Saturday, November 15, 2014

Problems with Full Preterism (or Hyper Preterism): Is the Bible a Book without a Final Chapter or Even a Back Cover?

Definition: Full preterism (or hyper-preterism) views the eschatological teaching of the NT to be completely fulfilled in the events of AD 70, at the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, even including the resurrection of the dead, and the return (Second Coming) of Christ. Full preterism is not to be confused with “partial preterism” which views some prophecies as already fulfilled in AD 70, while still nevertheless expecting a literal, personal return of Jesus Christ.

A. Theological Arguments against Full Preterism. 

1. It is neither historically orthodox, creedal, nor confessional. It is not expressed formally in any catholic creed or Reformed confession. In fact, it directly opposes them at many points (WCF 32, 33; Heid. 52, 57; Belg. 37). Thus, it is outside the pale of the vast unity and harmony of the Apostolic Christian Church (see the Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed). It stands in contradistinction to the united and unanimous voice of all major Christian traditions and denominations which assert boldly that “He will come again to judge the quick and the dead.”

2.    It is not an historic belief system. Full preterism attempts to cover gaping holes in its suspect lineage by selectively quoting from such men as Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin, or patristic fathers, often in broken strains, in order to appear to have any semblance of historic lineage. Full preterist websites use these quotations liberally and profusely as though readers were not aware that these men’s eschatology is fully known and more clearly attested in many sources. See for example here. It does, however, share the inglorious distinction with the German Liberalism of the 1800's of denying any literal, personal return of Jesus. On the other hand,

3.    It is novel. Like its “cousin,” and theological opposite, dispensationalism, it is a curious novelty, untested by the ancient, historic, and orthodox generations spanning over 2,000 years. Theological novelties should be regarded as bearing an enormous burden of proof, as ancient boundary stones ought not be easily moved (cf. Prov. 22:28).

4.   Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, an heretical cult, full preterism interprets the NT’s clear testimony that the Lord will return in an undeniable and visible way (cf. 1 Thess 4:15-16) instead as a mysterious event entirely unknown by the majority of the inhabitants of planet Earth at the time it was supposed to have happened. In this way, full preterists (along with the Jehovah's Witnesses) are the modern day alarmists of 2 Thessalonians 2:2, "saying that the day of the Lord has already come" (NIV). 

5.    Its strongest proponents and supporters are largely unknown men – obscurantists and fringe advocates – generally unfamiliar to most and lightly regarded in the circles of serious Reformed and evangelical theologians, pastors, and thinkers. By and large, full preterists are more closely associated with theonomy and other controversial teachings. 

6.    Full preterism is suburban, and therefore pastorally lame. Full preterism is mostly scholastic in its scope and approach; a position that could be more easily held by men resting comfortably in soft chairs in air-conditioned settings than the suffering. It would likely be viewed as absurd, untenable, opaque, and even shockingly bizarre by the millions of suffering and persecuted Christians throughout history, patiently waiting in hope of the Lord’s return to judge their persecutors and vindicate their suffering.

7.    It does not solve any problems associated with dispensationalism's hermeneutical system that amillennialism doesn’t adequately solve with equal – or even stronger – force.  

8.    It is not an eschatology of humility, in that it claims dogmatically to have the correct interpretation of all relevant prophecies.

B. Biblical Arguments against Full Preterism

1.    It dulls the force of the moral and ethical teaching of the NT associated with the parousia, since such ethical exhortations depend on the expectation of the Lord’s Return (1 Tim 6:13-16; Titus 2:12-13; Heb 10:25; James 5:7-9; 2 Peter 3:17).

2.    It must assume Revelation was written prior to 70 AD since the book ends with a plea for Christ’s return (22:20), a dating position held by few scholars. Most hold to a date in the 90's during the reign of Domitian. 

3.    In attempt to read just a few words and phrases literally (i.e. “soon,” “this generation”) full preterism must necessarily spiritualize, read figuratively - or even completely secularize - dozens and dozens of phrases and terms such as epiphania (“appearing,” Titus 2:12-13; 2 Thess 2:8; 1 Tim 6:14; Titus 2:13), “will appear” (Heb. 9:28; 1 John 3:2) “every eye” (Rev. 1:7), “in the same way” (Acts 1:11); parousia (a great arrival with much pomp, i.e. of a king; Matt 24:3, 37, 39; 1 Cor 15:23; 1 Thess 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:1-9; 2 Peter 3:4); and apocalypsis (unveiling; 1 Cor 1:7; 2 Thess 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7, 13, 4:13). In doing so, full preterism does great damage to the majority of eschatological texts.

4.    It reduces the force of texts that exhort us to wait patiently, long for the Lord's coming, and desire His return etc. (1 Cor 16:22; 1 Thess 4:18; Phil 3:20) making these texts irrelevant to nearly 2000 years of Bible readers.  

5.    It makes all language of “the resurrection of the dead” either spiritualized – or ironically – entirely secularized.

6.    It must necessarily assume the Great Commission has been fulfilled (Mark 13:10; Matt. 24:14) reducing our passion for missions and evangelism. (Note: It is not surprising, then, that full-preterism has NOT been held by many [if any] notable missionaries or evangelists throughout Church history).

7.    If true, the Bible offers no balm to relieve the suffering of those who look to the Return of Christ as their hope in a world of persecution and danger (2 Thess 1:6-7). The entire book of Revelation is rendered absurd.

8.    It provides no Biblical answer to the question “What is next?” or “How does history wrap up?” (See Gary Demar, End Times Madness, in which the author says nothing to explain what happens "next," but merely spends chapter after chapter refuting dispensationalism). Thus, the entirety of Scripture reads to full preterists as a book without a final chapter or even a back cover for that matter. 

-Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. 

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