Archive for the ‘Eschatology’ Category
I hope that you will take a few minutes to read this special edition of the “ABI Blog.”
We have received letters threatening legal action related to the publication of my book The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? These letters were from a lawyer with a firm which “serves as litigation counsel for Charisma Media, publisher of The Harbinger by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn and published by Charisma Media.”
Therefore, we are asking that concerned believers everywhere make this a matter of prayer—that the Lord would graciously give us wisdom and that He would protect us in the midst of this challenge. We also believe it is important to bring this matter to the attention of the Body of Christ and would encourage you to share this article with others given the millions of people who have now been influenced by The Harbinger and its author.
IS THIS MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING?
Some may be wondering if the controversy surrounding The Harbinger really is a big deal. I want to assure you that it definitely is – and it show no signs of slowing down. Last spring I suggested that The Harbinger could well end up being one of the most significant theological issues of 2012. As it turns out, this could extend well into this year. It was recently announced that The Harbinger passed one million copies sold (in just twelve months), and also achieved the distinction of being the longest running Christian book presently on The New York Times bestseller list.
And, the influence that Jonathan Cahn and his teachings are having through his book, the many interviews and his numerous messages continues to grow unabated. He was even the keynote speaker at one of the main annual (though not official) inaugural prayer breakfasts in Washington D.C. on January 21.
The author has said that he has been approached numerous times concerning turning The Harbinger into a movie and I would not be at all surprised if the production of a movie will be announced sometime this year. If that happens, the influence of The Harbinger will receive another significant boost and reach people who otherwise might not even be aware of it. Given the inevitable artistic license taken in most book-to-movie adaptations, with all the problems already in The Harbinger, what might we expect in a movie version?
THE THREAT OF LEGAL ACTION
The following is an excerpt from the lead article by T.A. McMahon in the February edition of The Berean Call monthly newsletter.
Although for decades we at TBC have been exhorting and encouraging believers to be Bereans (i.e., to check out everything they are being taught by searching the Scriptures-Acts 17:10-11), we too have experienced the increased intensity of the spiritual battle and witnessed its exponential growth. 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.
In October we received the first letter from Charisma’s lawyer concerning my use of quotes from The Harbinger. This threat of litigation was followed by two additional letters about a month apart making various demands for specific information concerning sales of my book and actions that we must take, including specific deadlines for compliance. So, although this is the first time we have made this issue public in writing, we have had these threats hanging over our heads for several months.
Furthermore, the October letter was actually the second threat of legal action. The first threat came less than two weeks after my book became available in early August and concerned the original cover design of The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? In that first letter the attorney made the following charges:
Our client learned that you, along with author David James, are using a strikingly similar book cover design of The Harbinger in commerce in connection with your book The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction. The book cover of The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction infringes Charisma’s intellectual property rights in the trade dress of its book The Harbinger. No doubt exists that the cover for your book The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction is designed to confuse consumers into thinking that either (1) this book is actually The Harbinger and/or (2) that the book is sponsored, affiliated with or approved by Charisma.
The basis for the threat of legal action involves two primary points: 1) that we intended to confuse consumers and 2) that consumers would actually be confused. Regarding the first charge, it is pure speculation with no supporting evidence whatsoever. But more importantly, it is both judgmental and factually wrong. There was never any intention by anyone to deceive, mislead of confuse. A comparison of the two covers (shown below) makes this obvious.
Regarding the second charge, once again, even a cursory glance makes it clear that my book is a direct negative response to The Harbinger, and therefore, obviously neither produced by nor endorsed by Charisma Media. Of course, we wanted people to understand that my book is about The Harbinger, but almost every design element of my cover was intentionally different to avoid any question of copyright infringement.
However, as a demonstration of good faith we changed the cover without a fuss. Of course, because of our belief that it is vitally important for my book to be available as a response to The Harbinger, and given the threat, we were also concerned that the Charisma lawyers might try to tie things up in the courts and thus keep my book off the market.
Now, in an unexpected and inexplicable turn of events, the Charisma attorney claims in the most recent letter (of January 22) that the fact that we changed the cover is itself an admission of guilt on my part that we had indeed infringed copyright.
Mr. James eventually recognized that he had violated Charisma’s trade dress and changed the cover on his critique. That Mr. James infringed Charisma’s rights in its intellectual property with respect to the cover is without dispute. Yet, Mr. James’ admitted infringement is curiously absent from his recent diatribe against my client and its author.
Once again, this is not only pure speculation, but the allegation is factually wrong because neither I nor The Berean Call have ever believed that we ever violated Charisma’s trade dress. We did not intend to violate copyright. We intentionally
sought to avoid violating copyright. And we continue to believe that we were completely successful in not violating copyright. So, the charge that we admitted guilt in this matter is difficult to comprehend – even baffling.
Another odd aspect of this recent letter is that the Charisma lawyer attributed to me the article which was written by T.A. McMahon (referenced above), and called it a “diatribe against Charisma and Jonathan Cahn.” Earlier the letter also states that the article was published on my website—which is also wrong because the article is actually on The Berean Call website. Besides being a bit strange, these are unnecessary “unforced errors” that could have been easily avoided with even the least bit of research.
Returning to the second threat of legal action, the following are excerpts from the first letter concerning that threat.
Dear Mr. James,
Our firm serves as litigation counsel for Charisma Media, publisher of The Harbinger by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn and published by Charisma Media. I write concerning your critique of The Harbinger, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction (“Fact or Fiction”) and your use of significant portions of The Harbinger’s original copyrighted work in your book. In short, we believe your use of The Harbinger‘s text, which comprises over 10% of your book, constitutes infringement of Charisma Media’s exclusive copyright in the text of your book. We further believe your considerable use of The Harbinger‘s text is not defensible under the fair use doctrine.
Although we have always been confident that my book is well within the boundaries of the fair use doctrine, unfortunately these threats of litigation made it necessary to seek the services of an experienced copyright lawyer. His well-informed opinion is that there is no basis for bringing a lawsuit against us and he sent his findings and conclusions to the Charisma Media attorney in the middle of December. Last week we received the fourth letter as a response to our legal counsel’s letter in which the Charisma lawyer completely rejected the argument in our defense.
Later in the letter, Charisma’s attorney goes on to make further allegations.
Specifically, Fact or Fiction was written with the specific purpose of deriving a financial benefit from Charisma Media’s copyrighted materials as evidenced by the original infringing cover for Fact or Fiction; you are profiting from the use of the text, but have not obtained consent or paid a license fee for its use. Although Fact or Fiction purports to be a critique of The Harbinger, your use of The Harbinger’s original and protectible expression, including extensive use of the dialogue created by Rabbi Cahn to analyze Isaiah 9:10, is usurping demand for Rabbi Cahn’s work and will continue to do so as long as Fact or Fiction remains in circulation.
Several things can be noted about the above allegations.
First, building on the unsubstantiated claim in the first threat concerning the cover of my book, they once again argue that I wrote the book for the specific purpose of deriving financial benefit from Rabbi Cahn’s work. And once again, this is pure speculation from a legal perspective, clearly judgmental from a moral perspective, and from a factual perspective it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Second, the phrase “purports to be a critique” clearly suggests that I intentionally employed a ruse in order to deceive the public by making my book only appear to be a critique, but with the real alleged purpose being to profit financially from Rabbi Cahn’s work. One has to wonder if someone could scan my book in even the most cursory way and then suggest that The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction is anything but a very serious and well-researched critique of The Harbinger.
Third, the Charisma lawyer contends that because of quoting The Harbinger to the degree that I did, demand for my book has undermined demand for their book. Through this they argue that I have been accumulating sales for myself while denying what would have been sales for Jonathan Cahn. Once again, it is difficult to express how far removed from reality this charge really is. When my book was released in early August, I believe the sales of The Harbinger were somewhere in the neighborhood of 700,000 copies sold. Then in January (as previously noted) it was reported that Jonathan Cahn had achieved two important milestones during the 2012 calendar year. The first was that his book had surpassed one million copies sold (meaning that nearly one third of his sales have happened since the appearance of Fact or Fiction). The second milestone was that at the end of 2012 it was the longest running Christian book currently on The New York Times bestsellers list.
Unfortunately, the most recent letter from Charisma’s legal counsel further expands the range of allegations and accusations against us to include a charge of defamation of character:
Second, I write to put you on notice that Mr. James’ recent fund raising efforts at the expense of both Charisma and Rabbi Cahn are defamatory in nature and intentionally designed to impugn both Charisma and Rabbi Cahn’s character for the benefit of Mr. James.
Once again, in this new threat, the Charisma lawyer gets so many factual things wrong that it should be almost embarrasing. He accuses me personally of 1) trying to raise funds with the article, 2) by defaming Charisma and Rabbi Cahn; 3) then claims that it was intentional, 4) and further alleges that it was designed to impugn their character, 5) and finally argues that I did it with the intent to accrue personal financial benefit to me.
Where do I begin?
1. I didn’t write the article and was only aware of it shortly before it was published on The Berean Call (not my) website. As previously noted, Tom McMahon wrote the article and it was approved by The Berean Call Board of Directors. (The full article can be found here: http://www.thebereancall.org/content/demise-biblical-discernment)
2. There is nothing in the article that makes any reference to money whatsoever. There is no appeal for funds and it was never intended to be a fund-rasing effort. The only thing that McMahon requests anywhere in the article is that believers make this a matter of prayer.
3. There was no intention to defame Charisma or Jonathan Cahn. There is a well-documented pattern of repeated attempts by Jonathan Cahn to contain and respond to any and all criticism of The Harbinger. This has happened time and again – and a video on YouTube is available where Cahn specifically (and quite cynically and sarcastically) responds to the critics of The Harbinger (with many swipes at things I have written and said)—and yet he offers no specifics whatsoever.
4. It seems to me that the accusation that I intentionally impugned Charisma and Jonathan Cahn’s character for the purpose of financial gain, while using demonstrably false information, is the very definition of defamation itself. Who has defamed whom? And since this is in the context of claiming that my book is damaging sales of The Harbinger this obviously raises the question of exactly who is pursuing this for financial gain. The reader can decide.
Returning to the accusation that I exceeded fair use of The Harbinger in my book and thus have violated copyright law, the following salient points are provided from the Citizen Media Law Project website.
The Four Fair Use Factors
1. Purpose and Character of Your Use
If you use another’s copyrighted work for the purpose of criticism, news reporting, or commentary, this use will weigh in favor of fair use. See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569, 578 (1994). Purposes such as these are often considered “in the public interest” and are favored by the courts over uses that merely seek to profit from another’s work. Online Policy Group v. Diebold, Inc., 337 F. Supp. 2d 1195, 1203 (N.D. Cal. 2004). When you put copyrighted material to new use, this furthers the goal of copyright to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.”
In evaluating the purpose and character of your use, a court will look to whether the new work you’ve created is “transformative” and adds a new meaning or message. To be transformative, a use must add to the original “with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message.” Campbell, 510 U.S. at 579. Although transformative use is not absolutely necessary, the more transformative your use is, the less you will have to show on the remaining three factors.
Clearly, my book, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? meets this criteria. I am not seeking to merely profit from Cahn’s work as has been alleged. Rather my work is both completely transformative and is “in the public interest,” while putting the material in The Harbinger to a completely new use. There is no copyright violation.
2. Nature of the Copyrighted Work
In examining this factor, a court will look to whether the material you have used is factual or creative, and whether it is published or unpublished. Although non-fiction works such as biographies and news articles are protected by copyright law, their factual nature means that one may rely more heavily on these items and still enjoy the protections of fair use. Unlike factual works, fictional works are typically given greater protection in a fair use analysis. So, for example, taking newsworthy quotes from a research report is more likely to be protected by fair use than quoting from a novel. However, this question is not determinative, and courts have found fair use of fictional works in some of the pivotal cases on the subject. See, e.g., Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417, 456 (1984).
Once again, my book meets this criteria because as the author states in his note at the beginning of The Harbinger, “What you are about to read is presented in the form of a story, but what is contained within the story is real.” Furthermore, Jonathan Cahn has stated publicly in a radio interview with Brannon Howse that his book is only 10% fiction and 90% factual. Again, there is no copyright violation.
3. Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used
Unfortunately, there is no single guide that definitively states how much of a copyrighted work you can use without copyright liability. Instead, courts look to how such excerpts were used and what their relation was to the whole work. If the excerpt in question diminishes the value of the original or embodies a substantial part of the efforts of the author, even an excerpt may constitute an infringing use.
If you limit your use of copyrighted text, video, or other materials to only the portion that is necessary to accomplish your purpose or convey your message, it will increase the likelihood that a court will find your use is a fair use.
Of course, if you are reviewing a book or movie, you may need to reprint portions of the copyrighted work in the course of reviewing it in order to make you points. Even substantial quotations may qualify as fair use in “a review of a published work or a news account of a speech that had been delivered to the public or disseminated to the press.” Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enters., 471 U.S. 539, 564 (1985). However, substantial quotations from non-public sources or unpublished works do not enjoy the same protections.
