Second Criticism: Hermeneutical Priority Must Be Given to the New Testament over the Old Testament and the More Literal New Testament Passages over the More Figurative.
In my book, End Times Made Simple, I assumed with little argument that when it comes to interpreting the Bible as a whole (and, therefore, its eschatology in particular) that there were certain “self-evident” principles which must be followed. They were that clear passages must be given priority over difficult passages, literal passages over figurative passages, and general truths about eschatology before the details of prophecy. In a very real sense Waymeyer’s book constitutes an emphatic denial of these (what I thought were) self-evident hermeneutical principles. What do I mean?
First, Waymeyer insists on giving priority to Old Testament prophetic passages with regard to the doctrine of the coming of the kingdom. This is evident in the very order of the book in which Part 1 is devoted to a treatment of “The Intermediate Kingdom in the Old Testament.” The problem is that this treatment of the Old Testament is deliberately un-informed by the teaching of the New Testament about the coming of the kingdom of God. This approach is clear. Waymeyer says that his approach is: “to trace the doctrine of the coming kingdom throughout biblical revelation. …. In the process, it must be recognized that later revelation often supplements and thereby clarifies previous revelation by providing broader context or additional detail, but it never changes the meaning of earlier passages in the process.” (11) [Italics are mine.] My response to this focuses on the statement later revelation “never changes the meaning of earlier passages.” This assertion begs the whole question. The very question at stake is the meaning of the earlier passages and whether this meaning can be understood fully and properly apart from the teaching of the New Testament. I will show below that there is reason to view the Old Testament prophecies which Waymeyer discusses in Part 1 as both figurative and less clear than their New Testament explanations.
Second, Waymeyer insists on giving priority to Revelation 20 over the rest of the New Testament. Once more this is clear in the very structure of the book. He sandwiches the New Testament teaching before the Book of Revelation between his treatment of the Old Testament prophecies in Part 1 of the book and the treatment of Revelation 20 in Part 3. This order does not indicate a prioritizing of the New Testament two-age grid over Revelation 20. In fact, it indicates just the opposite. It really represents Waymeyer’s desire to have Revelation 20 trump the rest of the New Testament, because it is the last card played in the Bible. He makes this very clear by two things he says. In one place he remarks: “The first problem concerns identifying Revelation 20 as an unclear passage.” (8) In another he adds: “as the fullest and most comprehensive presentation of the eschatological events surrounding the Second Coming … should be allowed to clarify previous revelation about the coming kingdom.” (12) Thus, denying that Revelation 20 is an unclear passage and so affirming that hermeneutically it is on a par with the literal passages in the New Testament, he then plainly asserts the superiority of Revelation 20 by saying that it is the fullest and most comprehensive presentation of eschatology. Thus, it must be allowed to clarify previous revelation.
In this way Waymeyer contradicts the view which I and other Amillennialists take as self-evident that the teaching of the New Testament is both more clear and literal than that of either Old Testament prophecy or the Book of Revelation. Frankly, I am incredulous at this contradiction! Does Waymeyer really want to maintain Revelation 20 is more clear than Luke 20? Does he really want to maintain that the visionary and apocalyptic character of prophetic literature is superior to the mainly literal language of the New Testament in its clarity? I think it is plainly not. I also continue to think that it should be obvious that it should not be given this kind of hermeneutical priority.
But let me respond to Waymeyer with something more than incredulity. I will do so in my next post.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.