Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bailey On The Parables

Part 6- Introduction to Interpretation

This is a 16th century painting by Pieter Bruegel entitled-The Blind Leading The Blind. This is not to say that Bailey is blind- but that he has tunnel vision. May my tunnel vision complement his.

I agree with much of what he says in his intro. I agree with Bailey that parables may have more than one point- contrary to some theories. In fact, I would contend that parables may even have more than one 'end stress' point- contrary to other theories.

Then there is the added difficulty of determining which of these sayings... are parables. Some scholars will count twice as many parables as another may count. Bailey defines a parable as "an extended metaphor". Seems some scholars see extended metaphors- where others have a blind spot.

Bailey's intent in his subsequent exegesis- is to to "unlock new meanings" (281) in the parables, by giving us cultural vision. With the hope that these "cultural glasses" will allow us to focus on the extremes of the analogies. Like probing the galaxies with a telescope. Yet I doubt that Jesus intended us to- decipher his Words as a Hubble.
I believe that the parables of Jesus had universal appeal, to a particular audience (yes, even uncultured children). I believe that His parables continue to have universal appeal, to a particular audience.
That the Father gives glasses to those He chooses. And those glasses he gives are introspective.
No doubt Bailey's cultural glasses, are of little internal use. Even Jesus disciples, wearing those cultural glasses- were blind to His internal intent (Mark 4:13).

In fact, I believe that the parable of The Prodigal Son (which Bailey uses as an example in this intro)- when looked at through these lenses, displays a problematic picture. A picture that would have given me grief in dealing with my own prodigals. We'll be looking at some of the more problematic pictures in the next post. Perhaps we shall look at Bailey's exegesis of The Prodigal Son (it is in another book) in a subsequent review.

Finally, it is Bailey's hope that these "cultural glasses" will give us a "critical realism" in keeping with "N.T.Wright"(283). Really? In keeping with a scholar that denies much of the Pauline canon? In keeping with a scholar that offers us rose-colored glasses for his vision of Hell?

Perhaps we would all be better off blind. And consign Bailey's glasses to eternal torment.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bailey's Women

Part 5- Jesus and Women

I like Bailey's women. I think they are very real. I think he is being very respectful towards these women. Much more respectful than the culture historically was. But let's leave his matronizing alone and focus on manly things.

Bailey continues his patronizing of the Jews on page 210 by claiming that "Salvation... is of the Jews". Well, at least he got the first couple letters right.

Bailey reinforces his endorsement of this paradigm by citing a major proponent of this paradigm (Dunn) a couple paragraphs later. Here Dunn's 1991 view is cited.
Bailey cites the four things which he and Dunn believe separated the Jewish synagogue from the Christian church. Oddly enough, the Gospel is not included.

Yes, Bailey and Dunn believe that the dispute that Paul had with Peter in Galatians (2) involved those boundary markers cited. That this was just a minor dispute discouraging Peter from promoting those four boundary markers.
Well, if Paul and Peter can have such disputes- Bailey and I certainly can as well. Except, I don't think this omission of the Gospel is a minor dispute. It is clear to me that it was the Gospel that was at the heart of the dispute (2:14). Yes, the gospel that is clearly defined in the subsequent chapter. This is the boundary that sets one At The Brink!

Further on, Bailey presents seven metaphors of atonement (228,229). The first (law court) best represents my understanding of substitutionary atonement. Yet the analogy fails in many places. A human judge could only take the place of one prisoner for one crime. A human judge could only serve one life sentence. A human judge did not commit the offense and thus could not satisfy the offended party. And who would serve the time for the offenses of this human judge?
Thank God the offended party was He who knew no sin, who was willing to be sin on our behalf.
Wished he would have included this (2 Cor. 5:21) among his proof texts. More clear than "the metaphors".

Further on, Bailey dedicates a chapter to the woman caught in adultery. The manuscript witnesses for this account are so late and unreliable that Dr. Wallace has said that the next edition of the NET Bible will not include this account (except in a footnote). Responsible preachers are becoming more reluctant to preach on this account any more. Yet Bailey seems to welcome extraneous accounts.

