You are hereHow to Accomplish Small Things: A Guide for Small People
How to Accomplish Small Things: A Guide for Small People
A couple of weeks ago I made the following remark to some critics of Planet Preterist’s openess: "I for one am an unfinished Christian, am still on the journey and choose to respect those who disagree with me. I want to study my map and find all the details on it. I want to refrain from condemnation and let God handle the judgment. I want to create relationships, not tear them down.. I am taking thousands of people with me on this journey, people who are growing spiritually and learning more about God's living presence." Oh boy, if creating hypertension was a gift of the Holy Spirit, I would certainly have a prime-time spot on TBN.In response to my statement, and my general aggressive attitude in promoting Preterism, I was called a "thief" for trying to "take over" the movement. One guy said "nobody is following you anywhere Virgil." A few found my "extreme pride" and "boasting in numbers" extremely troubling. Another guy said that I committed sins of “pride and tantrums” and that I was "fierce." Someone else said that I "declared myself the leader of Preterism." In my defense, someone said, "Virgil is from Romania (which I believe, is more or less a Euro-Mediterranean country), which could account for his "extreme" pride, could it not?" That comment made me think of some Discovery Channel show describing some exotic animals inhabiting Eastern Europe, with the narrator, say Patrick Steward or Anthony Hopkins, saying something to the effect "In their natural habitat, Romanians can be extremely proud, but fierce. They should never be incited or fed in wilderness..."
But humor aside, this is a serious matter, on which I have spoken several times before. There is a tendency within Preterism to "play the martyr." Obviously, there are clear instances in which many of us have been abused by churches and even family members. Some have lost jobs, others were "kicked out" of the church, and the list goes on. But what is surprising to see, is that those who do have success in what we do, when pointing out the accomplishments, we get labeled with all kinds of vicious labels.
The Gates of Hell will not prevail
When we read in Matthew 16 that Jesus traveled with his disciples to Caesarea Philippi, he laid out a natural context for what was to follow. Caesarea Philippi was a very interesting place, to say the least. It was the place where the Greek god Pan was being worshipped by his followers, worship which often involved sexual acts with goats and animal desecration. Pan was a goat-god, and his temple was built on the side of a great crack in the mountain, which was described as being "without bottom." This hole in the ground was called "The Gates of Hell (or Hades)" by the population at that time, believing that it was the crack in the earth from which devils and evil spirits would come out from Hades into the world. This is the context in which the events of Matthew 16 unfold, and this is the place in which Jesus tells his disciples "on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18).
The Gates of Hell
in Caesarea Philippi
Now what is interesting is that Jesus is using subtle language here. He is referring to Peter as "the rock" but also he seems to be referring to the place in which The Gates of Hell and Pan’s temple were. In essence, Jesus is saying, "these people, the goat-worshipping people are the people who will join me and follow me, and absolutely nothing will prevail against them."
What, you will say, but how can that be? Jesus was to build his Kingdom out of goat-worshippers who were performing sex acts with animals, sinners, pagans, idol worshippers? That is repugnant and unacceptable!
The evidence suggests that Jesus came into this world to turn the ordinary into extraordinary, turn the average, into fantastic, and that is what many so called Christians today find unacceptable and disgusting.
Come, Follow Me
In Israel, education was crucial to all families. By the time a boy was a teenager, he would have had the entire Torah and Prophets completely memorized, and would have spent almost a decade in a rabbi’s care learning about the Torah, and learning about the Prophets. But when the education was over, a rabbi would have to ask the boy to follow him, or if the boy wanted to follow the rabbi, the rabbi would question him to find out if he was good enough to make the cut. Those who were not good enough would go about their family trade to be bakers, farmers and fishermen. Working the fields or a trade meant you did not make the cut to follow a rabbi.
One day, Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, and he notices two guys casting fishing nets, working their trade. So he tells them, "come follow me" and they "at once" dropped their nets and followed him. They were the "not-good-enoughs" and the dropouts, yet Jesus asked them to follow him. In essence, Jesus is telling them "you can be like me" because a rabbi believes in his students and their abilities, and he expects his students to believe in themselves. A rabbi expects his students to follow him in all things and do and learn all things in his image.
That is why when Rabbi Jesus walked on water, Peter did what was natural, he got out of the boat and walked on water; he did what his rabbi did. And for a very long time I was convinced that Peter’s failure, and Peter's sinking into the water was due to his doubts in Jesus and his lack of faith in Jesus, but I have come to realize that perhaps Peter’s failure is more about lack of faith in his own abilities and in himself rather than in Jesus.
If we have been called to be disciples of Christ, then why do we have so little faith in ourselves? Rob Bell speaks at length on this topic: "If the rabbi calls you to be his disciple, then he believes you can actually be like him. As we read the stories of Jesus’ life with his talmidim, his disciples, what do we find frustrates him no end? When his disciples lose faith in themselves. He even says to them at one point, 'You did not choose me, but I chose you.' The entire rabbinical system was based on the rabbi having faith in his disciples." (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p. 134)
When Jesus left this earth and ascended, he more or less left the disciples in charge, and told them "go change the world." Jesus trusted them, and they trusted themselves, and amazingly, they did change the world. How much more can we trust ourselves today since we profess the Parousia to be a reality?
Preterism should not be a movement of losers, whiners and martyrs, but a movement surging with confidence and success. When our critics see us "boasting" with millions of web visits, published books and successful conferences, they should rather say “good job” and not display disdain and criticism, and not mingle confidence with pride. They should be happy that so many people are being reached daily with the truth of Covenant Eschatology. Instead, many are burning with invidious egoism and are turning any rock trying to find something to use in order to smear our success. So, if you want to continue to be small and insignificant, and if you want to continue to accomplish small things, by all means, continue to focus on negativism and criticism, it is a recipe for success (or failure depending on what you are after). We choose to think big, focus on trust, relationships and we will put a new face on Preterism, whether our critics like it or not. We will drag them kicking and screaming, and confidently we will reassert that Preterism is about the Kingdom, not about being right on eschatology; it is about having confidence in others (like the goat-people), as they perhaps will learn to have confidence in us; it is about believing that Jesus has confidence in us and expects us to have confidence in ourselves and our abilities. We are the new proud and confident face of Preterism, so learn to live with us; it is not a demand, it is simply a fact.
And to conclude, I have a message for you who are reading and hearing us: We can change the world together. Come, follow us, because The Gates of Hell will not prevail against us!