Thursday, January 20, 2011

Slave - A Book Review

Slave was offered for review on BookSneeze and I snatched it up. I loved John MacArthur's book The Jesus You Can't Ignore and Slave sounded like another great read.

From Amazon's product description: "What does it mean to be a Christian the way Jesus defined it? MacArthur says it all boils down to one word: Slave. 'We have been bought with a price. We belong to Christ. We are His own possession.'"

Unfortunately, the book got off on the wrong foot. The preface talks about an intentional translation cover up, a conspiracy, if you will. While I do believe that conspiracies exist on occasion, I find it rather suspect that multiple Bible translators have intentionally made a mistake. Perhaps it's true, but this accusation made me wary of anything else MacArthur proposes in this book.

MacArthur believes that the Greek word doulos has intentionally been mistranslated as servant rather than slave. He writes that "whenever it [doulos] is used, both in the New Testament and in secular Greek literature, it always and only means slave" (pg 16). Both in this chapter and in others, MacArthur stresses that Christians being a slave to God is completely involuntary.

I am not a Greek scholar, but I looked up one example listed in the footnote: Revelation 1:1. Both in my Bible's Greek dictionary and on Net Bible, I found the following definitions:

doulos <1401>
1) a slave, bondman, man of servile condition
1a) a slave
1b) metaph., one who gives himself up to another's will
those whose service is used by Christ in extending and
advancing his cause among men
1c) devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests
2) a servant, attendant

from 1210; a slave (literal or figurative, involuntary or voluntary;
frequently, therefore in a qualified sense of subjection or
subserviency):-bond(-man), servant.

Again, I don't know much about Greek, having never studied it. But the definition says that this word can be literal or figurative, voluntary or involuntary. MacArthur asserts that doulos only refers to involuntary slavery.

The chapters dealing with what it means to be a slave to God are actually quite good. Whether we call ourselves as Christians slaves or servants, whether it be involuntary or voluntary, we do have a specific relationship with God. One of the best summations in the book is that "a slave's life was one of complete surrender, submission, and service to the master - and the people of Jesus' day would have immediately recognized the parallel. Christ's invitation to follow Him was an invitation to that same kind of life" (43).

I fully agree with the above statement. A Christian's life should be one of complete surrender, submission, and service to the Master. The discussions detailing parallels between Roman slavery and our Christian responsibilities toward God were really insightful. Too often, the church gets caught up in grace and forgets that the Jesus who said "you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind" also said "if you love Me, keep My commandments" (Luke 10:27, John 14:15).

All of that said, I had a deeper problem with book. I walked away from it feeling incredibly depressed. As good as the message is about serving God, it was completely overshadowed by the author's belief in predestination. MacArthur states that "God, in His infinite mercy, chose to save those sinners on whom He had set His love in eternity past" (147). There are a few other quotes that address the same issue - God chooses who He will love and only saves those people. Not only does God only love a select few, MacArthur states that everyone else has no choice in the matter; they were born into sinfulness, have no possible chance of responding to the gospel, and will die and be punished for their sins.

I don't have all the answers. I don't understand God completely. But the idea that God may not love me, that He doesn't want me, and that I don't even have a chance in becoming His daughter is repulsive. I've been depressed for a week because of this idea. If this idea is true, then God may have chosen me, in which case He loves me and I have the opportunity to respond to the gospel. But if God didn't choose me, then I am unloved and will be punished for my sins even though I had no choice in the matter. Is that fair? Is that even Biblical?

I can't recommend this book unless you are extremely secure in your beliefs and want to pick out the nuggets available. Slave does have some nuggets of truth and insight, but it is completely overshadowed by the idea that God does not love everyone nor does He want everyone to be saved.

This week I chose to memorize Romans 8:1 in response to reading this book. Another text I need to memorize is 1 Timothy 2:3, 4.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,
who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit

Romans 8:1.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth

1 Timothy 2:3, 4 (emphasis mine).

I received a reader copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.


LaVonne @ Long Wait said...

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Katia said...

Oh my, you got me thinking....???? Some great thoughts here....I will have to go look for this term in one of my husband's books. He has new book which has the Greek and Hebrew in it.

The people of Jesus' day would also known the Laws about slavery which are found in Exodus - Deuteronomy. After being a slave 7 years, one had the choice to leave his master, if he chose to stay then would serve his master for life.....I can't remember the reference, but I just read this this past couples of days in the B90.

A great mistake most Christians make is to dismiss the OT laws and Israel out of the NT. Understanding what was like to a slave in Israel verses a Roman slave...huge difference here. does he explain that in the book?
P.S OK I am sending you an e-mail for I am really embarrassed as to how long my comment is getting.

Better go for now. Sending you an e-mail for this comment is getting huge :o)
Happy preparation day :)

Brandon said...

Did MacArthur actually say in the book that God does not love everybody?

I think one of the main points about Calvinism and MacArthur's view is that God does love and does desire all to be saved but not in the same sense. God is free and has different levels of willing that serve His purpose and glory. A free-willer can only say that God's desire that everyone be saved is not accomplished because of free-will. So free-will in the scope of things is more important than God's desire that everyone be saved. This makes Jesus a potential Savior and not an actual Savior because salvation is then dependent on man's will and not God.

Men are responsible for their sin against a holy God and God is just/fair in punishing everyone accordingly. God is gracious in saving a few, some, or even just one.

John 6
John 17
Romans 9
Ephesians 2