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Preterism


skyseeker
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Hey,

 

I wanted to ask you about what you think of preterism - the view that biblical prophecy, including those of Christ, have been fulfilled already in 70 AD when Rome sacked Jerusalem and ended the jewish "experiment".

 

Basically, preteristic views allow for a christianity that needn't spread hellfire doctrines anymore, because these were fulfilled in 70 AD, metaphorically, largely.

 

For example, Jesus spoke about His return occuring in such a way that people would stay outside in the outer darkness weeping and gnashing their teeth. If we take that to refer to afterlife judgments, they're horrible words because they leave some people without hope. But if we take them as referring to what happened in 70 AD when christians could walk free without fear of the Romans, while the jewish rebels were hunted down by the Romans, that basically the jews were suddenly outside of God's favor, then this prophecy of the weeping and of the gnashing of teeth is much less threatening.

 

Combine that with the fact that now everyone is in God's love, that "not even the jews" (I'm not an antisemite) have to fear further punishments, that everyone is invited to God's table now and that our afterlife is secure in Christ whose judgments are complete already and who doesn't have to fulfill further prophecies from the bible except those which are "age-during" ... ie the city of Tyre and the judgment it finds in the bible are actually a symbol for hatred for Jerusalem that is always fought by God in the world. IE, we can do purely spiritual interpretations of the bible and thereby find the God of love and peace, who, without damning anyone to afterlife suffering, is still active in the world and executing justice. That God can fulfill His love by securing ourselves an afterlife and giving His company and friendship to believers, and can still execute justice ... ie punish severe evil and make a difference between, say, a christian nazi and jewish Anne Frank.

 

This seems to be a good way of living with the bible and its messages. Doctrines such as eternal suffering for unbelievers can be removed from our repertoire of christian teachings. And without them, and without the mosaic code, we have for ourselves a peaceful life in freedom with Jesus in our very hearts, without having to worry for ourselves and for our loved ones and our and their eternal destiny, because the God of love would surely will that after death we live with Him and with each other in happiness.

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Skyseeker,

 

I cannot imagine for a second, a God of love committing anybody to eternal punishment. I love my children and whilst I may correctively punish them, I would never insist that they be eternally seperated from me, and tortured to boot, because they didn't listen or didn't 'get it right' in this brief life (a pin prick along the line of eternity).

 

I myself don't believe there was prophecy per se as specific events, but I do believe prophets may have warned society of the way it was heading. To that end, Jesus' words may have been very pertinent concerning the need to turn away from hate and anger, and towards love and compassion.

 

I feel sorry for people who truly believe that a God of compassion would not forgive. It must warp there understanding of justice and fairness, not to mention their lack of empathy.

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Skyseeker,

 

While preterism and such concepts are intellectually curious they are attempts to deal with a literal interpetation. Take away that literal view you have no need to explain prophecies as something that fore told events centuries in the future. Dispensationalism is another concept for which there is no need with out a literal view of the Bible.

 

Liberals use other approaches to deal with the difficult parts of the Bible.

 

Dutch

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Skyseeker,

 

I am a preterist, probably of the partial-preterist bent. It is not that I believe that Jesus literally "predicted" the events of 70AD, but I do think the early Church had him make reference to these events as a warning to those who refused God's kingdom. Much of this, of course, comes down to whether or not you see Jesus as an eschatological prophet, as being concerned about where his religion and world was headed. I think he was, in a certain sense. But I don't think that he was privy to details about the future as many futurists claim. I just think he suspected what would happen to the Jews, as a nation, is they rebelled openly against Rome. Nevertheless, I don't think was about the end of the world in a literal sense, just the end of the Jewish world with the Temple as the center.

 

BillM

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Hi again,

 

I think the key concept that we need to be aware of is what Paul is writing about in regards to love ... "and a better way I show you". If we begin and end everything with love, and love being what it is, then the spiritual truth about God and man looks entirely different from when you would begin and end with justice. Apostle John also peeked into that and wrote that abiding in love draws us to God. This provides an even larger scope of salvation than what Paul wrote about in regards to salvation through faith.

 

I think that our basic sense and goodness and love would require that God accepts everyone, regardless of what he has and does, in terms of judgment. Jesus proved on the cross that He would rather die than to erect his kingdom in the Old Testament way of doing things.

