Posts Tagged ‘ABI’
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. ↩
Annual ABI Ministry Trip to Ukraine & Hungary
Great news! The Lord has provided $2450 of the $2500 that we were hoping to put together for this trip. We are very thankful to Him and to those who have given toward this project. It is a great encouragement – and allows us to continue this very important part of the ABI ministry. So a heart-felt “Thank you” is due all those who generously gave to this project!
Teaching Ministry in Review
(over the last 16 months)
I know that one question people often have about the ministry of ABI concerns what my personal ministry involves. Well, among many things, it involves a whole lot of teaching – and preparing courses to teach.
As I started adding up the teaching opportunities the Lord has provided since just last January it was more than I had even realized! By the end of my trip to Ukraine and Hungary over the next three weeks, in just 16 months, I will have taught a total of 21 courses – with 10 of them being new ones that needed to be developed.
(New courses in blue)
Grace College: Prison Extension
- Survey of the Old Testament
– Systematic Theology
– Global Perspectives
– Spiritual Development
Community Bible Church
- Systematic Theology
– Faith and the Will of God (adults)
- Faith and the Will of God (teens)
- Conflict of the Ages
- Signs, Wonders and the Charismatic Movement
- Old Testament Survey
Word of Life Bible Institutes
- Critique of the Charismatic Movement (Ukraine)
- Roman Catholicism (Hungary 2010)
- Roman Catholicism (Hungary 2011)
- Critique of the Charismatic Movement (Hungary)
- Exposition of Matthew (Korea)
- Current Theological Trends (Philippines)
- Exposition of 1, 2 Timothy and Titus (Canada)
- World Religions (Ukraine)
- Conflict of the Ages (Hungary)
Prophecy Today, School of Prophets
- Eschatalogical Options
Whew! I think you can see just how important and strategic your involvement in ABI actually is. Your partnership – your prayers and gifts – is what makes this possible. You are making an eternal difference in the lives of many of the next generation’s leaders around the world.
The 50-50 Project
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, our financial support has not kept pace with the growing level of ministry. The low level of support coming in to the ministry necessitated a $1000 reduction in my salary in March to $1500 per month.
To try to bring our support to a level that would allow us to sustain the ministry at the current level, I have put into place a plan that I’m calling the “50-50″ project because the total of the numbers from 1 to 100 is $5050.
I still have a lot of ideas and a lot of vision for where the ABI ministry could go with the right team behind us. So, we’re hoping to add 96 new ministry partners who will commit to give a monthly support amount corresponding to one of the squares in the above table – with the goal of having the entire table filled by the end of this year. (If several people choose the same number, I will work out the average around the number.)
Over the last couple of weeks, we have added a new supporter in the $100 per month slot. Perhaps you could also consider joining with us as a ministry partner. We trust that with each additional financial supporter we will also be gaining a much-needed prayer partner.
If you would like to be a part of the ministry in this way, please take just a moment to send me an email with the amount you would like to give on a monthly basis – and I will keep the results updated with each ABI update.
Click here to send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from many of those who regularly receive these updates.
In His Care,
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. ↩
The attention of the world has been riveted to the images coming out of Egypt over the past week. It reminds me of watching CNN over 20 years ago, as Bernard Shaw reported live that the Berlin wall had been breached. Even as I write, Fox News is broadcasting live footage of the rapidly changing situation with speculation mounting about which direction the military is going to go—with the anti-Mubarak or with the pro-Mubarak factions. The television screen is filled people running, Molotov cocktails exploding, violence escalating and gunfire ringing out.
At this moment, it would be difficult to overstate the significance of Egypt’s role in the present course of world events. The entire complexion of the political and military situation throughout the region could change dramatically in just a matter of days or even a few hours. Likewise, it must be remembered that the Bible extensively recounts the significance of Egypt’s past role in world history, as well as foretells her yet-future role.
Egypt in the Past
“Egypt” is found 588 times in 537 verses in the Old Testament—more than once for every fifty verses. Two-thirds of these are found in Genesis through Esther, with the context of the majority being Israel’s deliverance from Egypt or a reminder of that deliverance.
Through the first nine plagues, Egypt’s agricultural base was wiped out as crops and livestock were decimated. Through the tenth plague, the fabric of Egyptian society was torn asunder with the death of all the first-born. Through the loss of much of her silver and gold and the loss of its slave labor force, Egypt’s economy was left in shambles. And through the miracle at the Red Sea, the powerful Egyptian army was utterly destroyed.
In stark contrast, through the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, God protected and preserved the children of Israel. For Jews following the events in Egypt today, they should be mindful that they owe their very existence to what the Lord did to Egypt over 3500 years ago.
The final third of all Old Testament direct references to “Egypt” (184/588) are found in the books of the prophets. The majority of these refer to Egypt’s impending defeat by the Assyrians (around 670 B.C.) and the third destruction of Egypt at the hands of the Babylonians 70 years later.
The pyramids stand as a monument marking the grave of what was once the most formidable of world empires. The pharaohs, who once defiantly claimed deity for themselves, are silent.