Finally, Bailey in keeping with his Aramaic paradigm insists that Jesus "most certainly" used the Aramaic word hoba. If this is so important to him why doesn't he cite proof rather than conjecture? And why does this really matter to him? Seems to me he is just trying to patronize more people.

Nice guy, nice girls, nice part of this book.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bailey's Histrionics

Part 4- Dramatic actions of Jesus

The title of this post pokes a little fun at Bailey's comments on page 159 and 160 :) But let's leave those examples of his histrionics and focus on greater things.
Beginning on the first page (135) of this part we have some errors regarding the beginning of sin. I take issue with his statement that, " matter provided the stimulus for disobedience and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden. Also, that "the willfulness of Adam and Eve, who chose to disobey God's command as it related to matter" was at fault.
This is a philosophical construct that even the socratic Aquinas would take issue with. Turretin destroys this argument as well in his Elenctic Theology- 9.6.

I have much greater issues with his pneumatology (yes, again) on the following page. Greater issues with his Christology . Yes, greater issues with his description of the nature of Jesus.
Bailey claims that, 'matter and spirit were uniquely bonded at the birth of Jesus'. Such a claim is inept reductionism.
Firstly, I would suggest that they were uniquely bonded before the birth of Jesus. Next, I would be extremely hesitant to refuse the Spirit a capital letter.
Bailey then heightens his heterodox position by claiming in the next paragraph that, "The incarnation of spirit into matter took place repeatedly throughout the life and teachings of Jesus".
This is a position that Bailey suggests in an incoherent paragraph on page 329 as well.
This was hardly the position of the council of Nicea who defined this unique bond of Jesus quite differently. This was hardly the position of Athanasius who insisted that- to recognize Jesus as becoming or repeatedly taking on the nature of God, leaves you with a schizophrenic god. A god of confusion rather than a god of order. A god that may take you or leave you. This Adoptionist position was condemned as heresy numerous times by numerous councils.

Seems Bailey's understanding of the Ebionites (159) is not as good as it ought to be either- when he suggests that, "Early Jewish Christians called themselves the Ebionites".
As early (2nd century) Christian Iraneus described the Ebionites, "they use the gospel according to Matthew only, call the apostle Paul an apostate, practice circumcision, and remain Judaic". Hardly sounds Christian to me.

Neglecting other errors to continue to focus on Bailey's concept of repentance- I'd like to stoop to address a footnote on page 180. Here Bailey claims that, "For Jesus, repentance is not simply confession of sin. Rather it is "acceptance of being found" '. I would insist that Jesus would not accept that reductionism. Jesus would not accept such repentance.
This is where you will find Bailey leaning towards a current movement called New Perspectivism.
A movement popularized by N.T. Wright. Essentially, this movement claims that scripture merely describes who is God's chosen people. That scripture never prescribes how to be chosen. More of this in following posts.

In his exegesis of Zaccheaus- Bailey claims that Zacchaeaus "acceptance of being found" by God takes place as Zacchaeus descends from the tree (182).
I would insist that this acceptance takes place when Zacchaeus became a Son of Abraham- as Jesus declared.
This rightfully begs the question, "How does one become a Son of Abraham"?
Well... by becoming as Abraham. By believing in the Lord- Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:24.
It is probable that Zaccheaus believed in Jesus as Lord prior to his confession of Him as Lord (wise men think before they speak).
It is also probable that Zaccheaus was focused on something else while he was descending the tree (even wise cats think before descending a tree :)
Don't know when he began believing in the Lord- but it seems it was "that day".

I do not believe that such 'acceptance of being found initiates a process of salvation', as Bailey declares on the following page. A sovereign God is far beyond such 'process theology'. A sovereign God- is God over both process and theology.
Such declaration makes me curious about Bailey's ordo salutis. I suspect it is more like Rome's than Romans.
Such is an inept salutis. Such is an inept salvation. Such is an inept theology.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bailey's Prayer

Part 3- The Lord's Prayer

Some issues with this part as well.

