Friday, June 1, 2012

Yes, The Harbinger IS a "matter of critical discernment" Pt. 2

Preamble: It seems to me that the critics of The Harbinger are responding to peripheral or accidental issues and not to the message itself, that is, they are responding to their own preconceptions rather than the book. For instance, the idea persists that this is a "Thus saith the Lord" sort of prophecy from Jonathan Cahn himself, although Cahn has made no such claim.

This can only be because the book is about a prophetic message, and it's probably wrongly imputed to Cahn as its source because these days there are many false prophets in the Christian arena. We've got the charismatic type self-appointed prophets who have lately coalesced into something called the New Apostolic Reformation, out of earlier groups such as the Toronto Blessing and the Kansas City Prophets and "Joel's Army" and others. The same names I remember from those earlier groups are showing up in the NAR.

It's understandable that the discernment or watchman ministries are on alert against this kind of false teaching, but that doesn't excuse them from failure to recognize that Cahn's message is not a prophecy that he claims to have come through himself the way these other "prophets" do.

The critics are also imputing guilt by association, it seems to me. The book was published by Charisma House, which is connected with Charisma magazine, which is the organ of the charismatic movement, and that associates Cahn with the false prophets in their minds. Now, Cahn's Messianic Jewish frame of reference IS at least on the fringe of the charismatic movement, they DO have a prophetic bent among them, they do take visions seriously and so on. That no doubt would predispose Cahn to be alert to the harbingers he talks about, but nevertheless these are things he OBSERVED, they are not anything he invented or imputes to God's speaking through him or anything of the sort.

He also reported in a couple of interviews the experience of being approached by a man in an airport right after he'd prayed for God's leading as to how to publicize his book, and the man gave him the "prophetic word" that he was going to publish an important book and as they talked it came out that he had connections to a publisher that might be interested and put him in touch with Charisma House. Now, am I to impute that prophecy to the devil or what? I believe it came from God just as I believe the message Cahn gives us came from God. I do believe that God SOMETIMES interacts with His people this way even these days and I see no reason to doubt Cahn's report of this incident in the airport. The prophetic MOVEMENT is something else, their doctrine is far from biblical and there are many ways of recognizing them as NOT from God. We DO need discernment these days, to tell the difference between something like Cahn's experience and the false prophets. It takes a little work and the caution to avoid knee-jerk accusations based on nothing but preconception.

I'd also mention that Cahn's earliest publicity came through ministries that don't exactly inspire confidence, such as Sid Roth's It's Supernatural and Jim Bakker's program. I have to admit that those associations made me cringe too. The spooky type of hype alone from Roth's program makes me cringe. Bakker may have reformed and should be accepted as a brother in Christ but it's hard to forget his past and not regard an appearance on his show as somewhat suspect. Pat Robertson's 700 Club is also regarded as rather fringey by many. And Jan Markell mentions the public success of the Harbinger as in a class with that of Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth and the Left Behind series, which doesn't particularly speak well for the book to my mind -- unless popularity is all you want for it.

Most of these associations are somewhat fringey venues to today's discernment ministries and to a large segment of the Church.

But it's nevertheless a mistake to let that fact determine how you understand the message of Cahn's book. You still have the obligation to read carefully and think carefully about what Cahn is ACTUALLY saying.

I don't think McMahon did that, as Jimmy DeYoung didn't, as Gary Gilley didn't.

Anyway, back to the McMahon review:
The central contemporary event related to the harbingers is the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. As the fictional story unfolds, it is revealed that the harbingers of warning and judgment are directly related to a prophecy found in the Book of Isaiah. Here is where the major thesis of the book fails the Prophet Isaiah’s own challenge of Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.: the author, Jonathan Cahn, has spoken “not according to [God’s] word” but has misapplied the scriptures in an attempt to support his own ideas throughout The Harbinger.
How sad. Cahn has done no such thing.
Cahn gleans nearly all of his correlations connecting America with a prophecy made to Israel from one verse—Isaiah:9:10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.. To begin with, this verse applies only to the tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who, along with the Southern Kingdom of Judah, comprise God’s covenant people. All the way through TH , the United States is presented implicitly as a nation in covenant with God. No, God has only one covenant nation—the nation of Israel. This is a critical error of the book. Although that may be overlooked by someone eager to recognize the U.S. in Isaiah’s prophecy, one must read the entire context, which begins with verse 8 and runs through verse 21 of chapter 9.
Again, Mc Mahon, like the other critics, has the cart before the horse. Cahn did not start out with any notions of his own about America's relation to God, the implication that there is some sort of special relationship with God comes from the harbingers themselves. If God brought about these signs, planted them on American soil, planted them in peculiarly significant locations in relation to the founding of America yet, THEN the conclusion comes naturally that God Himself is saying something about His relation to America, and Cahn himself kept being astonished at what he was discovering. The main harbingers occur on the very location of the church where George Washington prayed for the nation at his inauguration, which turns out to be on the same land on which the twin towers were built, the church having owned that land originally. Cahn didn't know this in advance, he discovered it as he was looking into the various signs that so uncannily echo Isaiah 9:10.