Egypt in the Present
No one knows for sure where all of this is going, but many are expressing their concern that radical Islamists could sweep in to fill the power vacuum that would be created by President Mubarak’s resignation. Some in the Muslim Brotherhood are already calling for war with Israel. This could shatter the peace treaty forged between Israel and Egypt at the Camp David Accords in 1978.
In addition, three of Israel’s sworn enemies, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, are reportedly involved with the anti-government forces. And with King Abdullah dissolving Jordan’s parliament and appointing a new prime minister on Tuesday, Israel has no stable ally left in the region.
It is worth noting that it was because of Egypt’s unreliability as Israel’s ally that she and her allies were to be judged by God (Ezekiel 29:6-7).
The need for a new and more comprehensive peace deal to provide for Israel’s national security could hardly be greater (cf. Dan. 9:27).
Egypt in the Future
In addition to the prophecies against Egypt which were fulfilled in the
6th and 7th centuries B.C., there are others which are yet-future. The present crisis in Egypt seems to have the potential of setting the stage for those events.
On Saturday (1/29/11), ABI cofounder, Jimmy DeYoung, discussed this matter on his weekly Prophecy Today broadcast. In the “A Look At The Book” segment, he examined the biblical passages which speak of Egypt’s role in the coming conflagration in the Middle East.
Saturday’s entire program is truly a must-listen as Dr. DeYoung conducted a series of interviews with Prophecy Today broadcast partners who provided expert analysis on the present crisis, developments in the region and on relevant prophetic passages.
I encourage you to listen to all the interviews, as well as the Bible study at the end of the program. They can be streamed from the links below. (These links are also available on the ABI website.)
Support the ministry of ABI by becoming an International Ministry Partner
A few weeks ago I posted an ABI blog outlining the tremendous international ministry opportunities the Lord has set before us. I noted that as each trip gets closer I will send additional updates and see if there might be those who would be interested in giving toward one or more of these important missions trips.
In order to be able to maintain ABI’s international ministry we need the help of the many friends who receive the ABI updates and who believe in what we are doing. The focus of this blog update is my upcoming trip to South Korea and the Philippines.
To date, about $1500 of the needed $2300 for travel and expenses for this trip has already been given and we hope that you might consider helping us cover the remaining $800 by the end of October (I leave for S. Korea on October 21). A possible scenario might be the following: 1-$200 gift, 2-$100 gifts, 5-$50 gifts, and 10-$25 gifts. And even a number of $10 gifts would go a long way in helping us reach the full amount.
If you would like to partner with us for this or a future trip, please just send me a quick email at email@example.com, so I can keep our total of gifts and pledges updated on the ABI website. Information concerning where and how to send your support can be found on the ABI Support page.
South Korea: Word of Life Bible Institute
Last month, after many years of planning, the Word of Life Bible Institute in Korea is now open! The ongoing story of Word of Life in that part of the world continues to be a testimony to the faithfulness of God and his servants. Because of their location on the visa-free Korean island of Jeju they can receive students from anywhere in the world.
During my 2-week stay, I will be teaching the Gospel of Matthew to students from 5 different countries, as well as preaching and ministering in other ways.
Steve Nichols, the regional Director for WOL in northeast Asia writes:
Over 60% of the world live in Asia and over half of these have yet to hear the gospel. This fall WOL Bible Institute opened a new campus on Jeju Island in Korea. This site is only a two hour direct flight from Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei and Hong Kong.
For this first term there are 23 guys and 10 girls from Korea, Japan, China, the United States and Canada. Most of these students are seriously considering and preparing for where the Lord would have them serve in future ministry.
Top Bible teachers come in each week as guest lectures to teach and train them to “rightly divide the word of truth” so they will be able to influence and make a great impact to reach the unreached and train a new generation of Christian leaders in this part of the world.
This is an historic and important year for WOL Korea for many reasons, not the least of which is that it begins laying the foundation for sending trained leaders back into the Peoples’ Republic of China. It is a special privilege and honor to be a guest teacher for this class – and you, too, can have a strategic role in this unique ministry opportunity.
Philippines: WOL Bible Institute, Pastors Conference on Hermeneutics
Word of Life Philippines began in 1973, with the Bible Institute opening its doors in 1981. Since then, many hundreds of students have studied the Word of God to reach this diverse nation of over 7,000 islands.
After my two weeks in South Korea, I will be traveling to WOL Philippines to teach the course, “Current Theological Issues.” There is a saying concerning religious trends in Christianity that says, “As go the schools, so go the churches.” But in today’s world with quick travel and instantaneous communication everywhere, we can now see that, “As goes the U.S., so goes the world.” I was invited to teach this course specifically because the churches in the Philippines are being increasingly impacted by the many negative theological influences coming out of America.
In addition to this 15-hour class, ABI will be joining Word of Life as it hosts a two-day pastors conference on biblical hermeneutics: “Rightly Dividing the Word.” One of the great evangelists of this generation, Wendell Calder, will open the conference. ABI cofounder Paul Barecca and I will be teaching 3 sessions each for the remainder of the conference.
I will be returning to the Philippines in January to teach a course on Hermeneutics and Bible Study Methods in a new masters-level program that is being started by Overseas Instruction in Counseling (OIC). I will be sending an ABI update concerning that trip in about a month.