 

But then there is faith. I don't see faith as something by which we give something to God so He would give us salvation. I see salvation by faith cognitively - I mean, could we forego on belief about God? Would it be good if the message of Christ's resurrection would be forgotten or not believed anymore? Doesn't life with God that we see as our happiness, necessitate that we believe that this God actually exists?

 

This is where I think christian theology needs an update. Not stating a deal of faith for salvation, but making it clear that it's epistemologically necessary to believe in God in order to participate fully in His life. Think of it like being married. If you marry a woman, you would want her to believe in your existence. This allows for the love play to be real. Likewise we must believe in God's existence. God can still be loving and merciful to atheists, and sometimes atheists carry less religious baggage than believers and provide an alternative view that might sometimes be really helpful. But in the same time, and I am phrasing this like an artist, unbelief is a foolishness. Again, if I am married to someone I should know he or she actually exists. Belief is that "magical point" where we take in God's reality. Where we jump up and say, HE LIVES! This seems erotic and inspiring to me, a way for love to become ultra real. When I can look into the future of man together with God, which should be a future that is guarded and helped in many ways.

 

So basically, in our day, if we go by preterism or another variant of modern theology, we know that mankind doesn't have hell to wait for. We have a future instead and in God our love is what matters, and love is just the bottom line we must always "preach to each other", for our solace and wholesome self expression. And we cannot stop preaching faith either. But what matters is that we don't believe anymore in a "deal" idea of salvation, or sacrifice idea of salvation, but instead a covenant idea of salvation that God has made with everyone, and God has made it so that it is valid no matter what happens, because He made it on His own, without anyone believing in it when it was made. It was not a dual covenant anymore to which you have to agree, it's instead a promise of eternal love, which longs for our agreement with it, but doesn't depend on it. God has His saints and angels and the universe to get love from as its Creator, He can handle it if some humans don't want God and He sees the reasons why some might not believe or why some fall into sin.

 

The way I see preterism and the "wrath of God against Israel", it was that God made a show of religion, what it inspires and all that. Both negative and positive religion have bad sides to themselves, when the Israelites were faithful to God they stoned sinners, when they were not faithful to God they were lawless. Both is not exactly good for us humans. So Jesus ended the religion, promised eternal forgiveness, His company for the faithful and kindness to everyone, and a new idea of justice ... for example, like Martin Luther King preached social justice. Jesus really made everything new with this, and it was so puzzling to the first believers that they didn't get anything right and sought a coherence between Jesus and Judaism. This coherence is there prophetically, our connection to the ancient wonders and miracles and divine actions. But the coherence is not there theologically, because Jesus made a cut and brought something new, proving salvation to jew and Gentile, to the religious and to the non-religious. The religious can take the mosaic law and follow it for themselves, and the non-religious can take thier freedom and follow it for themselves. But both must honor love and forgiveness, lest they bring to nothing the love and forgiveness we ALL get from God. This is just mere reason at work, no talk of afterlife condemnation or some such crap, but merely a principle that allows for God and us to orient ourselves in a world where there is both good and evil, in a life that beckons for God's love but isn't always following God's example of noble love as opposed to little love. It's all good though.

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Skyseeker, I really enjoyed your thoughts on this. As I'm sure you can tell, progressives have a wide range of views on things. I'm am, perhaps, more of a moderate in many of my views, having found the liberal stance to be moving more and more toward atheism and the secular humanism. For me, I still find meaning and direction in the traditional notions of God, the Bible, and, especially Jesus of Nazareth. Believe me, I tried "throwing the baby out with the bath water", but found what was left was simply an empty tub with no correlation to Christianity whatsoever, nothing to tie it to the past, nothing to call it into the future.

