Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sincerity Rarity Among Hyperpreterism

As a former 15-year long hyperpreterist myself, I have for a few years now, been beating the drum that the number one issue that hyperpreterism must face is that hyperpreterism MUST claim that 2,000 years of historic Christianity has been in gross error on the basics of eschatology. Typically, hyperpreterists respond in a few ways:
  1. Claim some sort of 'trace' form of preterism that supposedly always has existed in historic Christianity (yet no such form exists).
  2. Claim some massive dupe of Christianity, such as a 1st-century rapture or immediate post-AD70 apostasy that has supposedly left historic Christianity in supposed error. Or simply claim 2000 years of Christians have been unitedly stupid when it comes to interpreting the Bible on eschatology
  3. Ridicule the question as an appeal to Roman Catholicism ("Eckwardian")
  4. Ignore the question and redirect (such as trying to have a discussion over 'time-statements')

But the question keeps coming back into the face of hyperpreterism. They MUST consider that what they claim by proposing hyperpreterism is that the Christianity that your father and your grandfather and their fathers practiced and believed was in gross error eschatologically. What's worse, many hyperpreterists have wanted to deny that this "paradigm shift" of eschatology would have any effect on other doctrines; such as justification, the atonement, the Trinity, or baptism and the Lord's Supper, not to mention the concepts of heaven and hell. Boy were these hyperpreterists ever in for a surprise.

In my contentions with hyperpreterists, I often note that hyperpreterism is no more "Christian" than is Mormonism or JWs, or Islam even though all these groups appeal to Christian concepts. This has riled most hyperpreterists and even caused them to falsely claim that I am questioning their salvation. Far be it from me to question ANYONE'S salvation as that is ultimately a matter between them and God. However, by pointing out that hyperpreterism isn't Christian, I am merely pointing out that hyperpreterism has departed or is departing from historic Christianity as much as Mormormism, JWs, or Islam. In this same way, if a person claims to be an American but denies the history and principles of America on whole; then such as person isn't really an American even if they have a short form birth certificate from Hawaii.

To get to the heart of the article, I want to address a posting by hyperpreterist Jason Bradfield. (source/alternate source) For those who may not know, Bradfield is the background guy for the more infamous hyperpreterist "leader", Sam Frost. Bradfield runs Frost's website. In Bradfield's posting (which I encourage the reader to pause and go read it in its entirety and then return to this article) he laments the state of the "preterist movement". He compares most of the views expressed within the movement as removing blocks from a Jenga game (see picture to left) and either haphazardly putting them in different places or not replacing them at all.
"Eventually, someone is going to remove a piece that topples the whole thing and thereby loses the game. Some pieces can be moved with little notice. Some blocks are more important though, upon which these seemingly less significant ones rest. But even these less significant blocks will eventually fall as well, when the foundation is constantly picked at. It's all connected."
Exactly! This has been my entire point against hyperpreterism. It is purposely attempting to deconstruct historic Christianity and then reconstruct it in a "preterist" form, all the while assuming that nothing negative will happen.

Bradfield continues:
"The Bible presents to us a strong tower of beliefs. A superior philosophical view of men and things of which no other worldview can compete. The problem is never the Bible. The problem arises when we start playing around with the blocks. We remove a block here...remove a block there. Some of them we never put back. Some of them we'll add back to the top, but entirely out of place, causing imbalance. And if we keep doing this for long, the whole thing topples."
Yet somehow, via hyperpreterism we are to believe God is so unwilling or unable that He has allowed 2000 years of supposed gross error to exist on the very basics of His eschatological plan. And hyperpreterists, like the Emergent/Postmodernists before them have been happy to "tweak" the "blocks/foundations" of the faith, arrogantly thinking it will have no dire consequence. And further, we Christians are supposed to sit down and shut up and not say a peep or be labelled as "heretic hunters" for opposing hyperpreterism "paradigm/block shifting".

Here comes a real bold admission by Bradfield:
"Let me be real frank: the online preterist community, by and large, is playing games with the Bible."
Yes indeed, a game of foundation shifting where they are attempting to re-image Christianity into something other than what it has been.

