Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Criticism of The Harbinger: Douma, Pt. 4 The Shemitah

The other point I wanted to get to but didn't in the last post is Douma's remarks about the concept of the Shemitah as as it is used in The Harbinger.  There's a lot to say about this concept that I'm not going to get to, I just want to respond to Douma's main point.

First as usual we encounter the Dispensationalist framework which is what is making an ungodly and unbiblical confusion out of the whole discussion, when Douma objects to Cahn's applying the concept of the Shemitah to America at all, since according to that system of Bible-mangling it was
meant only for Israel.
He condemns Cahn for applying it to America, quoting page 159 of The Harbinger:
The sign of the Shemitah, given to a nation that has driven God out of its life
 Interesting that he doesn't quote the earlier part of that dialogue:
Yes, but what does it have to do with America.  Ameica has never had a Sabbath Year. 
That's correct.  It was only commanded for one nation.  But the issue here isn't the literal observance of the Shemitah or any requirement to keep it....  The issue here... is its dynamic, its effect and its consequence.... The issue is The Shemitah as a sign.
Cahn, in other words, is clearly not applying the Shemitah to America in the same sense it was given to Israel.  I don't want to get into that here except to say that I think he observed -- emphasis on OBSERVED -- somethng interesting about a pattern of seven years that actually OCCURRED in America that led to the connection with the biblical concept of the Shemitah. That is, it isn't something he took from the Bible to make it fit America, it was the other way around.

Be that as it may, for another discussion another time, Douma, having found Cahn at fault for applying the Shemitah to America at all, says 
Are you and I bound to sabbatical rest laws?  Isn't he saying as Peter did that we Gentiles have to start living like Jews?  [41:59]  How is that not a distortion of the goepsl?  Where is the criticism of that?  How is Cahn not trying to build up a wall that was taken down by Christ in Ephesians 2, the wall of separation, the Mosaic law that separated Jews and Gentiles.  Is not Cahn rebuilding that wall once again?  Of course he is.  So this is a gospel issue.  He's resstablishing the Mosaic Law and now it applies to you and I [sic].  [42:28]

No, I'm free from that in Christ.
Here can be seen one major confusion that needs to be untangled.  Douma fails to distinguish between the inheritance of freedom in Christ that we have AS BELIEVERS and the condition of the unbeliever, but also between individuals and nations.  The Harbinger is about the nation of America.  It is the NATION that is coming under judgment by God.  That will certainly affect individuals, both believers and unbelievers, but the judgment as such is about the nation and not the individuals. 

God deals with individuals individually.  That is a different thing altogether from His judgment of nations as nations. 

9/11 should have been recognized as judgment on America by anyone with any biblical sense at all, and I have to say most of the nation has no biblical sense so it's no wonder it was missed.  America as a nation is corporately in defiance of God, only too well described in Isaiah 9:10 but also given a special confirmation and emphasis by the existence of the harbingers as described in Cahn's book, and it all relates specifically to 9/11. 

But this does not in any way imply anything about the individuals who were killed on that day.  We have no way of knowing how God dealt with them and it's none of our business.  Some were no doubt believers, some weren't.  We can say that God showed a great deal of mercy in the midst of that judgment, in that relatively so few were killed when so many thousands more could have been killed.  There are miracle stories galore about that day. 

Judgment on a nation is NOT at all the same thing as judgment on individuals.

So when we think about elements of the Old Testament coming to apply to America today we have to keep the nation separate in our thinking from individuals, either believers or unbelievers.

Yes, we BELIEVERS are free from the Law in Christ, but unbelievers are not but "abide under the wrath of God" as scripture says, and nations are still corporately dealt with by the Law in the fashion laid down in scripture for Israel.  The Mosaic law is really a revelation of The Law that runs this universe.   It's no arbitrary thing.  It inexorably rules, it inexorably judges.  That is why we NEED the gospel to rescue us from it as individuals, and we can ONLY be rescued AS individuals. 

But outside the gospel The Law goes right on ruling and judging.  The Mosaic Law was the basis for Blackstone's Commentaries on the law that used to be the foundation for English and American law.  No more of course since the Bible as any kind of authority in our world has been brought down by the powers of evil.  But once upon a time The Mosaic Law was taken to be the foundation for all civilized laws in this fallen world.


Cahn is NOT reestablishing the wall of separation, he is simply doing what sane intelligent Christians, unhampered by idiotic Dispensationalist presuppositions, have ALWAYS done, apply the Law to NATIONS.

The confusion in the critical attacks on The Harbinger is truly dangerous -- again, far beyond The Harbinger.  Maybe it's because of this truly unbiblical system of theology that so many pastors in this nation had no clue that 9/11 was God's judgment in the first place.   These critics, even when they think the nation deserves judgment for all the sins they can enumerate that all conservative Christians agree about, seem to be strangely unable to be SURE of it.  Well, we MAY be coming under judgment they say, or maybe we're GOING TO BE some time in the near future.  This is a terrible blindness and it's sad to think it might be theologically induced blindness.

New Criticism of the Harbinger: Douma, Pt. 3 Patterns and Signs

I want to respond to just a couple of points here made by Douma that typify the strange forced pedantic thinking of all the critics.

