Tuesday, October 2, 2007
'Because the Time is Near' by John MacArthur. Part 6.
We have spent this effort on answering Dr. MacArthur for a good reason - he is a well respected Bible scholar and generally admired. We have ourselves found his books exceedingly helpful. Therefore we feel a responsibility to deal with the many problems of his recent book 'Because the Time is Near (Moody, 2007). The book is a bizarre mix of wooden literalism and sensible exegesis, of unbiblical tradition and Biblical exegesis. sometimes symbolic language is recognised, at other times it is not. The 'Mark of the Beast', for example (P. 225) is understood literally, but the description of the Dragon is taken to be symbolic.
We found Dr. MacArthur's treatment of Babylon to be bizarre. On P.233, interpreting Revelation 14.8, Dr. MacArthur tells us that 'Babylon, in this passage, refers not just to the city, but to Antichrist's worldwide political, economic, and religious empire." On P. 262 he recognises (and has to do so) that the description of the harlot Babylon is symbolic, that the 'many waters' on which she sits do not identify it with the city on the Euphrates, and yet on P. 266 he insists that it must be the rebuilt city of Babylon. Why? "The Angel quite clearly and repeatedly refers to Babylon on the Euphrates throughout chapters 17-18," Dr. MacArthur says confidently. Really? Babylon today is an empty ruin, totally destroyed as was predicted in the Old Testament. Just as Jerusalem is called Sodom in 11.8, why could it not be called Babylon?
We note that in Chapter 18 there is a list of the merchandise of Babylon, of this list Dr. MacArthur says: "These items were common commodities in the ancient world and were the source of immense financial gain. They are only representative of the great wealth of Antchrist's future commercial empire" (P. 278). Again we see that, for all his claims of a literal and consistent hermeneutic, Dr. MacArthur cannot make his hermeneutic work without making 'literal' a very flexible word! We are reminded of the Dispensationalists who make the ancient weapons of Ezekiel 38-9 into jet planes, missiles and atomic weapons, then claim they are being literal. It will not wash for people who use such hermeneutics to accuse others of using a hermeneutic in Revelation that, if applied to the rest of the Bible would lead to damnable heresy.
Note that this is NOT allegorizing. It is interpreting Revelation as even Dr. MacArthur must admit it demands to be interpreted - symbolically. The sooner Dr. MacArthur discards the mistaken woodenly literal interpretation that he has inherited from J.N. Darby and C.I. Scofield, the sooner he will be able to be consistent in his interpretation of Revelation.
If our readers wish to see what illegitimate allegorizing looks like, they are directed to Pages 92 to 94 of Dr. MacArthur's book.
There is much more that we could say, but God willing, we shall wrap up this review next time.
[our illustration is someone's idea of the End Times Temple)