While reading for part 3 of the Growth and Expansion series (which refutes the Full Preterist notion that “all” prophecy was “fulfilled” by the time of AD 70), I came across a wonderful passage by John Macquarrie (New Directions in Theology Today: Volume III God and Secularity, Westminster Press, 1967). “Error occurs whenever a half truth gets passed off as it were the whole truth, for then it becomes a perversion” (129). He followed this with several examples, then concludes, “But errors and heresies arise in the church because the half-truths that they contain have been neglected in the church’s own teaching” (129).
Full Preterism fits right here. A light bulb went off in my spirit. Full Preterism contains “half truths”. These have been neglected. What has happened is that a few non-academic sorts have taken these and ran them through a supposed “consistency” language-game. What they came out with, and what I came out with, was something that re-invented Christianity. God was no longer omniscient, but a slave to “infinity”. The church was no longer an “institute”, but a common network of internet communities (since pastors are no longer necessary today if one take Eph 3 seriously and “consistently”). Academics and the “seminary” are laughed at, being “futurist oriented” and not having “the truth” of Full Preterism. The doctrine of sola Scriptura is now the doctrine of nuda Scriptura (I don’t need anyone, or anything, but me and my Bible, which forgets that the “me” there is the BIGGEST PROBLEM!). Full Preterism has turned into a weird Fundamentalism that seeks “prooftexts” and scorns the seminary (anti-intellectualism – for amazing simularites between Full Preterism and American Fundamentalism, see Carl Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, Eerdmans, 2003 ). The Full Preterist scorns “systematics”. He scorns the “creeds, traditions and confessions” of the Church. Since I have left the movement, after being Full Preterist for 19 years, and teaching, lecturing and writing for 9 years, and having received from my peers the title of “leader” among other “leaders” within the movement, I have seen these tendencies from the outside; while inside, I buried my head, or smoothed over the rough patches. After all, we gotta keep this movement alive at all costs. To turn back now would damage the credibility of what we have taught and sacrificed for so long. We would look like fools, wouldn’t we (one Full Preterist has called me this publically since I left). Rather than admit error, we proceed. It can’t be wrong! Such thinking will secure the firm conviction that a movement of this caliber will not survive.But, that is not the end all be all of the matter. Macquarrie wrote, “…the correct procedure for the church in the face of new theological movements of today is not to condemn them or merely fight against them, but rather to set what is true and wholesome within them in the wider context of the entire Christian faith. The half-truths that can become downright errors when taught in isolation are given their due when they are presented as part of the whole Christian faith.” He went on to explain what he meant by “isolation”. “In isolation, some of these elements would have to be judged not only erroneous but also tending toward harmful practical attitudes among those who adhere to them.” Another light bulb went off.
Macquarrie notes that half truths do contain some truth, and these should be examined in the light of the Christian Faith – all of it - in order to get a proper estimation of what is being said. The “2,000 years” of Church history is wrong argument backfires on itself because at the same time it is said by Full Preterists that this view is “simple to see”. Yet, we still find them clamoring, as did I, to find some sort of “justification” for their view in the time-line of Church History, whether it be finding little “traces” and “quotes” from Church Fathers, or concocting an entire theory of development from Church History. That is, Full Preterists want their church history, and destroy their church history at the same time. They (as did I), pull from scholars, yet turn around and condemn these scholars and the institutions they came from as “futurists” (a negative term among Full Preterists – anyone not a Full Preterist is a damn “futurist”). Why pull from accomplished academians? One reason: to point out their inconsistencies. I wrote an article called, “Evangelical Exegesis: Close but No Cigar” that was featured in my book Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead. There, I pull from F.F. Bruce, and then show where he should be a Full Preterist “if he were consistent”.
