Sunday, January 6, 2008

History of A Heresy: The Origin of Full/Hyper-Preterism


A history of Full Preterism is in order. This is how to see what went wrong. For starters, you might first look at this link (http://preteristcentral.com/pret-preterist_decade.htm) then come back to read the rest of this article.



In brief, almost all theological expressions of preterism were merely what is now labeled “partial-preterism” BEFORE Max King (a CoC preacher) started advocating his views in the 1970s.



Even the authors who are often cited as being early Full Preterists were not so. For example, Ernest Hampden-Cook, author of “The Christ Has Come” & editor of the “Weymouth New Testament” Bible believed that Christians are presently in the Millennium & that there will yet be an “end”





The word Millennium denotes the “thousand years” of Rev 20:3-4, during which the dethroned ringleader of evil is placed under restraint, & the saints reign with Christ. It stands for an exceedingly long period of which began at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem (i.e. soon after the book of Revelation was written) and has not yet terminated (“The Christ Has Come” pg 179)


Indeed, in works such as “The Parousia” by men such as James Stuart Russell & others in the 1800s there was an inconsistent espousing of a complete fulfillment yet even Russell believed the Millennium was yet future:




We must consequently regard this prediction of the loosing of Satan, & the events which follow, as still future & therefore unfulfilled. We know nothing in recorded history which can be adduced as in any way a probable fulfillment of this prophecy...This we believe to be the sole instance in the whole book [of Revelation] of an excursion into distance futurity; & are disposed to regard the whole parenthesis as relating to matters still future & unfulfilled. -- (“The Parousia” pgs 522-523)


It is important to note these facts about authors often cited as Full Preterists because the differences between what these authors believed & what Full Preterists advocate is radically different. It is not like just one minor difference separating the two. If the Millennium is yet unfinished & Satan is yet to be released for a time (Rev 20:3), upon whom will his fury be unleashed? We are told by many FP this happened upon the Jews in the first-century.



You see then why I keep bringing this discussion back to the fact that Full Preterism, as we presently know it has its roots within the anticreedal, anticonfessional, & antihistorical denomination of “churches of Christ”? I do not deny that many theologians throughout Christian history have been “preteristic” -- even the book which launched my entrance into Full Preterism, while not being about eschatology could be on the title considered to comport with preteristic notions. The book was “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” by John Owen – a 17th century Reformer writing on the Limited Atonement. Owen would not have desired a reader take his treatment on the Atonement & turn it into some point for advocating a erroneous eschatology.



We can cite many, many historians especially from among the Reformation that saw victory in Christ's work both at Calvary & at the destruction of Jerusalem, but does this automatically lend itself to what the FP are declaring?



During the Reformation there were many “enthusiasts” & innovators that tried to use Martin Luther as their inspiration for delving into all manner of error. Luther soundly rejected the Peasant's riotous spirit & he further rejected the novelties of groups such as the Anabaptists. The reason the label of heresy & heretic could not & still cannot be rightly applied to the Reformers is because a proper definition of those words doesn't allow it. There then should be no fear from my readers that I will one day renounce Reformed Theology as well as Full Preterism.



Before I begin to use the words “heresy” & “heretic” it is important that these words be properly defined. First, they do NOT mean “anything against the majority opinion”. While on the surface that may seem like how the words are being used, & certainly people often do misuse the words in that manner. It is even often right to say within limited scope, “one man's heresy is another man's orthodoxy”. But we want to get at the real theological definition of the words.



Despite how some try to make it, heresy is not just whatever goes against the majority since majorities come & go, but heresy is what goes against historic Christianity. This is another reason I have been stating that though Scripture trumps all man-made documents, to piously claim “Sola Scriptura” outside of the interpreting function of the Church is truly the definition of heresy. Some have tried to compare the Reformation with the FP movement & how councils have erred. Indeed councils & popes have been in error but we're not talking about specific councils or popes are we? We are talking about the general teaching of the Church throughout history. NONE of the Reformers disavowed the general teaching of the Church throughout history & I contrast they actually appealed to that same Church history to bolster their claims. So, the arguments I hear coming from even my friends within FP are in error because they are not talking about the same things.



The battle-cry of the Reformation was SOLA SCRIPTURA, not SOLO Scriptura. The Reformers understood that the Church throughout history cannot be cast aside to make way for some novel new teaching – that casting aside of the Church is the true mark of heresy & a heretic. For almost every heretic in history has appealed to “the Bible alone”, be it Marcion, Arius, or Arminius. The same is true of outright cults such as the the Muslims, the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses But where they always agree is in their disdain for the teachings of the historic Church.



