Preterist Idealism Story Fundamentally Different from Historical Christianity

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INTRODUCTION

This work is classified under Critical Materials.  In time, this post will be answered by an examination of the criticisms offered by here  Virgil is encouraged to continue the dialogue with me, as I’m sure we can find a great deal of common ground and help push the movement to higher ground.


Preterist Idealism Story Fundamentally Different from Historical Christianity
By Virgil Vaduva

January 2010

Preterist Idealism seems to be coming up more and more often in various places so I recently had a chance to look into what it is all about and what it can offer fundamentally that necessitates the rejection of Preterism altogether and requires the use of an entirely new label or name.

The difficulty here is that it’s a bit hard to read up on something that as far as I can see was just made up by Todd Dennis and John Noe; on top of that most of the material I see on Preterist Idealism is little more than railing against Preterism, rather than providing a somewhat systematic outline of what Preterist Idealism is, what new and beneficial things it has to offer, etc, most articles are used for some reason to attack Preterism. So, it is a bit difficult to determine what something is when it is only being defined by what it opposes and what it is not.First, there is one important thing to be clarified regarding Preterist theology: there is no manual. There is no such thing as a Systematic Preterist Theology book where Preterists can go and find out all the implications of their eschatology. Most likely there will never be one either. In his articles about Preterist Idealism, Todd Dennis is ignoring the huge diversity of opinions and beliefs among preterists out there, which apparently is not stopping him from attempting to put us all in the same box so he can throw us over the cliff easier.

Secondly, most Preterists deal with the eschatological implications of what they believe and explore from there the changes to the overall aspects of their faith. Despite the fact that we are all “Preterists,” some people become reformed, while others like me may move away from the reformed tradition; others trend towards universalism, while some become annihilationists, etc. There is a tangible human factor to any person’s religious awakening, which Dennis does not even get into at all; anthropologically speaking, Preterist Idealism has nothing to offer.

Virtually all the articles I found on Preterist Idealism are indictments against Preterism and/or complaints about how Preterism falls short on so many fronts. One of the biggest complaints against Preterism is the idea that we (Preterists) minimize the Cross at the expense of the destruction of the temple in AD 70:

“…according to Hyper Preterism, the cross of Jesus Christ was insufficient for this purpose, and needed to be augmented by the fall of the Jewish temple 40 years later. So far as I know, every outlet of HyP doctrine endorses the view that the the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 was the “consummation of the ages” event that removed the separation between man and God.”[1]

The problem here is that Dennis is creating a false dichotomy by implying that there are only two hugely important options to choose from: the Cross or AD 70. Of course this is not true as the Biblical narrative is a highly complex story that starts a long time ago with the Creation. The story is not about one thing being more important than another, so this is just a cheap shot at Preterism. Also, after interacting with so many of you on these topics, I have never once heard someone claim that the death of Christ, and the Cross, were any less important than AD 70. For example Todd Dennis does not bring up the Incarnation; how could Jesus have died on the cross if there was no birth? What if AD 70 is moved out in the unknown future, what is more important, the Cross, or a future Second Coming? These questions are ridiculous to even entertain. Neither is more important – the entire story is important, regardless of one being a Preterist or not!

Todd Dennis also misleads his audience on what the timing of the New Covenant is, within the rough framework of Preterism:

“The HyP teaching that the New Covenant wasn’t in its full establishment until long after the cross event shows how Hyper Preterism is fundamentally different from Christianity as it has always been known. This “AD70 storyline” is foreign to the Bible, and to Christianity as a whole throughout all of its centuries and denominations. Only the Universalists of the last 200 years have embraced this type of AD70-centrism.”[2]

Not only is the statement above false, but he is also using the words “long after” in order to highly exaggerate the length of the timeframe. Most Preterists I have encountered do not believe the New Covenant was instituted in AD 70, rather came into existence at the Cross, with a transition period of about forty years (not long after) being evident between the Cross and AD 70, when both the Old and the New were in effect; this may not be a uniform belief, but it is a majority. And of course the “AD 70 storyline” will be foreign to the Bible since the books of the Bible were written before AD 70! The bible may not tell of what happened in AD 70, but it does tell of what will happen in AD 70.

It is unfair for a critic to criticize a prophecy for not being fulfilled right away, and label its fulfillment a few decades later as being long after. The point of a prophecy in relation to AD 70 seems to be the pronouncement of the will of God, and the warning — however metaphorical it may be — of impending judgment and disaster. We see this in Habakkuk 2 as well, where God warned Israel about the impending destruction coming from the Chaldeans: “For the vision is yet for the appointed time…though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.”[3]

With the date of Habakkuk ranging anywhere from 640 to 590 BC, it’s clear that the warning is imminent, it is about the coming destruction, which materialized in 586 BC with the destruction of Solomon’s temple. The dates are not important, the time frame is, which leads to an important conclusion: prophecy matters, it is meant to communicate an important message, and it is not irrelevant; there is a time frame associated with this first temple destruction prophecy, just as there was a time frame associated with the second prophecy in the first century: it’s not tomorrow, but it’s coming…wait for it, some of you may still be alive when it happens, etc.

