You are hereThe Jacob to Israel Experience

The Jacob to Israel Experience

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By Ransom - Posted on 19 April 2006

by Stephen Douglas
Thanks to some wise guidance from a couple of Planet Preterist contributors, many of you will be happy to hear that I can no longer really say that I struggle against full preterism. Thanks to some wise guidance from a couple of Planet Preterist contributors, many of you will be happy to hear that I can no longer really say that I struggle against full preterism. This is not to say that I do not still struggle with it. There are some things one cannot understand about a subject without accepting it first. I have accepted it fully and completely, and will now continue to wrestle with it for the rest of my days. But even before accepting preterism fully, I had to accept it provisionally in order to see more clearly what claims it was making and why. This sort of engagement with what we disagree with is an important stage and a necessary component of maturing as a Christian.

This is very similar to what Lewis in "Meditation in a Tool Shed" from God in the Dock called "the difference between looking at and looking along":

"I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The light was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dusts floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

“Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly, the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam and looking at the beam are very different experiences."

He goes on to give an astounding anticipation of the post-modern critique of modernism as follows:

"A physiologist, for example, can study pain and find out that it 'is' (whatever is means) such and such neural events. But the word pain would have no meaning for him unless he had 'been inside' by actually suffering. If he never looked along pain he simply wouldn't know what he was looking at. The very subject for his inquiries from outside exists for him only because he has, at least once, been inside.

“This case is not likely to occur, because every man has felt pain. But it is perfectly easy to go on all your life giving explanations of religion, love, morality, honour, and the like, without having been inside any of them. And if you do that, you are simply playing with counters. You go explaining what a thing is without knowing what it is..."

I draw the parallel with Jacob wrestling with God: he was not wrestling as an enemy of God, but in an effort to gain every possible advantage of knowing Him, resulting in God changing his name to "Struggles with God" - Israel.

An application of all this is that when we are confronted with a different theological viewpoint, be it Calvinism, universalism, or theistic evolution, we are not being good judges unless we evaluate it for its own merits, far from immediately going on the defensive for our own point of view. This highlights a vital component of any fair analysis: equally important as attempting to evaluate an issue "objectively" from the outside is accepting the argument on its own terms and evaluating it from there as objectively as possible, too.

This does not mean that we sing "Kum Ba Yah" and avoid forcefully arguing our beliefs. Too many Christians get hurt because someone was so insensitive as to disagree with them and (what's worse) actually present an argument for their position! It does mean that we should avoid forcefully arguing our beliefs before we put in an honest quantity and quality of research. This putting oneself in the other guy's shoes does not always show up in the rhetorical (presentation) phase of the argument, but should have been an essential ingredient of the dialectic phase of the argument, i.e. the formulation of the viewpoint being argued through logic. Strawmen and misrepresentations are all but eliminated when this is done, and their existence is a fairly reliable indication of the absence of this step.

None of us would ever have arrived at preterism if we had remained as knee-jerk about eschatology as we are about so many other subjects. For many of us, preterism was the beginning of the destruction of mindless fideism and theological prejudice. Many of those having started the process are unfortunately unwilling to engage the other side of other theological issues up close as they did with preterism, preferring to lob shots from afar.

Remember, in a time in which one's name was considered to define one's destiny, renaming someone was tantamount to redefining his nature: God renamed Jacob to Israel not to tag him as someone who had struggled with God once a long time ago - instead, Jacob's whole existence was redefined in terms of this kind of interaction with God, as was the existence of the people that took his new name. This was no harmless scrimmage wrestling match. Jacob continued holding on to his opponent even after his hip was dislocated. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life. He persisted because he recognized that he didn't have it all, and that the One he was striving with did. That sort of struggle - not the struggle to beat the opponent but to gain as much as possible from him, not simply holding on tenaciously and hard-headedly to something accepted a long time ago and that we have too much pride to scrutinize - that is passion for Truth. If our position is true, it will hold up to intense scrutiny. If the other position is true, it's worth fighting to attain.

