The Naked Absurdity of Young-Earth Futurism
Sometimes you run into the most interesting things if you have an idea of what to look for.
I am currently preaching a sermon series through the book of Mark at Covenant Community Church. Last week I was reading a commentary while preparing sermon material. What I stumbled across completely astonished me.
The book is titled The Victory According to Mark by Mark Horne. It was published in 2003 by Canon Press in Moscow, Idaho. I have enjoyed the book a lot; Horne is very good at presenting Mark in the context of Israel's history. He appears to understand the crucial aspect of covenant transition that plays such a large role throughout the New Testament. Horne also highlights the Exodus theme that is present from the very beginning of Mark (as well as the other gospels). I get the impression that Horne is a partial preterist. Lots of great insights!
The one thing that has bugged me a couple of times about the first quarter of his book is a few abrasive young-earth creationist comments. I see that kind of thing often, so I usually don't have too much difficulty overlooking those statements. You know, eat the meat and spit out the bones. But none of the early snippets prepared me for the motherlode I crashed into at pp. 48-50; I sat in dazed silence as I pondered what I had just read... Then I read the whole section again, shaking my head in total disbelief.
This material comes from Horne's discussion of Jesus' miraculous healing of the paralytic in Mark 2. It relates directly to the material covered in Chapter 11 ("God's Curse on Adam: the Problem") and Chapter 12 ("God's Curse on Adam: the Solution") of Beyond Creation Science. I will quote Horne's entire passage from pp. 48-50 to give you the full context:
In response, Jesus forgives the man's sins by what is called a
"performative utterance." Like a pastor at the climax of a wedding
ceremony saying, "I now pronounce you husband and wife," Jesus adopts
and forgives this man: "My child, your sins are forgiven." We commonly
think of God the Father as the one who adopts us, but Jesus is the new
Adam and is thus the forefather of all who are forgiven. Again, we see
Jesus remaking a family centered around Himself.
We need to remind ourselves about the meaning of forgiveness in
Mark's Gospel, which we reviewed in chapter one. Forgiveness not only
had a personal application, but a national or corporate fulfillment as
well. Forgiveness meant a return from exile -- an ending of the curse.
On the personal level, this may explain why Jesus told the paralytic
that he was His child and was forgiven. The paralytic has by far the
most serious of the illnesses that we have yet encountered. Quite
possibly the man believed that God was punishing him for his sins or
perhaps for the sins of his parents (cf., Jn. 9:1).
Christians typically do not think much about the fact that we claim
to have received God's pardon for our sins yet we suffer as much as our
unbelieving neighbors. Our children get injured or killed in automobile
accidents, our parents get Alzheimer's, and our wives get breast cancer
while our husbands are afflicted in the prostate. All around us we see
the effects of the curse for sin demolishing our world, Christian and
non-Christian alike. And yet we boldly claim to have been forgiven.
Imagine a man sitting in a prison cell contemplating a lifelong
prison sentence. How overjoyed he would be if he received news that the
President had issued a pardon for all his crimes! But wait. What if he
jumped up and tried to leave the prison, only to find the cell door
slammed in his face. What happened? The President forgave you, he is told, but
he has not overturned your sentence. You are no longer to be considered
guilty of the crime, but you must remain behind bars. Wouldn't this be considered a rather paltry form of forgiveness?
So it is not unnatural that people find it difficult to believe
their sins have been forgiven when they find themselves suffering as
much from the effects of God's wrath on sinful humanity as do the
ungodly. And this difficulty is the bone of contention in Jesus'
ministry and is that of the subsequent Church of the New Testament.
Israel was hoping for deliverance from their enemies and the curse.
Jesus comes claiming that deliverance is at hand, and yet Rome
continues to oppress them, Herod remains in power, and a corrupt
priesthood still rules Jerusalem. How can the kingdom have come -- how
can their sins be forgiven -- with such a darkness still afflicting
God's people? And how can the Church declare that the new age has
dawned if death remains unchecked, and poverty, slavery, wife-abuse,
disease, and other evils continue as if nothing has happened?
Jesus' answer is that His Word should assure them of their
forgiveness and that it should make them certain of a future hope based
in God's new relationship with them. The pardon is real and the stay in
prison will not last forever, though there may be redemptive reasons
why God has not yet accomplished an immediate release. But when some
doubt Jesus' word and even think He blasphemes, Jesus gives a token
sign that He is to be trusted. "Which is easier, to say to the
paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven'; or to say, 'Arise, and take up
your pallet and walk'?" The paralytic will still die at the end of his
natural life. He is still under the curse as we all are. But any
thought that he has been especially cursed by God has now been reversed with a special intervention indicating that he is especially loved by God.