A Theological and Historical Response to the Contemporary Home Church Movement
By Paul Barreca
Pastor, Faith Bible Church, Vineland, NJ
A recent Associate Press article highlighted a trend among Christians to leave their churches and worship at home instead. (1) Sometimes called Organic Church, Missional Church or House Church, this movement appeals to many who have grown dissatisfied with the corporate and impersonal nature of many American churches. Propelled by books such as Pagan Christianity (Frank Viola and George Barna), Life After Church (Brian Sanders) and They Like Jesus but Not the Church (Dan Kimball), some Christians urge that the only legitimate form of worship is a small, non-institutional gathering. They claim to have re-discovered the true origins of Christian worship. On one extreme are the cultic teachings of Harold Camping, who advocates leaving the church because the church age has ended. More moderate examples include believers who have dropped out of their local church because of theological decay, an emphasis on methodology, and corrupt leadership. As we will discover, some illegitimately transfer these accusations to their church as they excuse themselves from its structure and accountability.
Some proponents of the house church idea foresee the demise of the church as we know it.
“Unless the church in North America makes big changes we are facing sure death, (Reggie McNealy, Missional Church Network).
“American Christianity is dying. Our future is in serious jeopardy. We are deathly ill and don’t even know it,” (Neil Cole, “Organic Church”).
Noted church statistician George Barna wrote,
“If the local church is the hope of the world, then the world has no hope.” “Local churches have virtually no influence in our culture… The church appears among entities that have little or no influence on society.” (2)
Because this trend emphasizes independence, it is difficult to estimate the number of American Christians that worship in this manner. A recent Barna study demonstrates a variety of responses. When Christians were asked whether they attended a religious service in the past month in a place other than a church, approximately 24% said “yes.” However, when asked if “you participate in such a group, sometimes known as a house church or simple church, that is not associated in any way with a local, congregational type of church?” the response dropped to somewhere between 3% – 6%. (3) This statistic reveals that while gatherings such as home Bible studies are popular, the number of Christians who have left their local church is still fairly small. However, this movement is very attractive to Americans who have been raised on a strong diet of anti-institutional free thinking. Our cultural focus on independence and our resistance to authority may very well mean that the house church movement will grow in the days ahead.
Some of the criticisms that cause people to leave their church are valid. We are living in a time when many churches have neglected the gospel and turned their focus on numeric growth by becoming more culturally relevant. Churches have compromised the gospel with bad theology and scintillating antics meant to draw a crowd. Everything from crass talks on sex, to reviews of raunchy movies are common fare in many churches. The response from some believers is to abandon the church all together, but this is throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. While there are a growing number of churches that have abandoned the gospel, not all churches have followed the errors of our day.
When the Church Began
Buildings dedicated exclusively for Christian worship did not come along until Emperor Constantine proclaimed Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in 325 AD. Before that, Christians worshiped in homes or public gathering places. This was not because worshiping in a home is a better way to worship. It was simply the only way to worship. During this period, Christians were persecuted by the Jews in their synagogues, and by the Romans through a series of local and empire-wide persecutions. Scripture gives us some indication regarding the places where believers met.
Homes. Aquila and Priscilla led a church gathering that met in their house (1 Corinthians 16:19; Romans 16:5). Colossians 4:15 also indicates a church meeting in a home. But we ought not assume that this was a gathering of only a few people. The most likely place for Christians to meet would have been in a large home, rooftop or courtyard. Some Mediterranean homes were large one-family dwellings up to four stories high. (4) Architecture in this warm climate emphasized open air courtyards where large gatherings were held. Some homes could easily accommodate an assembly of up to 100 people, and it is possible that church meetings in such houses could have been at least that large. (5) Their purpose for meeting in homes was not a statement against organization or buildings. Churches during this time were carefully structured and included discipline, elders, and mission endeavors. They were not the casual, free flowing meetings that are common in today’s American version of the house church. Paul’s missionary journeys were organized by the church in Antioch. Paul’s greeting in Romans 16 includes a tally of 28 individuals with at least three entire households included in the Roman church. If these people met in a home it would have been a church of at least 50 people. They met in homes out of necessity. As Kevin DeYoung writes, “They didn’t meet in homes in an effort to start the world’s first nonreligious religion.” (6)
The New Testament contains examples of places other than homes where the believers met. This reinforces the idea that they met where it was most convenient and practical. Other New Testament meeting places include the following:
Solomon’s Colonnade: Acts 5:12 (7) The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade.
The Hall of Tyrannus: Acts 19:9–10 So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
The Synagogue. James 2:2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. The word “meeting” is a translation of the Greek word for Synagogue. It is possible that the majority of Jews at this location, or at least the synagogue leaders trusted Christ and their synagogue continued to be their place of worship.
The Beginning of Church Buildings
Church historian Everett Ferguson gives us insight concerning the move to public buildings. “With the Constantinian peace, church buildings became public monuments, and the basilica type predominated. (This type of building) was widely used in Hellenistic and imperial times for both private and public purposes: as audience halls in homes of the wealthy and of the imperial officials, as law courts and exchange buildings on the forums, and as gathering places in the larger baths.” (9) Once it became legal to meet publicly, churches quickly utilized commonly available spaces, allowing their outreach to expand and the church to grow. This practice has been widely followed in various cultures throughout church history.
