Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My Conversations With Father (V)

Father and I had many conversations about eschatology (premill vs. amill, etc.) just as we did about soteriology and hardshellism. Actually, we had many conversations about sports also, but that is not the focus of these postings in this ongoing series.

Dad was an ardent Amillenialist, though he was once a Premillenialist before the Hardshells led him to throw away that belief when he joined their cult. He wrote and preached much on this doctrinal subject frequently over his sixty years or so of teaching ministry. Further, in the first four years of my early theological training under his tutorship, in the tenets of hardshellism, he led me into a half-hearted belief in Amillenialism.

The first serious move I had away from Amillenialism was when I first read in Scripture about "the man of sin" and "the Antichrist." I remember dad affirming that these terms did not refer to an individual but to a system. I studied it. I could not accept that view. To me, these terms denoted a single person. This led me to question the kind of hermeneutics dad and the amills were using in their interpretation of new testament prophecy.

When I moved from Ohio to North Carolina, it was in part to get some freedom to think for myself theologically. I had enjoyed dad's theological schooling for four years (1972-1976) and learned much as a young student of the word. But, I began to see some errors and to question some of his interpretations. This led my dad and me, even when I was a Hardshell and a member of Thompson Memorial Primitive Baptist Church, to have a strained relationship. Dad used to tell me that I only disagreed with him in order to show my independence, and not from real conviction. However, I knew that this was not the case; And, after all these years of reflection, I still know he was wrong. I simply could not accept some of his interpretations of scripture. Especially was this true in the area of eschatology.

What our first disagreement really centered upon was how to interpret the Bible, especially prophetical or apocalyptic portions. Is prophecy to be always taken literally?

Dad's opposition to premillenialism was based upon the fact that in his opinion, premillenialists gave too literal an interpretation to prophecy, and to the Book of Revelation, and such was a "carnal" interpretation rather than a "spiritual" interpretation. So, we often argued this point. He agreed with others who have written on this issue by saying "if you take unfulfilled prophecy and the Book of Revelation literally then you will be a premillenialist."

Over the years I often challenged father on this point. For instance, I remember us talking one time about the "liberals" who deny the literal truth of the virgin birth, the various miracles in the Bible, etc., and how they deny these truths by interpreting the stories and narratives concerning such truths in a metaphorical way, as if they were parable and not as actual, historical, and literal. Dad agreed with me that they erred in not taking these Scriptures literally. Well, I said to Dad - "why do you decry the spiritualizing of the texts about the virgin birth, but not those that describe events associated with the second coming?" I said "you are guilty of the same type of hermeneutics that you decry among the liberals."

I would often say to dad - "name one O.T. prophecy about the first coming of Christ that was not literally fulfilled." He could not name any. I then said to him - "why then do you interpret prophecy about the second coming of Christ mostly in a non literal way?" He struggled to defend himself and so the matter ended.

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