Why Isn’t the Preterist View More Prevalent?
Objection: If the preterist view is correct, why isn’t it more widely held?
- While the preterist view is a minority now, it has not always been. Anglican theologian and prolific writer Frederick W. Farrar, writing in 1882, made this statement: “There have been three great schools of apocalyptic interpretation: 1. The Preterists, who regard the book as having been mainly fulfilled. 2. The Futurists, who refer it to events which are still wholly future. 3. The Continuous-Historical Interpreters, who see in it an outline of Christian history from the days of St. John down to the End of all things. The second of these schools—the Futurists—has been numerically small, and at present may be said to be non-existent.” (The Early Days of Christianity, page 227).
- What, are you kidding? The dominant views on many theological topics can be confused and very wrong. Take the veneration of Mary among Catholics. Every time they pray the rosary, they are praying to Mary! This idea is obviously a serious error, but try convincing a Catholic. This idea got stuck in the church somewhere along the line and it became intractable. Tradition holds people hostage.
- Just think of other doctrines that took centuries to erase, such as geocentricity, salvation by works, transubstantiation, and so forth. Even slavery was argued by Christians as biblical as late as the nineteenth century. Christians still disagree on many, many things.
- It is incontrovertible that Jesus and the Apostles were preterists. The writers of the New Testament to a man expected the Parousia (“Second Coming”) during their lifetimes. This is even reluctantly acknowledged by most Christians who know anything about this at all. There are over 100 passages in the New Testament that demand that the culmination of the last-days events, including the Parousia, would happen while some of them were still alive.
- While we do not know a lot about what the post-apostolic fathers believed about eschatology, researchers such as Gary DeMar and Francis Gumerlock have shown that preterism was present in the early church, and indeed may have been the dominate view. (See their books The Early Church and the End of the World and Revelation and the First Century). At the very least, we know that the early church expressed belief, though not unanimously, that certain important eschatological events were fulfilled in AD 70—including, the abomination of desolation, the great tribulation, the last days, the end of the age, the arrival of the kingdom, the arrival of the new heaven and new earth and the New Jerusalem, the preaching of the gospel to the whole world, the general resurrection of the dead, the destruction of death, Daniel’s 70th week, the cessation of charismatic gifts, and even the Second Coming.
- Unlike other doctrines, such as justification, the church has never had a formal discussion on eschatology.
- Even today, there are many views on eschatology that are contradictory. The most popular view in American evangelicalism is dispensationalism. Have you ever looked seriously at this idea? If it weren’t being taught in many mainline denominations, it is so bizarre that it would be considered completely cultic.
- In most denominations, pastors get essentially zero training in seminary on eschatology. (Just ask a Lutheran, Methodist, or Episcopalian minister how much study they had in seminary on this.) The vast majority of ministers know next to nothing about eschatology and only regurgitate what they think they know from others who are just as ignorant.
See also my article:
For more detail, see my book CHRISTIAN HOPE THROUGH FULFILLED PROPHECY, available at Amazon.