You are herePropositions of Preterism

Propositions of Preterism

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By Sam - Posted on 14 April 2005

by Samuel Frost
...We do not seek to ostracize, de-fellowship or break any relations with any members who are seekers of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. It is unfortunate, rather, than many of our brothers and sisters have done just that......We do not seek to ostracize, de-fellowship or break any relations with any members who are seekers of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. It is unfortunate, rather, than many of our brothers and sisters have done just that...1. The Scriptures are the guide of the church, as Calvin called them, and are the only infallible rule of faith, life and practice.

2. The Creeds are subordinate “helps” of the Church to show that which, in general, has been agreed upon.

3. Therefore, the creeds are only authoritative in so much as they agree with the Scripture.

A. Since it is so readily seen that the Reformed Standards disagree from the Councils of the Roman Catholic Church, then one must decide, on the basis of Scripture and Scripture alone, analyzing the Creeds, which confession and statement best lines up with the word of God.

2.1. Scriptures do not teach that God would erect Divine Councils that would decide all matters of what to believe and what not to believe.

2.2. Scriptures do not teach that the Church would derive its authority from Councils of men, fallible in authority.

2.3. Scriptures are viewed by the Apostles and Prophets as the very word of God, and no man, no council, no church has given them authority. They contain an innate authority derived from God alone in and of themselves.

2.4. No council “decided” what was and what was not “inspired.” Rather, in the Providence of God, the Scriptures, because of their own intrinsic value contained within themselves, impressed themselves upon the minds of churchmen who merely recognized them as the very words penned by the inspired authors. Were there no council to recognize the general use of the Hebrew (Greek) Bible and the New Testament letters and Gospels, they would have continued to have been read as they were in the first two centuries of the church, when there was no council that decided their inclusion. Whether recognized as inspired or not, they are inspired simply because of the superintendence of God.

3.1 The use of creeds and councils, confessions and dogmatic theology as “helps” are not standards by which any Christian is obliged to blindly follow. Rather, each Christian must make a decision to follow which confession, council and standard he or she may adhere. This person does so by either submitting blindly or by making a decision based on a thoroughgoing study of the statement being propounded (see Calvin’s Inst. 4.9.8).

3.2 Since the Scriptures and the Scriptures alone are infallible and inspired, all statements found in the councils, regardless of their general assent by the majority of the church (ad populum – appeal to the masses, which is a logical fallacy); and regardless of the length of time they may have enjoyed as being “the faith of the church” (appeal to tradition – equally a fallacy), does not make them absolutely guaranteed teachings derived from Scripture.

3.3 However, since it is never wise to throw out that which the majority of the church has believed, when a statement is challenged, the matter must be one in which further insight and development within the church has caused justifiable reason to challenge a given statement of the creeds.

3.4 The church is not given any authority to devise teachings that are not found in the Scriptures and has every right to overturn any proposition that has been received as “dogma” provided that a reasonable and justifiable case from the Scriptures, developed within the ongoing historical insight of her members, can be made.

A. It can be readily shown that the historical foundations of preterism are derived from the early church, and that these, based upon following up further their implications and logical, exegetical ramifications (often left untraced) throughout the development of thought within the church, provided the basis for preterism today (and by the 19th century the case was fully developed because of these earlier insights provided).

3.5 If the case that opposes any proposition found within the Creeds and confessions can be shown, then it must be shown that a) it is in linear development from within the dialogue of the church universal; b) it can maintain the vocabulary of the creeds, even though it may change the wording; c) it rests primarily upon the support of the Scriptures.

A. For example, if one denied Jesus’ “coming a second time” entirely, he would be in danger of denying a doctrine of Scripture. However, the Bible teaches that Jesus came again a second time in that first generation of saints, which immediately places its statements in contradiction to the wording of the creeds. The creeds, post the first century generation, posits a coming again a second time at the end of world history to usher in the “age to come” and “eternal life.” Therefore, those who argue the preterist view do not deny a second coming, but would, rather, have the wording of creeds reflect the more biblical position in light of where the church is now in her understanding of that once and for all delivered truth. That is, “And he would come again” or “and he has come again to judge the living and the dead.” And, rather than “I look forward to life in the age to come” it should be “I enjoy life in the age to come.” Of course, the whole church must come to this conclusion, and eventually will, so that this change of understanding of these great and ancient doctrines occurs universally. It is to this end that few within the body of Christ have already taken up the endeavor to reform the church in this particular doctrine.

