Saturday, June 2, 2012

Yes, The Harbinger IS a "matter of critical discernment" Pt. 3

Preamble: Two things:

One: I feel I should say that I used to getthe Berean Call, in the mail, the newsletter put out by Dave Hunt and T A McMahon, and I still appreciate their ministry overall. I stopped taking the newsletter when they started attacking Calvinism, often in a mean-spirited way, which I see from their online archives they are still doing as of this current issue. Now I'm objecting to their take on Cahn's book as well. Nevertheless, they've always had important biblical insights into the growing apostasy in the church, the occult and the New Age, Roman Catholicism, and events shaping up in the world in fulfillment of prophecy, and I learned a lot from them over the years.

Two: As mentioned in the previous post, I've begun to suspect that the MAIN reason for the strong reaction against Jonathan Cahn's Harbinger is the adamant insistence that God's word to Israel can ONLY be to Israel, which is for some reason strongly held by many of those who believe that national Israel is going to figure prominently in the end times. I believe that also, but I do believe that much of God's word to Israel is also to the Church which is spiritual Israel, something that the Israel-only people adamantly deny. And the New Testament also leads us to anticipate that the Church will in the end times receive a huge influx of what is now natural Israel as they come to recognize their true Messiah and are born again --a great increase that has already been happening in recent decades -- until then they are not God's Chosen People. And again, no, this is not a "replacement" of natural Israel, the Church was always the true Israel God was shepherding down through the millennia, made up of the redeemed, His faithful followers.

In any case, again, the story of the harbingers is about something that only God Himself could have set up, not something that relies on anyone's understanding of how to apply the scripture.

But on to more of McMahon's review:
Cahn’s isolation of Isaiah:9:10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars. and his symbolic interpretation of that verse to make it fit the September 11, 2001, jihadist attack on the U.S. is preposterous. (It’s also very odd that nowhere in the book is Islam or the term “Muslim” mentioned.) Nevertheless, as tragic as 9/11 was, what reasonably discerning person would see this as comparable to Isaiah’s account of God’s judgment on the Northern Kingdom of Israel?
The reasonably discerning person who would see it this way is someone who had noticed that God Himself apparently makes that comparison. That's the answer here over and over again. Again, Cahn was not the only one to notice the applicability of this verse to 9/11, as I pointed out in the last post.

Cahn was making no comparisons with the degree of devastation except to note that in both cases this is a first attack that could have been much worse and that if repentance does not follow, much worse will come. Otherwise he merely noted what others had noted, that Isaiah 9:10 is a perfect description of America's attitude after 9/11 just as it was ancient Israel's attitude, an attitude of defiance against God, a refusal to accept the attack as God's judgment and call for repentance: We aren't going to repent, we are going to rebuild and replant with sturdier materials, sturdier trees, and make it harder for our enemies to do such damage to us again. We, we we.

This is the crux of the message, the attitude of defiance in the face of an act of judgment from God and McMahon seems to have missed it completely. As David Wilkerson recognized, it very well describes America's attitude after 9/11. Very few pastors in America, very VERY few, would even recognize the attack as God's judgment at all, even saying God wouldn't do such a thing, even criticizing those few who did recognize it as God's judgment. No calls to repentance, just calls to assert our strength as a nation, just assertions of pride and patriotism, calls to God to bless America but few calls to God to change our hearts and have mercy on us.

It occurred to me after writing this to go to the Berean Call to see what message they gave in the wake of 9/11, and it was certainly not a call to repentance. It was a warning about the terrorist foundations of Islam. There is probably a clue here as to why some can't see 9/11 as a judgment from God. Of course most Americans at that time had no knowledge of Islam at all and the Berean Call was always on top of that information. In fact it was from their ministry that I got a book a few years before 9/11 that showed Islam's designs -- in Muslim leaders' own words -- against Israel and all "infidels" in the world [This is the book Philistine by Ramon Bennett]. People then needed to be made aware of Islam as a real threat in the world, and to some extent we are more aware, although there are many who still insist on the politically correct view of it as just another religion that should be granted the same freedoms as all others.