There are two relevant and important issues in meeting the third criteria for fair use that can be observed. The first is that the “over 10%” of The Harbinger that I quoted (referred to by the Charisma attorney) is irrelevant when the other criteria are considered. The 10% is an arbitrary number with no legal significance. Far less than 10% can violate fair use if the other criteria are not met, while far more than 10% can be used if they are. Quotes from The Harbinger do comprise over 10% of my book, but they are also under 13%.
Similarly, I only quoted a little more than 10% of The Harbinger, which in the context of such an indepth and detailed critique is a very small amount. I could have easily quoted much more to further bolster my argument, but was careful to use no more than necessary to keep from being accused of taking things of out context.
However, more importantly, relevant to the second major point, my use of The Harbinger clearly qualifies as fair use because it is “a review of a published work…”
4. The Effect of Your Use Upon the Potential Market for the Copyrighted Work
In examining the fourth factor, which courts tend to view as the most important factor, a court will look to see how much the market value of the copyrighted work is affected by the use in question. This factor will weigh in favor of the copyright holder if “unrestricted and widespread” use similar to the one in question would have a “substantially adverse impact” on the potential market for the work…
Assessing the impact on a copyrighted work’s market value often overlaps with the third factor because the amount and importance of the portion used will often determine how much value the original loses. For instance, the publication of five lines from a 100 page epic poem will not hurt the market for the original in the same way as the publication of the entirety of a five-line poem.
This fourth factor is concerned only with economic harm caused by substitution for the original, not by criticism. That your use harms the copyright holder through negative publicity or by convincing people of your critical point of view is not part of the analysis. As the Supreme Court has stated:
[W]hen a lethal parody, like a scathing theater review, kills demand for the original, it does not produce a harm cognizable under the Copyright Act. Because “parody may quite legitimately aim at garroting the original, destroying it commercially as well as artistically,” the role of the courts is to distinguish between ‘[b]iting criticism [that merely] suppresses demand [and] copyright infringement[, which] usurps it.’”
The significance of this point cannot be overstated because the Charisma attorney contends that my book is usurping demand (his words) for his client’s book. However, it can be easily argued that the controversy surrounding the entire issue has only served to increase demand for The Harbinger as evidenced by the 300,000+ copies that have been sold since the release of my book.
In summary, although courts will balance all four factors when assessing fair use, the fair use defense is most likely to apply when the infringing use involves criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. In addition, some general rules of thumb can be helpful in analyzing fair use:
- A use that transforms the original work in some way is more likely to be a fair use;
- A non-profit use is more likely to be considered a fair use than a for-profit use;
- A shorter excerpt is more likely to be a fair use than a long one; and
- A use that cannot act as a replacement for the original work is more likely to be a fair use than one that can serve as a replacement.
One has to wonder why such an influential media empire like Charisma Media would threaten a lawsuit against an essentially unknown individual, particularly when my book falls so far within the boundaries of the fair use doctrine. But more importantly, why would a Christian organization (Charisma Media), with a Christian founder and CEO (Steve Strang), along with a local church pastor (Jonathan Cahn) threaten to sue another believer in this way, particularly in light of what the apostle Paul says about such lawsuits in 1 Corinthians 6?
None of this makes any sense from a biblical, ethical, legal or financial perspective. One has to wonder exactly what is the motivation behind this. Why is it so necessary to try make it so difficult to keep my book, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? on the market. Why all this effort to get it off the market?
One thing we do know is that my book is presently the only one that has been written and published which exposes the many significant problems in The Harbinger. And as the influence of The Harbinger in America continues to increase, the need for people to also read The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? is greater than ever. We hope you will take time to read it if you haven’t – and if you do, please take time to leave a brief review on Amazon.com because these are extremely important in the process of getting the message into the hands of more and more people.
Once again, we covet your prayers, not only in relation to the threatened legal action against us, but also concerning getting the important information in my book into the hands of believers who have been influenced, confused and misled by The Harbinger, the accompanying DVD and the dozens of interviews and messages by Jonathan Cahn.
If you want to stand with us in the midst of this challenge, please take a moment to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does Isaiah 9:10 really contain an ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future?
Note: This review is an abridged version of a book of the same title.
A discussion between Dave James and Jonathan Cahn, moderated by Jimmy DeYoung can be found at this link.
The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17, NKJV)
The Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn,1 is about a series of signs or omens which he believes have manifested in America beginning with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The author believes he has discovered an ancient mystery in Isaiah 9:10-11 that “explains everything from 9/11 to the collapse of the global economy.”2 Although he uses a fictional narrative as a framework, the book is based on what he believes are undeniable facts from the biblical text, the corresponding history of 8th century B.C. Israel and current events of the last decade in America. As Cahn states at the beginning of the book, “What you are about to read is presented in the form of a story, but what is contained within the story is real.”3
The overall purpose of The Harbinger is to call America to repent for turning her back on God and moving away from the foundations upon which the country was built. It is also to warn of the danger of God’s judgment that this represents. Not only is this a valid message, but one that needs to be proclaimed. Jonathan Cahn is to be commended for his passion and commitment to sharing this message with as wide an audience as possible.
However, because of serious flaws throughout the book, the potential dangers may well outweigh the benefits. Many of the author’s views and ideas as presented in The Harbinger are misguided, having both significant exegetical and theological problems. Additionally, the book could well leave its readers with serious misunderstandings about how to appropriately interpret and apply the Word of God. Beyond this, it is also problematic because in trying to support his conclusions, Cahn appears to variously overstate his case, see prophetic fulfillment where arguably none exists and presses details to draw parallels between historical events beyond what the facts reasonably support.
Not only does The Harbinger fail to reveal a mystery in Isaiah 9:10, but in spite of the much-needed call to repentance, the book presents a danger to believers and unbelievers alike.
A Runaway Success
Released on January 3, 2012, The Harbinger has already established its place as one of the best selling books of 2012. According to “CharismaNews,” on January 22, the The Harbinger debuted at No. 10 on the NY Times best-seller list in the “print paperback” category and at No. 28 in the “combined print hardcover and paperback “ category. In just 10 days, it had gone to reprint four times. (Charisma House is the publisher of the book.)4
As of April 26, on Amazon.com, it was ranked at #1 in the “Christian Books and Bibles – Fiction” category, at #1 in the broader “Religion and Spirituality” category, #2 in “Christian Books and Bibles – Theology” category and at #50 for all books. There were also 346 reader reviews of the book on Amazon.com – with 282 giving it a 5-star rating.5
The founder of “World Net Daily,” Joseph Farah, has produced a two-hour documentary featuring Jonathan Cahn: “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment.” On March 13, in an email alert, WND noted: “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment DVD tops faith chart at Amazon.com…It is also the No. 8 most popular documentary of any kind and the 247th most popular video for sale.”
On the day of the book’s release, Jonathan Cahn was interviewed by Pat Robertson on The 700 Club, who said of the book, “This is one great book…This is the read you need to make…It is a prophetic word.” The author has also been interviewed on a number of other programs as well, giving the book very broad exposure.
Departure from a Biblical Hermeneutic
The heart of a biblical hermeneutic is the commitment to understanding the literary context of a passage. This is where Cahn’s thesis first runs into trouble. Nothing in the context gives any indication that either Isaiah or the Lord intended for Isaiah 9:10 to be understood as having to do with anything other than the Northern Kingdom in the 8th century B.C. Although the author has insisted in a moderated discussion with this reviewer that he does not believe Isaiah 9:10 is to, for or about America,6 the book paints a very different picture.
Although Cahn has tried to explain that the passage is only functioning as a “sign” to America, this is not a meaningful distinction. Biblical signs are revelatory and therefore prophetic, in that they signify that something is happening or is going to happen. And, this is exactly the way Cahn handles these “harbingers” in the book—meaning that in at least some way he actually does see a direct connection with Isaiah 9:10.
Also, if Isaiah 9:10-11 functions to demonstrate a pattern of God’s judgment, as Cahn believes, why is it not identified as such, either here or elsewhere in Scripture? If it is a predictable pattern as he suggests, why is there neither a precedent nor repetition of the pattern in the Bible? Yet, it is the author’s contention that the nine harbingers he believes he has found in Isaiah coincide precisely with recent historical events, beginning with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Furthermore, there is no mention of the first seven verses in the chapter. Yet, these form a critical part of the immediate context of Isaiah 9:10 and represent one of the most important messianic kingdom passages in the entire Old Testament. This is a significant omission when dealing with the subject of Israel’s judgment because it includes the unconditional promise that even in the face of the coming destruction Israel’s future is still sure. The kingdom will still be established and Messiah will rule from the throne of David forever.
A Prophetic Message?
Although Cahn says he does not claim to be a prophet, he does affirm that his message is prophetic. But, what else besides “prophet” would be an appropriate title for someone who believes he has discovered the hidden meaning of a biblical mystery and then proclaims this prophetic message as factual? He is doing more than simply relaying a message given by someone else. He is the originator of the message.
In the brief biography introducing the author, the back cover of The Harbinger has the following: “His teachings are seen on television and radio throughout the nation and are known for their prophetic significance and their revealing of deep mysteries of God’s Word.”
Others have also identified Cahn’s message as prophetic and him as a prophet. For example, in September, It’s Supernatural aired shows that were produced around interviews with Jonathan Cahn. Of these host Sid Roth said, “This may be—no, this is the most important prophetic show you will ever see.”7
On Amazon.com, the book description includes the following:
Hidden in an ancient biblical prophecy from Isaiah, the mysteries revealed in The Harbinger are so precise that they foretold recent American events down to the exact days. The revelations are so specific that even the most hardened skeptics will find it hard to dismiss or put down. It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood thriller with one exception… IT’S REAL.8
Fact or Fiction?
Even though categorized as “fiction,” the story is prefaced by: “What you are about to read is presented in the form of a story, but what is contained within the story is real.”9 In other words, the book conveys what Cahn considers to be biblically accurate and historically factual. However, the lines between what is fact and what is fiction is not at all clear.
For example, the story centers around a set of small clay discs that are said to date from 8th century B.C. and connected with Isaiah’s prophecy. The purpose of the nine seals is to reveal the ancient mystery and to authenticate that their message comes from God. But do these seals really exist as an archeological find or are they simply part of the fictional storyline? The answer is not clear in the story and it seems very likely that many readers will think these seals do exist, although they do not.
In addition, rather than simply adding an element of authenticity to the story, the nine harbinger seals only make things more confusing for the reader. The obvious question is, “Does this mean that the author is using them as a literary device to suggest that his views are authentically from God (though perhaps confirmed in some other way)? “Are they inherently fact or fiction?
In the The Harbinger, the nine seals are given over a period of time, to journalist Nouriel Kaplan by a mysterious figure identified only as “The Prophet.”10 Kaplan and The Prophet are the primary characters in the book, along with a third lesser character, Ana Goren, a Manhattan publishing executive, to whom Kaplan tells the story of his encounters with The Prophet. Are The Prophet and Kaplan purely fictional characters or do they in some way represent real people? Do they represent two different people, a compilation of multiple people or are they rather just two aspects of the same person? Given the central role of The Prophet, is there really someone who is believed to be a prophet who gave the author his message? Or is the answer actually somewhere between the two? Based on the way the story develops and then concludes in the last chapter, one has to wonder if The Prophet and Nouriel Kaplan, when taken together, actually represent Jonathan Cahn. Are they fictional characters or are they real?
In the second half of the book, Kaplan has a dream about the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem which includes the biblical king Solomon. However, when Solomon turns around, he has unexpectedly transformed into George Washington on the Temple Mount. Is this dream just a literary device in the story or did the author actually have a similar dream? Although he has stated that he did not have a dream as described in the book, it is clear that the idea for the dream sequence did not develop in a vacuum. Could it simply represent Cahn’s contemplation and thought process as he sought to arrive at a meaningful interpretation of some of the events in America over the past decade? Once again, the crucial question is: “Fact or fiction?”
Another major issue is the interpretation of events in America since 9/11. Can the author’s interpretation of the events rightly be considered to be facts as he apparently does? For example, Cahn believes that God removed His “hedge of protection” from the United States which allowed the successful attacks on the World Trade Center. He also believes that these attacks marked the beginning of God’s judgment upon the nation.
However, to claim to know these things with the absolute certainty claimed by the author is to claim insight into the very mind of God, including His specific purposes and plans for America in this generation. Although one might speculate and form opinions, these things cannot be known for sure unless God were to personally reveal them. So, does the author believe he has received this necessary revelation? And if so, is he right? Is God using him as a prophet? Has God given him special insight into an ancient mystery? Has God truly shown him that his confidence in the veracity of his conclusions and interpretation is justified? Or does his message amount to nothing more than speculation? Fact or fiction?
The Mystery of Isaiah 9:10: A Direct Link between Israel and America?
The author denies that he is arguing for a direct connection between Israel and America and maintains that the passage only demonstrates a pattern of God’s judgment. Likewise, he concludes that recent events in America, beginning with 9/11, are only parallels to that specific pattern. Yet, in multiple places the book gives the very clear impression that these are more than simply parallels and that a direct connection does exist. Based on what is clearly stated in the book, it is difficult to conclude that this is not precisely what Cahn intended to convey at the time. The following are just a few of the numerous examples.
