptism is when we make our vows to the Lord and then the Holy Spirit—like a wedding ring—is given as a guarantee, a seal, a sign that we belong to the Bridegroom.

When a person is immersed in water, like a wedding ceremony, he is making a commitment. Paul says at baptism we commit ourselves to be dead to sin (Ro. 6). Jesus says at baptism we commit ourselves to being His disciples (Mt. 28:18-20). Again, if we are going to use the wedding metaphor, baptism must relate to the wedding ceremony, not the wedding ring.

Household Baptisms

When asked if he could show a biblical example of infants being baptized, Booth referred to the book of Acts. He believes that when Scripture says whole households were baptized, it included infants. But there are several big problems with that argument:

First, even Booth admits there is no way to prove there were any infants in those households. So any attempt to argue for infant baptism from these passages is an argument from silence.

Second, the people in these households who were baptized, listened to the word being preached (Ac. 10:44), spoke in tongues and praised God (Ac. 10:46), repented of their sins (Ac. 11:18), and rejoiced after their baptisms (Ac. 16:34). These are all things in which infants could obviously not participate. So if there were any infants in these households, they were not baptized.

“But the Bible doesn’t say some in the households were baptized and some weren’t,” Booth might argue. The answer to that is found in passages like Mark 1:5, which says about John, “All the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” Although Mark recorded that all of Judea and Jerusalem were baptized, he obviously didn’t mean infants, because infants couldn’t confess their sins. He also didn’t even mean all adults, because the Pharisees rejected John’s teaching and baptism (see Mt. 3:4-10; 21:25).

Whether in a household or in a region, when all the people were baptized, it is all the people who had repentant faith.

Faith, Baptism, and the Forgiveness of Sins

Many find it difficult to reconcile what the New Testament says about grace, faith, salvation, forgiveness, and baptism. They struggle to understand, “If we are saved by grace through faith, how can baptism have anything to do with that?” Because of their confusion, they concoct explanations for baptism (i.e. “outward sign of an inward grace”) which are not biblical.

The host of the radio program, Julie Roys —who is undecided about infant baptism—seemed stunned by the fact that I believe one must be baptized to be saved. She reacted as if she had never heard of such a position. I explained that the New Testament clearly teaches that baptism, when done in repentant faith, is the moment at which a person is saved.

To prove this point, I quoted passages like Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21 and Acts 22:16 to show that is exactly what the Bible teaches. Yet she, and so many others, are preconditioned to reject any doctrine that ties salvation to baptism…even if that doctrine comes straight from the pages of the Scripture.

It really isn’t that hard to understand. The Lord offers to deliver us from slavery to sin, if we will put our trust in Him and follow Him. Like the Israelites God delivered from slavery in Egypt, we must pass through the water into the Promised Land on the other side (see 1 Corinthians 10:2). When we pass through the water, we become a part of God’s covenant community (the church) and are sealed with the Holy Spirit for salvation.

www.RadicallyChristian.com

Wes McAdams is the preaching minister at the Baker Heights Church of Christ in Abilene, TX. 

Realized Eschatology Debate Recap — David W. Hester

Of all the false doctrines that have troubled brethren in the last 50 years, perhaps the weirdest of them all is that known as “Realized Eschatology,” or “Covenant Eschatology,” or “Max Kingism.” In short, it avers that the Second Coming of Christ, the final resurrection of the just and the unjust, and the Final Judgment all took place in in the year A. D. 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem. Although this concept was first introduced in modern times in the denominational world in 1787 by James S. Russell, it was introduced to the Lord’s church in 1971, when C. D. Beagle presented this view to a number of preachers in Ohio. Beagle’s son-in-law, Max King, also accepted this teaching and began promoting it. He popularized the movement with the writing of two books: The Spirit of Prophecy (1971) and The Cross and the Parousia of Christ (1987).  Because of this, the teaching is sometimes referred to as “Max Kingism.”

