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An Introduction to The Parousia: A Careful Look at the New Testament Doctrine of the Lord's Second Coming
by James Stuart Russell (1878) // Written by
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My Journey: A Funny Thing Happened To Me On The Way To Heaven

By GR Gaudreau

From Catholic to Full Preterist to Skeptic

In the beginning
   I was born and raised in the Roman Catholic faith over fifty years ago, when this church still had an almost absolute sway over the lives of my people, in the province of Québec, Canada. By the time I was a teenager, it's power and influence had begun to ebb, and folks were starting to think more for themselves in matters of spirituality, although they still had deeply superstitious ideas concerning life in the here-and-now and in the here-after.

In the '60s, we had what some have come to call "The Quiet Revolution," a mainly political movement, which finally broke the power of the Roman church over us. We started getting rid of the priest's heavy-handed influence on our society. By the same token, religious groups like Jehovah's Witnesses and various Evangelical and Fundamentalist sects began to spread their "gospel" in Québec, having now the freedom to do so, because of the Quiet Revolution.

By the time this revolution had happened, I had given up on religion, having seen its nefarious hold on my people. In my mid-twenties I began exploring other religious systems, such as Taoism, Buddhism, and other eastern religions. I liked some of their ideas and incorporated them in my own worldview. I was then basically an Agnostic/Atheist.

A fateful day in school
Still in my mid twenties, I went back to school, in order to complete high school, which I had quit in the days of my rebellion against authority. It was during this time that I would meet a young man who would change the course of my life.

One day, at the end of a math class, this young man asked me what I thought of Jesus of Nazareth. I answered that I thought he was ok, but no more. I had had a personal indoctrination into the world of religion by my former "spiritual keepers" and thought that was sufficient. Little did I realize the influence this young man would have on me. His name was Mark.

The gospel I had never heard
He began to tell me of the gospel of Jesus Christ, how my former religion had lied to me and that salvation was readily available to all who would "ask Jesus into their hearts." This salvation," he said, was "by grace and not by works." At that time, my favorite philosopher was Neitzche, so you can probably imagine what kind of arguments we had.

Mark's courage in the face of adversity impressed me and the strength of his arguments against the background of that courage were a powerful incentive for me. I longed to find the answers to the "mysteries" of life. From an early age, I had asked why was I here? Where did I come from? Where was I going? That last one held a particular interest for me.

I had been tought that hell was the destination of the rebellious and since I was a rebel, the thought of hell often predominated my thoughts. In any event, after four years of "debating" with Mark, I finally "asked Jesus into my heart."

Oh Happy days!
I wish I could describe the joy I felt at having my sins forgiven and being inducted into the "family of God." I read my Bible daily and studied hard to be "a workman approved." After a while, I began to notice slight discrepancies between what my pastor taught in the pulpit and what I was reading in my Bible. Surely, I thought, it was me who didn't understand. I gave him and the others that taught me the benefit of the doubt, because after all, they were men of God and wouldn't make such mistakes. It was me, it had to be me.

As time went by, I noticed still more discrepancies. It began to dawn on me that perhaps they were, after all, wrong about certain things, so I began to question them and to argue with them as to the various meanings of the texts on which we didn't see eye-to-eye. I began to attract attention as being a rather rebellious fellow who was "contentious" and always looked for the proverbial "fly in the ointment".

Troubled waters ahead
After a time it became clear to me that my teachers were wrong about how God administered His Salvation and his Kingdom. I thought their theology was rather inconsistent and contradictory and I told them so. This, of course, attracted further attention to me; the kind of attention that "heretics" usually got.

Sure as shootin', I was eventually disfellowshipped and shunned. That was a tough year for me. This was the church I had been "born again" in and I considered it as my spiritual mother. Of course, I have to admit that I gave my "mom" a hard time, sometimes being stubborn and prone to a bad temper and a quick response: They weren't to blame for all my troubles.

This experience was a good one for me as it opened up new horizons I had not previously explored. I went to a Reformed church for a while and got a taste of the "Calvinism" I had so often read about and studied -- my beloved sotereology. Little did I suspect that these folks were of the same mind as those I had previously been with. They also didn't appreciate dissent, so it was back to another Baptist church for me, when I began to question infant baptism and their Covenant Theology.

Back to the fold
Well, I was back with the Baptists, my first love, only this time they were what some called "Reformed" Baptists. They were "Calvinistic" in their approach to salvation. That suited me just fine. But after a while, needless to say, I was in hot water again. I just couldn't adopt a theology without trying to modify it, which irritated some folks no end.

I eventually left that Baptist church and went back to my original church -- yep, the one that first kicked me out. They had gotten another pastor and he seemed to be more reasonable than the former pastor, so I decided I'd give them another try. I was glad to be back there, as I'd missed my first spiritual family.