-end of section-
This passage in this book blew my mind. What a remarkable statement! I have never seen, in such an extended discussion in print, the absolute bare
theological nakedness that young-earth futurism amounts to in practice. It is one of those examples of something in print where you say to yourself, "What was that guy
thinking?... Oh, that's right; he wasn't thinking!" And then I realized that this passage, in its current form, made it past
all of the editors and proofers at Canon Press. That shows you the blindness
that futurism inflicts on otherwise bright people.
Do you see the horrific problems Horne has created with his futurist theology? He assumes, as a young-earth creationist, that God's curse on Adam was physical death. That goes hand-in-hand with his belief that the subject at hand in the Genesis creation was the physical "heavens and earth." After all, God cursed the ground he had just made according to Genesis 3:17. Horne's physical view of the curse matches his physical view of God's creation as the focus of Genesis. And that fundamental error leads him to the conclusion that, so long as we human beings live and die in this world, we exist under God's curse. Yet God's people have been forgiven of their sin!
Horne recognizes that this creates a problem in light of the New Testament teaching of the complete forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He presents the dilemma in full living color for the reader. That makes this citation unique. Horne's theology forces him into a functional schizophrenia. He says that God's people are no longer guilty, thanks to forgiveness in Christ, and he says that God's people remain under God's curse and continue to pay the penalty for sin. God pardons his people and then leaves them to rot in prison!
Horne's theology implies that God does not even live up to the standard of justice we take for granted in human society. We would consider it a great injustice if someone received a pardon for a crime, yet was required to continue serving out the sentence. We would say that is unjust, and rightly so. How much more unjust would it be if another took the criminal's place in a substitutionary manner! That is what Christ did for his people with his death on the cross and separation from the Father. He suffered for us, under the Law, in our place. Yet Horne and other young-earth futurists teach that we must suffer for our own sins even though God has forgiven them in Christ! If physical death is the nature and definition of God's curse for Adam's sin, then God requires double payment for the sin of believers. Horne makes it absolutely clear. God forgives the sin of his people through Jesus Christ. But when Christians die they, too, pay the penalty for their own sin.
Horne teaches a "no-good-news-yet" type of gospel. Horne's futurism, rooted in his biological view of the curse in Genesis 3, leads to an appalling conclusion. What he is really saying is that the work of Christ has done no good yet for God's people when it comes to God's curse that fell on Adam. He holds out a hope that it will do some good at some point in the future. Two thousand years later we are still waiting for the effects of the gospel to "kick in." That is why Horne and other young-earth futurists insist that the resurrection must involve physical bodies being raised out of literal dirt to immortal life. Their futurist doctrine is rooted in their young-earth beliefs; it really is "young-earth futurism."
Old-earth creationism points out that physical death in the world cannot be the result of God's curse for sin because physical life and death, as we know it, has been going on for millions of years before Adam. This view of the curse, in its essence, is preterism. If biological death is not the point of God's curse on Adam for sin, then biological death is not the point of Christ's redemption through the atonement. Jesus Christ brought salvation to his people. Death is defeated. The prophetic Word has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Ponder the transformation of perspective. Rather than viewing this world that contains biological death as a part of life as an evil "prison" to escape from, old-earth preterism suggests an entirely different worldview. Old-earth preterism suggests that the physical world God made works perfectly as God's tool to help teach and train his children in all things. If we recognize that physical death is a natural part of life, that no one is truly human until they comes to grips with their own mortality, then some amazing things can happen in the believer's life. We can understand why it is that life must be lived by faith.
God uses the common difficulties of life to draw his children to himself. These things exercise our faith and develop maturity and perseverence if we participate in them by faith. Even the reality of physical death in our experience can be used by God to teach and draw his children closer. The same could be said for disease, disability and even tragedy. There are things in this world that exist for the sole purpose of being vehicles to manifest the gospel in one way or another. Can we have faith in God about that? Can we see God's glory in all things, including our own inevitable physical death?
The world we live in was never designed to be an end in itself. "Earth's crammed with heaven..." is how poetic genius once put it. The boring way to say it is that our world was designed for a spiritual end.
That is precisely what young-earth futurism rejects, beginning with Genesis 1:1.
Introduction to Covenant Creation