I recently listened to the (overly!) long debate between pre-tribulationist Thomas Ice and pre-wrath Alan Kurschner. Both men did very well and this debate, unlike almost all debates, was actually productive. Both sides provided good information and any reasonable listener would have come away understanding both sides.
I’m fairly cynical about debates in general. If you are going to debate, it needs to be in a formal, in-person format. Radio/Skype debates are out. I’ve given my reasons why.
Reformed people are generally clueless about the nuances within premillennialism, so I’ll explain. Both sides, pre-wrath and pre-trib, agree that the church does not face God’s wrath (1 Thess. 5:9). Pre-tribs, on the other hand, identify the whole tribulation as God’s wrath, which is why they don’t think the church will be present during the whole tribulation.
Incidentally, Daniel’s 70th week = the great tribulation. Both sides agree on that.
Overview of the Debate
The debate format itself was overkill. It went something like:
20-25 minute opening statements
15 minute rebuttals.
12 Minute rebuttals.
10 minute rebuttals (seriously)
12-15 minute cross examinations.
7 minute closing statements.
The transcript is 80 pages long.
You can read it for yourself. While I am pre-wrath, I will be fair and say Ice did a good job.
Ice tried to make a few jokes throughout his presentation and they all fell flat. He didn’t convince anyone of dispensationalism, but I do have to say he is a better debater than I remember. While it is tangential, he did a good job in showing how the church is a mystery that was revealed in the New Testament. Reformed people need to hear that. We have a tendency to say that the Church either replaced Israel or was Israel in the Old Covenant. I know Stephen used the word ekklesia in Acts, but it is a logical fallacy to read a full-orbed ecclesiology into a single word.
Ice’s delivery itself was quite good and easy to listen to, discounting his lame attempts at humor. His main criticism of Kurschner was that Alan also reasoned in a circle.
Alan had a more focused delivery. He also spoke at twice the speed of Ice. My only criticism is I think he should have spent more time in his opening statement on the Seals/Bowls/Trumpets in Revelation and why we will experience Seals 1-6. Kurschner thought that Joel was the best way to present pre-wrath. I’m not so sure.
There wasn’t a clear knock-down moment on either side. I do think Kurschner won by technical knockout at the very end. The key verse is 2 Thess. 2:3. The apostasia must happen before Antichrist is revealed, and then the rapture happens. Ice wants to read apostasia as “spatial departure” rather than deception, abandoning the faith, etc. Kurschner asked him when has it ever meant that in Koine literature. Ice couldn’t come up with any examples.