Friday, August 24, 2012

When is an illusion not an illusion; and a poem about Harbinger Soup

I'm taking a break from the book by David James because there's just too much in it to answer, too many issues he raises. Most of them I do want to answer, because they seem to me either to be completely artifacts of his dispensationalist assumptions or forced in one way or another. I think all that does need to be answered but it would take a lot of time to get to it and through it. He does make the occasional point I can agree with, but not many.

But I wanted to sketch out one of his main arguments that happens to be on my mind: He judges all the harbingers, the signs that occurred in America that the book presents as uncanny symbols that echo the various parts of Isaiah 9:10 as "illusions." Coincidences that persuade there is more to them because of a "wow" factor.

But what does he base the conclusion that they are illusions on? He actually argues that since the bricks that fell in Israel represented the entire city that there is no correspondence between that destruction and the falling of a few buildings in New York City, AND of course those buildings weren't made of clay bricks either. Then they intended to rebuild the entire city with hewn stones but all Cahn can point to is the one gigantic hewn cornerstone for the New Freedom Tower that didn't even get used! The sycamore that was uprooted was only one tree, not the groves that were destroyed in Israel, and it isn't even the same kind of tree! The tree that was brought in to replace it isn't a cedar of Lebanon, which the leaders of Israel intended to plant to replace their sycamores.

Excuse me if I say that this is just silly. I know it needs some references and quotes and so on which I'll try to supply when I'm up to it again, but the basic idea is just silly.

What, only if a whole town built of clay bricks were destroyed, along with groves of Middle Eastern sycamores, which don't grow here, and only if stone masons were to be the builders of a new skyscraper, and a grove of cedars of Lebanon were planted, would James accept that the harbingers are not an illusion?

I don't even know what to call this kind of thinking.

You know this is getting to me when I write something like the following:

Or, The Theology of Straining out Gnats

Nine chickens we took from the biblical coop
To make harbinger harbinger harbinger soup.

A couple escaped and we chased with a whoop
So we could have plenty of harbinger soup.

We caught them and tied them by making a loop
Out of twine that had come from the John B sloop.

And broke we their necks -- they'd no longer us dupe
And botch up the planned hermeneutical soup.

We made it with arguments bound as a group
To spice up our fine exegetical soup.

The critics then thrust in their finely-meshed scoop
And, horrified, cried There are flies in your soup!

By the hundreds, they shouted, a fat sassy troop,
Along with their Musca Domestica poop!

Well, sad we all were at the thought of such goop
Befouling our fine theological soup.

But in through the window there came with a swoop
A fly-eating bird, a redoubtable snoop,

Who hungrily spied out the flies in the scoop
and pronounced that in fact they were


Not flies,

And only three of them,

And flew off in a huff.

So now I have told you of how we made soup
Out of chickens that came from the biblical coop
Oh it was truly a wonderful soup
A humble American harbinger soup.

Though now we may need some more time to regroup
And consider perhaps just how lowly to stoop
To be sure we make positive biblical soup

With no flies in it.

Or gnats either.

We're not sure what happened to the camel.

O harbinger harbinger harbinger soup.

Notes from Cyberia, or Bloggin on Bloggin while the world unravels. Or something like that.

Thanks largely to Google I've been hearing from people on both sides of this Harbinger controversy for months now. The only other issue to have attracted my blogs so much attention is the "heaven" stories. For some reason the former mostly brings me emails, the latter brings comments on my posts.

I've been used to doing my own thing out here in cyberspace not expecting much attention, mostly because my topics tend to be on the less popular side -- and I suppose also because I have the habit of writing at a length that stretches people's patience. I decided early on that I have to write as I'm inspired to write whether I get readers or not.

There is every sort of blogging style out there. Some make a point of touring the Blogosphere in search of a network of contacts in order to build up a community of like-minded people. Some already have a network to get them going, or a business or a ministry or a project. Some start out cold and write into the void. That's pretty much my style. I've tried to interest friends and relatives but I'm a black sheep there so I stay a black sheep here.

I've posted on other blogs but that doesn't usually win me friends. In fact, many of my blog posts here have been prompted by the reaction to my opinions I've encountered on other blogs. I could even say that my main bloggus operandi as it were is responding to disagreements, even hostility, I've encountered elsewhere in cyberspace.

The origin of my posts about the stories of children's visits to heaven was such a disagreement at another blog, in fact I got quite a pounding there. Just a little research made it pretty clear to my mind that those stories should not be accepted by Christians, and of course I said so, which was not the going opinion at that blog to put it mildly.

The same thing happened with my opinion that Christians should not support Glenn Beck now that he's made his stance religious rather than political. I was amazed that people who consider themselves Christians seem to have so little discernment. I suppose that sounds like bragging but what can I say, I can only argue for what I believe is true. I'm sure I have my own blindnesses but that doesn't preclude being able to see some things clearly nevertheless.

The same thing happens of course any time I've said elsewhere that Catholicism is not Christian. Or Mormonism. Outrage, even from people I think really are Christians. I get some of the same reaction here as well, most especially to the heaven stories so far. After some years on the internet I got used to being trounced by atheists, leftists and evolutionists for all the understandable reasons but getting trounced by Christians and conservatives was unexpected.

