NRA: God Bless You, Dr. Rosenzweig

NRA: God Bless You, Dr. Rosenzweig April 5, 2013

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 139-141

Buck Williams and his charter pilot land safely inside of one of the contradictions in Tim LaHaye’s “Bible prophecy.”

“Don’t worry about me, buddy boy,” Ken Ritz told Buck as he helped him off the Learjet. “I’ll hangar this baby and find a place to crash for a few days. I’ve always wanted to tour this country, and it’s nice to be in a place that hasn’t been blown to bits.”

LaHaye’s prophecy scheme tells us that after the Rapture of all real, true Christians, the Great Tribulation begins. During this final seven-year period, the Antichrist will rule over the world as the all-powerful dictator of an all-encompassing one-world government.

LaHaye’s prophecy also tells us that the first thing this Antichrist will do as head of the OWG is sign a peace treaty with the nation of Israel.

See the problem here? LaHaye doesn’t. He’s told us that the Antichrist will rule over every single nation on Earth, sweeping aside all former national boundaries and sovereignties to create a single, global empire.

Except somehow Israel isn’t included. So the Antichrist’s global empire is apparently like the old Los Angeles Country Club.

Nicolae Carpathia’s not-quite global one-world government (gray).

This is the sort of problem that comes from taking a bunch of verses from Daniel and a bunch of verses from Revelation and pretending they’re all about the same thing — a prediction of a future empire that has nothing to do with the Seleucid or Roman contexts that the authors of those books were writing about.

LaHaye’s strategy for dealing with this contradiction is to ignore it and hope no one notices. That means poor Jerry Jenkins has to ignore it too in his attempt to type up a fictional depiction of the fulfillment of these “prophecies.”

Jenkins slips up a bit here, shining a spotlight on this contradiction with Ken Ritz’s comment that “it’s nice to be in a place that hasn’t been blown to bits.” At this point in the story, the Antichrist has been wantonly bombing major cities throughout his OWG — destroying London, New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Toronto, Mexico City, Cairo, etc., and raining death down on millions of his subjects. Israel thus becomes the only safe haven in the world. The place ought to be swarming with refugees.

But then, inexplicably, Nicolae Carpathia’s sudden war against his own empire hasn’t produced any refugees anywhere. Buck and Ken began their journey in Milwaukee — a city one would expect to have been flooded by refugees from the war zone in Chicago. Yet the nuclear destruction of Chicago doesn’t seem to have altered the daily routine of life in Milwaukee at all. The destruction of O’Hare International Airport in Chicago didn’t even disrupt flight schedules in or out of Milwaukee.

The destruction of Chicago doesn’t seem to have resulted in refugees even in Cicero or Evanston or Oak Lawn or any of the other adjoining cities and towns — all of which are miraculously unscathed and unperturbed.

Pause to think about things like that for too long and you’ll never be able to keep reading. It’s too huge. The whole story — and the whole alleged “prophecy” depicted by the story — collapses under the weight of such vast, weird impossibilities. So let’s not pause too long. Let’s just say again, quickly, “Just go with it” and race ahead to the next bit.

Unfortunately, Jerry Jenkins isn’t going to allow us to race ahead just yet. The rest of this chapter turns out to be a review of prophecy/plot points from the first two books.

Buck thanked him and grabbed his bag, slinging it over his shoulder. He headed toward the terminal. There, beyond the plate-glass window, he saw the enthusiastic wave of the wispy little old man with the flyaway hair, Chaim Rosenzweig. How he wanted this man to become a believer! Buck had come to love Chaim. That was not an expression he would have used about the other man back when he first met the scientist. It had been only a few years, but it seemed so long ago.

This is where, if this were a 1980s TV series, the screen would go all wavy and we’d hear Buck in voice-over saying, dreamily, “I remember it like it was yesterday …” The two-fold purpose of the next seven pages is the same as those old TV flashbacks: 1) To remind viewers/readers of what happened previously in the series, and 2) To cut expense/effort by recycling old clips instead of filming/writing new material.

Buck had been the youngest senior writer in the history of Global Weekly — in fact, in the history of international journalism. He had unabashedly campaigned for the job of profiling Dr. Rosenzweig as the Weekly’s “Man of the Year.”

I feel a little sorry for Buck here, congratulating himself on his “historic” designation as a senior writer. What this designation actually meant was that Stanton Bailey realized he could save some overtime expense by switching Buck from an hourly employee to an exempt, salaried staff-member. Bailey guessed, correctly, that this little ladder-climber would be so intoxicated by the new title that he wouldn’t even realize it meant longer hours for less pay. “Good news, Williams! We’re making you a senior writer — the youngest senior writer the magazine has ever had.” The kid bought it hook, line and sinker.

Buck had first met the man a little more than a year before that assignment, after Rosenzweig had won a huge international prize for his invention (Chaim himself always called it more of a discovery) of a botanic formula. Rosenzweig’s concoction, some said without much exaggeration, allowed flora to grow anywhere — even on concrete.

The latter had never been proven; however, the desert sands of Israel soon began to blossom like a greenhouse. Flowers, corn, beans, you name it, every spare inch of the tiny nation was quickly cleared for agriculture. Overnight, Israel had become the richest nation in the world.

