Of course, that isn't how it's phrased. The "preterist" position thinks itself very sophisticated and nuanced, as a rule. Its starting-point is the same one Albert Schweizer and scores of others have used to say that Jesus was a false prophet, namely Matthew 24:34 — "Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." In fact, my father alluded to that as a reason not to believe the Bible.
Preterists (like Schweizer) insist that there is only one possible narrow interpretation of that verse. Jesus had to be saying that everything He foretold would happen within his hearers' lifetime. However, the way preterists (unlike Schweizer) continue to say Jesus is credible is by saying that nothing He said meant what it seemed to mean.
It wasn't going to be that big a deal.
Really, that's their position. Well, they labor hard to redefine everything. The bottom line was that nothing like what Jesus said was going to happen was really going to happen, but that's okay, He didn't really mean that all that would happen, and besides, it really did happen, but it just wasn't anything like what He said would happen. So it's really all okay.
Of course, that has a withering effect on trying to take much of the rest of prophecy with any seriousness. That huge yacht you were told would come to pick you up? It isn't really a yacht, it isn't really coming, and it wasn't for you. But hey! Here's a picture of an island! Happy?
Here's why I'm in no way sanguine about this view.
Was a time in my life when I and all my fellows regularly said, about every Bible verse that was uncongenial to us, "Oh, it doesn't mean that. You're taking it too literally. There's a deeper meaning. Besides, look at this and this."
That was before I was a Christian. I was in a cult. I tell the story of my conversion from that to Christ at some length, starting here.
But in those days:
- Hell? Oh, come on; surely not literal flames and the absence of God. How can God be absent? He's everywhere! You have to understand: it's a metaphor, a figure of speech. What it really means is the illusion of feeling separated from God. It's entirely in this life. You just have to affirm that you can never be separated from God, and your Hell ends.
- Jesus the unique son of God? Oh come on. Didn't Jesus say, "Our Father, who art in heaven"? That means everybody is a son of God, just like Jesus. You're just not putting Scriptures together right.
- "I am the way and the truth and the life"? Oh, come on. How can one man be the only way? Isn't God everywhere? Isn't He in all of us? What it really means is that the I AM within each of us is our own way to God.
But God saved me from that, as I detail in the other post. As I explain there, what the Lord used in part to save me was grammatico-historical exegesis. It was dealing with the plain sense of the words of Scripture.
I explain and example that more fully in this article. Therein, I offer a brief, "golden rule" for interpretation:
When the plain sense of Scripture makes good sense, seek no other sense. Therefore, take every word in its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and fundamental and axiomatic truths, clearly indicate otherwise.
Fast-forward. Imagine my dismay and my chagrin when I found that there were otherwise soundly orthodox Christians who were doing exactly what the folks in my cult did. They would find a verse that didn't fit their system and insist the words could not mean what they said. It wasn't that "related passages and fundamental and axiomatic truths clearly indicate otherwise." It was that their system demanded that it be otherwise.
And on and on. It was (and remains) a sickening feeling of deja vu. I have both been there, and done that, and have no desire to go back.
Grace keeps these brothers — who (I mean with absolute sincerity) are my instructors and models in countless other areas — from "comparing Scripture to Scripture" as my cult did. When it comes to Romans 3-5, they're the very dictionary-definition of "solid." But prophecy? Bizarro-world. Not quite reformed; still one foot in Rome.
That's what this is about.
There, then, is my opening blast.
Something came up about Matthew 24. Al wanted to pursue Fred on it. Fred promised to see it through to the duration. Here's their meta, with me as the genial host.