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Problems with Preterism

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By Virgil - Posted on 29 December 2007

by Philip B. Brown

Preterism means past fulfillment. The opposite of the preterist view is generally the futurist view. Various prophetic passages are debated as to whether they are already fulfilled, or whether they are to be fulfilled in the future. Passages that are often debated along these lines are Daniel 9, Zechariah 14, Matthew 24, Luke 21, and the book of Revelation. Some people take the preterist view on some of these passages, and the futurist view on other passages. Many people consider Matthew 24 and Luke 21 to be partially fulfilled, but to still have future aspects to their fulfillment. Generally, the preterist view of a passage is that it was fulfilled on or prior to 70 AD, when Rome conquered Jerusalem and scattered the Jews. With regard to Revelation itself, however, some preterists consider fulfillment to be as late as 400 AD.Various aspects of the preteristism have been around for most of church history. But with regard to the preterist interpretation of Revelation itself, it dates back to the Catholic Church’s Council of Trent, which was held to condemn the Protestant Reformation. The Spanish Jesuit Luis De Alcazar (AD 1554-1613) published a 900-page book on Revelation that introduced the preterist interpretation of Revelation. The preterist views of Matthew 24 and Daniel 9, however, have been around since the early church fathers.

Right after Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple, the disciples asked, “When will all this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Does Scripture give us signs, or events that must happen just prior to Christ’s second coming? Will there be a time of a literal antichrist, when a man rules the world and when he literally “sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God?” (2nd Thessalonians 2:1-4) Will Christ return at the literal battle of Armageddon? Are the events that are happening today in Israel a part of what the Bible prophesied? Is there anything in unfulfilled Bible prophecy that must happen before Christ returns? Or does all unfulfilled prophecy speak only about the actual second coming, the judgment, and the eternal state thereafter? To one degree or another, preterism believes there is no prophecy after 70 AD, other than the actual second coming, the judgment, and the eternal state thereafter.

In recent years, there has been a growing belief system called full-preterism. Full-preterism takes past-fulfillment one-step further by saying that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by 70 AD. This includes the second coming, the judgment, the new heavens and new earth, and the eternal state. Full preterists refer to the prior preterist belief system as partial preterism. Perhaps this is done because full preterists believe that their system is the logical conclusion to the preterist hermeneutical system and arguments. With this I agree. If I were to adopt the preterist hermeneutical system and arguments, I would probably be a full-preterist myself. But I’m not a preterist. I do believe in future unfulfilled signs of Christ’s return. While it’s certainly descriptive, I consider the term “partial preterism” a somewhat condescending term. Preterism was around long before full-preterism. Therefore, in this article I will refer to the prior belief system as historical preteristism.

Click here to read the entire article

MiddleKnowledge's picture

Wow,

That was an interesting read. I found these sections particularly interesting:

"As Peter prophesied, the full preterists of this generation deliberately forget that the heavens and the earth is a term that’s defined in Genesis 1:1, and that the meaning of that term should remain consistent."

Does it not appear that his futurism is rooted in a particular reading of Genesis 1? Then there is this:

"Genesis 1:1 clearly establishes the heavens and the earth as being God’s Creation. Just because Isaiah may have used it figuratively in poetry, does not mean that Peter was using it figuratively. Peter was going out of his way make his words be literal. Peter was not writing poetry like Isaiah. He is comparing the destruction of the heavens and earth with the literal destruction of the earth by water at the Great Flood. The destruction by water was literal. And thus the destruction by fire is also literal. Peter even says that the destruction of the heavens and earth by fire is with the “same word” as the destruction earth by water."

Ahh yes... A global flood is used as this author's argument against preterism. What if the Genesis flood was local rather than global?

I believe preterists (who actually believe preterism is true) should pay attention to this article. Futurism is ultimately rooted in young-earth creationist views of Genesis. Our view of creation, the curse, and the flood have immense implications for eschatology. So long as young-earth creationism holds a death-grip on modern Christians, preterism will remain a minority view of eschatology. Why? Because preterism conflicts with modern young-earth creationism on many, many levels.

Blessings,

Tim Martin
www.truthinliving.org

Virgil's picture

Tim, I barely paid attention to Genesis until I started studying eschatology and Preterism, which prompted me to reconsider the beginning and what creation was all about.

There is so much more to Genesis than just the physical creation, and it's so sad that so many of us just don't see it. I hope your work and Jeff's will really push the boundaries of what we know about first things. Keep it up :)

MiddleKnowledge's picture

Virgil,

We're about to come to the completion of a long, long project. I am excited about the potential for the future, but also very worn out from the effort. I had no idea what I got myself into back in 2001.

Planetpreterist.com has been heaven-sent as a place to come relax and recharge. I don't believe we would be anywhere close to where we are without PP. I know of others who find PP to be a refreshing oasis as well.

I can only imagine how many hours you have invested in maintaining this site, etc. Keep up the good work. Thanks for your long obedience in the same direction. Everything that is worth doing in this world takes perseverence.

Blessings,

Tim Martin
www.truthinliving.org

Islamaphobe's picture

I have worked my way through this long article, paying particular treatment to the author's (mis)treatment of Daniel and Matthew 24, and find myself totally unpersuaded by his main arguments. I have MANY points of disagreement with Brown. Aside from his inability to produce an exegesis of the seventy weeks of Daniel that sounds at all persuasive, I was particularly struck by the implausibility of trying to make Daniel 11:36-45 apply to the future. He seems to be totally unaware of the work that has been done relating those verses to the time of Herod the Great. Having a time gap running all the way from the days of Antiochus IV, who died in 164 or 163 BC to a time in our future is, let us say, quite a stretch. And yet he asserts that "Daniel 11:30-45 remains as unfulfilled prophecy before the return [i.e. Second Coming] of Christ" and that "Daniel's prophecy jumps from the anti-christ at the time of the Maccabees to the anti-christ at the time of the end," meaning in our future. Like many futurist apologists who attack preterists, he engages in complicated maneuvers to alter the apparent meaning of Scripture while claiming that do precisely what he is doing. Talk about projection!