Today there are many places in the world where Christians meet in homes because they are not permitted to meet publicly. Under these circumstances, there is no alternative other than a house church. Missionary Kevin King reaches many Chinese students through his ministry at Columbia University in New York City. Those who trust Christ are directed to a house church that Kevin leads. He does this because he wants to provide a reproducible form of church worship that they can carry with them when they return to China. Since independent churches in China are not permitted to hold public meetings, Kevin’s example of a house church is the best way for them to learn how to lead a church in their native country.
Churches that meet in homes are also an important part of inner city evangelism. Many new churches begin in a home. But the fact that many churches meet in homes does not mean that every church must meet in a home. This is reductionism. Those who advocate the house church as the only legitimate way seem to be suggesting that most congregations over the past 2,000 years have been worshiping the wrong way. Such a suggestion is very misguided. By their insistence on house churches only, they silently accuse millions of Christians around the world of worshiping in the wrong way. Thanks to their superior enlightenment, the rest of us can be freed from our ignorance if we see the light as they have.
New Testament principles for the local church do not focus on the form of worship, or the location of worship. These have varied from time to time and culture to culture. Rather than determining whether a group is a legitimate church by virtue of where they meet, we should examine the validity of a church according to whether it meets the requirements of the New Testament. It is by these standards that many groups meeting in homes today cannot accurately be described as fulfilling the criteria of a New Testament church.
The Essentials of the Church
1. Properly-appointed godly elders: Nowhere in Scripture do we find self-appointed elders. Leadership must be approved by existing leadership. Every New Testament church was led by elders, and we must insist that our churches today follow the same guidelines. Churches must be led by men whose calling has been verified by other elders. Mission and church planting endeavors must have the support and backing of a church where biblical eldership is present. This continuity of leadership is essential to maintain the “faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).
a. Titus 1:5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
b. 1 Peter 5:2–3 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
2. Willing followers: A church must have followers who submit to spiritual leadership of its elders (pastors). Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
3. The preaching of the gospel: Galatians 1:9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
4. Teaching that produces mature disciples: Matthew 28:19–20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
5. Ministry through spiritual gifts: The body of Christ is diverse. Each part needs the others. Rather than isolation, the body principle emphasizes cooperation and mutual edification, as we are instructed in Romans 12:5–6, “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.”
6. Faithful administration of the ordinances: The church is required to conduct the ordinances of Christian baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
7. God-centered worship: The Lord calls us “a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Public worship is the delight and privilege of God’s people.
The location where a church meets does not determine whether or not it is a legitimate church, or whether or not it is worshiping properly. There are Christian gatherings that meet in homes on Sunday which are not a legitimate churches. And there are groups that meet in ornate buildings with a cross and a steeple who are devoid of spiritual life and do not proclaim the Truth of the gospel.
Some who advocate the house church concept have a misunderstanding of the New Testament examples of house churches. They also oversimplify the problems in the church today and transfer the guilt of some churches which meet in buildings onto all churches which meet in buildings. Pastor Kevin DeYoung responds to the criticism of what house church advocate Frank Viola calls the organized church by writing, “the church is always deserving of some critique, or even a lot of critique at times, but isn’t it a bit sweeping to declare that “everything that is done in our contemporary churches has no basis in the Bible?” We should not disqualify all churches because of the gross failures of some.
For some believers around the world, the house church is the best, and often the only way to conduct corporate worship, teaching and the administration of the Christian ordinances. This will most likely continue until the Lord returns. There may even come a time in what was once “Christian America” where full-fledged persecution may force the closure of public church gatherings. That day has not yet come, but if it does, God’s people will continue to worship in whatever location the Lord provides.
We live in a culture that emphasizes isolation and independence. Many people seldom come out of their homes. Public interaction is avoided by many people who plug in their ear buds, roll up their windows, close their doors, shop online and remain in the comfort of their modern American homes More and more, we are being drawn into our own exclusive bubble of isolation. We need one another, in spite of our weaknesses, peculiarities, and failures. When there are disagreements, the Lord gives us Scriptural guidelines to resolve them. Unless your local church is teaching false doctrine or embracing sin, leaving it is not the best way to honor the Lord and encourage the body. The Lord Jesus died for the church and will return to bring her to glory. Until then, we should honor His body, the church, and embrace every opportunity to promote it’s growth.
1. Linda Stewart Ball, “House Church – Skip the Sermon, Worship at Home.” The Associated Press, Wed Jul 21, 2010, accessed August 12, 2010 http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100721/ap_on_re/us_rel_religion
2. Quotations from Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, Why We Love the Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 2009), 26-27.
3. The Barna Group, “How Many People Really Attend a House Church?” http://www.barna.org/organic-church-articles/291-how-many-people-really-attend-a-house-church-barna-study-finds-it-depends-on-the-definition accessed August 13, 2010
4. Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 128.
5. DeYoung, 120.
6. Ibid, 120.
7. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com.