[Ana Goren] “How could an ancient mystery have anything to do with September 11?”
[Nouriel Kaplan] “An ancient mystery behind everything from 9/11 to the economy . . . to the housing boom . . . to the war in Iraq . . . to the collapse of Wall Street. Everything in precise detail.”11
[The Prophet] “The Assyrians are the fathers of terrorism, and those who mercilessly plotted out the calamity on 9/11 were their spiritual children, another link in the mystery joining America to ancient Israel.”12
[Kaplan] “So if the ancient mystery is joined to America, then somehow 9/11 has to be linked to the words ‘We will rebuild.’” 13
[The Prophet] “Well done, Nouriel. So what would we expect to find in Washington DC?”
[Kaplan] “Some link between this city and the ancient vow,” I said. “Somehow Isaiah 9:10 has to be connected to Washington DC.”14
[The Prophet] “And all referring to America’s campaign to defy the calamity of 9/11, as he links it all to the judgment of ancient Israel. 15
[The Prophet] “Solomon was the king of Israel. Washington was the first president of the United States. There was something in the linking of ancient Israel and America, as with all the other mysteries.”16
Cahn’s belief in a direct prophetic link between Isaiah 9:10 and the United States could not be more clear. As such, the author’s theory about this direct connection unambiguously forms the “factual” basis for the entire story.
The Mystery of Isaiah 9:10: A Driving Force?
Not only does Cahn seem to believe that there is a connection, but he also presents Isaiah’s words as functioning as a driving force in specific events in America over the last decade, set into motion by the attacks of 9/11. According to The Prophet, because of the link between Isaiah 9:10 and Israel, once the pattern is set into motion, each step of the progression must inevitably take place.17
The cause/effect relationship is also confirmed in his The 700 Club interview on January 3, 2012:
[The mystery] even has determined the actions and the actual words of American leaders. A mystery that goes back two and a half thousand years and is a warning of judgment and a call of God—a prophetic call of God.18
This comes perilously close to being a mystical view of the prophetic Scriptures because biblical prophecies do not function this way. Any prophecy as specific as Isaiah 9:10 also has a unique, specific future referent in view which sets parameters and limits on what constitutes literal fulfillment. That what is being suggested about Isaiah 9:10 sounds more like a sort of mystical incantation than a prophecy is reinforced when the author introduces the idea of “The Isaiah 9:10 Effect” later in chapter 15.
Undoubtedly, Jonathan Cahn did not intend to give this impression. But he would not be the first person to unintentionally confuse genuinely spiritual approaches with unbiblical and dangerous mystical ones.
America: A New Israel?
In the April 4 discussion, as well as in email correspondence, the author has stated that he does not believe that America is the “New Israel” or has replaced Israel in God’s program. However, a number of exchanges between The Prophet and Nouriel Kaplan could easily leave The Harbinger’s readers with a different impression. The Prophet builds the case for the connection by referencing the thinking and intentions of America’s founders:
[The Prophet] But there was one other—a civilization also conceived and dedicated to the will of God from its conception . . . America. In fact, those who laid its foundations . . .”
[Kaplan] “The Founding Fathers.”
[The Prophet] “No, long before the Founding Fathers. Those who laid America’s foundations saw it as the new Israel, an Israel of the New World. And as it was with ancient Israel, they saw it as in covenant with God.”19
Although the author denies this, the argument of the book seems to specifically depend on the idea that America’s founders and early leaders had indeed established the nation to be in a covenant relationship with God similar to that of ancient Israel. If it were not for this belief there would be no book. However, God established a covenant relationship with only one nation through His covenant with Abraham. Abraham entered into the covenant by faith, forever establishing Israel as a unique nation in a unique relationship with God that would be enjoyed by no other nation.
While The Harbinger does not state that God has completely rejected national Israel, there is no reference to either modern-day or future Israel at all. This is a significant omission because the sense one gets from the book is that Israel had failed to heed the warnings of the prophet and was subsequently permanently annihilated. This impression is compounded by the fact that there is no mention of Isaiah 9:1-7 (as noted earlier).
Granted, it is beyond the scope of The Harbinger to present a fully-developed eschatology. However, all we know from the story is that ancient Israel did not repent and was therefore destroyed. The story then jumps to the vision the founders had for America to be the New Israel. Again, this gives the impression that Israel met its final end, which is precisely the warning the author is communicating to America if there is no repentance.
The Ancient Mystery: The Nine Harbingers
As previously noted, the fictional part of the story centers around a “mystery” connected with nine small, engraved clay discs.[20.Page 9.] The original purpose of the nine seals was to warn the Northern Kingdom of Israel of progressive stages in God’s judgment as prophesied in Isaiah 9:10.
“The bricks have fallen down,
But we will rebuild with hewn stones;
The sycamores have been cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars.” 20
The nine seals were “harbingers” of impending events in the passage that would take place if Israel did not heed them as warnings— events which would ultimately lead to a catastrophic final judgment resulting in Israel’s total destruction and collapse. And although the nine seals are only part of the fictional narrative, they do represent nine actual “harbingers” or signs which the author believes he has identified in the Isaiah passage. He also believes that he has discovered an ancient mystery—a pattern of judgment represented by these signs, that is being manifested once again in the United States of America. This is what the author means when he writes, “…what is contained within the story is real.”
NOTE: A thorough treatment of all nine harbingers is being included in a book-length response to The Harbinger by this author. Each of the nine harbingers has problems comparable to those discussed in this review.
The First Harbinger: The Breach
Concerning Israel: God’s removal of his “hedge of protection” which allowed the Assyrians to attack
Concerning America: God’s removal of his hedge of protection which directly led to the breach of America’s security, providing an opening for the terrorists to attack on 9/11
While God protects whomever, whenever and however He chooses, a “hedge of protection” is a very specific type of protection. Such protection is mentioned only twice in the Old Testament: once in Satan’s accusation against God concerning Job (Job 1:10) and once concerning the nation of Israel (Isaiah 5:5). In the New Testament, it appears in only one parable which is also about Israel (Matthew 21:33; Mark 12:1). There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that any other nation ever has or ever will be protected in this particular way.
In the absence of any scriptural support, how can it be claimed with any certainty that 9/11 marked the removal of God’s hedge of protection? Furthermore, even if God ever has provided such a hedge of protection around America, is it not possible to also argue that it is still in place? There has not been another terrorist attack since 9/11—even though the motivation, intent and plotting to launch more attacks has continued to the present.
Also, if America enjoyed God’s hedge of protection, then what about Pearl Harbor? Hawaii was an American territory and therefore the attack was against America and on American soil. The next year, the Japanese captured and occupied two Aleutian islands of the Alaska territory. In the War of 1812, Detroit was captured by the British and Washington D.C. was captured and burned. Mexico invaded Texas in the Mexican-American War. In 1993, the World Trade Center was bombed by foreign nationals with the intent of taking down both towers. Was God’s hedge of protection not in place when these breaches occurred? If not, when was it put into place or put back into place?
Third Harbinger: The Fallen Bricks
Concerning Israel: The bricks which were originally used to build the city walls
Concerning America: Bricks that fell from buildings when the World Trade Centers collapsed.
Fallen bricks meant the Northern Kingdom lay in ruins. However, as tragic as they were, the 9/11 attacks involved only a few buildings, not an entire city, let alone the entire nation. And although there had been an airport security breach, this was not a breach of America’s military defenses, even when the attack on the Pentagon is considered.
The pattern of forcing current events into the Isaiah 9:10 prophecy continues with the author’s discussion of the bricks themselves. The fallen bricks in ancient Israel were the ruins of a destroyed city, while fallen bricks were only incidental in the World Trade Center attacks. In fact, it has been suggested that it was the lack of masonry construction that allowed the collapse of the towers.21
Fourth Harbinger: The Tower
Concerning Israel: A spirit of defiance against God when Israel would declare that the destroyed city would be rebuilt
Concerning America: The declaration by America’s leaders that the destroyed towers would be rebuilt
On the fourth clay seal is the image of a tower which is described as looking like the Tower of Babel. With nothing in the text about a tower (more on this later), how does this fit in? In the story, it is connected with a “spirit of defiance” which prompts the declaration by ancient Israel to rebuild the leveled city with hewn stone—and in the case of the WTCs, to rebuild a tower at Ground Zero.
Israel knew that the Assyrian attacks were a judgment they had brought upon themselves. When they declared that they would rebuild, they were shaking their fists in defiance of both their enemies and their God.
This is not what happened in the wake of 9/11. Yet, in both the book and the documentary by World Net Daily, the author attempts to build the case that America’s leaders were proudly and arrogantly acting in defiance against God when they spoke of rebuilding (even though they didn’t realize it).22 This is very misleading because although standing in defiance of America’s enemies, they were demonstrably not standing in defiance of God.
The explanation of the ninth harbinger seems even more misleading. In the book, Cahn gives the impression that Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle concluded a speech on 9/12/2001 by quoting Isaiah 9:10.23 But, that was not the end of the speech. In the documentary by World Net Daily, Cahn specifically states that Daschle closes the speech with, “That is what we will do and we will rebuild, and we will recover.”24 However, this is not how the speech ended. There were two more sentences not shown in the documentary:
The people of America will stand together because the people of America have always stood together, and those of us who are privileged to serve this great nation will stand with you. God bless the people of America.25
By invoking God and thinking he was comforting Americans by using the Bible (albeit wrongly), his intent was clearly not defiance against God—it was exactly the opposite. To fail to include or mention his last two sentences is very misleading.
On September 11, 2004, then vice-presidential candidate John Edwards was speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus Prayer Breakfast. Cahn attempts to frame his speech as another unwitting act of defiance against God. However, an honest reading of the speech26 shows that defiance of God was the furthest thing from his mind.
However, he explains that both Daschle and Edwards were defying God without realizing it. In spite of their intentions, Cahn postulates that God was inspiring them to unknowingly pronounce judgment upon America.27
But how does he know that God is inspiring America’s leaders to prophecy? Unfortunately, he presents his speculation as fact. This is undoubtedly not part of the fictional storyline.
The author attempts to defend his theory by referencing Caiaphas, who unwittingly prophesied concerning the death of Christ (John 11:49-52) Cahn concludes that Daschle and Edwards intended to say one thing, but their words carried a far different meaning. However, that is not what happened with Caiaphas. His words were inspired to mean exactly what he intended. He just didn’t know how right he actually was. Once again, the author’s exposition of the biblical text does not stand up to scrutiny and the supposed parallel is simply not there.
Finally, Cahn appeals to the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) to bring the idea of a tower into Isaiah 9:10. The Septuagint has “let us build for ourselves a tower.”28 However, this phrase is not in the Hebrew text.
Furthermore, he doesn’t inform his readers that in contrast to the Hebrew text, the Septuagint indicates that it is Israel that cuts down the sycamores. And rather than planting cedars, they, too, are cut down—apparently for the purpose of building the tower. So, the Septuagint eliminates the sixth and seventh harbingers. It is extremely misleading and ethically questionable to pick one phrase out of a translation in order to prove a point when the passage as a whole has a very different meaning.
The Isaiah 9:10 Effect
The Harbinger is roughly divided into two major parts. Chapters 1-13 lay a foundation for the author’s arguments as he attempts to correlate the nine harbingers of Isaiah 9:10 with events of the last decade in America as evidence for the first wave of God’s judgment. In the second part of the book, chapters 14-22, Cahn presents a second wave of God’s judgment, a “second shaking,” as a final warning of impending severe judgment if America persists on its present path and refuses to repent. The “Isaiah 9:10 Effect” is introduced in chapter 15 and is used to explain the second shaking, which is the collapse of the entire American economy. The Prophet explains the Isaiah 9:10 Effect as follows:
“The attempt of a nation to defy the course of its judgment, apart from repentance, will, instead, set in motion a chain of events to bring about the very calamity it sought to avert.”29
Thus, the Isaiah 9:10 Effect is presented as having prophetic force, going far beyond a simple parallel or pattern. Cahn believes that the Isaiah 9:10 Effect is what has driven the course of events since the 9/11 terrorist attacks:
[Kaplan] “And they connect 9/11 to the economic collapse?”
[The Prophet] “Not only do they connect them . . . they determined them . . . down to the time each would take place.”
[Kaplan] “An ancient mystery?”
[The Prophet] “Yes, an ancient mystery upon which the global economy and every transaction within it was determined, a mystery that begins more than three thousand years ago in the sands of a Middle Eastern desert.”
Thus, the Isaiah 9:10 Effect is presented as an inviolable principle that once set in motion, the corresponding prescribed outcome is inevitable. Furthermore, it is discussed as if it were completely biblical, yet nothing even remotely similar to this theoretical principle is mentioned or implied anywhere in the Word of God.
