But what I mean by "biblical," which it seems to me describes Cahn's understanding far better than James' and the other critics', is that it follows a biblical pattern that can be demonstrated. Cahn says that American political leaders in quoting Isaiah 9:10 were speaking the words of defiance in that verse on behalf of America. James objects that their motives were far from defiant, that in fact they meant to honor God by quoting the Bible and by saying "God bless America" and that proves Cahn completely wrong. Cahn answers that it has nothing to do with their conscious motives, it's simply about their quoting the verse with the intention of its representing the American response to 9/11. They misunderstood the verse to be inspiring or reassuring so what they were presenting as America's response to 9/11 wasn't what they intended, but what the verse actually means -- and it is a statement of defiance of God in its vow to rebuild without recognizing that 9/11 was God's judgment of the nation, a clear message that we are out of his will.
This is a BIBLICAL understanding of what happened: They intended the verse to be America's response -- WE will rebuild -- so although they didn't understand it rightly it nevertheless DID stand as America's response. They spoke the defiant intention on behalf of the nation. The fact that they didn't understand it doesn't change that. Of course, if they'd understood its true meaning they wouldn't have quoted it at all since the point in their minds was to offer reassurance. Pronouncing judgment was far from their minds.
I also gave some other biblical texts to demonstrate that consciously one may think one is honoring God by prayers and quoting the Bible and so on, although God knows the true heart and calls that "drawing near to Me with their lips though their hearts are far from Me." In the context of the attack on 9/11 as God's judgment of the nation there is no doubt that the many invocations of God without repentance are nothing but lip service, a way Americans were wearying God with our observances and supplications instead of correcting our sins and idolatries, just as ancient Israel did. This is a BIBLICAL perspective.
Who inspired Daschle and Edwards to choose that particular verse? Who moved them to speak? Are you going to deny that it was God Himself who moved them? Are we autonomous, are we independent from God? Perhaps if you are an Arminian you think so. Then perhaps you simply cannot grasp the biblical meaning of this event at all. There's no point in having the old Calvin-Arminius debate here, and it's not necessary for anyone to identify with either position as it's possible to be on either side of this debate without being aware of it too, but maybe it explains something about the different points of view to cast it in these terms.
God moved them to speak, and what they spoke in spite of themselves was the true meaning of Isaiah 9:10 which is a statement of defiance of God in the intention to rebuild without regard to God's already having judged the nation.
Cahn makes this very clear in the book, emphasizing that Daschle didn't know what he was doing:
[James] Now Cahn is claiming that Daschle was fulfilling a revelatory prophetic role and publicly pronouncing judgment on the United States of America:Just as James took Daschle's and Edwards' conscious motives to be the important thing, thus contradicting Cahn's claim that they were speaking in the spirit of defiance of Isaiah 9:10, James of course also cannot see how they could have been speaking prophetically. If he doesn't recognize that they were moved by God to declare the attitude of defiance on behalf of America, then he isn't going to regard them as speaking prophetically.[Kaplan] "But he was identifying Ameridca as a nation under judgment."[James] How could Daschle have been proclaiming a prophetic word from God to the people of the United States?
[The Prophet] "Yes, unwittingly."
[Kaplan] "The majority leader of the United States Senate was publicly pronouncing judgment on America."
[The Prophet] "Blindly," he replied, "having no idea what he was pronouncing. As far as he knew, he was only delivering an inspiring speech."
[Kaplan] "But unknowingly playing his part in a prophetic mystery."
[The Prophet] "Yes ... and so the words of the ancient vow were now officially joined to America and 9/11. And just as Isaiah's recording of the vow transformed it into a matter of national record and a prophetic word for all the people, so now the same words were officially recorded in the Annals of Congress as a matter of national record."
He is so sure of his judgment that he even accuses Cahn of having overwhelmed his readers with his
"inexplicable coincidences" to the point that "he is able to get away with just about anything -- no matter how bizarre or unbiblical.It is James whose views are unbiblical but he is so convinced of them he can just go on and on condemning Cahn. He goes on to object to Cahn's comparison with an incident in scripture in which words were spoken that had prophetic significance when understood in that light:
He defends the indefensible theory that Daschle was prophesying by referring to an incident recorded in John chapter 11 concerning Caiaphas the high priest.Cahn didn't need the example of Caiaphas to make his point, in my opinion, it's made by the facts of the matter alone, but Caiaphas IS a good example of the phenomenon in question -- the unwitting pronouncement of a prophecy.
Caiaphas consciously intended to say that it would be good for the nation if the upstart Jesus were to die, but scripture goes on to explain that in his office as high priest he was actually unwittingly prophesying of Jesus' death for the sins of His people.
James objects that we know Caiphas' unwitting words were prophetic because we are told so in the scripture itself, but that Cahn has no way of knowing that about Daschle's words unless God revealed it to him.
It seems to me that simply knowing that nothing happens without God is enough to make the case that Daschle was speaking as God moved him, and that since what he spoke was the words of Isaiah 9:10 with the intention of speaking for the attitude of the nation, the attitude that we will rebuild, God had moved him to say that on behalf of the nation. It doesn't require a special revelation to come to this conclusion. Daschle had a different motive than God had, since he misunderstood the verse.
James then goes on to list other objections to the comparison with Caiaphas, beginning with his usual complaint that Cahn seems to be equating America with ancient Israel, the idea being that Israel was a theocracy in covenant with God and America isn't, that in a theocracy the political and religious offices wre inseparably linked but that can't happen in America.
However, this isn't quite a fair statement. I'd point out here that there was in fact a separation between the religious and political leaders even in Israel. The priests and prophets were the religious leaders, not the kings. Even David, the man after God's own heart, was informed of his sin with Bathsheba by the prophet Nathan. It was the prophets who brought God's word to the people, also to the kings. It was the priests who administered the sacrifices and it was greatly out of order when King Saul performed sacrifices.
Another I want to comment on: James says "the true meaning of Caiaphas' words did not contradict either what he intended to say of what he actually said." This is not true. What he intended to say was that the Jewish leaders should try to put Jesus to death for the sake of the nation as a political entity under Rome, but the true meaning of the words was that Jesus would die for the sins of the people, about which Caiphas had not the slightest inkling. It is in fact a solid parallel with Daschle's speech. What Daschle and Edwards intended to say was the words they did say but with a different meaning, which is exactly the same situation as Caisphas' --they contradicted the true meaning, as did Caiaphas, as the true meaning was known only by knowing what God intended by those words.
And then there is James' contention that Cahn's understanding of the speeches by Daschle and Edwards involves an allegorical interpretation of scripture. Which is patently ridiculous.
The meaning he assigns to their speeches is completely disconnected from what the words actually say ... If a proposed theological or spiritual idea does not come from the biblical text, then someone made it up. [THFOF pp. 119-20].This is pernicious nonsense. It seems that James has no idea what Isaiah 9:10 is about.
Isaiah 9;10 is the statement of the leaders of Israel, in the "pride and arrogance of their hearts" that they will rebuild and replant what the Assyrian invasion destroyed of their buildings and trees, without the slightest regard to the fact that this invasion was God's judgment on Israel. That IS the meaning of that verse, and when Daschle and Edwards quoted it that was ALSO the meaning of that verse, only now in the context of America's response to 9/11.
It ought to have been apparent to any Christian with any biblical sense at all that America had exactly the same attitude that Israel had, with or without those exact words being spoken, but that the fact that they WERE spoken makes it clear that God Himself was directing their being spoken as if to underscore the fact that America's attitude was in fact defiance of His judgment.
It's James who has the unbiblical perspective on all this.