Preterism is an Admission That Jesus Failed to Return

Exapologist wrote a Blog entry called One of the Main Reasons Why I Think Christianity Is False, concerning the fact that Jesus failed as an eschatological prophet. In the comments section Paul Manata defends a partial preterism eschatology in the comments section, to which I offer these comments:

I believe preterism, or even partial preterism, is a frank concession of the fact that Jesus did not return as was expected from the earliest days of Christianity until recently. It’s one thing for skeptics to scoff, it's quite another to see Christians re-invent their eschatology to accommodate this glaring problem.

I had already mentioned on the Unchained Radio program and in a Blog entry how believers read the Bible through the lenses of their present experiences when it comes to the creation accounts in Genesis, women's roles in leadership, and slavery. Both Paul Manata and Gene Cook disputed that they do this. But here is a case where Manata has done just that.

Now here's the question for Manata. Why can he do this with the return of Jesus and I cannot do this with the present day lack of miracles when I read the Bible? Manata reinterprets the historical church understanding of eschatology in light of about 2000 years of experiences, including several recent failed predictions of the return of Jesus in 1974, 1988, and 2000. So why is it illegitimate for me to see the creation accounts in Genesis as myth because of present day modern science? All I did as a former believer was to attempt to reconcile modern science with Genesis, just as he does with the failed bodily return of Jesus.

As an aside, what can be said about Preterism?

Christians can debate what the Bible says about this all they want to. When they come to an agreement, then I'll know which view to subject to criticism. In the meantime let see what can be said about preterism. Preterism places New Testament eschatological fulfillment in and around AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans when the temple with its old covenantal sacrificial system (the heaven and earth of the Jews) was destroyed, and the new covenant with its heavenly Jerusalem (the new heaven and earth of Christians) was inaugurated. Redemption was made complete and the Kingdom was consummated, we're told.

But this new view is puzzling to me, and I have a few questions about it. Just like the Jehovah Witnesses who say Jesus returned spiritually in 1914, my criticisms are similar in kind. [Exapologist has already quoted William Lane Craig's criticisms of preterism in the comments section of his Blog entry].

In the first place, what was Jesus doing before he returned and inaugurated his kingdom in 70 AD? Was he not already reigning over the believer's hearts? If not, then what was he doing? Was there a time between 33 AD and 70 AD when there was no covenant, no promises, no Christian moral standards to live by? Were Christians still living under the Old Covenant until the temple was destroyed? Was Jesus not yet the King reigning over Christians?

In the second place, what is the difference for the Christian in the supposed return of Jesus in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem, if Jesus was already reigning over their lives. Preterists think it made a difference because the temple was destroyed along with their sacrifices, which leads them to say the Kingdom was inaugurated at that time. But according to the book of Hebrews, sacrifices had already ended in Jesus, and the Spirit had already inaugurated the community of Christians by indwelling believers. If Jesus' resurrection is the only proof that Christians needed, then the destruction of Jerusalem should have proved nothing additional to them, as Christians. This would be the case even if Jerusalem hadn't been destroyed! Think about it. If Jerusalem had never been destroyed with the temple and the sacrifices, then what would have changed for the Christian?

In the third place, did the destruction of Jerusalem prove anything to the Jews? Hardly. Did they become Christians? It only shows me that the Biblical God is barbaric in that he unmercifully destroys people for whom he hasn't given enough evidence to believe. The Jewish religion did go through a major change, though. But the Jewish religion was already supplanted by Christianity decades earlier, according to the NT. The Jews just changed their views of sacrifices, much like how preterists are changing their eschatology today because Jesus failed to return. But why should any of these Jewish theological changes matter to Christians?

Lastly, if the Trinitarian God has always reigned over his world, then what difference did it make to the world in general that Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD? Presumably God (Father, Son, & Spirit) never had to ask anyone for permission to reign over his world. The Bible claims he just does, and that he always has done so. It really doesn't matter to God whether or not people acknowledge that he does--he just does. So if preterists are correct that God-in-Jesus started reigning in 70 AD, then who is Jesus now reigning over that he didn't reign over before then? Since his reign has always been over everyone, then it can only mean that he began reigning specifically over Christians in 70 AD. But ever since the inauguration of the church he was supposedly already their king!

