The Alliance for Biblical Integrity http://www.biblicalintegrity.org Fri, 16 Jun 2017 22:32:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 10 Questions Pastoral Search Committees Must Ask http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2017/06/16/10-questions-pastoral-search-committees-must-ask/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2017/06/16/10-questions-pastoral-search-committees-must-ask/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 22:09:28 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=3369 TEN QUESTIONS PASTORAL SEARCH COMMITTEES MUST ASK

The current theological climate presents a tremendous challenge for churches in search of a new pastor. Unfortunately, pastoral search committees are too often unaware of some of today’s most pressing theological issues and so do not know the questions that need to be asked of pastoral candidates to determine where they stand doctrinally.

This list of 10 theological questions is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather is designed to be an aid in the overall pastoral search process. The reason for posing simple yes or no questions is that this makes it more difficult for someone to conceal their true theological commitments by giving more lengthy ambiguous answers to open-ended questions.

Assumed areas of theological agreement

1. The Bible is the inspired Word of God
2. God created the heavens and the earth
3. Miracles are real events and heaven and hell are real places
4. Jesus is both fully God and fully man, and was born of a virgin
5. Christ died for sinners
6. Salvation is by grace through faith
7. Christ’s resurrection and 2nd coming are literal events
8. Mankind will be resurrected and judged

The above areas constitute a baseline of beliefs that must be accepted in order for someone to be identified as “Christian” in at least the broader world religion sense of the word.  However, acceptance of these statements does not guarantee that someone is actually a born-again believer in Jesus Christ (and thus a Christian in the biblical sense of the word) or that someone’s deeper understanding of each statement is actually biblical. Therefore, further questions need to be asked in order to determine more precisely the overall theology of any given pastoral candidate.

Because theology tends to be grouped into “theological packages,” (i.e., the various areas of one’s theology are all interrelated) the following ten questions will normally yield a relatively accurate picture of what someone actually believes, even in areas not directly connected to the questions, but which are equally important.

___________________

10 Questions Pastoral Search Committees Must Ask Prospective Candidates

Each question only requires an initial yes or no answer

1. Is the Bible the inspired, inerrant, infallible, sufficient and authoritative Word of God?
2. Did God create everything in six literal, 24-hour days in the recent past?
3. Should accounts of things like the Fall, the Flood, the Exodus, Jonah in the fish, etc. all be understood literally?
4. Is faith alone in Christ alone the only, exclusive means of salvation for everyone?
5. Does faith precede regeneration in the logical order of salvation?
6. Can born-again believers lose or forfeit their salvation?
7. Did the sign gifts of the Spirit cease by the end of the Apostolic Era?
8. Does national Israel still have a future place in God’s program distinct from the Church?
9. Will Christ return to rule over the earth for 1000 years from a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem?
10. Will the Church be raptured before the seven-year tribulation period?

Notes:
1. The traditionally conservative, dispensational evangelical answer to each question is “yes”
2. Concerning question #5 (5-Point Calvinists believe that regeneration precedes faith)
3. If a candidate refuses to give a simple yes or no answer to any question, then this is likely a sign that they either have no convictions in this area – or they are attempting to conceal what they personally believe.

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2017/06/16/10-questions-pastoral-search-committees-must-ask/feed/ 0
The Gospel of Roman Catholicism http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2017/01/08/the-gospel-of-roman-catholicism/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2017/01/08/the-gospel-of-roman-catholicism/#comments Sun, 08 Jan 2017 07:48:08 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2850 IS THE REFORMATION REALLY OVER?
The Gospel of Roman Catholicism

In their 2005 book of the same title, Christian historians Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom posed the question “Is the Reformation over?” While acknowledging that doctrinal and practical differences between Catholics and evangelicals remain, they concluded that when it comes to the matter of justification by faith “…many Catholics and evangelicals now believe approximately the same thing.”1

Eleven years earlier, it was essentially this same conclusion that served as the fundamental premise of the 1994 ecumenical document “Evangelical and Catholics Together”:2

We affirm together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ…All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.3

Justification, Episcopal Infallibility and the Council of Trent

Unfortunately, both Is the Reformation Over and “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” make the fatal error of failing to recognize that the differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism with regard to the doctrine of salvation are irreconcilable by virtue of the Catholic doctrine of episcopal infallibility. This doctrine is defined as:

Preservation from error of the bishops of the Catholic Church. They are infallible when all the bishops of the Church are assembled in a general council or, scattered over the earth, they propose a teaching of faith or morals as one to be held by all the faithful. They are assured freedom from error provided they are in union with the Bishop of Rome and their teaching is subject to his authority.4

The significance of episcopal infallibility as it relates to justification cannot be overstated—particularly when one considers the pronouncements of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) which was convened in response to the Protestant Reformation. The Council of Trent set forth a number of decrees that explicitly contradict what evangelicals have always understood to be the biblical gospel. The following canons from the sixth session of the Council of Trent, are representative of official Catholic doctrine concerning justification:

CANON IX: If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification,…let him be anathema.

CANON XX: If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe;…let him be anathema.

CANON XXIV: If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained,…let him be anathema.

CANON XXX: If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.5

To summarize, according to the Council of Trent, if anyone says that salvation is by grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone and that works contribute nothing to our salvation, then that person is accursed of God. Furthermore, (according to Trent) if anyone says that the work of Christ on the cross is payment in full for the sins of all and that this payment is accounted fully to those who trust in Him and that there is no remaining debt to be paid by the sinner, then that person is accursed of God.

Since these decrees were set forth by the bishops of the Catholic Church during an ecumenical council they are considered infallible and therefore can never be altered or revoked. In other words, even though some evangelicals and Catholics argue that the two groups are moving closer together concerning justification, in reality, any movement can only come from the evangelical side.

What then, according to Catholic theology, must someone do to be saved? Unfortunately, the answer is not nearly so straight-forward as the question. Not only is the process of salvation complex and multilayered, even if one were to do everything necessary as prescribed by the Catholic Church, there is still no assurance that someone would ultimately be saved.

Sin: Original, Mortal and Venial

In order to fully understand the Catholic doctrine of justification, one must first understand the doctrine of sin—which can be generally categorized as original sin, mortal sin and venial sin.

Original sin in Roman Catholic theology does not equate to the biblical doctrine of the sin nature as many Protestant think. Original sin is not the propensity to sin due to a fallen nature, but rather it is defined as the condition of lacking sanctifying grace at birth—grace that is necessary for entrance into heaven. Therefore the first step in salvation is to replenish sanctifying grace through the sacrament of baptism—usually as soon as possible after a child is born.

Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and in the word.6

In contrast to original sin, mortal and venial sins are actual sins which are committed by someone who has reached the age of reason.

Mortal sin is an actual sin that destroys sanctifying grace in the soul. It is called mortal since it causes the supernatural death of the soul.7

The effects of mortal sin are the loss of divine friendship, past supernatural merits, and the right to enter heaven unless the sinner repents.8

Venial sin is an offense against God that does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace.9

Venial sin darkens the mind in its perception of virtue, weakens the will in its pursuit of holiness, lowers one’s resistance to temptation, and causes a person to deviate from the path that leads to heavenly glory.10

Sins are therefore categorized as mortal or venial depending upon whether or not a given sin destroys sanctifying grace in the soul—and this is dependent upon a number of factors.

There are three conditions for a mortal sin. First, the matter or what is done must be seriously wrong, either in itself or because of the circumstances, as telling a lie under oath; or because of the purpose, as telling others something bad about someone in order to ruin that person’s character. Second, there must be clear awareness of the serious nature of the act at the time it is performed. And third, there is full consent of the will, so that a person deliberately wants to do what he knows is gravely sinful.11

In other words, the only answer that can be given to the question “Did I commit a mortal or venial sin?” is, “It all depends.” No priest, not even the Pope can tell someone for sure whether or not a given sin was mortal or venial because there is no list—and only God knows whether or not sanctifying grace was destroyed in the soul.

While the Bible teaches that we are cleansed and forgiven of every sin the moment we trust in Christ for salvation, Catholic theology teaches that Christ’s death simply made salvation possible—and it is up to each individual to earn the right to enter heaven. Those who die with only venial sin on their soul must spend time in the fires of purgatory, literally paying the penalty for their own sins, after which they will eventually make it to heaven. However, if someone dies with a mortal sin on their soul, meaning they have lost all sanctifying grace, they will spend eternity in hell.

Sanctifying Grace and the Sacraments

A fundamental flaw in Catholic theology is that it defines grace as something that can be gained and lost—something that is transferred from God to man in a very literal way through very literal means, i.e., through the sacraments. However, biblical grace is not a “thing,” per se. Grace is a concept that describes the way one person behaves toward another.

Grace is like love in this regard. Love is the concept that describes the attitude and behavior that always has the best interests of others in mind. Likewise, grace is a concept that describes someone doing good to another when they deserve justice.

Romans 5:15: But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace,which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

However, Roman Catholic theology teaches that grace must be transferred from God into the human soul and that this transfer takes place through the sacraments. The sacraments give and sustain spiritual life much as food carries the vitamins and minerals needed to sustain physical life.

“Seated at the right hand of the Father” and pouring out the Holy Spirit on his Body which is the Church, Christ now acts through the sacraments he instituted to communicate his grace. The sacraments are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that they signify.12

There are seven sacraments according to Catholic theology, but it is primarily through five of them that the average Catholic receives the sanctifying grace necessary for salvation. These are baptism (whereby one becomes a Christian), confirmation (whereby one receives the Holy Spirit at the age of reason), penance (whereby one confesses and is absolved of sin by a priest and given tasks to pay for their sins), communion (whereby one partakes of the literal body and blood of Christ) and anointing of the sick (whereby one is anointed to spiritually strengthen one in their illness and especially when they are near death).

Conclusions

According to Catholic theology, salvation is anything but a free gift and consequently there can be no assurance of salvation. Catholics believe they are cleansed of original sin and become Christians at baptism—but then must faithfully accept and observe all of the teachings of the church, live a good life and regularly participate in the sacraments, particularly penance and communion, in order to maintain the sanctifying grace necessary for them to reach heaven when they die. There is no way for any Catholic, not even the Pope, to be certain of their eternal destiny before they die—and the best they can hope for is a relatively short time in the fires of purgatory. When all is said and done, their ultimate goal is to avoid dying with a mortal sin on their soul.

The crucial question and what separates the gospel of Roman Catholicism and the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ is, “Who pays for my sins?” According to Roman Catholic theology, Christ made salvation possible, but everyone must pay for their own sins, whereas the good news of the biblical gospel is that Christ paid the penalty for the sins of all and as a result forgiven sin and eternal life are offered as a free gift to be received by faith alone in Christ alone.

The Reformation is not over—nor can it ever be.

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2017/01/08/the-gospel-of-roman-catholicism/feed/ 2
90 Minutes in Heaven http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/09/16/90-minutes-in-heaven/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/09/16/90-minutes-in-heaven/#comments Wed, 16 Sep 2015 15:35:02 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2780 90 Minutes in Heaven – the movie

The new movie 90 Minutes in Heaven hit theaters on Friday, September 11 and I went to see it last night. The movie, which is based on a 2004 book of the same name, is about a pastor, Don Piper, who claims that he died, went to heaven and returned as the result of a terrible auto accident in 1989. His book is really what kicked off the current Near Death Experience (NDE) / “Heaven Tourism” phenomenon in the Christian realm—which continues unabated with books and movies.

As of this writing, after eleven years, Piper’s book is still ranked #1 in Eschatology on Amazon.com, has sold over 7 million copies and has been translated into 42 different languages (if I recall the info at the end of the movie correctly).

I first read Piper’s book in the spring of 2014 as part of research I did into over 25 NDEs, including reading the books Heaven is for Real, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Clinically Dead, To Heaven and Back, My Journey to Heaven and Heaven and the Afterlife.

First, I want to say that I’m not challenging the sincerity or motives of the author. The Lord knows the heart.

Second, the accident in which Piper was severely injured was truly horrific and the recovery process was excruciatingly painful—and I wouldn’t want to minimize how much he and his family went through in surviving such a traumatic ordeal.

That being said, just as is true of all NDEs, I do not believe that Piper died and went to heaven. At the accident, he was declared dead because they couldn’t find a pulse for 90 minutes.

However, there is a difference between being clinically dead and being dead in the biblical sense. When someone is clinically dead, all that means is that vital life signs can no longer be detected, but to be dead in the biblical sense means that the person spirit leaves the body—and the two do not necessarily occur simultaneously. Furthermore, the depiction in the movie is that only Piper’s pulse could not be detected by EMTs—and there were no indications that any medical equipment was used to detect other evidences of life like brain waves, sense of touch/feel, body warmth, etc. There are many recorded instances of people with very minimal vital signs being declared dead, when in reality they weren’t—and even began to recover in mortuaries and morgues.

There is no reason to believe that Piper’s experience was anything more than a vivid dream in the midst of serious trauma with perhaps his body on the verge of death with its cascading bio-chemical processes that happen as a body and brain begins to shut down. There is no way to objectively confirm that anything like an out-of-body experience actually happened. Everything is entirely based on one man’s perception—and in cases like this, perception does not necessarily correspond to reality.

For an in-depth discussion of NDEs, please refer to my article here on the ABI website by clicking here.

Normally I try to stay away from critiquing books and movies from a literary or artistic perspective and instead focus on content. However, with a movie the medium can’t really be separated from the message because the script, dialogue, the acting, the cinematography, the music, etc. are all inseparably linked to how the message is presented and perceived. In the case of 90 Minutes in Heaven, it is just a really poor movie—with a rating of only 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, 4.1/10 on IMDB and 28% on Metacritic.

First, it drags on and on at a snail’s pace—to the point of being painful. I simply could not wait for it to be over. Had I not been watching it for purposes of research for an upcoming interview, I would have been very tempted to leave.

​Second, the title is almost deceptive as very, very little is actually said or depicted about Piper’s time in heaven. The vast majority of both the book and movie deal only with his recovery time in the hospital—and not about his claimed trip to heaven—which is why people picked up the book or will go to the movie in the first place. You almost feel like it is a bait-and-switch by the end of the movie as there can’t be more than five minutes of total screen time given to the heaven sequences which occur at two different points in movie.

Speaking of which, the depiction of heaven was almost painful to watch. On the one-hand, it was both predictable and clichéd. It showed the “pearly gates” with a golden light emanating from them. Many people that Piper had known were there to welcome him—all exactly the same age as they were when they died (is that how we’re going to spend eternity?). And one of the most bizarre things is that several, perhaps most of the men were wearing coats and ties, while the women were all wearing dresses. Just strange.

Furthermore, the dialogue is really very poor—and even hokey in places. People just don’t talk like the characters in the movie—who are supposed to be portraying real people, real events and real conversations. It was just not believable.

This is true of much of the acting, as well—and even some decent acting by Fred Thompson and a brief appearance by Michael W. Smith didn’t salvage the movie. Country singer Dwight Yoakam’s character as a sleaze-bag lawyer was excruciatingly painful to watch—to the point that it could best be described as a caricature of a caricature (sorry Dwight Yoakam fans, but it was bad acting at its worst).

I could go on and on, but I want to close with a couple of thoughts:

1. The most appalling part of the movie was the last few minutes. After the story of the movie ended, it cut to Don Piper himself (not the person playing his character) who was speaking in a packed church. If his message in the over 3,000 churches where he has shared his story was anything like the end of the movie, then he has no right to consider himself a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ—because he did not give the gospel at all—not even a single phrase.

The only thing he said was that people needed to “keep the faith”—but he never even hinted at what that might mean. And, he said something to the effect, “I hope to see you all in heaven someday.” (leaving the impression that he would)—leaving the impression of a universalistic view of salvation—the idea that everyone will ultimately be saved.

Not one word was said about Jesus Christ—who was only very briefly mentioned a couple of times in the entire movie. Nothing was said about us being sinners in need of a savior. Nothing was said of Jesus being God or that He died on a cross for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve. Nothing was said of His resurrection or His return.

With a movie about such an important part of his life, and an opportunity to share the gospel with potentially tens of thousands of movie-goers, Don Piper completely failed to give the movie any biblical meaning or purpose whatsoever. This is utterly inexcusable.

And finally, Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16—two men who died, but with two completely different destinies. Lazarus, a believer, had died and entered paradise, a place that is referred to as the “the bosom of Abraham.” However, the rich man, an unbeliever, had gone to the place of punishment and physical torment—the fires of sheol. And when the rich man lifted up his eyes and saw Lazarus he cried out to Abraham and we read the following exchange in Luke 16:25-31:

But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.”

Then he said, “I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.”
Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”
And he said, “No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”
But he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

​The point is very clear: Those who believe that “heaven is for real” and that the day of reckoning is coming can and will do so on the basis of the Word of God alone—and so there is no need for evidence or proof in the form of reports from someone who returns (or claims to have returned) from the dead.

In contrast, for those who do not and will not believe, neither will they be persuaded by any supposed report from beyond the grave.

The Word of God and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit is all that is necessary—and nothing else can or will genuinely work to any degree.

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/09/16/90-minutes-in-heaven/feed/ 7
Biblical Guide to the Shemitah and the Blood Moons http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/08/07/biblical-guide-to-the-shemitah-and-the-blood-moons/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/08/07/biblical-guide-to-the-shemitah-and-the-blood-moons/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 18:55:53 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2738 Biblical Guide to the Shemitah and the Blood Moons

The following description is from The Berean Call website in their promotion of the book.

Click here to order the book from The Berean Call website

Are “blood moons” a harbinger for a catastrophic “seventh shemitah” in America? Informed Christians and serious students of God’s Word would certainly agree that America—and the rest of the world—is prophetically on “borrowed time.” With increasing speed, the signs of the times are drawing nearer and growing clearer.
Unfortunately, while the church should be encouraged by Bible prophecy and exhorted to greater personal holiness and evangelism, there instead exists a cadre of prophets and pitchmen creating confusion in the body of Christ. Prominent pastor-authors pronounce their warnings—while eager publishers promote their wares. In his latest book, New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Cahn boldly purports to reveal a previously unknown and undiscovered “3,000-year-old mystery that…revealed the dates and the hours of the greatest [financial] crashes in Wall Street history…determined the timing of 9/11…lies behind the rise of America…and its fall…[and] holds the key to what lies ahead for the world and for your life.”

If true, these astonishing claims are nothing short of divine revelation. If false, then millions of believing Christians are the victims of brazen marketing hype at best, spiritual deception at worst—or both. But how can one test such claims? Is it even possible to know the truth of these matters? Unequivocally, unhesitatingly, YES! In contrast to the swirling clouds of “mysteries” touching down in churches all across America, readers will appreciate the calm, clear reasoning of international Bible teacher Dave James as he demonstrates the process of spiritual discernment for all readers who desire to “test all things [and] hold fast what is good.” —1 Thessalonians 5:21.

Contents

  1. Origin of the Shemitah
  2. The Theory of Shemitah Cycles in America
  3. “The Revelations Came Rapidly”
  4. America as the Second Israel
  5. The Hebrew Calendar
  6. “Non-Date-Setting” Date Setting
  7. What’s in a Title? The “Mystery” of the Shemitah
  8. The Blood Moon Tetrad
  9. A Surprising Lack of Discernment
  10. Marketing “Fear”
  11. The Second Shaking
  12. The Isaiah 9:10 Effect
  13. The Financial Collapse
  14. The Shemitah Connection
  15. The Case for the Shemitah
  16. Fudging the Numbers
  17. Biblical Realities & Inescapable Conclusions
  18. Signs of the Second Coming?
  19. The Imminency Problem
  20. A Potential Danger – and a Word of Caution

Click here to order the book from The Berean Call website

The following is my preface to the book:

The Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn, became the #1 Christian book of 2012, reaching publishing milestones and propelling the author to national and even international prominence. Because of the many biblical errors, theological flaws, and historical misrepresentations, what began as a 2-3 page book review quickly turned into a book- length response and led to the publication of my first book, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? by The Berean Call.

On September 2, Jonathan Cahn’s third book, The Mystery of the Shemitah debuted at number 5 on the New York Times best-seller list, largely on the strength of pre-orders alone, forcing a second printing on the second day because of the high demand. The ongo- ing popularity of the book is evidenced by its ranking as number 1 on Amazon.com (as of 11/3/2014) in one of various prophecy categories and as number 2 in two more categories. This suggests that The Mystery of the Shemitah also needs to be carefully examined to determine if the errors in The Harbinger have been corrected or perpetuated in this new volume.

My purpose for evaluating and critiquing The Mystery of the Shemitah is two-fold:

First, because so many have been influenced by The Harbinger and because this new book is already a bestseller, the Body of Christ needs to see that there is another side to the story that may not be completely obvious at first glance. And even for those who may sense that something isn’t quite right, the time it takes to work through the frequently slow and laborious, yet necessary, task of fact-check- ing is probably more than most readers will want to invest.

Second, just as one of my goals in writing The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? was to model the process of discernment, the same is true of this booklet. First and foremost, discernment involves check- ing everything against the Word of God to make sure that all of the arguments, theories, and claims are biblically sound. Beyond this, discernment also frequently involves evaluating the logic of arguments, the veracity of assertions from a historical perspective, and even the proper use of statistics, which, unfortunately, can be framed in such a way that the true picture is obscured or hidden from the reader, even if unintentionally.

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/08/07/biblical-guide-to-the-shemitah-and-the-blood-moons/feed/ 35
MARRIAGE: Do words have meanings? http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/06/27/marriage_do_words_have-meanings/ Sat, 27 Jun 2015 00:17:50 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2698 MARRIAGE: Do words have meanings?

rainbow courtWith a single decision, a simple majority of five of nine justices on the Supreme Court of the United States, has successfully and irrevocably changed the meaning of a single word that has so clearly defined the most basic societal unit throughout history—a word with a meaning so clear and unambiguous that it had stood the test of time for millennia. Yet, on the morning of  June 26, 2015, the meaning of “marriage” according to U.S. law changed forever.

The institution of marriage (and by extension, the family) is unlike any other societal custom or construct that has ever developed over the course of time. In Genesis 1:26-27: “God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to our likeness….so God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created He created him; male and female He created them.” In other words, God created humans in His image in such a way that the union of a single man and a single woman as husband and wife would most fully comprise the image of God in a complementary fashion—and as such, this design was woven into the very fabric of humanity and the world that they would populate.

This is not to suggest that marriage is necessary for someone to be considered to be made in the image of God. Both Jesus (Matt 19:12) and Paul (1 Cor 7:32-34) referred to unique situations where singleness were preferred for the sake of completing certain work in the kingdom of God. At the same time, it is equally clear that the union of a man and woman in a faithful marriage is a picture of the faithful relationship that is supposed to exist between God and His people (Eph 5:22-33). It is a testimony. It is an illustration. One designed, ordained and blessed by God.

There isn’t a single passage throughout Scripture that remotely hints that any type of loving relationship between two people of the same sex (even the very best of friends) can in any way fulfill the ultimately purposes of biblical marriage, of which only one aspect is sex—to say nothing of the impossibility of procreation—which is so obvious that it hardly warrants even bringing up among honest people.

This is to say nothing of the multiple passages in both the Old and New Testaments which explicitly condemn all attempts to fulfill sexual desires in any context outside biblical marriage. And therein is the key to entire semantic argument: “biblical marriage.”

Polygamy existed in the Old Testament, but these were not “biblical marriages”—even though God in His grace allowed them to continue without exercising immediate judgment. (In many cases, just trying to get by within a polygamous marriage was sufficient judgment for the moment.) God allowed for divorce, as Jesus noted in the New Testament, this was not the ideal, but due to “hardness of heart” (Mark 10:1-12). Divorce was not compatible with a “biblical marriage.”

One of the most tragic mistakes a believer can make is to confuse God’s tolerance for His blessing. In the case of the nation of Israel, God tolerated situations and even blessed people in His grace, before He ultimately executed judgment against the nation for a pattern of sin that had come to permeate the nation and become a way of life. They had foolishly mistaken tolerance and patience for acceptance and blessing.

Now that the United States has abandoned “biblical marriage” in favor of a very different definition, we are just one step closer to experiencing God’s judgment as a nation. The fact that the Supreme Court building and those celebrating the same-sex ruling from its steps on June 26, 2015 didn’t suffer an immediate strike from God is merely an example of His tolerance—not at all a sign of his acceptance and blessing. And those who foolishly mistake this redefinition of marriage as something that is pleasing to God—or simply don’t care what God thinks, have put the entire nation in a place of danger—perhaps imminent danger.

We can only pray for a spiritual revival (which is not likely in a pluralistic society that is anything but Christian) or we can pray for a merciful delay of what we deserve. But, either way, we must not be fooled into complacency. God is not mocked and for a time the rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45).

]]>
Will the real Bruce Jenner please stand up? http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/06/08/will-the-real-bruce-jenner-please-stand-up/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/06/08/will-the-real-bruce-jenner-please-stand-up/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 18:35:51 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2570 Will the real Bruce Jenner please stand up?


Jenner 02

Although it is certainly a “current theological issue,” I really hesitated wading into this particular mine field for a variety of reasons.

The first is that I’ve already dealt with the alphabet soup of LGBT issues far more than I care to over the last couple of years in the process of simply addressing current theological issues each week. Without exaggerating, I could easily do a story related to this overall topic every week as there are continually new developments, yet I definitely don’t want to somehow communicate that I’ve become obsessed with this singular topic. And the charge that “me thinkest thou protesteth too much” is almost a kiss of death—making it a largely no-win situation.

The second reason for my hesitation is the massive amount of media coverage that has already been devoted to this issue from both secular and Christian sources. I’ve wondered what else either could or should be said. Some very good thinkers and theologians have already made helpful contributions both to this specific topic and to the larger conversation about LGBT, same-sex attraction, marriage, etc.

