In a recent episode of Theology Unplugged (solo version), I made a comment that I was challenged to reconsider through an email correspondence. My statement had to do with my position concerning the viability of full or hyper-Preterism as a Christian option. Hyper-Preterism is the belief held by some (a growing number) in the Church concerning the the end times. In essence, it is the belief of hyper-Preterists that all the prophetic events of Scripture have already been fulfilled. Christians are not waiting for the coming of Christ in any sense or the judgment. As well, the resurrection has already happened (in a spiritual sense) and we are living in the new heavens and the new earth. Once we die, our body simply goes to the grave. . . . Bummer, huh?
During this program I said that hyper-preterism is definitely unorthodox, finding its antithetical opposite affirmed from the earliest Christianity until now by all traditions of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant). All Christians have always affirmed that Christ’s return, the resurrection of the dead, judgment, and the new heavens and earth are yet future, even if we disagree about the details.
However, I also said on the program that while this doctrine is an unorthodox or heretical view of eschatology, it is not a doctrine that is damnable in the sense that if one believes it, they are, by definition, not Christian. The reason why I said this is because most hyper-Preterists would not deny the sinfulness of man, Christ’s death, burial, and physical resurrection, and our need for salvation by faith. Heck, most are even Calvinists! Therefore, in my mind, the essence of the Gospel was not at stake.
Dee Dee Warren, who often deals with these issues, wrote to me a very gracious email asking me to reconsider my position. In the email she took the time to give me a concise argument as to why she believes that hyper-Preterism is aberrant to such a degree that it destroys the very essence of the Gospel. Therefore, her position is that if one believes in hyper-Preterism—really believes in hyper-Preterism—then they don’t believe the true Gospel and, therefore, are not saved.
Having corresponded with her, I am beginning to seriously reconsider. I think she may be right and my previous postition wrong.
Dee Dee was kind enough to allow me to post her response here on the blog below. Read it. I would like your thoughts. Is the Gospel of hyper-Preterism a different Gospel to the degree that it destroys the essence of the true Gospel? That is my question for you.
(Please note: this is not simply about defining who is in and who is out, but about the content of the Gospel. It needs to be thought through.)
I had listened to your audio program on orthodoxy episode 2, and though I agreed with 99% of what you said, I heard one thing that caused me enough alarm to write. In that program, you said that while hyperpreterism is heretical, it does not deny any foundational Christian beliefs; thus, its adherents are still Christians. Because this is my particular area of specialty, I couldn’t disagree more. I, like you, am very cautious in labeling some beliefs as placing one outside the faith. I, like you, hold to a progressive orthodoxy as you explained in episode 3. Therefore, I am appealing to you on the basis of our shared understanding.
Thus, the question then becomes, what are foundational Christian beliefs? I think we can all agree that the Trinity, bodily resurrection of Jesus, and Jesus’ atoning death on the cross all belong in that category. However, all of the earliest confessions of the historic church, be they in teachings or in formalized statements such as in the Apostles’ Creed, affirm the future bodily resurrection of the dead, the future bodily return of Christ, and the future final judgment. One cannot deny those things and be said to have a Christian belief system. This isn’t simply a matter of arguing about the timing of "the rapture." I would argue, that even without formally recognizing those other categories, hyperpreterism denies the Gospel itself.
I have laid out the case for this position here:
Hyperpreterist David Green is one of the few hyperpreterists with the backbone to admit this fact. Here is what he said in a response to Keith Mathison:
“Keith Mathison was correct on this point: If futurism is true, then [full] preterism is definitely (not “possibly,” as I said) a damnable doctrine.”
The only addition I made to that quote is the word "full." It is David himself who retracted his earlier position of "possibly damnable doctrine" to "definitely damnable doctrine." Ever since I pointed that out in 2005, David came under fire from fellow hyperpreterists for his admission. Is it a coincidence that the article in which that appeared can no longer be found? Well, thank God for the Internet Archive from 3/18/05:
Read it, it is enlightening. And David is right. If he is wrong, he is teaching and believing damnable heresy. David had to do some damage control after I pointed this out, and I interacted with his further points here:
As we discussed in our emails, Paul specifically condemned a denial of the future bodily resurrection in the strongest possible terms. In 1 Cor 15, denying the bodily resurrection of believers is tantamount to denying the resurrection of Christ. Why? Because He is the prototype, the firstfruits. If the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised, for He was one of the dead, and we are still in our sins. How is that? Because Christ is the second Adam, and in hyperpreterism, the second Adam fails at redeeming all that the first Adam lost. The world stays forever in the grip of sin – there is never a consummation. Paul further instructed Timothy that Hymenaeus and Philetus, who said that the resurrection was past, were a gangrenous cancer in the body and causing the shipwreck of the faith of some. This Scripture holds true today – hyperpreterism has caused the shipwreck of faith and churches as its adherents doggedly smuggle it in. I can bring forth the testimony of elders and pastors to substantiate this (it is documented on my site).
Further a logical conclusion of hyperpreterism is that Christ is no longer our mediator. Why? Because His special messianic reign is co-extant with his mediatorial role. Once the resurrection event of 1 Cor 15 happens, Christ gives up that role and all power, authority, and dominion have been placed under His feet – conquered once and for all. Yet in hyperpreterism evil really is never conquered fully once for all – they claim it has, and thus must deny its present reality. This is worthy of Christian Science.
Please I implore you, do not give those holding this cultic teaching the false security of merely being grossly mistaken brethren, and more importantly, don’t expose the brethren to this kind of teaching under the banner of Christian fellowship. This is not Christianity.
On a side note, I had also encouraged you to adopt the terms preterism (or orthodox preterism) and hyperpreterism, for clarity and reality. I have written a piece on this as well at http://www.preteristsite.com/docs/warrensemantics.html. At that link is also a podcast that I recorded a few weeks ago on this issue of terminology. It is long but very precise and detailed.
I thank you so very much for your time and consideration.
Dee Dee Warren