The idea that God would use terrorists to judge America seems to be hard for people to wrap their minds around. But God used Israel's enemy Assyria as His instrument of judgment against His people, and Babylon and other pagan nations. If we've been attacked, as Christians we should have learned -- FROM the Old Testament -- that these things don't just "happen," that God is behind everything, that this is how he punishes nations through history, and the need for repentance should be the first thought that comes to our mind. There was a time in America when Christians immediately recognized this. Even some US Presidents whose Christian faith might be questionable seemed to understand it. No more. Today's Christians have been corrupted by the unbiblical "gospel" that's all about "blessings" and rarely about sin and judgment, and the false teaching that "our good God wouldn't do such things." So America will get judged again and they'll deny God had anything to do with it again, and along will come the next Antichrist ...

Knowing Islam's motives isn't going to help us if God is against us. But if we repent and turn to Him we can count on Him to restrain Islam and give us protection from our enemies. If the nation doesn't do this, at least individuals who understand the truth can do it.

Anyway, The Berean Call missed God's hand in 9/11 just as the majority of Christian ministries in America did at the time.
Furthermore, even a cursory review of American history will bring to mind far more devastating events than 9/11, from Washington, D.C. being burned and sacked in the War of 1812, to the Civil War, to Pearl Harbor, to the debacle in Vietnam, etc. Ignoring such events, Cahn zeroes in on the devastation of “Ground Zero” as verification that God has removed His “hedge of protection” from the United States. How Cahn decides what events of contemporary history God is using for His very specific purposes is troubling. Are they Cahn’s own prophetic insights or just his speculations? If the former, he is on very tenuous ground.
It's not all that complicated. The "hedge of protection" surrounds continental America. Perhaps Cahn can be faulted for not considering Pearl Harbor as an earlier breach of the hedge, and for not including even earlier attacks on American soil, but at least the context IS foreign attacks on American soil and not American participation in foreign wars and not our own civil war. America has been RECOGNIZED as specially blessed in that we have been spared such attacks, certainly in the last century, while Europe and other parts of the world have suffered much devastation to their own lands. Maybe Cahn should have spelled all this out more clearly, but I had no trouble knowing what context he had in mind and I don't know why T A McMahon didn't.

The idea is that this was NOT a great devastation, but a first warning attack (since Pearl Harbor, or the War of 1812 should I add?). Although the attack on Israel was more devastating than 9/11, still it was nothing like what was clearly going to come upon them as a result of their defiance of God's hand in the first attack -- which is what the full passage in Isaiah 9 is clearly saying.

There are other ways God's judgment can be seen on America besides such direct attacks anyway, such as the invasion of illegal aliens, the great destruction in floods and hurricances over the last decade, and the increase in the very sins that are bringing further judgment, the huge slaughter of the unborn for instance that's been going on since 1973, and all the other violations of God's Law that Christians are always enumerating and protesting. And it probably all goes back to the basic abandonment of our Christian roots in the Puritan and Pilgrim founders of the nation before there was a nation, our abandonment of the gospel as the foundation of national life, which sadly should be largely attributed to the ANTI-CHRISTIAN mentality of the Founders of the generation that fought the Revolutionary War and wrote the Constitution, to us Christians who have perpetuated the errors of that generation. But that's another story.