First off, Bailey seems much too casual about Hell- when he refers (93) to airport noise as being the "first circle of hell". Sounds like a rock star whining about life 'on the road'.
Does he "examine each word with the care it deserves", as he exhorts us in the following paragraph? At least grant this place a capital for Hades sake.

And what's with Bailey obsession with rocks anyways. Seems he thought Mary shoulda got rocked in Part 1. Now he thinks Gomer shoulda got rocked in this part (111). Am I wrong in thinking that they stopped throwing legal rock parties when the priestly theocracy was held in contempt by Israel (1 Samuel 8)? When the Lord conceded to allow Israel a monarchy to DJ their parties? Were they not then in subjection to this new authority (Romans 13) as we are today?

Bailey does some good textual criticism on the reason for Jesus using the plural Our Father. He might have added that it was grammatically correct since he was addressing a multitude of disciples. He might have added that we are in fact addressing and invoking a plurality. That the Spirit intercedes for us in our prayers as well as the mediator who grants us a hearing. What a marvelous plurality!

Bailey does some good textual criticism regarding the fourth prayer request of the Lord's Prayer. Resolves his "dilemna" by appealing to a "second century Syriac text". Oddly enough, we have no Syriac texts till at least the fourth century. He would have done better to appeal to the clear to resolve the obscure. Plenty of clear passages to appeal to (Exodus 16:21, Proverbs 30:9).

I have a problem with his summary as well when he says that, "The central goal of the Christian faith is not preparing people for heaven when they die... (123). Seems to me he is denying his Presbyterian heritage which says, "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever".

I have a much greater problem with Bailey's concept of forgiveness. Seems he thinks we ought to forgive "even when there is no confession of guilt [italics in original]".
I don't think that is the model that Jesus subscribed to.
I don't think that is the model that Jesus prescribed to us.
I don't think that is the model that Jesus pleaded to His Father.

Jesus subscribed to the model presented in Leviticus. Forgiveness was based on repentance/sacrifice.
The model Jesus prescribed in Bailey's prooftext (Matthew 18) refers to brothers in the faith. Why would Bailey ignore this detail?
The model that Jesus pleaded from the cross (Luke 23)- probably wasn't pleaded at all. All bibles with footnotes note that this pleading is not in the earliest and best manuscripts. Why would a scholar like Bailey ignore this footnote in his prooftexting?
For that matter, why should anyone subscribe to Bailey's model if repentance is unnecessary for forgiveness?
Why bother? Why bother being a brother? Why even bother with a heavenly Father?

This whole Bailey model renders the first word of the Gospel as foolishness.
Anyone here know the first word of the true Gospel model?

What were the first words of John the Baptist, Jesus and the disciples?
Read Matthew 3:2, 4:17 and Mark 6:1.

Or ignore these at your peril!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bailey's Beatitudes

Part 2- The Beatitudes

I'm at peace with Bailey on his exegesis here.

My wife and I were blessed to be at Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church last summer- to hear Pastor Fry preach on the Beatitudes. His exegesis was essentially the same- that, 'the beatitudes are descriptive of the Christian not prescriptive of the Christian'.

Some comments on Bailey's continuing Federal Vision however (81):

"The person who keeps the law, follows the accepted standards of the community and has an admirable life will be respected and thereby satisfied by the community [italics in the original]".

Does anyone here believe it is possible to keep the law? Is anyone here truly satisfied by the community?

To be fair, this may be Bailey suggesting a popular (?) misunderstanding. In fact, it appears he may have been setting up a straw man argument when he follows this with:
"But if righteousness describes a relationship granted as a gift of God that brings peace, then only God can satisfy the longing for that righteousness and the approval or disapproval of the community is irrelevant".

He could certainly have written this better. A little more bravery is appropriate. At least have put the "if" in italics as well.

