Thursday, August 23, 2012

Misreading the connection between Isaiah 9:10 and events in America

I'm going to have to take a break from all this because it's getting too convoluted and tiring, but one thing I've got to comment on is how David James, and his fellow critics in general, consistently misread the way Cahn relates Isaiah 9:10 to events in America as a "direct connection" or as if Cahn finds a prophecy about America literally IN the verse. I must admit I can't really understand how they read it. Every time James comments on it I find it incomprehensible. And he always goes on to point out that Cahn denies the way he reads it, but he still insists Cahn must mean it the way he reads it.

The only thing I can think might account for his misreading is Cahn's use of terms like "mystery" and "hidden" and "secret" and so on. To my mind these are merely dramatizing words, essentially ways of expressing the fact that the Old Testament is a supernatural work (a "mystery"), that God's word is living and powerful, and that it speaks to all people in all times in a way that's hard for the unbeliever to comprehend, who might on the other hand be able to relate to "an ancient mystery."

These aren't terms I would use and I could also object to dramatizing anything connected with the Word of God, but I leave that as a matter of style and only raise it now as a possible explanation for this consistent misreading I keep encountering.

Some examples:

He goes into most detail about it in Chapter 7 "The Mystery of Isaiah 9:10."
[James] Cahn denies arguing for a direct connection between Israel and America and maintains that the passage only demonstrates a pattern of God's judgment. He likewise concludes that recent events in America, beginning with 9/11, are only parallels to that specific pattern.
I don't see Cahn arguing for a "direct connection" at all, although James isn't always clear about what he thinks Cahn means. But I certainly agree that the verse makes a pattern for America, and that there is a parallel in America to that verse -- BECAUSE the verse FITS America, fits the attitude of America in response to 9/11. Even if there had been no literal uncanny manifestations of the elements of that verse IN America the verse would still express the American attitude. (I see the uncanny harbingers as a special emphasis on the nation's attitude given by God so that those who keep trying to deny that the nation is under judgment can't avoid it -- or in the end will "have no excuse" as scripture often says about attempts to avoid its truths.)

So James's description of Cahn's view certainly seems to describe the way I read it. But James doesn't accept this description:
[James] Yet in multiple places Cahn gives the very clear impression that these are more than simply parallels and that a direct connection does exist.
I NEVER get that supposed "very clear impression" that James is getting and I don't see where he's getting it. Then he gives some examples from the Harbinger that convince him Cahn REALLY means whatever James thinks "a direct connection" means.
[Cahn] An ancient mystery behind everything from 9/11 to the economy . . . to the housing boom . . . to the war in Iraq . . . to the collapse of Wall Street. Everything in precise detail.
Those who laid America's foundations saw it as the new Israel, an Israel of the New World. And as it was with ancient Israel, they saw it as in covenant with God.
And this means to James what? Some kind of "direct connection" with Israel? What does he mean by "direct?" Obviously he's suggesting some kind of "replacement theology" in the Pilgrim and Puritan mind, which is, again, a dispensationalist preoccupation (and, I'd add, utterly false and misbegotten in relation to Reformed thinking. There is no "replacement" of anything in early Reformed thinking, there is only the fulfillment of the TRUE intention of the Abrahamic Covenant which was to the Seed who is Christ and not for unbelieving Jews, only for those of FAITH. This is not "replacement" at all. However, Chris Pinto has been making clear that today's "Reformed" Christians have a view of prophecy that's very different from the original Reformers, who did see a role for Israel in the last days whereas today's "Reformed" are largely given over to Preterism, so there's some ambiguity here.
[Cahn] The Assyrians are the fathers of terrorism, and those who mercilessly plotted out the calamity on 9/11 were their spiritual children, another link in the mystery joining America to ancient Israel.
The idea of a "joining" between America and Israel seems to be the clue here. Again, where James seems to locate the origin of this "link" in the Old Testament, I read it as created in the present, in the fact that America NOW has been repeating the attitude of Isaiah 9:10, and NOW was attacked by Muslims. The connection is made in the PRESENT because events seem to be echoing those of the Old Testament verse. There is no OTHER kind of "connection," some kind of mysterious inner meaning to Old Testament events or anything like that.

Say somebody today commits a sin like the sin King David committed and while reading the Bible finds his own sin described there and is called through that description to repentance and so on. Nobody would suggest that this person who is living today was INTENDED in that story about David's sin, and yet because it describes so well this living person's situation there IS a "connection." You could also say that the description in the OT is a "pattern" for the current situation once that situation is recognized, but it is not otherwise a pattern in the sense of some general principle; and the current situation "parallels" the situation in the Bible without there being any notion whatever that the original Biblical context was meant for anyone other than King David.
[Cahn] So if the ancient mystery is joined to America, then somehow 9/11 has to be linked to the words, "We will rebuild."
James says:
[James] Linked. Joined. Connected. Behind everything. Cahn's belief in a direct prophetic connection between Isaiah 9:10, Israel, and the United States could not be more clear
Not clear at all I'm afraid. A direct prophetic connection? You mean, as in "Isaiah was prophesying ALSO to America?" But of course he wasn't, and it's hard to imagine you could think Cahn or anyone could have such an idea.

Perhaps Cahn's language is too "poetic" or "literary" or maybe too plain and ordinary for James who is geared to a more technical bibical way of talking about these things. Cahn certainly does not mean any literal connection IN Isaiah to America. The joining he has in mind occurs in the present, when it is seen that America has the same attitude Israel had as described in Isaiah 9:10 and these "harbingers" have shown up in a way that gives peculiar emphasis to that attitude. It is those events that make the connection, it's not in Isaiah or in Israel. Isaiah 9:10 IS the "pattern" for this, the events in America DO "parallel" the verse. But James keeps finding something else here and I can only think he's led to it by some misreading of some of the wording but that's the best I can do at the moment.

In a way Cahn's language is too "literary" for me too, but it doesn't lead me to James' int4erpretation, I just think of it as the way Cahn likes to dramatize the story, evoke the misty ancient past and so on. Well, the book of Isaiah IS old, at least 2500 years old, and any connection at all between it and modern-day America could strike your average unbeliever as preposterous, which could be why Cahn likes to dramatize the mysterious and supernatural in it. But again, this is mostly style, not substance. And for all I know, Cahn might explain this differently too.

James goes on to make even more out of this but I have to stop for now.

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