But the context of The Harbinger is violent attack on national soil, and it seems fair to regard this as a breach of the hedge of protection that kept us from attack through the 20th century, again not counting Pearl Harbor. But if you don't want to accept the idea that this was a first breach of the protecting hedge, at least you have to recognize that America has never repented for the sins that have been accumulating God's judgments against us, and that the uncanny correspondences between Israel's defiance of God in response to attack and the American defiance in response to 9/11 signs and seals God's judgment of America in an amazingly graphic way. That's what The Harbinger is really all about. We missed it when the twin towers were hit so God has sent us some amazingly literal signs to wake us up and a book to point them out to us spiritual dunderheads. Are we going to wake up or not?
For many, selectivity on Cahn’s part creates some of the most compelling assertions in the novel. Again and again, as G. Richard Fisher of Personal Freedom Outreach has noted, “Cahn is playing on the old mistake of saying [that] similarity means identity.”
Huh? Good grief, the ingenuity with which the critics find ways to fault Cahn is staggering. "Playing on?" I don't even think I know what this person is trying to say.
The nine harbingers are selectively (and erroneously) taken from Scripture and are then given life by the comparison to similar things surrounding 9/11, which are then identified with Isaiah:9:10The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars..
Uh, Cahn NOTICED that American leaders quoted Isaiah 9:10 word for word in exact imitation of the attitude of the leaders of ancient Israel reported in that verse, he didn't "select" these incidents from some range of possible similarities; and he NOTICED that there were uncanny echoes of the specifics of Isaiah 9:10 in fallen bricks, a hewn stone, a fallen sycamore tree, a cedar-type tree to replace it -- he didn't "select" these things, they jumped out at him as the uncanny similarities they IN FACT ARE.
That’s the faulty method. Fisher explains, “Similarity is not identity. A $100 bill is similar to monopoly money, which is paper, has numbers on it, and is referred to as money.” To attempt to tie them together beyond that similarity, like paying a bill with monopoly money, will have embarrassing consequences at least.
Oh good grief. Identity? All Cahn did was NOTICE certain SIMILARITIES. Where is anyone getting the idea that he's insisting on some sort of identity between Israel and America? They ask, Does he think America is also a covenant nation as Israel was? No, he doesn't think that, he's answered whenever that comes up. And he's never said anything to imply any other sort of identity either.

I have thought it might have been most effective if Cahn had simply told the story exactly as he himself experienced it, from the point where he first noticed each event that ties into Isaiah 9:10. Each discovery of these correspondences must have struck him as a revelation of the finger of God. Instead he opted for a more artificial arrangement of the information, probably partly to maximize the drama, but also perhaps to organize the material step by step in relation to the scripture verse, since he probably didn't discover all the parts of it in such an orderly fashion. But who knows.
Isaiah:9:10The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars. cannot be identified with America and 9/11, and that’s all one has to understand in order to reject Cahn’s book
. Sigh.
Yet, for those enamored with The Harbinger and still not convinced of its serious biblical problems, consider a few of the harbingers themselves (there’s not enough space here to evaluate all of them).

The sycamore and cedar trees are mentioned in Isaiah:9:10The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.: “The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.” The passage uses sycamores as a metaphor for weaker trees being replaced by stronger, taller cedars in an act of arrogant defiance by the Israelites, who will not submit to God.

Cahn points to a singular sycamore and what he refers to as a type of cedar tree (actually a Norway Spruce) that replaced it at Ground Zero as harbingers connected to Isaiah:9:10The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.. Although there is a similarity , it takes a great deal of subjective wrangling by Cahn in his attempt to make it match Isaiah’s prophecy. The context does not allow Cahn’s claims.
Sigh. Newspapers described the rubble after 9/11 as a pile of bricks. Similarity. A gigantic hewn stone was brought in to be the cornerstone of the new Freedom Tower -- it wasn't even needed for the building, which makes the event even more uncanny. Similarity. Quarried stone. Symbolic reflection of the scripture verse. A single sycamore tree in the churchyard of the chapel where George Washington prayed for the nation after his inauguration was skewered by a piece of one of the falling towers and uprooted, a tree named after the sycamores of the Middle East. Similarity. Symbolic. A conifer type tree -- yes, not a cedar, a Norway Spruce, but very similar in type to a cedar (technically, the Hebrew word for it is "erez" which refers to the pine tree class, which includes the cedar, the pine, the fir and the spruce) -- was brought in to replace the fallen sycamore.

OK, here, let me SHOW the similarities with the trees:

Middle Eastern Sycamore, Ficus Sycomorus:

North American Sycamore:

Cedar of Lebanon:

Norway Spruce:(below)

Granted: I could have used representatives of each tree type that would show more differences than similarities but this comparison calls for the similarities to be emphasized, and certainly there are similarities enough to justify the connections Cahn made -- NOTICED not invented.