First, when people hear the word “heretic” or “heresy” they often feel some pity or sympathy for the person being called a heretic. Perhaps it is human nature to feel sorry for and root for the underdog. But is there EVER a right time to describe something as a heresy and the person advocating it a heretic?
To start, we must define what we mean by heresy. In the Christian sense, heresy is NOT simply something that goes against the teaching of those in control. Again, people often visualize the “big bad institutional church” forcing people to believe what the institution is teaching or else be labelled a heretic. However, to correctly define heresy we must decouple ourselves from the idea that the “church” is corrupt and trying to impose beliefs on the poor “followers”. This wrong idea, may be a misunderstanding of Protestantism, where a person envisions themselves as a “little Martin Luther” taking on the Roman Catholic Church.
DEFINITION OF HERESY
The text in the Bible that perhaps most succinctly defines heresy is Romans 16:17-18.
“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.”
Note the elements of heresy:
- Causes divisions and offenses
- Is contrary to learned doctrine
The question is, WHAT IS THE DOCTRINE THAT WAS LEARNED?
Is it simply whatever is dominant at the time? There were times in Church history where anti-trinitarian views were dominant. Even now, it seems that synergism (freewillism) is currently dominant whereas for most of Christian history, monergism (God’s Elect) was the doctrine taught within the Church.
So, even if someone agrees that the most minimal definition of heresy is that it is contrary to doctrine learned by Christians everywhere, THROUGHOUT Christian history — now we must figure out what BASIC elements within Christianity are common from the very beginning of the Faith until now. Determining that, we can at LEAST say that whatever goes against those BASIC elemental beliefs, is really heresy. Agreed?
This brings us to the subject of this article; Jason Bradfield.
Bradfield, like myself WAS a long time “full” or “hyperpreterist” — advocating that Jesus came back once and for all in AD70, the Resurrection happened in AD70, the Judgment of the wicked and righteous happened in AD70, and there will be no end of sin or culmination of God’s plan. Obviously not all hyperpreterists are consistent on these beliefs, but some variation of these beliefs are found within the heresy.
Bradfield recanted the heresy of hyperpreterism in late 2010 (ref), 3 years after I had recanted it. In the intervening 3 years, I have had to put up with a lot of hostility from the hyperpreterists, including Bradfield. But what is amazing now is Bradfield is saying ALMOST the exact same things I had been saying the past 3 years. I don’t note this to pat myself on the back but to give glory to God. There have been a few FALSE recanters of the heresy (ie Dorothy Anderson), but from what Bradfield is saying, his recantation seems legitimate.
Among other heresy-deconstructing things recently written by Bradfield is a letter he wrote to a person questioning how he was able to get out of the heresy (ref).
It is this letter that I’d like to analyze. I will quote parts of the letter and comment but I encourage the reader to go read the entire letter before you continue.
Bradfield first informs us of his relevancy within the hyperpreterist movement and why it should matter to anyone that he has recanted the heresy. He mentions all the various Internet outlets he helped to create.
“For those of you who don’t know me, i embraced the full pret framework (all prophecy was fulfilled by ad70) in late 2002 and went on to aid Sam Frost as the techie guy behind Christ Covenant Church, which turned into RCM, as well as formed SGP, which is still one of the most active full pret social networks around. I’m still with RCM, but left SGP over a year ago. I have also created the current sites for Ward Fenley’s NCMI, Jim Kessler, and Michael Sullivan. I came close to becoming Don Preston’s new webmaster as well after Scott left, but that didn’t work out. (i don’t even remember why) I only mention all of this because some have tried to easily dismiss my renouncement of full preterismi by pointing out how i was not a major player to begin with. Ah, that may be true. But they certainly didn’t think so when i was helping them out.”
I agree, Bradfield was not a light-weight within the movement. It is a typical tactic of hyperpreterists to dismiss ex-hyperpreterists as irrelevant. This was done to me, even though I was the most prolific author on the main hyperpreterist website; PlanetPreterist. It has been done to Todd Dennis who has amassed the largest archive of preterist and hyperpreterist materials at his website, PreteristArchive.com. So, Bradfield leaving the movement is huge — actually I think it is more important than even the recantation of Sam Frost.