In more recent years, Don Preston has assumed leadership among the adherents of this doctrine. Based out of Ardmore, Oklahoma, Preston has pushed this doctrine through his website, books and printed material, and an annual event he calls the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend” in Ardmore. While ostensibly still affiliated with churches of Christ, Preston no longer preaches regularly but devotes almost all of his time and efforts in more ecumenical directions in promoting his doctrine.

In March 2016, I was contacted by a preacher inquiring whether I would be interested in debating Preston in Ardmore in concerning this doctrine. I initially agreed; contact was made with Preston through a close friend of mine and brother in Christ, Shawn Mathis. Shawn is a former preacher and experienced businessman; he negotiated the terms of the debate for me with Preston. Shawn did an outstanding job in finalizing the agreement that was signed, and nailing down the propositions to be debated. Thus it was that Preston and I agreed to a two night debate on July 14-15, 2016, in connection with the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend.” The propositions were: “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.” Affirm: Don K. Preston; Deny: David Hester, and, “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, is yet future, and will occur at the end of time.” Affirm: David Hester; Deny: Don K. Preston.

In preparation for the debate, I was fortunate to have a number of fellow gospel preachers to give me assistance. Several who had debated the subject in the past allowed me access to their notes. Additionally, I obtained three sources of information (which I cannot disclose at this time) from a preacher friend which proved to be crucial in putting together the line of argumentation I would use. Phil Sanders agreed to serve as my moderator and sit at my table; he proved to be invaluable with his advice, encouragement, and quick thinking. Kyle Massengale, who had sat at my table in 2011 when I debated Catholic theologian Robert Sungenis, helped from a distance with his strong suggestions and counsel. As the time for the debate drew closer, I felt more and more comfortable.

During the preparation period, an item of interest caught my attention. On his website, Preston posts a series of videos he calls “Morning Musings.” In them, he promotes and pushes his doctrine. The topic that interested me was on the Lord’s Supper. The advocates of the AD 70 doctrine have an insurmountable problem—if the Second Coming took place at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, then one is hard pressed to explain 1 Cor. 11:26: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Either the AD 70 advocates take the Supper, and thus contradict their own teaching, not take it altogether and violate Paul’s clear command, or else change the Law of Christ. Preston chose the last option.

In his video series on the subject, he claimed that we cannot know how often the early church ate the Supper; he also said that while it is “appropriate” to take the Supper, we do not have to take it today. While Preston once believed and taught that the Supper must be taken every first day of the week, he does not believe that now. He then claimed that the mention of the Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 was not intended to be understood as advocating a universal practice, but only for Corinth. I knew that all of this would provide a major point of emphasis during the debate. Contrary to Don, we can know how often the Supper was taken—from the book of           1 Corinthians itself! Paul wrote, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup…” (1 Co. 11:26). When did the Corinthian brethren come together? “On the first day of every week” (1 Co. 16:2); the same day they met in Troas in Acts 20:7. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:2, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” So, contrary to Don, we can know not only when the Supper was taken, and how often, but also to whom it applies—everyone living today. The fact remains, “till he come” in 1 Corinthians 11:26 is a death blow to his AD 70 theory. The Lord is yet to come, and we are still to take the Supper.

During the time I was in Ardmore for the debate, I was struck by how ecumenical the gathering was. Many of those who participated in the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend” were not members of the church, but rather members of various denominational groups. Nevertheless, Phil Sanders and I were treated with respect and courtesy, which we returned in kind. We were shown hospitality on a personal level throughout the proceedings. Also, Cougan Collins gave us much needed logistical support and personal encouragement. He opened the building of the Lone Grove Church of Christ, where he preaches, for us to use in studying and preparing. Cougan is a very sharp and solid young preacher, and is doing a great job with the Lone Grove congregation.

