Saturday, September 8, 2012

David James' take on The Harbinger is UNBIBLICAL: an interim Summation

This is just to sum up the arguments I've been bringing against David James' critique of The Harbinger to this point.

It's been becoming clear that James' criticisms of The Harbinger, along with the other critics', are NOT biblical despite his claim, but that Jonathan Cahn has the biblical perspective. James seems to have a more technical or formal idea of what's "biblical," pointing to rules and precedents and that sort of thing, while Cahn's points are all about the message itself as given in the Bible, and it is the biblical message that he applies to America.

James is more concerned to note whether "the hedge of protection" Cahn says was removed on 9/11, really fits the actual precise biblical pattern or the historical circumstances, whereas Cahn is far more into the spirit of the thing: that is, we all FELT 9/11 was something different from the various other attacks James outlines, we FELT it to be an attack on the nation while some other attacks as James lists them FELT LIKE local criminal actions. TECHNICALLY, James may be correct to point out that at least Pearl Harbor was already a breach of whatever hedge of protection there might have been in place to that point, and one can't argue a biblical point from how it FELT to us after all, but it seems to miss the main point of The Harbinger to focus so minutely on such facts. If there IS a technical error here, fine, point it out and move on -- such criticisms don't deserve a whole book in any case -- but James and the critics make it into a major biblical failure. But it is they who are missing the point, straining out gnats and swallowing camels.

We were attacked in a NEW way on 9/11, and the entire nation viewed it that way. it wasn't merely a bomb that killed some people in New York -- which describes three of the incidents James points out -- it was an attack that killed thousands and brought down a major part of New York City's skyline.

Exactly what a "hedge of protection" amounts to biblically isn't clear, but it's a metaphor based on the hedge built around a vineyard, a metaphor for some way God protects a nation or a people or even a person from enemy attack. It may involve the stationing of angels around the target to fend off enemies. In fact it probably does. We know from the Book of Daniel that God's angels may actually fight with demonic principalities who rule over heathen nations, no doubt with an eye to protecting God's people even in that case. There is also Psalm 91, the great psalm of protection, that promises angels to guard those who trust in God;
Psa 91:10-11 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
There is also Psalm 34 that promises angelic protection:
Psalm 34:7: The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him and delivereth them."
So a Christian population should expect such protection, and a nation that subscribes to Christian principles as well. We ARE "Israel" too, not America but American Christians, and with our Christian heritage it makes sense to assume that America as a nation has also been protected by God, as we have been blessed down the centuries in unusual ways we can ascribe to our Christian heritage.

We've also been judged, The Civil War for one instance having been recognized as God's judgment even by Abraham Lincoln. But there's something new about 9/11, and the harbingers seem to me, as to so many others, to be a sort of seal on the fact that we are now under judgment in a new way, something Cahn presents as having been put in place by God Himself to call us back to Him. Or to stand as witnesses against us if we don't turn back.

If a "hedge of protection" had been in place before 9/11, it was certainly removed in that event, and if it was removed it is STILL removed, because the BIBLICAL point is that the hedge is removed when God is bringing judgment against a nation (or in the case of Job letting Satan do his worst.) Since we failed to recognize 9/11 as God's judgment and made no move to turn back the sins that brought the judgment against us, we are still under His judgment and can expect more judgment to come.

We aggressively ignored it as judgment, many rebuking and reviling those few who said it was judgment, and over and over again our political leaders said in one way or another that we were going to rebuild, without the slightest regard to God's having already judged us. Repentance is the ONLY appropriate response to an act of judgment, intentions to rebuild in that context are defiance of God. That was God's message to Israel through Isaiah in verse 9:10 and it's His same message to America.

As for James' objections about the Assyrian or The Terrorist, he seems to have scored a point against The Harbinger with his historical research that shows that today's Assyrians are in fact Christians, so that Cahn's linking today's terrorists with the ancient Assyrians may have some problems. He also questions whether the Assyrians were in fact the inventors of terrorism. Since he doesn't know himself but only raises the question, I'd trust Rabbi Cahn on this, who did a prodigious amount of research for his book. Cahn has this to say about James' objection:
The sign of The Terrorist is not dependent on blood – but simply this – That the attack on the land, the breach on the nation is accomplished specifically by agents of terror. The Assyrians were specifically the agents of terror in the ancient world – The members of Al Qaeda who carried out 9/11 were the agents of terror in the modern world

Beyond that – the Assyrians were the inventors, fathers of terrorism – any modern day terrorist is their historical disciple

Beyond that – and in the category of added and extra:

The Assyrians were children of the Middle East – the terrorists of 9/11 were children of the Middle East