But, Macquarrie is correct. “Fighting against” the Full Preterist crowd, especially the internet-active-vocal ones (those who type a lot of words – there are about twenty of these folks who are constantly typing and active with about maybe 30-40 who “respond” in the “comments” sections, whereas the most are silent and type nothing) will only amount to stirring up a red-ant pile. What those of us need to do is recognize what “half” of the truth we did see in Full Preterism. We have left. It is of no use to continue to bolster this movement as if it were growing in any substantial manner (maybe 100 a hundred a year?). The serious – non-internet – Full Preterist are few in number. I can think of one: Don Preston. Tim King, son of Max King, have entirely separated themselves from “Full Preterism” and are now castigated by at least half of the Full Preterist movement (you have to keep in mind that the Full Preterist community, of which I am all too familiar with, is largely segregated due to their own denomination backgrounds in Calvinism, or Arminianism – Reformed and Church of Christ – with several sub-groups that publically vie as the “true” Full Preterist view over and against the “false” Full Preterist views. This, it could be said, can be leveled against Christianity in general, but what is so striking here is that Full Preterism is relatively young – about 40 years old – and is relatively still a small fraction of the larger Christian population – most of which have never heard of it. With such a small fraction and a short history, to already be breaking up into fighting – vicious at times – may be a telling sign of it impermanence to come). Either Full Preterists must come to grips with some sort of ecumenicism amongst itself (which breaks down the differences into an attitude of “who cares, we all love Jesus” – and many within the Full Preterists leaders are not willing to let their own “differences” be handled on such a soft peddle), or those who lead factions within it must continue to strive to make their version the top version that virtually silences the others. Example, Ed Stevens promotes the “rapture” theory of explanation for no “church history” documentation of the parousia in AD 70. Full Preterists, many of them, reacted strongly against this view. Don Preston impressively spent a great deal of his book, We Shall Meet Him in the Air (2010), refuting this view. There is another view, Covenant Creation, which has made great divisions within Full Preterism. From all appearances, this view is emerging as overtaking and squeezing out the old gaurd. The so-called “Reformed” Full Preterists are dwindling (no such thing, exists, mind you, but we called ourselves that in order to, once again, show solidarity with Church History and somehow legitimize ourselves by stating that we affirm the “five solas” and “young earth” views. We affirmed the “sovereign grace” of God without realizing, or realizing but ignoring, that “Reformed” is a fully developed system that cannot jive at all with Full Preterism unless Full Preterism itself changes some of its basic, core beliefs – but then it wouldn’t be Full Preterism anymore, either!). I submit that that if Full Preterism is correct, then I was wrong in insisting that Covenant Creationists have no case. I fought hard against them. But, it does appear to be the case, as reluctant as I was to admit it, that they may well be the future. This is not to say that this is a good thing, because Covenant Creationism is so laden with errors and half-baked ideas, with an admixture of half truths drawn from public scholars like Gage, Beale, Carson, Ridderbos, Wright, Holland, Walton, Fesko, Jordan, and others. Just enough truth to suck in the gullible.
This “just enough truth” is what sucked me in. I was, it is to be admitted, quite impressed with Max King’s tome, Cross and the Parousia. Scot McKnight, who is not an associate of King’s view, is a top-scholar. He spoke at Warren, Ohio with the King’s in one of their final conferences there before moving to Colorado Springs. N.T Wright had met King. Reggie Kidd, R.C. Sproul, Chuck Hill and Richard Pratt met with the Kings in the famous debate recording (Ed Stevens sells this, I think). R.C. Sproul devoted a good deal of material to Max King in his The Last Days according to Jesus, Baker, 1999). The appearance of legitimacy. Half truths go far. If one can strectch it, if one can read, say, an N.T. Wright, it would seem that they are coming “closer” to Full Preterism! Of course, only the Full Preterist can say this, and say it we did. I preached a lecture that we were an “anticipatory movement” like so many movement before us, that, at first, start out as a small band. We teach material that will be seen as “ahead of its time” when time finally gets around to seeing what we taught – maybe hundreds of years from now. Ahhhh, such firm hope. I just bought myself some time.
The fact is, the church has not adequately responded to the half truths of Full Preterism, and this just bolsters our attack: “see! they refuse to interact and ANSWER US! Let’s keep up the e-mails! Show them their errors! Let’s dog them at every turn!” To get back to Macquarrie’s statement. The Church has negelected important aspects of Pauline eschatology and OT eschatology. They have no related it to the believer today. The Dispensationalists has thrown it off into the future, and the Full Preterist has thrown it all into the past. The Truth is somewhere in the middle where it usually hides out. Full Preterism is a reactionay movement against Dispensationalism. One extreme reacting against another extreme. However, promising scholarship is delivering the goods. More focus is being placed on “this generation” of the historical Jesus. More attention is being finally paid to the absolute high priority of the Hebrew Scriptures in the NT witness. “Story” motif, and “patterning”, “echoes” and even our old friend, Typology, is making a comeback. But, it is not just “types of Christ” some Baptist preacher may get out of the imagery of the floating “wood” (the “cross”) in the lake, or that Christ, the ‘rock’ was “struck twice” by Moses, whereas Jesus was only “struck once” – no, the typology today is much more sophisticated. Development within Christian doctrine is a legitimate enterprise. But it is not development when it announces a complete opposite and break with previous expressions. The Reformation was not a “complete break” from all that had gone on before. It reformed the initial form already there. Full Preterism cannot claim this and yet turn around and shout down the argument used against it that it must believe “2000 years of church history is wrong.” How can you develop something from something that has been wrong? It’s not development. It’s “back to the drawing board” in science. They don’t develop false hypotheses, they drop them and start anew. The Mormons did not “develop” Christian doctrine. They came up with something never before seen in the Christian Church. At least they were honest enough to admit it. I don’t know whether it notit was honest on my part to write Misplaced Hope as a sell on the idea of development, or whether it was just a young scholar trying to make an impression. I thought I was being honest. I thought I could make a good case at the time. Time is one of the worst enemies of writers!