8. Fergusson, 129.
9. DeYoung, 117.
You couldn’t watch or listen to the news for more than a few minutes this week without hearing about the Florida pastor’s plan to burn Korans on the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
After it was reported that General Petraus had expressed his concerns that this could very easily put American soldiers and expatriates at risk in Afghanistan and other countries, I wrote an email to Pastor Jones asking him to reconsider his plans – both as a brother in Christ and as a fellow leader in ministry.
I don’t know if he actually received or read my email. But given that both the State Department and the White House have found it necessary to weigh in on this, my words seem fairly insignificant anyway.
It is now being reported that others are also planning to burn copies of Islam’s holy book, even though Pastor Jones may be ready to change his mind. (Although even as late as 6:00 PM on Friday evening, Fox News is reporting that it still isn’t certain exactly what he is finally going to do.)
I’m quite sure that even though emotions might be running high on the eve of 9/11, there are probably few, if any, ABI readers who would remotely consider such a plan as being anything but ill-conceived and misguided for any number of practical reasons. But the bigger question is whether or not there are biblical principles that should guide and inform our thinking about this. Does the Bible have anything to say about what we can and should do concerning such religious materials – things that arguably contribute to the kind of evil worldview that spawned those horrific events nine years ago?
In the Old Testament we find multiple examples of God’s clear instructions to burn and destroy everything related to the worship of false gods. However, the historical context (Israel’s conquest, settlement and rule over Canaan) and God’s purpose for commanding such actions are equally clear – and we, as Christians, are not at all in a similar situation. On the other hand, there is an incident in the New Testament that does give insight into what is almost certainly the right strategy for us in this age.
In Acts chapter 19, we find an extended report concerning Paul’s two-year ministry in Ephesus (a city in the region that would later be at the heart of the Ottoman empire). As you may recall, at the end of those two years, Paul and his ministry team found themselves in an extremely dangerous situation. The entire city was in an uproar and they were out for blood. Crowding into the city’s amphitheater, the angry mob dragged Gaius and Aristarchus in with them as they shouted religious chants against them for two hours nonstop.
Do you remember what it was that ultimately sparked this riot? A religious book-burning!
But, who was it that was burning whose books? It was a group of men who had responded to the proclamation of the gospel – men whose hearts had been completely changed through faith in Christ – men who consequently burned their own religious books (worth a small fortune)!
I wonder if there might be a lesson there…
ABI Quick Survey: What is your opinion of the July 15 CT article by Mark Galli?
A couple of days ago, I published a blog (copied below) concerning an article written by Mark Galli for Christianity Today.
If you have read the comments following the article on the CT website, you have seen mixed responses from the readers. The majority have been negative, but some have expressed their support, suggesting that his perspective was appropriate and helpful.
I hope you will take a moment to participate in our brief survey to express your views (which we will publish in about a week).
Christianity Today Senior Managing Editor Mark Galli’s recent article sparks controversy.
Christianity Today’s identification as “A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction” will almost certainly be called into question once again by many readers because of a July 15 article by Mark Galli in which he calls God “such a drama queen.”
He reduces God to being little more than a totally-out-of-control diva:
“So what we have, for better or worse, is a melodramatic God. He yells and throws dishes, and walks off in a huff, slamming the door behind him—and then he turns around and gives his life for us.”
The article requires no comment other than to ask, “What next?”
As the ministry of The Alliance for Biblical Integrity continues to develop in the United States, we are also receiving an increasing number of invitations to teach internationally. These represent tremendous opportunities to provide solid biblical instruction to the next generation of leaders as they are trained by other ministries around the world.
Unlike those in the U.S., overseas ministries need for guest teachers to come as fully-supported short-term missionaries. Therefore, we are seeking additional strategic partners to join our support team specifically for the international ministries of the ABI.
I encourage you to look over the international ministry opportunities listed below and prayerfully consider being involved with a specific ministry trip or even supporting the ministry of ABI on a monthly basis. Most of the noted ministry opportunities are already scheduled for sometime in the next 10 months, some are tentatively scheduled for every year and for some we are just waiting for the time when we have the funds to confirm them.
With over over 1000 personal Facebook friends, over 670 ABI Facebook group members, over 470 ABI Update subscribers and over 100 ABI blog subscribers (some are in all four groups), we hope to be able to easily cover the needed support for the international ministry opportunities each year. No gift is too small.
Our goal is to make sure all support is applied according to each supporter’s wishes. In the event that funds given for a specific trip exceed those needed, we will apply them to a similar trip or direct them to the ABI general operating fund.
S. Korea / Philippines: October 25 – November 12, 2010
I will be teaching for two weeks at the new WOL Bible Institute in South Korea, followed by a week of teaching at the WOL Philippines Bible Institute. In addition to teaching with Word of Life in the Philippines, ABI cofounder Paul Barreca and I will be ministering together in a 2-day pastors conference on the topic of “Biblical Hermeneutics,” which will also be hosted by Word of Life.
Length of trip: 3+ weeks
Total support needed: $3000
Support given or pledged (as of June 21, 2010): $1800 has been pledged for airfare by our sending church
Canada: November 22 – December 3, 2010
I will be returning to the Word of Life Bible Institute at Owen Sound, Ontario to teach the Pastoral Epistles for two weeks, for the second year in a row. This BI is an extension of the WOL BI in Schroon Lake, NY.
