Monday, October 8, 2012

The Gazit Stone According to David James

I've already answered this subject in general, the bricks and stones, the sycamore and the conifer.  The objection that for the harbingers in America to BE harbingers they must be more similar than they are to the originals in Isaiah doesn't hold water.  You can't expect as much similarity as is being demanded between cultures and times and climates as far apart as ancient Israel and modern New York City. 

There must be very clear similarities, of course, so that the connection between the contemporary circumstances and the passage of scripture is inescapable, but it is equivalence as defined by the different circumstances that makes for the necessary similarity, and as I argue in a recent post, the harbingers that occurred in America are really perfect in that respect as they are the best 21st Century American equivalent in each case of the event in ancient Israel. 

But James objects to the hewn stone or Gazit Stone on another ground as well. 

He starts with the usual ridiculous requirement that the new skyscraper must be BUILT WITH hewn stones, that the single twenty-ton quarried cornerstone
has the feeling of yet another stretch in the author's attempt to demonstrate a parallel that simply doesn't exist.  In Isaiah's prophecy, it is clear that in place of clay bricks being the primary buiding material, hewn stone would be used.  However, the new Freedom Tower was never to be build with stone any more than the original structures were built with bricks [p. 95].
This is New York City 2001, Mr. James, you aren't going to build skyscrapers with clay bricks or hewn stones.  Does the lack of a correspondence between their methods and ours mean God can't talk to us at all through Isaiah 9:10?  Funny, the attitude expressed in that verse so perfectly describes America's after 9/11 it seems a shame to tell us that we can't heed its so specific description and warning of judgment because skyscrapers aren't built with bricks and stones.

And then too, it is already amazing that the WTC rubble was described as looking like a pile of bricks and that a quarried stone was brought in to be the start of the rebuilding, actually part of the new structure.  Both those facts tie 9/11 to Isaiah 9:10 quite well really, and the wonderful cultural equivalcnce between the trees and the even more wonderful fact of the speeches quoting that verse really seal the deal.

But he even goes on to suggest that the fact that the cornerstone didn't get used after all somehow makes it even less of a harbinger.  Kind of totally misses the point, I'd say, as the mere fact that it was intended for the purpose and dedicated for the purpose -- with a speech said over it and all -- makes it even more of a harbinger than if it had been used, because it shows that God wanted it to be in the picture here, wanted us to notice it, record it. 

And Isaiah 9:10 is not about actually rebulding, it's about the INTENTION to rebuild, that's the attitude of defiance itself right there.  Even if nothing is built at all this defiant intention to do so is the whole point, it's what the harbingers point us back to.  That's the function of the harbingers, to show us our own defiance just as it is described in that verse, and show it to us in an unforgettable way.  

That verse would describe America's attitude even if there were nothing that could have been called a pile of bricks or a hewn stone nor any trees involved at all in the destruction of the WTC, but the fact that there were, and such literal equivalences too, really ought to show God's hand in making this connection to even the most skeptical.  The parallel is there without all the signs and harbingers, but with them it ought to be a really LOUD wake-up call even to the hard-of-hearing.

However, I'll agree with James that Cahn's explanation that the removal of the cornerstone was part of the judgment isn't a very effective answer.  I've given my own which I think is better:  the mere bringing in of the stone is the necessary equivalence with Isaiah 9:10, as it expresses the intention to rebuild as described in the verse, and it's something only God could have done.

Then James goes on to object to Cahn's way of dramatizing the hewn stone as The Gazit Stone with capitals, which he says would lead the average reader to
assume that a "Gazit Stone" was a specially named ceremonial stone that was laid when Israel embarked on a building project [p. 96].
I agree that this way of describing it assigns a special quality to it but I don't see that it does so for Israel, although it does for America, where since it is one gigantic quarried stone it seems to deserve the special designation.  This is just Cahn's love of dramatization taking over here, and I don't see it as a problem myself. 

James says, 
...[A]ncient Israel did not lay a 'Gazit Stone.'  They built or rebuilt with gazit -- it was simply the building material.
True, but nothing he quoted from The Harbinger suggests that Israel used this specially designated stone, only America, and in America where it was a single gigantic symbolic stone it seems appropriate enough to me to give it that special ceremonial title. 

It is simply not a harbinger
says James.

Why, because Cahn gave it a noble title befitting its noble role?  It's a quarried stone.  The parallel with the quarried stones of Isaiah 9:10 sure occurs to some of us, if not David James, and that's what makes it a harbinger.  For some of us at least.  If you spend all your time making the visible invisible and the material nonexistent I guess you'll have to do without the signs from God.

