Friday, June 1, 2012

Yes, The Harbinger IS a "matter of critical discernment" -- and the critics are the ones missing it

Here's the review of The Harbinger my friend told me was coming, from the ministry of Dave Hunt and T A McMahon, the Berean Call. Perhaps it's not the same one Jan Markell was referring to since it doesn't mention The Shack. Maybe there is yet another smear of the book yet to come. That's certainly what this one is, as objectionable as the remarks by Jimmy DeYoung on Brannon Howse's radio show a while back that I blogged on here, and the review by Gary Gilley I also blogged on.

Well, no book can expect 100% positive reviews, but this one is getting the wrong kind of criticism in my opinion.
The Harbinger-A Matter of Critical Discernment
McMahon, T.A.
He starts out criticizing it as a work of fiction and I'm not going to object to that. I'll only comment that since I came to the book after hearing a number of interviews and talks on the subject by its author I probably responded to the fictive element in a different way than someone would who comes to the book without that background. I didn't like the idea that Rabbi Cahn had chosen to fictionalize what was in reality a very dramatic story anyway, and I worried that it would lose too much of its true meaning that way. He did explain that he chose to do it that way to get it a bigger audience than it might otherwise have had, and apparently he was right. He regards this as a message from God, as do I, and he was looking for a way to reach the most people with it.

As fiction it can't compete with the work of gifted novelists, but that's not the point of it. The fiction is meant to be a vehicle for the revelation. Whether it works or not -- well, it may not work as one might hope, but it's better than I had originally hoped. It may be that it loses something important in reaching a greater number of people. On the other hand, there are reports of people coming to Christ through it, and that sounds like pretty good fruit to me.
On the other hand, although TH is a fictional account that invites subjective criticism, it makes numerous claims regarding actual signs or harbingers from God—which it attempts to justify by supporting them with Scriptures. God’s Word, however, is not fiction. That subjects TH to factual evaluation, because the Bible is God’s objective truth. Therefore, we can challenge Cahn’s claims objectively by searching the Scriptures to see if they indeed are true
We're off to a bad start here. No, it does not "attempt to justify" the signs or harbingers from God by scripture, the scripture itself brought the harbingers to Cahn's attention, the scripture itself has dictated the whole story. I don't know if this is a problem in the book or a problem in the reviewer's mind, I suspect the latter. I've already begun to expect that this review is going to be more an exercise in the author's preconceptions than a fair representation of the book itself.

Then he goes on to quote scripture in a very insinuating way that prejudges Jonathan Cahn. For the sake of space I was going to leave it out but it shows the judgmental mental set of this reviewer so I'll include it:
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.(Acts:17:11) As Isaiah wrote, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to [God’s] word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah:8:20)... Jesus reinforced Isaiah’s exhortation in His prayer for believers to His Father: “Sanctify [meaning ‘set them apart’]...through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John:17:17).
To use scripture this way is to imply things about Jonathan Cahn that he has not shown to be the case, and they are terrible implications of terrible spiritual failure. This amounts to "accusing the brethren" it seems to me.
The clarion call of The Harbinger , which seems to be quite sincere and is one with which all Christians might agree, is that the American people must repent of their evil ways and turn to God in truth. Amen to that! The major problem, however, is the way that the fictional story attempts to encourage such repentance. It declares that God has sent signs—nine harbingers—to the United States as a wake-up call that the country might take heed, repent, and thus ward off His impending judgment. If Cahn is mistaken about the harbingers and multitudes believe what he asserts, then he has led them astray. That is a serious issue and would identify him as a false teacher. Teaching God’s people wrongly carries a “greater condemnation” (James:3:1My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.).
As with the other critics of the book, McMahon imputes the motive to call the country to repentance to Cahn himself, failing to see that he derives it from the harbingers themselves which he recognized through Isaiah 9:10 as God's own doing. He also implies that Cahn invented the harbingers or imposed them on the Bible text, without considering that nobody could have such a motive. Either they are there or they are not. Nobody's going to make this stuff up, it wouldn't make sense. And as he has already done, he's as good as calling Jonathan Cahn a "false teacher." I wonder what God thinks of Christians who haven't done their homework carefully enough and falsely call others false teachers.

Sometimes "discernment" ministries are irresponsible and undiscerning.

I have to break here, will continue in the next post.


Marylee said...

Is T. A. McMahon (an associate of Dave Hunt) concerned that Jonathan Cahn and his bestselling book "The Harbinger" are being promoted by non-pretrib rapture shows like the Jim Bakker Show? Cantankerous McMahon should be much more concerned about the unscholarliness and deliberate dishonesty that has always riddled his 182-year-old pretrib rapture view. For proof Google "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," "Thieves' Marketing," "Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Islam Will Purify Jews and Christians," and "Pretrib Rapture Secrets."

Faith said...

I dunno, Marylee, I'm slow on the uptake here. I was into this a ways before it began to dawn on me that his objections to Cahn were coming from his insistence that the Old Testament was written ONLY to Israel and couldn't possibly apply to America, a position that certainly goes along with the pre-trib end times scenario.

I'm not objecting specifically to McMahon's frame of reference, just to the way it keeps him from recognizing that Cahn simply discovered the harbingers and isn't imposing any interpretive scheme of his own on them.