You are hereAn Interview with Ward Fenley
An Interview with Ward Fenley
Ward Fenley is the President of New Creation Ministries International, a ministry designed to help bring biblical relevance to the lives of God's people through a greater understanding and appreciation of Old Testament prophetic texts. Ward was kind enough (and quick) to respond to a few questions about himself, his ministry and his upcoming conference which will take place in Page, Arizona on July 26-29. Ward is a very humble man and displayed much grace and patience in my interactions with him; I was honored to get to know him and be able to ask him some questions.Virgil Vaduva: Ward, since many Planet Preterist readers may not know you, would you mind sharing with us a few things about yourself and perhaps how you came to learn about Preterist eschatology?
Ward Fenley: In the summer of 1993 Mike Sullivan came to attend our church in Sacramento and shared with me the view of preterism or fulfilled eschatology. At the time I was a staunch dispensationalist and had many debates with amillennialists and post-millennialists. My chief complaint against partial preterism was that it divided contexts that were clearly meant to be kept as a whole. At first I rejected preterism as heresy. Mike moved on, and perhaps wisely so. But at the time we were working our way through 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles and studying the respective contemporary prophets. Eventually I began to see that in those prophecies of the Messianic kingdom, the cross, judgment, and kingdom of God were all placed within the same timeframe contexts, using such phrases as, “in that day,” and “at that time,” etc. I embraced fulfilled eschatology in December of 1993. Sometimes it just takes someone like Mike to let us know that a view exists so that we don’t feel alone when we do choose to embrace it.
Virgil Vaduva: So, why "New Creation Ministries International?" The name of a ministry always communicates a story. What is the story of NCMI?
Ward Fenley: Over the last 3-4 years I have intentionally stayed away from the debate (and debacle) of so many preterist circles for two reasons: first, I wasn’t seeing change in the lives of God’s people or myself since having owned and operated www.eschatology.com. The debates got more and more heated and tempers simply flared. Second, I saw a dearth that existed within virtually all preterist circles. It was a dearth of the practical application of what we actually believe. Specifically, I saw Old Testament prophecies that were the main source of hope for Israelites completely ignored by preterist thinkers. These preterists focused so much on trying to prove “what happened in AD 70” instead of “what is happening now as a result of AD 70,” that their Old Testament scholarship was shoddy at best. Consequently their New Testament scholarship was dangerous. In a nutshell, those Old Testament prophecies spoke of a New Creation, a new world wherein would dwell the righteousness of God and that this new world would be a world characterized by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. I have teamed up with Tami Jelinek (who has been an enormous support and contributor to this vision) to form what is now New Creation Ministries International (NCMI). We have focused on this vision entirely at www.newcreationministries.tv. A summary of our mission could be stated like this: “To present the fulfilled kingdom and grace of God as set forth in the Old and New Testaments in a way that brings about intellectual and practical change in the hearts of God’s people.” NCMI is the story of moving from the emptiness of *mere* debate into the fullness of the mercy of God by approaching Scripture not just to prove a point but to bring about the manifestation of the greatest command: “To love God and your neighbor.” It’s pretty simple, but creeds and confessions don’t often make place for that command. If the kingdom of God has come and the character of the kingdom of God is mercy, then it’s high time we rethink how we are coming across to other believers and the world abroad.
Virgil Vaduva: Since your conference will start in just a few days, could you perhaps tell us a bit about your goals for this conference and what you expect the speakers and attendees to learn from each other?
Ward Fenley: Our goal at this conference is to experience God in a profound and fresh way by having these gifted teachers convey their passion about how the New Creation has changed their lives: i.e., I would love to see intellect and love for God blend together in a triumphant way that maximizes the kingdom and glory of Christ rekindling a zeal and love for God and His people.
Virgil Vaduva: I have noticed that many of your articles and comments are about the Kingdom of God. Why is that?
Ward Fenley: Preterists have long prided themselves in having spiritual understanding and testifying that the kingdom has come. In all frankness, if one were to look around during the Age of Louis the XIV, it was obvious that he was king and those under his rule were subjects of his kingdom, regardless of whether that kingdom was good. Sadly, most people would be hard-pressed to find convincing evidence that “preterists” are in the kingdom. “They will know you are My disciples by your love.”; “Let your light so shine before men that they may glorify your Father in heaven.” ;“You are a city set up on a hill.” The kingdom of God is not proved by showing people how many thou shalts and thou shalt nots we can obey. The kingdom of God is about restoration. “If your brother is overtaken in a fault, you which are *spiritual* restore such a one.” Restoration is what Christ brought to the world. Isn’t it fitting that we should bring it to each other? What is more attractive and more inviting? A theology that competes, fights, and claims the victory in doing so, or, as we at www.newcreationministries.tv have coined, “a theology of mercy”? The kingdom of God is about God’s mercy displayed to us by covering us from separation from Him. Therefore, I believe we are called to show forth mercy by uniting with each other and protecting each other when we fall as opposed to judging each other and then gossiping about each other. “Love covers a multitude of sins…but he that repeats a matters separates the best of friends.” That’s in Proverbs somewhere. It appears that is God’s motto toward us and it should be our motto toward each other.