If you want to see the origins of a heresy look for the tell-tell signs:





1. Disdain for creeds
2. Disdain for confessions
3. Disdain for “traditional” anything
4. Appeal for people to have an “open-mind” about what they advocate




The Bible is clear about holding fast to the things taught:



Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. -- 2 Thes 2:15


Yet people will come in & claim THEY are teaching the TRUE things taught by the apostles. Muhammad claimed this. Joseph Smith Jr. claimed this. Charles Taze Russell claimed this. It is the modus operandi of all heresies to appeal to scripture alone & then proceed in redefining how the historical Church has understood those very same Scriptures.



Therefore when both friends & foes keep demanding from me a “Scriptual” refutation of FP, what they really want is a historically unhinged interaction with proof-texts. They want to ignore the interpretation of the Church & take the path of the heretic that boldly yells “Scripture Alone” but then proceed to become their own “private interpreter”. I will not engage in that kind of Bible study any longer. That is what causes the heresies to manifest & multiply. I have already shown what needs to typically be accepted for most people to be prone for the FP error yet friends & foes alike are ignoring those facts & instead claiming I am painting with a broad brush. They claim they are not defined by the most vocal advocates of FP. That somehow they can advocate their own version of it over in a corner. Further, some get upset because they may have never even heard of these “leaders” of the FP movement & instead claim they came to FP without their influence. This is all good & well but let's think for a moment about Arminianism which at present is the dominant soteriological teaching within the Church. How many times have you been in a discussion with a person who while advocating the very precepts of Arminianism/Semi-Pelgianism will not only disavow having any association with that theology but often they are completely ignorant of it. Add to that the example of Dispensationalism, wherein most people who advocate it have no idea about its history.



So, just because some FP have no idea or claim no association with the history & leaders of FP doesn't mean they can disconnect themselves from it. Indeed, they are defined by it whether they like it or not, just as much as the unwitting Arminian or Dispensationalist.



A CULT IS BORN



It is here where I'd like to give some more of the history of FP. As I originally pointed out, Max King can be credited or faulted with the rise of FP in this century but he & his son Tim King went on to start a different manifestation of FP. They call it “Transmillenialism” which is probably the most universalistic expression of the FP view. They also had the arrogance to trademark the term. This is where FP divides from what Max King started.



Max King did most of his work in FP during the 1970-1990s while minister of the Parkman Road church of Christ in Warren Ohio. At that time, his associate Terry Hall remained behind. Virgil Vaduva, a Romanian immigrant married Hall's daughter & soon embraced the FP view via the influence of his father-in-law. Vaduva's computer knowledge allowed him to launch what would eventually become the most influential FP website & mouthpiece for FP. To be sure, there were other online advocates of FP even before Vaduva – such as Dave Green & Todd Dennis but nothing has had the influence matching that of Vaduva's expression of FP.



Originally, people were drawn to FP due to its apparent high regard for Scripture, but Vaduva quickly moved the focus to socialistic considerations (perhaps a byproduct of his Communistic culture). FP was becoming less & less about Scripture & more & more about theological socialism & so-called “relational” Christianity. Vaduva continued to steer the movement into perspectives such as the “Emergent Church” movement & postmodernism which are syncretistic in nature. All of this was occurring under the willing or helpless eyes of men such as Don Preston, Sam Frost, & Ed Stevens. There was some token resistance but nothing that would change the course of FP.



Vaduva became the de fact leader of FP as it is presented to the world.


In an anti-FP book called “When Shall These Things Be?”, Keith Mathison remarks:




There is no chief spokesman for hyper-preterism. Instead, there is a wide assortment of individuals who have embraced the basic thesis & who have independently constructed various systems of theology on this foundation. (“When Shall These Things Be?” pg 156)


This is only partially true since every “movement” has some sort of leader. Vaduva is the “face” & “voice” of FP in that it is through him & his efforts the various vocal voices of FP operate. Don Preston for example has been highly promoted by Vaduva, then Sam Frost whose books Vaduva actually funded & published & now Vaduva's latest project is the promotion of Tim Martin & Martin's “covenant creation” concepts. Without Vadvua, most of these guys could gather no following.



FP that will not admit that Vaduva is the face of FP only fool themselves. Any side group, such as “Reformed Full Preterists” are just that – a side group. They no more represent FP than did the Anabaptists represent the Reformation. I feel sorry for the Reformed Full Preterists & the others that desire to not be defined by Vaduva & his syncretistic concepts, but it is simply a sad fact that they don't speak for FP anymore than say some offshoot of Mormonism or Islam speaks for those groups.



