Quadrigizing Revelation | Peter J. Leithart | First Things

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In an ongoing series of critical articles presenting contemporary idealism, close attention will be paid to the specific definitions given to the view.

Peter J. Leithart demonstrates how Historical Idealism has failed in its mission to present “timeless truths” in an accurate biblical model.  In his article “Quadrigizing Revelation” Leithart defines idealism:

Idealist(s) claim that the book is not predicting any specific series of events, but giving a symbolic portrait of perennial spiritual battles.

His is a common definition given of the idealist perspective on the Bible.  And in this presentation his definition is certainly correct.  Idealism, as it is commonly expressed, is not focused on specific events, claiming instead that the Bible only presents “perennial spiritual battles”.  This is incorrect, and results in the view being akin to historicism in effect.

Where Modern Idealism differs is in declaring very specific events as being predicted in the Bible — notably Calvary and the end of the Jewish State in the year 70.  It is through these objective fulfillments that the Bible accomplishes the greater goal of idealism in portraying eternal subjects, so they cannot be ignored as critical and specific events.

Therefore, in order to fix the common definition according to the method of Preterist Idealism, the result would be slightly, but significantly, different:

Idealism claims that the book is predicting the coming of Jesus Christ, with the resultant demise of the old covenant system of worship, as a symbolic portrait of perennial spiritual battles.

Seeing the Bible in this context presents more than just simply “spiritual battles” taking place, but at least that much is true by way of definition.

Though some preterists would likewise agree with this definition, it must be remembered that the “perennial” aspect covers all of history past, present, and future — not just the post AD70 world.  By making “the world to come” begin in a historical year, preterism completely changes the locus of Bible prophecy.   Doing so limits the meaning of Bible prophecy to all generations entirely, rendering the system just as mistaken as Historical Idealism.

The point of this presentation is to display how typical idealism, through its materialistic and futurist orientation towards prophecy, unshackles itself from the objective manifestations of timeless truths clearly predicted in the Bible.  The old systems of idealism, therefore, are completely incorrect and deserve to be opposed.  To the best of my knowledge the only place this work is being done by idealists is here at PreteristIdealism.com.

Later, Leithart returns to idealism.  In a further examination he states,

For idealist or spiritualist interpreters, the trumpets are interpreted in the light of Old Testament uses of trumpets – to call Israel to worship, to announce a triumph, at the coronation of a new king, as a summons to battle. For one, the judgments “indicate series of happenings, that is, calamities that will occur again and again throughout this dispensation. They do not symbolize single and separate events, but refer to woes that may be seen any day of the year in any part of the globe.”

Though the conclusion is correct regarding the woes of today, the refusal to acknowledge the primary place Calvary has in the object lesson of the Bible is disgusting.  Only a bias towards the non-fulfillment of prophecy — even as it relates to the object — can explain such ignorance.  If your typical idealist could see the total fulfillment of the object lesson (ancient Israel’s terminal generation) in the first century, then it would be easy to identify the true locus of prophetic consummation.

Oh well, I guess that’s why this website is here.

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Quadrigizing Revelation | Peter J. Leithart | First Things