 

While I certainly don't think that the Bible is the "Words of God", I still value Jesus' teachings highly. This, to me, does not mean to take them all literally, but it does mean to take them seriously. If Jesus of Nazareth actually lived (many say he is a fabrication), and if, as many religions think, he was a great teacher, then his teachings need to be considered, especially in their first century context. And this, to me, is where the preterist view is helpful in ways that the futurist view is not. It is not a matter of trying to prove the Bible as inerrant and infallible, it is just a matter of trying to understand what Jesus taught and meant and what ramifications that might have for us today. Some would give all of Jesus' teachings in the scriptures black beads (inside joke), but others would still say that he taught us something about God and how to live with one another as God's people. To me, the preterist view is helpful in eliminating the fear-based theology rampant in much of evangelicalism that says Jesus is about to return and judge and/or kill people. I saw a van yesterday at Walmart plastered from top to bottom with this message, that time is short and the world is coming to an end. I think this stance needs to be dealt with (for those who would listen) through serious study of Jesus' teachings in their first-century context. Preterism shines at doing this. To me, the point of understanding it is not to prove that Jesus is God or that the Bible was written by God, but just to try to understand what Jesus' teachings likely meant to the generation he preached to...and if those teachings still in some sense apply to us today.

 

BillM

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As BillM, i also have found the teachings of Jesus and others in the Bible most useful. To further clarify my previous post above i would just say that it seems to me to consider the Bible the "Word of God" as is commonly taught in many churches creates more problems in the long run for some than it solves. If Preterism works for one that is fine with me as at one time i focused on it and it gave me some strength which i found beneficial in my own journey at that point in life. At this time, in my own walk, i find it irrelevant to me but that is not to say that it is not useful or of value to others.

 

Joseph

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Dutch, I'm not sure that's a fair assessment of preterism. As I've said previously, preterism is an attempt to deal with Jesus' eschatological teachings within the first century framework. This in no way implies that all of Jesus' teachings about eschatology are literal. In fact, preterests, perhaps more than futurists, recognize the symbolism and allusion present in prophetic streams which are, IMO, not so much about revealing fate as it must/will be, but about warning what might happen if a present course is pursued.

 

Without this approach, it is more characteristic of the futurists (which most Christians are) to look for a literal moon turning to blood and stars falling from the heaven in their attempts to dislocate Jesus and his teachings from his first century world and make him relevant to today. This approach, IMO, does more to discredit the man and his teachings than to understand him.

 

BillM

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BTW, Skyseeker, have you read, "The Coming of the Son of Man" by Andrew Perriman? I found it helpful in understanding the symbolism in Jesus' eschatological teachings, though I don't agree with every conclusion Perriman makes.

 

BillMc

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Jesus told Caiaphas the high priest that they would see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power AND coming in the clouds. To "see" in reference to both acts, His session at God's right hand, and His coming in the clouds must be in the same sense. They saw both acts in the events that accompanied the acts.

 

We know that they did not literally see Christ sitting at God's right hand.

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Preterism is a Christian eschatological view that interprets prophecies of the Bible as events which have already happened.

Wikipedia

-----------------------

 

This uses an understanding of "prophecies" I don't accept. Preterism seems to be a stance one takes when reading the prophecies literally as a way explaining their completion. I don't see a need to do that.

 

It seems to me prophets call attention to problems here and now (Rachel Carson Silent Spring). They also have an apocalyptic voice to encourage the oppressed when one needs to feel that justice and love will win the end. (We shall overcome.)

 

Dutch

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Again, if I am married to someone I should know he or she actually exists. Belief is that "magical point" where we take in God's reality.

 

Skyseeker,

 

for me God is not a person or an object. God is a quality, the "in love" feeling, not the person or object I am in love with. We teach children to say they have "Jesus in my heart". We talk about experiencing God within us or the love of God within. It is that feeling of love, that quality of our lives that guides us. In centering prayer my goal is not to be in relationship with [God or something else] but to experience relationship, love unity. Experience requires no belief; it is and I am a part of it.

 

Personal love language about a relationship with ultimate reality is rich and rewarding but I don't think it requires any belief in the existence of anything.

 

 

Dutch

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"God is not a being to be pleased, so much as God is a verb to be lived" - adapted by me from Bishop Spong's latest newsletter.

 

I like the thought of God not as a noun, but as a 'doing' word.

Edited by PaulS
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"God is not a being to be pleased, so much as God is a verb to be lived" - adapted by me from Bishop Spong's latest newsletter.

 

I like the thought of God not as a noun, but as a 'doing' word.

 

I think that God is both a noun and a verb with special emphasis on verb. After all, He said to Moses, "I shall become who I am becoming."

 

[Hebrew Interlinear, Exodus 3:14 http://www.scripture...ebrew_Index.htm]

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After all, He said to Moses, "I shall become who I am becoming."