It was during my stay there that I got myself an Internet account and began to browse the cyber routes of spirituality. That was quite a shocker for me. As time went by I saw that there were a thousand different opinions out there and that some of them were pretty wacked out.

It was during this time that I came upon Preterism. This is a teaching which basically stated that Jesus came back during the last third of the first century, according as He gave His word to His disciples by saying: "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled." (Matt 24:34) These "things" were all the things He'd told them about in the Olivet discourse, in the 24th chapter of the gospel of Matthew.

Welcome back to Hereticville -- population: ME!
I then learned that a future return of Christ was just not taught in the Scriptures. I wrote myself up a webpage and started telling other Christians how mistaken they were, waiting for Jesus to come back. The statements concerning His return and "the end of the world" were quite clear and I believed that the "world" He was speaking of was not the physical word, but the covenant world of the Israelites, i.e., the religious system they had lived under for lo, these many centuries.

I began getting letters stating that I was destroying the true faith, that I was attacking a fundamental doctrine that the church had traditionally taught for centuries. In short, I simply wasn't being orthodox. Preterists were later labeled (get a load of this fancy term) "Hymanean-Hyper-Preterists" by the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS). Now that's what I call a label!

Well, it was back to Hereticville for me; but then again, I was used to that, having been labeled a heretic and a rebel long before I had entered the ranks of Preterism. I liked Preterists, on the whole, I thought they were honest researchers who were not afraid to challenge traditions for the sake of truth. Unfortunately, they weren't as anti-traditional as I first thought.

Tradition is alive and well in Preteristville
I found, to my dismay, that Preterists were also prone to be traditionalists, even though they claimed to challenge tradition and to stand on the Word of God only. This became even more clear to me as I began to deny the doctrine of eternal torments. Some of them got downright aggressive about it.

I saw that those who yelled the loudest in favor of Sola Scritpura, "The Scriptures Alone", were very often those who would take the hardest stand where tradition and so-called orthodoxy were concerned, thus denying in the same breath their beloved doctrine, Sola Scriptura.

However inconsistent this may seem, whenever anyone questioned the authority of the Bible, there were always those who would be ready with a word of warning. One day, a lady on a Preterist discussion list I had subscribed to, posted a reply to a previous question, stating that she thought the apostle Paul had been misguided in his teachings on the resurrection. Needless to say, all hell broke loose.

Condemnation came in fast and furious and in no uncertain terms and this lady was branded a wolf and ordered to recant forthwith. She didn't and got more of the same. During this troubled time, another man posted a list of errors he'd found in the Bible.

Innerrancy challenged, challenge ignored

He, of course, got a few well chosen reprimands from those who held to the inerrancy of the Bible. In fact, I was one of the people who wrote him to ask "if the Bible is so full of errors, then how can we ever trust it? Where would we go to find truth? And on what rock would we stand?"

I then determined to find answers to his list of so-called errors and began to study them in earnest, as I wanted to "bring him back to the fold." To my great horror, I found even more errors. I was, as you can imagine, shocked. I had always firmly believed that the Bible was the "inspired and inerrant Word of God." I kept studying this and kept trying to find solutions to these problems.

I found a few solutions to problems that one could consider copyist and translation errors, that really didn't affect any important doctrine. This, of course, assumed that the original autographs were inerrant. I found that some of the errors were simply verses that were taken out of context by the Sceptics. Such is life.

The other errors, however, simply wouldn't go away. In fact, the more I tried to explain them, the less I could justify them. I tried going to various inerrancy websites, but found the answers to be unsatisfactory. I found a lot of "this could be interpreted", or, "this is a possible solution," but the real answers were not to be found. The "big guns" of Bible inerrancy just couldn't still my spirit.

I then posted some of the errors I had found and asked my Christian brothers on the list to help me with them. I really wanted to believe in the doctrine of inerrancy. I kept telling myself that it was me that was wrong. It was my faith that was weak. The Word of God couldn't be wrong!

The cavalry does not ride in
To my amazement, those on the list that were the loudest defenders of inerrancy ignored my posts, as well as those of the man that had first posted the original list. I couldn't believe this! How could Christians just ignore this problem? How could Preterists, who challenged such traditional teachings as the future return of Christ and the mode of resurrection, just ignore this problem and refuse to help out a brother???

That's when it began to finally sink in. The doctrine of inerrancy was just not true. My heart was broken and my soul plunged in a mire of uncertainty. I posted a letter to the list telling people how I felt about this. Some were very sympathetic and told me they "felt" for me and would pray that God would give me light and bring me back to inerrancy, but none of them offered to help with the errors. In fact, I got letters from some telling me that they had already been through this and had settled the issue in their hearts and had no wish to rehash it. So much for compassion. Besides, I was told, this was a Preterist list, not an inerrancy list. It was suggested that I join an inerrancy list for help. I think the problem was that they were scared.

