Friday, January 1, 2010

An Invitation to “Neo-Preterists”

For the many years that I have interacted with “neo-preterists* while I was within the movement & even more so since I left the movement, I began to notice there are at least three kinds of people within the movement.  I will outline the three different kinds of “mindsets” I have observed in the movement & then detail a little bit more about each.  I then want to offer an invitation to one of these groups.  I really don’t have a desire to interact with the other two kinds as I find it futile.

  1. Those who think of themselves as “leaders/teachers”.
  2. Those who are following those “leaders” even if they claim they are not.
  3. Those “loners” who’s individualistic brand is at odds with the movement.
I want to admit, that in the course of my interaction with neo-preterists I have often treated them all the same but as I moved further away from the movement, I could see there are some differences.
The “loners” are almost impossible with which to interact.  Their basis is often very unstable.  Their knowledge of the movement as a whole is limited…& they often admit it…so they are not very good representatives of the general perspective.  Their quoting of proof-texts is even more out of context than the general movement & they tend to argue a lot from emotionalism & have a very definite disdain for history & any sort of structure church environment.
The “leaders/teachers” are typically touting their supposed credentials; books they have written, conferences at which they speak, & any degrees they might hold.  They are often the source for talking-points for others.  If you examine the various websites for the movement & compare those to the various Christian forums at which the “followers” interact (as we do here at PretBlog) you will quickly notice the followers parroting something a “leader” has said on one of the movement sites.  The “leaders/teachers” are also almost impossible with which to interact because they have too much invested in the movement.  The more books they write, the more conferences at which they speak, the less possibility of convincing them of the lie of the system (They are living in Proverbs 26:12).
It is the “followers” I want to address.  You know who you are…maybe you entered the movement after doing your own study which if you are honest has usually been done immediately after you have come out of some other error — such as dispensationalism.  Or you had been a nominal Christian, not giving much concern to theology & maybe just going through the motions week after week in your local congregation.  You felt dead.  But somewhere, you received a little bite of the “neo-preterist” teaching & then began studying it yourself.  It seemed so “logical” in comparison to whatever you were believing before (especially if that former belief was “Left-Behindism”).  Or some “followers” enter the movement after being exposed to materials such as books, podcasts, or attending a conference/debate.  Then you began to interact with more people within the movement.  You found them so accepting, so “loving” — perhaps not like your former group.  There was also the added feeling of group bonding, since after all, you all are in this together & feel a “brotherliness” in your shared “suffering” for the “truth” you think you now have.  You may even find yourself excusing sins & behaviors even from the “leaders/teachers” which you privately think it wrong, but for the sake of the movement you continue to show solidarity.  Maybe some days, you look back & wonder how you got here…but you too feel you have too much invested to give it up…besides (you tell yourself), why go back to that “dead faith” you had before you entered the movement.
It is THIS person I’m speaking to.  I was ONCE one of you.  I was in the movement for 15 years & have seen it up close & personal. Since that time, many people have left the movement — some fell into functional atheism since for them, “if preterism isn’t the truth, then Christianity is a lie” (source).  Others have slipped away quietly, never heard by anyone.  But some, such as Todd Dennis, Brian Simmons, Dorothy Anderson, & others have went on to try to undo some of the damage they have done & to loving help their friends out of the movement & to warn others about it before they fall prey to it.
Sometimes, the “leaders/teachers” try to depict the movement’s opponents as not worth interacting…even to the point of sometimes urging the “followers” not to contact us at all or even trying to pretend our critiques of the movement aren’t valid. (What arguments can be more valid than from those who were ONCE part of the movement???)  THAT is one thing that makes the movement appear “cultish” whether it has a individual leader or not.
So, in an effort to allow the “followers” to openly & freely examine the movement from all sides, I have decided to start a temporary site that poses Q & A’s (questions I often hear coming from the movement & answers that I have heard from the Christian community).  This website will have NO MODERATION (unless someone posts vulgarity or known lies or completely off-topic issues).
The site is:
This site is not meant to replace any other site but is supposed to be a gateway to honest, open discussion & hopefully a way for people to exit the movement — not back to dead faith or back to “Left-Behindism” but to the community of saints.  The community of which Christ is the Cornerstone & His hand-picked apostles are the foundation.  The same community of saints that has been guided by the Sovereign, unfailing, immutable hand of God via the Holy Spirit.  If you have never had that kind of faith, now is the time.
Here are the initial questions & answers from the website:
Q1 Why do people call it Hyperpreterism since that is derogatory?
A1 Hyper simply means beyond the original or normal scope (see ref).  It is a technical prefix used even in the sciences, such as hyperactive, hyperhydration, hyperinflation, hyperoxide & such.  It is not derogatory but historically & etymologically accurate since there is such a thing as PRETERISM which came BEFORE the version now labeled hyperpreterism.
Q2 Why don’t most Christians accept hyperpreterists as fellow Christians with minor theological differences?
A2 Hyperpreterism is NOT a minor difference.  For 2000 years, every expression of historic Christianity has AGREED on exactly the 3 things that hyperpreterism denies (1) Jesus will come back in our future (2) The resurrection of the believers is yet future & bodily (3) The judgment of the wicked & righteous is yet future.  Because of this major, major disconnect from historic Christianity, hyperpreterism is NOT accepted as within the scope of Christianity even though other differences between Christians can be accepted as minor & “non-essential”, hyperpreterism is so intertwined with the Gospel that it CANNOT be accepted without a complete redefining of what has been considered to be Christianity for the last 2000 years.
Q3 Do most Christians think hyperpreterist are going to hell?
A3 No, most Christians realize that though a person can be considered outside the community of saints when it comes to their held belief, it is still up to God who is & isn’t ultimately “saved” & “damned” — however, hyperpreterists can & should be treated as outside of Christianity as groups such as Mormons & JWs since hyperpreterism is just as foreign as those groups.  It is not in an effort to be mean, it is actually an effort to get hyperpreterists to see they are nothing like historic Christianity.
Q4 Why does it seem like most Christians will not engage hyperpreterists in an “exegetical” manner (on proof-texts)?