3.6 It is a settled matter of logic proper that “Some A is not B” cannot ever imply that “No A is B”. Therefore, it is entirely false to say that if one or some proposition of the Creeds is not true, then no proposition of the Creeds are true. Those who make the case that preterists must abandon the entire historico-theological enterprise of the holy church universal simply because they take issue with the wording of one or some proposition(s) received within the Creeds are guilty of a logical fallacy. The charge can be dismissed easily.

3.7 No man operates in a vacuum. No true Bible-believing Christian operates apart from traditions. However, “An unexamined tradition is not worth following” (Jaroslav Pelikan). Traditions, as such, imply development from within those in dialogue with it. Development seeks two things: continuity and identity within the larger dialogue. Since it is a statement of fact that no man can claim infallibility (only the Bible claims this), the Reformers opted for their slogan semper reformanda. This means always reforming in light of development of thought, yet always with a foot placed in the past. The church has waged theological wars of the past, beginning with the Nature of the Triune God and the Son based upon the revealed word of God. Eschatology never came into the forefront as it did (and now is) since the nineteenth century. The Reformation did not seek to pin down an eschatology, but accepted the traditional outline given in earlier Creeds. However, its exegetical methodology, which sought to interpret Scriptures in light of the time and occasion of their original penning, set the church into motion towards a more rigorous Scriptural hermeneutic. This led to an explosion of commentaries and historical, analytical criticism, both good and bad. The recent light of archeological texts is equally having a profound effect upon biblical studies that have shed light on a great deal of matters. We cannot, then, logically accept that the church had it all figured out by the fourth century. It can be easily seen, if one accepts semper reformanda, that the church has developed her thought in many areas over the centuries. Preterists affirm one principle in which this development must ever be grounded in: sola Scriptura. This is defined as Scripture being the “absolute” and “prior” norm, whereas tradition is important but secondary. The further findings of the former can overturn, therefore, the held positions of the latter provided in what has been outlined here.

Conclusion

Preterism can safely continue its exegetical enterprise based on these principles that clearly place it within what is now called Evangelicalism. It can safely proceed on the principles enumerated by the Reformers. It can, and does, find its base in the historico-theological traditions and exegetical theology of the church as a whole, maintaining a dialogue throughout the centuries with those saints that have given any thought towards these matters. It seeks to correct where many have not seen the problems that are raised and believes that it does so with Scripture interpreting Scripture and logic. It is not a deviation from tradition, but a compliment of the one great tradition handed down by God to the holy authors of Sacred Writ. That once and for all contained tradition within the pages of the Bible has been addressed for 2,000 years and counting, and will continue to be addressed by those who believe that “all Scripture is God-breathed.” The Church must receive what is incontrovertible, but reject what raises serious problems in order to work out a solution within its own traditions that best resolves these problems for the sake of maintaining biblical truth (even if this means eliminating older paradigms which have created the problems in the first place). There will be, and always have been, cries of “heresy” from self-proclaimed “purists” and “keepers of the traditions”. This is to be expected. But, the ever faithful, and, in Luther’s case, the faithful few, keep raising the issues and pointing out the hypocrisy, arbitrariness, and inconsistency until such a voice is raised within the holy church that the “few” become the “many.”

In light of all of this, preterists seek for peace and brotherhood amongst all those who confess the resurrection of the Second Person of the Godhead and His Lordship, the inerrancy of the Divine Word and His commandments. We do not seek to ostracize, de-fellowship or break any relations with any members who are seekers of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. It is unfortunate, rather, than many of our brothers and sisters have done just that. What is equally unfortunate is that they do so not on the basis of the Scriptures, but on the basis of traditional readings of the Scriptures (which they, admittedly, believe “can and may err”). May God continue to give his church light.