 

[Hebrew Interlinear, Exodus 3:14 http://www.scripture...ebrew_Index.htm]

 

Unless of course God did not say that but rather the author/s of Exodus understood God that way so chose to write this as an expression of what they believed.

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Unless of course God did not say that but rather the author/s of Exodus understood God that way so chose to write this as an expression of what they believed.

 

It is the exact same verb form used in the word, "And the serpent shall become a rod in your hand."

 

The traditional "I am" rendering would have been meaningless to the people when, because of their plight, they needed for God to become in a way that they had not known Him before.

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Preterism is a Christian eschatological view that interprets prophecies of the Bible as events which have already happened.

Wikipedia

-----------------------

 

This uses an understanding of "prophecies" I don't accept. Preterism seems to be a stance one takes when reading the prophecies literally as a way explaining their completion. I don't see a need to do that.

 

Yet I had explained Christ's word to Caiaphas regarding His session at God's right hand and His coming in the clouds in a non-literal way.

 

It seems to me prophets call attention to problems here and now (Rachel Carson Silent Spring).

 

I respectfully disagree,

 

They also have an apocalyptic voice to encourage the oppressed when one needs to feel that justice and love will win the end. (We shall overcome.)

 

All was finished in ad70. We do not overcome. The first generation saints overcame for the sake of the future ages.

 

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7

 

Please note that the first generation saints were seated with Christ for the benefit of the saints in the "ages to come." The first generation saints did the battle, Ephesians 6:10-18. We just bask in THEIR victory.

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Jesus told Caiaphas the high priest that they would see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power AND coming in the clouds. To "see" in reference to both acts, His session at God's right hand, and His coming in the clouds must be in the same sense. They saw both acts in the events that accompanied the acts.

 

We know that they did not literally see Christ sitting at God's right hand.

 

Is he coming back? Is he coming in the clouds?

 

This apocalyptic imagery for an oppressed people who needed to be encouraged. "In the end we will be victorious so persevere and do what is right" I don't think there is any need to deal with this as a historical except to understand the need for the intended audience to hear encouraging words. One role of the prophet.

 

As PaulS asked, Did Jesus speak these words or did the authors, knowing their audience put them in his mouth?

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>>As PaulS asked, Did Jesus speak these words or did the authors, knowing their audience put them in his mouth?

 

As most mainline/progressives know, we don't know for sure what "words of Christ" in the gospels are his exact words and what words were placed in his mouth by the early Church or Christians since. To our best knowledge, he never wrote his teachings down, or, if he did, they are lost to us. So the best we have available to us, in a historical sense, is what the authors of the gospels say that he said. Hearsay.

 

It seems to me that we can have two main reactions to this dilemma:

 

The first reaction is that because we don't know for sure exactly what he said, nothing in the gospels can be trusted to reflect what Jesus taught or did. We doubt all. We consider it all a fable because we have no autographs, and even if we did, they would still be what other people thought about Jesus, what others said he said, what others thought he did. In my opinion, though this is often the liberal stance, it is still fundamentalist in nature because this stance says, "If I can't trust ALL of it, then I will trust NONE of it." This is exactly what the fundamentalist says about the Bible, that we must believe ALL or NOTHING.

 

The second reaction is that while we admit that we don't know for sure exactly what he said, we can determine to a reliable degree the kinds of things he said through using modern textual criticism tools. Yes, we know that the early Church and subsequent redactions "put words in Jesus' mouth", but this doesn't mean that we doubt all, that we take the stance that we know nothing about Jesus or what he taught. This certainly doesn't mean that we trust "red letter Bibles" to be 100% accurate, but we can have some sense of what this man taught and what he did.

 

I have, from time to time, posted something of Jesus' teachings (as best as I understand them to be) here. And I, too, have been met with the counter-response of, "How do we know that Jesus REALLY said this?" This response, to me, is a way to easily either brush a subject aside or close a conversation down. Is this really the best way for us to deal with the historicty of Christianity?

 

I know that all we really have is "hearsay" about Jesus. Nevertheless, does this mean that the early Church completely missed what he was about and what he taught? Did they so severely warp the teachings of Jesus that we simply can't trust anything they said about him?

