When brother Warren debated Antony G.N. Flew 40 years ago in 1976, those who attended were excited to see what would unfold: Would the atheist with his use of logic prevail—or the Christian, a man of faith? Brother Thomas B. Warren, the Christian, began in his first speech to present logical arguments, and he never relented. One can only imagine what Flew expected to occur in the debate, but it was the Christian who used logic while the atheist ran away from it. Brother Warren pointed out in his book, Logic and the Bible that David Hume wrote that “no man turns against reason until reason turns against him.”
Holger Neubauer was trained by Thomas B. Warren (among others), but during this debate there was no evidence of it. He refused to answer the logical arguments which brother Denham made, even though he signed his name to do exactly that the first two nights and therefore obligated himself to do so. Nor did he set forth any arguments of his own—except for one on the third night of the debate. So what did he do? Just as Flew came prepared with classroom lectures which he gave instead of debating, so Neubauer obviously came prepared to make speeches designed to explain the major tenets of his doctrine. Neither Flew nor Neubauer actually engaged in debate. Occasionally they commented on something the opposition said, but that was about it.
The proof that this was Neubauer’s aim is that he often times would bring up a verse or a passage, and when brother Denham would explain it, he would drop it like a hot potato and never mention it again. It was a strange way of debating. On the other hand, Daniel Denham fulfilled his affirmative obligations by setting forth logical arguments which Neubauer, for the most part, ignored. When he was in the negative the last two nights of the debate, Denham spent his time looking at what Neubauer had said and answering the points. This is what a debater is supposed to do. Unfortunately, only brother Denham came to actually debate.
When one of the two disputants engaged in a controversial matter refuses to fulfill his obligations, those who are observers should ask themselves, “Why?” Especially those who share Neubauer’s position should ask themselves why he would choose to “debate” the way he did. Does he know that his position is wrong? Why can’t he discuss the subject logically? Whether he realizes it or not, the answer is that a position that cannot be logically set forth or defended is wrong.
The first two nights of the debate, the proposition was: “The Scriptures teach that the general resurrection of the dead is yet future and is a bodily resurrection.” Those words mean probably what the reader thinks they mean and which he has heard all of his life. It means that there is (as we often sing) “a great day coming,” in which there shall be a resurrection from the dead, as Jesus taught:
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of commendation” (John 5:28-29).
On that day, all shall be raised bodily from the dead. All shall first be changed to a resurrected body before being rewarded or punished. Those, like brother Neubauer who hold to the AD 70 doctrine (also called Realized Eschatology or Max Kingism) deny that there is a future general resurrection and that all people will be bodily raised from the dead. They believe that the resurrection described in John 5, along with the second coming of Christ, occurred in AD 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed. Thus they argue that no future coming of Christ and no future day of resurrection will occur.
Now, everyone agrees that Jesus came in judgment upon Jerusalem (figuratively, through the Roman armies) in AD 70, but we deny that this destruction was what Jesus had reference to in John 5:28-29. Brother Denham pointed out that there are several comings of Christ mentioned in the New Testament. Jesus came figuratively in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17-18), in judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70, and in judgment later on Rome, the persecutor of the church, according to the Book of Revelation. He even threatened to come in judgment on the church at Ephesus when He urged them to repent, or He would remove their candlestick (Rev. 2:5). However, there is only one second coming in judgment on the whole world.
Neubauer’s response was to say that these brethren had more comings of Jesus than Old MacDonald had animals on his farm, with, “Here a coming, there a coming—everywhere, a coming coming.” He probably thought this was a good laugh line—one that would score well with his folks—until one realizes that these various comings were not invented by “these brethren.” The Holy Spirit describes them in the Holy Book. Brother Denham later chastised him for his frivolity.
However, a good reason exists for concluding that the figurative coming in judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70 is not the second coming described in so many passages of Scripture. Denham went to the very plain verses recorded in Acts 1:9-11. He pointed out that these words were not part of a figurative or symbolic passage—but of narrative, which is to be taken literally.
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner, as you saw Him go into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).
Since the angels assured the apostles that Jesus would come again in like manner, that means that Jesus will come literally (rather than just figuratively or symbolically), visibly, personally, and bodily. Each night the debaters had an opportunity to ask 5 questions, which had to be answered in writing before the first speech of the evening. Neubauer was asked the very first evening if Jesus would return visibly, and he answered, “False.”
Brother Denham pointed out all the words in the text relating to physical sight: watched, out of their sight, looked, gazing, saw. Furthermore, Revelation 1:7a says: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him.” Neubauer could never get beyond this first argument.
Some time, in the course of his first negative speech, Neubauer cited Matthew 24:30, which does mention people seeing Jesus coming in clouds in judgment on Jerusalem, but this passage is obviously figurative and symbolic while Acts 1:9-11 is not. Apocalyptic language is used in Matthew 24, and “the sign” would appear. Neubauer began talking about the Scripture’s use of clouds as a motif. A cloud hides the presence of God. Whatever he was getting at, he did not answer the arguments made by brother Denham.
