Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Spiritual Deception and The Harbinger --Shouldn't we be trying to learn/show the way out of deception instead of just pointing the finger?

I don't know what Jonathan Cahn thinks of the phenomena associated with people like Rick Joyner and Todd Bentley, signs-and-wonders gurus you could call them, who represent the charismatic NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) that Brannon Howse spends much time exposing (and rightly so). This movement promotes the idea that apostles and prophets on the model of the New Testament church are now in operation again. Because of the Prophet character in The Harbinger this is one of the tangents criticism of the book takes (just one of them, there's also the supposed hermeneutic problem which is really the critics' problem and not Cahn's, and the supposed "mysticism" problem that is somewhat different from the NAR problem). Cahn says he hasn't investigated these things enough to have an opinion and I have no reason to doubt him. He also says he wasn't aware of this whole "discernment" arena of controversy before his book came out, and I believe him about that too. It's hit him like a rock from outer space. Or something like that. Unanticipated anyway.

Sid Roth, who was shown by Howse recently to endorse Todd Bentley's demonic carryings-on, is a friend of Cahn's and a strong Messianic supporter, and the criticism of Roth may put Cahn in the uncomfortable position of now possibly having to think about some of Roth's opinions that he'd not thought about before. Which have nothing to do with The Harbinger and come as an unwelcome intrusion on his efforts to get that message to the public.

They DON'T have anything to do with the message of The Harbinger, they ARE an intrusion, but they do highlight a theological division among Christians, and specifically between Jonathan Cahn and his critics, that could use some investigation from outside both camps.

I did a few blog posts fairly recently with the aim of trying to sort out some of the confusions of the signs-and-wonders phenomena we're seeing so much of these days -- I got three posts done on the subject and then was drawn again to address the criticisms of The Harbinger, but this post may get me back to it.

Because I was in a charismatic church as well as a parachurch group in the early 90s I have some feeling for how hard it can be to discern the source of the phenomena experienced in those groups, even despite much inner alarm about it. I agree completely with Brannon Howse about the NAR -- NOW, but when you are among people who accept such phenomena unquestioningly it is not so easy to sort the true from the false. It's easy enough for those on the outside, however, who take the blanket position that NO "supernatural" phenomena are biblically supportable today, to simply denounce the whole thing -- little discernment is involved in that case. But there are some who are convinced that God MAY work supernaturally today, believe they've seen it in operation, and are more concerned not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Some of the writings of Watchman Nee and Jessie Penn-Lewis are to my mind a source of standards that may help to discriminate among these things. Both are strongly convinced that they've witnessed God's supernatural workings among Christians (supernatural gifts such as tongues, prophecies, visions, even sometimes miraculous events, and so on), and yet both have written strong warnings against spiritual deception by "signs and wonders."

While I find their writings persuasive I also feel I have to say that it's possible that they are too credulous themselves about the phenomena they attribute to God, but I'm not anywhere near a position to make a judgment about this, it's just a provisional caveat.

I believe their concept of "soul power" helps to identify some "supernatural" phenomena as clearly NOT of the Holy Spirit, such as Rick Joyner's strange "worship services" shown in videos linked in earlier posts, in which emotion is being worked up by drums and physical exertions like jumping up and down, much the way the shamans of many tribal religions work it up. Joyner's congregation just need to decorate themselves with paint and beads and feathers and get their moves more coordinated and the similarity would become apparent.

As I discussed in the earlier posts on this subject, intensified emotion can be a releaser of "soul power," aided and abetted by demonic powers, which is the aim of the tribal religions and all they have to work with, but in Christians it interferes with and easily supplants the working of the Holy Spirit. Repetitive singing of simple choruses, or chanting or "prayer" -- such as the endlessly repeated "Jesus prayer" of the Russian "holy man" or Starets -- is also a releaser of "soul power."

Soul power can be the source of visions, "prophecies," supernatural knowledge, some of it even true, "tongues," clairvoyance, "remote viewing," psychokinetic effects and other phenomena known well to the practitioners of religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism as well as tribal religions. There may also be and usually is demonic influence involved as well.

