Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How the deck is stacked against The Harbinger --updated

Just a little sketch off the top of my head of impressions I'm getting from my first read-through of David James' book, The Harbinger, Fact or Fiction?\

[Later: I've carefully read the first half of the book and taken many notes; the last half I've barely skimmed through, so I have to apologize for giving a wrong impression about having read the book through. To respond to this book would take a book in itself. Since I am fascinated with all this, not to mention indignant against what I see as unfair treatment of Jonathan Cahn, I may end up with the equivalent of a book.

So far, through the first half of the book, I find only a few things to make any kind of concession on:

If James is right about the Assyrians, Cahn is seriously in the wrong in connecting them with today's terrorists as he does. James makes a compelling case, that today's Assyrians are Christians, not Muslims. But Jonathan Cahn may be able to answer him from his own research, I don't know. I can't answer it myself so I have to leave it as an error in the book.

Also, I agree with James that it would have been better if Cahn had left out the reference to the Septuagint's rendering of Isaiah 9:10. Apparently he was wowed by the mention of a "tower" there, which adds a neat little confirmation to his theme, although none of today's translations from the Hebrew scriptures mentions a tower. And yes, the whole translation is different. Of course Cahn would not have referred to the whole verse if only because the harbingers all reflect today's translations. This seems to be a case where Cahn let himself be carried away by his love of drama and finding connections.

A third point is not quite as black and white. This is Cahn's attempt to explain the removal of the gigantic quarried stone that had been brought in to be the cornerstone of the planned Freedom Tower: Cahn explains it as the frustration of America's plan in parallel with the frustration of Israel's plan to rebuild, being a second expression of God's judgment, the first being the initial destruction and the intent to rebuild with hewn stone. To my mind this all depends on whether or not this frustration of plans can be demonstrated in Israel's case from the scripture. If it can then I'd probably accept the parallel in America. But my own way of thinking about the removal of the stone is that such a stone simply isn't needed in the modern context of steel skyscraper construction, BUT that the very fact that a hewn stone was brought in AT ALL demonstrates God's hand in showing the parallel between America's attitude of defiance and Israel's as described in Isaiah 9:10.

These things are not failures of biblical hermeneutics or any kind of doctrinal failure at all, they are merely errors of historical research or excessive zeal in making connections, which seems to be Cahn's particular gift, a gift that can get out of hand.

I do believe that the rest of James' objections as he lays them out in the first half of his book can be answered.]

The rest of this post is a brief overview of the MAIN problem with ALL the critics' attacks on the Harbinger: Their strict and exclusivistic adherence to a rigid version of Dispensational Theology:

Discernment ministries usually work to identify serious failures of Christian doctrine, such as a denial of the Deity of Christ, which is the essential problem with denial of the Trinity; or advocacy of extrabiblical revelation (anything that is taken as authoritative outside the Bible, such as the traditions of Catholicism or the Book of Mormon), prophecies that contradict scripture, imputation of works of the flesh or the devil to the Holy Spirit and vice versa.

So it's rather strange to see these ministries going after Jonathan Cahn's Harbinger with such zeal, considering that they can't identify any such violations of the orthodox faith without indulging in tortuous reasoning (which I know I'll have to demonstrate when I can get to it).

What these particular discerners find against the book is predominantly a failure to adhere to their own strict version of dispensationalist theology.

Some of the ways the critics treat Cahn remind me of a kafkaesque nightmare in which nothing makes sense, you are found guilty of violating bizarre laws you never heard of before, and anything you say on your own behalf is used against you.

  • Cahn denies that he considers himself a prophet. But other people refer to him as a prophet and he doesn't correct them. He considers the message of the Harbinger to be prophetic, therefore what does that make him but a prophet? MY ANSWER: I think he's denying that he's a prophet in the biblical sense, since he claims no spiritual impartation from God, but doesn't object to a more casual use of the term since after all he is the one who discovered the harbingers which establish the prophetic message.

  • Cahn denies any sort of belief in replacement theology, by which national Israel is replaced, in this case by America. But the book gives the definite impression that America has replaced Israel. MY ANSWER: It would only give such an impression to a zealous dispensationalist who will not allow that the Old Testament could EVER apply to ANYTHING other than Israel.

  • Cahn denies that he finds America in Isaiah 9:10. But the book gives the definite impression that there is such a connection between America and Isaiah 9:10. MY ANSWER: All Cahn is denying is that somehow America is implicit in the verse, not that there is a connection between the verse and America. The connection does not exist in the verse itself but occurred in America, where the same spirit of Isaiah 9:10 has been expressed in many different ways, including by those uncanny harbingers.

  • Cahn denies that he believes that America is in covenant with God the same way Israel was, but the book gives the definite impression that such a covenant does exist. MY ANSWER: Seeing that America has been in a special relationship with God because of our godly Puritan and Pilgrim forefathers, a relationship that was even regarded as a covenant by some of them, is NOT the same thing as claiming identity with Israel, whose covenant was initiated BY God.

  • Cahn should have written a different book, and a major way it should have been different is that it should have dealt with end times themes, the rapture, the restoration of Israel, the return of Christ, the final judgment. These are all dispensationalist preoccupations at the present time, which apparently absolutely preclude a book that's only about America. MY ANSWER: Cahn's book is about AMERICA.
  • The book James thinks Cahn SHOULD have written is a book that a deep-dyed dispensationalist would have written. In fact James suggests an interesting plot for a novel that he himself should write.

  • It's just not the book Cahn wrote or wanted to write. The book Cahn wrote is about America, it is not about the end times, it is not about Israel etc. etc. etc.

  • The dispensationalist presupposition won't let him write such a book, it must be a different book, it must be about Israel and the Antichrist and the coming new world order, it simply cannot be about America because that doesn't fit with dispensationalist expectations.