The theory of the Isaiah 9:10 effect also raises an obvious, but very important question: Are there any other prophetic passages in the Old Testament that also function in a similar way? How many other prophecies directed to Israel can be correlated to historical events in the United States? Is there also a “Genesis 12:1-3 Effect?”—or a “Joshua 1:6 Effect?” Are such principles to be found throughout the Old Testament or is Isaiah 9:10 the only such passage (which would seem unlikely if the Isaiah 9:10 Effect were true)?
The bottom line is this: If a theological idea cannot be supported by the Bible, then someone simply made it up. Unfortunately, this is precisely the nature of the Isaiah 9:10 Effect—it is made up.
The Shemitah as a Mystery
In the Law God commanded that every seventh year Israel must allow the land to completely rest with no harvesting, reaping or any other work in the fields. In addition, all who owed money to creditors were to be released from their debts (Deut. 15:1-2). This was the Shemitah (or “release” in Hebrew).
Humanly speaking, the Shemitah should be crippling for any nation that attempted to practice it. However, Israel was not just any nation. It was the one special nation God had raised up to be His chosen people. God would demonstrate His love and faithfulness to Israel by providing enough in the sixth year to meet the nation’s needs the following year. Conversely, Israelites would demonstrate their faith in God as individuals and as a nation by obeying the command to keep the Shemitah and trusting Him for the results.
The author correctly has The Prophet stating that the Shemitah was never given to nor binding upon any nation other than Israel.30 However, in an apparent contradiction, he also believes that hidden in the Shemitah is a mystery that is now affecting the United States31—a mystery that extends to even the precise timing of events to the day.32 He argues that God has imposed a Shemitah upon the United States as He did when Israel had turned from Him and failed to voluntarily observe the Shemitah for centuries. In what seems to be an attempt to mitigate this contradiction, he presents the Shemitah as a principle as he did the Isaiah 9:10 Effect. Yet, as is true of the Isaiah 9:10 Effect, Scripture nowhere presents the Shemitah as either a mystery or a pattern or a universal principle connected with God’s judgment.
The Shemitah as a Principle
In order to lay a foundation for the argument that the Shemitah is a principle, the author makes the following assertion through the words of Nouriel Kaplan: “Seven years—the biblical period of time that concerns a nation’s financial and economic realms.”33 While Israel was on a seven-year cycle as required by God, this statement further suggests that the Bible indicates that seven years represent a natural economic cycle in general. However, once again, there are no biblical passages to support this idea.
Furthermore, extensive internet research does not reveal any uniform conventional wisdom or consensus among economists or financial experts that seven years is a natural economic or financial cycle (although apparently it has been suggested a couple of times). Things are said about various cycles that range from three to ten years, but cycles of specifically and exactly seven years apparently do not exist. And, yet, the Shemitah was precise to the exact day.
Cahn’s theory that the Shemitah is a principle thus appears to be yet another example of speculation raised to the level of fact, which is once again misleading. Yet, the second half of the book is built on this theory.
The Shemitah as a Sign
According to Cahn, the Shemitah is not only a principle, but is also a sign which is “given to a nation that has driven God out of its life and replaced Him with idols and the pursuit of gain. The issue is the Shemitah as a sign of judgment, the sign that specifically touches a nation’s financial and economic realms.”34
However, if the Shemitah is genuinely a sign from God, then it is a predictor of things to come because a biblical sign is revelatory. Therefore, if God warns that judgment will come through a particular set of events, when those events begin to happen they signify that the prophesied judgment is underway. On the other hand, in the absence of such a prophetic warning, even if identical events happen, it cannot be known with any certainty that God is executing judgment. For example, even though God judged Egypt through a locust plague, that another region of the world also experiences a swarm of locusts does not necessarily mean that those people are under judgment.
Because the Word of God does not give the required prophetic warning concerning America and the Shemitah, there is no Scriptural basis to interpret recent events as a sign that God is imposing a Shemitah as judgment upon the nation.
The Shemitah and America
What, then, could bring someone to suggest any sort of connection between the Shemitah and America? The only potential explanation would seem to be that the author, in some sense, believes the founders were right about America being in covenant with God, even if not as a new Israel per se, at least patterned after Israel’s covenantal relationship with Him. This is not to suggest that Cahn believes that national Israel has been replaced and has no future in God’s program. Unfortunately, there seems to be a significant disconnect between what the author says he believes about this and the ideas he presents in the book.
The Case for the Shemitah
The examples Cahn uses to demonstrate that America is going through an imposed Shemitah feel contrived. In contrast, the Shemitah in ancient Israel was simple. The Israelites were not to work the land and the wealthy lenders were required to forgive the debts owed to them by average people. When God imposed the Shemitah on Israel, He forced them to stop working the land completely by taking the nation into captivity. And, as captives, the wealthy were brought down to the level of their debtors and the financial system completely collapsed. The imposed Shemitah was not simply a sign, it was the judgment itself. It meant utter devastation. Almost everyone lost almost everything.
Since the situation with America has been significantly different, the author must go to great lengths in an attempt to support his interpretation of both the Bible and history. He has clearly done extensive research and has assembled an impressive array of facts and figures. Because he writes and speaks with conviction and authority, he makes a case that initially seems compelling—and one that has persuaded a lot of people that he is right.
However, upon closer examination, little of what is presented concerning America remotely resembles the Shemitah imposed by God upon ancient Israel. The first major component of the imposed Shemitah, forcing the land to lay completely fallow, has no contemporary parallel, even if possible economic modern-day equivalents are considered. Nothing in this regard indicates that an imposed Shemitah might be underway.
An analysis of the other major component, concerning credit and debt, reveals that the parallels proposed by the author are not much closer. He draws his support almost exclusively from the failure of a few large financial institutions and the response of the federal government. He cites four corporations.: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and AIG.
However, this doesn’t follow “the ancient pattern.” Ancient Israel was overrun by a foreign army with everything of value either destroyed or taken. In sharp contrast, even though the U.S. and global economy has gone through a serious contraction and certainly many have been hurt, it has not been even close to the scale, relatively speaking, of the utter devastation that occurred in Israel.
As the author rightly notes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were rescued by the federal government when the Federal Financial Housing Authority placed them under conservatorship. They did not collapse.35
When Lehman Brothers filed the largest bankruptcy in history after being denied a federal bailout, the U.S. and world markets were rattled for weeks. However, the analysis in the book includes overstatements and what feels like spin in the effort to find support. Although The Prophet states that the fall of Lehman Brothers triggered the implosion of the American and global economies,36 the fact is that they did not implode. They were seriously shocked, even damaged, but they did not collapse.
Unfortunately, because the failure was staggering in terms of dollars ($639 billion in assets and $619 billion in debt),37 the reader’s initial reaction might be that the author has made his case on this point—but he has not. If both the assets and debt of Lehman Brothers, at $1.25 trillion are added together, this represents only an extremely small percentage of the world economy. Even when compared to just the American economy, which has an estimated value of $188 trillion in assets,38 it comes out to only about 0.6%—a far cry from what happened when God judged Israel and imposed a Shemitah.
The author continues to try to build his case by citing the September 29, 2008 stock market crash as the “greatest single-day stock market crash in Wall Street history.”39 However, in only one place does the author note that it was the biggest drop in terms of points not in terms of percentage. At the same time, he repeats over and over that it was the “biggest crash in Wall Street history.” The fact is that at just 7%, the drop in the Dow Jones industrial average did not even rank in the top ten.40
To be fair, the Dow did drop a total of about 25% in the two weeks following the defeat of the bailout bill in the U.S. Congress on September 29. Once again, however, this does not rank in the same league as the market collapse in 1929 when it fell 48% in just over two months. By the time the crash had run its course, stocks had lost 90% of their value.41 Was God imposing a Shemitah in 1929? What about the other major market crashes that are in the top ten?
Even the above examples do not exhaust the numerous overstatements in this section, but they do give a sense of just how statistics can be used to prove almost anything.
King Solomon and George Washington
Confirmation of the Israel-America link
As previously noted, Kaplan, the journalist, has a dream about the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem under king Solomon (chapter 19). Although the author has said that this dream is simply part of the fictional storyline, it seems unlikely that there is not a specific reason behind connecting Solomon and George Washington given what is in the previous eighteen chapters. Why does Solomon transform into George Washington on the Temple Mount? This suggests that Cahn does, in fact, believe that there is much more than some superficial parallelism between the establishment of ancient Israel and the establishment of the United States as an independent nation.
Although preceded by kings Saul and David, it was Solomon who built and dedicated the temple. This finalized the establishment of Israel as a nation because it was then that God came to dwell among His people once again—not in a temporary tent, but in a permanent structure. So, too, the inauguration of George Washington finalized the establishment of the United States as a nation. The factual message that Cahn believes he is communicating through this fictional literary device is unmistakable (and not too surprising).
At this point, it would seem difficult for the author to continue to deny that he has clearly connected ancient Israel and America together. In fact, that he believes they are linked is stated explicitly in the book:
[Kaplan] “Solomon was the king of Israel. Washington was the first president of the United States. There was something in the linking of ancient Israel and America, as with all the other mysteries.”42
Mosaic or Abrahamic Covenant?
Also, despite denials to the contrary, Cahn seems to affirm, once again, that America is in a covenant relationship with God. As part of his explanation of the dream, The Prophet says, “The nation’s ground of consecration will become its ground of judgment.”43 A few pages later, Kaplan has traced the consecration of the United States to God’s purposes to the first capital, New York City—and more specifically to St. Paul’s Chapel, “The place where America was dedicated to God”44—which is located at Ground Zero.
In other words, a harbinger had been manifested in America, just as it had been in Israel. The place of Israel’s consecration, the temple, was destroyed, while the place of America’s dedication, Ground Zero, was also destroyed. Immediately following the above quote, The Prophet continues: “The Temple Mount represented the nation’s covenant with God. So its destruction was the ultimate sign that the covenant was broken.” In other words, the destruction of the place of consecration was a sign that the nation’s covenant with God had been broken—both Israel’s covenant and America’s covenant.
By insisting on pressing every detail as he has, Cahn has either tipped his hand as to what he really believes or has made a serious mistake that needs to be corrected because no one could come to any other conclusion but that he is saying Israel and the United States are both God’s chosen covenant nations. When combined with the fact that he only refers to Israel’s destruction, but never its restoration as modern-day Israel or its future hope as the center of the Messianic Kingdom, he gives the unmistakable impression that America actually does constitute a new Israel.
Another serious question is that of precisely which covenant was broken? Was it the Mosaic Covenant or the Abrahamic Covenant? The foundation of America has been in view throughout the book, but it was upon the foundation of the Abrahamic Covenant that the nation of Israel was established. If Cahn is somehow proposing that Israel managed to break the Abrahamic Covenant, then that means God is finished with national Israel. If that is not what he is suggesting, then The Harbinger needs to undergo some serious revisions to clear up the theological confusion caused by this ambiguity.
Confirmation of prophecy to America
In chapter 20, the author once again demonstrates that there is a discrepancy between what he now says he meant in the book and what he actually wrote. He emphatically denies that Isaiah’s prophecy is to America. However, he explicitly states that there is a prophetic word from Solomon to America:
[The Prophet] “So the message is twofold. There’s another part to it, another prophetic word, and this time from King Solomon.”
[Kaplan] “From King Solomon to America?”
[The Prophet] “For that nation that has turned from God, for that nation from which the smiles of heaven have been withdrawn.”
[Kaplan] “And this word came during the dedication of the Temple?” I asked.
[The Prophet] “It came when the dedication was finished”45
Preparing for Eternity
As stated in the beginning of this review, the author is to be commended for his desire to proclaim a message of repentance to America. His target audience is believers and unbelievers alike, which is one reason he chose to use the fictional format. He also rightly notes that national repentance can only take place at a personal level, when people individually turn to God. Because of this, chapter 21, “Eternity,” is arguably the most important one in the book. The challenge to be spiritually prepared for the day of judgment is quite clear as The Prophet states: “And no one is exempt. Each must stand before Him.46
Unfortunately, there are some issues which diminish the impact this chapter could have. A believer, or even an unbeliever who already understands the gospel would understand what the author is talking about. However, there are a few things which are either not stated, are unclear or require the reader to “connect-the-dots”—a difficult task without some prior exposure to Christianity.
Although the author does present the idea that Jesus is God in one place in the dialogue,47 it could be easily missed by an unbeliever. Neither is Jesus identified as “the Son of God.”
The book does talk about God putting himself in our place, “In our life, in our death, in our judgment . . . the sacrifice”48 which is a very good statement. However, while the Cross at Ground Zero is mentioned, the connection with Jesus and what He did is not. What is not clearly stated is that Jesus died on the cross, shedding His blood for our sins.
It was Jesus’ death that secured the forgiveness of sin and it is His resurrection that provides the sure hope of eternal life. Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 that Jesus’ resurrection is an essential component of the gospel and in Romans 10:9 that one must believe in His resurrection to be saved. However, there is no mention of the resurrection in The Harbinger.
As previously noted, Isaiah 9:10 is in the context of one of the most important messianic passages in the Bible. Yet, the problem of not mentioning Jesus’ resurrection is compounded by the fact that His return is not mentioned either. Although Cahn repeatedly emphasizes the danger of coming judgment, nowhere does he tie it to the Second Coming of Christ. Neither does he mention the hope of the peace that will come to the earth during Christ’s rule over the promised millennial kingdom.