The critics of The Harbinger are trying to attribute this sort of thing to Jonathan Cahn, and since he has apparently not spent time investigating these things he hasn't been in a position to answer them. Really, the answer is that they have nothing to do with The Harbinger that anyone has demonstrated; the message of the book speaks for itself IF the reader will take the time to think it through. I don't see ANY way the "harbingers" could have been counterfeited by soul power or demonic spirits or ordinary deceptive reasoning, but this is what the critics would have to show if their harping on these themes has any foundation at all.

Meanwhile, IF Jonathan Cahn has been accepting of some charismatic phenomena he shouldn't be accepting, he might find Nee and Penn-Lewis' standards illuminating. So might Rick Joyner for that matter, who seems to simply assume anything supernatural is from God as so many charismatics do. Or Sid Roth who apparently is too easily taken in by supernatural claims and has apparently been dazzled by Todd Bentley's demonic carryings-on.

That is, SOME of these things may simply be naively attributed to God among the signs-and-wonders people. In other words, perhaps SOME who are caught up in charismatic phenomena could be helped to discern what is of God from what isn't by this sort of knowledge.

I'll have to look it up but as I recall, one prominent leader in the Welsh revival (1904-5), Evan Roberts, who was a friend of Jessie Penn-Lewis, discovered that he was being deceived by demon spirits, which brought about a crisis of discernment and spiritual confusion in his life. It's a sad story, but the point is that well-meaning true Christians who preach the true gospel CAN be deceived by these things, and in fact it is often those who are MOST zealous for the things of God who are most susceptible to this sort of deception -- because their emotions are easily engaged and they are likely to be particularly intense in their pursuit of knowledge of God -- such intensity being a possible trigger of counterfeits. It isn't helpful just to throw accusations at them from a position of complete ignorance of such phenomena. The aim should be to learn and inform and try to help them discern if at all possible. Those who reject all supernatural phenomena really aren't in a position to do this but at least they could learn that maybe their total rejection needs to be modified.

But back to basics: As both Nee and Penn-Lewis emphasize -- and for that matter most of the "mystics" of the past too, including some who have gone off the deep end -- even supernatural phenomena that DO come from God are best not clung to, best not made much of. The Christian method is DYING TO SELF, not trying to work up ANYTHING. Working-things-up, trying to make things happen, seeking experiences, whether by special actions, movements, chantings, "prayers," whatever, is probably the first thing Christians should learn to avoid. Instead there is obviously a trend in the opposite direction these days. God MAY come to us with special spiritual experiences or He may not. Forcing it will certainly only bring about counterfeits, either through human soulish powers or demonic spirits. Any tinge of trying to force God ought to be repented of in fear and trembling and fled like the plague it is.

However, AGAIN, The Harbinger, as far as I can see, HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY OF THIS.

Another interview of Jonathan Cahn by Brannon Howse: another exercise in futility

Brannon Howse had Jonathan Cahn on again, and kept saying how courageous it was of Cahn to come on the show, but why would it take courage? (I'm suspicious of a power play here, to keep the upper hand, but maybe I'm being unfair).

Rather than its taking courage, on the contrary Cahn must have been eager for the opportunity to try to correct the many misunderstandings of The Harbinger in the previous programs Howse has done on the book.

Not that there was really much of an opportunity, however, as Howse simply has a head full of questions he wants answered that have nothing to do with The Harbinger, the usual irrelevant criticisms that focus on the packaging or structure of the book rather than the message.

It's unfortunately only too clear that Brannon Howse has absolutely no idea what The Harbinger is about, and most likely doesn't really understand the answers Cahn gave to the questions he asked either. Still hasn't read the book of course.

Again, as I keep saying, what the critics have to account for is the reality of the "harbingers," those events that so uncannily echo Isaiah 9:10 that just happened to occur in connection with the attack on the WTC on 9/11, that is, they have to account for them as having any other source than God Himself. It's the appearance of the harbingers that amazes those readers who *get it,* that's what has made the book a best seller. So far the critics have missed it completely.