“Bible Answer Man,” please report to the woodshed…

Thanks to a commenter on this site pointing out the existence of the Preterist Archive website, I have read a fantastic review of self-styled “Bible Answer Man” Hank Hanegraaff’s eschatology book, The Apocalypse Code, in which he attempts to defend a generally preterist view of Bible prophecy. The review is by Norman Geisler, whose apologetics work, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, I have been enjoying immensely (in the spare moments I have to read for pleasure these days!).

For those who don’t know, a preterist is “a person who maintains that the prophecies in the Apocalypse [i.e., the book of Revelation] have already been fulfilled” (from Dictionary.com) — meaning for practical purposes, that virtually all Biblical prophecy (e.g., Matthew 24) has already been fulfilled (or at least the vast majority of it), and that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, as opposed to events yet to come, was the great climactic event pictured in “end time” prophecies. This is an oversimplification, perhaps, but the interested reader can peruse the Wikipedia article on “preterism” if he wishes for more details on the shades and details.

I know… It’s a pretty dry discussion for most of you out there, and I don’t blame you for thinking so. Most of my readers are fully convinced that Bible prophecy related to future events, and if you haven’t had to wrestle with preterist thinking, then the issue might be irrelevant. Also, I certainly don’t agree with Mr. Geisler on everything he says, and he and Mr. Hanegraaff would probably happily team up to denounce many of the Biblical doctrines I teach. Still, his demolition of Hank Hanegraaff’s preterist pretensions was fairly thorough, and I will admit to the pleasure I felt at walking around the smoldering ruins a bit.

(FWIW, I also read popular preterist Gary DeMar’s rebuttal of Mr. Geisler’s critique, available on the same website. The last sentence of Mr. DeMar’s essay was such an overreach that I literally laughed out loud.)

So, for those who would like to see a nice critique of Hank Hanegraaff’s pretentious pro-preterism piece (and preterism in general) check it out. On the other hand, for those for whom such spats are merely academic curiosities, feel free to check something else out. 🙂

[And for those who think that disagreeing with ol’ Hank means that I endorse writers and speakers such as Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, or John Hagee — or, for that matter, concepts such as a “secret rapture” — think again! Stroll around the Tomorrow’s World website and check out our articles and free literature, and discover the surprising but simple truths about Bible prophecy and what lies ahead. Things fit a lot better when you have the whole picture.]

[EDIT, 1/25/2008: Many thanks to “almar” who brought a bad link in the post to my attention.  (If you didn’t click on it before I changed it, you won’t believe where it lead…)  I will try to test my links more thoroughly next time!  The bad link has been corrected, and my apologies to any who were accidentally misdirected.]

17 thoughts on ““Bible Answer Man,” please report to the woodshed…

  1. Dear Mr. Smith,

    I’m glad you’re enjoying Norman Geisler’s book (which I bought at a lecture he gave here in Houston), and that he’s taken the time to do such critiques as the one you mention. (I doubt if I will have the time soon to look at it, but it’s nice to know it’s out there.)

    What I find tragicomic (not just about Dr. Geisler’s book and Mr. H.H.’s own position, but about the human condition generally) is how easy it is not to apply the rules of logic and evidence when one’s own sticking points come into play. I tell you the truth: that realization scares me to death, as scientist-artists like me are paradoxically the most vulnerable of humans to making that mistake (or at least some secular psychologists would maintain this).

    I think the lesson here is that thanks to the way God has revealed Himself in creation and the Bible, one can lead a horse to water — but only God can lead the horse to drink.

    שבת שלום
    יוחנן רכב

  2. Can I state that the position you call ‘preterist’ is only held by a few of the folks who would call themselves ‘preterist’? There are many, like myself, and even R.C. Sproul, who are what you’d call ‘partial preterists’ who don’t believe that all of what looks to be new testament prophecy has already occured, but only recognize that a significant chunk was fulfilled in the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

  3. Howdy, saintlewis, and thanks for the clarification.

    I recognize the difference between full and partial preterism (and even that many preterists, themselves, argue as to what those terms mean and include), and tried to allude to such “shades” and gradiations by saying that my brief description may have been an “oversimplification.” But it probably would have been helpful if I had stated that there was a distinction in those camps, and I appreciate your clarification.

    Thankfully, if anyone actually followed the link to Mr. Geisler’s critique, they would have learned the difference between full & partial preterism, as it is discussed there. They would have also read what is a wonderful criticism of the partial preterist position (which is the position the so-called “Bible Answer Man” takes in his book).

    With all due respect to you, Mr. Sproul, and Mr. Hank, I do believe that the partial preterist position is wrong (for many reasons, including those that Mr. Geisler points out) and that 70AD was significant as a type but not as the “ultimate” fulfillment that preterists (full and many if not most partial) make it out to be.

    Thanks for writing in and contributing!

  4. formerthings

    That kind of thinking is similar to those that teach everything in the book of Revelation is symbolic and not literal.