Length of trip: 2 weeks
Total support needed: None – WOL Canada pays an honorarium and travel expenses
Philippines: January, 2011
I will be returning to the Philippines again in January, 2011. I have been invited by Dr. Wayne Vanderwier, Founder and Executive Director of Overseas Instruction in Counseling (OIC) to teach Biblical Hermeneutics in the inaugural module of classes in the first graduate-level degree program in biblical counseling to exist in the Philippines – a program established by Dr. Vanderwier.
Length of trip: 2 weeks
Total support needed: $2400
Support given or pledged (as of June 21, 2010): 0
Hungary / Ukraine / Romania: May, 2011
This past May, I was in Europe for 3 weeks of teaching at the Word ofLife Bible Institutes in Ukraine and Hungary. I have been invited to return to both schools again next spring. I have also been asked to consider teaching at the Word of Life Discipleship TrainingCenter in Romania, if possible. (This is scheduled to be an annual trip.)
Length of trip: 3 or 4 weeks (to be determined)
Total support needed: $2500 – $3200
Support given or pledged (as of June 21, 2010): 0
United Arab Emirates: 2011?
A couple of months ago, I received an email from one of the students I taught at the Asian Christian Academy seminary outside Bangalore, India in 2002.He is now a missionary in United Arab Emirates and has invited me to conduct a series of seminars in an area of apologetics. A specific date for this ministry has not yet been set.
Length of trip: 1-2 weeks (to be determined)
Total support needed: $1800 – $2200
Support given or pledged (as of June 21, 2010): 0
Myanmar (former Burma): 2011-2012?
Another Asian Christian Academy (India) seminary graduate, whom I also taught, has continued to stay in touch with me after returning to his home country of Myanmar. He has invited me to teach in his country, as the Lord allows in my schedule and provides the finances. Myanmar is a limited access country, with the ministry by foreigners limited to urban areas.
Length of trip: 1-2 weeks (to be determined)
Total support needed: $2600 – $3200
Support given or pledged (as of June 21, 2010): 0
Another Asian Christian Academy (India) seminary graduate, whom I also taught, has continued to stay in touch with me after returning to his home country of Nepal. He has invited me to teach in his country, as the Lord allows in my schedule and provides the finances.
Length of trip: 1-2 weeks (to be determined)
Total support needed: $2000 – $2400
Support given or pledged (as of June 21, 2010): 0
I have taught twice at the seminary which is part of the Asian Christian Academy ministry outside of Bangalore, India. I have a standing invitation to teach there as the Lord allows in my schedule and provides the finances.
Length of trip: 2 weeks
Total support needed: $2000 – $2400
Support given or pledged (as of June 21, 2010): 0
Again, if you are interested in becoming a strategic partner with ABI in its international ministry in any way, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the support section of our website.
In His Care,
(This article is available in downloadable and printable PDF, 2 column article format: Click here to download)
According to an April, 2009 article on MSNBC, a Washington Post/ABC poll released that month became the first to indicate that the number of Americans supporting same-sex marriages (49%) is now greater than those who oppose it (46%). Although the two numbers are within the typical poll margin-of-error of each other (±3%), there does seem to have been a significant shift in attitudes over the preceding 5-year period, when a Post/ABC poll put the percentage in-favor at just 32% in 2004.
Between 1982 and 2007, Gallup reported a significant shift in attitudes toward the acceptability of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle. In 1982, only 34% indicated that homosexuality “is an acceptable alternative lifestyle” with 51% indicating that it is not. However, in 2007 the numbers had more than reversed with 57% of Americans stating it is acceptable and only 40% indicating their belief that it is not.
On the other hand, one encouraging statistic is that over 80% of evangelicals still oppose gay marriage, with a statistically negligible shift since 2004 (according to a 2008 Pew Research Center poll). However, the pressure is on evangelicals because in the mainline churches only 40% oppose same-sex marriage – essentially the same as the Post/ABC poll results for the general population.
The “Homosexuality-Neutral” View of Scripture
Coinciding with the increasing social pressure to accept the homosexual lifestyle, is additional pressure by those who take this a step further by seeking to defend their views on biblical grounds. In most cases, the passages which have been historically understood to condemn homosexual behavior are interpreted as being at most “homosexuality-neutral” (my term). In other words, it is argued that these passages were not intended to address the issue of loving homosexual relationships, but rather inappropriate sexual behavior in general, that in some cases simply happened to involve homosexual acts.
To many — not all — liberal/progressive believers, the Bible is silent on loving, consensual same-sex sexual behavior. God accepts persons of all sexual orientations and approves of sex that is consensual, non-manipulative, safe and within a loving, committed relationship. Liberals and progressive have a range of beliefs concerning save, consensual, and casual sex by heterosexuals, bisexuals or homosexuals.
However the Bible condemns:
• Male rape of other men.
• One of two behaviors:
–- Either men engaging in ritual sex in Pagan temples, or
–- Men having sex in a woman’s bed.
• People having sex that violates their sexual orientation. For example:
–- Heterosexuals having sex with a member of the same sex.
