“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 1: 18).
In previous articles, I have mentioned that Full Preterism demands a priori reasoning. This means that it is deductive– proceeding from cause to effect, or from an assumption to its logical conclusion. The disadvantage of such reasoning is that the assumption is allowed to control the actual facts. Thus, Full Preterists start off with an assumption that “all prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70.” That done, they proceed to modify truths and teachings which can only be learned through induction, or a posteriori reasoning.
This latter process (a posteriori) involves reasoning from facts to principles, or from effect to cause. It is the only Biblically-sanctioned method of studying the Bible, for it deals entirely with Scriptural evidence– “comparing spiritual things with spiritual“ (1 Cor. 2: 13). In this manner we proceed from particular truths to general truths.
Full Preterism, however, must first stand outside the Scriptures, planting its feet on the moveable ground of history and tradition. Beginning in A.D. 70, it works backwards, a priori, ploughing up, displacing, or otherwise altering the most vital teachings of New Testament theology. But, if the results of this process differ from those of induction, it is evident that one set of conclusions must be false. Which one? I’d say it is that whose foundation rests outside the Scriptures.
If we can only arrive at the truths of Christianity through a process of deductive reasoning, we must be prepared to have some accuracy in our results. But here is where Full Preterism fails us. Follow this process as faithfully as they will, the results vary wildly among its students. Why? The modus operandi which governs their exegesis is wrong.
Of course, it will be alleged that there has also been a great disparity of doctrine among orthodox expositors. We freely admit that there has. However, when a disparity occurs, it usually does so because the interpreter’s logical method is a priori. Instead of proceeding gradually upward by way of induction, he hurries from particulars to the most general axioms, and then labors backward, a priori, forcing intermediate axioms to agree with his generalities. Thus, his inductive method (if he has any) is abortive, to say the least.
Nevertheless, we must admit that, in spite of this great disparity, there has been an unquestionable unanimity of assent regarding the main tenets of the Christian faith. The cloud of historic witnesses is confirmed whenever the student undertakes a simple a posteriori study of the Scriptures. Thus it is the deductive method alone which causes the irregularity– not the uncertainty of Biblical doctrine.
Perhaps we should remember that the Pharisees held similar theories of interpretation. Using their traditions as an exegetical basis, they made the word of God of none effect. In the first century, Rabbi Hillel claimed that there would be no future Messiah, inasmuch as the Messianic promises had already been fulfilled in the reign of Hezekiah (see Lightfoot). Thus he used a historical fulfillment to nullify the teachings of Scripture. Proceeding from an assumption (Christ=Hezekiah), he worked backwards, a priori, replacing the Word of God with his own teachings. Granted his assumption was correct, did his high-handed methods have any authorization from the Old Testament? Of course not. Well, there is not a word in the New Testament that allows us to do the same thing.
Our conclusion is this: that the rottenness of Full Preterism may be traced to its unwholesome logical methods. Instead of seeking to fix the error of their reasoning, Full Preterists choose to bicker over the correctness of their syllogisms. Yet the syllogism consists of propositions of facts supposed to be true. If the facts themselves be proven false or uncertain, there can be no soundness in the proposition. Thus to argue over the correctness of syllogistic models is like offering to paint and shingle a condemned building. It is a waste of effort.
The only way to arrive at the truths of our faith is to let Scripture, and that alone, interpret itself, through a true process of induction– in other words, to use a posteriori reasoning. I do not say that in so doing we shall ever attain to those topmost peaks where angels alone tread. For it is impossible for man to perceive the entire truth– theological or otherwise. Only in heaven will we “know, even as we are known” (1 Cor. 13: 12). But if we continue working our way upward, we shall certainly enlarge our perspectives, and see truths which are inaccessible to those who remain below. The key is to start climbing.