And, finally, I’m not particularly inclined to be drawn ever deeper into this discussion since the appropriate biblical response seems so obvious that whatever nuances there might be left to discuss end up having little more significance than the question of the number of angels who could comfortably dance on the head of a pin. A study by the American Psychiatric Association highlights just how surreal and, to be honest, completely unnecessary it is to try to have an ongoing culture-wide discussion about this. Although some have suggested that the reported numbers are too low, the APA’s study concluded that the number of transsexual adults is as low as 0.005 to 0.014 percent of men and 0.002 to 0.003 percent of women.1

If these numbers are anywhere close to accurate, does this whole matter really warrant the disproportionate amount of coverage it is receiving given the major issues facing not just this country, but the entire world? Just a casual perusal of the various media outlets, whether internet-based, cable news networks or the main stream media, reveals that we’re living in a world that it is quite literally going to hell in virtually every conceivable way. This isn’t to suggest that the same-sex marriage or LGBT agenda question is not one of the more pressing culture war questions of our day—but this is about one person, who, by the way, according to at least one account I’ve read, doesn’t even consider himself to be homosexual.

Yet, the obsession of (at least some) Americans with this particular story seems to be fueled by earth-shattering questions such as whether Bruce should apply his own eye-liner, or instead rely on the talents of a professional make-up artist. In a promo for the new E! series “I am Cait” he can hardly contain himself with the difference this really made in developing his new look.2 So, as unbelievable as it seems, the world is about to be subjected to yet another “Kardashian-centric” reality show. The very fact that anyone would even continue to attach “reality” to this particular genre of “entertainment” seems quite enough to warrant calling for the men in white coats to take us away, ha, ha…. (to paraphrase a 60s novelty song. 3)

Millions of people have apparently bought into the media-generated illusion that the “Jenner Story” is at least as interesting as ISIS beheading hundreds of people simply for their beliefs or in some cases selling scores of young girls into slavery for as little as a pack of cigarettes. This genuine wickedness continues to run rampant with virtual impunity with the world idly standing by—apparently dumbstruck and impotent to do anything of any consequence (just today (5/9/2015) president Obama clearly stated publicly that there is still no strategy whatsoever for dealing with these barbaric Islamists) 4. Yet, we have a once-respected and highly honored athlete whose closest present experience with being comparably traumatized involves nothing more than trying to pinpoint the most effective location for the next Botox injection.

The whole world has gone mad. The inmates are running the asylum. (I know, I know: that wasn’t a very PC way to put it.)

However, having said all this, I’m going to add yet one more voice to the many already in the discussion, hoping to add a few more salient points for at least our regular readers to seriously consider and ones that will help them as they discuss this and related issues to others.

(Of course, if you disagree with my views, as always, I look forward to hearing from you.)

What is his name? 

The name by which virtually everyone has known this person for years has been “Bruce,” even though now it’s “Caitlyn.” Honestly, by itself, this just isn’t a big deal. No one concerns themselves with the fact that that Marilyn Monroe was known to her family as “Norma Jean” or that Rock Hudson was born as “Roy Scherer, Jr.”

Now, for the record, “Bruce” is actually Jenner’s middle name. “William” was what his father and mother put on his birth certificate as his first name. So, in the interest of minimizing the confusion of the present controversy, I’ve decided to go with “William” when referring to Bruce/Caitlyn. And, although I realize I will considered disrespectful by some, I’ve decided to simply use pronouns consistent with the results of any DNA testing this member of the Jenner family might undergo in the future.

Just how old is William Jenner?

Based on the two photos at the beginning of this story, that would be a rather tough question to answer.

Born on October 28, 1949, William Jenner is about nine years older than I am. The above picture from the Wheaties box on the left, taken in the 1970s, would be certainly consistent with that fact.

Now, let’s think through some implications of photos from someone’s past. Of course, there are some photos around from the time I was about the same age (although, thankfully, not too many). Unfortunately, in many ways, I’m not longer that person. Now, there are many things I like about getting older—particularly as it relates to life and ministry. I”ve learned a few things along the way. I understand the Bible better. I’ve developed some great relationships with some very wise and godly people who have influenced me greatly. In so many ways I would really hate to have to start over—particularly if it meant having to once again pay for the very expensive lessons of life I’ve learned over the past five decades. And I’ve thought many times how much I wouldn’t want to be entering ministry again coming right out of seminary. Definitely not something I would gladly do. And what’s worse, the nasty things that happen to the body through the aging process is definitely the stuff of horror movies.

With that in mind, I’m not at all the person I was when I graduated from high school in 1976. Although, I’m now almost twice the person I was then—that doesn’t have the advantages that might initially come to mind. Since there are now essentially two of us, I should be able to play some mean two-on-two basketball like I did when there was just one of me—but we all know that ain’t gonna happen. I should be nearly twice as strong as I was then and be able to run nearly twice as fast. Furthermore, thanks to my mom’s side of the family my hair decided to turn gray, rather than turn loose—which, because of my increasing resemblance to Santa Claus, come to think of it, this could open up seasonal part-time income opportunities. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Unfortunately, “getting the picture” is not at all what happened when it cames to William Jenner’s appearance on the Vanity Fair cover photo on the left above—not by a long shot. What the world did get was a heavily Photoshopped version (that someone noted took about five hours to accomplish).

Like an audience under the influence of a skilled stage hypnotist, a collective suspension of disbelief somehow caused untold numbers to believe that the 1976 Olympic Decathlon winner depicted on the “The Breakfast of Champions” cereal box cover on the left has been magically transformed into the somewhat glamorous Caitlyn depicted on the Vanity Fair magazine cover on the right. By any reasonable standards, the person in the photo on the right—the picture that is said to have “broken the internet,” would have still been in diapers when the photo on the left was taken. While the Wheaties’ cover depicts a twenty-something athlete in prime physical condition—arguably the best in the world, the Vanity Fair caricature on the right depicts someone who appears to be a 40-something woman whose alter-ego on the left received one of the Olympics’ most prestigious gold medals as a man nearly forty years earlier.

Are we really so out of touch with reality, or perhaps just so enamored with the recent choices made by William Jenner, that we have been completely blinded to the fact that neither picture actually depicts the the reality of today? The picture on the left depicts a very real man, a one-time hero in the realm of athletics, who was captured at a glorious moment in his own personal life—one that he shared and celebrated with a world that was at least temporarily in awe of his fleeting fame.

However, the picture on the right is remarkably different—particularly because it doesn’t reflect reality to any significant degree at all. Rather, it is nothing more than a digitally manipulated representation of a person who does not and has never even existed at all. Why is it that the masses are intentionally ignoring the facts in order to buy into the lie that they are really the same person—with the vast majority actually celebrating the lie to the same or greater degree that a previous generation celebrated the reality of a remarkable athletic achievement—all while somehow believing that their reactions reflect the deepest of compassion and is perhaps the greatest evidence that we have achieved a new and higher level of cultural enlightenment than ever before in the history of mankind.

If William Jenner’s decision to present himself on cover of Vanity Fair was designed to finally allow people to see him as he really is, then this whole charade amounts to nothing less than an EPIC FAIL of staggering proportions. And tragically, this same lapse of judgment is going to result in lining the pockets of a small group of opportunists with millions of dollars—a group with neither heart nor conscience—and dare we say it, “without a soul” who care not one whit about his name, his age, or most importantly, who William Jenner really is. This drives us mercilessly directly to the next point and most important point.

What is William Jenner’s true identity?

Will the real William Bruce aka “Caitlyn” Jenner please stand up? Who is he? What is is real—his true identity.

I’m not talking about who he might like to be (we’ve all had passing dreams and fantasies). I’m not talking about who he might like to emulate (there are dozens of Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas). I’m not talking about a personality trait that he wishes were different and perhaps from which he would like to be free (I tend to be a perfectionist, with OCD tendencies and a temper that flairs more easily than I would like to admit). Neither am I talking about someone who desires just some sort of temporary escape from reality (which could be accomplished fairly easily through a good video game or movie—and for some, through drugs or alcohol).

No. Our identity is different from all those things and when we confuse the two, we end up trying to become someone we can never be—and someone God never intended for us to be. And experience has taught virtually everyone who has ever attempted this that such confusion leads to some very unsuccessful results and frequently to ones that are equally embarrassing.

Rather, each of us is a complex individuals with a unique identity who is created in the image of God. Unfortunately, we all start out plagued with a sin nature susceptible to impulses set before us which can be biblically summarized “as the world, the flesh and the devil” (cf., 1 John 2:16; Mark 4:15-17; Ephesians 2:1-3). Each of us have also have a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses that make us who we are at any given point in our lives—and we are all responsible before the Lord to handle those strengths and weaknesses appropriately.

The Scriptures make it clear that for born-again believers in Christ, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, our choices can lead us to maturity so that we more closely reflect the character of Christ—and when we choose to ignore the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we tend toward the temptation to sin—and frequently fail to resist that temptation, usually with regrettable results.

On the other hand, those who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ are dominated by the overwhelming power of the sin nature—and no one is able to meet the standard of perfection required for acceptance into heaven. Without the indwelling Spirit, unbelievers end up tossed around by all sorts of philosophies and an endless stream of temptations that come their way. And far too many end up being slaves to the emotions and psychological reactions to a never-ending series of circumstances over which they often have very little control.

So, for any of us, exactly what really is our identity at any given moment in time? The fact is that we are all on a journey and none of us are who we were ten years ago, nor are we the same person we will be ten years from now. There are aspects of our identity which remain the same, but many things also change—and they should.

I was once a single man, but now I’ve been married for nearly 35 years. For the first eight years of marriage, we had no children. Now we have two grown children—both married, meaning that we also have a daughter-in-law and a son-in law—and through our son and daughter-in-law, we also have two granddaughters. In many ways, I’m not who I was when I was twenty and I’m not who I will be twenty years from now. Things change—and in ways that God has ordained and designed. When we depart from the order God has set in motion, things go wrong—sometimes desperately wrong.

What so many seem to forget is that the two snapshots above nether define nor reflect William Jenner’s identity as it stands today. Neither do they begin to fully capture his true identity even in that brief moment when each of the two photos were taken except in the most superficial way.

Neither picture makes it clear that they are really the same person in the most important and objective ways. The pictures don’t show that the person in each picture has the same DNA, the same chromosomal and overall genetic make-up, the same personality (except as influenced by age and experience over time), the same experiences, the same IQ, the same familial heritage—-and the list goes on. Based on the photo on the right, no one would suspect that the person in that picture had married and divorced three different heterosexual women, with whom he has six biological children and four step-children.

Without wishing to get into unnecessary gritty details, despite hormone therapy, breast enlargement, surgical cosmetic enhancements and hours of Photoshop alterations, William still possesses the physical capacity to continue to father children in a completely normal physical way. To this point, he has not chosen gender reassignment surgery.

There just isn’t enough time to deal with all the implications and life-altering complications that William Jenner’s choices have introduced into the lives of so many people who have had a long, and personal relationship with him. However, just one simple example serves to illustrate the depth of complications his choices have introduced into the lives of his family and friendships which most will see as nothing more than a few issues requiring some attitude adjustments—primarily on the part of everyone except for William Jenner himself. Suppose for a moment that one of William’s biological children ends up having a particularly difficult time and says some things that aren’t necessarily helpful for their relationship. Exactly how might William respond? Would it be something similar to what would seem normal in most family situations: “You might not agree with me or my decisions, but I deserve at least a little respect—I’m still your father, uh your mother, uh your parent.”

How do his children refer to him? What about his grandchildren? What about his former wives.

In a June 1, 2015 interview with People magazine, responding to the most recent developments, Kris Jenner posed the question: “Why would you want to be married and have kids if this is what you wanted since you were a little boy? Why would you not explain this all to me?”5

Of course, it’s possible that this has all been worked out—but the question remains—who is this person—really? Is he now a mother, when he was once a father? Is he a grandfather or a grandmother? The list of these types of relational questions, along with a whole host of others, is literally endless.

So, Exactly Who is William Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner?

After all the emotions have been exhausted. After all the opinions have been voiced. After all the defenses have been argued and all the objections have been considered, the only thing that really matters is what God has revealed in Scripture.

To put it another way: In the eyes of God, who is William Jenner?

The Scriptures make it clear that in our natural condition all people are sinful, and accountable for our sin to an absolutely, perfectly holy God. So, the short answer is that before God, William Jenner is a human male with a sin nature who will one day be held accountable for his choices. God is not going to be singling him out for special treatment, good or bad.

Furthermore, I think it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to make a biblical case that when God looks at William Jenner He sees a sinful woman. At the same time, whether he is a man or woman in the eyes of God is probably rather irrelevant when it comes down to spiritual issues. Few sins outlined in the Bible are actually gender-specific—particularly in principle.

Is William more or less sinful than any other person? Fortunately, God has not left the responsibility to make that determination in our hands. However, we can rest in the confidence that the God of the universe will do what is right and that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

One of the more frustrating aspects of this whole story is that Jenner considers himself a conservative and identifies politically as a Republican. Some have identified Jenner as a “non denominational Christian.”6

Given the apologetic and dscernmnet nature of my ministry, I’m frequently asked whether I think a given person is really a believer. Unless someone clearly denies the faith with their words, while claiming to understand and believe the gospel, that is a question I simply refuse to answer. Whether someone is an unbeliever or a believer who is currently not living for the Lord, the solution and path to fellowship with the Lord is essentially the same for both—and perhaps most succinctly stated in 1 John 1:9:  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

More important than William Jenner’s Identity

There are bigger questions in play than the gender identity issues of just one man. Ultimately, this isn’t just about William Jenner.

The bigger issue involves how individual believers and perhaps more importantly, how the church as a whole should respond to the matter of same-sex attraction and the LGBT agenda as a whole. One of the biggest problems we face is the fact that this is a philosophically different issue than any other category of since and must be addressed as such or even more confusion and more problems will be created.

I recently read an article that suggested that before the church spends inordinate amounts of time dealing with gender-identity, same-sex attraction, and the LGBT agenda as a whole, we should first get a handle on the many other sins that beset the members of the average church, whether it be greed, lust, obesity, adultery, divorce, lying or others. However, while it usually isn’t helpful to categorize sins for the purpose of ranking them in terms seriousness, the previously-mentioned viewpoint fails to recognize that sexual sins, particularly those sins that go beyond heterosexual boundaries between consenting adults actually do fall into a different category by nature.

For example, most thieves, liars and adulterers are already convinced that they are wrong—and none of them have any intention of trying to transform society’s attitude toward them. Nor do they have any organized agenda to persuade entire faith traditions that their behavior should now be considered acceptable. Neither are they trying to persuade people that 2,000 years of consistent biblical interpretation has someone been completely misguided and thousands of godly Bible scholars have simply gotten it wrong on this issue. And perhaps most disturbingly, unlike those involved with other types of sins, those who are committed to transforming the church with regard to whole sexual identity revolution are primarily being identified with and gaining their cultural momentum from a group of people who are generally outspokenly anti-Christian, entirely rejecting anything and everything related to the Bible and godliness.

As much as many in the world, including a growing number of Christians would not like to admit it, sexual sins, especially those identified most closely with radically deviant behavior are categorically in multiple ways. These sins involve a steady and intentional progression toward more harmful individual behaviors and the adoption of entire lifestyles that are in direct conflict with the God-ordained institution of marriage, which when functioning properly most clearly and fully expresses the very image of God in man.

Anyone who somehow thinks that these changes represent nothing more than slight adjustments involving personal choices, complicated by nothing more than a few accommodating laws, are either naive, deceitful or both. These issues will ultimately affect the entire world at the societal level with unforeseeable unintended consequences that amount to nothing less than opening “Pandora’s Box.” The legal “wins” for same-sex marriage and gender identity cases are without any doubt are also inevitable wins for polygamy, polyandry, incest, bestiality, pedophilia and even virtual sexual relationship with machines as robotics and artificial intelligence and human/machine interfaces are developed, become more sophisticated and end up and protected within the legal system.

Conclusion

All of this is going somewhere from a prophetic perspective. In Romans chapter one, Paul describes the downward spiral of humanity at the cultural level—a death spiral that begins with an intentional suppression of the truth of God (Romans 1:18) and ends with God’s inevitable judgment of mankind – not just against individuals, but mankind as a whole. History is replete with examples and it never ends well.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God nor the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things rare deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ro 1:24–32.}

Jenner

One of most ominous lines from the E! trailer for “Cait!” is Jenner’s closing line: “Put it this way, I’m the new normal.”7

 

  1. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/july-august/understanding-transgender-gender-dysphoria.html?utm_source=ctdirect-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=9455958&utm_content=360864255&utm_campaign=2013&start=2
  2. http://hollywoodlife.com/2015/06/03/caitlyn-jenner-makeup-i-am-cait-promo-watch/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnzHtm1jhL4
  4. http://thehill.com/policy/defense/244272-obama-we-dont-yet-have-a-compete-strategy-against-isis
  5.  http://www.people.com/article/caitlyn-jenner-vanity-fair-kris-jenner-response
  6. http://hollowverse.com/bruce-jenner/
  7. http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/videos/caitlyn-jenner-says-im-the-new-normal-in-first-series-trailer-20150603
]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/06/08/will-the-real-bruce-jenner-please-stand-up/feed/ 9
Deep and Wide: A book review by Gary Gilley http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/05/31/deep-and-wide-a-book-review-by-gary-gilley/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/05/31/deep-and-wide-a-book-review-by-gary-gilley/#comments Sun, 31 May 2015 03:58:41 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2546 BOOK REVIEW: Deep and Wide, by Andy Stanley (reviewed by Gary Gilley)
Initial comments below by Dave James, followed by the full book review by Gary Gilley:
deep and wide

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley

Only occasionally one runs across an article that could be considered a “must-read”—and even less frequently, a book review that would fall into the same category. However, this particular book review by Gary Gilley really is a must-read because it deals with an issue that is broadly affecting the church in America. It is concise, insightful, relevant—and important to the on-going discussion of what it means to “do church” in a way that is both culturally relevant and biblically sound.

Gary is one of the most well-read pastors I know of—with a broad wealth of knowledge that comes, at least in part, from reading a different book virtually week. And he has done a great service for the Body of Christ through the many dozens of reviews of these book which available on his website: www.svchapel.org. Gilley is a conservative, evangelical pastor in Springfield, Illinois, an accomplished and well-respected theologian in the IFCA, and (in the opinion of this author) one of the great analytical thinkers of our day in the area of apologetics and discernment, especially regarding trends within evangelicalism related to the dangerous influence of contemplative spirituality entering the church.

Gilley’s review is important for many reasons, not the least which is that, Andy Stanley, is the son of one of the most influential and well-known leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention (Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Atlanta, GA). So, Andy grew up in a large, respected church, as well under the influenceof  another of his father’s widely known ministries: In Touch Ministries. Andy is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and is the pastor of what is one of the fastest-growing and most influential in America: Northpoint Community Church. When Andy Stanley speaks, his influence is generally felt directly or indirectly by tens of thousands of people on a regular basis—a tremendous responsibility for any Christian leader by any measure.

This book review has been reproduced here in its entirety with the gracious permission of its author, Gary Gilley. (It is also available on the church’s website.)

____________________

Deep and Wide, by Andy Stanley (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 350 pp., Hardcover $24.99)

Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel

Endorsed by everyone from Rick Warren and Bill Hybels to Dave Ramsey, Steven Furtick and Jeff Foxworthy, Deep and Wide reveals Andy Stanley’s “secret sauce” (p. 17) which he believes makes his church not only great but a model others should adopt. Stanley’s goal has been to create a church that unchurched men, women and children love to attend (p. 11) and by all accounts he has succeeded. The first of five sections tells the story of the birth of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, first as an extension of his father’s (Charles) church, then as a split, in which several thousand people eventually left the mother church to join Andy’s. Andy knows this is not the best way to start a church, but is honest and transparent enough to admit that this is what happened. Conflicts with his famous father were inevitable and Andy chronicles those as well.

Deep and Wide promotes the seeker-sensitive, market-driven approach of “doing church.” There is virtually nothing in the book that hasn’t been said or done by his “hero” Bill Hybels and others that teach the paradigm. From basing North Point’s programming on surveys and secular management (p. 14), to seeing people as consumers (p. 16) and a target audience that must be attracted and pleased (p. 15), to erroneously believing that the unbeliever should like us because they liked Jesus (pp. 12-13), to virtually every aspect of what they do, Stanley is parroting the philosophy of Hybels. Ironically this model is the same one that Hybels and Willow Creek recently admitted did not accomplish their goal of making followers of Christ (see my book This Little Church Had None, pp. 23-35).

Of course, the real issue is not whether something works, but if it is biblical. Therefore, in section two, Stanley attempts a scriptural justification for his church model. This is easily the most disappointing aspect of the book as Stanley, who has a master’s degree from Dallas Seminary, makes no attempt to engage the key Scriptures dealing with the doctrine of the church. His only venture into biblical exegesis is a feeble, terribly flawed and out of context examination of the counsel at Jerusalem in Acts 15 (pp. 85-91). Stanley comes up with a strained interpretation of the text because he uses what some call rhetorical hermeneutics in which Scripture should be interpreted based upon the characters actions, not their words (pp. 86, 90-92, 298-299). Using this interpretative method, Stanley believes, “Everything [Paul] taught should be defined within the context of what takes place in Acts 15.” And since the conclusion drawn by the council was minimalistic: “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell” (p. 91), the church today should require very little as well (p. 92). Wrapping (or, better, ignoring) everything else in the New Testament pertaining to the church around this concept, Stanley offers this strained understanding as the biblical foundation for the local church.

Stanley is attempting at this point to address two important questions and, because he turns to culture, pragmatism and a marketing model, he fumbles the answer to both. The questions are, “What is the church and who is it for” (p. 55)? He rightly states that the church is not a place but a people (p. 39) but he does not grasp the ekklesia as the people of God. This of course skews his answer as to who is the church for? To Stanley, the church is an evangelistic center in which the focus is on the unchurched, as he calls unbelievers. Stanley will do virtually anything to attract non-Christians and retain them. This includes putting new Christians and even unbelievers into positions of ministry and leadership (pp. 79, 94-95, 127-130). A person can even join North Point online, without talking to anyone (p. 81). And North Point has virtually no classroom instruction as teaching of Scripture is consistently belittled throughout the book (see pp. 111-116, 190). Relationships, especially through small groups, are dominant. These groups, sometimes led by new Christians and even unbelievers, are obviously not centered on Scripture or even Christ, as biblically understood, but on relationships. This is hardly the model found in Acts 2:42-43. Too bad Stanley did not choose Acts two, rather than Acts 15, to develop his ecclesiology.

Section three showcases North Point’s “secret sauce” for spiritual formation (p. 17). There are five ingredients to this sauce and, importantly, Stanley admits that none of them is found in Scripture (pp. 107-108). The importance of this admission cannot be stressed enough. Having laid a foundation for the church on the arbitrary selection of Acts 15 he now builds his church on five ingredients not found in Scripture. From where then are these ingredients drawn? From the “faith stories” of people and his experience (p.107). The five ingredients for Stanley’s “secret sauce” are:

  1. Practical teaching (pp. 111-116). Here Stanley claims that no one is on a truth-quest (p. 115). People are far more interested in what works than in what is true (p. 114), so pragmatism, not truth, should be at the heart of our teaching and preaching.
  2. Private disciplines (pp. 117-123).
  3. Personal ministry (pp. 124-130).
  4. Providential relationships (pp. 131-136).
  5. Pivotal circumstances (defining moments) (pp. 137-149).

When the sauce is stirred and cooked, the product (people) come out with at best a superficial understanding of the Word of God, but strong relationships in small groups and dedication to a “church unchurched people love to attend.”

The fourth section of Deep and Wide promotes the creation of irresistible environments (pp. 157-192). While some helpful ideas can be found, Stanley is once again reading from Hybel’s playbook. The church is turned into a production at every level in which the question at the end of the day is whether or not the presentation was engaging (p. 172) and met felt-needs (p. 185). Bottom-line, Stanley and his staff are after a “win” in everything they do (p. 194). Their short-term wins are based on attendance and other external factors such as people desiring to invite friends to come to North Point (see pp. 331-335). A win is when they create a weekend experience in which they can say, “Wow, we killed it” (p. 195). A long-term win is life change (p. 197) although, given the overall philosophy of Stanley, what life change looks like is questionable.

The final section of Deep and Wide is devoted to transitioning a traditional church to a seeker/market/consumer-driven model. Stanley knows this is volatile and potentially destructive (p. 198), but he believes it is necessary. His arrogance in this regard is clear (pp. 258-259) as he attempts to intimidate those using a different approach. He proudly proclaims his program has worked; his church is huge; he is changing the world, so everyone needs to get on board. This means women are allowed to minister at every level (p. 269); churches don’t need pastors, they need leaders (p. 294); unbelievers are placed into ministry and even those living in openly gay lifestyles are as well (this is alluded to in the book – see p. 70, but more recently has been made explicit (see http://www.christianpost.com/news/pastor-andy-stanley-alludes-to-how-christians-should-treat-gays-74445/).

Deep and Wide offers nothing that has not been said before by seeker-sensitive leaders. This philosophy of ministry which first gained traction in the 1970s via Robert Schuller and Bill Hybels has changed the church in the Western world. The unsaved consumer is now king, marketing strategy sets the direction, and pragmatism rules. And the system works, at least numerically, for many like Andy Stanley. But is this God’s design for the church? A careful examination of the New Testament would shout “no!” God should get the first word, and the last, on what He wants His church to be. This reviewer would encourage readers to use real discernment when encountering materials such as this one.

Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/05/31/deep-and-wide-a-book-review-by-gary-gilley/feed/ 2
The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/01/23/the-boy-who-came-back-from-heaven/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/01/23/the-boy-who-came-back-from-heaven/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 16:03:31 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2526 THE BOY WHO (never really) CAME BACK FROM HEAVEN

One of the major breaking stories this week is the decision by Lifeway (the Southern Baptist Convention bookstore chain) to pull The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven from its shelves because one of the authors, Alex Malarkey, (the boy who “came back from heaven”) has recanted his story, saying “I didn’t die. I didn’t go to heaven.”