Reign of Christ Ministries has survived a lot since its eight years. It is now in a new area. By the grace of God, my partner, Jason Bradfield, for the most part on his own, saw the light (and the handwriting on the wall). We decided to become a platform for bringing out the “half truths” of Full Preterism that will do the Church well to understand. We have also committed to do this within the context of the larger Christian, Historic Faith. We have left behind those internet preachers of “true Full Preterism”, while maintaining a solid friendship with many individual Full Preterists (you know who you are). Our ministry is not geared to showing Full Preterism is false. Most of the Church gets that at first presentation. “What? No end to evil and sin in history? Infinite what? haha, yeah, good luck with that one!” And that usually is the end of a churchgoers introduction to Full Preterism. Now, Preterism, on the other hand, the legitimate and historical school of interpretation that does have long, long roots, will be taught here. And, here, we bring in the half truths of Full Preterism. We need not rehearse the “dominoe effect” fallacy, or the “you are not consistent” fallacy that is all too often the first line of attack the Full Preterist have: time texts! time texts! time texts! (the three “T’s” of Full Preterism 0r the Three Points of Full Preterism). Preterism can handle the time texts within the larger Christian theological perspectives without resorting to the extremist error of “all prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70″. Full Preterists assume that this cannot be done, and thus demand “consistency” as a result. “Consistency” is a logical term that is based on a deductive approach that has already assumed (presupposed) the main dogma: all prophecy is fulfilled by AD 70. The Bible never speaks of the end of history (page 2, Preston, ibid.). With these dogmas set in stone, any interpretation that has any futuristic, unfulfilled, or as yet unrealized aspect about it will be grilled as inconsistent – and then the logic-games will begin – I did it for years to myself and to others without realizing what I was doing before the light bulb went off. That game no longer works here. It has been exposed. The Full Preterist has just enough truth to be potentially dangerous.
I don’t think Full Preterism will ever be a major threat of biblical and historical eschatology. It has the potentiality, though. Sharp distinctions must be kept by labeling this form of Preterism as full. I don’t think it helps to call it “hyper-preterism” or “heresy” and the like. That just emboldens it. Besides, I cannot ever bring myself to say that many souls I have met and continue to remain friends with (few in number now, as many of them have castigated me with the worst of motives and deception on my part) do have that strange inner light known as the countenance of Christ. If we come at Full Preterists with the understanding that their error does not discount them from grace of God that covers all errors, even our errors of doctrine, a few will be gained. The vocal ones, who have vested interests (as did I), and who made sacrifices (as have I), and who have made a little bit of a name for themselves (as did I) will have a harder time. I didn’t mean to make a name for myself. Tim King bought Misplaced Hope, we signed a contract, and the next thing I knew, this book was selling and I was being asked to speak at 5 or 6 conferences a year! With my background in theology from my seminary studies, I was being hailed as a “scholar”. Ironically, Whitefield had graduated the likes of some of our most vocal critics (Mathison, Sproul, Sproul, Jr., DeMar, Chilton, Gentry, et al). I graduated from Whitefield with two hard earned degrees (M.A.R. and MACS). All of the sudden, this “nobody” became a “somebody”. Naturally, and since I was totally convinced of the presuppositions of Full Preterism, I took this as God’s will. Couple that with that most of the Full Preterists I met did have that strange inner light known as the countenance of Christ. I was not in bad company. We weren’t a cult. Oh, but theology (coupled with the belief of always studying and always learning) is a strange taskmaster. I studied my way right out of a movement I helped have a hand in! Ironic, yes. God? uhn, it’s sounds like something he would do!
I think I am going to ride my bike for about forty miles…..peace out.