Cahn's Message Brings Many to Salvation

Got a report this morning from someone who was at Jan Markell's Understanding the Times Conference this weekend, that Jonathan Cahn's talk on Saturday was a great success and that possibly as many as a hundred came to salvation through it. 

I'm reporting this because my source is credible and respected but I do have to add that I don't generally trust reports of "altar call" conversions either in church or at conferences.  You can't tell from a show of hands or people going forward what their motives are, whether they are Christians in a state of doubt desiring a renewal of their faith, nonChristians getting the message for the first time, people with a temporary pang of conscience that won't last long, people with a wrong idea of the gospel or what. 

While it is always the ultimate aim to bring people to Christ, Christians have many secondary callings such as to be salt and light in the culture and The Harbinger is that sort of message more than it is an evangelical message.  Restraining evil in our world by calls to national repentance for the sins that are destroying the nation would no doubt bring many to conversion but if it merely stirs up people's consciences so that they turn against the sins of the nation that's the work of God too. 

Did the repentance of Nineveh mean mass conversion to the God of Israel?  I don't get that message, I get the message that God had mercy on them in a temporal way as the city repented for their idolatries and other sins.  This kind of work in the world shouldn't be denigrated even if salvation is the ultimate most desirable outcome.  Improving the moral climate of a nation in this fallen world and therefore the peace and wellbeing of that nation is not something to be despised.

The Isaiah 9:10 Effect According to David James, Part 3

James goes on to what he calls "a historical problem" if there "really is such a thing as the Isaiah 9:10 Effect": 
What if "the breach" and "the terrorist" had been observed in 1812 or 1861 ot 1941?  In theory, could sojmeone have discovered the 'hidden ancient mystery' of Isaiah 9:10 in 1949?  And if it had been claimed that Pearl Harbor was a breach by an enemy who persistently used terrorist tactics throughout the war in the Pacific (which the Japanese did), then could it not be argued that God's hedge of protection had been withdrawn prior to December 7, 1941?  And if the hedge of protection had been removed long before 9/11, had God put yet another hedge of protection in place since WWII?  The questions are truly endless. 

This is not an attempt to mock the author.  This is a very serious issue because  if he is correct about the Isaiah 9:10 Effect, then it could have happened at any time in the past or it could happen again at any time in the future.  On the other hand, if it could only have happened one time on September 11, 2001, then there is no such thing as the Isaiah 9:10 Effect as a principle [p. 130].
Well, there is no such thing as James' straw-man version of The Isaiah 9:10 Effect which he persists in making into a general biblical principle apart from its application to 9/11, that's true, but that's not what Cahn means by it.  Even in its own specific context as a description of Israel at that particular time you can say that the attitude of defiance DID set in motion further judgment so that it's right enough to speak of an Isaiah 9:?10 Effect in that context alone. 

Beyond that it functions as an effect BECAUSE of its application in America.  IF it had applied to America at an earlier time then one has to assume that it would have been a principle and an effect at that time just as it is now, but it DIDN'T apply then.  God sovereignly disposes these things, the events, the discovery of the events, in this case by Cahn, and so on.  In His will it applies NOW and it is in its applying now that it becomes a principle and an effect from which further events can be expected to follow, just as they followed for Israel.

This is the usual problem the critics have of getting the cart before the horse and imputing their mistake to Cahn.   Isaiah 9:10 is a principle and an effect AFTER we see that it is being repeated in America.  As it concerned ancient Israel alone it is simply a description of what happened to Israel, with of course the obvious message to the reader that it's not a good thing to ignore God's judgments. 

But once we see that the message to Israel in all its parts also applies here, even to the manifestations of the harbingers that so uncannily echo Isaiah 9:10, then we can expect that the implication of further judgment to Israel also applies to America.

But James finds more problems to bring up:
If Cahn is right about the Isaiah 9:10 Effect, this raises another very important question:  Are there any other prophetic passages in the Old Testament that also function like the Isaiah 9:10 Effect?  How many other prophecies that were directed to israel can also be correlated to historical events in the United States?
Short answer:  Only those that APPLY to the United States. 

And again we have the situation of the cart before the horse.  The critics keep locating the effect, the principle and now the prophetic import of Isaiah 9:10, along with America itself, back in Isaiah, when none of these things become effect, principle or prophecy UNTIL they apply to America. 