A4 Hyperpreterism, like other contrary systems must first be addressed on the premise level.  There has been some exegetical refutations of hyperpreterism but most Christians consider the premise of hyperpreterism to be so untenable that there is no need to go much further.  For example, before a person discusses the need for “environmental laws” such as “carbon credits” & such, they should first discuss whether the premise of man-made “Global Warming” is even true.  Thus, most Christians do not see a need to engage hyperpreterism in proof-texts since hyperpreterism’s premise of a 2000 year conspiracy or error in Christianity undermines not only the hyperpreterist position but would undermine Christianity in general.  Interacting on “proof-text” is futile until the premise is hashed out since both sides will bring proof-texts in an attempt to cancel out the other.  This is true not only about hyperpreterism but about any positional claim; be it Global Warming or Evolution.
Q5 Why does it seem that many times, the discussion about/against hyperpreterism appears to become personal?
A5 Hyperpreterism is by its very nature very “personal” in that it MUST claim 2000 years worth of COLLECTIVE Christian interpretation has been in error & that a handful of people have “personally” figured out something very, very different than historic Christianity.  It takes quite a confident (or egotistical) personal belief to assume one individual is correct & 2000 years worth of Christianity is wrong.  This “personal” effect is not always shown among the more nominal hyperpreterists, but the “leaders” & “teachers” exude this personal element more than others.  This is perhaps the cause of the discussion often turning to the personality & character of the individuals advocating hyperpreterism.  It is often seen, the belief in hyperpreterism & a person’s strong…um assertiveness go hand & hand & can hardly be distinguished.  It is not that Christians necessarily want to discuss the personal element, but it is intertwined so tightly that it is nearly impossible not to discuss how it MUST be arrogant to think 2000 years of Christian interpretation has been wrong & hyperpreterists alone have been correct.
Q6 Why can’t we just talk about the Bible alone & leave all of this other stuff out of it?
A6 The Bible is to be understood not as some document that suddenly dropped from the sky or given to some guy in a cave to recite (like Islam claims) or found on golden plates (like Mormonism claims), but the Bible is a living testimony & account of God’s nature, character, & plan handed down via prophets & apostles (Ephesians 2:20, Ephesians 3:5, Ephesians 4:11, 2 Thessalonians 2:15).  The Bible MUST be discussed under the premise that it is NOT up to each individual to privately interpret.  We MUST consider that Jesus is the Cornerstone & the handpicked apostles are the foundation of the Church & have given to that Church, its “traditions”.  Disconnecting the Bible & Christianity from its method & means of transmission will ALWAYS lead to erroneous “movements”.  Even Mormons & JWs read the Bible & “exegete” the text, but what they lack is a connection with the historic Christianity that has existed for 2000 years.  So, although a “Bible alone” discussion sounds good, the Bible is NEVER alone.  It was given to a people & how those people received it & expressed it over the course of 2000 years MUST be considered.
Q7 Isn’t eschatology a “non-essential” anyway?
A7 All beliefs can be “non-essential” until they are really examined & seen as how they impact ultimately, the salvation of the individual.  For example, some people would hold that you MUST be baptized to be saved.  Then the question is raised, was the thief on the cross baptized?  But with hyperpreterism, it isn’t just a matter of saying that anti-christ is Nero or Barak Obama, it is intrinsically associated with the Gospel.  The Gospel being REPENT & BELIEVE FOR THE KINGDOM IS AT HAND. (Mark 1:15).  If as hyperpreterism claims, the kingdom is already here, including all the other associated events then this would impact the need to repent & believe — indeed, a large faction of hyperpreterists consistently advocate forms of “universalism” wherein all are now “saved” or “saved to serve”.  There is no more condemnation possible since sin & evil & the devil have been completely defeated.  Again, hyperpreterism is NOT just a minor disagreement with historic Christianity — hyperpreterism is a complete redefinition including a redefinition of the Gospel — whether the hyperpreterists mean to redefine the Gospel or not.  So, eschatology is only “non-essential” as long as it is under-developed, but once it is centralized it may & often does impact all other “ologies”.
Q8 Don’t people who won’t accept hyperpreterism merely cling to the “creeds” or the “traditions of men”?
A8 Not most of the time.  Creed for example comes from the Latin word “credo” which literally means, “I believe”.  Even hyperpreterists have a “creed” or a set of belief statements they make (for example the 3 things they deny in Answer #2).  Historic Christians do NOT normally appeal to the creeds over Scripture but rather look at creeds, confessions & general historic Christian belief in light of Scripture & then ask themselves, “If I come to a very different conclusion, why?” It is not merely an appeal to the majority but it is a respect for the sovereignty of God, for the working of the Holy Spirit throughout history, for the ability of Jesus & the handpicked apostles to have successfully transmitted & assured correct understanding to the Church & for that same Church to maintain the most basic & correct understanding of those doctrines.  Historic Christians attempt to honor the Christians that have gone before them, all the way back to the original apostles.  The “traditions” that most Christians are attempting to follow are those by the men Jesus handpicked to pass on those “traditions” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).  Hyperpreterism on the other hand is so foreign to historic Christianity, that if tomorrow hyperpreterism became the dominant belief within Christianity & ANY Christian from the past came & saw what was being taught & believed, those Christians would not think it was Christianity.
Q9 Aren’t “hyperpreterists” merely emulating the Reformers of the 15th & 16th century — such as Martin Luther?
A9 No.  The Reformers were NOT fighting against the Church but rather against Papalism AND against the “enthusiasts” or “radicals”.  On one hand the Reformers were opposing the Papalistic corruptions (Catholicism wasn’t ALWAYS corrupt) & on the other hand, the Reformers were opposing the “radicals” who wanted to discard everything that came before & redefine Christianity.  Hyperpreterism is more akin to the radicals that the Reformers opposed than to the Reformers themselves.   Interestingly enough, even the radicals claimed to be using the “Bible alone” to make their case, but like all cultic movements & like hyperpreterism, they were completely disconnected from historic Christianity. (see link)
Q10 Why does it seem that some hyperpreterists are singled out for opposition more than others?
A10 Because there are “leaders” of errors & “followers” of errors & erroneous “leaders”.  On one hand, the “leaders” are like wolves & the “followers” like duped sheep.  If Christians truly love the people they see as fellow sheep, even duped sheep then they will reach out to them differently than those they perceive as “wolves”.  These principles are found in verses like (Romans 16:18, 2 Corinthians 11:5, 2 Corinthians 12:11, James 3:1) Those who take up the role as “leaders” or “teachers” are to  be held to more responsibility than those merely following, though if the “leaders/teachers” of error can be turned from error, praise God — it is rare.

