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?