This piece was the opening section of the Hyper Preterist Archive project of 2008-09.
I’m the founder of PreteristArchive.com (1996), and its only curator. That’s just a hobby, though. My real work is in the business wing of collegiate baseball.
Was a Dispensationalist pastor, but was able to begin my theological journey then, having been freed from all “teachers” besides the Holy Spirit.
It was then that my theological training progressed through partial preterism, full preterism, and am now (preterist modified) idealist.
I love sound doctrine, and greatly dislike bad doctrine that enslaves people such as Dispensationalism and Full Preterism (in my opinion) does. If you believe one of those don’t my feelings about them trouble you, as I totally love Dispies and Prets anyway!
I may speak VERY strongly against the doctrines of these views, but you won’t see me attacking individuals who hold to Dispy or Full Pret (unless they are a teacher who seems to be callously leading a flock of sheep into a wolf den.. those people should be publicly opposed, no matter how popular they are. amen?)
Standing on this principle has, unfortunately, lost me many friends over the years, starting with the Dispensationalists who trained me. It really doesn’t have to be that way, but it is just a fact that some people cannot tolerate others who critically evaluate their chosen doctrines… especially if the critic formerly held those views themselves. Gladly, however, a few Dispies and Prets have been able to keep Jesus Christ as the primary focal point of our fellowship (as opposed to last things being the basis of fellowship — sometimes regardless of wildly divergent first things). Consequently, we have remained good friends. Paltalk is where I mostly hang out with my Dispy and Pret brothers in Christ.
Those who have kept last things as the focus are, sadly, estranged. Some have even seen fit to attack my character for daring to point out the doctrinal errors of Dispensationalism and Hyper Preterism. Though some have realized the error in putting last things first, many still unnecessarily consider me a personal enemy.
I have continuously held out a hand of fellowship towards anyone who was willing to make Jesus Christ (and not eschatology) the basis of fellowship. In many cases, current full preterists have taken this hand. Some have even left Dispensationalism and Hyper Preterism, which is the source of great joy for me. However, others have not. For instance, I was “dis-invited” to the local hyper preterist bible study for not being preterist enough.
It is more than a little amusing to see how dramatically my public reputation shifted once it became clear that I had really left full preterism and intended to oppose it. For over two years I have kept my mouth shut in the face of many blatant smears, and have tried very hard not to defend myself (this is usually pointless when one has already been found guilty without a trial.).
Whereas those in positions of leadership within the scope of Hyper Preterism had been saying very nice things about me publicly before my departure (like “I don’t know where we’d be without Todd Dennis” – Sam Frost), such positive opinions became noticeably more sour (like “we can only pray for him to recover and do what’s right in relation to those around him, his family and people he is using to further whatever agenda he has created in his mind. Please either reach out to Todd if you know him, or pray for him so that he is redeemed and healed of his hate and evil plans.” – Virgil Vaduva).
Now, I certainly harbor no hate towards any of my former colleagues. Nor do I have evil plans (although people have put words into my mouth to the effect that I do, even though they are not true). What I do have is a sincere desire to point out the errors of interpretation I went along with over the decade I was a Hyper Preterist… while continuing to point out the errors of interpretation I went along with while a Dispensationalist.
By the way, the term “Hyper Preterism” is not a pejorative to me. It is an actual, doctrinally descriptive term for that form of preterism which goes too far in fulfillment. Nearly every full preterist believes that fulfillment can be taken too far in a “hyper” sense, although most choose not to define it. What I have done it taken the time to classify where I believe that “hyper” line to be.
Clearly, it makes the natives a bit restless when a former chief (PreteristArchive.com started the online full preterist movement back in 1996, in case that fact wasn’t known to the reader – knowing this helps put the severity of the responses to me in much better context, it seems) starts hanging around with a new tribe. But the smear pieces written by those who assume that I am acting in bad faith are just so over the top, as to invite questions about the spiritual walk of the authors. Thankfully, more than one of those people have seen the error of their past behaviors for themselves, and have apologized for their ungodly smears.