Q11 Can’t we just have a “civil discussion” without all the personal stuff & name calling?
A11 This is partly what this OPEN FORUM is for — so many times, productive discussions cannot take place because of membership or moderation restrictions.  However, to think that a discussion of hyperpreterism or any BELIEF system will not ultimately turn to the personal is naive.  We are what we believe or as the Bible says, “so as a man thinks in his heart is he”. (Proverbs 23:7)  Theology affects character & character affects theology.  Calling people random names like “boob” or “idiot” are not helpful or accurate, but some descriptors can & MUST be employed — such as hyper since it is an accurate term.
Q12 Why can’t people mind their own business & let people believe what they want to believe?
A12 There are a few issues with this idea; (1) ideas & beliefs are hardly EVER held in private but will eventually be publicized & even openly or passively encouraged for other people to believe AND these ideas & beliefs have consequences (recall 911 & the World Trade Center?).  (2)  As Christians, we are supposed to be loving our neighbors & especially our brothers & sisters (people who call themselves Christians even if their beliefs are not quite Christian).  AND to love them means we MUST interact with what they believe EVEN if they tell us to mind our own business (see link).
Now we’ll see just how open & willing to communicate people really are.  Here is the opportunity.  No moderation.  No membership requirements.  No need to even use your real name.  Come interact on a one-on-one basis unfiltered by “leaders/teachers”.
* In an attempt to be as least offensive to those interacting, the terms Neo-preterism/preterist are being used instead of the more technically & historically accurate terms of “hyperpreterism/preterism.

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