Cahn describes what someone must do to be saved:
[The Prophet] “By receiving . . . by letting go . . . by letting the old life end and a new one begin. By choosing . . . by opening your heart to receive that which is beyond containing—the presence . . . the mercy . . . the forgiveness . . . the cleansing . . . the unending love of God.”49
However, it is never explained that it is by simple faith that one “receives, lets go, chooses or opens one’s heart.” Neither faith in Christ, nor believing in Christ, nor trusting in Christ for one’s salvation are ever discussed. Someone with no biblical background would not understand what The Prophet means when he speaks of partaking in the infinite sacrifice.50 Unfortunately, the gospel is almost obscured in the midst of the many words, while things which could have made it much more clear are missing.
The Tenth Seal
In addition to the nine harbinger seals, there is a tenth, which is Kaplan’s personal seal. In the last chapter of the book, which deals with the tenth seal, the author seems to reveal the connection between himself and Nouriel Kaplan. It actually seems likely that Kaplan is Jonathan Cahn himself.
Kaplan is Jewish, as is the author. Kaplan is from the priestly line of Levi, as is the author. Kaplan becomes a messianic believer in Christ, as is the author. Kaplan has been given a prophetic message by God, as the author apparently believes is true of himself. Kaplan is commissioned and anointed to become a prophet himself, just as many are saying of the author. Kaplan is to be a “watchman on the wall” to warn of impending judgment, just as the author sees himself. And finally, Kaplan is encouraged to get out the message by writing a fictional novel, as has the author.
Jonathan Cahn wrote The Harbinger to call America to repent and turn to God, as well as to warn the nation that it is in danger of coming under the judgment of God if it fails to do so. This is a legitimate and very important message. He also rightly recognizes that the danger faced by the nation is ultimately a personal spiritual matter for each American.
This message could have been communicated in any number of ways, including through a fictional novel. That is not the main problem. The real problem arises from the way he has inappropriately handled the Word of God, from the many instances of speculation concerning the interpretation of historical events, and from the many overstatements and misleading statements he has made in order to make his case for an ancient mystery hidden in Isaiah 9:10.
Unfortunately, The Harbinger is a distraction from properly understanding the Word of God, particularly prophecy and so can legitimately be characterized as dangerous. It conveys what the author believes is a prophetic message, but the book clearly does not meet the tests for a prophetic Word from God. The Harbinger is misleading and therefore does not legitimately achieve what it sets out to do. Believers run the risk of embracing a misguided view of Scripture and a distorted view of history, while unbelievers will likely end up either skeptical or confused or both.
Cahn apparently anticipated that the book would encounter opposition, launching a “preemptive strike” against his critics:
[Kaplan] “They’ll do everything they can to attack and discredit it.”
[The Prophet] “Of course they will,” he said. “Otherwise they’d have to accept it.”
[Kaplan] “But not only the message.”
[The Prophet] “No, the messenger as well.”
[Kaplan] “They’ll do everything they can to attack and discredit the one who bears the message.”
[The Prophet] “Yes,” said the prophet. “The messenger will be opposed, vilified and hated, mocked and slandered. It has to be that way, just as it was for Jeremiah and Baruch.”51
To be clear, this reviewer is not an enemy of the Word of God or of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I accept the Bible as literally true and that all biblical prophecy will be fulfilled. I agree that America is truly on a dangerous path and could well find itself under God’s judgment, if that has not already begun. Americans do need to repent.
- Jonathan Cahn is the senior pastor of Jerusalem / Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne, New Jersey. On the church’s website, it is suggested that Beth Israel is perhaps the largest Messianic congregation in the United States. He is generally referred to as “Rabbi.” ↩
- The Harbinger, from the back cover. ↩
- The Harbinger, p. v. ↩
- http://charismanews.com/us/32649-warning-book-to-america-debuts-on-two-new-york-times-best-seller-lists ↩
- As of April 23, 2012. http://www.amazon.com/The-Harbinger-ancient-mystery-Americas/dp/161638610X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid =1332454190&sr=8-1 ↩
- On April 4, 2012, Dr. Jimmy DeYoung moderated a discussion between Jonathan Cahn and this author which is available on the Prophecy Today website (www.prophecytoday.com) ↩
- http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=10457&news_iv_ctrl=0&abbr=tv_ (at the 8:21 mark) ↩
- http://www.amazon.com/The-Harbinger-ancient-mystery-Americas/dp/161638610X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332907071&sr=8-1 ↩
- Page v. ↩
- In the book, “The Prophet” is not capitalized, but it is capitalized here and elsewhere for clarity. ↩
- Page 3. ↩
- Page 38. ↩
- Page 61. ↩
- Page 104. ↩
- Page 109. ↩
- Page 195. ↩
- Page 141. ↩
- Beginning at the 2:15 minute mark: http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/mp4/SUB109_JonathanCahn_010312_WS ↩
- Pages 18-19. ↩
- Isaiah 9:10, NKJV ↩
- http://www.cement.org/masonry/pp_fire_towers.asp ↩
- At the 21:10 mark, DVD #1. ↩
- Page 117. ↩
- At the 44:38 mark, DVD #1. ↩
- http://wfile.ait.org.tw/wf-archive/2001/010913/epf407.htm ↩
- http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=84922#axzz1M02bgo9D ↩
- Page 117. ↩
- Page 66. ↩
- Page 136. ↩
- Page 159. ↩
- Page 159. ↩
- Page 161. ↩
- Page 161. ↩
- Page 159. ↩
- http://problembanklist.com/fhfa-conservators-report-why-fannie-mae-and-freddie-mac-failed-0183/ ↩
- Page 161. ↩
- http://www.investopedia.com/articles/economics/09/lehman-brothers-collapse.asp#axzz1sMPT0MMA ↩
- http://rutledgecapital.com/2009/05/24/total-assets-of-the-us-economy-188-trillion-134xgdp/ ↩
- Page 164. ↩
- http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/29/markets/markets_newyork/index.htm ↩
- http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/bierman.crash ↩
- Page 195. ↩
- Page 198. ↩
- Page 206. ↩
- Pages 221-222. ↩
- Page 227. ↩
- Page 232. ↩
- Page 232. ↩
- Page 233. ↩
- Page 232. ↩
- Page 251. ↩
This is Part 2 an article which appeared in the September / October 2011 edition of Voice magazine and is reproduced with the permission of its author, Dr. Kevin Zuber.
Dr. Zuber is Professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute and a teaching elder / pastor at Grace Bible Church Northwest.
Preface (by Dave James)
There were several catalysts in the process that ultimately led to the formation of The Alliance for Biblical Integrity. One of the first was a very late-night conversation with Dr. Jimmy DeYoung in 2007 (which I’ll get back to in a moment).
It was after midnight and we were returning to Hungary after speaking at the first prophecy conference ever held in Serbia (to the best of our knowledge). We were still rejoicing in the fact that the Lord had allowed us to be a part of something that had far exceeded everyone’s expectations. The organizers of the conference (one a Serbian Baptist pastor and the other an elder in a Brethren Church) had set up the locations for the meetings based on their hope that we might have as many as 100 people or so attend the conference. After the meeting on Saturday, a last-minute change of venue for the Sunday meetings was necessitated by the fact that around 500 had come out to hear the messages. By the last meeting on Sunday, it was estimated that close to 800 were in attendance that evening – approximately 10% of the evangelical population of the entire country of Serbia!
Back to the conversation: The question we were asking ourselves was, “Where is the next generation of prophecy speakers going to come from? Who is teaching and training them.” This also led to the observation that dispensationalism, in general, seems to be in rapid decline after over 50 years of being the most widely-held view within conservative evangelicalism.
In this article, Kevin Zuber deals with this specific issue and some of the significant implications flowing out of this shift away from Pre-Trib Pre-Mil Dispensationalism and toward Covenant Theology and its attendant “supersessionism.” As Dr. Zuber explains in the article:
[supersessionism is] the theology that denies that God has a future program for the nation of Israel and denies that the promises God has made to the ethnic descendants of Abraham—the Jewish people—will be kept fully and literally.
Article by Kevin Zuber
Part 1 concluded with the observation that many young evangelicals in colleges and universities have decided eschatology is not very important and that many lay people share that opinion.
Furthermore, and perhaps this is in part the cause of the point just made, it is my impression that Christian scholars, even the biblical scholars and evangelical theologians, are not all that interested in pursuing issues related to eschatology or even in advocating a particular position on eschatology. This is becoming more pervasive among premillennial dispensationalists. This may be (and I think it is) caused by the embarrassment that many of them feel when rubbing elbows with the wider scholarly evangelical community. It is something of a long-standing fact of scholarly life (nearly a “tradition”) that when one enters the “serious academy,” matters of eschatology are relegated to relative insignificance.1
One could recount dozens of testimonies of scholars who grew up in or were saved in churches that regarded the New Scofield Reference Bible with the highest esteem, churches that held Prophecy Conferences regularly if not annually, churches whose libraries were well stocked with the books of Chafer, Walvoord, Ryrie, Pentecost, McClain, Feinberg and the other luminaries of classic dispensationalism. But when those young scholars went off to graduate school or seminary (even evangelical seminaries) they were disabused of those resources and enlightened to the profundities of Ladd, Dodd, Bruce, Barr, and Barth (!)…and these days James Dunn and N. T. Wright among others.
As an illustration I would offer the example of the book 20th Century Theology by Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olsen.2 In many ways this is a fine piece of historical theology. And while no survey can cover everything, yet in that book none of the “old Dallas Seminary” authors are even mentioned and the subject of eschatology appears in only one index reference and that’s under the theology of Rudolph Bultmann! The message is clear: “scholarly theology” is simply not interested in the timing of the Rapture or the future of ethnic Israel.3
Resurgence of reformed theology
Also, there has recently been a resurgence of Reformed theology among a broader range of evangelicals. The rise of Reformed theology (Westminster Confession of Faith type of Reformed), especially among the so-called “young restless and reformed”4 has generally and in some cases specifically had a deleterious effect on the study of eschatology. And more to the point, it has contributed to a movement away from premillennial dispensationalism toward a murky amillennial covenantalism.5 Popular preachers in that mode like John Piper6 (not so young but very popular with the young, restless and reformed men), Mark Driscoll,7 Kevin DeYoung8 and others as well as Reformed bloggers like Tim Challies9 have been on record as discounting prophetic themes while pushing a Westminster Confession of Faith/Reformed point of view that is inherently supersessionist. My point is that many of our young people, influenced by the popularity of the preachers and bloggers noted above, are becoming supersessionist almost without thinking. And this is happening even if they will somewhere in their theology affirm a form of premillennialism.
Spiritual vision eschatology
Next is the pervasiveness of what Blaising himself calls a spiritual-vision eschatology. This he defines as a “traditional eschatology which sees eternal life as a timeless, changeless, spiritual existence consisting primarily in the human soul’s full knowledge of God…. This is the sum total of what eternal life is, and it defines what is meant by heaven.”10 In short, the sum total of the eschatology of many Christians is this simple phrase: “absent from the body, present with the Lord.” For many Christians (and many of them in our own churches) this simple formula entails all that one needs to know about eschatology. And this fits well with the vision of supersessionism.
According to this view, everything in this life is “a symbol of spiritual realities” so “Israel can only be a symbol of a spiritual people to come.”11 In this view, one can easily turn the Old Testament land promises to Abraham and his seed into “spiritual promises.” They fit into a spiritual-vision eschatology. But viewing the land promises as promises that are to be literally fulfilled seem less than credible (or even pertinent) to a simple eschatology defined as “going to be with the Lord” at one’s death and nothing more. The very earthly (to be fulfilled literally “on the very ground”) and temporal (in time and space) eschatology of dispensational premillennialism seems less credible to many believers than the vision of this pervasive “spiritual-vision” eschatology. The latter is simple and satisfying, the former (dispensational eschatology) seems complicated. And in the end, they ask “who’s going to care about the Antichrist when they are with Jesus?”
The lack in our pulpits
Finally, it seems to me that behind much of the uncertainty of dispensationalism in the pew and the classroom stems from the fact that doctrine in general and eschatology in particular is not being taught in the churches or preached from the pulpits. I realize this may seem a wild generalization. But the penchant for relevance in preaching and the cry for practical instruction in the church has pushed doctrinal study to the periphery in many churches. I see it in the incoming students even in Bible college. Doctrine is often viewed as dry and unrelated to life; and that seems especial ly so when the doctrine concerns matters like the tribulation and the millennial kingdom. Besides, these matters are controversial and seem to generate more heat than light and the post-modern student looking for cultural and practical relevance and the entrepreneurial pastor seeking to grow his church soon learn to avoid such matters.12
Implications of all this
All in all, I may be wrong on this and I deeply hope I am. But I’m afraid that premillennial dispensationalism is on the wane, and not because there are better arguments for other millennial views, or for supersessionism. I think this is because the scholars have decided there have been enough arguments over eschatology and that one’s view of the millennium is, well, inconsequential and that to advocate a particular view is in poor scholarly taste. And students are looking for cultural acceptance more than theological precision because they think this is a better way to reach the world with the gospel. The effect of such trends, I fear, is simply to cede ground to views that are by default supersessionist.