 

Preterism is a way to try to understand, admittedly, what the early Church believed Jesus to believe about how God was dealing with Israel in his day. In that sense, I think it is worth consideration because if we do choose to call ourselves Christians, we do well to try to understand Jesus' teachings and way as best we can. I also understand how some can simply say, "Sorry, not interested" when it comes to the subject. But what I do find troubling is the tendency to simply dismiss Jesus' teachings by simply reminding us, "We don't know exactly what Jesus taught." I, personally, don't find that helpful. And if conversations on TCPC about Jesus and his teachings are going to be countered with that "excuse", then how can we discuss anything?

 

Sincerely,

BillM

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Hey,

 

I wanted to ask you about what you think of preterism ...

 

From the Jewish perspective, the "end times" began immediately following the destruction of the Temple. Judaism hasn't been the same since.

 

In Reformed Judaism, we interpret the Moshiac as an intellectual "coming" rather than a super / supernatural messiah. IOW, the World to Come is brought about through our hands rather than a super hero.

 

Looking for something we can rely on

There's got to be something better out there

Love and compassion, their day is coming

All else are castles built in the air

And I wonder when we are ever gonna change it

Living under the fear till nothing else remains

 

 

So, in a way, I guess you could say that Jews were Preterists before the term was invented!

 

NORM

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>>As PaulS asked, Did Jesus speak these words or did the authors, knowing their audience put them in his mouth?

I have, from time to time, posted something of Jesus' teachings (as best as I understand them to be) here. And I, too, have been met with the counter-response of, "How do we know that Jesus REALLY said this?" This response, to me, is a way to easily either brush a subject aside or close a conversation down. Is this really the best way for us to deal with the historicty of Christianity?

 

Yet as you mention Bill, we don't know exactly what Jesus said, so it could also be that people ask this question because they don't see it as tying in with other things attributed to/associated with Jesus. Whilst one could use such a response to brush aside a subject or close a conversation down, it is also a very relevant question to ask when some people are attributing the information to Jesus.

 

So knowing that early Christians did put words into Jesus' mouth, I think it is all too relevant to question the validity of everything we read in the bible. This is not akin to doubting, but rather questioning.

 

Nevertheless, does this mean that the early Church completely missed what he was about and what he taught? Did they so severely warp the teachings of Jesus that we simply can't trust anything they said about him?

Perhaps so. I for one wasn't there two thousand years ago and the way I read the Gospels it seems the ideas surrounding Jesus grew in their exaggeration of his status, which indicates to me that perhaps Jesus' teachings were warped by later followers who didn't know Jesus or properly understand his message. A simple example being his status as God and/or God's son (as opposed to all of us being children of God). To me it certainly seems that Jesus' status was warped by later followers.

 

And if conversations on TCPC about Jesus and his teachings are going to be countered with that "excuse", then how can we discuss anything?

Probably just like we are doing now.

 

Cheers

Paul

Edited by PaulS
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>>As PaulS asked, Did Jesus speak these words or did the authors, knowing their audience put them in his mouth?

I have, from time to time, posted something of Jesus' teachings (as best as I understand them to be) here. And I, too, have been met with the counter-response of, "How do we know that Jesus REALLY said this?" This response, to me, is a way to easily either brush a subject aside or close a conversation down. Is this really the best way for us to deal with the historicty of Christianity?

 

Since I earlier made such an agnostic comment about knowing what Jesus said and then as now was accused of being lazy and failing to understand the Bible as the 'Word of God' I will provide context my statement then and I think it applies again to this.

 

There was a long post criticizing the views held by another group who also claim that the Bible is the 'word of God'. The last 'proof' of the incorrectness of THEIR view over the poster's view was a quotation of a remark that Jesus is said to have made. THEY were wrong and the poster was right. The proof was what Jesus said.

 

At this point in the discussion to raise the question about what Jesus said is not laziness. An agnostic view of what Jesus said seems appropriate when two groups who believe that the Bible is the WORD OF GOD disagree and Jesus's sayings are offered as proof.

 

Dutch

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At this point in the discussion to raise the question about what Jesus said is not laziness. An agnostic view of what Jesus said seems appropriate when two groups who believe that the Bible is the WORD OF GOD disagree and Jesus's sayings are offered as proof.

 

Dutch

 

It certainly is more peaceful too, Dutch. How many people have died and/or been killed in the past by others who are convinced they 'know' the truth yet others reading the same book disagree.

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