The difference between preterism and idealism at a glance

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Chart: “The Focal Point of Bible Prophecy”
Todd Dennis, 2008


Leaving preterism in 2006 was a very easy decision.   By the time the new hermeneutic took shape in 2005, it was clear that the old view had waxed old and needed to be abandoned.   Luckily, few people took seriously my claims of departure, which allowed me to enjoy an easy exit.  It wasn’t until two years later, when full preterist materials at were reclassified as hyper preterist, that everyone in the movement took notice.  And I do mean everyone.

Whereas before 2008, inquiries could be handled personally and with no great rush, suddenly there arose an urgent need to reach as many people as possible with the simplest of explanations.  Out of this environment came a number of charts and diagrams.

This work, “The difference between preterism and idealism at a glance”, was one of the first presented to explain why idealism was more than just an alternative method of interpretation.

Instead of focusing on the details of the new hermeneutic, the concept behind this chart was to display how preterism was an incomplete system for apprehending eternal things.  The goal was not to prove that preterism was idolatrous or that idealism was orthodox.  Rather, the attempt was made to simply show how preterism was perhaps correct, but an inferior part of the process of prophetic enlightenment.

When contemplating the chief end of prophecy, it seems logical to assume that the goal is to glorify Jesus Christ.   Seeing as how His work began before creation and will continue until the last soul is saved, it is therefore illogical to assume that the story of ancient Israel alone could encapsulate His total glory.  Rather, we can see from the New Testament itself that the elements of the old covenant were a schoolmaster given to point to the Eternal King.

Whereas futurism, by making the focal point of prophecy events of the future, misses the teaching aspect of ancient Israel’s history, preterism recognizes that fact while assuming that the lesson was historical in nature.   When faced with what was being revealed by Israel’s history, there are differences of opinion as to whether the focal point was Calvary or the destruction of a building in Jerusalem.  Notice that in both cases the eye is never lifted above chronology and history.  This misses the point entirely!

Idealism represents the lifted gaze — that ability of believers to fulfill Paul’s charge to “look at things above and not at things on the earth” as found in Colossians 3 and elsewhere.  By recognizing the extra-historical person and work of Jesus Christ, a believer is able to see those eternal things being taught by the schoolmaster.

Philosophical idealism has long attempted to teach this lesson.  Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is a prime example.  Why be shackled in a state of captivity to shadows dancing on a wall, when the body which casts the shadows can be apprehended directly?

And so, one can focus on the future and be oblivious to both teacher and lesson, or they can focus on the past and be aware of the teacher but not the lesson.  In both cases there is a failure to observe that of which the teacher instructs.   Both are sorrowful underestimations of the gospel of Jesus, and if taken to extreme become no less idolatrous a body of knowledge than what became of instruction of the staff of Moses.

Perhaps it is human nature to worship the creation instead of the Creator in all things — theology included.  Well, the charge laid before futurists, preterists and even historical idealists is to break free from the prejudices of the flesh and perceive the substance of the Bible’s prophecies according to His eternal nature.

Preterist idealism is a helpful tool in that it is a two-step process of first seeing the teaching tool and then identifying the lesson.  However, one can skip the intermediary step altogether and be even more enriched by the true focal point of Bible prophecy, Who is Jesus Christ — the self-identified telos, eschatos, and omega of all things.