Alex was six years old in 2004 when the car his father, Kevin, was driving was hit broadside by another car. The horrific accident left Alex paralyzed from the neck down, and he became the youngest person to receive the Christopher Reeve breathing device at the age of ten.

Not only has the book been pulled from the Lifeway bookstore chain, the publisher, Tyndale House, the publisher, has known about the situation for at least a couple of years, but is just now discontinuing its publication. This book, although not as well-known as Heaven is for Real, (and the movie of the same name that debuted in April 2014) is one of many in the genre that has come to be labelled “heaven tourism” and has sold over one million copies.

From the back cover of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven:

An accident. A miracle.

And a supernatural encounter that will give you new insights on Heaven, angels, and hearing the voice of God.

In 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his six-year-old son, Alex, suffered a terrible car wreck. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex—and it seemed impossible that he could survive.

“I think that Alex has gone to be with Jesus,” a friend told the stricken dad.

When Alex awoke from a coma two months later, he had an incredible story to share. Of events at the accident scene and in the hospital while he was unconscious. Of the angels who took him through the gates of Heaven itself. And, most amazing of all . . . of meeting and talking with Jesus.

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven is the true story of an ordinary boy’s most extraordinary journey. As you see Heaven and earth through Alex’s eyes, you’ll come away with new insights on miracles, life beyond this world, and the power of a father’s love.

​I have personally spoken with Beth Malarkey (Alex’s mother) on the phone in a 90-minute conversation and have corresponded with her on several occasions. There are a number of very troubling things related to the book which I will leave to her to discuss publicly, but the bottom line is that both she and her son have both stated that the book is largely a fabrication, not only because of the made-up story of Alex going to heaven, but because of a number of inconsistencies and inaccurate information concerning various events and situations throughout the book.

It is also worth noting that although both Alex and Kevin (his father) are listed on the front cover, the copyright information page lists only the father as the copyright owner. In this regard, Beth Malarkey has stated more than once that Alex hasn’t received any royalties from the book, even though he has been left a quadrplegic who requires nearly 24-hour care.

In studying the phenomenon of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) (which is a misnomer, because most say they actually died), I have read somewhere between 25 and 30 different accounts – and there are a number of things that need to be noted:
_________
There are four things that are generally uniform in every account. a) The sense of rising up out of the body and looking down upon it, b) going through a dark tunnel, c) seeing a bright light or ending up in the presence of a bright, unidentified being, and d) experiencing a feeling of overwhelming and unconditional love and acceptance.
_________
These things, being fairly uniform, are said to be experienced by everyone, regardless of their faith and beliefs or no beliefs are all.
_________
There is reportedly a substantial number of those who have experienced this who have been conservative, Bible-believing Christians, who afterward leave their churches, declaring that the “Jesus-is-the-only-way” message is false and that everyone is accepted into heaven.
_________

Beyond the four common things noted above, everything else is almost completely different concerning what these individuals saw and experienced. In fact, out of the 25+ of which I’m presently aware, there are NO TWO that agree on virtually anything – whether it be their accounts of the “gates of heaven” (if there is such a thing) – with some saying they are made of wood, others say they are of gold, while others say pearl – and some not mentioning them at all – or their accounts of seeing angels, meeting Jesus, or what they did or what they heard or what heaven looked like in general.

This presents an overwhelming problem – because if they all really did go to heaven – which is a very real place (as described by John in revelation) – then their accounts should have some similarities concerning what they actually saw – but they don’t.
_________
In a number of cases they were completely unbiblical. For example, one person stated that he first went to a “cold hell” before being whisked to heaven. In the case of Colton Burpo – he maintains that a) he sat on Jesus’ lap and talked with him, b) that Jesus has a rainbow-colored horse, c) that everyone, including dead people, have wings, d) that they brought a chair to him so he could sit beside the Holy Spirit who was “kind of blue” – and the list goes on.

The obvious question that begs to be asked is, Do these sound like biblical descriptions or something that comes from the mind of a 3 to 4 year old – and particularly one who is the son of a pastor and who had undoubtedly seen many “biblical” pictures in story books and pictures both at home and in church?
_________
The reasons given for Colton Burpo’s parents believing are a) he reportedly met a sister who had died in a miscarriage – and about whom his parents say he didn’t know, b) he knew about his father’s angry prayer to God in the hospital’s chapel and a phone conversation his mother had in a waiting room while Colton was in his room, c) he claimed to have met his grandfather whom he only recognized from a picture of him at age 25, rather than pictures of him at an older age near within years of his death.

Again, the question that must be asked about these three things is, Is a “trip to heaven” the only possible explanation. All things being equal, if what Colton saw and experienced closely reflected what is found in the Bible, then that might be a different situation. However, since that is not the case, this demands further examination. First, how many times have we been totally stunned that one of our children knew about something that we were sure they could not have known. This can easily happen when we think our kids are asleep or in another room or outside—when they are actually just around the corner listening to a conversation. And is it not possible that he was in another family member’s house and saw a picture of his grandfather and told who he was by an aunt or uncle or grandmother?
_________
Further examining Colton’s story reveals other problems, as well. For one, approximately 100 people die every minute worldwide. If we take a conservative estimate that 5% of those who die are born-again believers in Jesus Christ, then that would mean 5 Christians would be entering the Lord’s presence every minute – or one every twelve seconds on average. This raise the question of how he could sit on Jesus’ lap for an extended conversation – and nothing be mentioned about the growing crowd of people who would also be entering the Lord’s presence?

In this regard, some might argue that since Jesus is God, he could be multiple places at once. However, that is not a biblical answer because at the incarnation, the eternal Son of God took on human flesh and became a man – eternally. After the incarnation, Jesus is only ever seen at one place at one time – including after his resurrection and ascension. He was seen by the two on the road to Emmaus, and then he disappeared to be seen by others – as many as 500 at one time in one place (1 Cor 15). As Stephen was dying from being stoned (Acts 8) he saw Jesus at the right hand of the Father. Paul saw him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). John saw him multiple times in Revelation – including a glimpse of his return on a white horse (Rev 19). While  fully God and is omnipresent by virtue of His deity, Jesus’ has a single, physical, resurrected and glorified human body that is never in more than place at once.
_________

As I frequently tell my students, sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to think logically. Of course spiritual things and matters of faith are far more than simple logic – but they aren’t less.

In one discussion in the comment section under an article about this issue where Colton Burpo maintains that what he experienced was a genuine trip to heaven, one person brought up the matter of Enoch, Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul and John to suggest that these stories of trips to heaven can be found in the Scriptures. However, there is a significant difference between what happened with them and what is claimed by Colton Burpo in Heaven is for Real or by others who believe they, too, went to heaven during an NDE. The first major difference is that none of these people came back from the dead to relate their experiences, but where shown these things while they were alive, except for Enoch and Elijah, who didn’t die and never came back to tell us what happened or what they saw. And, In the case of Paul, he couldn’t even express what he saw and was harassed by “a messenger from Satan” to keep his pride in check. (2 Cor 11).

Furthermore, for the few in Scripture who did actually die and were brought back to life, there is not a single account by any of them concerning what they experienced. If the Scriptures are sufficient to thoroughly equip believers, then this lack of any discussion of NDEs (or rather, “DEs”) is extremely significant.

Going back to the four common experiences of rising out of the body, going through a tunnel, seeing a bright light and feeling peace / love – it must remembered that “we are all made of the same stuff.” In other words, at the threshold of death, the things that all of our bodies go through in those moments when life and death are balanced on a knife edge – the release of chemicals in the brain, the bio-chemical process of bodily functions shutting down, the last fading firing of neurons in the brain, the rapid reduction in oxygen to the brain and vital organs, etc. would be virtually identical in every case – and so could produce nearly identical experiences of some kind. We know our brains are more than capable of producing experiences that seem very real such as when we have vivid dreams.

It is also important to note that there is a significant difference between being “clinically dead” and being “biblically dead.” To be clinically dead is to have no detectable physical vital signs. However, to be dead from a biblical perspective means that we are separated from our physical body—which is left behind as a believer enters the presence of the Lord, awaiting the resurrection of the body. Therefore, it is very possible for someone to be clinically dead, but without that person actually leaving their body when the bond between the spirit and body is broken. And in the case of Colton Burpo it is even stated in the book that there are no hospital records of him ever being clinically dead – which must happen either before or simultaneously with leaving the body. That being the case, Colton could not have “gone to heaven.”

This is not to say that I don’t believe that some may experience some glimpse of the spiritual realm while balanced on that knife edge between life and death, but that is far different than someone claiming to have died and then returned from heaven to speak about their experience, which has no biblical precedent.

Nor is this to suggest that there aren’t great mysteries that transcend our ability to comprehend them – or that the normal Christian life is devoid of powerful spiritual experiences and the ongoing work of the indwelling Spirit. However, all experiences must be evaluated in light of the Scriptures’ clear teaching to establish their validity and to discern their meaning. Conversely, we cannot allow our experiences to be the final arbiter in interpreting Scripture.

Concerning The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, there are probably revelations still to be made public and more twists and turns the story, because the family of Alex’s father, Kevin Malarkey, has come to his defense. Time will tell.

However, no matter how this particularly story ends (if it ever does), we must be extremely careful about the types of books we allow to influence our theology, whether they be “Christian” fiction, or supposed non-fiction accounts of someone’s claimed spiritual experience. We live in a sinful, fallen world that is under the influence of the god of this world who is the enemy of all that is true—and no one is exempt from the possibility of being deceived. When so many Christian publishers are now owned by major secular publishing empires (a fact of which most Christians are probably not aware), the bottom line can, unfortunately, be primarily financial.

Caveat emptor.

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2015/01/23/the-boy-who-came-back-from-heaven/feed/ 50
The Mystery of the Shemitah: Is it real? http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/09/19/mystery-of-the-shemitah/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/09/19/mystery-of-the-shemitah/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 06:26:34 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2394 THE MYSTERY OF THE SHEMITAH: Is it real?

The Mystery of the Shemitah by Jonathan Cahn (Lake Mary, Florida: FrontLine, Charisma Media / Charisma House Book Group, 2014) 275 pp. paper 16.99

_________

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn became the #1 Christian book of 2012, set publishing records, reached publishing milestones and propelled the author to a very high-profile position on the national and even internatShemitah coverional stage. Because The Harbinger was riddled with biblical errors, theological flaws and historical misrepresentations, what started out as a 2-3 page book review, quickly turned into a book-length response and led to The Berean Call publishing my first book, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?

On September 2, Jonathan Cahn’s third book, The Mystery of the Shemitah was released to book retailers and was already ranked very high at its debut just on pre-orders alone. As can be seen from the current rankings on Amazon.com, it is clear that The Mystery of the Shemitah needs to be carefully examined to determine if the errors in The Harbinger have been corrected or perpetuated in this new volume.

 

Although I have already done five interviews discussing this book, the article below is the first evaluation in writing to appear on the ABI website. I trust that you will take time to carefully consider my concerns and that you will feel free to contact me with your thoughts, either positive or negative. (If you have trouble posting a comment, please send me an email to let me know.)

And finally, my purpose for evaluating and critiquing The Mystery of the Shemitah is two-fold:

First, because so many people were influenced by The Harbinger and because this new book is already a best-seller, the Body of Christ needs to see that there is another side of the story that might not be completely obvious to some. And even for those who might sense something isn’t quite right, many won’t really work through the sometimes slow and often laborious task of carefully checking to make sure everything is correct.

Second, just as one of my goals in writing The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? was to model the process of discernment, the same is true of this article. First and foremost, discernment involves checking everything against the Word of God to make sure all of the arguments, theories and claims are biblically sound. And then, beyond the biblical side of things, discernment also frequently involves evaluating the logic of arguments, the veracity of assertions from a historical perspective, and even the proper use of statistics which can be framed such that the true picture is obscured and hidden from the reader, even if unintentionally.

_________
SUMMARY

The Mystery of the Shemitah, which went to its second printing the day it was released, builds on the concepts and theories Jonathan Cahn first presented in The Harbinger, particularly those in the chapter also titled “The Mystery of the Shemitah.” The author’s theory is that God has visited warnings and / or judgment against the United States according to a seven-year cycle going back many decades. Although this reviewer agrees that America is deserving of God’s judgment and a call to repentance is definitely in order, the foundational premise of this book is biblically flawed from the outset. The Shemitah (Jewish Sabbath year) was an obligation given specifically and exclusively to the nation of Israel, and there is no biblical support for the idea that God would either require any other nation to observe the Shemitah year or that He would impose a Shemitah-type judgment according to a seven-year cycle on any nation, including Israel itself. Beyond this, the Shemitah, being a Sabbath and an integral part of the Law of Moses, was completely fulfilled in Christ and is no longer in operation (even it actually did affect other nations prior to the Cross).

Furthermore, none of the overwhelming number of assertions and fact-claims throughout the book concerning economic trends, financial statistics and historical events are documented whatsoever, raising the question of the source of the author’s information, the accuracy of that information, and why this most basic and necessary aspect of any research-based non-fiction book is completely missing. The burden of proof for such assertions and claims should never be on the reader if an author is to be taken seriously. In addition, the integrity of any publisher is rightly called into question when an author doesn’t cite his sources.

The bottom line is that, unfortunately, the significant problems that plague The Harbinger have possibly been exceeded in this book and so should give pause to anyone who takes the Word of God seriously.

_________
BACKGROUND

In the Law of Moses, God required that His chosen people, the Children of Israel, cease from their work on the seventh day of each week (the Sabbath). In addition to the Sabbath day, the Lord also instructed Israel to observe every seventh year as a Sabbath, as well. During the Sabbath year, the Israelites were to allow the land to rest from planting and harvesting and to allow whatever came up on its own to be picked by the poor among them. (Exodus 23:10-12; Leviticus 25:1-7) And just as God had provided a double-portion of manna on the 6th day of each week while the Israelites were in the wilderness so they would not have to work on the Sabbath, the Lord actually tripled the harvest in the sixth year to carry them through to the harvest in the first year of the new seven-year cycle.

Not only was it an agrarian cycle, but it was an economic one, as well. On the last day of the Sabbath year, lenders were required to forgive or “release” (the meaning of “Shemitah”) borrowers from the obligation of repaying their debts. (Deuteronomy 15:1) Over time, the last day of the Sabbath year and the year itself came to be known as the “Shemitah” (pronounced sh’mi’-tah). Although one would naturally suppose that such a system would wreck an economy and the lives of those who possessed enough to be lenders rather than borrowers, once again keeping the Lord’s command in this matter would be a source of blessing rather than hardship:

…for the Lord will greatly bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance—only if you carefully obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe with care all these commandments which I command you today. For the Lord your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you. (Deuteronomy 15:4a-6)

Among other serious sins, the Israelites disobeyed the Lord’s command not to take foreign wives who came from nations where idolatry and the worship of false gods was practiced (Deuteronomy 7:1-5).  As a result, the idolatrous practices and pagan worship of those nations became an integral part of Israel’s own religious practices. Consequently, the worship of the one true God was largely abandoned and the Law of Moses was largely ignored. By the end of the sixth century B.C., Israel had failed to observe a total of seventy Sabbath / Shemitah years.

In judgment against Israel’s pervasive and persistent sin, God used the Babylonian empire to execute judgment upon the southern kingdom of Judah beginning in 606 B.C., just as He had used the Assyrians over a century earlier against the northern kingdom of Israel. In addition to ultimately leveling Jerusalem and destroying the temple, the Babylonians carried away large numbers of Israelites into captivity—a captivity that lasted for 70 years—one year for each Sabbath year that the nation had failed to observe the Shemitah. Thus, because of this God-imposed Shemitah with the Israelites being in captivity in Babylon, the Promised Land “rested” for the same number of years that the Israelites had failed to allow the land to rest as the Lord had commanded (2 Chronicles 36:20-21).

_________
EVALUATION

Introduction

The fundamental premise of The Mystery of the Shemitah is that not only did God require the nation of Israel to observe the Shemitah / Sabbath year, but that there is also a mystery connected to the Shemitah such that there is a seven-year cycle woven into the very fabric of history and the order of the universe—a cycle that can and does affect other nations and even the entire world. According to Jonathan Cahn, this mystery manifests itself through various calamities, including natural disasters, wars, and financial crises that tend to occur according to this seven-year cycle on the Hebrew calendar when God is trying to get the attention of a nation and warn her of impending judgment.

Based on his unbiblical view of the United States in God’s program, Cahn argues that the Lord continues to follow the same seven-year cycle in His dealings with America that He established for ancient Israel in the Law of Moses. And just as God imposed a “Shemitah” upon the nation of Israel as a judgment, forcing the land to rest for seventy years, likewise He has been visiting calamities upon this country as warning of impending judgment through stock market crashes, economic crises and various other cataclysmic events—all because of the mystery of the Shemitah.

Throughout the book, the author goes to great lengths in an attempt to demonstrate that this has been going on for at least a century. And as he did in The Harbinger, Jonathan Cahn contends that the most recent cluster of devastating events began with the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 on the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and United Airlines flight #93 (which he collectively refers to as “the first shaking”). Furthermore, Cahn claims that the mystery of the Shemitah has been working in conjunction with what he calls the “Isaiah 9:10 Effect” and has manifested itself as a “second shaking” with the precipitous fall of the stock market on the last day of the Shemitah year in both 2001 and 2008, according to the modern Hebrew calendar.

However, before one gets too excited or becomes convinced that “Cahn has done it again” (as some have put it), a number of things need to be considered. Unfortunately, there are so many significant issues in this new book that rival or surpass the problems in The Harbinger, it seems that The Mystery of the Shemitah may be an even more fragile house of cards than Cahn’s first book.

Discernment Tip:  Strive to understand what the author is saying well enough to be able to summarize it in a few sentences.

When working through a book or an article, the first step in exercising discernment is to read the work all the way through and simply highlight or otherwise mark areas that are not clear, things that strike you as possible problems, things that are obviously erroneous, weak arguments and things that need to be fact-checked. However, the first time through, don’t worry about getting into the details or formulating some sort of response to issues of concern.

Then after completely reading it for the first time, jot down a few notes concerning your overall impressions and two or three major “take-aways” that reflect what you believe to be the author’s primary thesis, his major arguments, and his overall conclusions. After this, try to summarize the entire piece in just a few sentences.

Now you’re ready to go through it a second time and begin the process of more careful evaluation.

________
The Theory of Shemitah Cycles in America

That God expects or will impose a Shemitah upon any nation other than Israel has no scriptural basis. Neither do the Scriptures provide any indication that the Shemitah is some sort of universal principle that operates throughout or even at various times in history. Yet, in spite of this, Jonathan Cahn argues that America has been subjected to the mystery of the Shemitah repeatedly over at least the last century, following the modern Hebrew reckoning of Sabbath / Shemitah years. However, this does not follow the ancient pattern to which he appeals for support since God has never subjected Israel to the operation of some mysterious universal force according to seven-year cycles.

In The Mystery of the Shemitah, the author uses many graphs to depict America’s economic cycles, with significant rises in the S&P 500 during bull markets, which are inevitably followed by sometimes precipitous declines or crashes leading into a bear market. He further suggests that if one were to similarly graph ancient Israel’s economy, because of the mystery of the Shemitah, it would track very closely with America’s economy, and exhibit similar trends with sharp increases and rapid declines as Israel observed the Shemitah every seven years. This theory is without merit on multiple counts.

First of all, during Israel’s roughly 800 years of existence, between the time they entered the Promised Land around 1400 B.C. and Babylon’s first attacks on the southern kingdom in 606 B.C., the nation did not observe seventy of the required Sabbaths. Yet, in spite of this protracted period of disobedience, including the Sabbath-year laws, God did not impose a Shemitah upon them until the Babylonian captivity. In contrast, Cahn contends that God has imposed a Shemitah on America for many or most seven-year cycles going back to at least the beginning of the 20th century. Or at the very least, because America has turned from God, the nation has been subject to the natural consequences of the mystery of the Shemitah. Clearly, Cahn’s theory does not fit the biblical pattern.

Secondly, Cahn is wrong when he suggests that when Israel did observe the Shemitah, the nation’s economy experienced crashes or at least sharp economic downturns for a period of time following the last day of the Shemitah year (which Cahn refers to as “the Shemitah’s wake”). His theory is that because debts were wiped clean and there had been no planting or harvesting during the Sabbath year, Israel must have been subject to wildly swinging economic cycles of seven years each that tested Israel’s faithfulness.

However, this theory is without merit on biblical grounds. Rather, the Scriptures indicate that the Shemitah was a blessing in every respect with no downside whatsoever. While Cahn does acknowledge that the Shemitah was to be a blessing, he then turns around and argues that there was much economic hardship as the nation recovered from the effects of the Shemitah, because of both the release of debts and the lack of a crop during the Sabbath year—something that he must claim in order to set the stage for his theory concerning America.

In sharp contrast to Cahn’s unbiblical notions, there is no scriptural evidence that ancient Israel experienced any hardship at all because of the Shemitah. Rather, quite the opposite was true because, as previously noted, in the sixth year God actually tripled the harvest so that the Israelites would not have to work in the fields during the entire Shemitah year. Furthermore, the nation also had more than enough to carry the Israelites all the way to the harvest season in the first year of the next seven-year cycle. Logically, this means that the Israelites would have been free to do other things, including perhaps selling some of the extra produce, which could have arguably allowed them to pay down their debts before the last day of the Shemitah year.

Another important point to consider is that ancient Israel’s economy was not based on deficit spending and huge debts as is true in America today. In 2014, almost everyone has debt of some sort—and in many cases the debts are staggering. Consequently, if those debts were wiped off the books, the entire U.S. economy would collapse.

In contrast, there was most likely very little debt in ancient Israel as compared to America today. There was no banking or lending system backed by the FDIC in ancient Israel, meaning that all loans were personal. Again, just common sense suggests that if potential lenders knew they had to recover all their money before the end of the next Shemitah year or forfeit it, there very likely wouldn’t have been very many people who would have been willing to extend credit and personal loans to others.

Beyond this, unlike today, only those who were poor were borrowers and only those who could afford to write off debts were able to give loans in the first place. In fact, there were a couple of provisions in the Shemitah laws for not wiping debt off the books—if a borrower was not an Israelite and if the entire country was prosperous:

Of a foreigner you may require it; but you shall give up your claim to what is owed by your brother, except when there may be no poor among you; for the Lord will greatly bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance—only if you carefully obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe with care all these commandments which I command you today. (Deuteronomy 15:3-5)

So, once again, Cahn’s theories and arguments simply have no biblical or logical merit.

Going back to the imposed-Shemitah: God’s reason for linking judgment to an imposed-Shemitah upon Israel was because they had failed to observe the required Sabbath years. However, there is no biblical basis for suggesting that God would impose a Shemitah-type judgment upon any nation that was not obligated to observe the Sabbath year in the first place. Therefore, no matter what has happened to America over the last 100+ years, it cannot be linked in any biblical way to the Shemitah, even if it were true that economies tend to go through roughly seven-year cycles.

If Jonathan Cahn were right about the mystery of the Shemitah, then economists almost certainly would have noticed and been writing about this precise seven-year cycle long before God “revealed” it to the author. Tremendous fortunes could have been made by savvy investors who know how to play just such market cycles. However, preliminary research indicates that while some economists have suggested that economies may naturally follow a cycle of a bit less than seven years to as much as ten years, there is no universal agreement on this point. This stands in sharp contrast to the precise seven-year Sabbath cycles in ancient Israel.

us economy cycle 1948 to 2012

Since World War 2, we’ve already had 11 recessions. And if you go back another hundred years, you’ll see the same pattern. Those dates in red show the bottom of each recession. Now look: how far they spaced apart?

Would you agree: another recession is inevitable? It’s only a matter of when. In the past, recessions occurred at intervals of 7-10 years (barring a few that came a little quicker).

It’s almost like summer hurricanes in the Caribbean. We know they’re going to happen. We just don’t know when and where exactly. Fortunately, we’ve developed a good system of hurricane warnings.1

Obviously economic cycles of some duration are inevitable because bull markets don’t last forever and neither do bear markets. And that economic cycles might generally have some average length is not necessarily surprising either. However, to conclude that the mystery of the Shemitah is behind these, when the Shemitah cycle is exactly seven years, but the length of the modern cycles varies by as much as three years or more just defies common sense.

All of this raises many questions of which the following are just a few:

  • How is it possible that God has not been imposing Shemitah judgments upon Israel and the Jewish people for two millennia, when they are the only ones ever obligated to observe the Shemitah year?
  • Why is it that, while ignoring Israel’s ongoing failure to keep the Sabbath year, the Lord has been using seven-year Shemitah cycles as warnings or judgments upon America over the last 100 years or so, even though the United States has no obligation to observe the Shemitah?
  • With no scriptural reason for anyone to think that the mystery of the Shemitah might be influencing America’s economy, how could it possibly be considered to be a biblical warning?
  • If the mystery of the Shemitah affects the world, does this mean that every country experiences the same seven-year economic cycles, or is it that only America suffers when even Israel does not?
  • If the mystery of the Shemitah is always at work, then how can it be determined when God is issuing a warning and when He is not?
  • If there are no cataclysmic events connected to a particular Shemitah cycle, does that mean God is pleased with the way things are going?
  • What is it that determines that one economic cycle might be six and a half years, while another might be eight years—and why are they not always exactly seven years so that a precise pattern might be recognized by serious believers who know the Bible well?

Furthermore, although Israel was to be blessed by the Shemitah through God’s faithful provision, according to Cahn’s theory, America has experienced nothing but judgment related to the Shemitah. Once again, none of this makes any sense from a biblical or logical perspective.

And finally, as noted previously: The Shemitah, being a Sabbath year and an integral part of the Law of Moses, was completely fulfilled in Christ and is no longer in operation (even it actually did affect other nations prior to the Cross).

Discernment Tip:  Context isn’t the main thing—it’s the only thing.

Always take care to understand any passages cited to support a given point in their original context. Of course there is the literary context of the text itself, which includes the verses leading up to and following the passage being considered. However, just as important is the historical context, which includes the author, the recipients, the time period in history and various cultural factors.