So what difference did the destruction of Jerusalem make in the lives of anyone at all with regard to the reign of God-in-Jesus?

14 comments:

Jimmy Li said...

John,
When you were a CHristian, where did your end times fall under...WEre you more Pre-Mil, POst-Mil, AMil, etc, etc?
I'm still not yet made up in my mind with my eschaetology, but I was just curious...

John W. Loftus said...

I was a pre-millennial dispensationalist for the first couple of years, then I made a radical switch to amillennialism due to a teacher of mine. I hardly think what I believed will help you make up your mind though.

Jimmy Li said...

I was just curious, that is all

Steven Carr said...

I wonder why the author of 2 Peter did not point out the basic error that the scoffers made when they said that nothing had changed.

If he had had the benefit of reading Paul Manata, he could have pointed out that everything had changed with Jesus and that things were going to change even more in just 6 or so years (assuming Manata believes 2 Peter was written about 64 AD)

Instead, the author of 2 Peter does not challenge the scoffers claim that nothing had changed in recent history, and tells them that things will all be destroyed in a thousand years or so.

One trouble with preterism is that no early Christian appears to have had a clue about it.

Paul Manata said...

Steve, you're a funny guy.

2 Pet was talking about the end of all things, not the OT covenant era. You still need to argue for your assumptions, you know?

Second, "one trouble with modern physicalism, is that no ancient philosopher seems to have held it. ;-) C'mon, Steve, you know better, don't you?

And, there were plenty of early Christians who held to preterism.

Preterism is just a way to interpret eschatological passages. It's a hermeneutic, not an eschatology.

Anyway, I responded to John (he's ran again, I'm afraid) and in my response to him I give a link to a history dvd where a historian points out early church members who held preteristic interpretations of the same passages I do.

Stick to your day job, bro.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/11/no-fair-youre-cheating.html

Anonymous said...

DOUBLE FULFILLMENT

I was just perusing this blog and probably won't see replies unless sent to my email at bitforJesus@yahoo.com

Paul Manata, with all due respect and love, you sound a bit abrasive in your replies and somewhat insecure in your faith. Do you defend the gospel for the benefit of your hearers, or for affirmation of your own beliefs? To win souls or arguments? I have seen several apologists using an impolite approach and whatever the reasons, it does not seem to observe 1 Pet 3:15. What we believe is true, regardless of opinions held by gainsayers. Have no doubts.

Regarding eschatology; what about the fact Jesus predicted the AD 70 fall of Jerusalem and temple destruction and it came true? Is this why skeptics want late dates for the gospels? Some apparently argue that His failure to physically return disproves everything. It sounds as though some have abandoned their faith because of it. What if His prediction is to have a double fulfillment (which would not be the first time in Biblical history)? The first fulfillment was local (Jerusalem) with both physical and spiritual ramifications and the next shall be global, when every eye shall see.

It seems all challenges of the critics have plausible explanations. Allowing for these, rather than biased dismissals, the Bible is contextually coherent and completely reasonable. (I know it has miracles, and I do not suggest miracles are happening now, because there is no reason for them now. Their purpose is to confirm new revelation from God.)

Some critics suggest God is cruel and barbaric. He deals with nations differently than with individuals. How does One so cruel and barbaric pay the penalty of death to save not just those who love Him, but also those who hate His guts? This is a level of love surely incomprehensible to an atheist.

It comes down to what one CHOOSES to believe. Romans 1 claims that there IS sufficient evidence in creation to believe. Insufficient evidence will not be an excuse. Scripture indicates that hard hearts can resist even miracles (Matt 9:34). It's not too late, but shall be soon. Trust Jesus. Be saved.

Paul Manata said...

bit,

Sorry, from now on I'll refer to them as whitwashed tombs, vipers, fools, son's of the devil, and tell them that their gods are taking a dump.

You know your argument's wrong when it could be sued against Jesus and the sons of thunder.

Look, I try to not be more holy than Jesus.