In his indictment of Preterism, Todd also points to John 19:28, which says, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture.” At first sight, Todd’s insistence that John 19:28 declares all prophecy fulfilled seems valid, but he also ends up quoting John 19:30 in order to demonstrate that Christ’s death on the Cross is the event that overrides all others:

“When the life of Jesus was draining away on the cross, He Himself noted that the redemptive work had been accomplished in saying “it is finished”. John 19:30’s word for “It is finished” (Tetelestai), comes from the verb teleo, means “to complete, to accomplish” (as all preterists know). The parsing of this Greek verb shows that it is only this sacrificial death of Jesus which saves, and that nothing else can be added to that finished accomplishment.”

Dennis claims that the exact timing of Jesus’ pronunciation “…it is finished” is key to understanding Preterist Idealism, yet he does not explain why Jesus claims it is finished after knowing that all things had already been accomplished?! According to Dennis all things had already been accomplished, before Jesus even died?! The very literalism Todd Denniss is using to promote Preterist Idealism is coming back to negate his very words. To add even more, tetelestai certainly implies that nothing else can be added to that finished accomplishment, but that does not resolve what accomplishment Todd Dennis is talking about.

So the problem created by referencing this passage is that Jesus was still alive when the scripture tells us that all things were fulfilled. He died moments later, and Dennis does not explain anything further. If Jesus’ death was prophecy, how can all prophecy be fulfilled before Jesus died? What was finished? Was it finished when Jesus spoke the words audibly or when he clinically died a few minutes later? Dennis is apparently taking it in “it is finished” to mean all prophetic accomplishment and all things pertaining to prophecy, yet just a few verses later in John 19:34-36 we read that another prophecy was fulfilled, namely that not a bone of him shall be broken.[4] We see prophecy being fulfilled minutes after Jesus said that all things had already been fulfilled, which clearly contradicts John 19:28! Todd’s Preterist Idealism interpretive methodology is creating scriptural contradictions!

So how do we reconcile these inconsistencies? Easy…Todd Dennis is just wrong. Jesus is qualifying it in his last words on the cross to be a reference to something very specific, most likely his ministry, sacrifice, and terrible suffering. Even without considering Preterism at all, the all things in John 19:28 cannot mean “every single prophetic words uttered by Old Covenant prophets” since we see more prophecy being fulfilled after Christ’s death, a few verses later, and even throughout the rest of the New Testament, not to mention the Apocalypse, which is a prophecy still yet to be fulfilled as far as John 19:28 is concerned. Dennis does not explain any of this. Perhaps he will in the future.

The worst and most disturbing conclusion coming from Todd Dennis would be that the Resurrection of Christ is ultimately irrelevant, and that the Cross alone is and should be the central point of Christianity. He falls victim to his own scale-of-importance game playing. Of course we all know that the biblical authors deemed subsequent events important enough to record and write about, otherwise the narrative would have stopped at the Cross: Jesus died for you, repent and be saved. The End! Again, no explanation from Todd here at all.

He is also referencing universalism here and in other articles, and for some reason he sees a Universalist trap behind every corner, as he tries to associate Preterism with Unversalism; this is a side-attack against Preterism…another cheap shot. In reality most Preterists are not Universalists, and most Universalists, if they are Christians at all, don’t even know what Preterism is.

Not once did I see a reference in Dennis’ writings about the Jewish aspects of the sacrifice of Christ in particular and the Biblical narrative in general. What is a powerful, poetic and telling story about the Creation, fall, restoration, that of a lamb being sacrificed in a temple ritual, following strict legal guidelines, becomes a way for Dennis to prove Preterism wrong. Not cool.

Preterist Idealism seems to be, willingly or unwillingly, minimizing the importance of eschatology, and playing games about which chapter is the most important in the Biblical story. I read over and over again about the Cross Event being the centerpiece, divorced from eschatology, but if the eschatology is not that important, why is he tagging this new movement Preterist Idealism? Why Preterist at all? Why integrate eschatology into it at all? Why not just call it Christian Idealism, since Christ is the centerpiece of it all?

So far I have not found anything in common between historic Christianity and Preterist Idealism; as far as I can tell, it is just rebranded Preterism; so it is a real stretch for Todd Dennis to seek approval from historic Christianity by attacking Preterism (and make no mistake, that’s what he is doing), all the while he is apparently still a Preterist (Idealist) who claims to be focusing on the Cross. Todd’s motives are suspicious; he is commended for wanting to move forward and honor his heart and his scriptural understanding, but it will be hard for him to do that while looking backwards and also throwing rocks back at us. He qualifies his articles on Preterist Idealism as non-attacks on Preterism, which is really confusing. A reader inquiring on what Preterist Idealism is would really expect a systematic, technical presentation on the topic, not a critique of some eschatological position.

Historic Christianity has a rich and diverse tradition of comprehensively tackling the Biblical story, to understand Creation, covenantal living, the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ, with a powerful restoration of God’s presence to the lives of his people, with the Kingdom of this world becoming the Kingdom of our God; the cross is a chapter in that story, just as AD 70 is a chapter in that story, and just as I believe that our lives, today are chapters of that story. Historical Christianity does not promote one over the other, so in that sense alone, and as I showed more, Preterist Idealism is fundamentally different from the story of Historical Christianity.
[1] Todd Dennis, AD 70 Storyline Fundamentally Different from Historical Christianity, http://www.hyperpreteristarchive.com/blog1.php/2009/01/09/ad70-focal-point-fundamentally-different
[2] ibid.
[3] Habakkuk 2:3
[4] This was a fulfillment of Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12, Psalm 32:40