Next Bradfield begins to answer the question of how “the Lord delivered [him] from that error”
“Well, there are a number of factors. Looking back, I think alot of it has to do with how i entered into the view. I embraced “full preterism” out of frustration and impatience. At the time that i decided to go all in, i was a pastor-in-training at a reformed baptist church that taught postmillennialism from the pulpit. So i was already a “partial preterist” for about 2 years. One of the things i struggled with was how and when to make the distinction between the ad70 “coming” and a future one. This was just a natural question i had before ever hearing about “full preterism”. Then one day i was reading RC Sproul’s book the “Last Days According to Jesus”, in which he interacts with J.S. Russell. I then read Russell’s book “The Parousia”. Russell is like 99.9% full preterist. The only verses in Revelation that he had going beyond ad70 was the “thousand years”. One of the biggest shockers in that book was his reprint of a lecture by John Owen who taught that 2 Peter 3 was fulfilled in ad70.”
Praise God that Bradfield humbly admits he embraced the heresy “out of frustration and impatience”. It was NOT that Bradfield picked up the Bible and suddenly it began glowing and a strange breeze blew it open to Mt 24 and his house shook and he suddenly understood the “time-texts” to all be speaking of AD70.
Another interesting admission here is that Bradfield says that Russell was a 99.9% “full preterist”. Further, Bradfield like myself was influenced by John Owen but took Owen’s work somewhere Owen himself would not have wanted it taken.
“I started asking the elders what they made of all this. I was honestly struggling with the question of where to *stop*. I mean, if one is going to interpret 99% of the Bible as fulfilled, including a passage that is almost always understood to be future (2 Peter 3), then why hang on to the 1%? Why not go that route, rather than hang on to a few verses in Revelation that were problematic to start with…so was my thinking. But rather than sit me down and work through various texts, they pretty much had the attitude that i needed to shut up and sit down. When i told one elder, who was a big fan of Owen, about Owen’s treatment of 2 Peter 3, he accused me of lying. When i showed him the lecture a week later, he scanned over it, handed it back to me, then turned around and walked off. No apology. No, “hey Jason, sorry for accusing you of lying, but i still disagree with that interpretation and here’s why….” None of that.”
This happens to so many well-meaning Christians. A pat or contradicting answer or attitude from someone in supposed “authority” does more damage to a person then anything else. This is the reason why I have been adamant that men like Dr. Kenneth Talbot has done a lot of damage by sending contradicting signals — calling known hyperpreterists, “brothers” and then saying it is a heresy. Which is it? And then when people challenged Talbot on this, his response was in effect the same that Bradfield expereinced — just “shut up”. Anyhow, people in leadership have a larger responsibility then they realize.
“While i take full responsibility for my actions, i think the treatment i got from my elders once i started asking some questions, didn’t help me at all. I’ve learned alot from that as well. While i certainly agree that heresies and heretics exist today, some christians could do much better in how they handle these people. They didn’t view me as honestly struggling. They immediately viewed me as some cancer to get rid of.
So i finally, at one point, just had to throw my hands up out of frustration and dive in. I didn’t know what else to do because the only people i had around me to help wouldn’t help; other than to beat orthodoxy into me.”
There is a time to determine when a person moves from honestly “struggling” to being a “cancer”. It is unfortunate that leadership often has two wrong approaches when dealing with issues:
- Unconditional Acceptance
If a church immediately stifles any contrast or questions, it will cause more harm than good. Whereas if a church accepts everything and anything, that too causes much harm.
“One could say then, that i kinda went into full preterism on some shaky ground. While i saw a strong preteristic leaning in Scripture, i still had a ton of questions, especially how such a view would jive with my calvinistic beliefs, which i saw just as strongly. But again, since my church wasn’t much help, i dove in thinking, “well, i’ll work all this out somehow.” It was more wishful thinking than anything. And while some full preterists may easily dismiss me by pointing out my words above that I didn’t seem to ever really understand full preterism to begin with; besides the fact that many of these same people never said that about me when i was a full preterist, i can also point out that NO full preterist has worked out these ’systematic’ concerns. It wasn’t so much that i was shaky, as it was that full preterism ITSELF is shaky ground.”
A couple of comments. It is refreshing to see Bradfield continue to admit that he, a very invested hyperpreterist entered into the movement on shaky ground and that the entire heresy is itself shaky ground.
Okay, we are about to get into some very important revelations within Bradfield’s account. Now, up to this point perhaps Bradfield and his friends have been fine with what I’ve written thus far. But now I’m going to get a little more critical in my analysis — not critical as in mean-spirited, but as in pointing out some things that may not be obvious — maybe not even to Jason. If Bradfield and his friends will just…how does he often say now?…”step back” a moment, perhaps they will understand the source of some of the animosity that exists between me and them.