In the case of the Shemitah, the historical context is supremely important. The revelation and commandments concerning the Sabbath years were given specifically and exclusively to the nation of Israel. They were the recipients of the revelation given to the author who is Moses. Furthermore, the period in history was the era of the Law of Moses, which extended from the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai in the middle of the 14th century B.C. to Christ’s death on the cross around A.D. 30. So, the Shemitah laws were given exclusively to a specific people, during a limited period of with a clear beginning and ending, with no indication whatsoever that there was an underlying mystery affecting the nation or that God would use a mystery of the Shemitah when dealing with any other nation but Israel.

_________
“The Revelations Came Rapidly…”

The suggestion that God has been revealing all of these things to Jonathan Cahn alone is quite problematic. In an appearance on the Jim Bakker show in August of this year, Jonathan Cahn stated concerning the writing of The Mystery of the Shemitah, “This is what came and the Lord did it—and He did it rapidly, as with The Harbinger—the revelations came rapidly and it went forth,”2 while gesturing toward heaven, obviously indicating that God had revealed these truths to him. And, just as with The Harbinger, this essentially puts him in the position of being an end-times prophet who is now receiving new revelation from God and revealing a mystery that has never been seen by any biblical scholar of the last 2000 years. And as typically happens, he continues to be referred to and introduced as “an end-times prophet.” If this were simply in reference to him being one who boldly proclaims God’s word, this would not be a problem. However, this is specifically related to him being a revealer of mysteries never before seen in history or the Bible.

This also raises yet another important question: How is it that God is just now sending a warning of judgment through a modern-day prophetic voice after the fact? The Harbinger was published in 2012, over three years after the stock market crash of 2008, over ten years after 9/11 and close to 100 years after some of the events Cahn ties to the mystery of the Shemitah operating through significant historical events, such as the Balfour Declaration in 1917. As with his other theories, this makes no sense biblically or logically—and it definitely does not follow any pattern seen in the Scriptures concerning how God deals with mankind.

Discernment Tip:  Beware of claims of newly discovered truth in the biblical text that no one has ever seen before.

While it is true that we can never fully plumb the depths of the Scriptures in terms of implications and applications, the text says precisely what it has always said. Some have attempted to defend Jonathan Cahn by saying that he is only finding new applications—which would not be a problem. However, as what he says in writing, or when teaching or in his various appearances is carefully examined, it is difficult to conclude that his various theories, various aspects of those theories and his conclusions go beyond simply application issues and extend to the intent of the biblical author(s) (both divine and human) and the meaning the author(s) intended to convey. For example, it is impossible to conclude on the basis of any passage or combination of passages that anything such as “the mystery of the Shemitah” even exists as a principle that operates behind the scenes throughout history.

_________
America as the Second Israel

In order to make his case that the mystery of the Shemitah has been manifesting itself in the United States for decades, Jonathan Cahn must necessarily treat America as a sort of “second Israel”—which is precisely what he did in The Harbinger as was demonstrated in The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? (despite protests to the contrary). That he has done this again in The Mystery of the Shemitah can be seen in two of the section headings in chapter 7, which are titled “The Israel of the New World” and “The Fall of the Second Israel.” And although Cahn has consistently protested that, being a Jewish believer in Christ, there is no way that he could or would hold to Replacement Theology, at the very least he seems to hold to something that could perhaps be called “Parallel Israel Theology” or “Secondary Israel Theology” (terms coined by this reviewer).

In the section “The Israel of the New World” Cahn writes:

Most would find it surprising to learn that America was consciously, intentionally, and specifically founded and formed after the pattern of ancient Israel. Its founders saw it as a new Israel, the Israel of the New World. It was their exodus from Europe like the Hebrew exodus from Egypt. The New World was their new promised land, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony was their New Jerusalem. 3

There is no nation in the modern world so deeply linked to ancient Israel as America. There is, therefore, no stage or platform on earth so well suited for the manifesting of the mystery of the Shemitah as America. 4

The primary basis for his view is the fact that the founders of this country, from the Puritans and Pilgrims to the Founding Fathers, viewed America as the new Israel and so dedicated the new country to God’s purposes. However, any objective evaluation of America’s history reveals that although God’s name was invoked by the Founding Fathers at various points, it is equally true that the paganism of Freemasonry is deeply embedded into the very foundation of this country, as well. This is evident wherever one looks in the nation’s capital—to the degree that in the dome of the Capitol building, George Washington is depicted as becoming deity as he is received into heaven.5

Furthermore, while Cahn gives a lot of weight to George Washington’s prayer in St. Paul’s Chapel near the location where the World Trade Center towers once stood, he never tells his readers that the procession to the chapel was a Masonic procession that has been re-enacted for years by Freemasons in New York City.6 Neither does he let his readers know that Washington was sworn in on a Masonic Bible,7 or that the one who administered the oath of office was a Grand Master Freemason,8 or that a famous portrait of Washington depicts him in Masonic garb,9 or he that he was appointed as the charter Master of Alexandria Lodge #22 in Virginia,10,  or that he was buried with a Masonic ceremony.11 The god of many of the Founding Fathers was apparently not the God of the Bible, whether or not they quoted the Bible or made reference to the Creator.

Discernment Tip:  Despite the title and words of the song  “Every Promise in the Book is Mine,” this really isn’t true, and if we fail to recognize that certain things only concerned ancient Israel, our understanding of the entire Bible will be fraught with problems.

While the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), not every truth, promise or principle is equally applicable in the same way as it was for the original recipients. For example, God promised Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). And we also know that Abraham became the model of faith for believers of all generations (Romans 4:2-3). We can easily see all sorts of applications for these truths. However, God also promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit a large piece of land (Genesis 13:14-15)—and there is no direct application of that truth to all believers. Rather, the application is indirect and concerns God’s faithfulness, but does not extend to all believers inheriting the actual physical land that was promised to Israel or any other geographical place.

God dealt with the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob in a unique and exclusive way and this cannot be extrapolated to any other country, even if America’s founders saw it as a “Second Israel” and dedicated this country to God’s purposes. There is no scriptural basis for concluding that God would ever deal with America on the basis of the Shemitah, which was given to Israel alone. And any attempt to do so is to read a meaning into Scripture and theorize an application that the original (divine and human) authors never intended or would even have imagined.

_________
The Hebrew Calendar

Evidence suggests that the modern Hebrew calendar is out of sync with that of Moses’ day—perhaps by a significant amount. Although according to the modern Hebrew calendar, the last year in the present Shemitah cycle begins on September 25, 2014, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the actual Shemitah year is disputed. 12

Dr. David Reagan has written an interesting article concerning the calendar problem in which he cites an authority on the subject who deals with this issue in the book Jewish History in Conflict:

The calculation of the years of the Jewish calendar, according to the Talmud, was done in the 2nd Century A.D. by Rabbi R. Yose. His rabbinic chronology is called the Seder Olam Rabbah.13

Since the rabbinical chronology from the time of Creation to the end of the Hebrew Scriptures is relatively clear, the discrepancy between the rabbinical calendar and the Christian reckoning of time relates mainly to the inter-testamental period for which there are no biblical records. This period is referred to by secular historians as “the Persian period.” The Babylonian Empire was overthrown by the Medo-Persian Empire (539 B.C.), and it is the length of the Persian period that is in dispute. The rabbinical chronology says it lasted 52 years (with 34 years of domination over Israel). The accepted chronology of historical experts says it lasted 207 years.

A remarkable new book has recently been published which examines this problem in detail. It is called Jewish History in Conflict.14 The author is a New York attorney and Orthodox Jew by the name of Mitchell First. He studied Jewish history at Yeshiva University’s Revel Graduate School, receiving his M.A. in Jewish history in 1995. He had previously earned a law degree from Columbia Law School in 1982.

The book provides an intriguing survey of what Jewish rabbis have had to say about the calendar discrepancy. He quotes the writings of 105 rabbis and scholars from 882 A.D. to the present, and it is fascinating reading.

In the process, the author proves that the Jewish chronology is flawed and the conventional chronology is the correct one. In fact, the evidence he presents is overwhelming. 13

Being a highly debated issue, it seems unlikely that it will be completely solved to the satisfaction of everyone. Yet, in the context of the present discussion, it does make a difference.

For example, if the actual year is disputed, that also means that it is impossible to determine where the calendar is relative to the seven-year Shemitah cycle as it was established by God around 1445 B.C. Furthermore, attempts to establish when Sabbath years occurred relative to the known date of certain events in the Old Testament have remained inconclusive. And if the modern Hebrew calendar is off, or if the Sabbath-year cycle is off by even one year, then a key component of Cahn’s premise for the entire book is undermined because none of the events cited by the author can be conclusively connected to the biblical Sabbath years of Moses’ day.

Even less certain is the timing of the Jubilee year, which was a special Shemitah year that occurred after seven of the seven-year Sabbath cycles, i.e., in the 50th year. Furthermore, there is no consensus among the rabbis as to whether the Jubilee year was concurrent with the 49th year or whether it was after the 49th year and concurrent with the first year of the next seven-year cycle. To complicate things further, some have suggested that the Jubilee was an intercalary year (a year that is inserted into the calendar), such that the Jubilee cycles were 50 years each. If this is true, which the Jewish Encyclopedia indicates is the majority view among the rabbis, 14 then the seven-year cycle would move later by one year for every 50 years. And besides all this, there are questions concerning exactly when the Jubilee year was suspended (as it is no longer observed). 15

Taken together, this means that it is virtually impossible to know for certain if the Shemitah years are being reckoned according to God’s calendar. Yet, despite all of these difficulties which should be known by a Jewish rabbi, and after acknowledging that no one knows when the Jubilee years are on the Hebrew calendar, Cahn apparently brushes these problems aside and begins discussing the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the Six-Day War in 1967, claiming that these amount to Jubilee years for the nation of Israel, whether or not they are legitimate Jubilee years in the eyes of God.

Whether 1917 was the actual calendar year of Jubilee or not, we cannot say. But with regard to the two-thousand-year exile of the Jewish people from their land, it was certainly a prophetic Jubilee—a mega-Jubilee, a Jubilee of ages. And it happened to take place in the year following the Shemitah, as ordained in the ancient decree concerning the Jubilee.16

The problem is obvious: Even though Cahn cannot know for certain when the Shemitah cycles actually occur on God’s calendar and even though there is even less certainty concerning the Jubilee, he then proceeds to build his unbiblical case for the mystery of the Shemitah affecting America, and thus, the case that everyone must be ready for the end of the Shemitah cycle in 2015 and the beginning of the next Jubilee year that will follow it.

In an interesting and troubling development, on September 16, 2014, Mark Biltz appeared on The Jim Bakker Show, and building upon and referencing Cahn’s work on the Shemitah, he and Jim Bakker had the following exchange:

Note: the following does not include everything that was said in this exchange, but nothing is left out that would distort the context or meaning of what is said, and the entire show can be seen at this web address.

Biltz: . . . Go back to Leviticus 25:8-10—this is what Jonathan was speaking about . . . so here we see the significance of the Shemitah year . . . and you see Rosh Hoshanah, you see Yom Kippur and on Yom Kippur…(interrupted by Bakker)

Bakker: But the Rapture has to take place on the trumpet sound day…

Biltz: . . . yeah—I don’t know what year, I don’t get into whether….(interrupted by Bakker)

Bakker (to the studio audience): Now, do ya’ll accept that or not? If you can’t accept that you have never studied the Old Testament—you have no idea of the trumpet—you always say, “oh, He’s coming at the sound of the trumpet. You’ve got to understand that this is the VERY HEART . . .

Biltz: Yes.

Bakker: . . . of ALL God’s teaching in the Old Testament.

Biltz: Sure. It’s all tied to His calendar. . .

Bakker: I believe this is the final [blood moon] tetrad. God is specific. His numbers are ALWAYS the same. Numerology will make you know God. I mean real numbers.

Bakker (several minutes later): So you see . . . (interrupted by Biltz)

Biltz: The Tribulation as a seven-year cycle that will follow the cyclical Shemitah cycle.

Bakker: So—you would feel like maybe we should prepare for the Tribulation (Biltz interrupts)

Biltz: Definitely. I think we have one year to really prepare for what God’s coming [sic]

Jonathan Cahn has been a regular guest on The Jim Bakker Show in connection with both The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah—in which he makes a connection between the Shemitah and the blood moon tetrad—discovered and popularized by Biltz.  Mark Biltz has also been a regular guest on Bakker’s program in connection with his book Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs—and has spoken at Cahn’s church, Beth Israel Worship Center. WND actually billed the weekend he was there in June as “The Harbinger meets Blood Moons.”17

Discernment Tip:  Take nothing for granted and be willing to do the hard work to check any and all assertions and fact-claims, even by “experts,” especially if there are other red flags.

Given that The Harbinger was the #1 best-selling Christian book, remaining on the New York Times best-seller list for over two years, Jonathan Cahn is viewed by many as a leading authority on the Old Testament, all things Hebrew and Jewish, Israel, the founding of America, the Lord’s feasts, current events and the end times. For this reason, it is unlikely that all but perhaps a few readers of The Mystery of the Shemitah will ever even think to dig a little deeper to see if the foundational issue of the Hebrew calendar is as certain as it is presented by the author.

This is not mentioned to bring Cahn’s integrity into question. However, everyone brings certain presuppositions, assumptions and knowledge to the table which influences one’s worldview and how the Scriptures, events, trends, statistics, and any number of other things might be interpreted.

_________
What’s in a title? The Mystery of the Shemitah…

Jonathan Cahn has positioned himself as a “revealer-of-mysteries,” many of which he claims no one else has ever seen before. One only need consider the many titles of his messages which contain the word “mystery.” This could be rightly characterized as Jonathan Cahn’s ministry trademark.

However, concerning the biblical Shemitah, there is no mystery—and there never has been. The exact requirements for keeping the Sabbath year were very explicitly revealed by God to and through Moses as recorded in the Pentateuch. The Scriptures never give any indication that there was some sort of underlying mystery or principle that was also in operation. It was all very straightforward and clear.

Furthermore, when God imposed a Shemitah upon Israel through the judgment of the Babylonian captivity, this was not a mystery either. Everything that was happening to the nation of Israel, and why it was happening was very clearly revealed through the prophets. Again, there was never some sort of mystery woven into the fabric of the creation at work.

Bible teachers have long defined a biblical mystery as “something which was hidden in the past, but now revealed.” And the nature of biblical mysteries is such that they can only be known and understood through direct revelation by God through a prophet (and apostles functioned as prophets in the New Testament). For example, in dispensational theology the church was a mystery in the Old Testament, not being foreseen even by the prophets until God revealed it through Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament. Therefore, since Cahn has positioned himself as the revealer of biblical mysteries that have never been seen before, and given that he says that “the revelations came rapidly” as he was writing The Mystery of the Shemitah, he is being viewed as an end-times prophet—not just in the sense of a forthteller, but as a foreteller of revelation. And this is the way he has been frequently introduced for over two and a half years.

Yet, if he really is receiving revelation from God so that he can reveal previously hidden mysteries, this raises some serious questions concerning how God does things. If Cahn is right, not only was America’s relationship to the Shemitah never revealed by God until a couple of years ago through him, but the Lord had also been judging America according to the Shemitah cycle, but with no warning or explanation until after the fact.

This same problem is found in The Harbinger. According to the author, God sent a warning through the terrorist attacks in 2001 but with no corresponding prophetic revelation that this was the “first shaking,” as Cahn puts it, before the fact. And then, according to Cahn, the Lord sent a “second shaking” through the stock market crash of 2008 and the subsequent recession, yet without any warning before the fact. This does not fit the biblical pattern at all. If things had gone according to the biblical pattern, there would have been very specific revelation years in advance that 9/11 was coming if America didn’t turn to God.

Interestingly, Cahn is claiming that what he is now revealing is the expected warning by God ahead of even more calamitous events that will come as God judges this nation. Once again, this makes no sense biblically or logically.

Then there is the matter of the subtitle: The 3,000-Year-Old Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future, the World’s Future, and Your Future!

Now, as the revealer-of-mysteries, Jonathan Cahn adds to the drama of the book’s title by insisting that the mystery he has discovered is both universal and personal in scope, while directly appealing to the national conscience of Americans. Unfortunately, this has the feeling of being little more than sensationalism and marketing hype—and perhaps comes perilously close to “peddling the Word of God.”

Discernment Tip:  Always judge a book by its cover.

Although this is contrary to the popular saying, it is extremely important in the process of discernment. Think about all of the things which can be found on the cover: the title and the subtitle, the name of the author and a brief bio sketch, the publisher, often a synopsis or at least clues to the content, and endorsements.

The bio sketch usually includes where the author went to school, past and present ministries, and various accomplishments such as books he or she may have written. Just knowing these things about an author can be invaluable because all of them likely give insight into the author’s beliefs.

The relative trustworthiness of a book can often be determined simply on the basis the publisher. Few Christian publishers will print anything that they don’t agree with, at least in general. Therefore, if a publisher consistently puts out material that is frequently questionable or worse, that tells you something about what might be in the book in question. In the case of The Mystery of the Shemitah and The Harbinger, both were published by Frontline, which is a division of Charisma Publishing—a huge publishing empire that is the purveyor of some of the most unbiblical work of this generation.

Also, if you know that an endorser of a book is known to have questionable or outright bad theology, then that, too, tells you something about the book he is endorsing.

One more thing to consider, though not on the cover, is the book’s foreword. When someone writes a foreword to a book they are giving it their strongest seal of approval to the contents of the book—and they are putting their own reputation on the line. Therefore, you can be sure that the theology of the book’s author and the theology of the foreword’s author is very closely aligned in general terms. Therefore, if you are familiar with the author of the foreword, you already know a lot about the book and its author.

_________
The Blood Moon Tetrad

The matter of the “Blood Moon Tetrad” has taken on a life of its own over the past year. For those who may not be aware, a full lunar eclipse is sometimes referred to as a “blood moon” because when the shadow of the earth completely blocks the sun’s direct rays, the moon takes on a reddish or red-orange color, for the same reason that sunsets are also frequently this color (due to refraction of light by the earth’s atmosphere).

A blood moon tetrad is when there are four consecutive full lunar eclipses with no other intervening eclipses. And, interestingly, as they have sometimes in the past, all four full lunar eclipses fall on Jewish feast days (Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles) in the spring and fall of 2014 and 2015.

Because of this, many prophecy teachers have suggested that biblical prophetic passages referring to the sun being darkened and the moon turning to blood (eg., Joel 2:30-31) could find their fulfillment during this current blood moon tetrad (which also includes a full solar eclipse). (I have has addressed this issue extensively in another article on this website, so I won’t go into refuting this notion here.)

Suffice it to say, in The Mystery of the Shemitah, as have others, Jonathan Cahn suggests there may well be a connection between the blood moon tetrad (and solar eclipses) and the supposed Shemitah of 2014-2015. Apart from the many biblical problems with this theory, one of the greatest concerns is the practical consequence of this quasi-date-setting (which is done with the perfunctory caveats that this might not be connected with biblical end time events in order to avoid the charge of date-setting).

The immediate problem is that if people think the Rapture or the beginning of the Tribulation or the Second Coming of Christ is directly connected to these completely natural events, then they don’t have to be concerned with the idea that the Rapture could happen at any moment—which, given human nature, means that some won’t be prepared and will be caught off-guard. For those who are caught off-guard and haven’t trusted in Christ for salvation, they will enter into the Tribulation and experience the worst cataclysmic events this world has ever seen as God pours out His wrath.

Then the longer term problem is that if the blood moons, solar eclipses and Shemitah pass without anything happening, how many will completely turn their back on anyone who teaches on prophecy—or turn their back on the Word of God altogether? We could well be in the last days, or even the last hours of the last days—but God’s timetable is not the same as ours, and Christ could come at any moment—before, during or after the blood moon tetrad.

Furthermore, history shows that when dates are suggested for the end of the world, the Rapture, Armageddon, etc., there are those who become so caught up in it that they quit their jobs, get rid of everything they own, and just wait for the end to come. Even more tragically, as happened with at least one person because of the date-setting of Harold Camping, some may commit suicide.

This may be one reason why Jesus told his disciples that no one knows the day or the hour, not even the angels or the Son of Man himself (Matt 24:36, 44; Mark 13:32).

Discernment Tip:  Think. Think biblically and think logically—because the two aren’t at odds for the believer.

The Lord has given us His word to know and understand what He has done in the past, what He is doing in the present and what He will do in the future. He has also given us a brain and the ability to reason. So, let’s put this altogether and consider just three things about the blood moon tetrad biblically and logically:

  1. The present blood moon tetrad is a completely natural and predictable event. NASA has calculated the precise location and the exact timing (to the second) of every lunar and solar eclipse for thousands of years in the past to thousands of years into the future. Since Jesus is the Creator, that means He is the one who established this precise timetable and geometry of the orbits of the earth, moon and sun in the very beginning. Then how is it that He couldn’t have figured out the mystery of the Shemitah and its convergence with the blood moon tetrad long before Cahn and Biltz did? Yet, He told his disciples, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)
  2. The wording of Joel 2:30-31, (and quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:19-20)) suggests that the darkening of the sun and the moon turning blood red are simultaneous events. However, if Cahn and Biltz are right about the present blood moons being fulfillment of this prophecy, there is a problem: full solar and full lunar eclipses can only occur exactly two weeks apart, because during a solar eclipse, the moon is between the earth and the sun, and during a lunar eclipse, the earth is between the moon and the sun.
  3. Consider all the times that the Lord used nature as a warning of judgment or as the judgment itself—for example, in the past there was Noah’s flood, the plagues of Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea by a wind, and Joshua’s long day when the sun stood still. Then there are all of the cataclysmic events in nature described in the book of Revelation. Although they involve God using nature, none of them were / will be merely natural, predictable events. Each was / will be supernatural, even though done using nature. If they had been purely natural and completely predictable, then they would never be recognized as coming directly from the hand of God.

_________
Lack of Documentation

Although The Harbinger was classified as a work of fiction, Jonathan Cahn stated in an interview with Brannon Howse in 2012 that his book was 90 percent fact and 10 percent fiction. Also, in the lead-in to the book, Cahn wrote: “What you are about to read is presented in the form of a story, but what is contained within the story is real.”18

Given that it is “mostly real,” a particular problem with The Harbinger is that very few of the author’s assertions and fact-claims are documented. Because of this, a tremendous amount of primary research was needed to do the necessary fact-checking to any degree. As it turned out there were many problems, not the least of which was the author’s very selective use of historical facts and statistics in order to make his case (as was thoroughly documented in this reviewer’s book, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?).

However, The Mystery of the Shemitah is not a work of fiction at all—it is non-fiction. Unfortunately, Cahn bombards the reader with dozens and dozens of assertions and fact-claims concerning historical events, economic trends, financial statistics, and includes many graphs depicting the course of the stock market—all with absolutely no citation of sources of any kind. This is a significant issue for many reasons, not the least of which is that with the overwhelming success of The Harbinger, it is unlikely that many, if any, of Cahn’s readers will ever take the time to do the necessary fact-checking themselves.

It is inconceivable that a non-fiction book with so many fact-claims would be published with no documentation. The standard, even for college-level papers, is that if there are facts that are not common knowledge (i.e., the Grand Canyon is in Arizona; George H.W. Bush’s son was also a President of the United States), then the source of those facts must be cited in footnotes or endnotes and the paper must also include a full bibliography. For a best-selling author and a major publisher to release something like this into the marketplace with no citation of sources raises serious ethical questions, if not worse.

Beyond this, it appears that many of the facts cited by Jonathan Cahn may have come from a source that is not even recognized as legitimate by many colleges and universities. The following are a few of what appear to be some of the more obvious examples. (Note: Unfortunately, because of the lack of documentation, this reviewer had to do a significant amount of research to discover the sources of Cahn’s assertions and fact-claims.)

In each of the following pairs of screen shots, the first is from the Kindle edition of The Mystery of the Shemitah and the second from Wikipedia. (The reader may also note in some cases, not only the lack of documentation, but the similarity of wording between the book and the apparent source material.)

Concerning the use of Wikipedia as a primary source for research work, Wikipedia itself notes the following in an essay:19

Even the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has been quoted as saying the following concerning the popular website:20

To be fair, not all of the facts cited in The Mystery of the Shemitah seem to have come from Wikipedia, and yet in some of those cases, there are serious (potentially even legal) issues because of similar or nearly exact wording combined with the lack of documentation. Here is one example.

 

Beyond the lack of documentation for facts and figures, there are a total of nineteen graphs in The Mystery of the Shemitah, none of which have any citation for the source of the graphs or for the data used to create the graphs. The following are three graphs found in the book.

The first thing that should catch the reader’s attention is the lack of vertical scales with units for reference points. Depending on the amount of compression or expansion done on the vertical scale, such graphs, just like with statistics, can be made to support virtually any theory or conclusion if there is no scale for context. The following graph perfectly illustrates the problem, because based on Cahn’s book, one would think that the stock market fluctuations on the proposed seven-year cycle was producing economic cataclysms of profound proportions. However, as can be seen here, when viewed in the full proportionate context of the rises, as well, the downturns in both duration and amount are relatively minor.

Discernment Tip #1: Beware of an author who fails to document assertions and fact-claims when they are critical to his argument. 

Interpretations in primary sources can easily be presented as facts in secondary sources, particularly when things like history and economics are involved. Therefore, the context of the original information can be vital to correctly understanding what is being presented.

An author should never leave the burden of proof upon his readers by forcing them to do the research he should have provided for fact-checking purposes.

Discernment Tip #2:  Someone has rightly said that if you torture statistics long enough, you can get them to confess to anything.

Be very careful when an author uses statistics to lay the primary foundation for his theories. Statistics, like history and economics, can usually be interpreted in a variety of ways. Whenever an author bombards his readers with statistics to prove his point, this should be an immediate red flag to dig deeper to avoid being caught up in the drama of the “overwhelming evidence.”

