Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An Examination of the Israel-Only Doctrine of Preterism

Father Abraham
Initially I was asked to write a refutation of the Israel-Only doctrine but I wanted to expand the scope to include a more comprehensive examination of the newest manifestation of preterism. I will assume the reader has a basic knowledge of preterism but for sake of clarity, preterism (also known as full preterism and hyperpreterism, as distinguished from the lesser developed partial preterism) is the belief that Jesus already returned and that the attending eschatological (end time) events such as the collective resurrection, the judgment of wicked and righteous, and the end of sin has already happened in the first century. These conclusions are based on two main premises.

1. Audience Relevancy - The New Testament is mainly to and about the first century people.
2. All is Fulfilled - All of the New Testament eschatological events were fulfilled in the first century.

Upon those two main interpretative keys, all of the Bible is filtered, thus concluding a fulfilled eschatology or pret (past) -erism.

The Israel-Only doctrine within preterism attempts to remain consistent with the premises of preterism in that the Israel-Only (IO) doctrine limits the audience to physical descendants of Abraham AND has the eschatological events ALL fulfilled to, with, and for them. Whereas, preterism as it has been espoused from the 1800s to the early 2000s would illogically attempt to inject people outside the supposed audience and outside the supposed fulfillment back into those two classes. The "traditional" form of preterism is hard pressed to demonstrate how anything applies to anyone after the AD70 terminus. For example, there have been men advocating preterism who also claim to be pastors or elders yet according to 1st Peter 5, the elders/pastors role was to watch over the church UNTIL the Chief Shepherd comes.  We know this is a terminus because at that time the elders will be rewarded. There is no indication what happens to elders AFTER the Chief Shepherd appears except the implication that their task is done.

The development of the IO doctrine should be contrasted with the some of the other manifestations of preterism which I'll only mention in passing; TransmillenialismCovenant Creationism, Preterist Idealism,  among others. I mention these because none of these have had a lasting effect on the movement overall. In fact, they behave more like offshoots or splinter groups than a full fledged development of the two main principles of preterism. Only IO actually and plainly attempts to apply preterism to its overall proposition.

No one person can be credited with the development of IO except perhaps to say it was best articulated by preterist Donald Hochner and a fellow that goes by the pseudonym Rivers of Eden. But it was Corey Shultz who took it further and infused almost every preterist Facebook group with discussions about IO. For this reason, many social media outlets ran by preterists deny these men membership.

IO has not been well received by most of the "establishment" preterist such as Don Preston. IO threatens the structured hold on the movement. If IO is adopted by too many preterists, the movement for all intents and purposes ceases to exist since it can no longer be driven by the materials of such men as Preston and others. This is ironic since preterism by nature has an anti-establishment, anti-structure focus. Preterism claims either implicitly or explicitly that the nearly 2000 years of Christian history and teaching has been either unintentionally or intentionally in error. This leaves most adherents of preterism very distrustful of experts or leaders, yet here are the experts and leaders of the preterist movement telling the adherents to stay away from IO.

Preston refuses to interact with IO except to dismiss it as "racist and atheistic".

Even sometimes Preston apologist and long time preterist, Larry Siegle has recently said:

Everyone who knows Rivers Of Eden knows that he is not a racist. The problem is that the "Exclusive Israel" viewpoint arose from within the movement of British-Israelism and the Christian Identity movement. It is THAT association that some have linked Rivers to racism. A "racist" is one who (for all practical purposes) favors his OWN race in some special way. Rivers has ALWAYS excluded himself from favor with God on the basis of his own belief that God's promises were made to ethnic Israel alone and the "seed" of Abraham and to no one else. Therefore, he is NOT a "racist". -- from FB.
The problem with Siegle's claim is that British-Israelism has NOTHING to do with IO. Whereas British-Israelism was about ascribing to British people the status of the lost tribe, or elect of God, IO does not advocate anything like this. In fact, IO holds to preterism and limits the audience to the first century. IO has no association or connection to British-Israelism nor Christian-Identity. Where those groups sometimes devolve into a sort of Anglo race superiority, IO specifically applies to genetic Abrahamic people, who per IO (and per preterism in general), all ceased to exist in any pure form AFTER AD70. James Jordan, although not a full preterist but only a partial actually says:

