If you hadn’t heard, there was a debate this past Thursday and Friday in Ardmore, OK. The Cobb Six made the two-hour trip to be in attendance, so what you’re about to read is a review from an eyewitness. We had some other friends who made the trip (and came from a lot further than we did), and after talking with them, our impressions were, for the most part, the same as theirs.
As is normally the case after a debate, both sides are claiming victory, saying that the other side couldn’t handle their arguments.
Note: this is a brief review. A much fuller, detailed treatment of the topic (with specific arguments and quotations) will be appearing in the first issue of the Quarterly.
Proposition 1: “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.”
This topic was supposed to be the subject of debate the first evening. Don Preston opened the debate with a 30-minute talk that covered a LOT of ground (he spoke faster than most anyone I’ve heard during his first speech). He made several points that I thought were interesting and worthy of further study, but unfortunately, there was no real structure, and he neglected to define his proposition, which made his opening argument confusing. He also made several connections between passages, but didn’t stop to show us why they should be connected–and at the speed he was talking, it was impossible to write all the passages down.
I spoke with a friend of mine who agrees with much of what Don teaches (having watched and listened to many of Don’s lessons), and he said that he gave it a 7 out of 10. But then he said, “unfortunately” it was “probably a 2 out of 10 for someone who never heard [of] Realized Eschatology before.” (note: Realized Eschatology is another name for preterism). In short, it was as though Don was talking only to those who already agreed with him, and not to try to show others why preterism should be preferred.
David Hester had a difficult time following Don’s first speech, because without Don defining the proposition, there was no real basis to start from. So, David spent most of his time showing that the Law of Moses ceased being valid when the kingdom came into existence at Pentecost (Don takes the position, if I understand correctly, that the Law of Moses was still valid and in force until Jerusalem was destroyed). While he made some excellent points that deserve consideration, this issue isn’t directly connected to the proposition.
The second set of speeches by both men followed pretty much the same pattern, except that Don slowed down tremendously in his speaking. Each side said that the other was avoiding or misrepresenting their arguments.
Prior to the debate, Don had sent David several questions, and then used David’s answers as part of his speech, with a “David vs. Paul” theme. While this was interesting (and David did some clarifying of his answers in his response), Don was trying to “negate” what David had answered instead of “affirming” the proposition at hand.
The final speeches of the night were very similar to the second ones in their emphasis.
All in all, we were disappointed with both sides of the debate the first night. Don never defined his proposition (he would say the next evening that it was a waste of time to define it), and didn’t really deal much with the “resurrection of the just and the unjust”; and David’s responses also didn’t really touch the proposition either, and instead of answering many of the arguments Don put forth on various passages, David spent his time in a thorough attack on just a couple.
Day 1 Conclusion:
Neither side could claim a definitive victory, because the specific proposition itself wasn’t the focus of either side’s speeches.
(note: Many of Don’s arguments might have been supplementary to his position, but it was never brought together to show “this is how it all fits together to prove my proposition”).
The debate itself can be viewed online here.
Tomorrow we will give a brief review of the second night of the debate.
-Bradley S. Cobb
3 thoughts on “A Brief Review of the Hester-Preston Debate”
Good analysis. I was able to catch night one later that night. I knew about five minutes into Don’s speech that the focus would be shifted away from the proposed affirmative position. Largely disappointing.
I have not heard all the debate, but I believe David should have designed his presentations to attack the following issues: (1) the dating of all books to be prior to 70 AD. The gnosticism of 1 John was NOT an issue before 70 even though some seeds might have been there. Scripture of 2 Pet 3:17 point to a later than 70 AD date. (2) The city on the 7 hills was Rome and not Jerusalem. (3) All witnesses after the 1st century affirm a future return of Christ
Regarding you points, (1) Scripture prophesied the end of miracles would be by the time Jerusalem was destroyed (Zech. 12:10-14:2, with particular emphasis on 13:2 and 14:1-2; Joel 2:28-32; Micah 7:15; 1 Cor 13:8-10). 1 John 2 says “the final hour is at hand” because “many antichrists” had come. Compare that with what Jesus said in Matthew 24, predicting the destruction of Jerusalem. They are discussing the same event. (2) Josephus mentions seven hills on which Jerusalem was situated, and Foy Wallace lists them in his commentary. (3) On this point, I agree.