At any rate, I would ask that those who read this blog try not to read into the doctrine assessment, as though it was stained with the blood of hatred. Take the exegesis for what it is – an honest re-assessment of scriptures which previously had seen “oh so clear” in an AD70 framework. All this jazz about hatred and evil and plans should be kept in its proper place: the trash heap. Having read countless pathetic attempts at refuting both Dispensationalism and Full Preterism, I have no intention of wasting my time using all of the same devices and tricks. My discipline has always been exegesis, investigating the original languages, and in demonstrating the overarching storylines as they relate to hermeneutics. Anyone who reads hate into these posts must want to see it there, because I have bent over backwards to be the fairest critic of all.
Don’t get me wrong: I will oppose the doctrines and storylines of Dispensationalism and Hyper Preterism vigorously. But this does not mean that I hate the people who are stuck in those views! (After all, I was one of them for a long time). I LOVE both Dispensationalists and Hyper Preterists… and would love to see them come back to historical Christianity in peace and rejoicing. If it seems like a smear to say that Dispensationalism and Hyper Preterism are not teaching the same doctrines as historical Christianity always has, then I ask that you consider the evidence I intend to produce.
As in all things, may the Holy Spirit guide our hearts and minds in all holiness and purity.
For the fun of it, I will be archiving the various comments on my repudiation of full preterism to show the amazing change in opinion towards me in just a short time. If I find any relating to my repudiation of Dispensationalism, I will post those too.
PRIOR TO PUBLICLY LEAVING FULL PRETERISM:
An Interview with Todd Dennis
Interview Conducted By Virgil Vaduva
[Admin Note: Though I officially left Full Preterism at the 2006 NCMI Conference (Within a few weeks of this publication), all comments accurately reflect my current beliefs… aside from an identification within the confines of “Fulfilled Eschatology.”]
Todd Dennis is a soft-spoken man; in fact when I spoke with him he seemed to be much more willing to listen rather than say much in return, and his overall gracious attitude and kindness is readily shown throughout every corner of his well-known website, The Preterist Archive. Todd was kind enough to take precious time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions, and I am very much thankful for his generosity throughout this interview.
Virgil Vaduva: Your website is one of the first sites I ran across when I started to study Preterism. Can you tell us a little about what prompted you to start Preterist Archive and how it all came about?
Todd Dennis: While pastoring a Dispensationalist church in the mid 1990s, the Spirit was leading me into greater understanding of the history and context of the New Testament period. What was unexpected, though, was that the closer my perspective became to that of the New Testament period and the expectations of the people in that era, the more alienated I became from the beliefs and expectations of Christians in my own era.
As the differences between what I had been taught by men and what was being revealed from Above became more pronounced, I sincerely wondered if I was the only one in the world who was being shown such things. Immediately upon coming online at the start of 1995, my goal was to find anyone else on the Internet who was being shown the same first century fulfillment of eschatology. Failing to find anyone else, it seemed important to make a website which could serve as a beacon to reach out to the theologically-minded world, and also to support likeminded refugees from Futurism that might be found online.
It was about a month or two after starting the website that a brother emailed me to share that the view I was presenting was historically called “Preterism”. Armed with that term, my search for materials intensified and began to yield large quantities of writings during, and even prior to, the Christian era which associated the fall of Jerusalem with the fulfillment of eschatology. As a result of these finds, it seemed natural to strategically organize the website into a posture for the propagation of the Preterist view, and also as a means of comforting and organizing into a united and viable theological front the large number of persecuted Preterists who were contacting me.
Virgil: How is Preterist Archive doing now and what new projects are you working on?
Todd: Though the project is now over ten years old, these same two goals have generally been maintained. However, over time many other goals have been added – especially the organization of preteristic literature into clearly defined categories. This year has been quite busy in this regard. Most notably, the website has ceased being a mouthpiece for the “Full Preterist” movement it helped sculpt, and no longer places that view up on a pedestal. Having seen the goal of Preterism’s acceptance to the theological round table fulfilled, and with the advent of many other websites which present and defend a “Full Preterist” view, there is no longer the urgency to present that particular view as there was in 1995. Instead, PreteristArchive.com is now offering a more broad “Encyclopedic” approach, serving as a clearinghouse for the study of all aspects of fulfilled eschatology.
