With the advent of Gary DeMar of American Vision platforming Kim Burgess there are now quarters of the Church that are being are going all verklempt over DeMar and Burgess’ pushing of Consistent Preterism (also known as Full Preterism, Hyper-Preterism, Eschatological Gnosticism, Hymenaenism, etc.).
By way of introduction it should be noted that while the Church creeds and confessions have seldom spoke on matters eschatological the Apostles Creed (AC) as put Consistent Preterism outside the boundaries of the Christian faith. The AC does so when it puts in the mouths of God’s warrior faithful that they believe that “Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead,” and further when we confess in the AC that “I believe in the the resurrection of the body.” If a Consistent Preterist is honest he cannot confess the Apostle’s creed without doing all kinds of mental gymnastics.
Now, as of late some Preterists have taken to calling those who cite the AC as proof of the future 2nd advent of Christ and as proof of the resurrection of the body as “creedalists.” They accuse us of this as if we might think they are accusing us of something that we would recoil at. Indeed, they are spitting this out at us much like a WOKE Karen might wail about us being “racists.” Another example of the Zeus like hurling of a lightning bolt compliment in our direction. We are glad to be labeled as a “creedalist” — especially when coming from a anti-creedalist. We understand perfectly that the Reformed creeds and confessions are perfumed with the odor of Scripture since those who assembled the creeds and confessions only desired to confess that which was consistent with Scripture.
It is also interesting, that the push for Full-Preterism came especially from the Cambellite (Restorationist) movement and to this day many of its advocates remain “Church of Christ” chaps. Now, I’m sure the Church of Christ has many nice people who belong to it, but it has never been acccused of being particularly orthodox by the Reformed faith.
Now, before going into a cursory overview regarding full Preterism we should note that while we can in no way countenance Hymeneanism we do indeed embrace partial Preterism. Further, I personally have profited greatly by reading some of the full Preterists. For example, James Stuart Russell’s, “The Parousia: The New Testament Doctrine of Christ’s Second Coming,” and David Chilton’s “Days of Vengeance,” are both books that have aided me quite a bit. Also, my long relationship and many conversations with Kim Burgess have, on the whole been edifying. However, one has to learn where to get off the train with these Consistent Preterists so one does not fall into their error. The reason that these chaps were so beneficial is that they excelled at exposing how many of the prophecies in the Scripture are past to us, and the reason that aspect is so refreshing is that for the last 165 years or so Church has been awash in the silly futurism of Dispensationalism. The reason that these same chaps are so dangerous is that they absolutized their Preterist eschatology allowing it to drive the train of all their theology. In a fit of irony, in destroying the Hal Lindsey futurism of the Church where all prophecies are yet future they have destroyed themselves by embracing the idea that all the prophies of the Scripture are past and were fulfilled in AD 70.
With the arise of DeMar and Burgess pushing Full Preterism I’ve had to go back and do some quick review as it has been 15 years or so since Tony Pomales came knocking on my study door piling up books for me to read advancing full Preterism while seeking to convert me to Hyper-Preterism. At that time I read probably a dozen to 15 books on the subject on all sides of the subject. I walked away a convinced Partial Preterist while at the same time being decidedly anti-full Preterist. Tony Pomales was disappointed as I was the fish that slipped his net. Sorry Tony.
Having offered all that by way of introduction, let us consider an overview of full Preterism and its attendant problems. Remember, this in no way offers to be exhaustive.
All expressions of Full Preterism impacts the following doctrines;
1.) Denial of a yet future 2nd advent of Christ. The return of Christ spoken of in the NT occurred with Christ’s judgment coming in AD 70.
2.) The great last judgment likewise was fulfilled in AD 70. It is a mistake, per Consistent Preterism, to look for a future great last judgment since that referred to God’s judgment on covenantal Israel which was fulfilled in AD 70 and so did not refer to a yet future to us judgment event where the lambs and the goats will be separated.