philmute's picture

Dear Samuel,
I am often in conflict with myself on the continuing value of the Scriptures when viewed from the Preterist perspective. The central thesis of Preterism, as I understand it, is that all things written have been fulfilled. Now I know its not a pleasant thought but this leaves us surely with that reality of which Paul wrote in 1Cor:13 that all that remains is faith hope and charity, because the Perfect, that is the New Covenant, has come. Therefore I fully concord with any that insist that all scripture is profitable (but not binding, note the deliberate choice of word) for instruction in Righteousness, for reproof etc but it can be in no real sense the ONLY authority, God alone is that, and as I repeatedly stress this knowledge of God must be experimental, it is a matter of understanding the reasonable truth of Christ's doctrine. This lack of understanding is what causes the body to divide, it is that which causes the apostle John to ask if they should pray for fire from heaven to destroy another group who were preaching Christ differently, to which Christ replied 'Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are'.
This capacity for self-deception is immense in Man. 'The heart is deserately wicked and deceitful above all things; who can know it?' This is precisely why no external code is adequate. Paul's entire discussion on the law is concerned with this reality. The desire for an external rigidity and structure, whether Scripture or the Church seems to me oppossed to the possibility of allowing the seed (which is acknowledging the truth of Christ's doctrine) to grow.
Scriture providentially closes with everthing fulfilled, with the city present on earth, with the elect received and with the only condition for salvation being 'blessed are those who wash their robes in the blood of the lamb, that they might have the right to enter into the city and partake of the tree of life'. Thus faith in Christ the person isn't required, but rather acknowledging the truth of his resurrection we model our lives upon his life and doctrine which is based on the firm understanding of God's Universal Love to all whether sinners or saints, and to prefer death rather than to deny this truth. Religion divides and fails precisely because its groupings tend to relect the tendency to tribalism and identity with the cultus (generally the preacher, or the Imman) present in us all. 'Perfect love casts out fear'. The apostle who wrote this urged only one reason where fellowship isn't possible and that's where someone denies the reality of Christ by writing him off as some super spirit (i.e. the trinity) rather than as a real flesh and blood man who demonstrated by his death and resurrection that any who follow his doctrine can also have from the Father 'life in themself'.
Your closing comments highlight your own entrappment in the creeds and confession of the Church. You pretend to offer fellowship but set up barriers based not on a person's experience of Christ and his truth, but upon some Church's opinion of what constitutes 'there kind of Christian'. Pure Calvinism of course and so unchristian, is your closing sentence ironic.

davecollins's picture

Dear Philmute, My understanding of the scriptures being "not written to us, but for us" is based on the difference between specific events vs. spiritual principles which transcend all ages.

I am a little perplexed about your statement " Thus faith in Christ the person is not required".

The only way to have their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, is through faith in Christ.
The only ones who enter into the New Jerusalem are those who have faith in Christ.
The New Creations who have received the New Covenant are recipients due to their faith in Christ, in response to God's grace.

Religion fails on many fronts, however those who enter into a relationship with Christ will experience the success of His overcoming victory.
Church can make you religious, but only Christ can make you righteous.

John wrote his gospel to persuade people to believe in Jesus to receive eternal Life.
He wrote 1st John to assure that those who did believe in the name of the Son of God, that they have eternal Life.
Faith is a major part of John's doctrine.

Duck's picture

Beautiful!

David

Erick's picture

Amen Sam, you are right on target with this one. Creeds are not evil in and of themselves anymore than a statue, but if one worships it then that act becomes evil and thus the statue (or creed) is a destructive/evil tool. Some of our “Reformed” brethren have made creeds and confessions their idols and are being destroyed by them, as well as destroying others. It is sad. I’m glad you value the rightful place of creeds, confessions, and systematic theologies; they ARE important (even if only for historical value and context for current theological/ecclesiological trends).

In their VERY “humble attempt” to refute preterism the contributors to “When Shall These Things Be” appeal to the base creedolitrous spirit that often infects the Reformed tradition by accusing ALL preterists of creedoclasm… (I just made that up – I hope you like, I’m a bit rusty on my Latin/Greek (“credo-klaein”?) :^) …as well as misunderstanding Sola Scriptura. Sam, although I believe the historic creeds are only in need of fine tuning, I look forward to (and I believe this will ultimately be necessary) the formation of a Reformed preterist denomination united by a common confessional statement (perhaps based on Westminster).

I believe (pun intended) that Propositional theology can unite, but leaving unstated those doctrines that aid in fellowship and true worship is often erosive. Ideally, the more accurate, important, and detailed the propositions the sweeter the fellowship, the truer the worship. This does not exclude the work of the Spirit and love for the brethren, but honors the divine Logos. For example, I have a very close Arminian/dispensational/Baptist Friend whom I would much rather hang out with than some of my futurist “5 pointers,” but me and the Vinster (a full-pret. 5 pointer), have a commonality in the Lord (based on shared propositional beliefs) that makes our fellowship exponentially greater. “How can two walk together unless they be in agreement?” If we are to walk with God we must be in agreement with His Word, and if we are to walk together as brethren we must be in agreement with each other; the more we agree the closer we walk, the stronger we are in numbers. Propositions are the paths on which we walk, some go astray, some stay together, but ultimately it is God’s Word that is the “lamp unto our feet” and a “light unto our path.”
There is so much to do, the Lord forbid that we leave it up to our children to do the heavy lifting. Let’s stay zealous, and passionate to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
In Him, Erick.