A light begins to shine in the darkness
It took a while, but I saw that there were no answers to this problem, other than to admit that there actually were errors in the Bible and that I would have to accept my losses and move on. This was a traumatic experience for me, as I had given myself, heart and soul, to my faith. I had spent eighteen years studying this book, ignoring the doubts I'd had over the years, telling myself that it was me that was wrong. Well, it wasn't me! It was the Bible!

There are insuperable errors in the Bible; errors that are, to quote a Christian I know, "ungetoverable". I eventually found error after error that simply couldn't be justified. There were counting errors, errors in historical data, biological data and scientific data of all kinds and a host of others too long to name. So many in fact, that I was amazed I could ignore them for so long. My conclusion is that when a man really wants to believe, the facts won't make any difference.

The years of doubt culminate
I had been bothered for years by the nagging suspicion that if the Bible was so clear, then how come there were so many different interpretations? I kept telling myself that it was "the others" that just didn't interpret the Bible correctly. But if the book was so clear, then why all these different sects? Why so many denominations? How could there be so many contradictory opinions on even the most fundamental doctrines, when the Bible was supposed to be as clear as crystal?

Furthermore, what about the problem of evil? Why was there so much suffering and senseless violence in the world, when an omnipotent and benevolent God could put a stop to it? It just didn't make sense. We are often told by some Christians that God doesn't want suffering and death. Well, if he doesn't want it, why does it happen? And why did he cause so much of it himself? Why did he command the slaughter of women, children, suckling infants, the elderly and the crippled? How did the slaughter of infants, for the sins of their fathers, ever satisfy "divine justice?"

Preterism was a watershed for me. It brought all the different problems and doubts into one place and put them into focus as never before. It forced me to see that the church could be wrong about a major doctrine and that it had been wrong for a long time. This really bothered me. It was in October 1996, when I came to Preterism, that I started having these very serious doubts and I just couldn't get rid of them. I kept trying to bury them, but they just kept coming back.

The straw that broke the camel's back was when I started investigating inerrancy. Preterism had opened the door to recognizing that "the ground and pillar of the truth," the church, was wrong about the second coming and the resurrection. I saw how much tradition held sway in the church and that its cry of "The Scriptures Alone" was just a smoke screen. The reality was that the emperor had no clothes.

The various denominations held to their traditions, despite what the Bible said about them. Beliefs set in and the hard questions were frowned upon. When I took a hard and honest look at the inerrancy problem, everything began to unravel. It was quite disconcerting. I was troubled as I'd never been before, because I just couldn't bury the problem anymore. I had to deal with it. And if Preterism had been the watershed, inerrancy was the floodgates opened. It was the most difficult decision I had ever had to make, but it was unavoidable.

I'm glad I found these errors and I'm grateful to that man who first posted the list of errors. He had a lot of courage. He met with a lot of opposition and stood his ground, because he knew he was right. He could not, would not, ignore the evidence. Though he was accused and often treated unkindly, he stood for what he knew was right. He was an inspiration to me. I can't say I agree with all of his conclusions regarding the truth, but he was a boon to me in my search for truth. Thank you Dave.

What do YOU think ?

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Date: 09 Dec 2006
Time: 09:44:05

Comments:

So what do you place your faith in now? What do you think about the man Jesus? Who was He? Do you believe in sin?.. in atonement?.. Forgiveness?.. Universalism?..Annihilation of all at death?.. No purpose?..Some purpose not yet revealed?.. possibly from aliens?..Or do you just simply not know?

Do you hold to some kind of form of Christianity?

I'm curious because this letter almost reflects the way I've felt for quite some time as well.


Date: 25 Dec 2006
Time: 12:41:25

Comments:

GR,
Is that the end? Did you reach no conclusion?
Lawrence Thomas


Date: 29 May 2007
Time: 11:08:01

Comments0:

Since giving up Preterism and Christianity, I have become an Atheist. At first, I was a Deist, then a Agnostic, then a Weak Atheist and now a Strong Atheist.
I believe this is the only life we have. When it's done we return to Mother Earth, who bore us in the first place and then it's over. No more me, no more life or consciousness, which is why this life is so precious.
Lawrence asks "is that the end?" Yes it is. "Do you reach no conclusion?" Yes, that the Bible is a book of mythology and that we shouldn't put so much store in it.
We don't need Christianity, or any other religion, to feel secure and to live a good life. Biblical authors got their ethics from other cultures before them, the code of Hammurabi being one example, aand so have we. Ethics are part of the tools of survival that Mother Nature has given us, so to speak.
In any event, I do not regret my decision to quit Christianity, not even a bit. Life is better without it.