I'll talk calm and nice with those who want that type of discussion.

The arrogant apostates here just need to be emarrassed.

Anonymous said...

It seems as though you are still trying to figure it all out. And that is a good thing, since the Bible says "This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ." at John 17:3, so never give up on your quest and thanks for not being hard on Jehovah's Witnesses.

Glenn Dixon said...

As a believer Preterism answered many questions raised by the seeming contradiction between Jesus' 2000 year delay and the many 'soon' statements in the NT, specifically Revelation. I think it has become more popular recently in large part due to the passing of the Year 2000 without event. It's kinda hard to get worked up about yet another predicted 2nd coming. Preterism only requires an eschatology adjustment, not an entire loss of belief.

Anonymous said...

As for Pauls comment, "Look, I try to not be more holy than Jesus.", I just have to ask, what the...?
as for bit's comments

Anonymous said...

Matthew 24 links the destruction of the temple with the second coming of Jesus. If Jesus' predictions failed regarding the second coming, they didn't fail regarding the destruction of the temple. It would make sense in this case to at least say that Jesus was partially right.
If, however, Matthew was written after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, it wouldn't make much sense in that case for the second coming to be linked with the destruction of the temple--which would have already occured. So it seems hard to believe that the writer of Matthew would have linked the two together if only one of the events occured (unless he viewed the second coming as being equivalent to the destruction of jerusalem).

So either, Jesus was right about the temple but not the second coming, OR he was right about both, OR neither one was actually predicted--but were instead written after the destruction of the temple. if this is the case, then why would the writer of matthew link the second coming with the fall of Jerusalem? seems self-refuting if nothing else.

Anonymous said...

The importance is the change described in Hebrews - while the temple was still standing on earth - because there was a physical priest, the real temple in heaven was not yet ready for Jesus to come in and sprinkle the mercy seat with blood 'this is figurative of salvation' to the people, for when Jesus was come out, the people would cheer because salvation had come. Before any new covenent was put in place in full there was a judgment, this is true of Moses, - that was wandering in the wilderness - and true of Noah - salvation was given in dry land. All others were destroyed.
So to sum it up without the sprinkling, Jesus had not become the high priest for man. Thus the prior age that Jesus was in when he spoke of this age and the age to come, was changed to the new age when Christ became the high priest.

Carl Rippe

Nina said...

I agree that peterism is flawed, but I am a Christian, and I would like to respond to two of your comments.

"It only shows me that the Biblical God is barbaric in that he unmercifully destroys people for whom he hasn't given enough evidence to believe."

First of all, Christians had been witnessing and spreading the gospel all over the place before the destruction of Rome, so they had every opportunity to be exposed to the truth. Secondly, belief in God is not about proof. it's not called the Christian faith for nothing. God could easily splits the skies and write on the walls, etc. and show the world that He is God, but people still would deny it. The Bible says "blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe."

"Presumably God (Father, Son, & Spirit) never had to ask anyone for permission to reign over his world. The Bible claims he just does, and that he always has done so. It really doesn't matter to God whether or not people acknowledge that he does--he just does."

God reigns over the world because he created time and the universe and everything in it, and He is perfect. God is the origin of everything, not just some random deity that happens to be King.

Does an artist ask a painting if he can paint it? God knows everything and created the earth, so He innately rules and takes care of His creation.

And I seriously disagree with the statement that God does not care. The Bible, Jesus, and the entire world are for the sole purpose of his glory. He sent Jesus and ordained the Bible because He desperatly wants a relationship with His people. Everything is about the fact that God loves us and wants us to be His people.

mlculwell said...

There is no such thing, nor has there ever been a such as "the Trinitarian God," if there would have been the Apostles would have been then one of the Apostles in scripture would have mentioned such. Please do not tell me about the so called "church fathers" I do not find in scripture that they are to be believed as Christ said that neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their words.(the Apostles and brethern already in scripture) If being closer to the Apostles time makes the so called "church fathers" worthy to staple to my bible then Hymeneus and philetus would also should fit your false Litmus for preachers of truth automatically. But we are already told they were false preachers.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Trinity_vs_Oneness_Debate/