"What, then, are modern Jews? Modern Jews are people who choose to think of themselves as descendants of Israel. Most modern Jews are not semites, but are descended form Eastern European tribes that converted to Judaism in the middle ages... It is entirely possible that there is not one drop of Abraham's blood in any modern Jew. Of the tiny percentage of Israel that had any of Abraham's blood in the first century, it is possible that all such either became Christians or were slain in the Jewish War of A.D. 70...Modern Jews are a separate nation of people with a self-identity, spread out among many other nations. The closest analogy to them are the Gypsies. The only difference between Modern Jews and Gypsies is that the Modern Jews claim to have a relation to the Biblical Jews, a claim I maintain is false." -- source
IO would agree with this 100%. IO would say that everything leading up to the eschatological events of the first century were meant for the true elect, the true sons of Abraham and that it is artificial for anyone past that AD70 terminus to apply any of that to themselves. There are no more "Jews".

One of the main pushbacks against IO even by preterists is that it destroys hope. Hope in anything beyond. The argument is, if God is done with the world, then what is the point discussing religion or holding to precepts in the Bible. Ironically, these are the same accusations against preterists in general. (Here's an article by preterist David Curtis trying to address that accusation against preterists; link)

So, it is amazing to see preterists say IO destroys the hope of people, or the purpose of people. They ask the IO to consider the ramifications or consequences of their teaching. This seems odd since the ramifications of preterism in general is that nearly 2000 years of Christianity as it has been believed and practiced is supposedly false. Preterism wants the person to believe everything has been either a lie or wrong, yet when an IO advocates the same thing, they are ridiculed by their fellow preterists.

Finally, here I address how to refute or argue against IO as a Christian; not as a preterist but as a historical Christian.  Are you ready? Refute preterism. Do not accept the premises of preterism; once you do there is no refutation of IO. IO is Preterism. To simply try to argue that the Gentiles of the first century were not merely Abrahamic people who were not in covenant won't help. The only way to refute the child of preterism is to refute its parent. So, all we can do is remain faithful to the community of Saints that believed and existed the day before and the day after AD70 to present; the Christian community. We must leave it up to the preterists to attempt to refute their own creations.

Again, while most preterist leaders will not touch IO with a ten foot pole except to call IO advocates names and dismiss them, some preterists are attempting to interact. So far, it seems the approach is to point out the eternality of certain passages, thus showing there was never meant to be a terminus. Pointing out passages like Ephesians 3:21 where we read:
"Unto him [any faithful person] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
Oddly enough, preterism by design has the Church ending in AD70, because according to most preterism; the Church has failed to accurately teach until along comes the preterists. They can't have it both ways.  Either God has sustained His basic eschatological plan among His Church and God/Jesus/the apostles/the Holy Spirit have been faithful conveyors of that plan; or as preterists imply; Christians were either too dumb to understand or have corrupted God's original plan OR preterism itself is wrong and against Christianity. So, when preterists attempt to refute IO they are in essence refuting preterism itself. Such a course will either cause the preterist to abandon faith altogether or return to the Christ of the Bible and be among His community of Saints.


Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis Roderick. And you are right on when you point out that the only real refutation of IO is a refutation of its mother, FP itself. Once thatvis dispoesed of, IO goes with it.

Kevin Craig said...

Has anyone written an refutation of IO from a consistent preterist position? I think it can be done, but it would help if there were a systematic, centralized statement of IO with which to deal.

Anonymous said...

Futurism and full preterists believe in eternal forward salvation and I/O doesnt. I/O looks to be the outcast here

mike66 said...

It seems to me that full preterism and futurism have the commonality of both believing salvation pertains to all. I/O does not so it is a separate beast altogether.