    Such as the two witnesses. Only two men never died Elijah and Enoch so defining it as symbolic is ignorance.

    There has been no mark of the beast but now with bar codes and implantable chips it is on the horizon.

    When Revelation does come to pass there will be mass destruction such as the world has never seen before.

  5. Howdy, formerthings, and thanks for writing!

    I wouldn’t agree with some of your statements (e.g., Hebrews 11:13 indicates that 11:5 does not mean that Enoch did not die), but I do agree that Revelation is more literal than most give it credit for and that it takes a greater stretch of the imagination (and ignorance of scripture) to conclude otherwise.

    You (and others) might be interested in our free book on the subject Revelation: The Mystery Unveiled.

    Thanks, again for writing.

  6. Revelation, as prophetic literature, is expected to not be literal to at least some degree, as all prophetic material in the scripture – particularly those that Christ ‘fulfilled’ according to the NT authors…the scriptures the NT authors see him as fulfilling, at first glance, rarely seem to be ‘good fits’, if you ask me. I can’t see why I’d expect Revelation to be any different than the other prophecies in the Word.

  7. Howdy, again, saintlewis, and thanks for the comment.

    I certainly agree that Revelation is a symbolic book and is, in that sense, not “literal” by some uses of that word. But to take such a fact and to “spiritualize away” the implications of the book’s words would be to do so much more than what is done with the “other prophecies in the Word”. In fact, if we are to treat Revelation consistently with how we treat other such prophecies, we would take its claims more literally, not less. All the more since the best evidence and tradition has the book written after 70AD, not before.

    So, I agree: I wouldn’t expect Revelation to be any different either. But that leads me to a different conclusion than yours.

  8. Oh, I believe that Revelation was written after 70 AD as well – no reason to doubt that. ‘Prophetic’ literature rarely has to be forth-telling, in fact many of the OT Prophecies initially apply directly to events at the time of their writing, and Christ in fulfilling them was actually a 2nd fulfillment, or rather fulfilled them as a ‘form’ not as a ‘prediction’…likewise, Revelation often speaks of the events which occurred in 70 AD not as a prediction of those events, but as a prophetic telling of those events, recognizing what God was doing in and through them.

  9. Howdy, again, saintlewis.

    If you (1) believe that Revelation was written after 70AD, and (2) believe Jesus, then you cannot believe that Revelation is speaking primarily of the events of 70AD.

    Jesus says clearly in the very first verse that He is describing future events.

    I would rather trust Him than preterist stretches.

  10. Honestly, I’ve not read many preterists, personally. I just studied Revelation, came to my conclusions, and then glanced at the Preterists and noticed that they mostly agreed with me.

  11. Laura

    I found your blog when I googled the Bible Answer Man. I was shocked at his statement last week that the prophecies of Matthew 24 had already come to pass. Not shocked to hear it, but to hear it from him.

    I wrote a letter to the radio station just to voice my objection and received the nicest reply from the like-minded station manager. Tonight I checked to see what others were saying about him. It’s a crazy, mixed up world, for sure. I’ve listened to the man for a few weeks, trusting because I trust the station. And even websites and blogs – I might read half a blog before I get to where they start discounting the books Paul wrote. Crazy.

    Gonna go check out your critique of Hank’s pretentious piece because I happen to enjoy academic spats. 🙂
    Ya never know if I might have to take someone to the woodshed.

  12. Tim

    Have you heard of the new book “Hard Questions for the Bible Answer Man?” If you are not a Hank fan, or even if you are, then you must get it. It is devastating. It documents immoral behavior by Hank in assuming the presidency of CRI as well as greed, firing CRI staff etc. http://focusonthefaulty.org/Pages/home.html

    Very interesting!