–- Homosexuals having sex with a member of the opposite sex.
• Men sexually abusing children. The passage also condemns young victims of sexual molestation.
• People engaging in bestiality: having sex with non-humans.
Some gay Christians would contend that the Bible condemns only promiscuous homosexual behavior (not homosexuality in general), just as it condemns heterosexual promiscuity.
Passages Cited as Affirming Same-sex Relationships
Beyond arguing against traditional interpretations of certain passages, some Christian gay groups also cite other passages which they claim affirm same-sex relationships. One such group is Gay Christianity 101, which contends that the relationship between David and Jonathan was explicitly homosexual (reference):
Did God bless David and Jonathan, a same sex couple in romantic, committed, sexual partnership? The Bible devotes more chapters to their love story than any other human love story in the Bible. What does God intend us to learn from that dramatic emphasis?
Many gays believe that Jonathan and David were same sex lovers, based on the way God presents their story in scripture and based on the Hebrew words used to describe their relationship.
Although Gay Christianity 101 acknowledges that this is not the view of even most gay Christians, it is the one, as a gay-friendly ministry, they hold and promote. After presenting six other possible interpretations, it is concluded that a seventh one best fits the text. (reference)
David loved Jonathan. In reminiscing about Jonathan, David describes Jonathan’s love to him as “wonderful, passing the love of women-wives.”
To make David’s statement refer to platonic friendship, ‘I was closer to Jonathan than to any of my close female friends’ is a woefully inadequate understanding of the text.
Because Jewish men in David’s time did not have close, platonic friendships with females to whom they were not related by blood or marriage, it better fits the text to accept David’s statement at face value.
The romantic, emotional, sexual love between Jonathan and David was more wonderful than the romantic, emotional, sexual love between David and his wives.
It is also suggested by some that Ruth and Naomi had a sexual relationship as did Daniel and Ashpenaz (both in a brochure on the state of Connecticut’s website, Homosexuality and the Bible, p. 13). Other passages which are said to involve homosexuals who are not condemned (and therefore at least implicitly affirm them), include Matthew 8 and Luke 7 concerning the Roman centurion, and Acts 8 concerning the Ethiopian eunuch.
In the remainder of this article (and at least one subsequent article), it will be demonstrated that the attempts to find homosexuality-compatible interpretations fail to adequately handle the relevant passages, while the historical condemnation of homosexuality has solid biblical support.
Arguments for the Neutrality of Scripture Regarding Homosexuality
GENESIS 19 AND THE CITY OF SODOM
In dealing with the exegesis of 19:5, the author of an article titled “Bible Abuse Directed at Homosexuals” makes the following argument:
The key verb here, transliterated ya,da (or yadha’ ) , is usually translated as “know.” This verb appears 943 times elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it generally means “to know a fact” or “to know a person well.” It has an obvious sexual connotation in only ten of these cases, all of which involve heterosexual relationships.
The translation, then, could have the following meanings:
* Gang rape the angels (a common way to humiliate men – especially enemies – at the time);
* Engage in consensual homosexual sex with them (possibly what the NIV translators intended with “have sex with them”);
* Interrogate them. (The city had in the recent past been sacked, and the strangers might have been spies sent to check out the fortifications which provided some protection for the trade routes that passed the city.)
In choosing the proper meaning, consider this. In Biblical times, travel was slow and dangerous, and safe places to rest were few. Travelers could only pray for the hospitality of strangers – an important theme in the Bible. And Jews, having been ill-treated travelers in Egypt, had particular reason to be hospitable, and emphasis on it permeates Jewish law. For many reasons, hospitality, once offered, could not be breached.
Gay Christianity 101 also endorses the inhospitality view (reference):
For almost 1800 years after the events in Sodom, Jewish prophets in the Bible and Jewish authors outside the Bible, understood this story to be about inhospitality, not homosexuality. Sodom is mentioned 48 times in the Bible and never in those 48 passages is homosexuality given as the cause of God’s judgment. Isn’t that interesting? Have you given that astounding fact the weight it deserves in your thinking about this true story?
Some contend that rather than the sin of the Sodomites being homosexuality in general, it was that they intended to homosexually rape the angels (who appeared as men) as a means of humiliating them as their enemies. (reference)
Most feel that Genesis 19 is totally unrelated to consensual same-sex behavior.
It is obvious that Lot wanted to protect the angels from the city mob. The people of Sodom, having recently been under attack by foreigners, might have been worried that the angels were really military spies. Alternately, the mob might have wanted to humiliate the strangers with homosexual rape which is as abhorrent as heterosexual rape.
Furthermore, concerning Sodom, Gay Christian 101 states what it calls “six surprising facts” (reference):
1. Genesis 19 never mentions homosexuals in Sodom.
2. Genesis 19 never mentions a homosexual act being committed in Sodom.
3. Scripture never mentions a same sex relationship in Sodom.
4. Scripture never tells us that the inhabitants of Sodom were homosexuals.
5. Scripture never tells us that God destroyed Sodom because of homosexuality.
6. Sodomite, in scripture, never refers to homosexuals. Every time sodomite is used in scripture, it refers to cult, shrine, temple prostitutes who worshiped the Canaanite fertility goddess.
