When RJ Rushdoony, the grandpapa of theonomy, died, the movement ended. One of his students, Andrew Sandlin, declared the end of it. It was a good thing to declare. Preterism, however, is a different story.
Reflections on the End of Movements
By Russell Warren
March 22, 2007
Being labeled can be a dangerous thing. However, distinctions (which are always accompanied by labels) can be a helpful, even beneficial, thing. The older I get, the more I realize that the labels (or badges, one might say in good Wrightian style) need to be held loosely, never as a true identity marker–apart from faith in Jesus as Messiah. This faith is the only badge worth retaining, since it makes the only distinction worth making. Often times, though, the further distinctions we make within that distinction (“I’m of Paul” or “I’m of Cephas” or “I’m of the Scottish Reformation” or “I’m of the Dutch Reformation”) can be dangerous and unnecessarily divisive. Especially when the labels are held on tightly to.
I used to be a part of two different, only tangentially related labeled movements: theonomy and preterism. While I consider myself to still be at least a “moderate” theonomist (whatever, exactly, that means), I have broken off most ties to the preterist world. I would, I guess, consider myself a cautious partial preterist, but no where near the “full” preterism I held in my (earlier) youth.
I think that this is a good thing.
When RJ Rushdoony, the grandpapa of theonomy, died, the movement ended. One of his students, Andrew Sandlin, declared the end of it (although I don’t have the article in my archives). It was a good thing to declare. Fewer movements have been so striken with dissession, in-fighting, and arrogant out-fighting as theonomy. What could have led to fruitful exegesis and thoughtful engagement with the wider world devolved into bickering internally and rudeness to the outsiders. It is no wonder that when I tell people I’m a theonomist that they look at me askew, especially if they know anything about me before I say that (largely) four-letter word. Maybe, just maybe, with the end of a movement devoted to much leader worship (the big three, especially: Rushdoony, North, and Bahnsen), exegetical theonomy can make some contributions to the Church. I’m hoping so.
Preterism, however, is a different story. I remember some of the things that initially made me wary, while I was in the midst of being groomed as a future leader of the movement: sloppy exegesis and dependence on pagan thought for proof (one writer proved that the resurrection body was non-material by referencing, of all people, Plato…shudder). The fruits of that, I am finding out, are now becoming ever apparent.
The end, one might say, is near.