Why does this matter? For one consequential matter is Jewish evangelism. It is much more likely for those who believe Scripture teaches a future for nation al Israel will be involved in ministries devoted to Jewish evangelism. It should be a concern for all of us who understand the Scriptural priority of Jewish evangelism to see that the theological tradition that has nurtured much of the impetuous for Jewish evangelism is healthy. One author made the telling observation that there are few staunchly Reformed organizations devoted to reaching the Jewish people.
But even more widely, we should be concerned because the truth we affirm from the Scriptures is in danger of being lost not in the rigors of theological debate and a progressively clearer understanding of the program and plan of God revealed in His Word. It is in danger of being marginalized by those who dismiss it while at the same time it wanes from lack of affirmation, advocacy and teaching by those who formally affirm it. It is one thing for our churches and students to be drawn away by advocates of other eschatological viewpoints. But it is another thing to allow them to drift away by our relative neglect. At the present time both developments are taking place.
Perhaps the optimists are right and supersessionism will not overtake the more Scriptural view that God indeed has a future for ethnic, national Israel. But even if they are right, it is appropriate for us to consider the challenges I have mentioned carefully and to address them boldly and confidently.
How then must we respond? The prescription is, I think very simple to state but will take some determined effort if there is to be a reversal of these trends.
Those who are undecided and on the fence regarding eschatological matters need to get off the fence! Study and show yourself approved! I’m confident that a serious of study of eschatology, looking at both sides and reading both covenant theologians and dispensational authors (such as those books mentioned above) will lead you to a firm conviction of dispensational eschatology.
Also, we educators need to teach this to our students and we pastors need to preach this to our flocks. The trends noted have not risen over night and will not be easily reversed—but they are reversible. If IFCA International does not stand for dispensational theology, who will?
1 See for instance (and this is only one) the testimony of Richard S. Hess, in his chapter, “The Future Written in the Past: The Old Testament and the Millennium,” in Blomberg and Chung, eds., A Case For Historic Premillennialism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), pp. 23-24. Hess writes, “Several experiences in my life moved me away from this fascination with, and focus on, the details of Christ’s return.” “The ensuing years occupied me with the study of the Hebrew Bible in its original context and kept me safely away from the prophecy wars in evangelicalism.” The message is clear: serious scholars are not interested in the details of prophecy—they have “matured” beyond such a “fascination.”
3 Another indication of the lack of scholarly interest in these matters is the rather lack-luster attendance at the Dispensational Study Group at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. This is purely anecdotal but it has appeared to me that while overall attendance at the ETS meeting has grown over the last few years, attendance at the meetings of the Dispensational Study Group has dwindled.
4 Cf. Colin Hansen, “Young, Restless and Reformed,” Christianity Today, September 22, 2006; http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/september/42.32.html; accessed march 22, 2011; see also Colin Hansen, “Reflections on Young Restless and Reformed,” Reformation 21, February 2009 http://www.reformation21.org/articles/reflections-on-young-restless-and-reformed.php accessed March 22, 2011.
5 A popular website resource for the “young, restless and reformed” is http://www.monergism.com/; this site is decidedly anti-dispensational and pro-covenant theology. However, it has many good and useful sources for other aspects of Bible and theological study.
6 See http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-does-john-piper-believe-about-dispensationalism- covenant-theology-and-new-covenant-theology; this page indicates that Piper “is probably the furthest away from dispensationalism, although he does agree with dispensationalism that there will be a millennium.” I would conclude that Piper holds to a form of “historic premillenialism.”
8 http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/about/; DeYoung’s tag line is “DeYoung, Restless and Reformed.”
9 http://www.challies.com/; Challies clearly does not accept dispensationalism but periodically it comes up on his blog and he is a fair critic.
An astonishing guest opinion piece 1 featured in the February 11 edition of Christianity Today Direct challenges Christians in the West, including “many evangelicals,” to rethink what the author describes as “a deep and abiding prejudice” against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt (a prejudice which he says evangelicals share with “the U.S. foreign policy community”). The article was written by Bob Kubinec, who is described as “a consultant who lives in Washington, D.C. He has studied and done research on religious and political issues in Egypt and Jordan, and has an M.A. in Middle East Studies from George Washington University.”
Christianity Today notes that as a guest opinion piece this article does not necessarily represent CT‘s opinion. However, CT chooses what to publish and bears the responsibility that goes with that decision. Unfortunately, it seems to be yet another example in a growing list of articles which represent poor decisions on the part of Christianity Today’s editorial staff, particularly for a publication that claims to be a voice for evangelicalism. Historically, a large segment of evangelicalism has tended to carefully analyze both U.S. foreign policy and events in the Middle East in light of their potential impact on Israel, in addition to Christians in the region. This article fails to do that.
Although we may not support or be able to defend every Israeli policy, it is at our peril, as individuals, as a body of believers and as a nation that we ignore the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant which make it very clear that to set oneself against Israel is to set oneself against the Lord himself (Genesis 12). Yet, by portraying the Muslim Brotherhood as more or less benign, Mr. Kubinec ignores the fact that the MB could pose a serious threat to Israel’s national security, and even its very existence, if it becomes a major player in the new Egyptian government. This is not tangential to the subject of the article because this has significant implications for the Christians in Egypt (and those throughout the region).
As late as last week, on 2/1/11, the Jerusalem Post reported:
Muhammad Ghannem reportedly told Al-Alam* that the Suez Canal should be closed immediately, and that the flow of gas from Egypt to Israel should cease “in order to bring about the downfall of the Mubarak regime.” He added that “the people should be prepared for war against Israel,” saying the world should understand that “the Egyptian people are prepared for anything to get rid of this regime.” 2
(*Al-Alam, is the Arabic-language Iranian news network.)
Oddly, the title, “The Muslim Brotherhood and the Gospel of Christ” reflects one purpose for Kubinec’s article, while the subtitle seems to reflect an entirely different one: “Why Egypt’s Christians might actually be safer if the Muslim Brotherhood were a part of the ruling government.” The title comes from the thesis that American Christians could “make quite an impact—and make a statement about true Christlikeness—if American Christians refrained from knee-jerk criticism of the party.” However, the subtitle reflects the thesis that “The worst that could be said of the Brotherhood is that they would continue the status quo.” The worst?
Thus, the article is far more than just a call for Christians to genuinely act like Christians toward our Muslim Brotherhood “neighbors.” Rather, it largely has the feel of an apologetic for the Muslim Brotherhood. It attempts to persuade the reader that the MB is not so bad—certainly not as bad as radical Islamic groups like al-Qaeda, Hamas or Hezbollah as has been suggested—and at the very least, it is definitely not as bad as the Mubarak regime.
However, the impending rise of the Muslim Brotherhood has been one of the most-discussed topics by a broad range of analysts over the last few days. Profound concern has been almost uniformly expressed because of the Brotherhood’s long history of direct connection to extreme Islamic movements and what this might mean for Egypt, the entire Middle East, the United States and (most importantly, in my view) Israel. And, if things go south, as many believe they could, Egypt’s Christians would almost certainly find themselves in dire straits. (To be fair, Kubinec does include one qualification when he writes, “The debate about the Muslim Brotherhood is not whether they currently support democratic reform in Egypt, but whether they will still support reform after they are in government.”)
The Muslim Brotherhood is the antithesis of a secular organization as asserted today by James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence. Clapper’s statement presents a significant concern that our primary Intelligence officer has a complete lack of understanding of an organization that presents the greatest threat to the security of the United States. The Director of Intelligence is either grossly naïve or covering up for an ideology that is in an ideological war with the United States and western society. 3
On Friday evening (2/11/11), I watched an interview by Greta Van Susteren with Egypt’s ambassador to the United States. She asked about James Clapper’s statement and whether or not the Muslim Brotherhood is a secular or religious organization. His reply was that they are known for their religious ideology and that they are an unknown as a political entity, so “we will have to wait and see.”
In the next segment, she interviewed former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton. He discussed the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is now demanding that Egypt’s military relinquish power to civilians and that they want to establish Islamic law.
Islam is neither philosophically nor theologically compatible with other religions or with democracy. Therefore, it is difficult to take seriously the Muslim Brotherhood’s claims that it wants nothing more than a democratic government. If they were planning to establish a genuinely democratic republic then surely AIFM and Dr. Jasser would be throwing their support behind them, rather than warning the United States that it “presents the greatest threat to the security of the United States”—which seems to imply that they see the threat represented by the Muslim Brotherhood to be even greater than that of the looming specter of a nuclear Iran.
And, again, this warning is not coming from the U.S. State Department nor from conservative evangelicals. Nor is it coming from Israel, although the Israeli government has also expressed grave concern. On January 31, in a joint press conference with Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu made the following direct statements concerning the crisis in Egypt:
“In a state of chaos, an organized Islamic group can take over a country. It has happened. It happened in Iran. A takeover of oppressive regimes of extreme Islam violates human rights, grinds them to dust … and in parallel also pose a terrible danger to peace and stability.” 4 (source)
Mark Heller, (senior analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv), has expressed that Israel’s primary concern is:
Predictably, al Qaeda has been calling for jihad in the wake of Mubarak’s resignation on Friday (2/11/2011). In response, it is reported on the Muslim Brotherhood website that the editor of the English version has rejected and renounced these efforts:
Khaled Hamza, Ikhwanweb’s chief editor, strongly condemned statements by jihadist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda concerning the ongoing protests in Egypt, calling for Egyptians to wage violent “Jihad” to topple the regime in Egypt.
Hamza confirmed the Muslim Brotherhood’s firm stance against use of violence to achieve legitimate popular demands, rejecting any interference in Egypt’s domestic affairs. He stressed that Egyptians are capable of solving their problem without intrusion, meddling and prying from foreign groups such as Alqaeda and simialr [sic] groups advocating the use of violence.
The MB is confident that Egyptians will ignore latest al Qaeda statements and its ideology, which contradict with the basic tenets of Islam and the peacedul [sic] nature of the Egyptian people.
However, the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in 1928, cannot be forgotten. It continues to be widely reported across the internet that the MB has retained the motto established 80 years ago by its founder, Hassan al-Banna:
Allah is our purpose.
The Prophet our leader.
The Qur’an our constitution.
Jihad our way.
And dying for Allah’s cause our supreme objective.
In her 2006 book, Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror, Mary Habek presents the results of extensive research into the roots of Islamic extremism. Quoting al-Banna, she writes :
Our task in general is to stand against the flood of modernist civilization over flowing from the swamp of materialistic and sinful desires. This flood has swept the Muslim nation away from the Prophet’s leadership and Qur’anic guidance and deprived the world of its guiding light. Western secularism moved into a Muslim world already estranged from its Qur’anic roots, and delayed its advancement for centuries, and will continue to do so until we drive it from our lands. Moreover, we will not stop at this point, but will pursue this evil force to its own lands, invade its Western heart land, and struggle to overcome it until all the world shouts by the name of the Prophet and the teachings of Islam spread through out the world. Only then will Muslims achieve their fundamental goal, and there will be no more “persecution” and all religion will be exclusively for Allah.
(location 263 in the Kindle version of Knowing the Enemy)
It has been countered that the Muslim Brotherhood of today is not that of 30-40 years ago, nor is it a monolithic organization, having multiple strands. On Friday evening’s Special Report (2/11/11), Brett Baier spoke with Ed Husain, (who is said to be a former Islamic radical) (source):
BAIER: Now, today, this historic change, and there’s all the celebration on the square, and throughout Egypt, that this 30-year dictator has been overthrown. The power has gone to the military, and there are still questions about what comes next. Some people are worried about the vacuum and possibly the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists stepping in. What are your thoughts about that?
HUSAIN: Well, as a student and subsequently after that I spent some time with the Muslim Brotherhood so I’m familiar with the thinking and its pragmatic strategy. The good news is — well, let’s start with the bad news. The bad news is the Muslim Brotherhood does play the mood music to which suicide bombers dance. It did traditionally have a very confrontational attitude towards the West. It’s very suspicious of Israel, to put it mildly. And, it tends to mobilize people around its own interpretation of religion. That’s the bad news.
But the good news is the Muslim Brotherhood over the last 30 years has abandoned violence, and it tends to be pragmatic and want to enter democratic politics. I think if the Muslim Brotherhood is brought into a broader coalition, but on condition that it respects the peace treaty with Israel, that it’s respectful towards the West and it respects human rights, which it claims to, then there’s good news. The debate and the discussion is whether we’ll get there, but keeping them outside [unintelligible]
How could anyone suggest that the “good news” he mentions somehow negates or nullifies the “bad news?” Within the space of just a couple of breaths, Mr. Husain declares that the Muslim Brotherhood has abandoned violence over the last 30 years, while acknowledging that the MB “does play the mood music to which suicide bombers dance.” Can he be serious? What sort of tortured logic is this?