Two things were immediately apparent as the debate progressed. First, Preston did not define his proposition. The first rule of formal debate (which we both signed) is that “the terms in which the question in debate is expressed, and the precise point at issue, should be so clearly defined, that there could be no misunderstanding respecting them.” Beginning with his first affirmative speech, Don did not follow that rule. I made sure in my responses that this would not go unnoticed. He later said that he did not want to “bore” the audience with defining the proposition; yet, he himself had defined his propositions in many other debates in which he had participated. As I said to Phil Sanders at one point (and said publicly during the debate), “If this had been a collegiate style debate with judges, Don would have been disqualified.”

Second, almost from the start Don claimed that the Law of Moses was in place—with God’s approval—alongside the Law of Christ for 40 years (until AD 70). This was an amazing assertion. Romans 7:1-6 blows that out of the water. A fundamental assertion in Don’s doctrine is that the Law of Moses was in force during Christ’s reign from Acts 2 until AD 70. However, Paul says that Christians—long before AD 70—were joined to Christ and not to the law. Don’s doctrine teaches that spiritual adultery was scriptural from Pentecost until AD 70! To be joined to a husband and to marry another involved one in adultery. If one is discharged from the law of the husband, one is free to marry again and this marriage does not involve adultery. To be joined to the old covenant, the old law, and to be joined to the new covenant (joined to Christ), involves one in spiritual adultery. Before one can be joined to Christ, one must be discharged from the law (Ro. 7:2, 6). Christians were already “discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held” (Ro. 7:6). They were “made dead to the law through the body of Christ” (Ro. 7:4). The death of Christ was involved in the removal of the law (Ep. 2:13-17).

For Preston’s doctrine to be true, one has to redefine words, phrases, and passages of Scripture. The approach he and his cohorts take is very much like that described in the book Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. In it, Alice meets with Humpty Dumpty, who is sitting on the wall. They engage in conversation, which quickly goes nowhere; Humpty Dumpty is using words very differently from Alice. After she challenges him, he gruffly says, “When I choose a word, it means what I choose it to mean; nothing more or less.” That is the approach taken by AD 70 advocates—the “Humpty Dumpty Hermeneutic.”

During my affirmative arguments, I presented 23 arguments for Don to answer. He did not seriously attempt to do so, claiming he did not have enough time. The audience—both online and in person—knows that he did not respond to them. A few times during the debate, he tried to use passages from Hebrews to bolster his doctrine concerning the Law of Moses. His efforts were easily demonstrated to be false. I chided him a couple of times by saying, “You’d better stay out of Hebrews; it’ll kill you.” He finally responded to that in frustration by saying, “I’ll slather all over Hebrews.” What’s interesting is that the word “slather” means “to use or spend in a wasteful or lavish manner.” Needless to say, after each night’s session, I felt very good about how things went. I believe that in the long term, this debate will do much good.

There is a link to the recordings of the debate, where you can watch it online. The password is PPWLIVESTREAM. Part of the agreement that was signed committed me to make a good faith effort to schedule another debate between me and Don in Montgomery, AL. At the time of the publication of this article, we have just agreed to have a second debate in Montgomery in 2017.

dhester@faulkner.edu

David is on the faculty of the F. Furman Kearley School of Theology at Faulkner University, where he also is Director of the annual Bible Lectures.  David is also Education Director at Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL.

 

Baptism Debate Recap — Jack Honeycutt

On May 27-28, 2016, a public discussion took place in Lafayette, Tennessee, between Michael Brawner, a Missionary Baptist preacher, and myself, a minister of the gospel, on the question, “Is Water Baptism Essential For Salvation?”

Several months prior I had been invited to a study that one of our deacons was having with two Baptist preachers, one of them being Michael.  After three hours of a somewhat controversial engagement on the necessity of baptism being a requirement to obtain salvation, I ask Michael if he would be willing to go public with this.  He agreed and signed the proposition that night.

His proposition was:  The Scriptures teach: “a person’s last requirement for soul salvation is faith only in Jesus Christ coming from the heart.”  I told him his proposition was a contradiction in and of itself.  If salvation is by faith only, how can it be a last requirement?