CONCLUSION



When I started this blog, some people who consider themselves “orthodox preterists” were worried that the broad brush would affect them as well – it is too late for that. That affect is already engrained in perception by how Vaduva & his group has been allowed to take a historic word & turn it into something completely different. Indeed, Vaduva, following suit of his mentor Max King, actually at one time had the arrogant nerve to try to trademark the term “preterism” (source), with little to no outcry from anyone. This is important since many non-FP use that label as well. Men like Mathison, Kenneth Gentry, & R.C. Sproul senior. Just imagine had Vaduva been successful.



If there is any hope of rescuing the historic preterist view, which you can see espoused by many of the real Reformers, then there must be a clean break from all things associated with how the FP have been presenting it. The current FP were not the first to see in the destruction of Jerusalem a significant theological marker. They were not the first to see the passing of the old covenant age & the coming of the new. But they are the first to depart from the interpretation of those events from historical Christian Church.



Lastly, as I have been saying from the beginning – I may not know exactly where I will end up eschatologically but I know I can no longer ignore that God must have sovereignly preserved His Church & has not left it to be redefined by a few arrogant antihistorical, anti-creedal, anti-traditional, anti-confessional private interpreters who are the epitome of heresy. I'm sorry if that causes pause for some of my former friends. I apologize I did not recognize this sooner.
May God guide us as He has no doubt guided His Church throughout history.



In Christ & for Christ,
Roderick

5 comments:

Kurt said...

"Before I begin to use the words “heresy” & “heretic” it is important that these words be properly defined....heresy is what goes against historic Christianity....to piously claim “Sola Scriptura” outside of the interpreting function of the Church is truly the definition of heresy...that casting aside of the Church is the true mark of heresy & a heretic..."

Roderick,

1)How do you properly and precisely define "the Church?"

2)How do we, as Christians, objectively identify who speaks for "the Church" at any particular time down through the centuries since Apostolic times?

3)Does Scripture tell us who this would be?

4) If it doesn't, how can we objectively know who can speak for "the Church?"

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I also,as Kurt does, wonder what you mean by "Church". Was the teaching of Scofield the "Church" teaching? It seems, though I'm not a Church historian, that the Church believed many different things at any given time. What will people 500 years from now say the Church taught in the year 2008? Calvinism? Dipensationalism? It depends on where you look does it not?

Now you made these comments:

"The battle-cry of the Reformation was SOLA SCRIPTURA, not SOLO Scriptura. The Reformers understood that the Church throughout history cannot be cast aside to make way for some novel new teaching – that casting aside of the Church is the true mark of heresy & a heretic. For almost every heretic in history has appealed to “the Bible alone”, be it Marcion, Arius, or Arminius. The same is true of outright cults such as the the Muslims, the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses But where they always agree is in their disdain for the teachings of the historic Church."

"1. Disdain for creeds
2. Disdain for confessions
3. Disdain for “traditional” anything
4. Appeal for people to have an “open-mind” about what they advocate"

"Therefore when both friends & foes keep demanding from me a “Scriptual” refutation of FP, what they really want is a historically unhinged interaction with proof-texts. They want to ignore the interpretation of the Church & take the path of the heretic that boldly yells “Scripture Alone” but then proceed to become their own “private interpreter”. I will not engage in that kind of Bible study any longer."

Yet they seem to contradict your statements from here: http://thekingdomcome.com/node/668#comment-3205

God's revealed character is in the Scriptures & I had been allowing other men to filter that to me. What an insult to God that I would not seek Him out myself. How many of us would hire or allow a third party to carry on a relationship with our spouse & then report back to us their experience?


#1 Where is spiritual food? Who would say we must be spoon-fed the rest of our lives. If a person really is a new creature, "re-born", then at some point they MUST mature enough to bring the spoon to their own mouths. No modern day pastor or elder is required to feed people their entire lives because pastors & elders draw the food from the same source that all of us can -- the Bible. We need to mature to a point where we are feeding from the Word without the aid of a caretaker. We quite frankly need to some point, be weaned off the milk-bottle & start eating the meat of the Word. (Heb 5:13)

Were the creeds not made by past elders and pastors? Has the Word of God been exhausted and no new Truth will come?

I'm enjoying you work and thought process.

Roderick_E said...

Hi there Anonymous. Before I answer I just want to state I will no longer post comments by Anonymous posters. Please give some name by which follow-up comments can be attributed. I have had too much experience with FP on places like Paltalk & other forums coming in under different nicknames to fish for information they think they could not obtain by revealing their true identity -- not that you are one of those such people.

First, it should be expected that some of my former writings & comments will not square with what I am saying now. I am operating under a different model. This model tries to consider what the Reformers meant Sola Scriptura within the context of the interpretation of the Church & NOT SOLO Scriptura disconnected from the Church.

Which leads us to the first question. How do [we] properly & precisely define "the Church?"