First, again, they're all clearly dispensationalists who disallow the application of Old Testament messages to Israel to any other nation.  At least when Cahn does it.  They're all in favor of Pastor Lutzer's doing it.  I haven't yet sorted out what they think the difference is.

That benighted theological system dispensationalism underlies everything they say about the book in one way or another.  Douma makes much of Cahn's supposed misuse of the idea of a "pattern" in Isaiah that applies to America.  Cahn has already objected to the critics' strange inability to grasp this idea, pointing out that they are failing to distinguish between the interpretation of a passage as it was given to Israel, and its application to other contexts, such as America in this case, and that is true.  But Douma agrees in the abstract with that statement while also failing to notice that very error in his own argument.

Around 29:40 on the counter Douma says Cahn distorts BOTH interpretation and application.  He goes on to make the damning remark that this pattern
"exists only in Cahn's mind.  It is not a pattern that is revealed by Isaiah nor any other prophet.  It is just simply not there."
Later [31:05] he embellishes this with 
Cahn is replacing inspiration with his imagination.
Side note:  Do these critics have any idea just HOW damning their statements are?  Does one normally accuse other Christians of this degree of error?  Well, perhaps they doubt that Cahn is actually a Christian?  These remarks are scorchingly condemnatory no matter how politely or matter-of-factly  they are spoken.

Aside from that, the expectation that a pattern in order to be a pattern must have been revealed by the prophet himself, is missing the way Cahn means it is a pattern.  It is a pattern BECAUSE it applies to America.  Once you see that it DOES apply to America (and even without the harbingers it applies to America) THEN it can be seen as the pattern for America.  America WAS and IS in defiance of God about 9/11 as God's judgment and Isaiah 9:10 HAPPENS TO DESCRIBE AMERICA'S DEFIANT ATTITUDE ALL TOO WELL.  Once that is recognized what is the problem in referring to the original description of Israel's defiant attitude as the PATTERN for America's?

He goes on to claim [30:35]  that Cahn is "distorting an actual biblical pattern" as well, which turns out to mean that the prophecies in Isaiah can't refer to America because they all refer to the Day of the Lord.   Now, this piece of wild nonsense just about makes me want to throw in the towel on this boxing match.  When the terms of the argument get this bizarre what can you do?  You're dealing with an opponent who doesn't recognize any of the known rules that I'm aware of, and he's actually got people cheering him on.  Brannon Howse??  Would Erwin Lutzer agree with him about this?  What on earth are these people thinking?  Supposedly the prophecies refer ONLY to the Day of the Lord, therefore Cahn is "distorting an actual biblical pattern?"  Since when are we not allowed to apply an Old Testament passage to our own time, situation, nation or whatever no matter WHAT ELSE it applies to?  Please, someone tell me there's a way out of this Twilight Zone.  Is this to be put down to dispensationalism, and if so, where does THEIR usual application of Old Testament principles of judgment to America come in anyway?

The condemnatory terms just go on escalating: 
"The "pattern" is reader-derived, that is, by Cahn, not author-derived, and so herefore he is like a postmodern who says the Bible can mean whatever I say it means and to me that is a great danger."
Now Cahn is Postmodern?   Basically because Douma insists on his own pedantic formulaic misreading of the word "pattern" and not because there is anything the slightest postmodern about Cahn or The Harbinger.  Cahn is applying perfectly standard reasonable rules of interpretation in his use of Isaiah.  I'm beginning to think the only "danger" is with this sort of irresponsible criticism.  THIS is what needs to be condemned, in no uncertain terms. 

I have to suppose that the critics believe their own stuff, that is, they are sincere, but they are so hideously destructively WRONG they shouldn't be allowed a platform to do the damage they are doing.  Not just to The Harbinger but to normal standards of Bible interpretation, and to the poor beleaguered human beings who have to try to make sense out of this stuff and may actually take it as authoritative and pass it on.  Somebody who has some clout in the Christian world, which is certainly not I, needs to give them a helpfully abrupt hand down from their soapbox before they do more damage. 

Douma gets pedantic about the meaning of "signs" as well, as he objects to Cuah's claiming that the elements of Isaiah 9:8-11 are harbingers or signs to Israel as well as to America.  
God's not saying these are signs of judgment, they're just judgment.
Actually I'd say it's a description of how God brought a first judgment, then of how Israel defied that judgment by determining they'd rebuild what was destroyed without acknowledging the destructon as judgment, followed by God's saying THEREFORE He's going to bring even MORE judgment (verse 11.)  The elements that Cahn identifies as signs or harbingers are events that the Israelites SHOULD have recognized as God's hand in judgment and since they didn't but defied them, then, along with their statements of defiance as well, they become signs of the threat of future judgment to anyone who knows how to think biblically -- or think at all. 

Cahn is NOT using the concept of the harbingers or omens or signs in the sense Douma points to in Isaiah 7:14 and the births of the oddly-named children of Isaiah, all of which are clearly called signs to Israel.  Douma insists on his pedantic definitions of words and misses the context completely and this kind of misbegotten thinking becomes the basis for another excoriating attack on Jonathan Cahn and The Harbinger.

I'll have to save the other topic for the next post. 

Blessings in the Lord to those who RIGHTLY DIVIDE THE WORD OF TRUTH.

Lord, please bring sanity to this dispute.