Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Book Review: "Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church" by Gary DeMar
In his book, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, Gary DeMar presents a powerful critique of today’s popular “end-times” authors. While some may be tempted to accuse the author of not dealing with the more conservative futurists, such an accusation is unwarranted given the subtitle: “obsession of the modern church.” This is important to recognize, for the more conservative writers are not to be confused with the “madness” of men like Hal Lindsey who are borderline, if not outright false prophets.
But regardless of the intended audience for DeMar, I feel that he did a very good job of establishing and defending the preterist position against futurism. To sum up the primary thesis of the book; the author concedes that the events of Matthew 24 are not to be fulfilled in the future. Instead, they were all fulfilled in the events surrounding the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Thus, the author seeks to put an end to the “madness” by showing how the futurists misinterpret the “signs” of Matthew 24, as well those in Daniel, Revelation and other books.
The bulk of the book is essentially a preterist commentary on Matthew 24. In fact, more than half of the 442 pages are devoted to Matthew 24, and for good reason; the majority of “signs” that futurists look for are from this chapter. Therefore, the author feels that if Matthew 24 can be shown to reflect the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., then the futurist position falls apart.
Being a reserved and fairly cautious futurist, I approached Last Day Madness with a lot of skepticism. I have always believed that the signs are being fulfilled right before our very eyes, with increased lawlessness, wars, famines, etc. And I could not even begin to imagine the events in Revelation as having a past fulfillment. However, I never took a dogmatic approach to this, since men of old have often failed at interpreting the signs correctly.
And this is one aspect that I felt was unfair for DeMar. He regularly accused futurists of doing “newspaper exegesis” in looking at the modern “signs.” He argues that if you stick to the Bible, you wouldn’t have to be constantly modifying your theories. The problem is, the author is inconsistent. Where DeMar accuses futurists of looking “outside the Bible” for fulfillment of the signs, he does the exact same thing in looking at ancient equivalents of “newspapers” (i.e. Josephus and other “reporters”) to establish a past fulfillment. Either way, this does not establish the truth or falsity of either position. If Matthew 24 is future, then no one can be faulted for looking at the signs. If Matthew 24 is past, then the same applies. This is one place where the author unfairly accused others time and time again.
As far as the author’s exegesis of the text, there was very little I could disagree with. When I said to myself, “There is no way this verse has a past fulfillment,” DeMar would surprise me with an application that I could not deny. The problem was, I had always looked at these verses with a modern eye, thinking that Jesus’ original audience would view things the same way. Instead, I should have looked at these verses with an ancient eye, as one who was familiar with the language and usage of the phrases and motives in the Hebrew Scriptures.
This being the first work of Preterism that I’ve ever encountered, I still remain fairly skeptical of this position, with many questions yet to be answered. However, at this point I find very little I can outright disagree with in DeMar’s interpretation of the texts. Furthermore, I am quite surprised that the futurist books that I once studied did not address the text of Scripture as it should. In other words, I found things in the Bible that I never knew was there!
If you are a futurist who believes that we are living in the end times, you need to read this book, especially if you have never been challenged by the preterist position.