  13. Vicky

    This is on a different topic, but a very important one. The Lord has given us only two choices for Election Day. One of the choices is a president who although he says he is a Christian continually gives homosexuals more and more rights whenever he can. Obama also sees nothing wrong with killing an unborn or even a recently born baby. He has also done everything that he can to take the first steps needed to turn our nation into a socialist nation, and he continues to get us further and further into debt, while taking away our ability to defend ourselves with a strong military that is well-trained and in place for any event against our nation. Obama is cutting our defense budget and the number of men and women in the military. Additionally, there are many unanswered questions about his true agenda and his background, but instead of looking into those things, the media and others have given him a pass. The other choice on election day, though, is a man who appears to be able to get our nation back on track, but he is a Morman. Romney has the know how and leadership qualities for just such a task, but he is a Morman. For, Christians this too seems to be a poor choice. We know that we want to have a Christian in the White House, but God has not given us a Christian for which to vote. And of course, God is the one who places all kings, leaders, etc. in office. We know this because God has said so in His book, The Bible. Having said all that, this brings me to my point, which is the Bible answer man’s hidden agenda and attempt to reach as many people as possible before the election. Hank has taken this opportunity to tell everyone how terrible Mormans are. Instead of doing this defamation after the election and letting people make their own choice between the two canidates, which God has given to us, Hank has made it his agenda to get as many people as he can to vote for Obama without actually telling people who to vote for. In other words, he is teaching and talking so much about the negative aspects of the Morman religion that those who can’t see what Hank is doing are becoming confused and are actually calling in to ask Hank if he is telling them not to vote for a Morman, because what they are hearing is that it would be the wrong thing for a Christian to vote for a Morman. Hank then says that he would never tell anyone who to vote for! They have misunderstood. However, Hank is using a type of reverse psychology to get people not to vote for Romney. But he is because Hank is telling as many people as he can, over the airwaves, that voting for a Morman would be the same as voting for someone who belongs to a cult. Then he describes the cultish things that the Morman religion does. Hank also says he is only telling everyone about the Morman religion because Romney is in the spotlight and that this is a golden opportunity for Christians to reach out to the Mormans and tell them of Christ. Obviously, Christians are to tell the whole world, including Mormans of the offered Salvation of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior; not just the Mormans. He is delibertly confusing people with his hidden agenda. Instead of confusing people now with many people hearing that they shouldn’t vote for a Morman, Hank could have waited until after the election, and whether Romney wins or loses then tell everyone to reach out to the Mormans and give them the Gospel message. However, Hank has taken his status as the Bible Answer Man to make sure that people hear what he has to say before the election, and he has used his message to confuse people and thus get as many people as he possibly can not to vote for Romney because he is a Morman, while Hank sits back and with a clear conscience and tells himself that he is only trying to make people aware of the sins of Mormanism so they will be able to speak to Mormans with authority when they tell them about Christ. I have always questioned some of the Bible Answer man’s answers and statements and have noticed over the last two years or so that he is getting extremely prideful in his answers and in his opinions, but this recent agenda of his, which is not so hidden, has taken his pridefulness to a whole new level. If Romney wins, it won’t be because the Bible Answer Man gave him a fair chance, it will be because no matter what Hank says, God’s plans are greater than Hank’s. When God gives us just two choices, I’m sure that he hopes we will make the best one choice we can with the facts that we are given and not make our choice because some “man” has decided to derail the election in a sneaky way. By the way, if Romeny wins, then we will all have a golden opportunity to tell the Mormans about Christ. Personally, I am no longer going to be listening to the Bible Answer Man, for in many ways he has become a false prophet.

  14. Higgs Boson

    So some of you really do not understand that in Matthew 24 Jesus is talking about the destruction of the Temple within a generation and the finality of the end of the Old Covenant. That event is now an accepted historical fact. If you can’t apprehend that prophecy as being fulfilled in 70AD then there’s not much hope of you being able to rightly divide the Word of Truth on any level. Darby-ism is a 19th century myth.

  15. Greetings, “Bose.” Apparently, presuming things is your superpower. I’m no believer in “Darby-ism,” and I do agree that much of what he came up with is a myth (e.g., the rapture). But the belief concerning Matthew 24 and events to come after 70AD is far older than Darby. (Almost two millennia, in fact!) Did you even read the critique by Geisler linked to in the post, or did your limbic cortex simply kick into play when you saw words you sort of recognized? [“Ah, good—some words I know! No need to actually read, defend my idea, or (whew!) think. I can just blindly copy-and-paste the same comment I always make when I see words like those. That thinkin’ stuff always makes me uncomfortable…”]

    Your comment that those who believe Matt. 24 refers to events to come somehow don’t believe that the destruction of 70AD is a “historical fact” is just weird: made in ignorance, laziness, malice, or insecurity. I’ll let you pick. Regardless, it’s nonsensical. (Though, maybe you said it for entertainment value. If so, apologies.)

    And your statement that anyone—literally, anyone—who might think that 70AD was a type of a coming future fulfillment instead of being the complete fulfillment, itself (much as Jesus, Himself, taught concerning Daniel 11 and Antiochus Epiphanes), as being one hopeless to “rightly divide the Word Truth on any level” is a statement of remarkable arrogance unworthy of someone claiming to be a Christian. (And, perhaps, there I presume and you make no such claim.) Even knowing you, what you have displayed here is enough to tempt one to easily list a number of men who believe 70AD was only a type and who are apparently your betters, even if they were wrong on 70AD and Matt. 24. You display in your attitude, even in so brief a post, a great need to hear them teach you concerning other passages they have “rightly divided” far better than it seems you have. Your arrogance disqualifies your thoughts on the meaning of any part of the “Word of Truth” far more seriously than anyone’s theorized mistakes in prophetic understanding might do of them. I look forward, on your behalf, to your meeting such individuals.

    So, while you seek out such needed instruction, I will continue to apply the type/antitype model the Savior, Himself, teaches concerning prophecy and will continue to understand Matt. 24 in the manner demanded by a dedication to reality and an intellectually and spiritually honest reading of Scripture. Thanks, again, for stopping by.

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s