“Shortly after, i was booted from the church and around that same time, i was playing basketball at Briarwood Pres. in B’Ham one saturday, and ended up running through a glass pane. It sliced my knee and i had to have surgery. Then i couldn’t work (foreman, lawncare) So here i was without a church, lost most of my friends, and lost my job. During this time, i had got in contact with a full pret in Tampa named Sam Frost. He had a reformed background (two Masters) and was pastoring a “full pret” church. I told him about my situation. A week or two later, one of the pastors there called me up with a job offer at an appraisal company. I thought, “well, i can move to Tampa, start working again, and attend a church where i would be welcomed.” So i went.”
Note the progression here. Bradfield loses acceptance in his former circles. The network breaks down and leaves him and his family without proper supporting fellowship, especially in his time of need. Somehow Bradfield gets in contact with hyperpreterist leader Sam Frost. Let’s STOP HERE for a moment.
One of my MAIN COMPLAINTS against Dr. Kenneth Talbot is that for 10 years, Talbot allowed Frost to not only attend Talbot’s Christian seminary, Talbot actually allowed Frost to assist in developing the seminary’s student materials. For 10 years, Talbot in essence validated Frost’s hyperpreterism. Where was Talbot while Frost continued to advocate this heresy over the last 10-15 years? Why do we not see anything publicly from Talbot discouraging Frost’s promotion of heresy? Instead, we see Bradfield; as a dejected Christian who is led astray by Frost into the heresy, by Frost being there at the very crucial moment. Again, what does Rom 16:17-18 say?
Now, being a Calvinist myself we can retrospectively look at all of this (especially as it looks like Frost may eventually really leave the heresy) and say it was all in God’s plan. True enough, but unless we are hyper-Calvinists; we are called to STILL call evil evil and good good (Is 5:20). We are still called to oppose wrong doctrine. Where was Talbot to WARN people of what Frost was teaching???
Now watch what Bradfield says:
“I think that move to FL was another huge factor, because once i got into an atmosphere where i was welcomed, all that pressure and sense of urgency to work out the systematic/reformed questions was put on the back burner. I wasn’t in any rush. My fellowship wasn’t being threatened, etc. Sam then introduced me to the full pret community online, and that gave me a lot of comfort. “Wow, there are hundreds of people just like me.” When you get a bunch of people like that together, who share similar church battle stories, there’s just something about it. You feel important. You feel like your part of something again.
I became part of a “community” that was basically in the same place i was…saw strong preteristic leanings in Scripture, wasn’t sure how to stop going the full route, got into some battles with churches, gave up out of frustration, and dove in.”
Notice the HUGE FACTOR that precipitated Bradfield’s into the heresy — a WELCOMING, comforting, validating atmosphere. This is EXACTLY why I am soooooo adamant that Christians never appear to validate hyperpreterism or hyperpreterists. It only lengthens their stay within the heresy.
Bradfield admits that without the “pressure”, he was able to put the important questions on the back burner. Folks, I oppose hyperpreterism as strongly as I do, not because a “hate” hyperpreterists but because unlike Frost (at the time) and Talbot, I don’t want to perpetuate the heresy by making people feel comfortable or accepted in their heresy. Could you imagine how this works if a person makes a drug addict feel like they can just keep on doing drugs? Even worse is when a person acts like they can accept someone who smokes pot but doesn’t do cocaine — as if a lesser form of hyperpreterism is okay as long as the person doesn’t go all the way or do it very publicly.
“All during this time though, i always left a foot in the “orthodox” door. 99% of my library is orthodox, so i never just completely removed myself from it. So the questions of how full preterism and reformed thought jived still loomed around in the back of my mind, but all the excitement of the “community” and the thought that we were leading a “new reformation”, got the best of me.
Looking back now, i can see that what was needed was something to jar me out of this wishful thinking…get my head out of the clouds. Something to force me to answer these systematic/reformed questions. That’s when ‘Covenant Creationism’ showed up.”
A little humor here — If person’s theological library only consisted of hyperpreterist books, I think it would all fit on one shelf, so of course Jason’s library is mainly orthodox 🙂
I like how Bradfield admits the excitement of “community” and the idea of being part of a “new reformation” got the best of him. Well, political riots are often seeded the same way; sometimes for good and sometimes for evil purposes.
But what is important is Bradfield’s statement about needing something to “jar” him out of the heresy. What is my response to hyperpreterists that claim that if we can just bring them the magic silver bullet proof-text, that they’d leave hyperpreterism? I say that hyperpreterists often suffer from a Proverbs 26:12 mentality where they are too wise in their own eyes to see anything else. I mean, if 2000 years of Christianity believing and teaching the same basics of eschatology doesn’t “jar” a person; only God knows what will.