Virgil Vaduva: In my exchanges with you, the topic of "grace" came up quite often both in our relation with God and with each other. How do you see grace being manifested towards each other as a result of our understanding of eschatology?
Ward Fenley: I would be privileged to answer that question: The book of Acts is about how the kingdom and grace of God revolutionize our lives. Some people think it is merely the history of the Apostolic commission. Consider what should be life-changing verses for those who make claims to be *preachers of the word.* “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:”; “preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God”; “disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God” ; “I have gone preaching the kingdom of God” ; “to testify the gospel of the grace of God” ; “he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus,” ; “Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ.” Life should be all about the kingdom and grace of God and how that translates into everyday living. Sadly, self-righteousness is governing an entity many call the “church.” But I simply cannot get around the fact that the “church” is about the kingdom and grace of God. And the character of the kingdom is not self-righteousness but rather is mercy. To clarify, God made a promise to bring mercy: Micah 7:20 You will perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.” Jesus fulfilled that mercy: Romans 15:8-9 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers: (9) And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy;” If we understand that God has consummated the mercy He promised, then that is the real eschatology of victory that is summed up in these words, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Simply put: Because God was victorious with mercy, we are victorious with mercy.
Virgil Vaduva: You also said "We are not content to simply have a greater theological understanding. We want to have an understanding which is life-changing and impacts the lives of others." I could not agree more, but how do you suggest we go about gaining this understanding that is truly life-changing for us and others?
Ward Fenley: I hope this does not sound crass or theologically “liberal,” but we have to abandon the “moral majority” mindset that has crept into Christianity over the centuries and currently drives our church and political agendas. Moral legislation has never changed lives for the better. It has only produced more extensive rebellion, hypocrisy, and condemnatory attitudes toward others. God’s grace alone changes hearts. God’s grace is the Gospel. Paul said, “I determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” If that isn’t the epitome of mercy, I don’t know what is. Again, moral legislation is about judgment for wrongdoing. Mercy is about restoring those who have done wrong. Now, before my opponents cry, “liberal!” or “antinomian!,” let me clarify: Jesus said to the outwardly righteous Pharisees, “You are whitewashed tombs filled with dead men’s bones.” You couldn’t exceed the outward righteousness of the Pharisees. But Jesus confirmed that they were dead inwardly. That is why He said, “Clean *first* the inside of the cup, then the outside will be clean.” The problem is, we are unable to clean the heart. Only God can cleanse the heart through the blood of His Son. Then, once the heart is cleaned, we begin to have true love for others—love that is not based upon moral perfection but rather based upon Christ’s love for us. We love Him why? Because He first loved us. We therefore will love others why? Again, because He first loved us. This is what I call the circle of grace. What comes around goes around. Now that is life-changing.
Virgil Vaduva: One of my own concerns about Preterism is the need for us to move beyond theology and theory, and experience a practical and pragmatic kind of Christianity that I believe Jesus wanted us to experience and practice. Do you agree, and do you have any suggestions on how we could do this?
Ward Fenley: Paul said, “speak the truth in love.” Theologians typically try to obey the first part. They try to speak the truth. But if it is true that we are clanging cymbals even if we have all knowledge and understand all mysteries and have faith to move mountains, then preaching truth without love will sound noisy, hypocritical, and highly unbelievable, even if it is…true. Peter said, “be ready to give a defense…with meekness and fear.” What are the two greatest theologians trying to tell us? Truth mixed with love is our goal. You can’t have one without the other. Which brings me to a very important point: Some try to love without truth. Love without truth is not loving. It is lying. We have to have balance. And sadly preterism has placed emphasis on truth to the neglect of love, and in so doing the Gospel is, practically speaking, lost.
Virgil Vaduva: How can those interested contact you with questions about your ministry, conferences and online teaching resources?
Ward Fenley: They may email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or they can email me personally at email@example.com. By visiting our website, www.newcreationministries.tv, they can find articles and audio messages that focus on what has been addressed here. Also, we welcome phone calls. Our number is 928-353-2175.
Virgil Vaduva: Any other last words of wisdom for Planet Preterist readers?
Ward Fenley: I think God is calling us to reexamine 2 Corinithians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away. All things have become new.” This should have a radical impact on not only the way we view God and ourselves, but just as importantly, how we treat each other. When we view ourselves as an entirely new creation in the sight of God, we are overwhelmed with God’s mercy that He has given us in spite of our daily falls and vices. That is, God’s mercies are new every morning. If we view our brothers and sisters as entirely new creations in Christ Jesus, then doesn’t it follow that we should be overwhelmed with God’s mercy that He has given them in spite of their daily falls and vices? It makes perfect sense, and if we apply it, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw in the 21st century a reenactment of what happened in the first century: “Colossians 1:5-6 ...the word of the truth of the gospel; (6) Which has come unto you, as it has in all the world; and brings forth fruit, as it does also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth."
Virgil Vaduva: Ward, thank you again, and may God continue to bless you, and may you reach many with your message of grace and love at your conference this week!