Virgil: What do you think about the demographics of Preterism? What one characteristic is important and common to your audience on Preterist Archive?
Todd: I’m not that interested in nor involved with the nuts and bolts of the “ism” aspect of the Preterist approach. However, it is impossible to ignore the trends that present themselves from many angles, such as through the reception of emails.
What seems to be the distinctive angle of the archive is that the overwhelming majority of readers are of Futurist persuasion. Though Preteristic minded people often visit and contribute materials to the site, the average visitor is only “pret-curious”, in both positive and negative ways. This is particularly satisfying to me personally (and explains the increasing shift toward a completely balanced approach), as a great number of the people who come to the website in an antagonistic mindset, seeking anything to discredit the view any way possible, leave their quest forever effected for the better. There are a large number of such people now in leadership roles of the “Modern Preterist Movement”.
One focus of the website that tends to cater to the common ground between Futurists and Preterists is appreciation for proof of the historicity of Christianity and its approaches to eschatology. Seeing as how every modern system is the result of development throughout the Christian era, all can enjoy archeological or papyrological revelations which point to the beliefs and practices of the ancient era of the faith. When this approach is tied into to the historical events surrounding the Roman-Jewish war, the pursuit takes on a powerful dimension that unites history and theology.
Virgil: As one who runs a major Preterist website, do you see Preterism as an “Internet-only aberration” as it has been often labeled by detractors?
Todd: That is an easy charge to make, considering the high visibility of the Internet; I feel certain, though, that the number of people out there who are being led by the Spirit in isolation far outnumber those currently online. These people are sadly isolated, and in most cases are completely unaware of terms such as “Preterism”. In due time, and as the world increasingly gets wired, I’m sure they will be able to likewise find comfort and fellowship online.
Besides, the literary world, independent of the Internet, has become highly involved with preteristic thought. And even more significant seems to be the converging of all disciplines of scientific and theological inquiry, and the recognition of the role the events of AD70 have had in the formation of the modern world.
Virgil: As you well know, there are many differences between Full Preterists and other eschatological positions that are Preteristic in nature. Do you think these differences are reconcilable, and if so how?
Todd: These different views are all reconcilable in Christ. I believe that the Grand Truth is not Preterist or Futurist.. but that it is spiritual in nature represented by the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, as we will share a focus on things above, we will find our earthly differences diminishing. Though some may feel more comfortable looking below and pointing out the weaknesses of others, I believe we are called to seek the healing of the Body of Christ by looking above and pointing at our King and His power and glory.
Virgil: You recently made an interesting proposition regarding the semantics of Preterism, namely renaming Full Preterism as Modern Preterism. When I think of the word “Modern” I think in philosophical terms associated with 20th century thought, as opposed to “Postmodernism” for example. How do you use these terms and why do beneficial to refer to Full Preterism in terms of “Modern Preterism?
Todd: This move was strictly for the organizational purposes of the website. Though some have tried to take these terms and use them in theological conversation, that was not the intention behind the shift in terminology. The main goal of the reclassification of terms was to form a more clear spirit of inquiry at the site — one which doesn’t enter into the tug of war over the typical terminology. Utilizing terms such as “full” or “consistent” or “hyper” in association with “Full Preterism” (or, even worse, the tendency to use the term “Preterism” to organize “Full Preterist” thought) really misses the mark. People feel passionately about this topic on all sides, so I wanted to find organziational terminology that was above all else fair.
“Historical Preterism” is used to organize to all developed forms of “Partial Preterism” throughout the centuries, whereas “Modern Preterism” is used to organize those strictly “Full Preterist” views developed popularly in the 20th Century. [Note, Full Preterism is no longer classified with “Modern Preterism”]
Associating the term “Modern” with 20th Century seems very appropriate and fair to all sides — particularly considering how incredibly recent is the literary origin of this approach. In my decade of intense searching, it appears that the middle of the 20th century is the earliest era of a published consistent fully preterist approach. That is not to say that one is not to be found earlier (or was not held earlier, as a developed approach was almost certainly held by someone prior to then), just that the popular systematized form of “Full Preterism” as we know it today is of modern origin. On a side note, there actually is a pre-Christian form of Preterism that is Jewish in origin, and dates back to before the first century B.C., but that is categorized under “Jewish Sources”.