The overwhelming evidence suggests, and Husain noted this above, that the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing if not pragmatic. Pragmatism dictates that “you do what you have to do to achieve your goals.” If that means being patient, so be it. If that means doing a “head-fake,” then that is just part of the game. The issue is not what is being currently being said by the Muslim Brotherhood. The question is what has history established as their modus operandi, including since their claimed change-of-heart over the last thirty years? The applicable old adage is “what you’re doing speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
And knowing this, what level of naïveté could foster the suggestion that evangelical believers are in danger of hurting the cause of the gospel with their “deep and abiding prejudice” against the Muslim Brotherhood? It is rather difficult to see how Mr. Kubenic is giving an informed, accurate, fair and balanced, and agenda-free assessment of the situation. And because of its broad readership and influence, I would suggest that by publishing his article, Christianity Today is not free from culpability in this matter. Arguably, both have done a great disservice to the state of Israel, as well as to Christians in both in Egypt and the entire region, as well as to many evangelical believers in the United States.
What must be understood is that the revolution in Egypt has not occurred in a vacuum. There is an historical geo-political context throughout the Middle East that is deeply rooted in extreme religious ideology. Even if a case could be made that the Muslim Brotherhood has at least superficially reformed over the last thirty years, there is abundant evidence that it has been and continues to be an integral and ever-present part of that context—both directly and indirectly.
The Muslim Brotherhood (known in Arabic as al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen) is Egypt’s oldest and largest Islamist organization. Founded in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, it is widely considered the world’s most influential Islamist organization, with numerous branches and affiliates. It is “the mother of all Islamist movements,” says Shadi Hamid, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center. The group has emerged as Egypt’s biggest opposition movement. Many analysts expect the Brotherhood to play a larger role in the country’s future, following the anti-government protests of 2011 in which hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to call for political and economic reforms and the ouster of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak. “Without the Muslim Brotherhood, there’s no legitimacy in whatever happens in Egypt anymore,” says Ed Husain, a senior fellow at CFR. But there are concerns over the group’s aim to establish a state ruled by sharia or Islamic law, questions over its support for the Mideast peace process and its policy toward Israel and the United States, and ambiguity over its respect for human rights.
Note that Ed Husain, mentioned above in the discussion with Brett Baier, is identified in the above quote as a “senior fellow at CFR.” This would seem to indicate that for whatever reason, he may have been doing a bit of spinning on Special Report by trying to emphasize the “good news” over the “bad news.”
In the same CFR article, the author, Jayshree Bajoria discusses the history of the Muslim Brotherhood:
The Brotherhood’s original mission was to Islamize society through promotion of Islamic law, values, and morals. An Islamic revivalist movement from its early days, it has combined religion, political activism, and social welfare in its work. It adopted slogans such as “Islam is the solution” and “jihad is our way.” It played a role in the fight against British colonial rule and was banned for a short time in 1948 (BBC) for orchestrating bombings inside Egypt and allegedly assassinating Prime Minister Mahmoud al-Nuqrashi. It then experienced a short spell of good relations with the government that came to power through a military coup, which ended British rule in 1952. But following a failed attempt to assassinate President Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1954, the group was banned again.
At this time, Sayyid Qutb, a prominent member of the Brotherhood, laid down the ideological ground for the use of jihad, or armed struggle, against the regime in Egypt and beyond. Qutb’s writings, in particular his 1964 work Milestones, has provided the intellectual and theological underpinnings for the founders of numerous radical and militant Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. Extremist leaders often channel Qutb to argue that governments not ruled by sharia are apostate and, therefore, legitimate targets of jihad.
The Brotherhood has spawned branches all across the globe. These organizations bear the Brotherhood name, but their connections to the founding group vary. Detractors of the Brotherhood argue that the group continues to have some links to Hamas, an organization termed as a terrorist group by the United States, European Union, and Israel, and originally a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestinian territories. But other analysts argue the nature of links is not entirely clear. In addition, some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists were once Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members, including Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
On the Foreign Affairs website, Robert Leiken and Steven Brooke in a March / April 2007 article argued that the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate organization. However, even in the midst of trying to portray the MB in this light, they join many other analysts in wondering if the face they are putting forward is anything more than an opportunistic ploy.
The Muslim Brotherhood is the world’s oldest, largest, and most influential Islamist organization. It is also the most controversial, condemned by both conventional opinion in the West and radical opinion in the Middle East. American commentators have called the Muslim Brothers “radical Islamists” and “a vital component of the enemy’s assault force … deeply hostile to the United States.” Al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri sneers at them for “luring thousands of young Muslim men into lines for elections … instead of into the lines of jihad.”
Jihadists loathe the Muslim Brotherhood (known in Arabic as al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen) for rejecting global jihad and embracing democracy. These positions seem to make them moderates, the very thing the United States, short on allies in the Muslim world, seeks. But the Ikhwan also assails U.S. foreign policy, especially Washington’s support for Israel, and questions linger about its actual commitment to the democratic process.
The ambiguity surrounding the Muslim Brotherhood’s stand is all too apparent in the following video commentary, once again, by Ed Husain. Given the volatility of the entire region, and the clearly dangerous intentions of so many Muslim factions, this kind of ambiguity can never be a good sign.
What is not ambiguous are the well-known goals of the Muslim Brotherhood which have been outlined in a number of documents across the internet. One of these documents is a May 1991 memorandum, authored by Mohamed Akram: “General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood in North America.” The following summary of some of the major points is from The Investigative Project on Terrorism website. (Of particular concern is the third quote.)
This May 1991 memo was written by Mohamed Akram, a.k.a. Mohamed Adlouni, for the Shura Council of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the introductory letter, Akram referenced a “long-term plan…approved and adopted” by the Shura Council in 1987 and proposed this memo as a supplement to that plan and requested that the memo be added to the agenda for an upcoming Council meeting. Appended to the document is a list of all Muslim Brotherhood organizations in North America as of 1991.
- Enablement of Islam in North America, meaning: establishing an effective and stable Islamic Movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood which adopts Muslims’ causes domestically and globally, and which works to expand the observant Muslim base, aims at unifying and directing Muslims’ efforts, presents Islam as a civilization alternative, and supports the global Islamic state, wherever it is.
- In order for Islam and its Movement to become “a part of the homeland” in which it lives, “stable” in its land, “rooted” in the spirits and minds of its people, “enabled” in the live [sic] of its society and has firmly-established “organizations” on which the Islamic structure is built and with which the testimony of civilization is achieved, the Movement must plan and struggle to obtain “the keys” and the tools of this process in carry [sic] out this grand mission as a “Civilization Jihadist” responsibility which lies on the shoulders of Muslims and – on top of them – the Muslim Brotherhood in this country.
- The process of settlement is a “Civilization-Jihadist Process” with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who chose to slack. But, would the slackers and the Mujahedeen be equal.
It must also be noted that in 1982 the Muslim Brotherhood was just getting started in its current form—a start which cannot be remotely characterized as reflecting “a change of heart.” In January 2007, Militant Islam Monitor.org published a must-read article which analyzes a document known in the intelligence community as “The Project.” Excerpts from that article (which also includes the full text of “The Project”) are quoted here:
One might be led to think that if international law enforcement authorities and Western intelligence agencies had discovered a twenty-year old document revealing a top-secret plan developed by the oldest Islamist organization with one of the most extensive terror networks in the world to launch a program of “cultural invasion” and eventual conquest of the West that virtually mirrors the tactics used by Islamists for more than two decades, that such news would scream from headlines published on the front pages and above the fold of the New York Times, Washington Post, London Times, Le Monde, Bild, and La Repubblica. If that’s what you might think, you would be wrong.
In fact, such a document was recovered in a raid by Swiss authorities in November 2001, two months after the horror of 9/11. Since that time information about this document, known in counter-terrorism circles as “The Project”, and discussion regarding its content has been limited to the top-secret world of Western intelligence communities. Only through the work of an intrepid Swiss journalist, Sylvain Besson of Le Temps, and his book published in October 2005 in France, La conquête de l’Occident: Le projet secret des Islamistes (The Conquest of the West: The Islamists’ Secret Project), has information regarding The Project finally been made public. One Western official cited by Besson has described The Project as “a totalitarian ideology of infiltration which represents, in the end, the greatest danger for European societies.”
What Western intelligence authorities know about The Project begins with the raid of a luxurious villa in Campione, Switzerland on November 7, 2001. The target of the raid was Youssef Nada, director of the Al-Taqwa Bank of Lugano, who has had active association with the Muslim Brotherhood for more than 50 years and who admitted to being one of the organization’s international leaders. The Muslim Brotherhood, regarded as the oldest and one of the most important Islamist movements in the world, was founded by Hasan al-Banna in 1928 and dedicated to the credo, “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”
The raid was conducted by Swiss law enforcement at the request of the White House in the initial crackdown on terrorist finances in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. US and Swiss investigators had been looking at Al-Taqwa’s involvement in money laundering and funding a wide range of Islamic terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, HAMAS (the Palestinian affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood), the Algerian GIA, and the Tunisian Ennahdah.
Included in the documents seized during the raid of Nada’s Swiss villa was a 14-page plan written in Arabic and dated December 1, 1982, which outlines a 12-point strategy to “establish an Islamic government on earth” – identified as The Project. According to testimony given to Swiss authorities by Nada, the unsigned document was prepared by “Islamic researchers” associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Rather than focusing on terrorism as the sole method of group action, as is the case with Al-Qaeda, in perfect postmodern fashion the use of terror falls into a multiplicity of options available to progressively infiltrate, confront, and eventually establish Islamic domination over the West. The following tactics and techniques are among the many recommendations made in The Project:
- Networking and coordinating actions between likeminded Islamist organizations;
- Avoiding open alliances with known terrorist organizations and individuals to maintain the appearance of “moderation”;
- Infiltrating and taking over existing Muslim organizations to realign them towards the Muslim Brotherhood’s collective goals;
- Using deception to mask the intended goals of Islamist actions, as long as it doesn’t conflict with shari’a law;
- Avoiding social conflicts with Westerners locally, nationally or globally, that might damage the long-term ability to expand the Islamist powerbase in the West or provoke a lash back against Muslims;
- Establishing financial networks to fund the work of conversion of the West, including the support of full-time administrators and workers;
- Conducting surveillance, obtaining data, and establishing collection and data storage capabilities;
- Putting into place a watchdog system for monitoring Western media to warn Muslims of “international plots fomented against them”;
- Cultivating an Islamist intellectual community, including the establishment of think-tanks and advocacy groups, and publishing “academic” studies, to legitimize Islamist positions and to chronicle the history of Islamist movements;
- Developing a comprehensive 100-year plan to advance Islamist ideology throughout the world;
- Balancing international objectives with local flexibility;
- Building extensive social networks of schools, hospitals and charitable organizations dedicated to Islamist ideals so that contact with the movement for Muslims in the West is constant;
- Involving ideologically committed Muslims in democratically-elected institutions on all levels in the West, including government, NGOs, private organizations and labor unions;
- Instrumentally using existing Western institutions until they can be converted and put into service of Islam;
- Drafting Islamic constitutions, laws and policies for eventual implementation;
- Avoiding conflict within the Islamist movements on all levels, including the development of processes for conflict resolution;
- Instituting alliances with Western “progressive” organizations that share similar goals;
- Creating autonomous “security forces” to protect Muslims in the West;
- Inflaming violence and keeping Muslims living in the West “in a jihad frame of mind”;
- Supporting jihad movements across the Muslim world through preaching, propaganda, personnel, funding, and technical and operational support;
- Making the Palestinian cause a global wedge issue for Muslims;
- Adopting the total liberation of Palestine from Israel and the creation of an Islamic state as a keystone in the plan for global Islamic domination;
- Instigating a constant campaign to incite hatred by Muslims against Jews and rejecting any discussions of conciliation or coexistence with them;
- Actively creating jihad terror cells within Palestine;
- Linking the terrorist activities in Palestine with the global terror movement;
- Collecting sufficient funds to indefinitely perpetuate and support jihad around the world;
In reading The Project, it should be kept in mind that it was drafted in 1982 when current tensions and terrorist activities in the Middle East were still very nascent. In many respects, The Project is extremely prescient for outlining the bulk of Islamist action, whether by “moderate” Islamist organizations or outright terror groups, over the past two decades.
All of this only begins to scratch the surface of revealing the true nature of the Muslim Brotherhood and the threat it poses. For example, Hamas is Muslim Brotherhood. According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs “1,750 rockets and 1,528 mortar bombs fired from the Gaza Strip struck southern Israel in 2008.”
Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are Sunni. Israel’s other immediate enemy is Hezbollah, which is Shia. This difference highlights yet another dimension to the entire situation in the Middle East and a development concerning the Muslim Brotherhood which could dwarf anything the world has seen thus far.
The schism between these two groups is rooted in a dispute over the succession of leadership after the death the Prophet Mohammed in 632. Because of this long-standing dispute, which has often resulted in violent conflict, it has been commonly understood that there is no real path to reconciliation. Since Shias only account for 10-15% of the Muslim world, they may not seem to be a significant factor until one realizes that Iran’s population is 89% Shiite and in Iraq 60% are Shia. (source) (“Shia” is the noun. Shiite is the adjective.)
