Saturday, April 6, 2013

A few remarks on a lawsuit by the publisher of Jonathan Cahn's Harbinger, against the publisher of David James' book, The Harbinger, Fact or Fiction?

Reluctantly I have to agree with those who emphasize the biblical teaching against suing a brother in Christ, for any reason.  I say this "reluctantly" because I have to suppose that the publishers of The Harbinger took the scripture into account and must have come to their decision after much thought, and having followed all this from the beginning I can see how they might have been driven to such an extreme. 

I began supporting The Harbinger here before any of the criticisms emerged against it and I responded to some of the early ones, notably T A McMahon's and eventually David James', so I'm aware of how it all developed and felt from the beginning that most of it was misguided and terribly unfair, even maddeningly so as so many different accusations were made of the book from different sources.  

Nevertheless I can't agree with the lawsuit even though in my earlier post below I entertained the possibility that I might.  Those ministries like the Berean Call have to be free to say what they will no matter who they offend.  Also, while I could see suing for something like defamation since some of the criticism implied terrible things about Cahn and his ministry that in my opinion are clearly untrue, it doesn't seem right to sue for loss of financial gain from a book that has sold over a million copies already, which is a staggering statistic for any Christian book.

The only way to deal with the criticism is to leave the outcome in God's hands, but also of course try to answer it.  I wish I had it in me to do the thorough kind of critique of David James' book that he did of The Harbinger.  In fact I started to do just that a few months back, got something like twenty pages of notes together for the project and then got derailed.  The criticisms have been answered many times over, by Cahn, by me and by others, but with James' whole book out there against The Harbinger something definitive still seems to be needed.

Earlier post:

I'd heard rumors of a lawsuit against the book by David James which criticizes The Harbinger in lengthy detail, or its publisher the Berean Call, but have been occupied elsewhere, and to be honest also avoiding the subject for some time although I knew eventually I'd probably have to address it.   The reason for avoiding it is that it would obviously bring up a lot of controversy I'd have to investigate in great detail to do it justice, and I just haven't been up to that sort of research lately. 

But now I've read the article on the subject at the Berean Call, which came out in February, and figure the time has come to begin the process of investigating the issue -- if it's still a live issue, and I don't even know that at this point. 

But I want to say just one thing about the article at the Berean Call: Overall I'd say the BC article creates a false impression by referring to so many other issues they've addressed in their ministry over the years, lumping the Harbinger with them by implication, and this is how McMahon criticized the book originally too, mostly by innuendo, which I objected to in my blog when his review came out about a year ago now.  In this current article he goes on and on with general statements about the importance of a truly biblical perspective which implies that this is lacking in Cahn's book and its supporters.  Purely by innuendo he justifies his own critique of the book without saying anything direct about it.  He did the same thing in his Foreword to James' book, making all kinds of general statements about current problems with biblical discernment among Christians without making ONE statement directly about The Harbinger itself.

The article says very little about the lawsuit itself except that it's the first time they've ever been sued by anyone they've criticized. Of course it might be possible to draw the conclusion that this is the first time they've been WRONG in their criticism, and I might come to that conclusion myself.

In my post about McMahon's original review I argued that his objections were unfounded, and eventually I came to the conclusion that what he and David James were calling unbiblical in the book was not unbiblical at all but merely a reflection of their own dispensationalist theology, and I believe that much of that theology can itself be shown to be unbiblical. 

The article,  The Demise of Biblical Discernment addresses the lawsuit in two paragraphs:

The latest issue, which we submit to you for prayer support, is a threatened lawsuit over the book we published by David James ( The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? ). The complaint is that the author used too many quotes from the New York Times best-selling book, The Harbinger, without permission from author “rabbi” Jonathan Cahn and publisher Charisma Media Publications (CMP). The complaint further states that our use of the quotes has inhibited the sales of The Harbinger and has thus financially damaged Cahn and CMP in an amount yet to be determined. In effect, we are being told that we must limit our documentation in warning the body of Christ of the biblical errors in The Harbinger. In other words, we cannot be Bereans or like the watchman of Ezekiel:3:17-19
 without Cahn’s permission.

This is the first time in my 35 years of working with Dave Hunt and our addressing nearly every major religion, religious cult, aberrational Christian sect, unbiblical trend, religious publication, book, media production, etc., that any organization or individual has even hinted at suing us. Now, however, we are being threatened with legal action by those claiming to be in the church. More critical than the unbiblical action of a brother threatening to take another brother to court (1 Corinthians 6) is the issue of preventing the biblical evaluation of a work that is influencing hundreds of thousands of professing and confessing Christians, as well as those who don’t profess to know Christ. We have hired a copyright attorney to address the legal issues and have responded to the attorney for Cahn and CMP. Even so, we covet your prayers that the Lord will be glorified throughout the process.

Again, I don't yet know enough about the lawsuit to have an opinion about it, but my impression from the above is that it focuses on the legal limit to how much material can be quoted in a review without permission. James quoted a great deal of the Harbinger in his criticism so that he may well have violated that limit.

While I might agree that biblically it's wrong for brother to sue brother in the church, my judgment on this subject has always been for the Harbinger and against most of its critics, and specifically because of what I consider to be UNBIBLICAL criteria, particularly in the criticism from the dispensationalist camp, such as by McMahon and James, so I might in the end side with the lawsuit in this particular case.

But at this point I don't know enough to have an opinion one way or the other.