My proposition was:  The Scriptures teach: “a person must be baptized in water as a requirement for salvation.”

We both wanted to conduct ourselves in a civil manner and we wanted the audience to do the same.  Thus, rules were announced each night prior to our speaking.  No one from the audience was to speak or make any kind of gestures.  If either participant became angry the discussion would immediately be over.

I was the first to speak.  In my affirmation I began by letting the hearers know this wasn’t about me.  I did not want attention or the praise of men, but it was about an eternal question — one mankind must get right in order to go to heaven.  It wasn’t an attack on Michael.  I expressed I wasn’t trying to cause division, but that division already exists.

I encouraged those present to have a humble attitude, an open mind, and an open Bible.  I expressed my love for all mankind — I want them to go to heaven.  I presented the fact that the Bible is like a puzzle and we have to put all the pieces together to arrive at truth.  My first affirming scripture was Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”  I broke this down into the compound sentence it is, saying the “he” who will be saved is the one who “believes and is baptized.”  Since most denominational people use the latter part of the scripture, “…he who does not believe will be condemned,” to place the emphasis on believing being the only thing necessary, I used the familiar example of eating and digesting to make the point that the last clause in no way changes the meaning of the first clause.  “He who eats and digests shall live; he who eats not shall die.”

I also showed a picture of a Ford Mustang and used this scenario:  If there was an ad put out that read, “He who believes in Ford Motor Company and is baptized in our pool, shall receive a new Ford,” every person here would be at Ford Motor Company in the morning to say they believed in Ford Motor Company and to be baptized in order to receive a new car.  No one would argue, “I believe, give me the new Ford, and then I’ll be baptized.”  Why?  Because the ad said both belief and baptism are necessary before acquiring the car.

Next, I alluded to Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…”  The word “for,” which is eis in the Greek, has been abused and misused by those determined to make baptism unnecessary for salvation.  These would have us believe that “for” means “because of.”  In other words, one is baptized because their sins are already forgiven.  The word “for” (eis) is used 1,490 times in the King James Version and not one time does it mean “because of.”

Jesus Himself said in Matthew 26:28, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”  Did Jesus shed His blood because we are already forgiven?  Does “for” here mean “because of”?  If so, this would read that Jesus shed His blood “because of” the remission of sins.  Friends, this in no way is logical.

My last text was Acts 22:16, “And now why are you waiting?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”  Of course, we know these are the words of Ananias to Saul after Saul had been blinded on the road to Damascus.  How can the majority of denominationalists come up with the notion that Saul was already saved on the road when he was told to be baptized to wash away his sins after arriving at Damascus?  It cane be nothing more than a misconstruing of scriptures!

In Michael’s denial he said the “purpose” of baptism was the issue.  He quickly went to Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  Of course, he said baptism was a work.  He also went to Galatians 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”  I’m assuming the emphasis is on grace again.  Christians have no argument about the magnitude of God’s grace.  If not for God’s grace none would be saved!  I assume he is referring to righteousness coming through the law as obedience, or a work.  The correct rendering of Galatians 2:21 is that we cannot be saved under the old law.  We can read in the very next chapter of Galatians that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law (5:10-14).

When one tries to use the argument that baptism is a work to try to prove its irrelevance, they would also have to disregard faith.  Why?  In John 6:28-29 the people asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He sent.”  Like faith, baptism is also called a work of God.  “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Co. 2:11-12).  There is a big difference in the works of man and the operation (work) of God.

In my second speech on the first night I replied to Michael’s accusation, “Mr. Honeycutt believes water washes away sin.”  My answer was, “I don’t know anyone who believes and teaches that water saves.  He who says we teach this says what is not so.”  I most assuredly pointed out that the blood of Christ is what washes sins away…but when does it wash them away?  This was the issue.  If Saul was saved on the road he didn’t know it.  Jesus didn’t know it because he told Saul to go into the city and it would be told him what he must do.  Ananias didn’t know it.  Otherwise, why would he tell Saul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins”?