_________
Marketing “Fear”

Intentionally or not, these men are marketing “fear”—and “fear” is selling at a brisk pace in today’s troubled world.

Is this assessment too harsh? Consider this:

As noted earlier, Jonathan Cahn and Mark Biltz have recently made regular appearances on The Jim Bakker Show. The program that aired on September 16, from which the previously cited exchange between Biltz and Bakker is taken, is fifty-eight minutes long. Of that fifty-eight minutes, the entire last twelve minutes, 20 percent of the show, are devoted exclusively to promoting “survival” products and food packages. In order for the ministry to maintain 501(c)3 non-profit status with the IRS, this survival gear cannot be sold, so these things are “given away” for “donations” of up to $3,000 for a package that is supposed to feed two people for up to two years.

The video below is the ten-minute segment at the end of the September 16, 2014 The Jim Bakker Show. It is difficult to not characterize this as anything but gratuitous, shameless marketing.

Naturally, the promotion of survival products doesn’t happen only when Mark Biltz is on the program, but is part of every show. On the September 2, 2014 show with Jonathan Cahn, the survival equipment and food advertisement is in the middle of the program, which can be seen here.

These men are no less culpable than Jim Bakker, even though they are just guests. They are more than just guests—they are regular fixtures on the program. They are a vital part of the success of The Jim Bakker Show. And they are helping him to get rich by trying to create a market of fearful people and then selling products to this very market. When Mark Biltz and Jim Bakker team up to warn their audience that they have one year until the Tribulation begins—and when at least Biltz and Cahn will not allow themselves to be pinned down on the timing of the Rapture (meaning that they hold open the possibility that the church may go through it)—and then they turn around and promote these survival products with slick marketing techniques, this is nothing less than peddling the Word of God.

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

Discernment Tip: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Only God knows the heart and judging motives is not our prerogative. However, when massive amounts of money are in play, it can be difficult for even the most spiritual, well-meaning people to keep their bearings—at least for a time. This is not an accusation and we can only hope that this hasn’t happened in connection with the current Shemitah / Blood Moons debacle.

__________
Closing Thoughts

We don’t know God’s timetable and so we can’t know when the Rapture will happen or when the Tribulation will begin. The Rapture could take place before you finish reading this sentence. It may happen on the Feast of Trumpets in 2015. Or, it could be long after the last lunar eclipse in the current Blood Moon Tetrad.

The only thing we know for certain is that the Rapture will take place (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and that we must be ready when it happens. Moreover, the only way to be ready for the time when all believers will be caught up to meet Christ in the air, to be with Him forever, and to avoid going through the horrors of the Tribulation as God unleashes His wrath upon the earth, is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh, became a man, and lived a perfect life in complete obedience to God the Father. He willingly offered Himself up as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of all men, taking the punishment we all deserve, shedding his blood as a payment for our sins, and dying in our place on a Roman cross. He offers salvation, the sure hope of forgiven sin, to anyone who will turn to Him in faith, trusting in Him and His shed blood and His sacrificial death.

And because He arose from the grave on the third day, His offer includes not only the sure hope of forgiven sin, but also the sure hope of eternal life as a free gift of God’s grace to all who believe.

__________

For those who might be interested in a more in-depth treatment of the Shemitah theory as presented in Jonathan Cahn’s first book, The Harbinger, you may want to consider reading my book: The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? – available in both Kindle and paperback versions.

  1. http://retireby40.org/predictable-economy-cycle/
  2. http://jimbakkershow.com/video/the-mystery-of-the-shemitah-03/ at the 13:00 minute mark
  3. Cahn, Jonathan. The Mystery of the Shemitah (Kindle Locations 746-749). Charisma House. Kindle Edition.
  4. Ibid. Kindle Locations 765-766.
  5.  http://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/other-paintings-and-murals/apotheosis-washington
  6. http://www.masonicworld.com/education/files/artjun02/THE%20FIRST%20INAUGURATION.htm
  7. http://www.stjohns1.org/portal/gwib
  8. http://www.masonicworld.com/education/articles/A-MASONIC-PRESENCE-AT-WASHINGTONS-INAUGURATION.htm
  9. http://www.mountvernon.org/research-collections/digital-encyclopedia/article/freemasonry/
  10. http://www.gwmemorial.org/washingtonTheMason.php
  11. Ibid.
  12.  http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12967-sabbatical-year-and-jubilee
  13.  http://lamblion.com/articles/articles_jewishlife3.php
  14. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12967-sabbatical-year-and-jubilee
  15.  http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/513212/jewish/When-is-the-next-Jubilee-year.htm
  16. Cahn, Jonathan. The Mystery of the Shemitah (Kindle Locations 2933-2936)
  17.  http://www.wnd.com/2014/06/the-harbinger-meets-blood-moons/
  18. Cahn, Jonathan. The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret of America’s Future . (Kindle location 54) Charisma House. Kindle Edition.
  19.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Academic_use
  20.  http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/06/15/wikipedia_can_damage_your_grades/
]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/09/19/mystery-of-the-shemitah/feed/ 381
The Coming Evangelical Divide http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/06/28/the-coming-evangelical-divide/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/06/28/the-coming-evangelical-divide/#comments Sat, 28 Jun 2014 15:44:32 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2368 The following article is posted here by permission of the author, Ray Pritchard, of the Keep Believing ministry. The original article can be found here.

_______________

The Coming Evangelical Divide

by Ray Pritchard

evangelical divide

The evangelical movement is about to divide.

 Nothing could be clearer.

 It’s true that we have often disagreed over things like church government, views of the Second Coming, baptism, lifestyle habits, worship style and musical preference. But those differences, though deeply felt, were intramural debates over secondary issues.

 This time we are going to divide over a primary issue.

It is isn’t just about homosexuality or even about gay marriage, though that is the most obvious factor. When all the cards are out on the table, it will be clear that we have divided over biblical authority. Some of us will say, “We accept the 2000-year-old teaching shared until recently by every branch of the Christian movement that God designed marriage for one man and one woman.” We will also say that all sexual activity outside of marriage is sin. And we will continue to insist that homosexual behavior is always sinful.

Evidently not everyone will agree with us.
That includes some folks who graduated from our leading Christian colleges and seminaries.

For a variety of reasons, they will insist that the church has been wrong about this for 2000 years and that we must extend Christian fellowship to openly homosexual men and women. They must be allowed to join the church, sing in the choir, teach Sunday School, and if they are otherwise qualified, they could be chosen as deacons, elders and pastors.

As Al Mohler has recently insisted, there is no middle ground on this issue. We aren’t going to be able to paper over the difference or to “agree to disagree” as if this issue is like disagreeing on the timing of the rapture or whether or not we should sing more hymns.

This is a deal-breaker.
Can’t we all just get along? No, we can’t.

The people who argue for full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church are going to go one way, and the rest of us are going to go another. This will mean splitting denominations, leaving churches, and in some cases, it will divide families.

No one can be happy about the very real pain involved.
But better that we should separate than stay together and pretend at a unity that does not exist.

A few years ago I would have thought that most evangelicals would stay true to the biblical teaching about marriage. Today I will hedge my bets on that issue. We hear seductive voices calling us to “rethink” our position while other influential leaders admit to “struggling” over this issue. Clearly those voices are having an impact.

But in one sense it doesn’t matter. The people who think it’s okay for two guys or two girls to get married and then come and lead Awana on Wednesday night will never be accepted by the rest of us.

We aren’t buying what they are selling.

Because our culture has shifted on this issue, the price for fidelity to biblical teaching is rising all the time. Christians who openly stand for one man-one woman marriage will face increasing opposition in the days to come. It may be that we will be the ones leaving some churches because we are the minority.

So be it.

The divide is coming and in some senses is already upon us.
We all get to decide where we will stand.

You can’t straddle the fence forever.
Pastor, you’ll have to take a stand.
Church leaders, you’ll have to take a stand.
Christian friend, you’ll have to take a stand.

Years ago I heard Don Cole say that “it is better to divide over truth than to unite around error.” He was right, and because of that we will soon be going in different directions.

 

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/06/28/the-coming-evangelical-divide/feed/ 6
Grace & Sin in Catholic Theology http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/06/10/grace-sin-in-catholic-theology/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/06/10/grace-sin-in-catholic-theology/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 16:08:49 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2301 GRACE & SIN IN CATHOLIC THEOLOGY

The following article began as part of an email discussion with a member of The Berean Call staff, which was then picked up and edited into an article which appears in this month’s issue of their monthly newsletter. My thanks go to the TBC team, and especially to the editor, Barb Romine, who always makes my writing look better than it does coming directly from me.

______

GRACE & SIN: Why the meanings of words matter
by David James

Note from TBC: Increasingly, we read of evangelical leaders dipping into the muddy waters of Catholicism for what they claim is a deeper or more meaningful experience in their Christian walk. For example, Rick Warren was recently interviewed on EWTN [Catholic TV], where he praised the religion highly for its history and claimed that he watches this program more than any other “Christian channel” [see TBC NewsWatch p. 6]. Author and Bible teacher Dave James of the Alliance for Biblical Integrity wrote the following in an exchange with a TBC staff member. We believe that it helps to shed light on the very real differences in the meaning of two words, “Grace” and “Sin,” that are used by both evangelicals and Catholics but have vastly different meanings.

Catholic doctrine has twisted the meaning of a number of concepts creating a paradoxically hopeful—yet hopeless—human condition. Let’s look at two: “Grace” and “Sin.”

GRACE – As believers, we understand that grace is not a physical thing but an abstract concept, which nevertheless exists. It is similar to “love” in this regard. Love is not a thing; it’s an abstract concept that can be manifested. Furthermore, it isn’t a “thing” that is transferred from one person to another but rather is an act that involves a particular way that one person behaves toward another. Biblical love includes the attitude and behavior that always has the best interests of the other person as the priority, even if it costs us something.

For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another….Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:11,16).

Likewise, in biblical Christianity, grace is an act of God in which He bestows a blessing rather than what a person deserves.

But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many (Romans 5:15). Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt (Romans 4:4).

In Roman Catholic theology, however, although grace is an abstract concept, it is also a thing—a thing that can be transferred from God to humans. For such a transfer to take place, there must be a means by which to accomplish this. In this case, grace is literally transferred through the mediation of Mary using primarily the conduit of the sacraments—they confer the grace that they represent. And as a thing, grace, i.e., sanctifying grace, gives and sustains spiritual life in a very literal way—much as food is the vehicle through which the vitamins and minerals needed to sustain physical life are transferred.

SIN – the Bible teaches that all humanity has a sin nature.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?  (Jeremiah 17:9 ).

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Romans 5:12).

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (Romans 7:23).

And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness (Romans 8:10).

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe (Galatians 3:22).

Many Christians make the mistake of thinking that “original sin” in Roman Catholic theology equates to and is just a different way of describing the sin nature. This is an utter misconception with eternal consequences.

According to the RCC, Adam and Eve were created possessing “sanctifying grace”—which was “something” that was lost when they sinned against God. Likewise, their descendants inherit original sin—but they don’t believe it is something that people are born with. Rather, there is something that people are born without—namely, sanctifying grace. Therefore, the solution to the original sin problem is to transfer sanctifying grace back into the soul—which takes place through the vehicle of the sacraments, the first of which is the sacrament of baptism. This is why the baptism of infants makes perfect sense within Catholic theology.

Interestingly, this meshes perfectly with Augustine’s theology that we aren’t inherently evil; we simply lack sanctifying grace—a problem that is easily solved through receiving the sacraments. Unfortunately for the Catholic, over time sanctifying grace diminishes—and can be partially lost (through venial sin) or completely lost (through mortal sin). And it is this matter of venial and mortal sin that reveals one of the most tragic aspects of Catholic theology.

We understand that the Bible teaches that although sins have varying degrees of consequences, any and every sin makes us sinners before a holy God and unfit for heaven. Yet, the Bible also teaches that we are cleansed and forgiven of every sin the moment we trust in Christ for salvation.

In contrast, Catholic theology teaches that although Christ’s death made salvation possible, it is up to each individual to earn the right to enter heaven. Those who die with only venial sin on their soul must spend time in the fires of purgatory, literally paying the penalty for their own sins, after which they will eventually make it to heaven. However, if someone dies with a mortal sin on their soul, meaning they have lost all sanctifying grace, they will spend eternity in hell.

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/06/10/grace-sin-in-catholic-theology/feed/ 6
God’s Plan through the Ages http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/04/02/gods-plan-through-the-ages/ Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:45:47 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2281 God’s Plan through the Ages

Imagine how hard it would be to put together a 5000-piece puzzle if you had all the pieces, but didn’t have the box with the picture on it. Even if you were to carefully examine the details, it would still be tough to figure out how the pieces fit together or how each one fits into the overall picture. You could probably put together a few puzzle boxgroups of pieces by matching colors and patterns, but even then it would still be difficult to see how those groups go together. It wouldn’t take very long for many to just resign themselves to the fact that this is about as far as they will ever get and simply give up.

Many attempt to understand the Bible in a similar way— spending a lot of time looking at some of the details, but without having the big picture as a point of reference. They read some of the same familiar passages over and over, thinking that they must somehow fit together, but find it daunting and perplexing to try to move much beyond this.

Or going back to the puzzle analogy, some have even concluded that the pieces don’t fit together at all and are really just parts of many different pictures. This can make it virtually impossible to understand that God has a plan, that He has been carrying out that plan from the beginning and that this is clearly revealed in the Scriptures.

Over the last fifteen years, I have been developing and teaching a 10-hour course called “God’s Plan through the Ages”—a course that takes the student from eternity past to eternity future, from Genesis Chapter 1 through Revelation 22. The course is modeled on the basic theme, ideas and approach in Dr. Renald Showers’ now-classic book, What on Earth is God Doing?

“God’s Plan through the Ages” also includes a unique feature that complements Dr. Showers’ work by showing how the Lord has carried out His plan through a series of phases in history known as “dispensations.” We are currently in the sixth of seven dispensations, with the present dispensation coming to an end with the Rapture of the church.

Dispensations_________________

Now Available as a Conference

I have had the privilege of teaching this course many times at various Word of Life Bible Institutes, including in Hungary, the Philippines, Canada and the U.S, as well a required course in the graduate-level program in advanced eschatological studies directed by Dr. Jimmy DeYoung as part of his Prophecy Today ministry.

I am now making this course available to other schools as part of their regular curriculum or as an elective (with this being a 10 to 20 class-hour course), as well as to churches as a 10-hour conference. For churches, that could be done in any number of formats, including all ten hours in one weekend, or five hours on each of two consecutive weekends, or a multi-day conference from Thursday through Sunday or Sunday through Wednesday, or any other format that would work best for your church.

My traveling and teaching schedule is very busy and usually scheduled out as much as a year in advance, however, there are usually weeks or weekends at different times throughout the year when I would be available. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me at any time.

________________

One-Page Summary of “God’s Plan through the Ages”

Below, is a summary of “God’s Plan through the Ages” I have written, based on the course. The length of this summary is such that it will just fit on a single side of letter-size paper with half-inch margins, using an 11 point font.

Permission is granted to print on plain paper up to thirty copies of the summary below for ministry purposes, as long as you reference The Alliance for Biblical Integrity and David James as the source, and do not charge for it. For permission to print additional copies and / or other specific uses, please contact me through the contact form on this website.

This may also be reproduced on websites and blogs, as long as proper attribution and a link back to this original article is provided.

_______________

“God’s Plan through the Ages”

by David James

In eternity past, the triune God determined to establish a kingdom of righteousness in which his glory, his holiness, his justice, as well as his grace, mercy and love would be on display throughout all eternity. So, he created the physical universe as the realm of his kingdom, with this earth being the focal point. Then he created the angels and mankind to be his subjects in the kingdom.

The highest angel, who is now known as Satan, “the adversary,” in pride determined to set himself above God and swept a third of the angelic host along in his rebellion. Then he turned his attention to Adam and Eve, who were to be God’s regents over the earthly realm of his kingdom. He successfully enticed them to fall into sin and when they disobeyed God, they brought spiritual and physical death upon themselves and all their descendants, while plunging the entire creation into chaos. As a result, Satan became the temporary ruler of this world.

Genesis chapter three through Revelation chapter twenty is a historical and prophetic record of God’s gracious and loving plan to bring redemption to mankind and restoration to the creation. The Scriptures also reveal that Satan has desperately tried to prevent God from establishing His kingdom upon the earth.

As part of his plan, God raised up a new nation to be his people, the nation of Israel, through which the Redeemer would come—His son, the Lord Jesus Christ, God-in-the-flesh. The opportunity for man to be restored in his relationship with God came through Christ’s death on the cross as he became the substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and his resurrection would guarantee eternal life to all who turn to him in faith.

During the present phase of God’s plan, Christ is building His church, which is made up of all believers in Him. One of the primary tasks of the church is to take the gospel, the good news of this offer of salvation, to all the world. Then, at the end of this age, Christ will catch up all believers in Him (born-again Christians), both living and dead to meet him in the air, to be with him forever. This is known as the rapture of the church and is the next event on God’s prophetic calendar.

The rapture will be followed by a seven-year period of time, when Satan will make another attempt to establish his own kingdom on the earth, using a man whom he will empower, known as the antichrist. During this seven-year period of tribulation God will pour out his wrath upon the earth as judgment against mankind for their rebellion against him.

But God will once again turn his attention to the nation of Israel, to bring her to repentance and to use the nation to call the world to repentance as He prepares to establish his kingdom on the earth. Many Jews and Gentiles will come to salvation during those seven years, but when Christ returns to the earth at the end of that time, those who have refused to turn to the Him will be taken away to judgment.

Immediately after the Lord’s return, Satan will be bound for 1000 years, during which time Christ will establish his kingdom, ruling from the throne of David in the rebuilt temple of God in Jerusalem.

At the end of Christ’s millennial reign, Satan will be set free briefly and he will incite a final rebellion of the nations against God, which will be crushed instantly as God rains fire down upon them. Satan will then be cast into the lake of fire as the unbelievers from all the ages are brought before a great white throne to be judged. After all unbelievers are judged guilty by God, they, too, will also be cast into the lake of fire for eternity.

After the final judgment, God will destroy the present heavens and earth, replacing them with a new creation, with a new Jerusalem, in which he will establish his eternal kingdom of righteousness, where his people will enjoy him forever.

]]>
Blood Moon Tetrad (2014-2015): A Sign of the End? http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/01/24/blood-moon-tetrad/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/01/24/blood-moon-tetrad/#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 04:42:33 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2221 Blood Moon Tetrad (2014-2015): A Sign of the End?

 

Blood moons(blood moon graphic from John Hagee Ministries used in his sermon series on this topic)

 

A relatively rare series of lunar and solar eclipses, which coincides with important dates on the Jewish calendar in 2014 and 2015, is generating a significant amount of speculation that these could be signs connected with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The four consecutive total lunar eclipses depicted in the above graphic from John Hagee’s website are known as a “blood moon tetrad.” Interestingly, each of the lunar eclipses falls on two specific Jewish feast days in both 2014 and 2015, namely, Passover and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). In addition, a solar eclipse will occur on the first day of the religious new year on the Jewish calendar, Nisan 1, which corresponds to March 20 in 2015.

The speculation that this blood moon tetrad may be directly connected with Christ’s return is completely based on speculation connected with biblical prophecies found most notably in Joel 2 (and as quoted by Peter in Acts 2), Matthew 24 and Revelation 6.

And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. (Joel 2:30-31, NKJV)

 

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29–30, NKJV)

 

I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, (Revelation 6:12–15, NKJV)

These passages refer to God’s coming judgment upon the earth as part of what is known in the Old Testament as “the Day of the Lord” (or frequently just “that day”). Furthermore, these passages clearly indicate that there will be specific events in nature which will serve as signs that God’s judgment is at hand or that it is already underway. When understood in light of other passages, we know that this judgment will begin shortly after the rapture of the church and prior to the Lord’s return to the earth, during the seven-year tribulation period.

However, do the Scriptures genuinely support the conclusion that these upcoming eclipses are the specific signs predicted by Jesus and Joel and which were shown to John the apostle?

Knowing the Day and Hour…

Although most prophecy teachers who believe the coming blood moon tetrad is connected with Christ’s return want to avoid the charge of “date-setting,” they are also going to great lengths to persuade people that these eclipses could very well represent prophetic fulfillment. For example, in his recently released book, Four Blood Moons: Something is about to Change, John Hagee writes:

The fourth series of Four Blood Moons is coming! They are extremely rare even by scientific standards. God is shouting to us, “Something big is about to happen!” However, the coming Four Blood Moons of 2014–15 does not mean the Rapture is going to happen during that time. Why? Because the Rapture could happen at any moment. What they are telling us is that God is getting ready to change the course of human history once again. He is preparing to display the next series of signs in the heavens. ((Hagee John (2013-10-08). Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change (p. 242). Worthy Publishing. Kindle Edition.))

This is a very definitive statement by Hagee and one that is going to be difficult to walk back if it turns out that he is wrong.

The inspiration for Hagee’s book is found in the work of Hebrew Roots pastor Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries, who was perhaps the first one to discover (in 2008) that the blood moon tetrad of 2014 and 2015 would fall on Jewish feast days. His discovery was a result of doing research on the part NASA’s website devoted to lunar and solar eclipses. At that time, some speculated that the rapture might occur in 2008, with Christ’s return in 2015, because of the intervening seven years which would have corresponded to the tribulation period. In 2008, Blitz wrote the following on his blog:

When I talk about the second coming I am not referring to the rapture but to Messiah’s feet landing on the Mt of Olives in Zech 14. I am not setting dates for the rapture. The only dates I am giving is the dates Nasa gives us for eclipses and the dates God gives us on His calendar and then I bring in the connection. You can do whatever you want according to your own theology with this information. With much humor I say, “Put it in your own theological pipe and smoke it however you want.”

I did say, and again say, IF these eclipses in 2015 are what the Lord was referring to, then 2015 would look like a possible year for His feet to land on the Mt of Olives. And, IF this is true then the tribulation could, not would, start this fall at the Feast of Trumpets, (which technically is 2 days long: KJV Matthew 24:36 But of that day
and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only). In light of all the prophetic events going on I would say it is likely but I’m not saying definitely. ((http://growandknow.blogspot.com/2008/06/pastor-mark-biltz-running-to-battle_18.html, accessed on 1/23/2014))

While I fully believe that we may be in the last of the last days, and I also understand that we must always be prepared for the Lord’s appearing, there are very real dangers associated with attempting to assign prophetic fulfillment to specific current geo-political, religious, societal or natural events. Many have tried to do this in the past, leading to scores of failed predictions concerning the rapture, the tribulation, the rise of the antichrist, Christ’s return and the end of the world.

Of course we certainly don’t want to miss any signs from the Lord, but concerning His return, Jesus issued this warning:

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. . . .Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:36–44, NKJV)

Mark records that Jesus said that even He was among those who did not know the time of His return by including the rather remarkable phrase “…nor the Son”:

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. (Mark 13:32–33, NKJV)

Some argue, however, that rather than stating the impossibility of knowing the timing of His return in advance, the Lord was actually using a well-known Hebrew idiom to inform His disciples of the precise time of the Second Coming. In an article on the Hebraic Heritage Ministries website, the author expands on ideas gleaned from a 1996 book by Avi Ben Mordechai, Signs in the Heavens:

Understanding the expression “No man knows the day or hour” is not possible by simply taking the English translation literally, because in the book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation, we are given EXACT descriptions of timing, relative to KEY events – such as the shutting down of the altar sacrifices in Jerusalem at the MID-POINT of the 70th week. Dan 9:27

Jesus was asked, “When shall these things be?” Matt 24:3

His answer ties us in to a very specific event (The Abomination of Desolation) which can be measured on our calendars: “When you therefore shall see the Abomination Of Desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)…” Matt 24:15. It is now clear that “no man knows the day or hour” does NOT mean “no man knows the day or hour” as we read it from a modern-day English perspective. (emphasis mine).

The following chapter contains edited excerpts from Avi Ben Mordechai’s commentaries and builds on them aiming to explain that the Holy Bible does in fact reveal the “day and hour” or “exact timing” of our Lord’s return.

No One Knows the Day or the Hour?

Christians over the centuries have separated themselves from their Hebraic roots causing the misunderstanding of key Jewish biblical idioms. An idiom is also a figure of speech. When Y’shua (Jesus) uttered His famous words concerning the Messianic Era in Mattityahu (Matthew) 24:26, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in Heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”, He used a common Jewish figure of speech referring to a specific Jewish Festival. In essence He was saying, “I am coming for My Bride on such and such a day! Be watching!” What day could the Jewish idiom be referring to? Keep reading!

The above article then goes into a very lengthy discussion of the matter in question, while the Sabbath Covenant website more succinctly explains:

The day and hour of His return the Bride does not know, as you never know when the Rosh Chodesh will appear. The phrase “no one knows the day or hour” is a Hebrew idiom for the Rosh Chodesh/New Moon Festival, which ushers in the Feast of Teruah (Trumpets) and the fall feasts of YHVH. Many times YHVH has the new moon tarry over Jerusalem for one, two or more days, before coming into its young crescent sighting for the announcing of the New Moon Festival (John 14:3). Therefore we wait and watch for the “day and hour” of His return. When that Last Trump blows, the Bride trims her lamp and goes out to meet her Bridegroom for the start of their wedding. (Matthew 25:1-13).

In other words, because the lunar cycle is approximately (but not exactly) 29.5 days, the precise timing of the appearance of the new moon sometimes falls on the 29th day of the month and sometimes on the 30th. Since the new moon appears near sunset and because according to Hebrew reckoning, each day begins at sundown, the sighting could be slightly before or slightly after the start of the new day – thus, because the hour is unknown, the same is true of the day.