Virgil: In my personal interactions I have observed that semantics often get in the way of constructive dialogue. For example, Partial Preterists call us “Hyper Preterists,” (in a somewhat derogatory manner). What descriptive term do you use to describe Preterism in your interactions in order to avoid conflict and create an atmosphere conducive to dialogue?
Todd: I tend to use the term “preteristic” when speaking of an approach of fulfilled prophecy relating to “end things”, because so much is typically added to the rudimentary “Preterist” idea. As we strip away all of the other aspects of theology that we add to the idea of first century eschatological fulfillment, a certain rudimentary, embryonic form appears — one that is very much in line, I think, with the first century palestinian idea. If it is taken for granted that there is a ‘kerygma’ form of the gospel.., then this idea would be that for end-times fulfillment. To me, this ‘kerygma’ form is actually the *true preterism*, and is shared by both partial and full preterists alike.
Part of my 2006 classification shift has been to be more specific in the identification of full preterist views. Though many “Full Preterists” speak of “we preterists” or “us preterists”, believing that there is a cohesive form of that approach, it seems to me that there really is no such thing as a systematic “Full Preterism” that stands on its own without resort to other aspects of one’s theology. In every case, that end-times view is tied to one soteriology or another, creating a “Hybrid Preterism” between the two.
So to me all Preterists are “Hybrid” to some extent. My own personal “Hybrid Preterism” connects fulfilled eschatology with a Spiritual Idealist point of view. (For those who are interested there are materials being gathered on this view at the site, and I’ll be presenting it formally at the New Creation Ministries conference at the end of July in Arizona.) Others are more comfortable in a Reformed/Calvinistic Hybrid approach, whereas others may be more comfortable operating in an Hybrid of Preterism and “Emergent” theology. I think it is very important though, for the sake of clarity and honesty, not to confuse any of these hybrids with the fundamental Preterist idea itself. Eschatology is about “last things” for a reason, as we are defined much more by our soteriology more than our eschatology. If the cross of Christ isn’t the focal point of our fellowship, then we are certain to find disappointment and despair in trying to unite around anything else.
So, in the spirit of “fair play” and “full disclosure”, I feel like it is the responsibility of “Full Preterists” to present their own view as simply a hybrid of Preterism, clearly stating the other aspects of theology that truly define their view.
Virgil: You mentioned the surge of Preterist eschatology within the controversial Emergent Church. At least one solid Preterist book has come out of the Emergent Church, and Brian McLaren has been a strong proponent of Preterist eschatology. What do you think about these developments, and how do you think they are affecting the Preterist movement?
Todd: Emergent Preterism is just one of the many hybrids out there. There are hybrids of emergent, calvinism, arminianism, universalism, christian identity, and probably any other system available out there. It has just as much right to exist as any does any other system of religious thought. Ultimately, though, I believe that all systems fall short of the mark, and only serve to comfort us in our general ignorance of the eternal, invisible, spiritual system within the Kingdom of Christ and God.
Virgil: Todd, thanks again for taking time to answer these questions. May God continue to bless your ministry! Do you have any closing comments for the Planet Preterist readers?
Todd: My best advice to all Christians is to love one another. As we think and talk about Preterism it is important to keep the exercise in its proper perspective. If we can keep the basis of our fellowship on conforming to the image of Christ, then we will manifest much more brotherly love towards the body. If, however, we insist or expect others to conform to our image and our theology, then we sow the seeds of dissapointment, anger and division.
We really mustn’t take ourselves or our ideas too seriously. I truly believe that the magical thinking of “A Preterist Reformation” has taken the idea backward instead of forward. It is so easy to focus on AD70 that we can easily forget about AD30 — or for that matter what it means for us in AD2006.
Todd Dennis (firstname.lastname@example.org)