I concluded in my ten-minute rebuttal on the first night with this:

  1. Salvation is in the name of Jesus (Ac. 4:12). We are baptized into the name of Jesus (Mt. 28:19).  Therefore, baptism is essential to salvation.
  2. Salvation is in the body, the church (Ep. 5:23). We are baptized into the body (1 Co. 12:13).
  3. Christ shed His blood in His death (Jn. 19:34). We are baptized into His death (Ro. 6:3).  Therefore, baptism is essential to reaching the blood of Jesus.
  4. Grace is in Christ (2 Ti. 2:1). We get into Christ through baptism (Ro. 6:3).  Therefore, baptism is essential to grace that saves.

On the second night Michael’s responsibility was to affirm his proposition: “The Scriptures teach a person’s last requirement for soul salvation is faith only in Jesus Christ coming from the heart.”

He said Cornelius (Ac. 10) received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized, and asked the question, “Do you really believe God would send His Spirit to someone before they were saved?”  Thus, his conclusion was Cornelius was a child of God before baptism.

My reply:  First, Cornelius’ reception of the Holy Spirit represented a very unique situation.  He was the first Gentile to be offered the gospel.  This was a revolutionary step in the unfolding of God’s scheme of redemption.  The fact is, the supernatural work of the Spirit in this case had nothing to do with Cornelius’ personal salvation.  The outpouring of the Spirit was to persuade the Jews that Gentiles also had a right to the kingdom of heaven (Ac. 11:16-18).

Michael used Acts 15:9 to teach Cornelius and his household were saved when they received the Spirit:  “and made no distinction between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles).”  My response to this reasoning was if one can learn what the Jews were required to do in order to secure the remission of sins (Ac. 2:36-47), he will be forced to conclude that the identical process be applied to Cornelius and his household as well (Ac. 10:48).

Concerning 1 Peter 3:21, Michael said the ark was what saved Noah, not the water.  He also said neither the ark, nor Noah, went under the water.  I explained the word “antitype.”  In the Greek it means “corresponding, similar, form, model, or example.”  Noah’s salvation through water is a “like figure” to salvation (Ge. 6:22).  His obedience to what God commanded saved him.

1 Peter 3:21 specifically says that “baptism does also now save us.”  I asked Michael and the audience, “‘Baptism DOES save us’ or ‘Baptism DOES NOT save us?’  Which statement do you believe?”

In Michael’s affirmation he said there was more than one faith.  He said there is a historical faith and a saving faith.  He said there was more than one baptism.  He disagreed with the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:5 when the inspired writer said, “…one faith, one baptism.”

He emphasized that faith comes from the heart, using Jeremiah 29:13.  Everything is done “in the heart” (with only mental assent).  He did admit one has to repent before this saving faith; thus he doesn’t really believe in “faith alone.”

I used Romans 6:17, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.”  I made it known that Christians also believe from the heart.

Concerning the eunuch in Acts 8, Michael said the eunuch only wanted to be baptized after he confessed his faith (equivalent to salvation).

He also made a comment I had never heard, even while I was growing up in the Baptist Church.  He said, “A saved person gets into Christ by baptism, but a lost person won’t ever get into Christ by baptism.”  How can one be saved if they are not in Christ?! Michael doesn’t understand that being in Christ is the only way one can be saved!  I tried to get this concept across by using Ephesians 2:12-13, Jesus here speaking to the Gentiles, “that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

There is so much that hasn’t been included in this article.  I encourage you to order the DVD from World Video Bible School or watch it on YouTube.  I also strongly encourage you to show this to your young people.

At this writing there are ten precious souls that we are aware of which have obeyed the gospel as a result of this discussion.

Thank you for  your interest.

preach@twlakes.net

Jack has been preaching the gospel for over 30 years.  He is the coordinator of the Rampachodavaram/Tuni, India Mission Work.