The Feast of Trumpets (Yom Terueh) is the only feast that begins with a new moon, falling on the first day of the lunar month of Tishri on the Jewish calendar. Tishri is the seventh month of the religious year, but Tishri also corresponds to the first month of the civil year—with the first day of that month being known as “Rosh Hashanah” or “head of the year.” Furthermore, because the Feast of Tabernacles occurs on the 15th day of Tishri, which is when full lunar eclipses will occur in both 2014 and 2015, and because these dates are now being suggested as signs of Christ’s return, the speculation is that the rapture may occur on the Feast of Trumpets in one of those years.

At first glance, such an explanation of Jesus’ words concerning not knowing the day or the hour may seem to be plausible and thus unlock Jesus’ statement by revealing the timing of His return, right? Well, not exactly.

The exact day and time of the appearance of the new moon is neither random, nor mystical, nor determined by the Lord via miraculous intervention each month such that the specific timing would be known only to Him. Prior to the development of telescopes and astronomy as a scientific discipline, such celestial events did seem to have an uncertain, perhaps even mystical quality to them. However, now that we understand the mechanics of planetary motion, the timing, along with every other parameter associated with the movement of all of the bodies within our solar system can be calculated very precisely for decades, centuries and even millennia both in the past and into the future.

For example, the NASA website has an area dedicated to lunar and solar eclipses, with a full catalog of lunar eclipses over five millennia, from 2000 B.C. to A.D. 3000. The first graphic shows a portion of the NASA catalog for the lunar eclipses from 2011 through 2015, while the second graphic shows detailed information concerning solar eclipses in the first five years of the first century A.D. These charts clearly demonstrate just how precisely the eclipses can be calculated.

Lunar eclipses 2011-15Solar eclipse in first century

The ability to calculate solar and lunar eclipses with such precision provides crucial insight into Jesus’ words concerning no one except the Father knowing the day or hour of His return. One might argue that Jesus was using the Hebrew idiom to cryptically signal to his disciples that He would return on the Feast of Trumpets, the timing of which could not be known precisely at that point in history. However, we now know that the motion of the sun, moon and planets was established at the moment of creation by Jesus Christ himself as the Creator (Colossians 1:16). This means that, in contrast to those to whom He was speaking, Christ would have known precisely when every eclipse would occur throughout history. And so Jesus, himself, has always known that a blood moon tetrad would occur precisely on Jewish feast days in 2014 and 2015. And since the exact timing of these events is not simply a matter of foreknowledge, but rather a matter of simple mathematical calculations, the angels in heaven could just as easily have been able to determine each time this would happen throughout history, as well—and it has happened several times.

The “Imminency” Problem

Another significant problem with the theory that Christ’s return must be tied to a blood moon tetrad that falls on Jewish feast days has to do with the doctrine of the imminent rapture of the church. Dispensational theologians have long recognized that the Scriptures teach that while there are many prophesied events which will take place after the rapture, there are none which must take place prior to it. In other words, the rapture could happen at any moment.

One thing that needs to be noted at this point has to do with the difference between the rapture and the second coming of Christ in relation to His statement about not knowing the day or the hour. In the context of Matthew 24, where the Lord is teaching about events which will take place after the rapture and during the seven-year tribulation period, it is clear that He is specifically referring to His return to the earth at the end of the tribulation, when He will arrive from heaven (Revelation ch. 19) and touch down on the Mount of Olives (Zech ch. 14). Therefore, the matter of not knowing the day or the hour isn’t directly connected to the rapture itself. However, between not knowing the day or hour of Christ’s return to the earth and the fact that the rapture is imminent, also suggests that no one can know the day or hour of the rapture either.

Another factor to consider with regard to Jesus’ words is that the disciples may not have yet received specific revelation concerning the relative timing of the rapture, tribulation and second coming. They were still looking at things from an “Old Testament perspective” which saw the Lord’s coming as a single event, rather than the two phases we see in the New Testament. And even if the Lord had provided that information to them at some point, it was apparently not widely known or completely clear until Paul wrote about it in 1 and 2 Thessalonians about twenty years later and then John received further revelation roughly forty years after that.

This being said, there is really no consensus concerning the relationship between the timing of the blood moons and the rapture, tribulation and the second coming. In first half of 2008, when Mark Biltz first discovered that a tetrad of lunar eclipses would take place on Jewish feast days in 2014 and 2015, he speculated that the eclipses in 2014 might take place during the tribulation, with the last eclipse in 2015 connected to Christ’s return to the earth. Then taking into account the seven years of the tribulation, he speculated that the rapture might occur later in 2008.

Since that obviously did not happen, the speculation by some is now that the rapture could occur two weeks prior to to the lunar eclipses in the fall of 2014 or 2015 on the Feast of Trumpets. However, the theory that the rapture must occur on the Feast of Trumpets is not something that just developed in the context of the coming blood moon tetrad.

However, if the rapture must occur on the Feast of Trumpets, then for every year it doesn’t happen, yet another entire year would need to pass until the day when the rapture could again possibly occur. Looking at it another way, over the course of a century there are 100 (approximately) Feasts of Trumpets, which when added together is a total of less than four months of days when Christ could have come for His church, and conversely there would be over 99 years and 8 months of days when Christ could not have come.

This problem is compounded if the return of Christ could only be in connection with a blood moon occurring on the Feast of Tabernacles. For example, during the last century, between 1901 and 2000, total lunar eclipses occurred in the month of Tishri only seven times. The longest stretch between total lunar eclipses occurring on the Feast of Tabernacles was when the first one of the century occurred on October 17, 1902 and the second occurred on September 26, 1931. ((http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2013/07/12/lunar-eclipses-cause-blood-moons#table-1, accessed on January 23, 2014.)) This means that there was a gap of nearly thirty years when the rapture could not have happened if one accepts the premise of the blood moon / Feast of Trumpets theory.

However, the problem is compounded exponentially if the return of Christ could only happen in connection with an entire blood moon tetrad occurring on Jewish Feast days. In the last five hundred years, including this year and next, this will have happened only four times—in 1493-94, 1949-50, 1967-68 and 2014-15. If the coming blood moon tetrad of this year and next is a sign directly associated with the rapture or the second coming of Christ to the earth, then that means that it could not have occurred at any time over the last forty years, meaning that our watching and waiting during that time has been completely in vain—and our warning people of the Lord’s imminent coming in the clouds to receive the church unto himself has been foolish—or worse. And if these events must be tied to any blood moon tetrad on the Jewish feast days in general, then that means Christ could not have returned at any time between 1495 and 1949—a period of over 450 years.

All this would seem to completely undermine Jesus’ words concerning being alert and watching because He could come at any time. After referring to the judgment by flood in the days of Noah, Jesus warned:

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:42–44, NKJV)

After this, Jesus drove the point home by using an illustration of a man who left an untrustworthy servant in charge of his household while he away on business:

But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. (Matthew 24:48–25:1, NKJV)

Jesus continued this extended exhortation by using a parable about ten virgins who were invited to a wedding, of whom five acted irresponsibly and therefore were not ready to go with the bridegroom when the time to go to the wedding came without warning:

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. (Matthew 25:10–13, NKJV)

The Nature of Signs Vs. Signs in Nature

One of the most frequently quoted passages of Scripture by those who believe the coming blood moon tetrad is a sign of Christ’s coming is Genesis 1:14:

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; (Genesis 1:14, NKJV)

The argument is that God has told us that He specifically set up the present lunar and solar cycles to specifically function as signs of major events such as Christ’s return. However, there are several significant problems with this understanding of Genesis 1:14. The first is that it actually reverses the meaning of the verse. The point the Lord was making was that He had set up the universe, and specifically our solar system, such that the combination of the earth’s and moon’s rotation and orbits would establish fixed, regular intervals of time—days, weeks, months and years—according to which He could then prescribe when His people would engage in various activities and meet various obligations in every sphere of life, including the agricultural, social, civil and spiritual / religious realms.

In other words, the sun, moon and stars were “signs” that provided a completely natural and absolutely predictable frame of reference. We could call these “providential signs,” which stand in stark contrast to “miraculous signs” that God would give in connection with His direct miraculous intervention at various points in history. Miraculous signs are neither natural nor predictable. In fact, if they were natural and predictable they wouldn’t even be recognized as signs for which God would be the only possible explanation. And “signs” that cannot be recognized as such are really not signs at all.

Those who are trying to argue that the coming blood moons are signs from God that the end is near point to God’s frequent use of things in nature as described throughout Scripture. However, they consistently seem to miss the obvious concerning what is going on and that those signs are fundamentally different from predictable events in nature such as lunar and solar eclipses.

Frequently, we see God giving miraculous signs as either a warning of judgment or as the judgment itself. And even though they often involve His use of things in nature, as noted above, they can’t be classified as “natural” at all.

For example, when God judged the earth by flood (Genesis ch. 6-9), He did it through nature, but what happened could never have occurred naturally. When God gave signs to Pharaoh and brought judgment against Egypt (Exodus ch. 5-12), he used many things found in nature, such as frogs, gnats, locusts and hail, but He manipulated them such that no one could have reasonably thought they were just natural occurrences. When the Lord parted the Red Sea (Exodus ch. 14), He used wind, but no “natural” wind could have caused what happened on that day. Similarly, Joshua’s “long day” (Joshua ch. 10) involved the rotation of the earth and the relative position of the sun in the sky over Israel, but the only explanation for what took place was God’s supernatural intervention. When the Lord Jesus Christ was born there was some sort of celestial body which became visible as a sign, and magi who had seen this star in the East followed it to Bethlehem as it went before them and as they approached the star stopped over where Jesus was (Matthew ch. 2). And there are many other examples.

All of these were signs in nature, but they were categorically different than the coming blood moons this year and next. Because these are completely natural and absolutely predictable, even with the interesting fact that they will fall on Jewish Feast days, they cannot biblically function as signs warning of God’s impending judgment or some other major event. Something that occurs naturally, predictably and with any regularity simply doesn’t work as a sign because it isn’t like any other biblical sign. And because of this, even those who love the Lord and His Word the most would be the most likely to miss it. This just doesn’t work.

Beyond this, as one reads the descriptions of the signs connected with the sun and moon in both the prophecies by Joel and Jesus, and then the visions given to John of their prophetic fulfillment in Revelation, one gets the sense that these are anything but normal total eclipses. The duration of totality for both lunar and solar eclipses is so short that it is measured in just minutes and seconds. And in the case of solar eclipses, totality occurs along a very narrow path on the face of the earth, such that it is not even a major event for all but a very small portion of the world’s population. How could such an event be a sign to the world?

Furthermore, these prophecies were given specifically to Israel so that they could understand that God’s judgment was at hand or had already begun. Yet the path of totality for the solar eclipse in 2015 doesn’t fall anywhere close to Israel. So how could this eclipse be a sign in Israel?

Beyond even these things, the prophecies seem to suggest that the moon turning to blood and the sun being darkened like sackcloth are simultaneous events and ones which affect the entire earth. If that is true, then there is another problem because the closest that solar and lunar eclipses can occur is fifteen days apart. This is because the positions of the earth and moon relative to the sun are reversed depending on whether it is a solar or lunar eclipse. Solar eclipses can only occur right around the new moon when the moon is between the earth and the sun, while lunar eclipses can only occur during a full moon when the earth is between the moon and the sun.

The Potential Danger and a Word of Caution

Because so many have been making predictions concerning the rapture, the second coming of Christ and the end of the world for so many years, no doubt there are many who have become very disillusioned with prophecy and prophecy teachers. For some it has meant much more than simple disillusionment. Over the years, some have had their lives completely destroyed as they have left family members behind or have given away everything in anticipation that the rapture was going to occur on a specific day. When Harold Camping predicted two different dates for the rapture in 2011, there even were reports of at least one person committing suicide. Now, the question concerns what will happen if the rapture doesn’t occur by the time of the last full lunar eclipse in 2015.

Even with the caveats that no one is setting absolute dates, this issue has garnered a huge amount of attention as can be seen with a simple Google search on “blood moons” which yields almost half a million hits. There are entire websites devoted to this subject. There are a number of radio and television interviews dealing with the blood moon tetrad. There are videos on YouTube. DVDs have been produced. There are also at least two books, with Mark Biltz’s book coming out soon.

The following two graphics show the current rankings of John Hagee’s book, the first being the paperback version and the second being the Kindle version. These make it clear that he is definitely having an impact on the church with his speculation.

Hagee paperbackHagee Kindle

There are two significant and very real dangers associated with the hype surrounding the total lunar and solar eclipses this year and next. The first danger is that because biblically the rapture really could occur at any moment, many could be caught unawares if they think they can legitimately wait until the Feast of Trumpets on October 8, 2014 or September 28, 2015 to do something about their spiritual condition.

The second danger is that if these predictions fail as have others in the past, for how many will this be the last straw and as a result they decide to have nothing more to do with prophecy teachers or even the Bible anymore. Because of disillusionment and the resulting skepticism, many could easily fall into the trap described by the Apostle Peter in his second letter:

. . . knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3–4, NKJV)

Does this mean that it is impossible that the Lord might do something significant on one or several of these feast days on which there will be solar and lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015? Not at all. He can do what He wants, when He wants.

However, whether the rapture takes place before, during or after these events, we must always heed the Lord’s words as previously noted:

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:42–44, NKJV)

 

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2014/01/24/blood-moon-tetrad/feed/ 66
WOL Philippines Typhoon Recovery Effort http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/11/12/wol-philippines-typhoon-recovery-effort/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/11/12/wol-philippines-typhoon-recovery-effort/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2013 17:12:14 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2193 WORD OF LIFE PHILIPPINES TYPHOON RECOVERY EFFORTS

If you have been following any of the news reports coming out of the Philippines you have seen the horrible human tragedy that is unfolding day by day. What was perhaps the most powerful typhoon ever recorded devasted portions of the Philippines just a few days ago.

Because Word of Life Philippines is one of my annual ministry destinations, I have had a particular interest and concern for what has transpired over the past few days, receiving some periodic updates from WOL country director, Mike Foster. The two Word of Life locations on the main northern and southern islands were spared a direct hit and therefore did not sustain significant damage. However, some Word of Life staff and their families, as well as churches and other people connected with WOL were in some of the hardest-hit areas.

Below, I have included the two most recent brief updates, with the second reflecting answers to prayers that were requested in the first. These are followed by a letter that Mike sent out to the WOL Philippines constituents and ministry partners, which gives more details about the role Word of Life is planning in the disaster recovery effort, as well as how concerned believers in the U.S. can contribute to the vital work and ministry they are about to begin in the hardest-hit region.

Below Mike’s letter, I have included some pictures of the area in which Word of Life will be helping with the recovery effort, and ministering to those who survived the typhoon.

(As you may recall, I am scheduled to be in the Philippines in February with Word of Life to teach to do a pastors conference with “The Gospel” as the theme.)

_________

Reports from Mike Foster, Director, WOL Philippines:

First report (11/11/2013)

Just wanted to send you a letter (attached) that tells what is happening here in the Philippines and what we are trying to do with relief for typhoon victims.  It is really bad, all of our staff is affected, have loved ones missing in the middle islands.  The devastation is unbelievable.  We are going to send two trucks down with some of our best men to help with the recovery as soon as it is safe.  Right now it is chaotic and dangerous.  Also, we can’t get in, the international relief organizations and government have first priority. We are going to need help to recover from this.  Please pray with us.

Second report (11/12/2013)

Already there have been answers to prayer, people checking in who were on our very LONG LIST of missing persons!  We hope to get Jesil and Bambie out and back to Manila maybe as early as today, student Reynold’s family is accounted for and also his whole church family is safe but in need!!!  We are still praying for Leizel’s sister who has not made contact, and  Pastor Rolly and Esther Agonon , their two girls and extended family, and Domingo Clerigo, all just south of Tacloban City, near the ocean and we have not heard from them.  Yet, stories are coming in of God’s faithfulness.  We keep praying…

(Note: Jesil and Bambie are okay as seen in the above report, though they had not been heard from when the letter below was written.)

Formal report and recovery donation information (through Word of Life)

Dear Friends in the US,

Thank you so much for praying for our team as typhoon Haiyan made its way over the Philippines!! Praise the Lord there was very minimal damage here at our camp in Laguna!  We were on the outskirts of the typhoon, it hit us late afternoon but we never lost power which is a miracle in itself

BUT

We have not heard from JESIL, BAMBIE and their 4 month old baby, ASAPH!!   Tacloban, the city where they have been serving as Word of Life Philippines missionaries, was hit VERY BAD!! We have not had any communication with them since the storm began! The airport in Tacloban was destroyed, along with communication lines, many of the roads and much of the city. Please pray for this young couple, that wherever they are, God would encourage them, protect them, provide for them and use them to share God’s message of salvation and hope to those all around them who are hurting!

There are people looking for them, there are places where they can report, so their name goes out on a list and we get contacted, etc.  So far, no word but we keep praying.   Reniel, a student at the Bible Institute entire  family (seven siblings)  live just outside of Tacloban, in the path of the typhoon and and there is no word from any of them.  We have not heard from pastors we know down there.  Today, Monday, reports  should start coming out.  The government and World relief agencies are setting up food and water centers in the city.  Also they are using military cargo planes to fly people out of Tacloban City, and because Jesil and Bambie are there, it may be possible for them to get to Manila in the next day or two.

When things are under control, roads cleared, we hope to send a relief team down there made up of our folks who know the area well.   As always, we also bring a hope and peace that the world cannot understand during times like this.  Can you help us?

The biggest need will be trying to rebuild shelters for those who have lost their entire homes and possessions so financial help is going to be needed to purchase roofing materials and supplies.  Please, let folks know.  There is so much looting and chaos right now.  Our believers need protection from the Lord!  We want to make sure funds go to help the ones who lost everything.  Pray for us all,

Here at Word of Life Philippines, we are trying to mobilize relief for the typhoon stricken central region of the Philippines.  If you can give financial assistance, please send it to:

Word of Life
PO Box 600
Schroon Lake, NY.  12870

Checks should be made out to:  Word of Life

Designate: Typhoon Recovery 07037C

Thank you for your prayers,  We hope to keep you posted as information filter in.

By God’s marvelous grace,

Mike and Marti Foster & Word of Life Philippines staff.

_____________

tacloban 06

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tacloban 05

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
tacloban 04

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Damaged houses near the airport are seen after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
tacloban 01

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/11/12/wol-philippines-typhoon-recovery-effort/feed/ 1
9/11 Twelfth Anniversary Survey http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/09/15/911-twelfth-anniversary-survey/ Sun, 15 Sep 2013 20:21:45 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=2097 9/11/2001 – Twelfth Anniversary Survey

Click here to view survey results

911-terrorist-attack 02With last week marking the twelfth anniversary of 9/11, it is clear that the horrific events of that day remain indelibly etched in the hearts and minds of many Americans. The world was forever changed by the events of that day and we are reminded of this every time we walk into an airport or see a news story about the Department of Homeland Security or consider the ongoing tensions in the Middle East.

Christians who believe that we are likely living in the last of the last days understand that the stage is being set for the Bible’s final prophetic drama and that world-changing events such as those of September 11, 2001 are just part of that process. At the same time, there remain persistent questions and various perspectives concerning exactly what happened on that day and how this might relate to the end times scenario as it continues to develop and move towards prophetic fulfillment.

Interestingly, with over a decade of historical perspective, there appears to be a renewed interest in re-examining the evidence surrounding what happened on 9/11 in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Some are even calling for a new independent investigation to determine whether the report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), representing the official government position, objectively reflects the best understanding of that evidence.

Not everyone with doubts about the commonly accepted view of 9/11 fits the description of a typical conspiracy theorist. For example, Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth is comprised of over 2,000 experts who are trying to petition the U.S. Congress to re-open the 9/11 investigations based on their in-depth analysis of the collapse of the three WTC towers. Pilots for 911 Truth describe themselves as “an organization of aviation professionals and pilots throughout the globe who have gathered together for one purpose. We are committed to seeking the truth surrounding the events of the 11th of September 2001. Our main focus concentrates on the four flights, maneuvers performed and the reported pilots.”

The primary focus of these two groups in particular is not so much speculation on everything that may have transpired on 9/11, who was actually involved, or specific implications, but their purpose is rather to simply demonstrate what they believe to be significant problems with the official explanations in terms of the science involved across a broad spectrum of professional disciplines.

Some ABI readers who are not familiar with the details of the official NIST report, may recall that Popular Mechanics magazine responded to criticisms of the NIST report with its own challenge to those criticisms. This, in turn, precipitated a book aimed at debunking, PM’s debunking of the debunking of the NIST report. And there doesn’t seem to be a clear or definitive end to this cycle in sight.

We would like to know what you think about all this. Please take a few moments to participate in this brief survey concerning your views on September 11, 2001.
____________

The survey consists of seven questions. The results of the survey will be posted as they become available. 

For the sake of accuracy, please only one submission per respondent.

Click here to view survey results

Note: The “Next” button only becomes available after selecting a response.

[wp-simple-survey-1]

Feel free to add your own comments and observations in addition to the survey responses.

Click here to view survey results

]]>
A Response to “In Defense of a Prophetic Voice” by David Reagan http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/05/05/response-to-defense-of-prophetic-voice-by-david-reagan/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/05/05/response-to-defense-of-prophetic-voice-by-david-reagan/#comments Sun, 05 May 2013 21:24:19 +0000 http://test.biblicalintegrity.org/?p=1564 A Response to “In Defense of a Prophetic Voice” by David ReaganTHFOF

(In the May / June issue of Lamplighter magazine)
By David James

My original article begins below the two updates, with the most recent update first.

___________
 UPDATE #2: 

Dr. David Reagan has posted an article to his website in response to mine. I have included the entire text of his response below, after which I have made a few observations:

Reagan's article

Introductory note: Over the past year and a half, many things have been said to us and about us, both publicaly and privately, to which we have responded very little. I have never desired to engage in an escalating war of words, or to get into an endless cycle of unprofitable battles. Neither do I wish to be perceived as becoming defensive and blindly defending an indefensible position.

One reason I have chosen to begin discussing some of this recently is to help our readers more fully understand the serious nature of The Harbinger controversy. Another reason is to provide some insights into how to respond to those who vigorously defend The Harbinger and find themselves facing harsh criticism.

__________

In my article I had expressed concern that Dr. Reagan appeared to be relying on hearsay rather than first-hand knowledge of the real issues surrounding The Harbinger controversy. If he has not heard of me, his article validates those concerns. And, if true, it would be unfortunate for a well-known Bible teacher with a national platform to speak authoritatively about a subject of this magnitude, yet with little personal knowledge.

Since I mailed a copy of my book to Dr. Reagan for review, it probably would have been better if he had gone through it prior to responding as he has. Dr. Reagan’s article also suggests that besides not reading my book, either he hasn’t carefully read my article or he has simply dismissed both its content and tone. Again, given the significance of this issue, it is disappointing that someone would fail to take our biblical concerns seriously enough to respond in kind.

Rather than reconsidering his unnecessarily harsh and personal comments, Dr. Reagan has instead refered to concerned discernment ministries as having an “attack-dog, mean-spirited attitude” and as “legalistic, judgmental and condemnatory in nature.” He continues with inflammatory remarks, calling ABI, “one more of the reckless discernment ministries.”

I had hoped that both my article and email would have persuaded Dr. Reagan to at least reconsider the way he has characterized us—and perhaps even consider the fact that he may have been misled. Unfortunately, he seems to miss the irony of what he has said and how he has chosen to say it.

And finally, it is difficult to understand why someone of Dr. Reagan’s stature would resort to insults such as the one in his last statement, while ignoring the substance of our biblical concerns. There is never a place in the Lord’s work to use insults to discredit and demean those who disagree with us.
_____________

UPDATE #1

I sent Dr. Reagan a personal email within about 12 hours of posting this article, to let him know that it was now on the ABI website, and assurred him that my intention was to focus on the issues and not to harm him or anyone else. I also wrote:

My intent is not to get into an escalating war of words, but rather to bring some balance and reason to a situation that has become far too emotional and characterized by quite a bit of harsh language, accusations and ad hominem attacks.
Dr. Reagan responded within a few hours:
Thanks for sending me a copy of your article. I have nothing to say in reply to it except that I stand by what I wrote in my article.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Dave Reagan
Lamb & Lion Ministries
_______________________
ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Over the past year, The Harbinger and its author, Jonathan Cahn, have experienced an almost unprecedented rise to prominence, influence and fame in America by a Christian book and author. Its status as the #1 Christian book for 2012, with over 75 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and one million copies sold is impressive by any measure.

The Harbinger has struck a chord with many Christians because of its call to repentance in the face of present or impending judgment by God. Cahn claims this judgment is evidenced by a series of events which began with the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 and which have continued since then, following what he says is a “template” found in Isaiah 9:10. The case the author presents for parallels between events in ancient Israel and present-day America has persuaded many that it is impossible for this correspondence to be mere coincidence and therefore it must be a message from God, making it a “must-read.”

Ultimately, the level of The Harbinger’s success can be attributed largely to the support and promotion from a wide array of ministry leaders who have also become convinced that God is using Cahn as a prophetic voice and who have combined constituencies numbering in the millions. Jonathan Cahn has been interviewed countless times, with one writer referring to him as “one of the most interviewed Christian in America.” (( http://sonomachristianhome.com/2013/05/interview-with-jonathan-cahn-proclaiming-details-of-god%E2%80%99s-judgment/)) and has appeared (sometimes multiple times) on some of the most highly watched programs on Christian television such as The Jim Bakker Show with Jim and Lori Bakker, The 700 Club with Pat Robertson, It’s Supernatural with Sid Roth, Prophecy in the News with Gary Stearman, This is Your Day with Benny Hinn, Praise the Lord on TBN and many others. Last year he was interviewed on two consecutive days by Glenn Beck, and within the last few weeks he has been interviewed on the radio by former Gov. Mike Huckabee of FoxNews and also by Dani Johnson (Secret Millionaire).

However, there has also been a significant amount of controversy within the Body of Christ over The Harbinger and Jonathan Cahn as not everyone has shared this enthusiasm for the book. That such a book would generate at least some controversy isn’t entirely unusual in today’s theological climate. However, what is unusual regarding this particular controversy is the sharp division within the evangelical community.

