If you’re on theological Twitter you will have noticed an uptick in discussion surrounding a doctrine known as preterism. Gary DeMar, a thought leader who has always been on the fringe of the fringe of Theonomic (or reconstructionist) Postmillennial theology has apparently ‘converted’ to a heresy known as full preterism (which the kids nowadays are calling: ‘hyper-preterism’). This has caused some stirrings in the minority report of theonomic Christianity, and thus I thought I would highlight it once more. I originally wrote the following post in September 2013; it details and defines the basic differences between full and partial preterism. I offer further reflection on my post, as you’ll see (this isn’t the first time I’ve reposted this one). When I originally posted the following I was still progressive dispensational, premillennial, pre-tribulational with reference to my biblical eschatology. As you will see I identify how I developed further beyond the writing of this original post. Let’s read:
Briefly, I will provide a quick survey of Preterism (Latin=praeter, meaning beyond or past), and its inherent hermeneutical/theological problem. There are two camps within this particular belief system, either full preterist or partial preterist.
A “full preterist” believes, in relationship to the second coming of Christ that in fact it has already happened. They believe that Christ already came, when Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. They see this judgment, as the fulfillment of the resurrection prophesied by Jesus. Note Kim Riddlebarger’s analysis here:
. . . full preterists teach that the resurrection—which, they say, is not bodily but spiritual—has already occurred. To teach, as full preterists do, that Christ has already returned and that the resurrection occurred in A.D. 70 at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem is heresy, according to the apostle Paul.
As noted above, the full preterist position is heretical because it undercuts the blatant scriptural teaching that the general resurrection will be bodily not spiritual (cf. II Tim. 2:17-18). But there is a variant teaching, that does not cross the threshold of heresy, it is an adaptation of “full preterism” known as “partial preterism.”
Partial preterism, contrarily, does not believe that the “resurrection” or second coming happened at 70 A.D.; although they do believe that Christ did “judge” Jerusalem at the 70 A.D. date. They believe that this judgment signified the end of the “Jewish Age”, and concurrently inaugurated the “age to come.” Note Riddlebarger:
Partial preterists, however, do not believe that the second coming and the resurrection occurred in A.D. 70, although they do believe Jesus did come back in judgment on Israel (a parousia), to bring about the end of the Jewish age (this age) and to usher in the age to come. According to many partial preterists, this view resolves the tension found throughout the New Testament between those texts which teach that Jesus and his apostles expected our Lord to return within the lifetimes of the apostles then living and again at the end of time when Jesus will return to judge the world, raise the dead, and make all things new.
The interpretive problem this poses is one of positing a position that presupposes two returns of Christ (one local and one universal). The scriptures nowhere teach a local/universal two time return of Christ—only one return (cf. Acts 1:10-11; Heb. 9:27-28). The preterist position (full or partial) is an untenable position to forward, at least in its relationship to the clearer teaching of scripture (analogia fidei).
As you can see at the end, I critique partial preterism as well, and I did so from my Dispy Premillennial perspective. I am willing to concede that there are some partial preterist elements going on especially as noted in the Olivet Discourse (cf. Mt. 24), and aspects of the book of Revelation (but I’d rather label what I hold as historist in a denotative way, and not in the connotative way that developed among the Calvinian Reformed and Lutherans who saw Roman Catholicism and the papacy as fulfilling the role of the Beast and the anti-Christ; I see the Roman Empire, in the context and historical situation of the book and theology of Revelation, as typifying the ‘kind’ of Beastly power that is characteristic of ages and peoples who are opposed to the purposes of God … I think even literarily this correlates well with a motif and theology of Babylon throughout scripture’s usage).
As far as Full Preterism, as I said, quite strongly, I see it as a full orbed heresy; why? Because it, by definition denies the bodily resurrection of all believers from all ages. According to scripture this transformation (Phil. 3.20-21) will happen when the last trumpet sounds, the dead in Christ will rise first, prior to those living at the time of Christ’s second coming (I Thess. 4 etc.); all of which will happen in a twinkling of an eye (I Cor. 15.) It contradicts the clear teaching of scripture and the angelical declaration that Christ will return in like manner; in like manner to his ascension, which was bodily. Acts 1.9-11 says,
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
This requires no argument, it is straightforward; Jesus will return just as he left, bodily, and visibly; not secretly or platonically spiritually. There are theological points associated with this, especially by the book of Revelation; but those points aren’t necessary to undercut the aberrant teaching that Jesus will not return bodily (of course how ‘bodily’ is understood for some varies; some hold to the ubiquity of Christ’s body, for example, but even this view must account for the particularity of Christ’s body as understood in context found in Acts 1) and a second time (as the epistle to the Hebrews also refers to more than once).
Okay I’m back to 03-19-2023 😉. I find full preterism, not to mention theonomy in the main, to be so fringe and abstract that I don’t think about it that much these days. But when it rears its head for the younger generation’s consumption I feel compelled to rise up and speak a few words as a counter-voice. Let me also say this in critique of partial preterism (which can be ‘orthodox’): the primary problem with a full-throated partial preterism is that it is supersessionist, or believes that the Church has supplanted or ‘replaced’ ethnic Israel as the people of God. Superessionism is just as heretical as full preterism insofar that it believes God’s physical and spiritual promises made to the nation of Israel have been abrogated (they’d say fulfilled) by the generation of the Church. But this is antiChrist. Jesus will always be the Jew, the Man from Nazareth, Son of David. Orthodox theology cannot affirm a supersessionism and remain orthodox vis-à-vis the prima facie teaching and witness of Holy Scripture. Jesus is God’s Israel, as such the nation of Israel isn’t superseded by God’s economy in Christ, but brought to fruition. We might say the ‘purpose,’ the mediation of the nation of Israel was made whole, that it was expanded to include the promises made to Abraham (see Rom 4), and the patriarchs: i.e., that he and they would be the father[s] of many nations (see Gen 12; Jer 31; Ez 36 etc.). Again, remembering that Jesus will always be the Jew from Nazareth (the scandal of particularity is the scandal of the incarnation of God and the cross, both for the Jew and Greek).
With all of the above noted: Gary DeMar and his followers need to repent of affirming the heresy of full preterism. Full-throated partial preterists need to repent of supersessionism. And we must all affirm as catholic Christians:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic [universal] church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
 Kim Riddlebarger, A Case For Amillennialism: Understanding The End Times, 239.
 Ibid., 239-40.
6 thoughts on “Full Preterism, Partial Preterism, Gary DeMar, and Various Heresies”
Amen… and emet! Praise be to God!
Paul’s (apparent) revelatory inflection (that he puts forward in 1 Cor 15:35 f.) conveys both that with which we are presently familiar and ‘mysterium’ of the nature 0f that resurrection body. “Now faith is the “substance” or ground of our confidence- our assurance- of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
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As usual, I could say more – and too much, so suffice it to say, Amen!
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@Richard, indeed … the ‘now and not yet’ can trip people up if they aren’t being careful readers and thinkers.
Gary DeMar has been a partial preterist, what quote or Tweet shows differently?
@Professorwho, yeah, but that’s why I posted this: he has made a shift. You can look the controversy up on theological Twitter, I don’t have the links at hand.
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