Sam's picture

This article was written in response to an ongoing criticism we have received from some so called "Reformed" brothers here in Florida. A recent article of theirs can be found here: www.totareformanda.org. A lengthy engagement is also found on our website in the Forum area (www.christcovenantchurch.com). Our opponents, folks, are using the methodology of starting with the creeds (the one's they pick, mind you) and then reasoning back to the Bible. This is what I call "creedalism" or "creedolytry". It is not the doctrine of sola Scriptura which is what is stated above. They contradict their very own principle! Let us continue to advance the arguments set forth from the Bible and cast down these vain arguments against the kingdom of Christ.

Samuel M. Frost

chrisliv's picture

CREEDALISM: A FALSE GOSPEL

Haec est fides catholica, quam nisi quisque fideliter firmiterque crediderit, salvus esse non poterit. Amen.
This is the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly and steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved. Amen.

There are a number of problems with the name calling and anathemas pronounced against those of us that take Jesus at His word, as revealed in Scripture, when He said He was coming soon over 19 centuries ago. First, and to many of us painfully distressing, is the behavior, tone, demeanor, loveless, godless way in which many of our detractors slander, libel, defame, and accuse us (often in cataclysmic, apocalyptic language) of having returned from the lake of fire on a mission from THE ACCUSER-ironic, isn't it? I spoke to Dallas Willard about how people with nasty little personalities sometimes become nasty little professing Christians, which he had noticed as well, and said the key word is "professing." It seems to me, when you look into what these 'professors' believe, too many know the creeds better than they know the WORD.

I say where there is not inspiration, there is no authority--there should be no submission and there must be a constant appeal to the WORD. The creeds, individually or collectively, are not inspired; they therefore possess no authority; and they must be estimated and treated just as those of any other ordinary document. When we hear strong statements about the absolute necessity of using the creeds as any kind of standard--of the great assistance to be derived from them in interpreting Scripture, and in fixing our opinions,--and of the great responsibility incurred by running contrary to them, we always suspect that men who make such claims are either, unconsciously perhaps, ascribing to the creeds some degree of inspiration; or else are deceiving themselves by words or vague impressions, without looking intelligently and steadily at the actual realities of the case.

Virgil's picture

Sam, this is a good start. The danger is however, that with time, even preterists would start looking at a defined document like this as a "creed" or "statement of faith." That's the only potential problem I have with something like this. That's why you don't see here on Planet Preterist a document that says "What we believe" or "What Preterists believe."

Sam's picture

Virgil,

A creed is merely writing down what one thinks on a given subject in the Bible. Credo, in Latin, means "I believe." Therefore, they are inescapable. To say, for example, "no creed but Christ" contradicts its own sentiments, for "Christ" has to be defined. What "Christ"? Which one? What is "Christ"? What is meant, I suppose, by this Campbellite statement is that we do not want something that off limits when it comes to ever reforming our beliefs. Truth has nothing to fear of constant critical analysis, for if it is truth, it will withstand it (such, as I believe, the Diety of Christ and the Trinity have). Nonetheless, within Preterism, is it not our creed that: "Jesus came again and judged the living and the dead"? That proposition is a creedal statement which unites all preterists. Now, what that "judgment" looked like (immortal body now, later, etc) is another matter. But, we are united on this proposition. We are united on the fact that we do not look forward to the age to come, but are IN the age to come. Thus, the purpose of creedal methodology is to unite what can be united and let all other discussions fall within those unifying propositions. This allows for a great deal of freedom. Dispensationalists are considered (rightly so) as Evangelical because they adhere with the first Ecumenical Creeds. Oh, I could go on like this, but the point is, we should seek to find the most general of propositions that unite us together and within those seek continual dialogue on intricate matters. If you notice, the Ecumenical Creeds are very short and concise statements of faith. The Apostles' Creed does not treat of every matter to be believed, but only of the most general of outlines of the then perceived framework of Christianity. I agree with most of their statements, but am free to expose those that do not adhere to the Bible in light of development within the history of the members of the church at large.

Samuel Frost

Virgil's picture

Sam, I am not disagreeing with you brother...I agree with you. I am just saying, some people, eventually WILL take creeds the wrong way, just like some people today take the creeds of the early church the wrong way. Who knows who will read this article ten thousand years from now and say, "see, the early church were all preterists." :)

Sam's picture

I gotcha man....peoples are peoples.....

Sam

MichaelB's picture

Everybody has a Creed - stated or not - "I believe that we should not have a creed" ...That's a creed. Creeds are unavoidable ...Creedalism, however, is not. That is the only real issue.

Good stuff Sam.

Mike Bennett

JL's picture

Mike,

I have my own current, personal understanding. Call that a creed if you must. But it's mine and mine alone. It's not something I require of "the group."

JL

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

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