Are you dedicated to carrying the work out to completion? Are you willing to struggle not only until daybreak, but for the rest of your life? Do you want the truth so badly that you'll take painful and permanent wounds in order to have God rename you Israel?

preterist-1's picture

I have read your article and your follow up STRUGGLING on 5-8-06 setting forth your continuing questions.

One of your answers gave your reasons for coming to the full preterist position and you made the comment that ...."this has kept you from throwing in the towel"

I would suggest to you that if full preterism still leaves you with unanswered questions then you have not really adopted that position.

With full preterism the term eschatology is an oxymoron, since the term means things to come and full preterism means nothing is yet to come.

I would also suggest to you that "REVELATION" is not the place to look for answers to your questions. You would be better served by a concerted study of the primary truths and first principles of the faith once and for ever delivered unto the saints.

However, if you still seek answers to "REVELATION" I would suggest you begin by looking for the answers at the Apostle's other books: his gospel, and his three letters before going elsewhere. You might be surprised at your discovery.

Then I Would suggest that you have a clear understanding of the three different groups identified in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Tom

MiddleKnowledge's picture

Stephen,

Welcome aboard. The commitment to truth and emotion you bring together in this article is very impressive to me. This kind of energy and critical thinking can do nothing other than further the Kingdom life we profess.

I have preached part-time in my local congregationfor 5 years as a preterist. There is no end to the insights I have learned anew from God's word by the light of covenant eschatology. You are in for some wonderful experiences.

Blessings,

Tim Martin
www.truthinliving.org

RevelationMan's picture

Stephen, I don't really know you but I definitely appreciate your heart in desiring the truth. I try to have the same mindset whenever I am exposed to opposing viewpoints, though I have to admit that I am not always successful. I also try to approach my Bible study that way, forgetting what I have been taught and examining each topic exegetically & historically. I was wondering what it was, if you could summarize it, that convinced you to become a full preterist.

Thanks,

Eric

Eric Fugett

Ransom's picture

Well, interestingly, one is able to witness the final barriers fall by looking at my blog, under "Meeting Preterism". My last barriers were not understanding the Resurrection of the Dead and the concept behind the "wipe every tear" in Revelation 21:4.

With the first, I was finally able to put some things together between 1 Cor. 15, 1 Thess. 5, and Daniel 9 and 12 to see the Resurrection as a realized event.

Tim Martin helped me see that the imagery of the end of crying and sorrow had a parallel in Psalm 116:8-15 and was not necessarily as literally applicable as we might like to take it. The abolition of death mentioned there had a firm connection to the Resurrection of the Dead. I was able to understand this passage in light of the end of the rule of death under the Law ("the former things" that passed away).

I'm sure I'll still stumble around over the debris, but the wall itself is down. Thanks for asking, and for your kind comments.

Virgil's picture

preterism was the beginning of the destruction of mindless fideism and theological prejudice

Now if that's not a memorable quote, then I don't know what it is.

I loved this little essay Stephen...good job! You are very much grasping the idea that life is a never ending struggle and journey. Some have already decided that they are done and are sitting on the sidelines - I think it is through articles like yours that we can motivate them to get back on the road and continue to learn and be changed, never finish struggling with God, learning about Him, about others, about themselves. Man...what a paradigm shift! :)

StephenGreer's picture

Thank you for writing such an important article. I think it's vital that everyone, not just preterists (although some may need to hear it :P), understand that life is a learning experience, and sometimes a very painful one. I really needed to read an article like this, so thank you, and keep up the good work!

Stephen Greer

Ransom's picture

I'm glad it blessed you, Stephen. I realized that I am preaching to the choir to some extent, since preterism is a view taken only by those willing to challenge their own long-held theological assumptions. But I am glad it had meaning for you. Thanks for the encouragement!

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