Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MacArthur Milks the Prodigal Son

Kinda suggested that I might get to Bailey's stuff on the prodigal son here.
Thought MacArthur might be a little more edifying, though. And he is.
He mentions three books of Bailey as his source in the intro. Directly quotes Bailey twice in the book. And Bailey is sourced in half (2) of the footnotes in this book.
Twice as much as I'd like to see.
Yet when I post a comment on a YouTube video suggesting as much- it gets removed as hostile?
Was recently notified that somebody subscribed to my YouTube channel- didn't think I had one.
Glad I don't subscribe to FaceBook.
Even gladder not to Tweet.

Oh well, on with the show this is it...

MacArthur begins by suggesting that "it's not a good idea to try to milk meaning out of every incidental detail in a parable" (viii). I would suggest that he should have followed his suggestion.
Particularly when he milks Bailey for 'cultural insight'.

One of these lactations occur when MacArthur suggests (20,85) that "the idea that God would freely accept and forgive repentant sinners... was a shocking and revolutionary concept. Almost no one in that society could conceive of God as reaching out to sinners". And that this society thought it was "the repentant sinners duty to work hard to redeem himself and do his best to gain whatever degree of divine favor he could earn".

Carson doesn't see such merit theology in their society here. It is also very hard to believe that they were that ignorant of very basic Torah (Exodus 33:19) and prophets ( Psalm 51:17, Isa. 1:11. and Mic. 6:6-8). Would they think that God freely accepting and forgiving Ninevah was novel stuff? Basic stuff that Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai supposedly had to re-teach them after the sacrifices could no longer be performed (when the temple was destroyed)?
Neusner is similarly quite critical of such Rabbinic studies of that period here.

Another lactation occurs when the prodigal son is suggested to be wishing his father dead (45,51). That "any self-respecting father in that culture would naturally feel he had to disgrace the son as publicly as possible- giving him a slap across the face, a public denunciation, formal dismissal from the family, and possibly a funeral".
Young makes a bold claim that Bailey is being anachronistic- by importing modern examples into the first century here. In other words, this is shear speculation. There is no historical reference.

A final lactation occurs when MacArthur claims, the elder son "never really understood or appreciated his fathers goodness to him; but he was happy to receive it and milk it for whatever he could get out of it". Seems a little hyperbolic to me. Almost as mockingly hyperbolic as Luke 15:31.

Apart from these lactations MacArthur does some excellent stuff here. Perhaps unknowingly- even shooting Bailey's gospel directly in the udder:

"And so we're told, Christians should be less concerned about their personal redemption and more concerned about redeeming our culture or resolving the large scale dilemma of our times, such as racial prejudice, global warming, poverty, the marginalization of disenfranchised people or whatever worldwide crisis is slated to be featured cause for the next Live Aid concert(142)".

See Bailey's gospel here and here. Udderly incompatible.

A shame that MacArthur borrows Bailey's cream. Incompatible bedfellows indeed.

1 comment:

  1. I read about half of this book before I put it down. MacArthur really does try to milk a lot out of a little. I've read other MacArthur books and this appears to be unlike his previous books in style, in my opinion.

    As you put it once, "Sophistry."