In my previous article on Preterist logic, I disclosed the basic method of reasoning which Full Preterists use to arrive at their conclusions. Their prevalent mode is a priori, or deductive. This rests on general assumptions, and is opposed to a posteriori, or inductive, reasoning, which rests on facts and experience. A main characteristic of a priori reasoning is that it allows the assumptions to control the factual evidence. Its reasoning is from cause to effect; whereas a posteriori logic reasons from effect to cause. This distinction is very important. For the proper method of studying the Bible is inductive. Deductive logic is only fit for framing theories, and thus it is essentially rationalistic.
Almost all expositors start out by using a posteriori reasoning. However, the human mind is impatient of investigation, and prone to jump to generalities. As Francis Bacon wrote in The New Organon:
“The mind is fond of starting off to generalities, that it may avoid labor, and after dwelling a little on a subject, if fatigued with experiment.”
Hence it often misses important facts that can only be gained through patient induction. It runs ahead of the evidence. In most cases, this quirk is harmless. But occasionally it leads us into innumerable difficulties. The real mischief occurs when the mind, having arrived at a plausible conclusion, switches gears suddenly and starts laboring backwards, digging up the road over which it should have went carefully. It works a priori, forcing intermediate evidence to agree with its generalities. Perhaps unknown to the individual, false assumptions are used to alter, displace, and uproot the facts. The interpreter looks for reasons to support his generalities, rather than submit his generalities to an inductive analysis. The result? His conclusions have no accuracy.
Full Preterism is a system that demands a priori reasoning. Its logical method is not optional, but required. Typically it starts with a “necessary” truth, such as that “all prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70.” Then it proceeds to filter out the evidence, working from an assumption to its logical conclusions. In the course of his studies, the interpreter will sometimes make use of the inductive method: but only to verify and confirm his assumptions. Whenever these assumptions are confuted by Scripture evidence, he tampers with the facts, often deliberately confusing their meaning or displacing their context. Sometimes he just ignores them.
Let us look at these principles in application. One of the leading a priori thinkers, Don Preston, has written an article called a “Study of the Resurrection.” From a logical perspective it is a very interesting work. For it is packed with arguments that identify Preston’s reasoning as deductive. I believe one can show that his arguments are based on pre-existing generalities, which he is laboring to prove. His method is a priori. Here is an excerpt from his article:
“In Genesis 2:15-17 God told man concerning the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil “in the day you eat thereof you will surely die.” Man and woman ate of the fruit. Did they die that day? Amazingly, most people will say “No!” because Adam and Eve did not die physically after they ate the forbidden fruit. But this is not the whole story.
“Death means separation, not annihilation. And Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden the day they ate the fruit. Thus, Adam and Eve died spiritually because they were cast out of the presence of God. If Adam and Eve did not die the day they ate then Satan told the truth and God lied! God said you will die in the day you eat, Satan said you will not surely die, Genesis 3:1ff. Who told the truth to Adam and Eve? Unless one can find Adam and Eve physically dead in Genesis 2-3, then the death they died was spiritual and not physical.“
Here we see various phases of Preston’s logic. The first paragraph shows us how Preston typically begins when he wants to “prove” something. The argument he uses is of a bizarre and unusual nature. Most men do not think of such nonsense unless looking for reasons to support a theory. Well, Preston’s arguments are based on the necessary view that “all things were fulfilled in A.D. 70.” His reasoning is clear enough. However, he is thinking backwards, and that is why his idea strikes us so strangely. It is out of keeping with what we intuitively perceive to be the natural train of thought– that is, inductive. Next, Preston brings in a vague assertion to bolster his theory. He rallies Biblical evidence to its support. Finally, he throws us an a priori argument for the purpose of ‘clinching’ his case.
Of course, Preston’s whole thesis can be easily discredited with a posteriori reasoning based on solid Biblical facts. One may remind Preston that Christ is the Second Adam (1 Cor. 15: 45). As Adam was the first to “die” (Romans 5: 12), so Christ was the “first-born from the dead” (1 Cor. 15: 20; Col. 1: 18; Rev. 1: 5). Now, what was the nature of Jesus Christ’s resurrection? The Scripture tells us it was release from the bonds of corruption, that is, natural death (Acts 2: 31-32; 13: 35-37). Thus, the penalty incurred by the First Adam must have involved physical death. If otherwise, what significance does Christ’s bodily resurrection have? Paul’s argument to the Corinthian church is based on the validity of Christ’s physical resurrection (1 Cor. 15: 12-15). Moreover, Christ’s resurrection is declared to be the forerunner of our own (Romans 6: 5; 8: 11). Its nature must therefore determine ours. There other proofs in Scripture which confirm a physical resurrection (Acts 13: 34-37; cf. Isaiah 55: 3).
But as an a priori rationalist, Preston is unwilling to accept any proofs which confute his theories. If you study his article carefully, you’ll find that it is a lengthy ‘argument’ built entirely on a priori logic. He first invites us to a study of the “Bible doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.” Then, he takes a cheap rhetorical shot at the “physical resurrection” idea– making it sound as silly as possible. This done, he attempts to dismantle it by way of a purely deductive process. But analyze his reasoning, and you’ll find that it works “prior to” the evidence itself. Preston requires the use of unproved generalities. However, the only way a student can arrive at generalities is by way of induction. If Preston’s assertions are correct, they must be verifiable through an a posteriori study of Scripture. But such a method never brings us anywhere near his conclusions.
Another example of the a priori process is in order. There are certain theologians who claim that we are in “heaven now,” and that there is “no shame in the new creation.” Here is an incident of theology a bit more rabid in its implications. For, while Preston uses a great deal of deductive reasoning, he sometimes borrows collateral evidence of an inductive nature. The ‘heaven now’ theologians, however, carry the deductive mania to its extremest possible limits. Their systems allow almost no inductive proofs. They are almost purely subjective.
Starting with the same “necessary” truth that “all things were fulfilled in A.D. 70,” they proceed slowly and methodically to dismantle the teachings of New Testament theology in a way that makes shame and sin cease to be present realities. They give us a good example of how a priori reasoning works not only against, but independent of, the actual evidence. For Paul’s struggle between the flesh and the spirit is still very real (Romans 7: 18-23; Galatians 5: 17). Every Christian who falls into the ways of the flesh experiences shame and remorse. Is this moral consciousness a mistake? Or is it a lie? Or is a Divinely ordained delusion? It is strange that something non-existent should be so real. A posteriori evidence would inform us that these “heaven now” thinkers have probably cauterized their consciences (Eph. 4: 19; Titus 1: 15; 1 Tim. 4: 2), and lost ability to feel the pangs of remorse. Their false doctrine only exemplifies the fact that a priori reasoning allows the cause to dictate the effect– even against the evidence itself.
Obviously, the proper method of gathering truth is inductive. As the prophet writes: Precept upon precept; line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isaiah 28: 10). Moreover, the true field of evidence is the Scripture itself. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8: 20). The Full Preterist method is not only logically false, but unscriptural, for it requires the supplementation of history and tradition to verify its conclusions. The truths of Christianity must not depend on facts outside of the Bible itself. If such be the case, then the “Bible alone” cannot really be enough. Thus Full Preterists commit a two-fold blunder. And the sooner they identify their errors, the better. But will they do this? Many have become so hardened against the truth that the Word of God is no longer able to convict their hearts. They have allowed false generalities to control their understanding of facts. And thus the Lord hath sentenced them to spiritual blindness– “that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken” (Isaiah 28: 13). When they repent and return to Christ, the confusion shall vanish away.