He asks if there is
also a Genesis 12:2 Effect?:  I will make you a great nation;  I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.
Or a Joshua 1:2 Effect?: 
Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you , as I said to Moses
Are there dozens of others?  Or is Isaiah 9:10 the only such passage in the entire Bible?  If the Isaiah 9:10 Effect really exists, then it seems remarkably unlikely that it would be the only such principle in the entire Old Testament.  But if not from the context, how could it possibly be known whether any given passage is supposed to functon in this way:?  And yet there is nothing whatsoever in the context of Isaiah 9:10 that would suggest the existence of such an effect.
Quite true.  The Effect is not IN Isaiah 9:10 or its context.  James keeps making the Effect INHERENT in the verse, but Cahn does not make it inherent in the verse, same as he doesn't treat America as inherent in the verse as the critics so persistently and mistakenly do.  Again, the Effect BECOMES the Effect in its application to America. 

There is no way that I can see that Genesis 12:2 or Joshua 1:2 would or could ever apply outside their specific immediate context,* and there also don't seem to be any implications of those verses that could become a general principle anyway.  But Isaiah 9:10 embodies, even in its context as a message to Israel alone, a principle that we can also take as a warning to us: that God does not overlook defiance of His judgment but "His hand is stretched out still" in further jugment.

Then beyond that, we can see that it clearly and specifically applies to America's response to 9/11 as it describes America's own defiance of the attack on the WTC as God's judgment, and then beyond that we have Cahn's revelations of the appearance of all those harbingers or signs that SHOULD tell anyone with any biblical sense at all that America is on the same course to much more severe judgment that Israel was on as described in that passage in Isaiah.

James has missed it entirely, got it all as wrong as it can be got, and yet he's so sure of his analysis of the situation he concludes the chapter with this: 
If a proposed theological or spiritual idea is not found in the Bible, or if it cannot at least be supported by the text in some way, then someone made it up.  This is exactly the nature of the Isaiah 9:10 Effect -- someone made it up [THFOF p. 131].
Well, somebody sure did make up a whole lot of stuff about The Isaiah 9:10 Effect that completely turns the meaning backwards, stuff that's certainly unsupported by the text to say the least, and it wasn't Jonathan Cahn. 

* Except as "Israel" MIGHT refer to the Church as it often does in the OT, but I'm not arguing that one here one way or the other.

The Isaiah 9:10 Effect According to David James Part 2

So David James has made the absurd accusation that
In the author's mind, Isaiah's words in the alleged Isaiah 9:10 Effect actually cause things to happen.  This is clearly affirmed in the following exchange at the end of chapter 16: 
[The Prophet] ...In this mystery the connections are evcn more beyond the realm of the natural. ... [Kaplan] And they connect 9/11 to the economic collapse? [The Prophet]  Not only do they connect them ... they determined them ... down to the time each would take place .... Yes, an ancient mystery upon which the global economy and every transaction within it was determined, a mystery that begins more than three thousand years ago in the sands of a Middle Eastern desert. {Sorry, I can't figure out the new Blogger formatting}
Now, I know what is meant by this, and I think most people reading the book don't have a problem with it, but if you are of a certain critical mindset I suppose you could get hung up on the word "determined" and think it SEEMS to be saying that the words of Isaiah 9:10 are MAKING something happen. 

Jonathan Cahn seems to have certain habits of mind that are unique to himself and may rattle some people who have different habits of mind. It's just the way he thinks, and he writes his book the way he thinks. He is apparently fascinated with the fact that scripture is supernatural, that it contains mysteries that no one would have known had it not been written straight from the mind of God, that it relates across three thousand years of time in a supernatural way, reaching into the future and judging our own time just as pertinently as it judges the time in which it was written.

Perhaps this comes mostly out of his Messianic frame of reference.  He seems to delight in the Jewishness of the scriptures the way many Messianics I've known do, and he extends that delight into all the Jewish writings, enjoying digging out their own unwitting affirmations of the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, mysteries of God's truth being revealed even in the context of writings that reject Jesus Christ. This is how he uses the Zohar for instance, not as a mystical tool but as a revealer of the gospel. All of it serves the gospel of Christ and that is his purpose in making use of these other writings.

But his habits of thought may cause a problem for some who let their own unfamiliarity with his style lead them into unfair judgment of it. David James for instance, later on in his book, lists some of the titles of Cahn's sermons from his website, particularly picking out those with "mystery" in the title or description, or extrabiblical references of various kinds, and gives the very stern warning: 
The titles and descriptions of just a few of his messages should serve as a warning to any serious student of the Scriptures [p. 193].
Certainly makes one stop and shudder for a moment.  But there are hints even in the titles he lists that it is biblical truth, the gospel itself, that is the central concern in all these sermons.  Apparently James hasn't heard any of them and is allowing himself to draw conclusions from the titles and bare descriptions alone in the context of his own presuppositions.  I haven't heard any of the sermons either, but I know already from a previous discussion of how Cahn uses the Zohar that his aim is most likely to be to bring out BIBLICAL truth from these extrabiblical sources. 