Another aspect of hyperpreterism that I pointed out is its ratio of corruption. By this I mean how many of its leaders and followers are known for their lying, drinking, philandering, and all manner of corruption. Many hyperpreterists would respond to this charge by pointing out the corruption within general Christianity. But as I said, it is a ratio issue. Hyperpreterism claims to be the pinnacle of proper biblical interpretation; supposedly correcting 2000 years of error. To embrace the hyperpreterist view should lead to a more God-honoring life but on ratio, there are more corrupt hyperpreterists within the movement than corrupt Christians within Christianity. An interesting quote by Bradfield seems to now admit this ratio consideration.
"Now, i am perfectly aware that irrationalists exist in every camp. I'm not going to get away from them by leaving preterism. However, it is so prevalent among preterists that it has seriously caused me to pause for a second and question why that is...this is prevalent among those regarded as "leaders" and if it isn't enough to make me rethink the foundations of preterism, it at least makes me want to disassociate myself from it. But again, because it is so prevalent, i am open to the possibility that preterism itself is the problem. When the loudest and most public figures within preterism are telling people to embrace nonsense, i have to step back and reassess why that is."
Exactly! This pausing for a second to question the prevalence of corruption among hyperpreterists was the smoke that caused me to look for the fire -- it is what caused me to eventually question the very premise of hyperpreterism and leave the movement. (see here)

More candid comments from Bradfield:
"We, as the preterist community, are telling the world that the church has missed the boat on so much over the past 2,ooo years. Ok...fine. But what do we replace it with? The downplaying of systematics; the degrading of logic; a "make it up as we go along" approach; and all this by men and women who, as i have said above, are not trained and often speak on things they know nothing about!"
Here we see the issue of hyperpreterism's claim against 2000 years of Christianity, which Bradfield accepts as "fine" but then he goes on to wonder what hyperpreterists should replace Christianity with and if hyperpreterists are actually qualified to even try.

Another issue I've had with the hyperpreterist movement is that many of its adherents are cultish in that they will accept anyone with the 'preterist' label as long as they continue to help bolster the movement in general. Now even Bradfield is noting this in his comments concerning the movement allowing irrationality to fester:
"Again, i know someone is going to say, "Yeah, but Jason, this goes on everywhere. Baptist, methodist, presbyterian and so on..." And yes, i understand that. But again, you will also find STRONG opposition within those same camps. They didn't play around it. They didn't push it to the side for the sake of the "movement"."
And what about my charge that hyperpreterism ISN'T Christianity? Bradfield seems to now agree:
"Oh, we're "reforming" alright. Reforming the WHOLE kit and caboodle! Heck, we have practically toppled the whole of Christianity and are playing with a different set of blocks!"
If hyperpreterism is "playing with a different set of blocks"...or building on the different foundation, then it clearly is not Christian. Please, now stop badgering me for pointing this out.

More directly, Bradfield admits he has been playing with a different set of blocks and trying to re-image Christianity.
"Just what exactly are we putting in its [Christianity's] place? Right now, it looks like a bunch of nonsense. And it is a bunch of nonsense by AMATEURS! And yes, i include MYSELF in that!"
And as if to be borrowing from my drum beat, Bradfield asks his fellow hyperpreterists:
"What is wrong with just sitting down and listening for awhile? Did you ever stop to think that maybe, just maybe, in 2,ooo+ years of theological history, someone has already addressed your so-called huge discovery?"
And then Bradfield really gives it to his fellow hyperpreterists:
"Who are we kidding? The preterist community is largely made up of bunch of ignoramuses. And YES, MYSELF INCLUDED."

More "ah-ha" moments for Bradfield are shown in these comments:
"But up until recently, what i thought might have been just some quirks with a few preterists is turning out to be indicative of the whole. And that concerns me. It raises some flags. It makes me stop and think, "dang, maybe this is the result of an error that is toppling everything else."

Bradfield offers a strong warning to those tinkering with entering the movement:
"Reality is, we have offered very little. And what little we have offered has been, by and large, nonsense and has created more problems than it has solved. Preterism seems to be more about bullying you into it than it is about presenting a coherent worldview. And bullying is, most of the time, a sign of ignorance.

Before you sign on with this "movement", you might want to think twice about how just about everything we have known as "christianity" is getting toppled over. There is nothing wrong with exercising caution. And don't let these bullies tell you otherwise."
Although I am encouraged that perhaps Bradfield is beginning to see the truth about the lie of hyperpreterism, I am still a bit cautious because of what appears to be motivating Bradfield. You see, Bradfield's mentor and one-time "pastor", hyperpreterist Sam Frost seems to be moving closer and closer to the Ken Talbot "Full Preterism Lite" version of hyperpreterism, that Talbot is calling "Realized Preterism". Although I hope Bradfield is sincere and would question ALL versions of preterism, this could simply be a way for him to move along with Frost into another form of it; a form Bradfield would deem "systematic", and intellectual. But putting lipstick on a pig doesn't change that it is still a pig. Realized Preterism is still the inherent idea that somehow 2000 years of Christians were too dumb to have a coherent understanding of basic eschatology. Realized Preterism, like hyperpreterism still calls for its adherents to hold the Church in disdain, no matter how churchy Realized Preterism is going to be presented. Please Jason, "pause" some more before jumping from one error to another. God bless and keep you.

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