He's right about one thing, anyway. Daniel 12:4 assures us that knowledge of the meaning of Scripture will increase, and it is certainly increasing very rapidly at the present time. As a consequence, the prospects for dispensationalism and the type of historical premillennialism that Brown favors look rather dim.

John S. Evans

Starlight's picture

I have just glanced over the article and a few of his other selections but I find the author an impressive student of the word. He has made some good progress in many areas but like John says in Revelation “I find this one thing against him”. Basically it appears that he is a loner type of author and expositor which is a dangerous method and leaves a person vulnerable to ones hidden presuppositions until it’s too late, generally after publication. This is where someone like the author would have been much better served by putting forth his propositions into the fire of debate among peers before moving forward. This is exactly the beauty of a site such as Planet Preterist where one may refine their arguments under the fire of critical analysis and lose some of the poor arguments that just do not hold up. The preterist community is such a diverse and growing group of people that if one takes advantage of their numbers they should be able improve their work if they will discard the hubris concerning ones inflated understandings.

It’s obvious that this man has performed a good amount of research concerning Preterism which is clear from his quotes of many Preterist authors but the bottom line is he still has some literal reading baggage which he has not completely discarded in his exegetical approach to scripture. Tim Martin and Dr. John Evans have pointed out just a few of his problems.

The question should always be asked of one concerning their underlying motivations in searching the scriptures and stopping short of ultimately reaching a purer understanding of the truth of scriptures. Usually it is due to one not wanting to go down the slippery slope of heresy and so they come to a comfort zone that they will not step across even when it may lead to a greater enlightenment. Isolating oneself from peer review helps contribute to these errors of judgment thus limiting the quality of one’s work.

Norm

Islamaphobe's picture

Norm,

You make some excellent observations. Being very much a "loner type of author," I especially appreciate your pointing out that such individuals as Brown are vulnerable to the problem of not comprehending the significance of some of their presuppositions "until it's too late." This very point is precisely why I am grateful for the opportunity to test some of my ideas out on this site before sending a manuscript to a publisher. I am now in the process of doing the final work for a book on the prophecies of Daniel 2 that I intend to get published by the end of the first quarter of 2008, and the final version will reflect the influence of posting articles at this site.

Yes, Brown has read some work by preterist writers, but he has not read enough! But perhaps he is not so committed to defending the indefensible as to be beyond recovery.

JSE

MiddleKnowledge's picture

John,

I totally agree.

Our new book would not be close to the level it is currently without this site and the (at times) intense discussion. We actually mention this aspect of the book's development in the introduction.

Stay tuned...

Tim Martin
www.truthinliving.org

P.S. Virgil, have a great 2008!!

Starlight's picture

Tim,

I’m glad you mentioned Virgil. In my estimation Virgil is not only the man of the year but of the decade.

The service that Virgil provides us with here at Planet Preterist is beyond measure in my estimation. If truth be told, not just anyone can host a site like this and allow it to perform this valuable service. Virgil models the freedom of expression here that few individuals would allow to prosper.

I know my tendency would be to surround myself with similar thinking individuals and that would be the end of intellectual growth on mine and everyone else’s part. I can’t begin to tell you how much I have learned from those that oppose my positions. A prime example has been my interfacing with Davo and Barry as just one example; these two gracious gentlemen bring high level scholarly discussions that I just cannot simply brush aside. They make me dig deeper and examine my convictions and assumptions and that has been a blessing to my growth even if I disagree on some key points. Likewise Sam keeps me on my toes when he challenges my Old Earth presuppositions, I need to examine my motives to see if I’m reading my strongly held beliefs into the discussion improperly. This is a good thing and like they say what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

Blessings to all for 2008

Norm Voss

MiddleKnowledge's picture

Hear, hear... [clink]

Tim Martin
www.truthinliving.org

Virgil's picture

Norm you are too kind but I don't want to be the man of the year of the decade. Many times I wish I never started this.

It is people like Max King, Jack Scott, Don Preston and Ed Stevens that need to be wax molded and put in a museum somewhere. Give Tim a few years to make that list too...after his book comes out...

And if that toast involves alcohol, I'll say "cheers!" :)

JL's picture

Virgil,

As the man behind this site, I think you have been the default face of preterism for the past year. For the previous 3 years before that, you have to share the honor with Todd Dennis and Preterist Archive.

We've had 3 or 4 years of preterism re-working itself and getting re-situated. Those people were the face of preterism for a while and might be again in the future, but preterism has grown faster than they have been able to keep up. They have spent these years deep behind the scenes. Jack and Don have repostioned themselves over the past year so that we can expect bigger things from them than we have ever seen before.

I'll vote for Tim next year. After that, I hope it's the person who figures out how to take preterism mainstream. My personal goal. Total world domination. I want Lee Strobel to write, The Case for Christ, Part 2.

Happy New Year,

JL

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

Virgil's picture

My personal goal. Total world domination.

I like your thinking Jeff. :)

MiddleKnowledge's picture

That's why you called it "Planetpreterist," right?

Tim Martin
www.truthinliving.org

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