>Why I Prefer Preterism

Posted: 30/11/2009 in eschatology, the bible

>I meant what I said when I wrote that I don’t want my blog to be excessively negative. The last post, on my frustrations with dispensational futurism, was quite deconstructive. In this post, I’ll be positive instead. I will explain why I prefer preterism.

I realize that many people reading this have probably never heard of preterism. It is fairly new to me too. Briefly put, preterism is the view that many of the prophecies in Revelation and the Olivet discourse were fulfilled by the end of the first century. More information can be found a The Preterist Site or you can listen to the Preterist Podcast if you (like the Podcast’s author) are a Mac loyalist, or at least own an iPod.

As a caveat, I reiterate that I am relatively new to preterism. I missed the “Biblical Apocalyptic” class at Azusa Pacific. Eschatology in general is not my area of expertise. Additionally, I would like to make it clear that I support orthodox preterism. What this means is that I reject the kind of preterism that denies a future bodily resurrection among other essentials to the Christian faith. I find that there are those who automatically equate preterism with heresy. I hope that those reading this won’t have such a knee jerk reaction.

Here goes:

Preterism understands literal and temporal context well. If there is one fundamental reason why I like preterism, it is the fact that I never scratch my head and wonder why preterists believe what they believe. Preterists know what their hermeneutic is and they understand how it is distinct from actually interpreting the bible. N.T. Wright, who is often invoked by pretestists, spends a whole four-hundred page volume explaining his method before he proceeds to exegete the Gospels in later works. I know his assumptions, he knows his assumptions, and consequently I understand him when he gets into the story of Christ’s ministry.

Preterists, when commenting on things like the Olivet discourse or revelation are upfront with their hermeneutic and I see that. For instance, when reading through Jesus’ words at Olivet they rightly point out that condemnation of the Jewish Apostates was a major theme in Matthew, and they understand Olivet in that light. Preterists then, look to the surrounding literally context of a passage to get to an understanding of what that passage is talking about.

Preterists also get deep into the time period of when a passage is written. First, they rightly assume that when Jesus was talking about things happening “soon” and when he refers to “this generation” they ought to be understood as if they were written to another audience, in another time, and in another place –because they were (in fact!) written to another audience, in another time, and in another place.

Literal and temporal context are imminently basic to any hermeneutic of anything. Yet it seems to me the preterists are the only ones applying it to scripture.

Preterism is consistent when it comes to cultural idiom and genre. Idiom and genre are other important aspects of interpretation that preterists have a firm grasp on. Most people agree that there are plenty of idioms in the Bible. When Jesus says in Luke 14:26 that the disciples must hate their family and their own lives, most people will agree that Jesus did not want us to be hateful, but recognize that Jesus was using a cultural idiom for choosing between two alternatives. (“I love this, and I hate that.” Was a way of saying “I choose this.”). Likewise, genre is something that nobody wants to ignore. The parables of Jesus are understood in the way they are because we know their genre. We know this, and how they were understood, because lots of other people in that era spoke in parables. So we come to understand genre by comparing what the Bible contains with similar literature from the era the Bible was written in.

When preterists read phrases like “the moon will not shed its light” and “coming on the clouds” and even “[violence/tribulation] never to be equaled again” they are fully aware of the idioms and hyperbole of Jesus or whoever else might be speaking. Likewise, when looking at Ezekiel, Daniel, or Revelation I have noticed that preterists are also aware of the genre of apocalyptic literature, which they glean from other sources just like the non-biblical parables. From this, they learn to look at Revelation in a way the author likely intended.

Preterism makes the Good News sound like “Good News.” There is another thing that I’ve noticed about preterism, that may not be essential to it, but often goes hand and hand: the idea that the Kingdom of God was initiated with the coming of Jesus and continues to this day.

This is some serious good news! The idea that the Kingdom of God is a way of life, a political order, and/or liberation of the oppressed etc deserves an entire blog. Preterists take it as a given and often articulate that God has been growing the Kingdom of God like a muster seed since its inception in the time of Jesus. There is also an assumption that waiting for Christ’s coming is preparing the world for him to come. This is like how you would clean up your house for an honored guest. The Church, then, works in the world to make the world better. When preterists say, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” they mean things like “We intend to liberate slaves” rather than “Christians are going to disappear and the planet will pretty much literally go to hell.”

All Hail Dee Dee Warren!

I think that those three reasons are only the beginning of why I am attracted to preterism. It really boils down to one thing; even before I knew there was something besides dispensational futurism (yes, I was eye-ball deep in a church that believes it), I learned the basics of hermerneutics. When I listen to the preterists, I hear them appealing to, understanding, and applying the principles I learned. Because of this, I simply trust them a lot more than others. Additionally, the idea of end times being about regenerating and providing hope for the world is an eschatology I am instinctively drawn to.

So color me an Orthodox preterist. It was inevitable after leaving Azusa Pacific anyway.

  1. Dan says:

    >I admit, my friend, that I have very little idea what you are talking about, but I'm happy to have learned about it from you. I will look into this belief with serious thought and let you know what I think about it. Thank you for your challenging writing!

  2. Biomusician says:

    >I agree.Of course, I had to hit up Wikipedia to define "preterism" for me; but once I did, I realized that my amillennialist views and dislike for LaHaye/Jenkins have left me at preterism's doorstep.Thanks for the introduction.

  3. Jin-roh says:

    >I am honored to be delivering this gateway drug. :-)Seehttp://www.thepreteristsite.com-and-http://www.thepreteristpodcast.com

  4. Q says:

    >Aw, so sad the troller didn't come back. Oh well, I was looking forward to his tirade on how your worthless things like historical context and literary analysis and biblical exegesis and an acceptable hermeneutic don't get to what the HEART of scripture is about. Cuz, you know, all those things are worthless. Or something. Another good post.

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