The signs or harbingers all clearly connect to the Isaiah 9:10 verse -- though McMahon disputes this connection, which I'll get to -- and it also needs to be said that Isaiah 9:10 is not a prophecy, it is merely a description of the attitude of the leaders of Israel after God had brought judgment against them in the form of a destructive invasion by Assyria. This is then FOLLOWED by a prophecy of further judgment from God. Here's the passage:
Isaiah 9:10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change [them into] cedars. 11 Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together; 12 The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still. 13 For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.
Mc Mahon, along with some other critics, disputes that the harbingers Cahn points to have anything to do with Isaiah 9:10, but at least from Cahn's point of view he kept DISCOVERING what seemed to him to be uncanny correspondences, and I agree, and I'll spell this out when I come to it.
Cahn flip-flops between God’s judgment and God’s warning, giving the latter more emphasis as he promotes the idea that if the U.S. will heed the warning and repent of its evil ways and turn back to God, restoration and blessing will follow. Although that principle is true for every individual who turns to Him, Cahn picked the wrong passage of Scripture as a hopeful warning for America. In fact, the entire context of Isaiah:9:8-21 [8] The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.
First of all, Cahn did not PICK this passage of Scripture, he NOTICED it while seeking God for understanding of the 9/11 event; he NOTICED that it was pregnant with meaning related to September 11th. This is how the Holy Spirit operates in all God's people, to bring His word that bears on a particular circumstance to our attention.

Second, apparently a big part of McMahon's objection, as it was for Jimmy DeYoung, is in the fact that Isaiah was talking specifically to Israel, as if Jonathan Cahn, a Messianic Jewish pastor, could have overlooked that obvious fact. This adamant insistence that the passage can have no other reference EXCEPT to ancient Israel seems to blind those holding it to how God Himself used it in reference to 9/11.

Cahn wasn't the only one to see the connection between the verse and 9/11. Pastor David Wilkerson of New York's Times Square Church felt God gave him this same verse for his message on the Sunday after 9/11 -- which message is available at You Tube. Some of the "harbingers" that Cahn identifies are speeches that were given by American political leaders that quote this very verse in relation to 9/11. It's absurd and misleading to say that Cahn somehow CHOSE this verse from which to hang a tale of his own invention.

McMahon apparently thinks that his point will become clearer if he quotes the entire passage from Isaiah:
[9] And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, [10] The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars. [11] Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together; [12] The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. [13] For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts. [14] Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day. [15] The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. [16] For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed. [17] Therefore the LORD shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. [18] For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke. [19] Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother. [20] And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm: [21] Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
is a prophecy of judgment of the most devastating kind. God declares that He will send Israel’s enemies to “devour” them (v. 12), destroying her corrupt leaders and lying prophets (vv. 15-16), and “for all this,” His anger would not subside, and in His wrath He would not show them mercy. The carnage would result in civil wars among the tribes of Israel—brother against brother—with utter destruction, starvation, cannibalism (vv. 19-20), and finally captivity by her enemy. Even so, “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out [against Israel] still” (v. 21).

No “warning” is even hinted at in these verses.
NO WARNING? This is Isaiah telling Israel that because of their attitude of defiance toward God's first bringing of the Assyrians against them, His anger is not turned away and more judgment is coming. That's not a warning? Surely we can say from other passages of scripture that IF the Israelites repented of the evil doings described then God would relent of His intention to destroy them, a destruction which is prophesied in great detail here. This all later DID happen to Israel BECAUSE they ignored the warning, terrible consequences as he points out.

But even if it isn't a warning to Israel, but a simple prophecy that all these judgments WILL come upon her, if the same attitude of defiance that Israel had is also demonstrably true of America in response to 9/11, WHICH IT IS, are we to say that America is not being warned EITHER and that all we have to look forward to is the same kind of destruction? Is that what McMahon is saying? He could be right, if so, since there doesn't seem to be much of a move in the direction of repentance in the country even now, but that doesn't change the fact that there are uncanny correspondences between Isaiah 9:10 and America's response to 9/11, and at the very least those who do see the correspondences can take warning from them:
Isa 26:20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
The context of THAT verse is God's judgment of the entire world, which can't be far off now and of which His judgment on America is no doubt to be a small part.

To be continued in next post.

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.