It seems it took a very liberal strain of hyperpreterism to jar Bradfield. But in reality the “Covenant Creationism (CC)” variation of hyperpreterism is one of the more CONSISTENT and “systematic” versions of hyperpreterism. The CC hyperpreterists attempt to apply the hyperpreterist presupposition/premise not just to eschatology, but to all parts of the Bible, including the Genesis account. So, if anything it appears Bradfield was jarred by seeing hyperpreterism moving to its full extent.
This is YET ANOTHER reason why I have been adamant against folks like Gary DeMar who seem to operate on the very edge of orthodoxy and heresy when it comes to hyperpreterism. DeMar has even been reluctant to come out and call it a heresy when Frost once directly asked DeMar if it was. Imagine had DeMar politely said, “Yes, Full Preterism is a heresy Sam and I pray for you to leave it” (source). Instead, men like DeMar have been sending mixed signals to hyperpreterists and non-hyperpreterists. I haven’t been saying this about DeMar because I “hate” him, but because I admire him so much and want to see him do the right thing with the God-given position DeMar is in. Think again about how irresponsible those elders were that helped plunge Jason into this heresy in the first place.
“I witnessed this group go down this path of just complete craziness, toppling over a lot of what i deemed to be ‘essential’ doctrine. And even full pret friends of mine who didn’t agree with the Cov Creationist, still thought it should be given a platform. As the creator of one of the most active full pret communities online, i had a serious problem with this and started using the network to go after the Cov Creationists.
This battle with them did three things: (1) The sense of ‘unity’ that i thought i had with full prets was shattered. The Cov Creationists were saying that I could not even call myself a full preterist unless i went that route. I found myself now fighting more with other full preterists then i did with non full prets. (2) I began to notice that many of the arguments used to make their case were very similar to how full prets argued in general. Things like, “well how would the original audience have understood it?” and “well if that word means this here, then it must mean that there”. (3) Because their conclusions were so radical, i began to appreciate more the whole “systematics” issue, which in turn forced me to start addressing the stuff i had laid aside.”
Amen and amen! I pray that more and more hyperpreterism is allowed to reach it full application. As it shows itself to be “crazy” and as I often say, something OTHER-THAN-CHRISTIAN, perhaps more people like Jason will be “jarred” away from it. It will probably take this, since no amount of reasoning seems to work. A person has to leave this heresy on their own. The more a person is faced with the “consistent” conclusions of this heresy, the more likely — if they are a true Christian — they will leave the heresy. Unfortunately, some will follow it over a cliff, but they are in God’s gracious hands…or judgment.
After Bradfield goes on to give some credit to Frost’s move away from the heresy (although I believe Jason has so far made a more substantial move), he goes on to make some very important comments.
“This then led me back into Reformed Systematics and as i read it now, i have come to appreciate more and more the “system” aspect of theology. Reading things in light of the WHOLE…full preterism was originally developed within a church of christ/semi-pelagian view of things. Many of the original big shots within the camp have argued that one MUST leave behind, not only reformed thinking, but even things considered fundamental to Christianity in general.
I know anti-full prets have been saying this for years, but i guess i just had to learn the hard way. What they “talked about”, i actually witnessed and experienced for 7 years.”
Exactly! What happens when anyone begins to enter into a heresy, whether it be hyperpreterism or a cult like Mormonism; if the person was a believing Christian, the promoters of the heresy must first try to get the person to remove themselves from “the Whole” — or more precisely, remove themselves from a trust in the collective of Christianity. The heresy must get the person to doubt the credibility of God to sustain truth. They must try to get the person to have more “faith” in their personal ability to “interpret” the text over 2000 years of UNITED Christian belief and teaching on the basics. They often do this by claiming the mantle of being “new reformers” or claiming to utilize “sola Scriptura” (Bible alone) more legitimately than anyone else.
Further, there is a reason that I have CONSTANTLY pointed out that most of the “founders” and present main “teachers” of hyperpreterism all come from a “church of christ” denominational background. This denomination is ALREADY predisposed by its “restorationism” of “the church failed/the gospel failed” ideology to lead right into hyperpreterism presupposition of God’s supposed failure to sustain a basic understanding of eschatological truth. (source)
Bradfield concludes by urging the letter writer to help his unnamed friend by “pressing” him on how hyperpreterism affects the “whole” and to show him how it “topples it all over”.
Amen Jason. No matter our history, I praise God that what you have written here is some of the most sincere stuff I’ve seen from ex-hyperpreterists. I hope people listen.