THFOFAlthough I wrote The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? as a critique and response to The Harbinger, I am definitely not alone in my criticism of the book. A good number of conservative Bible teachers, pastors and theologians have also expressed their deep concerns about various issues related to the message of the book and its author. The critics of The Harbinger include many respected men and women in the conservative evangelical community such as (the late) Roy Zuck, Gary Gilley, T.A. McMahon, Jimmy DeYoung, Larry DeBruyn, Ken Silva, Danny Isom, Paul Barreca, Sarah Leslie, Gaylene Goodroad, Chris Lawson, Brannon Howse, Tommy Ice, Keith Gibson, Berit Kjos, and Susan Puzio to name a few.

Compounding the controversy has been the deep division caused by some very emotional articles aimed at critics of The Harbinger, with very little response to the actual substance of our critiques. One example of just how personal this has gotten at times is the following from a blogger who says of The Harbinger’s critics:

…you fit the bill as the modern version of the Sanhedrin, the Catholic Inquisition, and every man-made religious construct of destruction that the human race has ever erected against the face of God to obstruct His purposes and persecute His servants in the name of God and now in the last two thousand years – in the name of Christ.

Despite this, we have tried to stay focused on The Harbinger and deal exclusively with the teaching and views of Jonathan Cahn as presented in his book, interviews and messages. In doing so, we have chosen to say very little about those who have so strongly supported and promoted The Harbinger and its author, and who have also leveled some serious personal accusations against those with concerns. However, with The Harbinger phenomenon showing few signs of letting up, it seems that the time has come to begin to address not only the specific issues at hand, but also some of what has been said about those who have been critical of the book because in many ways it has just gotten out of hand.

On the front cover of the latest edition of his magazine, Lamplighter, Dr. David Reagan suggests that Jonathan Cahn is “an end-time prophet to America.” This cover is consistent with the fact that he has been repeatedly referred to as a prophet in many interviews, articles and promotions. And although Jonathan Cahn denies that he has ever personally called himself a prophet, I am not aware of any time when he has denied he is a prophet or corrected someone who has introduced him as a prophet. Rather he has always accepted that appellation the many times it has been used of him.

Then, in an article titled “In Defense of a Prophetic Voice,” Dr. Reagan launches a fairly serious attack against the critics of The Harbinger. This is a response to that article (although this response could be generally directed to many who have supported The Harbinger and defended Jonathan Cahn and have said many of the same things.)

Lamplighter_MayJun13_2

NOTE: The section titles are from Dr. Reagan’s article

Pillow Prophets?

As I have followed The Harbinger controversy, I have tried to read everything that has been written about the issue, both positive and negative. What I have found is that theological liberals have been almost uniformly silent about The Harbinger. Although one might expect that it would provoke a response from some in mainstream denominations or from some emerging church leaders, I don’t recall reading anything specific from them. This makes the opening quote in Dr. Reagan’s article both puzzling and troubling:

People love pillow prophets. They hate true prophets. Pillow prophets tell people what they want to hear. They cry, “Peace and safety!” when danger is imminent. True prophets warn of danger and cry for repentance.

Since the normal “pillow prophets” have said virtually nothing about The Harbinger, to whom, then, could Dr. Reagan be referring except the theologically conservative evangelical critics of the book?

Comparing Jonathan Cahn to the biblical prophet Jeremiah, Dr. Reagan further writes:

In like manner, Jonathan Cahn has been the victim of irresponsible and vicious attacks. He has been accused of “parading as a prophet.” Others have branded him a “false prophet.” These charges are reckless, unwarranted and un-Christ-like.

So, apparently anyone who has criticized The Harbinger falls into the category of “pillow prophet” (or at least in the category of “those who love pillow prophets”). However, anyone who has followed this controversy knows that no one could reasonably suggest that The Harbinger’s critics are the type of “pillow-prophets” he describes. This is a very hollow charge that has no basis in fact.

Another problem is the accusation that these “pillow-prophets” have subjected Jonathan Cahn to “irresponsible and vicious attacks.” With few, if any, exceptions the vast majority of critiques have focused only on the issues and have purposefully avoided personal attacks. I don’t think any of the primary, more well-known critics have said or written anything that could be characterized as anything close to “irresponsible” or “vicious.”

These charges raise the question of whether Dr. Reagan has actually read some of the more significant critical reviews of The Harbinger. Has he actually considered the substance of our concerns? Has he read The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?

Dr. Reagan goes on to say:

Jonathan Cahn’s message is thoroughly biblical. It is not based on any new revelation from God. Rather, it is based on the biblical principles that govern God’s relationship with nations.

This is quite a gloss that overlooks a number of serious issues.

For example, the most important principle of biblical interpretation is to never lift a verse from its context. If the context is not considered, it is impossible to understand a passage correctly. However, this is precisely what Jonathan Cahn has done with Isaiah 9:10. Tthe nine verses which precede Isaiah 9:10 represent one of the most important Messianic Kingdom passages in the entire Old Testament, yet they are completely ignored in The Harbinger. Neither are the following verses considered. How is it that a single verse in the middle of a chapter with twenty-one verses is a template for events which have happened in America and the other twenty verses have no connection whatsoever? If just 9:10 is a template, why not the entire chapter? And if not the entire chapter, why 9:10? Surely a Bible teacher like Dr. Reagan realizes just how serious this problem really is. It is difficult to understand how he can suggest that The Harbinger’s message is “thoroughly biblical.” And this only begins to scratch the surface.

Another issue is Cahn’s speculation concerning the Sh’mitah (Israel’s Sabbath year). He claims that America experienced a judgment (or at least a warning) from God in both 2001 and 2008, tied to the Hebrew Sabbath year in the form of stock market crashes. To suggest that God is using the Sh’mitah as a basis or principle of judgment against any nation except Israel is thoroughly unbiblical. What about 1994, 1987, 1980, 1971….? Why did it begin in 2001 and without any warning that we, as a Gentile nation, were obligated to the Sh’mitah?

This isn’t the way God does things. And beyond this, in terms of percentage, neither of these even rank in the top ten crashes—that they were the largest in absolute numbers means nothing more than saying gas was so much cheaper in 1976 at only 60 cents per gallon.

There wasn’t anything approaching a total collapse as happened in ancient Israel. Neither was there a “wiping out of debt” as Cahn claims in his book. How is it that he is being given a pass on these claims by those who are normally critical thinkers?

Besides this, there isn’t even any indication that God imposed judgment on Israel related to the Sh’mitah specifically on 29 Elul as Cahn says happened in America. The only element of judgment against Israel which was connected with the Sh’mitah involved the length of the Babylonian captivity, which at seventy years was one for each of the Sabbath year cycles Israel had failed to observe. And yet, a substantial part of The Harbinger is built exclusively on this completely unbiblical premise and conjecture that God judged America in this way, at this time and for this reason. This is just factually wrong on innumerable counts as I demonstrate in my book.

It would also be difficult to overstate just how serious this is in terms of misunderstanding and misapplying the Old Testament. It is equally difficult to overstate just how puzzling it is that Dr. Reagan has overlooked this issue (as have so many others), especially when it makes up such a significant part of The Harbinger.

Then there is the serious problem of the unbiblical “Isaiah 9:10 Effect,” which also forms a major theme in The Harbinger. Jonathan Cahn contends that the Isaiah 9:10 Effect actually caused a series of events to inevitably happen once the effect was triggered. (All emphasis in quotes below is mine.)

harbinger

[Kaplan]  “And this all has to do with America?” I asked.
[The Prophet]  “Seven years after 9/11,” he said, “the American economy collapsed, triggering a global economic implosion. Behind it all, and all that followed, was something much deeper than economics.”
[Kaplan]  “Behind the collapse of Wall Street and the American economy was . . . .”
[The Prophet] “Isaiah 9:10.” ((The Harbinger, page 136))

In the author’s mind a repetition of the Lord’s words as recorded by Isaiah, the alleged Isaiah 9:10 Effect, actually causes things to happen. This is clearly affirmed in the following exchange at the end of chapter 16:

[Kaplan]  “As in the Isaiah 9:10 Effect?”
[The Prophet]  “Yes, but in this mystery the connections are even more beyond the realm of the natural.”
[Kaplan]  “They’re supernatural?
[The Prophet]  “You could say that.”
[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.” ((The Harbinger, pages 151-152.))

Surely it is obvious that this is a thoroughly unbiblical, entirely made-up principle that has no scriptural foundation. How did this slip by Dr. Reagan?

But beyond being unbiblical because it isn’t found in Scripture as a principle, another extremely unbiblical idea is the very nature of the Isaiah 9:10 Effect itself. The way it is used here is more like an occultic spell or incantation than a biblical principle. The idea is that once the words were said by a couple of American leaders, they set into motion and determine a whole cascade of specific events. Nothing like this mystical power of words is ever seen in Scripture and it is surprising that Dr. Reagan has missed such an extremely serious problem.

Yet another example of the unbiblical ideas in The Harbinger is the assumption that in some way Isaiah 9:10 must be connected to the United States because of events the author believes parallel events in ancient Israel. Although he has tried to mitigate the implication by calling it a “template,” this doesn’t solve the problem or make it any more “thoroughly biblical” at all. No such template is identified or described in Scripture either before or after Isaiah 9:10. It is a unique prophecy concerning Israel’s response to God in the face of judgment that has no precedence and is never repeated. There is no biblical (nor historical) basis to call it a “template”—especially to the degree that it determines or causes specific events to happen.

And finally, one of the most serious examples of a thoroughly unbiblical aspect of The Harbinger is the supposed presentation of the gospel in the chapter titled “Eternity.” Tragically, the author does not explain how to be saved at all. He does present some important principles and could have made the gospel clear with nothing more than a few key sentences. And yet, the words “faith” and “believe” are nowhere to be found, being replaced with very ambiguous ideas about what needs to happen in one’s heart and mind. The following is the essence of how Cahn explains what someone must do to in order 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.” ((The Harbinger, page 233.))

And this is put in the mouth of a prophet of God?

The idea that Christ died in our place for our sins is very much obscured—to the point that only someone who is already familiar with the gospel would understand what the author is getting at. And the complete absence of any mention of the resurrection of Christ, which Paul says must be believed, renders Cahn’s presentation of the gospel incomplete, ineffective and unbiblical. How would a prophet of God not include the resurrection in what is supposed to be a clear presentation of the gospel? This is not just nitpicking. I would encourage Dr. Reagan to examine this chapter carefully and read the corresponding chapter in The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?

Concerning Cahn’s message not containing “new revelation from God,” it must be pointed out that even the subtitle of The Harbinger is designed to make the reader think that the author has discovered a never-before-seen “ancient mystery.” In more than one interview, Jonathan Cahn has said it was as if The Harbinger had already been written. At the very least, this statement is ambiguous enough for a lot of his readers to think that God had revealed it to him (as evidenced by what so many have said in the positive comments on Amazon.com).

It must also be noted that it has been strongly suggested and implied that The Harbinger is, in fact, based on new revelation from God. In September 2011, the program It’s Supernatural aired shows produced around interviews with Jonathan Cahn. The following are excerpts from an advertisement for a DVD set featuring those shows:

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s new book gives a fresh prophetic Jewish perspective and insight that clearly shows the future of America. . . . And is it possible that God is now sending a prophetic word to America, a word of warning that the nation lies in danger and unless it returns to Him is heading for impending judgment?

The same promotional ad says the following of the author:

Jonathan Cahn is a Jewish believer in Messiah and leader in the Messianic movement. His teachings and messages are known for their profound and prophetic nature and for revealing the deep mysteries of biblical truth.

The following is from another website that exclusively promotes The Harbinger and an accompanying DVD set:

Listen as Jonathan Cahn shares the revelations, the details, and the significance that lie behind and within the mysteries and prophetic message of The Harbinger.

In a promotional video for the DVD set, Cahn affirms the prophetic nature of his message (and not simply in the generic sense of being a “forthtelling” of God’s Word from Scripture):

[Jonathan Cahn]  Could there exist an ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future? And could this mystery touch everything, explains everything from 9/11, to the global war on terror, to Wall Street, to your bank account, to your future, to your well-being? The answer is yes.
[Voice-over]  Call now and receive Rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s two-part prophetic audio CD revelation….

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.

A promotional article by WND (formerly World Net Daily) quotes Jonathan Cahn as saying, “There’s nothing natural about this book!” ((http://www.wnd.com/2012/09/runaway-bestseller-sets-christian-world-abuzz/))

However, the real elephant in the room is the character of The Prophet himself. Of course, his presence in the story is a fictional literary device, but the problem is that Cahn uses him to reveal things about supposed connections between events in ancient Israel and America that no one has ever seen before—and that no one could ever see because the “mystery” is not in the text nor is it supported by the evidence alone (as I show in my book).

It is The Prophet who reveals the never-before-seen “ancient mystery.” The Prophet makes the connection with America’s founders. The Prophet reveals the proposed Isaiah 9:10 Effect. The Prophet reveals the nine harbingers in Isaiah 9:10 some of which are not at all obvious in the text. The Prophet uses the Septuagint to add an idea that is not found in the Hebrew text of Isaiah 9:10. The Prophet reveals the supposed connection between the Sh’mitah and America.

This is all new information and suggests that at some level Jonathan Cahn has received this message from God that no one else has ever received.

It is very troubling that Dr. Reagan has come to the conclusion that there is nothing unbiblical about The Harbinger when there are so many substantial problems. Given that he is a respected Bible teacher, it would seem that either he hasn’t carefully analyzed the book himself or he that is not familiar with the reviews of The Harbinger which have pointed out these issues over and over again.

It is also troubling that Dr. Reagan is not more familiar with the facts concerning what has been said about The Harbinger being promoted as prophetic in a revelatory sense. Given the intense controversy surrounding the book, it would probably have been helpful for Dr. Reagan to take some time to find out exactly why these things are being said—and it would not have been difficult to do because of the extensive documentation in The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?

False Prophet?

The question of whether or not Jonathan Cahn’s message is biblical continues in this section of Dr. Reagan’s article as he begins with the following question:

The charge that he is a “false prophet” is downright ludicrous. His message is that America is in rebellion against God, that God has placed remedial judgments upon us, and that if we do not repent, God will deliver us from judgment to destruction. I ask you, “What part of that message is unbiblical?”

Of course, as Dr. Reagan knows, there’s nothing particularly unbiblical about this part of the message (except that we don’t know for certain that God has already placed remedial judgments upon us—perhaps He has, perhaps He hasn’t). But none of The Harbinger’s critics have suggested that this is what is unbiblical. I find it very unfortunate that Dr. Reagan would try to set us up to look bad in this way. If he really has listened to what we have all consistently said, then he would know that we generally agree with Jonathan Cahn on this point—at least with the fact that America as a nation is deserving of judgment and that broad repentance is in order.

I have no doubt that Dr. Reagan does not wish to mislead his readers. Unfortunately, he seems to be relying on hearsay and secondary sources who are being somewhat misleading. Based on what is said later in citing Jonathan Cahn, it would seem that it may well be Cahn himself who is the source of some of these misleading notions. This would be consistent other times Jonathan Cahn has elsewhere misrepresented his detractors and then mocked the misrepresentation with classic straw man argumentation.

Dr. Reagan goes on to define a false prophet:

Furthermore, the Bible defines a false prophet as one who prophesies events that do not come to pass. If Rabbi Cahn prophesied that a specific event would take place on a specific date and that date were to come and go without the event happening, then he could legitimately be labeled as a “false prophet.” But he has done no such thing.

Unfortunately, this is a case of Dr. Reagan himself using a straw man argument because no one has suggested that Cahn is a false prophet on these grounds.

On the other hand, as a prophecy expert himself, Dr. Reagan is certainly aware that this is an incomplete definition of a false prophet. Prior to the test to which Dr. Reagan refers in Deuteronomy 18:22, we read the following:

And the LORD said to me: “What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.” (Deuteronomy 18:17–20, NKJV)

The Lord’s warning involves more than just prophesying things that don’t come to pass (or encouraging people to follow other gods). He also says to mark the man who claims to speak out what God did not say. The way Jonathan Cahn has handled Isaiah 9:10, 2 Chronicles 7:14 and other passages of Scripture, as well as the issues of the Sh’mitah, the Isaiah 9:10 Effect, the harbingers and even the gospel all make it clear that he is misrepresenting what God has really said in His Word—and this is no different from saying that God has said things He has not said.

So, while it may be unnecessarily harsh to assign to him the label “false prophet,” it has been clearly demonstrated over and over that Jonathan Cahn does engage in teaching many false things by mishandling Scripture and misrepresenting historical events and facts. This then raises the question of just how much significant mishandling of Scripture is necessary for someone to be considered a false teacher—and what is the difference between a false prophet and a false teacher?

Even if one is reticent to say that he is a false prophet, it can be said with a high degree of confidence that Jonathan Cahn is most assuredly not God’s “End Times Prophet to America.”

Misuse of Scripture

Dr. Reagan further clouds the issue and engages in straw man argumentation when he refers to Psalms, Proverbs and the churches of Revelation along with Isaiah 9:10. Does he really think that The Harbinger’s critics would suggest there is nothing applicable to the church in these parts of Scripture?

Whether it is Isaiah 9:10 or Psalm 23 or any other passage, the question is never “Is this relevant and applicable?” but rather “How is this relevant and applicable?” This is the task of the Bible interpreter—to determine how a passage is to be understood and applied correctly to those who were not the original recipients. In the case of Proverbs, much of what is said is general truth and so a given passage and the timeless principle are often equivalent.

However, this is not always the situation. For example, in the case of Psalm 23, the timeless principles must be extracted from the shepherding imagery (i.e., the Lord isn’t literally comforting us with His physical staff). Concerning the churches of Revelation, not many modern-day churches eat food offered to idols as in Thyatira. We understand from basic Bible study methods and hermeneutics that not every detail is equally and as directly applicable to us as it was to the original recipients. We just have to keep these principles in mind—which leads to the next point.

Dr. Reagan then discusses the frequently misapplied passage of 2 Chronicles 7:14:

Incredibly, Rabbi Cahn has been criticized for applying 2 Chronicles 7:14 to the United States. It reads as follows: [If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Are we actually going to contend that this scripture applies only to Israel? Are we really going to argue that if the professing Christians of this nation were to sincerely repent of their sins and the sins of our nation, that God would ignore it? This particular scripture contains a timeless principle about repentance that even applies to pagan nations.

Of course, Dr. Reagan certainly understands that for any passage there is the technical interpretation and then there is the general application. While it is true that evangelicals have long used this passage as a call to America to turn to God, this is neither the proper interpretation nor application.

One would think that as a dispensational Bible teacher, Dr. Reagan would not make this mistake of failing to distinguish between the way God deals with national Israel and the way He deals with individual believers. The promise of 2 Chronicles was given specifically and exclusively to Israel. They were God’s people as a nation. America is not God’s people as a nation. God’s people, Israel, had a geographical piece of land to restore that had been ravaged by His judgments through human agency. Christians living in America do not have a land that is God-given in the way the Promised Land was given to Israel.

The “land” in the promise would, of course, mean the nation as a whole and not just the physical land itself. However, in context, “my people” refers exclusively to national Israel and the promise is to heal the nation—which was made up of both believers and unbelievers. Therefore, God’s people were called to turn back to Him collectively so that the nation as a whole would experience His blessings. As a theocratic kingdom, everyone (believer and unbeliever alike) was obligated to obey and observe the externals of the Law (even though no one could be saved spiritually by observing the Law). If such obedience to the law given through Moses were to characterize the nation as a whole, the nation would be saved from destruction and the Lord would heal their land. This was God’s promise to “my people.”

Such a promise has not been made to America as a nation—and any attempts to make such an application of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to any nation except Israel is arguably a form of Restorationism or Dominionism or Kingdom Now theology.

Of course, if individuals in America would begin to turn to the Lord in large numbers (and they would need to be very large numbers), there would be ripple effects throughout society. However, none of The Harbinger’s critics would deny this either. But God’s people in the sense of believers in the church are not the “my people” of 2 Chronicles 7:14 and there is no Scriptural promise that God will heal any nation other than Israel in this sense.

Dr. Reagan contends that the 2 Chronicles 7:14 principal works for pagan nations as well—and some might argue that what happened in Nineveh is a clear example of this. However, careful examination of the book of Jonah shows that this is not the case. And there are several important differences that must be observed:

  1. Nineveh initially had no one in it who could be called “my people” by God.
  2. Jonah was called to preach against Nineveh, only warning them of the coming destruction.
  3. Jonah was not called to preach a message similar to 2 Chronicles 7:14, with a call to repentance accompanied by a promise of restoration.
  4. The repentance rate in Nineveh was 100%.
  5. In His mercy, God relented and did not destroy them, but because there was no promise, there was no obligation to do so.
  6. There is no record of the withholding of judgment being accompanied by restoration and blessing.

It must be noted that America is a Gentile nation like Nineveh, not God’s nation of “my people” like Israel. So, if the principle of 2 Chronicles 7:14 did not apply to Nineveh, then there is no Scriptural basis for attempting to apply it to America. Conversely, any attempt to apply it to America is to suggest that this country is more like Israel rather than Nineveh, which takes us back to the problem of some sort of covenant between America and God—the very thing Cahn is now denying.

So, to specifically reply to Dr. Reagan’s questions and statement:

Dr. Reagan: “Are we actually going to contend that this scripture applies only to Israel?”

Reply: Yes, because in context it does apply only to Israel which is exclusively “my people” as a nation.

Dr. Reagan: “Are we really going to argue that if the professing Christians of this nation were to sincerely repent of their sins and the sins of our nation, that God would ignore it?” 

Reply: Unfortunately, Dr. Reagan has made at least a couple of serious mistakes in this question. The first mistake is that he has introduced a straw man argument, because no one is suggesting God would ignore believers in the church who would repent of their sins. The second mistake is that although Christians may repent for the sins of the nation in one sense, since the nation as a whole is not going to actually repent (i.e., turn from sin), then we can’t expect that God is going to relent and exchange judgment for blessing. He could do that, but that is not the nature of the promise in 2 Chronicles. Even if everyone in the church were to begin to live perfectly godly lives, as long as the major sins of the nation continue among unbelievers, God is not going to ultimately withhold judgment and restore this nation.

Dr. Reagan: “This particular scripture contains a timeless principle about repentance that even applies to pagan nations.”

Reply:  Dr. Reagan is correct, but only to the degree that the “timeless principle” is understood and applied correctly. As has already been shown, the entire verse as it stands is not a timeless principle because it refers to the restoration of the nation that is “my people.” No pagan (i.e., Gentile) nation fits that description. The only way it could be applied directly to America is if it is assumed that this country is also in some way understood to be “my people,” which is precisely the mistake that Jonathan Cahn makes (at least the way he has stated it in The Harbinger). In other words, the timeless principle is contained within the verse, but is not the entire verse itself.

To illustrate, let’s consider the Abrahamic Covenant, which also contains a timeless principle. We understand that the timeless principle is the idea that “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” However, the entire Abrahamic Covenant as a whole can only be applied to the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, i.e., the nation of Israel. To attempt to apply the whole covenant directly to anyone who believes God would mean that every believer could expect that they would also be the progenitors of “many nations” and that through each one “all nations would be blessed.”

Obviously, these conditions are not part of the timeless principle. This goes to the heart of how to correctly interpret and apply the Bible and in this case, with all due respect, Dr. Reagan gets this wrong—and in the case of The Harbinger, Jonathan Cahn gets it wrong.

Jumping to Conclusions

Dr. Reagan writes:

Many of the criticisms of Rabbi Cahn’s message are based on unwarranted conclusions that people have jumped to in an effort to find something to criticize. For example, he has been accused of teaching that America is in a covenant relationship with God. The fact of the matter is that he has never said that. He simply notes that America’s founding fathers believed that, and therefore they consecrated the nation to God.

The first problem with this statement is the apparent underlying assumption that The Harbinger’s critics have some sort of agenda and are just looking for something to criticize. However, this overlooks the obvious fact that Jonathan Cahn was largely unknown at the national level prior to writing The Harbinger. It’s not as if we were just waiting for him to produce something so we could pounce on it. He started with a blank piece of paper as far as we were concerned—and we would have welcomed a biblical book with the message he is bringing. Therefore, if anyone is guilty of drawing unwarranted conclusions, in this case it would have to be Dr. Reagan.

Concerning the matter of America being in a covenant relationship with God: In spite of Jonathan Cahn’s denials concerning this, there are statements made throughout The Harbinger that reinforce the idea that the Founding Fathers were successful in actually entering into a covenant with God. The following exchange between the two main characters in the book is just one of many specific examples that indicate this:

[The Prophet]  “Those who laid America’s foundations saw it as a new Israel, an Israel of the New World. And as with ancient Israel, they saw it as in covenant with God.”
[Kaplan]  “Meaning?”
[The Prophet]  “Meaning its rise or fall would be dependent on its relationship with God. If it followed His ways, America would become the most blessed, prosperous, and powerful nation on earth. From the very beginning they foretold it. And what they foretold would come true. America would rise to heights no other nation had ever known. Not that it was ever without fault or sin, but it would aspire to fulfill its calling.”
[Kaplan]  “What calling?”
[The Prophet]  “To be a vessel of redemption, an instrument of God’s purposes, a light to the world. It would give refuge to the world’s poor and needy, and hope to its oppressed… And, as much as it fulfilled its calling or aspired to, it would become the most blessed, the most prosperous, the most powerful, and the most revered nation on the earth—just as its founders had prophesied.”
[Kaplan]  “But there’s a but coming, isn’t there?”
[The Prophet]  “Yes,” he replied. “There was always another side to the covenant. If ancient Israel fell away from God and turned against His ways, its blessings would be removed and replaced with curses.” ((The Harbinger, pp. 18-19.))

The point of this exchange is obvious—the entire premise of The Harbinger is that America is facing imminent judgment for precisely the same reason God judged ancient Israel, namely that they broke their covenant with God. This is not a matter of unfairly jumping to conclusions. We’re simply observing and commenting on what Cahn has repeated throughout his book.