And there's nothing unusual about that aim, especially in the Messianic Jewish context.  We should all be familiar for starters with the many studies of the Types in scripture that reveal gospel truths -- let's call them gospel "mysteries" to show how Cahn is using that word -- the picture of Jesus Christ that is to be found in the scriptural description of the plan of the tabernacle for instance. The Old Testament is full of such types and the New Testament reveals them fulfilled in Christ.

The Messianic movement has added to these scriptural "mysteries" the pictures of Christ in the Jewish Holy Days as practiced by today's UNbelieving Jews -- in the Passover meal for instance.  I suspect this is really all Jonathan Cahn is doing with the other extrabiblical writings mentioned in the list of his sermons, showing how they point to Christ in spite of themselves.

Again, most readers have no problem with Cahn's style, but the critics are stubbing their toes on every slightly unusual wording and instead of doubting their own understanding they're getting carried away into unjustifiable excesses of condemnation.

So David James finds serious problems with The Isaiah 9:10 Effect that come out of his own preconceptions and distort the meaning intended by Cahn.  
... even if he were discussing only the fulfillment of Isaiah 9:10 in ancient Israelk, this would not be a good way to explain how prophecies work.  The reason that prophesied events happen is ecause God caues them to happen, not because the prophecy itself somehow Yet Cahn seems to be suggesting that as a principle the Isaiah 9:10 Effect can cause these same events to happen anywhere at any time once it is triggered.  [p. 129].
As I've already discussed, this is an absurd misreading of the concept.  The Isaiah 9:10 Effect is nothing more than the content of the verse, which describes Israel's defiance of God's judgment in the Assyrian attack, being the obvious cause of the further judgment to come, as described in the very next verse.  Ignore God's warning, expect further judgment. 

David James himself even seems to suspect this is what it means when he goes on to say
Of course, if it were simply a general principle such as that of 'sowing and reaping' or like the many principles found in Proverbs, it wouldn't necessarily be as problematic.  Even this would disregard the fact that Isaiah 9:10 does not appear to be a principle in context.
Well, it does amount to a general principle such as "sowing and reaping" as I've argued in the previous post, because it gives the CONDITION for further judgment to come, the defiance of God's warning judgment in the Assyrian attack, so that God's hand is "stretched out still" meaning further judgment must come because of their defiance.  Defy God's warning, more judgment will come.  THAT's The Isaiah 9:10 Effect.  It's obvious to most of us, it SHOULD be obvious to David James and the other critics, who instead are letting Cahn's somewhat unusual wording hang them up.  Instead of judging their own misreading the critics harshly judge Cahn for what is really their own error. 

Their assumptions lead them to crazy-making rejection of Cahn's own attempts to correct them:
As noted before Cahn strenuously argues that he has been misunderstood by those who believe he is saying that Isaiah 9:10 specifically applies to America.
Cahn has over and over tried to explain that this IS a misunderstanding, and over and over the critics deny him the right to speak for himself.  Reminds me of the Inquisition where there's no way to be innocent once they've decided you're guilty.  Even "strenuously" defending yourself can't allay this entrenched suspiciousness.  Everything you say on your own behalf only confirms your guilt and the more "strenuously" you say it the guiltier you are.  Is this the way Christians should deal with other Christians?  Whatever happened to benefit of the doubt, to extending grace? 
However, if that is not what he is saying, then the only other possible explanation is that the Isaiah 9:10 Effect is an independent and formulaic principle that operates in a mystical way through the power of the words themselves.
One could almost admire the jesuitical cleverness of this logic -- if you can't get 'em one way you'll get 'em the other.  Oh I'm sure James is quite sincere, however, and believes what he is saying.  I don't know if that makes it better or worse.

Please, Mr. James, consider that it is NEITHER that Isaiah 9:10 specifically applies to America in the sense that it was written TO America at the time of Isaiah, NOR that there is some kind of mystical power of words involved.  It is quite simply and biblically that Isaiah 9:10 describes the attitude of defiance that INEXORABLY LEADS TO further judgment by God, as expressed in the very next verse, as "His hand is stretched out still," AND that it applies to America because it describes America's attitude just as it describes Israel's.  There is nothing mystical about this, it's standard application of the biblical text.   It describes America EVEN WITHOUT the harbingers, but the harbingers, those uncanny appearances of the very literal elements of Isaiah 9:10 in America, nail it down with a special emphasis that OUGHT to cause the most sceptical to snap to attention.

So yes, certain things MUST happen as a result of this defiance, all in keeping with what we all SHOULD know about what God has said about blessing for obedience and punishing for disobedience.  As I said before, scripture is saturated with this BIBLICAL principle. 

And there's more yet.  Sigh.