Given the common elements in the Shiite and Sunni ideologies, which include the vision to bring the world into subjection to Islam, as well as the attitude of both factions toward Israel, the question that begs to be asked is, “What might happen if the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood could manage to bridge the philosophical gap with the Shias to allow cooperation in attaining mutual objectives?”
A senior Hezbollah official has now stated publicly for the first time that his organization has been providing Hamas with “every type of support” for a long period of time.
“We have always said that we supported the resistance in Palestine, but we have not mentioned how or given details of such support,” Naim Qassem, the deputy leader of the Lebanese organization, said in an interview published by the Financial Times on Wednesday.
“But Egypt has now revealed that we have given military support to Palestine. We have done so for a while, but we have not talked about it,” he continued.
It is one of the secrets of the resistance that we don’t talk about the details of our support, but suffice to say that we are giving them every type of support that could help the Palestinian resistance. Every type that is possible,” he said.
The statements are the clearest yet of the ability and desirability of Shiite Muslim armed groups (Hezbollah) to tactically ally themselves with armed Sunni groups (Hamas). This means the transfer of technology, lessons learned, tactics, intelligence etc. is well advanced among groups that have long and valuable experience in terrorism and irregular warfare.
While the intelligence community for years denied such alliances were possible, they have long been operative. One of the key bridges between the Sunni and Shiite world has been the Muslim Brotherhood. (emphasis mine)
If this assessment is correct and pragmatism is genuinely a guiding principle, the world has yet to see what this might mean for Israel, the United States and Christians worldwide. (And this doesn’t even take into account what the Muslim Brotherhood has been steadily accomplishing throughout Europe—which could be the subject of a whole series of articles by itself.)
There is a very good reason why the international community does not want to see a Shiite Iran become a nuclear power in the region—and it is related specifically to the issue of Mohammed’s successor. Most Shia’s believe the last successor to be the “12th imam,” who lived in the 9th century—and who is still alive, being hidden by Allah. The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinjad, believes it is his destiny to inaugurate an Islamic caliphate which will be over the entire world. This will happen after the return of the 12th imam, whom he will usher in through world-events which he precipitates.
In November 2005, Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University published an article which included the following:
In a speech on November 16th, Ahmadinejad spoke of his belief in the return of the Twelfth Imam. One of the differences between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam is that the latter, who dominate Iran and form the majority in Iraq, believe that Allah shielded or hid Muhammad al-Mahdi as the Twelfth Imam until the end of time. Shi’ites expect the Twelfth Imam, which Jews and Christians would recognize as a messianic figure, to return to save the world when it had descended into chaos. Shi’ite orthodoxy has it that humans are powerless to encourage the Twelfth Imam to return.
However, in Iran a group called the Hojjatieh believe that humans can stir up chaos to encourage him to return. Ayatollah Khomeini banned the group in the early 1980s because they rejected one of the primary commitments of the Iranian revolution: the concept of Vilayat-i Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist). In other words, they opposed the notion of an Islamic republic because it would hinder the Twelfth Imam’s return on account of it being too just and peaceful.
Today, in addition to the possibility of Ahmadinejad himself being a member (or a former member), the group has connections to Qom ultraconservative cleric Mesbah Yazdi whom Iranians frequently refer to as the “crazed one” and the “crocodile.” Four of the twenty-one new cabinet ministers are purportedly Hojjatieh members. Some reports state that cabinet ministers must sign a formal pledge of support for the Twelfth Imam.
The prospects of a Sunni / Shia coalition, which would undoubtedly first focus on Israel, is not an overblown conspiracy theory. This is but one of many indications that the stage continues to be set for the fulfillment of end-time prophecy.
And returning more directly to the article in Christianity Today, whether or not some of the presently-visible Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt share these objectives is ultimately rather beside the point. As a worldwide Muslim organization, the benefit of the doubt, let alone trust, is not something that the Muslim Brotherhood has earned or presently deserves. It does not require prejudice for anyone, including evangelicals, to maintain a healthy level of skepticism. Egyptian Christians and Christians throughout the Middle East, as well as the nation of Israel have every right to be deeply concerned. Yet, Mr. Kubinec, and apparently the editorial staff of Christianity Today, do not see it this way. Instead, he admonishes Western Christians who express skepticism and concern toward the Muslim Brotherhood that this is indicative of attitudes unbecoming followers of Christ.
Such a view seems to be misguided, uninformed and conceivably harmful. Perhaps the retraction of this opinion piece should be seriously considered.
- Bob Kubinec, “The Muslim Brotherhood and the Gospel of Christ,” Christianity Today, accessed Feb. 11, 2011, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/februaryweb-only/muslimbrotherhood.html ↩
- Yaakov Labinin, “Muslim Brotherhood: ‘Prepare Egyptians for War with Israel’” The Jerusalem Post, accessed Feb. 11/2011, http://www.jpost.com/Headlines/Article.aspx?id=206130 ↩
- AIFD, “American Muslim organization calls remarks from DNI Clapper false and dangerous,” accessed on Feb. 11, 2011, http://www.aifdemocracy.org/news.php?id=6554 ↩
- AP “Israel worried about Islamic takeover in Egypt,” Fox News, January 31, 2011, accessed February 11, 2011, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/01/31/israel-worried-islamic-takeover-egypt ↩
- Meredith Beul, “Israel Concerned Egypt Upheaval Could Radicalize Arab Neighbors,” VOANews.com, February 2, 2011, accessed February 11, 2011, http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Israel-Concerned-Egypt-Upheaval-Could-Radicalize-Arab-Neighbors-115126899.html ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
A visitor posted the following comment on the first blog post concerning popular arguments against dispensationalism.
For those of you who are eschatologically expert, I invite you to comment specifically on a Google article entitled “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” a photographic version of which is on the “Powered by Christ Ministries” site. Since some have given the impression that that article is full of errors, I would very much like to be informed as to which particular item in it is in fact erroneous. Thanks in advance. Karl
The document to which he refers (Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty) was written by Dave MacPherson, who vehemently opposes “pre-tribulational premillennialism” (the Rapture precedes both the 7-year tribulation and the millennial reign of Christ). It is part of a 30-year campaign by Mr. MacPherson to attempt to prove that dispensationalism must be wrong.
An internet search concerning the pretribulational rapture will likely include results leading to articles and books that MacPherson has written over the last 30 years against this pretribulationalism, which he considers is false teaching and a dangerous hoax.
So, returning to the topic of a previous blog, “Dispensationalism must be wrong-Part I” below is an edited version of my response to Karl’s comment and the Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty document:
________ The following section is part of an edited version of my reply to Karl.
I have read this article several times over the last year as it is frequently cited across the internet. And I have looked at Dave MacPherson’s work on several occasions and been to several websites that have his material.
I have not done extensive research on Darby’s life myself, so I cannot comment on those specifics. However, I did hear a very well-researched paper on Darby at the annual Pre-Trib Study Group Conference in Dallas, in 2005, which dispelled many myths, misconceptions and results of poor and biased research. I think I still have the paper somewhere on my computer that I will look for.
________ The following section was not in my reply to Karl.
I have not yet found the article to which I referred above, however I have found several pertinent articles written by Thomas Ice (Executive Director of the Pre-trib Research Center).
One is a direct response to MacPherson’s article – click here.
Below are links to other articles by Dr. Ice.
________ The following returns to an edited version of my reply to Karl.
I would like to comment on the charge of dishonesty that forms the basis for the article, with the charge focusing largely on the issue of plagiarism.
Perhaps the main factor in this issue directly relates to the character and integrity of the person who is charged with plagiarism. This is a serious accusation and essentially crosses the line into judgment against the person’s heart – his intent and motives.
Although some may dismiss personal character references as unimportant in a rebuttal such as this, I believe in this case they are both important and quite relevant. (We must remember that character references are frequently used in many formal, even legal situations, including a court of law).
I have know some of the men mentioned in the article, have met others and am familiar with their work in general. Concerning the others (the ones who are still living), I’m fairly certain there is only “one-degree of separation” between us – meaning I know men who both know them fairly well and are associated with them in some way. The reason this is important is because I know the character and integrity of these men or those who know them (who wouldn’t be associated with them if there were these kinds of issues). I am quite confident that there aren’t character or integrity issues that would result in plagiarism (and plagiarism simply won’t occur unless these problems exist). Rather, I would stake my own reputation on the fact that these men are godly, sincere and live lives committed to serving the Lord and others.
Yet, the implication throughout this article by MacPherson (and his work in general) is that these men are inherently dishonest as reflected in their treatment of dispensationalism in general and the rapture in particular. My wife has a saying she uses frequently, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” I have found this to consistently hold true – and the simple fact is that these men are not dishonest.
As I mentioned above, for someone to make this accusation who does not personally know them is to cross the line into judging the hearts and motives. Beyond that, there are other credible explanations for the supposed evidence against them besides intentional plagiarism and deception.
As someone who has taught many courses over a period of twenty years in the areas of Bible exposition and theology, I know that I have personally used what I have learned over the years from the teaching, preaching and writing of others – including some of the men in question. During the 25 years I have been a believer, including studying in a Bible institute and seminary, I have learned, synthesized and internalized so much of this material I couldn’t begin to remember where I got it all from. And I’m sure this isn’t unique to me – it is simply the nature of the process of teaching and learning. Once the material is internalized, it becomes one’s own – particularly when we synthesize and combine it with our own thoughts. When this happens, we might use something that is essentially a quote from a given teacher or a compiled quote from several teachers, with neither memory of the source nor any intent to plagiarize another’s work.
Another factor, is that most of these men know one another personally and have discussed these matters extensively, learning from one another. Sometimes there are student-teacher relationships – where students take extensive notes in class. Then if the teacher publishes and later the student publishes, there are inevitably going to be quotations that may or may not be cited – or even remembered as quotations. And of course, once a teacher hits upon a memorable way of stating something, he will repeat it often and many people will hear it. The result can be fairly extensive propagation of certain phrases – but this doesn’t mean there has been plagiarism.
Just this evening I read an illustration that was exactly an illustration I had used for years – even though I thought for sure it was original with me. Maybe we both copied it from someone else – maybe we both simply had the same thought. But in the end, it just doesn’t matter if there was no intent to deceive. And in the case of a very specific topic like the rapture, it is almost certain that there will be overlap of ideas and repeated use of certain ways of saying things.
In one case, MacPherson accuses Charles Ryrie of plagiarizing Hal Lindsey. But of the two, Dr. Ryrie is the more well-known theologian and the more prolific writer – and he is four-years older than Lindsey. Does MacPherson know for certain that Lindsay didn’t actually use something he had heard from Dr. Ryrie – even though he published first – and then Ryrie later published his own original thoughts? These kinds of questions must be answered before someone accuses someone else of something so significant as plagiarism. This isn’t simply a matter of a young college student trying to quickly put together a paper the night before it is due and lifts some material he finds on the internet. However, because I haven’t done the work myself, yet, I admit that I can’t say whether or not that MacPherson done the necessary research on this, but I do know from reading his material that his style is very polemic and (I admit subjectively) has the feel of being a personal negative bias against pretribulational theology.
Yet, unless someone has had the personal conversations with these men, there are completely legitimate potential explanations that are far less insidious explanations of apparent plagiarism. The men in question represent a very dynamic process that has been the development of dispensational theology. It is quite normal that there would be “cross-pollination” of thought when dealing with exactly the same topics, biblical passages and collateral work as those who have gone before. And furthermore, many of them simply indicate that a student / teacher process was underway and theology was being passed from generation to generation.
Discussions need to occur with those who are charged, before they are charged, to try to genuinely discover why there are similar passages in some books. If such personal investigation occurred it must be documented and should be presented along with the accusation.
But no matter what investigation might reveal, the ultimate issue regarding the veracity of dispensationalism is whether it stands the test of actual exegesis to demonstrate that there are problematic conclusions being drawn. From what I have found, MacPherson has primarily attempted to discredit Pretribulationalism by trying to construct an historical theology against it rather than a biblical theology. At the end of the day, historical theology proves nothing. At most it can only say what happened, not whether or not it was right or wrong apart.
In short, I find this article to be little more than a diversion tactic that will capture the attention and imagination of those, who for whatever reason are predisposed against Pre-trib Dispensationalism – or who know very little about the subject. For those of us who both know the biblical theology and understand the process of development of this theology, this article is yet another interesting, but ultimately ineffectual attempt to discredit the theology of the pre-trib rapture.
Beyond this, which is sufficient by itself to challenge the article, I’m sure there are those out there who do have the experience and research expertise and resources to adequately respond to each point on a case-by-case basis.
To say the least, despite the sense by some that this is somehow the death-knell for pre-trib dispensationalism – I believe it falls far short of anything approaching that. And furthermore, it does so with language and accusations and style that actually raises questions concerning the character of the author himself as he does cross the line of judging another brother. This is very serious indeed.
The Alliance for Biblical Integrity