He then follows these statements with, "We are not righteous to please our peers but to show gratitude to God and maintain our relationship with him".
Seems to me that we are righteous because His Holy Spirit dwells in us. That the Holy Spirit maintains our relationship with Him because He is inseparable from Him. Indeed we show gratitude, but could not without His Spirit. It's a case of an intertrinitarion love fest. A love fest that we are hugely privileged to witness.

This seems to be another weak area for Bailey- pneumatology. As with the theopneustos discussed in previous posts. Gordon Fee could give him a good tune-up there.

May Bailey rise to the occasion for a tune-up. Even this old dog needs a tune-up now and then :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jesus Through Bailey's Paradigm

Part 1- The Birth of Jesus

Bailey's first page of this book(25) is indicative of his paradigm- when he claims that, "the traditional understanding of the account of Luke 2:1-18 has critical flaws". Even if he were right, I hardly think such an understanding is critical. Certainly not as serious as other flaws which shall be presented in the following review.

On page 26 Bailey claims that the average Christian is unconsciously influenced by a book called The Protevangelium of James. Perhaps I'm not that average after all. Or perhaps I'm not as in touch with my unconscious as I ought to be :)

On page 31 Bailey shows his bias for Arabic over the Greek, when he insists that all Middle Eastern villagers had a manger in their house- because a ninth century Arabic translation says so. Not a terribly serious error of reductionism- but I present this as a guide to his paradigm.

A more serious error begins to appear on page 43, where Bailey describes Joseph as "just" rather than the word "righteous" for the Greek dikaios (Matt. 1:19). Suffice it to say here, that the concept of justice is always inherent in the word dikaios. Yet, the word dikaios always carries a broader semantic range than mere "just". This broader description would be more accurate. This is why many translations use the word "righteous" instead. The context would suggest as much as well. Loving mercy (Micah 6:8) would be a better descriptive than doing justice here (for such love is more "righteous" in this situation). Particularly if Mary had been raped, rather than presumed unfaithful.
The distraught Joseph also may have recognized- that unfaithfulness may not have been the case here. Ancient Near Eastern historian Instone-Brewer, has suggested that rape of the betrothed by the Romans was not uncommon.
Even if it were uncommon, Rome would have been reluctant to administer this justice(?) to Mary- just as they were reluctant to administer justice(?) to the much more revolutionary Jesus. This, Bailey inconsistently concedes in citing John 18:31 much later on(233).

In the next chapter Bailey attempts an exegesis on the Vision of Isaiah. This is where we begin to see his myopic Federal Vision (more to follow in subsequent posts). Which is to say, that Bailey sees the salvational promises of scripture in a communal rather than individual sense. We see under the heading Who Did Jesus Come To Save- exclusive references to... the community. Bailey follows a weak exegesis of Isaiah 47 with a comment that, "it takes a brave man or woman to tell a community that it needs salvation from its sins". I would suggest that it takes an even braver man to directly tell an individual that he needs salvation.
Bailey follows this up with a weak exegesis of Luke 13:5. Then repeats himself with, "it takes enormous courage to tell the oppressed community that all are sinners and that all must repent, for everyone is in need of grace for salvation". Seems to me that Jesus was referring to 18 individuals in the preceding verse- not an oppressed community.
It would be much more accurate if Bailey would say that each one is in need of grace for salvation. Even more accurate if he were to say that, " grace is sufficient for each one". But appealing to a community certainly is politically correct.
To put this Federal Vision in other words, I would have a hard time singing, "Jesus love us, this we know" on this side of heaven. I may know about me, but I certainly don't know about you. My vision just isn't that good.

One final comment on this part, is the repeated suggestion (54) that the gospel was edited- because the Gospels were written by men. Even if we grant the latter (which I don't), we may not grant the former. Such is my biblical faith in God's total sovereignty. His total control over the individuals that presented the God-breathed Gospels then, as well as His total control over those that receive the gospel now.
May God be merciful, and use this individual to present a more accurate interpretation of His sovereignty and His gospel in his next edition.

Jesus Loves Me,