GR Gaudreau


Date: 22 Jul 2009
Time: 13:09:04

Your Comments:

Hello, I know your post is probably very dated, but I just came across it. Can you give me a list of the errors you found? I was Catholic, then Pentecostal, then Preterist, now just a studier of things spiritual with an open mind. I, too, have always had major questions about the inerrancy of the bible and would love to see what you found. Thanks. Kim
 


Date: 25 Dec 2009
Time: 20:19:46

Your Comments:

Your story is told with a great deal of passion. Let me attempt to say something somewhat practical, as a person who is firmly persuaded that God inspired the Bible, that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully Man, that Christ judged the apostate Nation in the 1st Century, and established the everlasting fellowship of believers in His Name among all nations, in Century 1.
I do not know what kind of preterist that those who engage in the present war of classifications would call me. But, it doesn't matter. I am here neither defending, nor opposing any theological view, but only commenting as a human being who has felt the agonies of the "culture wars" within the eschatology debates of the past several decades.
Close persons in my life came to their spiritual termination of having a profession of faith, and both had in common exposure to preterism, among other things. I've come to the conclusion that some things...EVEN IF TRUE...must grow from a basic foundation in order to bless, and will be like a forced marriage of some kind, otherwise.
Besides exposure to preterism (one was a full preterism attending a tiny Calvinistic Baptist church and the other said he was partly reacting against my embrace of preterism by wondering if one could trust any historic church teaching). In both cases, it was extremely painful to me, spiritually and emotionally! But, I try to be an honest person, and I would not want someone to claim to believe the Gospel just to make me feel better.
Anyway, it is sincerely my belief that one's strong passionate attachment to the church (not some particular church affiliation, but the church as the Wife of the Lamb) or lack of attachment, determines whether preterism or any other area of difficulty in finding Christian consensus, will undermine one's confidence in the Gospel, or else, serve as a renewing tool.
My confidence in the inspiration of the Bible by God is not based upon a technical argument about whether or not there are apparent (or even seemingly real) discrepancies in the collection of the text. Rather, preterism is true because I do not see how the words of the Lord Jesus foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem 40 years before it occurred can be other than a prophetic miracle! I find myself unable to indict the writers of the Gospels as dishonest persons, and their claims cannot be true without inspiration, as I see it.
My email address is dadprs@hotmail.com. I welcome discussion anytime and wish you well in every way.

PAUL RICHARD STRANGE SR
119 Marvin Gardens
Waxahachie Texas 75165
 


Date: 26 Aug 2011
Time: 20:40:16

Your Comments:

I have read most of your posting on the genealogies, and I have just read part of your "journey". I came upon your genealogy postings when I was asking how Luke's genealogy could be of Mary. I have yet to write to the person who taught me this to see how he came to it, but I certainly hope that it is not the circular reasoning that you describe. We'll see. If he can answer any or all of your questions, would you be willing to listen to him?

One question arose in my mind as I read your points v. inerrancy (and I do understand your questions, by the way), and that question is whether you think that the Quran or the Book of Mormon are either one inspired by God? I have lived and taught among muslims for several years, so that is where my question automatically comes from regarding the Quran, and I have a Mormon officemate, thus the question on the latter?

Thank you.


Date: 02 Jun 2012
Time: 11:15:45

Your Comments:

wow ! what a journey, and what an impressive study of the scriptures your life has been. I humbly suggest that the best example of a rebel you have followed, as well as 'Dave', is Jesus Himself, He didn't think much of the Religiousists of His day, either, the reason I believe the bible is not without 'errors and inconsistencies' is that it can only be fully understood thro the Holy Spirit, hence all the denominations from the Jews, the roman catholics and every variety since, show their ignorance and lack of Holy Spirit by all the evidence you describe in the experiences of your journey. Only trust in God, not man, the bible, although written down by men, was, i believe, inspired by God and can only be understood thro His eyes when we begin to understand what He meant, as we get to know Him. May God continue to bless your journey towards Him. with love, Sharyn
 


Date: 26 Aug 2011
Time: 20:40:16

Your Comments:

I have read most of your posting on the genealogies, and I have just read part of your "journey". I came upon your genealogy postings when I was asking how Luke's genealogy could be of Mary. I have yet to write to the person who taught me this to see how he came to it, but I certainly hope that it is not the circular reasoning that you describe. We'll see. If he can answer any or all of your questions, would you be willing to listen to him?

One question arose in my mind as I read your points v. inerrancy (and I do understand your questions, by the way), and that question is whether you think that the Quran or the Book of Mormon are either one inspired by God? I have lived and taught among muslims for several years, so that is where my question automatically comes from regarding the Quran, and I have a Mormon officemate, thus the question on the latter?

Thank you.
 


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