3.) The NT language about a future resurrection does NOT refer to a bodily resurrection of the saints who have lived throughout time, but rather the resurrection of the saints refers to a spiritual resurrection. As Consistent Preterist, Kim Burgess, once told me; “The person will be resurrected but not the body.”
As a consequence of this hyper-realized eschatology Consistent Preterists either believe that the world/cosmos will never end or they are agnostic as to the question of the final teleology of all things.
Full Preterists love to camp on Luke 21:22 where Jesus is predicting the destruction of the Temple;
“For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”
The Consistent Preterist will point to this verse and say; “See, the text here explicitly says that “all things which are written may be fulfilled,” and so this text explicitly tells us there is no more to be fulfilled.
The problem with that is that the Full Preterists are forgetting that when Jesus says here “the things are written may be fulfilled,” He is referring what was referring to the things that were written in the Old Testament since the New Testament had not even been inked yet. Therefore, any prophecy that occurred after Jesus spoke this is not part of the things that were written that were fulfilled in AD 70. That in turn means, that anything written prophetically after Jesus spoke these words could yet refer to future matters, like the His second advent, the final judgment, and future resurrection of the saints, that are still yet to happen.
In addition to the paragraph above there is the issue of the word “all” in Luke 22:21. We have to realize that there are times in the NT when the word all does not mean all without exception. For example in Matthew 3:5 the text reads,
“Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him”
Clearly, Matthew is not intending to teach that every single person in Judea went out to Jesus. The word “all” could be working in that same way in Luke 22:21.
Now consider potential implications of this Hyper Preterism. One implication is the possibility that there is no further need for the sacraments. We can deduce that as a possible implication because of the language of I Corinthians 11;
26For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
Now, if Jesus has come in the way that the Consistent Preterists insists that He has come in AD 70 then I Cor. 11:26 would imply that there is no longer any need to “eat this bread and drink this cup,” because Jesus came in AD 70. Pushed even further, to a logical implication, there would therefore also be no need to gather for Church since the Church’s existence without the sacraments would become very tenuous.
The error of Consistent Preterism in its claim that the saints will not bodily resurrect is perhaps most clearly pointed out in I Cor. 15:20
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
The inspired Apostle speaks of Christ’s resurrection which was/is clearly physical as seen in Jesus urging doubting Thomas to put his finger in his hands and side. Also as seen in Jesus claim that in three days He would raise himself up again should his enemies destroy him (John 2:19). Christ bodily resurrected and Paul in I Cor. 15 says that Christ was the firstfruits of those who are dead (fallen asleep). Now, if a bodily resurrected Christ is the firstfruits of those dead then by necessity the latter fruit following the firstfruit is going to resurrect bodily just as the Lord Christ did. The idea that Christians will have their persons resurrected and not their bodies or that our resurrection is only spiritual is not supported by the weight of Scripture. Indeed even the OT saints figured out what the Hyper Preterists are missing. Hebrews 11 teaches us the way that our Father Abraham reasoned about the sacrifice of Isaac;
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[a] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
Now, to argue that Abraham reasoned that God was going to spiritually raise Isaac and not physically is to reason as only an ideologue can reason.
Upon taking a step back in assessment one might label Hyper Preterism as Eschatological Gnosticism. For the Consistent Preterist there is little to no continuity between our corporeal life now and our life to come. It is all discontinuity. The spiritual is all. The corporeal is nothing.
How serious of an error is Consistent Preterism? Well, I suppose that depends on how much it bleeds into and so alters other theological disciplines. Some of the full Preterists can get pretty whack-a-doodle. At the very least I think we would have to say the best expressions of it are heterodox. Having said that I would be more comfortable with a genuinely Reformed Preterist as a non-voting member than I would be comfortable with a Arminian being a non-voting member. In the end I think we have to take these full Preterists one by one to see exactly where they are not only on eschatology but also on soteriology, ecclesiology, theonomy, hamartiology, epistemology, etc. etc. etc.
Having said all that if you are a laymen you would be wise to drink from the well of Full Preterism with a very very long spoon.