First, this answer supposes that God is Sovereign & as He said would not allow the gates of hades to prevail against His Church. (Mt 16:18). If God is/was incapable of keeping this statement OR we believe He has purposely allowed the Church to go into complete apostasy at any point in history -- then all bets are off.

However, I will start from the presupposition that God DID preserve His Church. Where then may we find this true Church?

As I pointed out in other articles, some such as the CoC denomination claim they are restorers of the true church -- but in their claim they are destroyers of God's sovereignty, what God cannot preserve His people as He claimed?

The next set of people are those, such as many of my Indep Fund Baptist (IFB) friends that claim God has always kept a small group faithful unto Himself. With this notion they set out to piece together this small group. The irony is they often have to include groups that even they would consider "heretics" if they really knew everything those groups believed (see Trail of Blood) So, we see this piece-meal approach no more answers the question than the CoC's conclusions.

Next, we are often told that the Church has been preserved through the Roman Catholic/Greek Orthodox system. It is the tendency of Protestants to ascribe so much unaffection for everything Romish that they cannot see how that system & anyone in it is anything but the spawn of Satan. Yet, this seemingly leads the Protestant back to either the CoC conclusion or the IFB conclusion. Is there not any other course?

Here is where I stand & I think it accords very well with Scripture AND Church history. That just as a true son of Abraham was never really one by flesh & blood -- that is by ethnic association, neither can we narrow the individual true believer down to one denomination or church system -- however, among all these different systems some things come forth upon which we can say is the "voice" of the Church speaking -- that is, if God is indeed Sovereign.

Before any council or pope so said, there have been some beliefs held in assumed unity among almost all Christians throughout history. Look for those things & therein you will find the Church speaking.

I was going to list some of those things here, but then the focus of this blog will change. In due time I would like to address this issue in more detail.

Despite what some have claimed, I do not believe the view of "consistent cessationism" is majorly affected with the rejection of FP -- since it was not really built from the FP premise. For even the Reformers believed in some form of cessation of the various offices/functions of Eph 4:11-15 -- again an entirely DIFFERENT discussion.

Lastly, as for the comments about having allowed other men to "filter" Scripture for me, but no more -- I was speaking specifically of people who rely on one pastor or a few mentors to yes, spoon-feed them. This is wrong regardless of FP. However it is not the same to say we ought to consider the interpretation of the historical Church & not be quick to depart. It was not the creeds & confessions or the historic Church of which Luther & the like had issues, but it was the councils & popes who often erred, even against those creeds & confessions.

One more irony about FP is that though they seek "Scripture alone", there is NO SCRIPTURE SPECIFCALLY SAYING JESUS RETURNED IN AD70 OR OTHERWISE -- this is all deductive assumption. Of course they will point out that if we believe the cannon was completed by AD70 then there certainly would be no Scriptural record of the event. Then why are they in a bunch for me to provide them with a "Scriptural" refutation of something never detailed in Scripture in thr first place except through deductive propositions that have been variously interpreted?

I began my excursion into the preteristic mindset by adhering to John Owen's exposition on "The Death of Death in Death of Christ" which by the influence of others & my unhinged mind caused me to take it beyond what Owen meant. It is indeed possible for Christ to have conquered death, not just metaphorically but actually for those in Christ. As Jesus said, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:25-26)

Why must I add to this simple statement all the attenuating UNSCRPTURAL speculations of the FP -- speculation that AREN'T Scriptural but are para-biblical, based on deductions. What is so wrong with me going no further than Scripture? Who THEN is really upholding Sola Scriptura???

Irv said...

From my perch here in sunny and warm Arizona, I thank you for a truly interesting and worthwhile blog. If you haven't seen MacPherson's 300-page book THE RAPTURE PLOT (See Armageddon Books), you definitely should. But plan on at least one sleepless night while blinking wide-eyed at the mountains of new data relative to the glorious pretrib rapture's Johnny-come-lately development by 19th century Brits. An unbelievable read! Irv

Brian Simmons said...

Hi Roderick,

Those are some great points you made about the 'true church' issue. Incidentally, one of the best sermons I've ever read on the subject is by John Lightfoot. He makes comparison between the church and Israel, showing that God always had his spiritual people. The sermon is a bit obscure, but I have the "Whole Works in 13 Volumes" on disc. If you ever want I can burn you off a copy.
Also, I'm glad you mentioned the Millennial views of J.S. Russell. This has always seemed the weak point in the F.P. system. Well, brother, keep up the good work!

Peace and Health,

Brian

P.S. -- Oh yeah, Dan! Well, er, I guess I never felt any drivin' urge to analyze every passage of Scripture as you do. It seems John is makin' a distinction between the church and the world. So that's how I see it.
Sometimes by squinting too hard we lose our vision.