We covered this back in the first chapter of the first book — the strangeness of imagining that agriculture was the path to becoming “the richest nation in the world” (see “Weird Science” — from October of omigod 2003). Among the many things Jenkins hasn’t considered here is the difference between growing, say, corn, and growing “flowers.” He seems to assume that everything can be harvested by machine — like in that retrofuturist robot-farm diorama in Disney’s World of Tomorrow. That overlooks the vast army of farmworkers this plan would require to harvest things like flowers, tomatoes, strawberries, etc.

Although Israel’s sudden, massive need for such labor might help to account for another puzzling, impossible-seeming assertion from this section back in the first book, the authors’ matter-of-fact, unexplained and unsupported statement that:

The prosperity brought about by the miracle formula changed the course of history for Israel. Flush with cash and resources, Israel made peace with her neighbors.

And by “made peace with,” the authors actually mean “annexed and absorbed,” since we’re told that — thanks entirely to Rosenzweig’s miracle formula — the nation of Israel has expanded to include what in the actual world is the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and parts of Iraq.

The unreality of this whole bit regarding Chaim Rosenzweig’s miracle formula comes from the backwards process of Jenkins’ project here. He’s not trying to tell a story, but to depict the fulfillment of a prophecy. Thus instead of asking the storyteller’s question — “What happens next?” — he starts with that answer and works backwards.

This miracle formula is a potentially interesting idea. A capable science fiction writer could start with that idea and extrapolate the kind of new world that would develop from such a premise — complete with the conflicts, and thus the stories, that this new world would bring. But that’s not how Jenkins approaches any of this. He’s starting with a bunch of texts describing prosperity in an ancient, agrarian society, and treats those texts as predictive prophecies about the future. He’s not at all curious about imagining the ramifications of Rosenzweig’s formula, or how such a thing would change and reshape the actual world. He just wants to check off another box on LaHaye’s prophecy check list.

“Desert blooms.” Check. “Magog” and Ethiopia invade without effect. Check.

That second one is pieced together from bits of Ezekiel. This is inserted into the “prophecy” from Revelation based on the dispensationalist hermeneutic principle of “Hey, what the heck, why not throw in something from Ezekiel?”

The book of Ezekiel’s reference to “Magog” is a bit obscure, but since it’s said to be north of Israel, and since it begins with an M, “Bible prophecy scholars” during the Cold War decided it meant Moscow — about which more in a moment.

Other nations had been jealous to get hold of the formula. Clearly, this was the answer to any economic woes. Israel had gone from vulnerable, geographically defenseless country to a world power — respected, feared, envied.

Respected, feared and envied seem to be presented there as synonyms. Or perhaps “feared” and “envied” are presented as the authors’ definition of what it means to be “respected.” This is helpful for understanding Tim LaHaye’s political ideology. And probably also for understanding his idea of pastoral leadership.

Other nations wanted Rosenzweig’s formula so badly that they assigned high-level diplomats and politicians to court him. He acceded to audiences from so many dignitaries that his life’s work had to be set aside. He was past retirement age anyway, but clearly here was a man more comfortable in a laboratory or a classroom than in a diplomatic setting. The darling of Israel had become the icon of world governments, and they all came calling.

Chaim had told Buck at one point that each suitor had his own not-so-hidden agenda. “I did my best to remain calm and diplomatic,” he told Buck, “but only because I was representing my mother country. I grew almost physically ill,” he added with his charming Hebrew-accented dialect, “when each began trying to persuade me that I would personally become the wealthiest man in the world if I would condescend to rent them my formula.”

That’s an odd use of “condescend” there, ignoring the usual negative connotations of hauteur associated with the word. We usually think of someone being “condescending” when they presume a kind of intrinsic superiority for themselves and thus an equivalent inferiority for others. Like, for example, when an American writer describes an Israeli character as speaking in a “charming Hebrew-accented dialect.”

The Israeli government was even more protective of the formula. They made it so clear that the formula was not for sale or rent that other countries threatened war over it, and Russia actually attacked. Buck had been in Haifa the night the warplanes came screaming in.

But if you remember the scene from back in the first book, it wasn’t only Russia that attacked. As per the arbitrarily chosen “prophecy” of Ezekiel 38, Gog and Magog are not acting alone: “Persia, Ethiopia and Put are with them.” So LaHaye’s prophecy, duly depicted by Jenkins, gives us a Russian-Ethiopian joint attack.

And here, in this flashback-summary, we’re told explicitly that this attack was sparked by Israel’s refusal to allow other nations to benefit from Rosenzweig’s formula — not for any price.

So, then, on the one hand we have Ethiopia, a nation chronically ravaged by famine. And on the other hand we have Rosenzweig’s Israel, a nation blessed with miraculous agricultural fertility that it refuses to share or even to sell to people dying of starvation. But we’re supposed to regard Ethiopia as the unambiguous villain in that scenario.

Buck’s current flashback recalls more details of his earlier flashback to the explicit divine intervention that spared Israel from any harm despite the exhaustion of Russia’s entire nuclear arsenal in its attack.

The miraculous delivery of that country from any damage, injury, or death — despite the incredible aerial assault — made Buck a believer in God, though not yet in Christ. There was no other explanation for bombs, missiles, and warships crashing and burning all over the nation, yet every citizen and building escaped unscathed.

It’s not obvious to me why the authors say there, “though not yet in Christ.” Buck’s newfound faith is the result of experiencing an epic, undeniable supernatural act by the God of Israel in defense of Israel. That shouldn’t have set him on a path toward Christianity, it should have made him a resolute convert to Judaism.


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