The Assyrians carried out the attack in Akkadian – The terrorists of 9/11 carried out the attack in Arabic, the closest sister language to the ancient Assyrians on earth

Israel was brought into conflict with Assyria – America with Iraq – Iraq is modern-day Assyria

It is also noted as an added point that the American soldiers would have passed by the descendants of the ancient Assyrians

And a final added point – which is noted only as a possibility – that it is possible that in the veins of the terrorists (or some of) may have been blood from the ancient Assyrians - Again stated only as a possibility – not as a non-critical extra - and in the realm of possibility – and not even speaking of direct full-blooded descendants – but simply that as those of the Middle East – the likelihood that there would be some blood of the ancient Assyrians would be high – But again – none of this is the point- or the central reality – on which anything hangs or falls
My main arguments against James so far have to do with his making so much out of what are really technical or formal points and missing the actual BIBLICAL message. Such objections didn't deserve a whole book against The Harbinger. He makes an issue of the differences between the harbingers that appeared in America and the originals in Isaiah 9:10, and those differences amount in his mind to a complete negation of the claim that they are harbingers at all. Since the fallen bricks that demonstrate the destruction wrought by Assyria against Israel aren't exactly replicated in 21st century New York City, since it was only a few gbuildings and not a whole city that was destroyed and since those buildings weren't constructed of clay bricks of the sort they used in Israel, that negates Cahn's claim that the fallen bricks in any way represent the fallen World Trade Center of 9/11. Since there was only one "hewn stone" that appeared in America, albeit a highly symbolic gigantic stone intended to be the cornerstone of the new Freedom Tower that was to replace the WTC, since the new building would not be constructed with quarried stones, that supposedly negates Cahn's claim that it represents the hewn stones Israel vowed to rebuild with. Since the sycamore isn't botanically the same tree as the Middle Eastern sycamore, according to James that cancels it out completely as the symbolic match to Isaiah 9:10 that Cahn claims for it. Since the tree brought in to replace it wasn't a cedar of Lebanon but merely a Norway Spruce, a tree very closely related morphologically to that cedar according to the Linnaean classification system, that cancels it out as the match that makes it the harbinger Cahn claims it is.

One does wonder just how close a match would be accepted according to whatever standard James has in mind. How many actual clay bricks would have to be seen in the WTC rubble to qualify; how many actual quarried stones would have to be used as part of the new building, although modern construction doesn't use bricks or stone. That being the case, the mere appearance of fallen bricks in the WTC rubble as noted by journalists, and a huge quarried stone intended as cornerstone ought to be enough for any critic, but these are apparently not similar enough for them. Would it have had to be a Middle Eastern sycamore that was uprooted at Ground Zero for James to accept it as a harbinger, although those trees don't grow in North America and wouldn't have been planted in a churchyard in New York City? The uncanny fact that it is NAMED a "sycamore" after that Middle Eastern tree isn't enough for James. I suppose an actual Cedar of Lebanon might have been sent to replace it, even in North America -- God COULD no doubt have arranged for that degree of perfection in that case without leaving our modern context -- but such perfection ought not to be required, and a spruce that is the same KIND of tree, even as close as within the same "family" of trees, OUGHT to be accepted as the uncanny match Cahn finds in it. Just HOW perfect does the match have to be for James anyway? It is easy to get the impression that no match perfect enough exists for him. It would practically have had to be an exact reproduction of ancient Israel in New York City to qualify by the standards of these critics.

Then there is James' completely UNBIBLICAL treatment of the speeches of Edwards and Daschle, as he accepts uncritically the fact that neither of them INTENDED to be defiant of God by quoting Isaiah 9:10 and that they even invoked God as part of their message. This is naive at the very least but certainly unbiblical, as it misses not only the message of Isaiah 9:10 but many other passages of scripture that condemn the drawing near to God "with their lips while their hearts are far from Me." Such "lip service" is a perfect description of America's response to 9/11 in general, with all the calls for God to bless America while denouncing anyone who said the attack was God's judgment on the nation, which the speeches of Edwards and Daschle merely put into official form.

Yet James attacks Cahn's TRULY biblical understanding of all these events by his unbiblical standards.

James takes on Harbinger Nine, The Prophecy, Part 2

Now James is objecting to Cahn's contention that Daschle's quoting Isaiah 9:10 was prophetic. As with his previous objections, although his entire book is intended to show that The Harbinger fails the biblical test, I've been finding James' views to be the unbiblical views. It becomes difficult to understand what he means by "biblical" at all. I have to suppose he means something like failing to meet some hermeneutic standard as he understands it.

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:

[Kaplan] "But he was identifying Ameridca as a nation under judgment."

[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."
[James] How could Daschle have been proclaiming a prophetic word from God to the people of the United States?
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.

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.