My other blogs aren't popular topics either. The woman's head covering? You might as well consign yourself to cyber-Siberia if you're going to try to argue that one (I like that so much I have to make it the title of this post). And the Bible versions conflict too. Some of the best-known and most influential Christian leaders are against me on both those topics.

You might think I'm just a stubborn contrarian I suppose. I think I sincerely study the issues -- with prayer, a LOT of prayer in some cases -- and come to a sincere and objective opinion, but the Lord knows for sure what we're all really doing in our heart of hearts, which He can read but we often can't.

I'm out on a limb many times with my Creationism blog as well. It's amazing to me how many people who seem to be sincere Christians will allow their inadequate understanding of science to dictate their reading of the first chapters of Genesis. I suspect that whole questionable hermeneutical systems have been embraced by some because they can't tolerate the tension between their understanding of "science" and their reading of the Bible. And then there are the out-and-out casualties who completely abandon their Christian allegiance because "science" has a greater grip on them. Again, this is their OWN inadequate grasp of science calling the shots here --influenced also of course by ridicule from the defenders of evolution. How easily we forget the Word's admonitions about not being conformed to this world, about not being taken in by worldly philosophies, about leaning not to our own understanding, about expecting that if they hate us it's because they hate our Lord, about expecting tribulation in this world, about being willing to suffer as He did -- the mockery, the rejection -- NO MATTER WHAT. We are SUPPOSED TO BE fools for Christ! He trusted Genesis! HE AUTHORED GENESIS!

The main focus of my blogs is Christian discernment, which ought to put me in alignment with the discernment ministries out there and to a great extent it does. Those are the ministries I follow most regularly and those are the ones weighing in most heavily on either side of the Harbinger controversy, such as The Berean Call, Worldview Weekend, Understanding the Times, Take a Stand Ministries... The first two oppose the Harbinger, the latter two support it.

People who agree with me on one or two of my topics are very likely to be adamantly opposed to me on others so although I've found support for my views of Cahn's book I can't expect support for some of my other opinions from the same people. And I have to admit that the charismatic arena, from which the book gets so much of its support, sometimes causes me to reconsider defending the book, although I haven't found charismatic or doctrinal problems in the book itself.

So I'm never just happily in tune with any point of view out there. There are always areas of agreement and disagreement. I suppose that's true of all of us but it would be SO nice to agree COMPLETELY with somebody for a change.

A major area of disagreement I have with both supporters and critics of The Harbinger concerns the role of Israel vis a vis the Church in the last days, and I've done some posts on this topic. I have not yet arrived at an end-times theology that answers enough of the relevant questions for me so I remain suspended in a general sort of way on these issues, although I know at least I'm not a Preterist or an Amillennialist. I do strongly believe, however, that the Church is the fulfillment of God's plan of redemption, traceable through scripture from Eden, that the Church is the Elect or the Chosen People and was always God's Chosen ("Not all Israel is Israel"), which includes all believing faithful Jews from Abraham to the present. Many of the ministries I may otherwise agree with consider this point of view to be "replacement theology" as if it's an unfair usurpation of the role of Israel or the Jews, but I believe scripture is clear that the Church IS the true Israel, the inheritor of God's covenant with Abraham, and was always God's plan to be realized through the death of the Messiah, and that unsaved people who reject Christ, the Messiah promised from Eden, simply cannot be God's Chosen. I've heard this view called "unbiblical" though it's completely based on the Bible.

Nevertheless just watching history unfold, just recognizing the reestablishment of Israel on their ancient land after almost 2000 years, just watching the world grow in hatred toward Israel and support of the bogus "nation" of Palestine, suggests to me that God isn't finished with Israel. Developments too neatly fit the pattern of humanity's "enmity with God" and against God's will. Although Israel is in rejection of God by rejecting His Messiah, if they didn't somehow represent Him and His plans I wouldn't expect the world to hate them as they do. So I find it hard to deny that God MUST have some plans left for national Israel of some kind and such plans fit with a lot of scripture that deals with the last days.

I haven't studied the relevant scriptures well enough to apply them to the situation but there are some Old Testament verses that are particularly hard to apply to the Church. Those who deny national Israel ANY Biblical role at all find ways to apply them to the Church, I know, but as I'm not up on the arguments I can only point to the current world situation and, knowing that God is in charge of all things, suspect He's going to make Israel the centerpiece of His final conquest of Planet Earth, not the redemption of mankind which comes through the Church, but some kind of earthly finale out of which enormous numbers of Jews will be saved. He IS going to return to the Mount of Olives, and I just can't spiritualize such a solidly earthly location to make it mean something else. Scripture is a bit ambiguous on all these things, however, that's why I haven't arrived at a definite position though so many others do who've studied it all in more depth. Still, even the best exegetes disagree with each other anyway. But history is also God's work.

Just believing that God still has a plan for earthly Israel puts me in the category of "Progressive Dispensationalist" according to one authority I consulted, although I don't recognize myself in much of the descriptions of that view I've found online. And according to Chris Pinto what I believe is what the Protestant Reformers believed so there must be a Reformed category it belongs in rather than dispensationalism.

Maybe I'm all wrong, of course. I guess I won't know until I see the Lord.

Waiting around for David James' book to arrive somehow prompted all the above a couple weeks ago but I didn't leave it up. The book arrived and I've spent most of my time on that since then. Now I'm burnt out, need a break. So the above is getting posted after all for a different reason.