Neubauer also claimed that “all the comings are the same,” which no serious Bible student would say, in light of the fact that God came in judgment several times in the Old Testament—on Assyria, Babylon, Edom, etc. None of these involved the judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70. The only thing Neubauer ever said additionally on Acts 1:9-11 was in his first speech on the second night when he ridiculed the idea of a literal, bodily return. He wanted to know what height Jesus would have and if He would still have scars in His hands. Everyone knows that flesh and blood cannot enter heaven and that Jesus’ body had to undergo change before He entered heaven to be seated on the right hand of God, but that does not negate what the angels said. How are people to recognize Him if He does not have the appearance of His physical body?
In his opening speech, Daniel made one other argument based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, which his opponent ignored in his next speech. Since Neubauer did not follow Denham’s lead, what did he do?
He began by stating: “If you understand the time of the event, you can understand the nature of the event,” which is interesting. What did he mean by it? He first talked about the wolf and the lamb prophecy of Isaiah 11:1 being fulfilled. Okay, but what does that have to do with the issue? Then he went to Revelation 1:1 and 1:3, as well as Revelation 22:6 and 10 to show that the things written in Revelation were “at hand” and would “shortly” take place. Nobody disagrees with these Scriptures (obviously); we often use those verses to show that premillennialism is false.
But Neubauer and his cohorts will argue that Revelation was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, and thus it would occur within a year or two. No date for the writing was given by Neubauer, but usually the early date is AD 69, which would be about as shortly as possible. Denham eventually pointed out that the phrase at hand means that the prophecy is about to begin—not necessarily that all that is recorded would be completed shortly.
Neubauer went on record as saying the phrases are always immediate. He hammered that point repeatedly. Then he said, “However, there might be a marker in the text that signifies it does not begin until later. The second night of the debate these statements were played next to each other in a loop. “Always. However. Always. However.” As brother Denham pointed out, “If something is always, then there cannot be a however.”
By far, the majority of brethren believe that the Book of Revelation is referring to the destruction of Rome, the persecutor of Christians. Neubauer said that the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls are all referring to the same event, just as Pharaoh’s dreams of the seven skinny cows and the seven ears of grain confirmed the truth of the prophecy. The only trouble is that inspiration told us that the case involving the grain and the cows was so. Nowhere in Revelation does anyone reveal that the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls are the same message. Nothing in inspiration confirms that notion. And in fact, it would ruin the symbolism both in Genesis and Revelation. Two is a symbol of strength while three is the number of the Godhead. For something to be stated three times is one time too many.
One other topic Neubauer covered, which appeared not to have any relevance to Denham’s material was to give an exposition of Zechariah 14:1-9. He claimed that it referred to the coming of the Lord in judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70 and that all commentaries agree with him on that interpretation. This reviewer has three commentaries on Zechariah. Two of them disagree that what is being described is the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Neubauer also claimed that Peter and Paul were the two witnesses that went to heaven in Revelation 11. Agreement on that claim is slim, but even if everyone on earth were in agreement, it had nothing to do with answering Denham’s affirmative.
These first two speeches set the tenor for the debate; giving a full rundown for the four nights would be tedious; so key insights and statements will be examined. It was difficult to follow Neubauer. In his second speech on the first night, for example, he zipped through several Scriptures, and the connection between them was lost. This reviewer wrote down 18 verses so diverse that how they were logically connected is totally unknown. They vary from Deuteronomy, Galatians, Luke, Ezekiel, 1 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Revelation, Isaiah, John, and Hebrews. It began to dawn (perhaps, millennially dawn) on some people that Neubauer was using the tactics of Jehovah’s Witnesses and premillennialists in darting here and there to try to stitch up a doctrine.
The first speech of the last night of the debate proceeded in the same way—so much so that at the conclusion of the speech, this reviewer wrote down the following words about Neubauer—confused and confusing. In that same speech, he claimed: “I don’t care what secular history says about Isaiah 7:14. I believe it is a triple entendre.” [He had pooh-poohed secular history earlier when it disagreed with his “interpretation.” Most of those present were fairly shocked at that pronouncement.] What he meant here is anyone’s guess. But he is wrong about Isaiah 7:14. It does not have three separate fulfillments; it only has one.
Some think the first fulfillment was Isaiah’s wife having a son—or if not her, someone else in the same time frame. The problem with that is, since Isaiah and his wife were married, she was not a virgin. If anyone knew what the Hebrew word almah meant, it would be the Jews, and they translated it in the LXX as parthenos, a word which always means “virgin.” No young woman in Isaiah’s day was a virgin who gave birth to a son. If so, who was she? Could we have a name, perchance?
The one and only correct interpretation regards Mary giving birth to Jesus; that this is the correct interpretation and application of Isaiah’s prophecy is confirmed by the inspired writer, Matthew (1:22-23). However, Neubauer suggests another fulfillment. He had a theory about the male child born to the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, being Jesus also. While it is obvious that the child born is Jesus (He is the male child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron—Rev. 12:5), He is spoken in this passage as having been brought forth by Israel (the woman described), who was anything but a virgin—either physically or spiritually. The two passages cannot be combined.
Throughout the debate Neubauer assumed that if certain language was used in one place, it meant the same thing elsewhere. While that does sometimes occur, such language may have a different meaning or a new meaning, building on what had happened previously. To assume that the same word or phrase always means the same thing it did elsewhere is the logical fallacy of equivocation. Having been taught logic, Neubauer should know better.