A BIBLICAL RESPONSE
Sodom and Gomorrah are first mentioned in Genesis 10:13, with the second reference in chapter 13:10-13, where the men of these cities are characterized as being “exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.” In other passages in Genesis (7:19; 15:1; 16:10; 17:2, among others) where the Hebrew is translated “exceedingly” by the NKJV the context indicates that the word carries the force of “beyond measure.” That the lack of hospitality, even to the point of actual ill-treatment, would be described as “wickedness beyond measure” seems very unlikely.
And while it is true that the author of Hebrews writes, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2), it seems immediately apparent that the problem in Sodom was not simply that of not being hospitable. Even if their treatment of strangers went so far as to warrant a rebuke in that Near-Eastern culture, the suggestion that God would have utterly destroyed these cities for this reason just does not seem to merit serious consideration.
The suggestion that the passage could possibly refer to the men of Sodom simply wanting to interrogate the angels just doesn’t seem plausible as a cause for inviting God’s judgment. For a country on a war-footing, having genuine concerns about the motives of foreigners who just showed up could hardly have been considered outrageously wicked behavior. Also, there is nothing in the text that indicates there was concern that these foreigners might be spies in the first place. And of course they had made no initial attempts to hide as they planned to spend the night in the town square (19:2).
Furthermore, the men of the city threatened to treat Lot worse than they intended to treat these strangers, which is clearly a threat of violence (19:9). But even if the treatment that the strangers would receive as captives under interrogation would have been sufficient to warrant judgment by God, this is ultimately a moot point. God had already determined to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah prior to the angels entering the city.
The passage certainly rules out the possibility that the men of Sodom were hoping for a consensual same-sex encounter with the angels (who were obviously thought to be men). But even though gang-rape is fairly clearly in view, neither was this intended detestable act the reason for their coming destruction. Again, God’s stated intent, prior to their arrival, was to wipe out the entire society – because of a lifestyle so wicked and so prevalent that fewer than even ten decent people could be found.
Sodom and Gomorrah were apparently Canaanite – a culture known to be one of the most morally reprehensible in history. The Canaanite fertility cult involved both heterosexual and homosexual encounters with male and female shrine prostitutes. With this in mind, consider this question: Is it reasonable to think that the “beyond-measure” wickedness of these cities could have somehow excluded sexual debauchery as at least a significant part of the basis for their annihilation?
Additionally, the overall flow of the narrative seems to suggest a direct connection between the incident with the angels and Sodom’s societal wickedness. What they were demanding was not something new to them. And certainly it must be asked if such an utterly wicked warfare tactic like gang-rape could even be considered if sexual debauchery were not already characteristic of the entire culture. And, as we know, all the men of the city came out and surrounded Lot’s house.
At this point, it could be argued that we’re still not talking about loving, monogamous same-sex relationships – but about a culture that was characterized by adulterous relationships, both hetero- and homosexual. However, I think there is one more element of the story that specifically pinpoints homosexual behavior itself as the ultimate trigger for the execution of God’s wrath (independent of whether or not it was occurring in a “loving, monogamous” relationship).
The inescapable problem with the homosexuality-neutral view of Genesis 19 involves Lot’s daughters. No one on either side of the debate would defend rape of any kind as morally acceptable. So, whether the rape would be against Lot’s daughters or against the angels (again, who were thought to be men) is another moot point in and of itself.
This means that there had to be some incredibly significant reason why Lot would be willing to allow even his own daughters to be brutally raped by an out-of-control mob rather than turn over the two angels to them. (And nothing indicates that Lot had any reason to think his guests were not men.)
So, what was this additional factor that struck terror in Lot’s heart as he contemplated this no-win situation? Could it be that Lot so clearly understood that homosexuality is such a detestable abomination in the Lord’s sight that he was unwilling to allow the sin of a homosexual encounter to be added to the sin of rape?
Earlier it was noted that not even ten righteous people were to be found in Sodom. But the obvious implication is that there was not a single person in Sodom who was not guilty of whatever specific sin (or category of sin) was in view. Given the overall wickedness of the Canaanite culture – which even included child sacrifice – what could have been the unique sin of Sodom and Gomorrah among all of the Canaanite cities?
And there is yet another factor that hasn’t been noted concerning Genesis 13:13:
But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.
The word translated “men” does not simply mean “people” in the generic sense – it literally means “men,” i.e., “the males of Sodom.”
So, it appears that the “exceedingly” wicked sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was uniquely committed by the men of those cities – and it involved all of the men. As bad as it would have been for the men to gang-rape their enemies, or worship their gods through encounters with male shrine prostitutes – the overall situation was worse than that. The society was dominated by male homosexuality. And the seriousness of this situation brought the complete destruction and utter desolation of those cities as God hurled fire and brimstone – annihilating every man, woman and child – and everything that had life. Only the judgment of the Flood exceeded the judgment that God brought upon Sodom and Gomorrah on that day.
In the next article in this series, we will examine other passages to see if the biblical record as a whole supports the view that homosexual behavior, independent of the context in which it occurs, is the sin that incurred God’s wrath in Genesis 19.