Again, it makes one wonder whether Dr. Reagan has seriously interacted with either The Harbinger itself or with any of the critical reviews.

In the next paragraph Dr. Reagan writes:

Another unwarranted conclusion is that he teaches Isaiah 9:10 was a prophecy about the United States rather than Israel. Again, Rabbi Cahn has never made such an assertion. What he teaches instead is that the ancient pattern of judgment that occurred in Israel is now recurring in America, and in “a stunningly precise way.”

Unfortunately, in the first sentence above, Dr. Reagan has mischaracterized what we are saying and his statement is simply not true. No one has ever said (to my knowledge) that Cahn is teaching that Isaiah 9:10 is “about the United States rather than Israel.” We all understand that the author believes the passage was specifically to Israel. However, our concern is that he has consistently made it sound as if it was not exclusively to Israel—and there is a big difference between the two.

The following exchange from the The Harbinger once again seems to make it clear that the author is saying exactly what we have reported and why we are concerned:

[The Prophet] “In the wake of their calamity, the leaders of ancient Israel proclaimed, ‘We will rebuild’—the first sign of defiance. If the mystery holds and has now applied to America, we would expect to hear the same vow, the same three words, in the wake of 9/11, now proclaimed by American leaders.”
[Kaplan] “And did it happen? Did they say it?”
[The Prophet] “Yes. They said it.” ((The Harbinger, p. 61))
[Goren]  “How could an ancient mystery possibly have anything to do with September 11?”
[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.” ((The Harbinger, p. 3))

In an interview on The 700 Club with Pat Robertson, Cahn put it this way:

[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. ((Beginning at the 2:15 minute mark: http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=
/mp4/SUB109_JonathanCahn_010312_WS))

“A prophetic call of God.” But to whom? Not just to Israel, but also to America. This is Cahn’s entire point and one he has made over and over again.

Again, even if The Harbinger’s critics are wrong, it is not because we are jumping to conclusions without warrant, making this a very unfair statement by Dr. Reagan.

Concerning the recurring of parallel events in a “stunningly precise way.” I have to wonder if this is another case of Dr. Reagan only being familiar with one side of the story. In The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? I demonstrate that few, if any, of the supposed harbingers even rise to the level of being interesting coincidences let alone exact matches. And as a significant number of other conservative Bible teachers (with no agenda) have examined my work, they have also agreed.

In reality, who has jumped to conclusions?

A Book and A Sermon

Dr. Reagan then discusses Jonathan Cahn’s message at one of the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfasts. I would readily admit that it was a powerful message and there were a number of important things that were said that he was exactly right about. No one has ever suggested that everything Jonathan Cahn teaches or believes is wrong. We’re only saying that the way he has put everything together in The Harbinger is wrong, even though some specific elements may be right.

And at the prayer breakfast, he was doing pretty well and was on-target for the most part until he started discussing details from his message in The Harbinger. At that point he simply repeated all of the problems in the book. (For those who are interested, Chris Rosebrough has provided an excellent commentary on this particular message.) ((Beginning at about the 54:00 minute mark: http://podbay.fm/show/268985402/e/1359204642))

However, Dr. Reagan says of the message:

The message presented a stark, bone-chilling indictment against this nation for thumbing its nose at God. It was a hardhitting prophetic message that took great courage to deliver.

Christians should be giving Rabbi Cahn a standing ovation, and many have. But some leaders of discernment ministries have tried, instead, to crucify him.

A few questions are in order:

  1. Should Christians really be giving Jonathan Cahn a standing ovation for this message when it was based almost entirely on a book that is built on a mishandling of Scripture and the misrepresentation of historical events?
  2. This is not to take away from Jonathan Cahn at all, but why would Dr. Reagan seek to bolster his argument that Jonathan Cahn is a prophet by claiming that it took courage for him to deliver his message at the prayer breakfast? Cahn was invited to speak in that venue because the organizers were already familiar with what he would say and wanted him to preach that message, knowing it would be well-received. The response of the audience confirms that he was in friendly territory and not in a hostile environment. There was no risk, danger or downside that would have made it courageous. (Again, this is not about Jonathan Cahn, only about Dr. Reagan’s argument.)
  3. What exactly have discernment ministry leaders done to “crucify” Jonathan Cahn? (There have been no personal attacks and ad hominem arguments against Jonathan Cahn that come anywhere close to what these same leaders have experienced by supporters of The Harbinger, of which Dr. Reagan’s article is a clear example.)

Then, Dr. Reagan attempts to defend Cahn by referring to David Wilkerson as an example of someone who was vilified as a false prophet because of his strong message of repentance—a message now being echoed by Jonathan Cahn. While David Wilkerson didn’t make friends with some because of his direct style, he was also loved by many. He did deliver some powerful messages that undoubtedly made a difference in many lives. On the other hand, it is well-documented that Wilkerson also claimed that God had shown him a number of things that he formulated into predictions, but which did not come to pass.

Therefore, based on Dr. Reagan’s own definition of a false prophet, David Wilkerson is an unlikely person to be used in a defense like this. And, because Dr. Reagan defends someone with numerous failed predictions this also raises questions about the following statement he makes about Jonathan Cahn:

I know a genuine prophetic voice when I hear one, and as I watched Rabbi Cahn deliver his powerful message, I realized he was a prophetic voice raised up by God to warn this nation of its impending doom and to call us to repentance.

How does Dr. Reagan reconcile his belief that Jonathan Cahn is a “prophetic voice raised up by God” with the fact that he misapplies Isaiah 9:10, claims there is an Isaiah 9:10 Effect, argues that America is experiencing a Sh’mitah-type judgment from God, creates an illusion that there have been parallel harbingers in ancient Israel and America, issues such a generic call to repentance and so poorly communicates the gospel? Is this consistent with the message of a prophet raised up by God?

McCarthyChristian McCarthyism

This is where Dr. Reagan takes what feels like an unnecessarily mean-spirited turn, following a pattern characteristic of many who have denounced The Harbinger’s critics. He resorts to a style and uses an appeal that is long on emotion and generalities and short on facts and specifics.

The current unbridled, petty and vicious attacks on Rabbi Cahn smack of what I would call “Christian McCarthyism.” For those of you who might not be familiar with what I’m referring to, let me explain.

After giving some historical background, Dr. Reagan gets to the point of his illustration, which is obviously aimed directly at those who have expressed concern about The Harbinger:

When McCarthy resumed his attack, Welch interrupted him: “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

This was one of the first Congressional hearings ever to be televised, and it exposed the Senator for what he was — a shallow, irresponsible, arrogant power-seeker who was willing to destroy other people in order to gain the limelight.

In like manner there are hyper-critics within Christianity today who are yelling “Apostate! Apostate!” over matters that really amount to nothing. If a person speaks to a group they disapprove of, they label him an “Apostate.” If he has a different viewpoint from theirs about a non-essential doctrine, he is branded an “Apostate.” If he compliments someone they don’t like, he is relegated to Hell as an “Apostate.”

This very unfortunate use of the McCarthy illustration compels me to ask several questions:

  1. Hasn’t Dr. Reagan just engaged in the very thing that he appears to decry?
  2. Is Dr. Reagan actually suggesting that, like McCarthy, any critics of The Harbinger are “shallow, irresponsible, arrogant power-seekers who [are] willing to destroy other people in order to gain the limelight?” Doesn’t this radically cross the line into judging motives and intents of the heart? I am not aware of anyone who has done this with Jonathan Cahn, yet it is precisely this sort of personal attack that has characterized much of what has been said about those with concerns about The Harbinger.
  3. What are some examples of specific unwarranted vicious attacks upon Jonathan Cahn, the man?
  4. Exactly where are we wrong in the details of our analysis of The Harbinger?
  5. Who specifically has called Jonathan Cahn an “apostate”? Is it one person? Many? Any?
  6. Exactly what are the matters that “amount to really nothing” that we have challenged Cahn on? Does he mean the mishandling of Scripture, the misrepresentation of historical facts, and faulty conclusions based on those, along with a failure to communicate the gospel? Is he suggesting that these kinds of things “amount to really nothing?”

An Appeal for Sanity

Dr. Reagan quotes Grant Philips—and I don’t disagree with what he is saying in principle:

Look folks, many of us need to . . . stop nitpicking everything the Lord is trying to tell us and just listen to what He is saying in whatever manner He chooses to say it. Even in my own experience of writing articles, every now and then, someone emails me who just wants to nit-pick at something I wrote while missing the message of the article. The phrase comes to mind, “They’re so heavenly minded, they’re no earthly good.” We need to humble our hearts and stop being so self-righteous.

I have given a lot of thought to this and similar admonitions (which in some cases have included some of the nastiest communication I have ever witnessed from professing believers in Christ). Nonetheless, these criticisms have not fallen on deaf ears. This past year has been one of prayer, introspection, contemplation, Bible study, and much communication seeking wisdom from a multitude of counselors. Only a fool would take lightly the matter of challenging the #1 Christian book of the year.

And one of these question that I have had to consider, as Pastor Philips points out, is whether or not we are “nit-picking.” But after carefully evaluating this for a long time, I still have to conclude that, no, we are not nit-picking.

At the same time I would ask if Dr. Reagan (and others) have carefully considered our claims, especially as documented in The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? We are not talking about a poor choice of words here and there. Jonathan Cahn has clearly stated what he meant and in every one of the dozens of interviews since the book was released, he has reaffirmed over and over that he is saying exactly what we have consistently claimed he is saying—and we still believe he is wrong on significant issues. If he is being so consistently misunderstood by good, solid Bible teachers, then he needs to consider revising some of what he has written and continues to say.

Unfortunately, Jonathan Cahn’s responses below, as noted by Dr. Reagan, serve to demonstrate that he is neither listening nor taking seriously what his critics are saying. Although his responses are attributed to his sense of humor, they seem to reflect more of a mocking tone (which I have also seen in a video of him addressing these same issues at a church). It is one thing to disagree with our conclusions, but it is entirely another to mock and use straw man arguments against those who disagree—particularly when responding to men who are respected for their knowledge of the Scriptures and their defense of the faith. And it is even more troubling that a respected man like Dr. Reagan has chosen to incorporate this type of response into his own.

Jonathan Cahn’s response #1

Cahn

In response to crazy allegations that he is somehow involved in advocating the prosperity message of the Word of Faith Movement, he wrote: “I not only speak against those doctrines regularly, but my author’s photo [shown on the cover of this magazine] was taken at Sears Budget Photo!”

To my knowledge, not one of The Harbinger’s critics has ever suggested that Jonathan Cahn was advocating a “prosperity message.” Our concern has only been that he and his message have consistently received some of the strongest support from those in the extremes of the Word Faith movement, namely Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn and others. Furthermore, his publisher is Charisma Media (and Steve Strang), a media empire which is responsible for producing what is perhaps the greatest volume of heretical teaching by false teachers of this generation.

Although we have been taken to task for making a “guilty-by-association” argument, the fact is that his associations in this case run so deep that he is guilty. These are not simply incidental acquaintances. Rather, they are meaningful, ongoing and deep ministry partnerships—at least in the case of Jim Bakker and Steve Strang.

While his comment about his picture being taken at Sears is humorous on its own, in this context it really tends to demean and mock those who would dare challenge these deep ministry associations.

Jonathan Cahn’s response #2

In response to an assertion that he is advocating Replacement Theology, he wrote: “I’m Jewish and a believer. In order to subscribe to Replacement Theology, I’d have to replace myself with myself. I’m open to trying, but it just strikes me as a lot of work to end up no better off than when I started!”

This is an example of a good sound bite that just keeps getting repeated, but which is rather pointless. The matter of Replacement Theology (which says that the church has replaced Israel in God’s program) came up in the first interview between Jimmy DeYoung and myself, the week of The Harbinger’s release and was based on some initial concerns I had after reading only the first few chapters in the book. However, either in that interview or the next (or perhaps both), I noted that I had set aside this concern after finishing the book (and I may have made that point in subsequent interviews, as well). And unless Jonathan Cahn has not read my book, he must realize that I also clearly stated in my book that I completely accept the fact that he doesn’t hold to classic Replacement Theology. Although perhaps a good talking-point in the attempt to discredit The Harbinger’s critics, it is really nothing more than that. It is difficult to understand why Dr. Reagan would join with others who continue to try to make this an issue because it simply lacks merit and has never been a significant part of the discussion.

Jonathan Cahn’s response #3

In response to the nutty charge that he is espousing principles of Mormonism, he wrote: “Okay, I was once into Donny and Marie Osmond, but when they started singing ‘I’m A Little Bit Country, And I’m A Little Bit Rock and Roll,’ I drew the line. You see, I don’t believe in mixing doctrines.”

My first request of Dr. Reagan would be for him to provide the name of even one person who has made “the nutty charge that he [Cahn] is espousing principles of Mormonism.” It would seem that Dr. Reagan is once again relying on second-hand caricatures of what we have said. And given Jonathan Cahn’s witty response, it would seem that he himself is likely the source of this misleading caricature.

As to the issue of Mormonism as I dealt with it in The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?, either Jonathan Cahn has completely missed the point in my book—or he is intentionally misrepresenting what I wrote as a distraction. No one, including myself, has ever thought or implied that the author has Mormon connections or remotely holds to any aspect of Mormon theology. However, our contention has been that Jonathan Cahn has stated things in The Harbinger in such a way that it surely sounds like he holds to some sort of American covenant view, no matter how ill-defined.

The proof that The Harbinger’s critics are not just making up another “nutty charge” is that even Mormon theologians and historians have appealed to The Harbinger on multiple occasions to support their thoroughly unbiblical doctrine of Anglo-Israelism (which holds that America was founded by descendants of the “ten lost tribes of Israel”). If a cult is able to use someone’s primary thesis to undergird one of their heretical doctrines, then the burden is upon that writer to rework the relevant material so that it cannot be misappropriated in this way. This is particularly true since Jonathan Cahn contends that he is not promoting the idea that there is an American covenant in the first place.

In summary, I don’t think and never have thought that Jonathan Cahn is espousing principles of Mormonism, and I’m not aware of anyone else who thinks so either. At the same time, because the entire narrative of The Harbinger gives the distinct impression that there is some sort of covenant between God and America, Mormons have added the book as further support for their heretical doctrines. This isn’t a “nutty charge.” It is a fact.

Jonathan Cahn’s response #4

In response to the absurd allegation that he is involved in some way in Masonry, he replied: “It’s true. I once had involvement with Masonry. It happened when I appeared as a guest on the Jackie Mason Show. But he’s the only Mason I’ve been involved with. And I renounced his comedy soon after the show.”

Does Dr. Reagan have first-hand knowledge of anyone alleging this or is he relying on what he has been told? Who has suggested that Jonathan Cahn is involved in Masonry in some way? It is possible that someone has said this, but I’m not aware of it and it is definitely not a widely held view among critics of The Harbinger. Unfortunately, this is another caricature that misses the point of the concerns that have been raised about Masonic issues and Jonathan Cahn’s book.

Cahn’s response, though once again humorous on one level, also feels deeply sarcastic and mocking in tone as response to a very real issue—while also completely missing the point (or diverting attention).

The concern of some regarding his book is due to his heavy dependence on George Washington as an example of one who was part of invoking (or affirming) a covenant between America and God. In The Harbinger’s well-known dream sequence King Solomon morphs into George Washington. Without assigning nefarious motives to Jonathan Cahn, given that some trace Freemasonry back to Solomon, it is a very strange literary device when combined with the fact that Washington is a celebrated Freemason, was sworn into office on a masonic Bible in the presence of masonic leaders, was part of a masonic procession to St. Paul’s church, was the charter Master of the Alexandria lodge, is depicted in several paintings as well as a famous statue in full masonic regalia and was buried with a masonic ceremony. Furthermore, there is the troubling matter of the interior of the dome of the nation’s capitol building which depicts Washington’s ascension to godhood (“apotheosis”).

These are our concerns and they are well-founded. They are not “absurd allegations” and should not be misrepresented as suggesting that he has any direct masonic connections—nor even that he intentionally included a masonic connection in his book.

My Personal Stance (Dr. Reagan’s)

Dr. Reagan concludes his article:

The nit-picking, Pharisaical hyper-critics of Christianity need to be reminded of the wisdom of Gamaliel which he shared with the Sanhedrin Council when they arrested Peter and the apostles and desired to kill them (Acts 5:29-33). Gamaliel stated that if what the followers of Jesus were teaching was false, nothing would come of it. “But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” He then added, “You may even be found fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39).

The pit bulls of Christianity can growl and yap and snarl all they please, but anointed messengers of God like Wilkerson and Cahn will prevail because they are speaking the truth. I stand with them, and I am proud to do so.

Together with them, I cry from the depths of my heart, “Wake up America! You are blaspheming the very God who blessed you. He has sent prophetic voices and remedial judgments to warn you and call you to repentance. What will be your choice? Repentance or Destruction?”

Although Gamaliel’s observation turned out to be correct concerning the gospel and Christianity, it isn’t a universal truth. Not everything that is not from God “comes to nothing”—at least for a time. This is obvious when one considers that with one billion adherents each, neither Islam nor Hinduism have “come to nothing.” That the vast majority of the world’s population believes things that are patently false is a sober reminder that truth is not decided by popular vote. Similarly, that The Harbinger was the best-selling Christian book of 2012 does not necessarily demonstrate that it is from God. The only determining factor is how it compares to Scripture—and The Harbinger doesn’t meet this test very well.

But even beyond this, why has Dr. Reagan felt it necessary to launch a personal attack and characterize those with concerns about The Harbinger as “nit-picking, Pharisaical hyper-critics of Christianity?” Doesn’t this put us in the same category as those outside the faith—those who are skeptics, scoffers, mockers and unbelievers?

And how does Dr. Reagan explain the fact that many of The Harbinger’s critics have a long and consistent history of being respected Bible teachers and firm defenders of the faith? Why would those who have been trusted for so long now suddenly become numbered among the worst of God’s enemies?

Why would Dr. Reagan characterize those with concerns about The Harbinger in such a pejorative way as to describe them as the “pit bulls of Christianity” who “growl and yap and snarl”—and who by implication are not “speaking the truth?” And he has done so although neither the issues addressed nor the methodology of exposing and responding to error have changed. While it is true that historically much of the focus in apologetics and discernment has been on the dangers of philosophy, world religions and Christian cults, errors coming from within the church have also been the subject of much work from this same group over the years—and rightfully so.

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.” (1 Timothy 1:3–4, NKJV)

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,” (1 Timothy 4:1–2, NKJV)

It has always been our shared responsibility to deal with error, not just outside the church, but inside it—which is arguably the greater problem. When error arises from within the church it is generally more insidious—and as this controversy has shown, it is often more difficult to deal with. And in fact, many of The Harbinger’s supporters have dealt with exactly these kinds of things within the church themselves over the years.

So, the question that begs to be asked in relation to The Harbinger is, “Who changed the rules?”

Although all would agree with Dr. Reagan’s plea, “Wake Up, America!” it must be recognized that realistically The Harbinger’s generic call to repentance to a multi-cultural, multi-faith nation largely made up of nominal Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Animists, Wiccans, agnostics and atheists is not going to cause America to turn to the God of the Bible. That likelihood is further lessened when one considers the unclear and confused presentation of the gospel in The Harbinger’s chapter on “Eternity” (where there is no mention of faith or belief, Christ’s sacrificial death in our place on the cross, His shed blood, or even His resurrection).

__________________

Summary

Dr. Reagan uses the article to launch a personal, emotional, ad hominem attack against The Harbinger’s critics. He collectively describes those with concerns about The Harbinger as:

  1. “pillow prophets”
  2. “hyper-critics”
  3. “hysterical critics”
  4. “nit-picking, Pharisaical hyper-critics”
  5. Being like Senator Joe McCarthy who was a “shallow, irresponsible, arrogant power-seeker”
  6. “the pit bulls of Christianity” [who] “growl, yap and snarl”

Dr. Reagan accuses leaders in the discernment community of:

  1. Irresponsibly and viciously attacking Jonathan Cahn (although nothing has ever been said about his character, motives, or him as a person)
  2. Making reckless, unwarranted and un-Christlike accusations (although everything that has been said comes directly from the book and well-documented research)
  3. Wrongly attacking Jonathan Cahn because of his misuse of Scripture (although he has demonstrably misused Scripture in multiple ways)
  4. Jumping to unwarranted conclusions (although almost every conclusion has been based directly on quotes from The Harbinger and what has been said by the author)
  5. Just looking for something to criticize (although the types of things that have been criticized have always been concerns of serious students of the Bible)
  6. Trying to “crucify” Jonathan Cahn (although this is a radical overstatement that also has implications concerning the hearts of those who have criticized The Harbinger)
  7. Launching unbridled, petty and vicious attacks on Jonathan Cahn (once again, although nothing has ever been said about his character, motives or him as a person)
  8. Being comparable to Senator Joe McCarthy “who was willing to destroy other people in order to gain the limelight” (although this in itself is judgmental character assassination made with no personal knowledge of the character of those accused)
  9. Calling Jonathan Cahn “an apostate” over matters “that really amount to nothing” and “non-essential doctrines” (although it is questionable whether this term has ever been used by a critic of The Harbinger and the matters of concern hardly amount to nothing)

It would seem appropriate for Dr. Reagan to carefully reconsider his approach and much of what he has written in his article as it includes provocative, inflammatory and judgmental statements, as well as startling accusations. The article is filled with dramatic overstatements that appear to heavily rely on caricatures and misrepresentations of what the critics of The Harbinger are saying and hasn’t fully considered their legitimate concerns.

Apart from the accusations, the following are just some of the more serious problems in The Harbinger that Dr. Reagan has either missed or disagrees that they are anything more than matters that “amount to nothing.” These include the fact that Jonathan Cahn:

  1. Takes Isaiah 9:10 completely out of context, never discussing any of the preceding or following verses.
  2. Applies Isaiah 9:10 to America suggesting that the verse contains a mystery that has determined a whole series of events in America in detail, beginning with the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01.
  3. Builds a significant part of his story on the theoretical “Isaiah 9:10 Effect”—a concept which is never found in Scripture, but which rather has characteristics more of an occultic incantation in that once the words have been spoken, it sets in motion and determines a cascade of subsequent events.
  4. Misapplied 2 Chronicles 7:14 to the United States as a general principle and promise, although it is exclusively to Israel.
  5. Argued that God has imposed a Sh’mitah (Israel’s Sabbath year) judgment on the United States, even though it was strictly a part of the Law and exclusive to Israel.
  6. Never mentioned that national Israel still has a future because of God’s unconditional promises.
  7. Never mentions the church as the Body of Christ, which is at the heart of God’s program in this era.
  8. Identifies what he contends are nine harbingers in Isaiah 9:10, several of which are completely made up (i.e., “the breach,” “the terrorist,” “the tower”) and others which identify as parallels things that have no historical or other connection whatsoever (i.e., “sycamores,” “cedars,” “hewn stone,” “the vow”).
  9. Develops his story based on the idea that America has some sort of special, covenant-like relationship with God as a nation.
  10. Creates a character who is supposedly like a biblical prophet, but who is nothing at all like the biblical prophets (appears to teleport, quotes commentaries to support unbiblical theories and interpetations, provides clues to a massive “scavenger hunt” to reveal mysteries, etc.).
  11. Presents a very generic call to repentance, but fails to clearly explain the gospel, saying nothing about faith or belief, nothing about Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, or the resurrection.
  12. Gives the impression that he is a prophet to America due to very precise parallels between the main character and himself, while consistently accepting the title of “prophet” when introduced in many interviews.

Are these significant issues really characteristic of someone who is a genuine prophet of God or even a prophetic voice?

If he has not done so, it would seem appropriate for Dr. Reagan to actually take the time to carefully read The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? as well as other thoughtful reviews critical of The Harbinger. And in the process perhaps he will reconsider his view of The Harbinger and his identification of Jonathan Cahn as an “End Time Prophet to America.”

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/05/05/response-to-defense-of-prophetic-voice-by-david-reagan/feed/ 61
Pope Francis: History’s Final Pope? http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/03/22/pope-final-2/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/03/22/pope-final-2/#comments Fri, 22 Mar 2013 17:32:35 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/blog/?p=1382 Note: portions of this article have been edited to more accurately reflect portions of Petrus Romanus in response to comments by one of the authors, Cris Putnam concerning the original version of the article.

The_Final_Pope_is_Here_Petrus_Romanus__125087“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:3–5)

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” (2 Peter 2:1–2)

_________________
On March 13, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio Of Buenos Aires was elected as the newest pope of the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on February 23. Jorge Bergoglio is the first Latin American pope, the first Jesuit pope, and the first pope to take the name “Francis.” However, will Pope Francis be history’s last pope?

That this pope likely will be the last one is the message of Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here, a 2012 book by Thomas Horn and Cris Putnam. Because Petrus Romanus suggests that the pope after Benedict XVI will be history’s final pope, the book has received a lot of attention over the past year, and especially since Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. Now the book has received yet another significant boost with the selection of Cardinal Bergoglio.

Petrus Romanus focuses on an obscure prophecy by a 12th century Catholic bishop, St. Malachy (1094-1148), concerning a list of the last 112 popes who would reign from his day until the end of the present age. The Catholic Answers website provides the following information concerning Malachy’s prophecy:

St. Malachy was an Irish bishop who lived in the 12th century. By far the more famous of his prophecies concerns the sequence of popes.

 

The prophecy consist [sic] of 112 short Latin descriptions of future popes; the prophecies were discovered in 1590 and attributed to Malachy. Each description indicates one identifying trait for each future pope, beginning with Celestine II, who was elected in 1130. In some instances, the descriptions hit home in an uncanny way; they have led to centuries of speculation that the prophecy might be a real one.

 

For instance, the description of the future John XXII (1316-1334) is “de sutore osseo“–“from the bony shoemaker.” This pope was the son of a shoemaker, and his family name was “Ossa,” which means bone. In another example, “lilium et rosa” was the phrase used to describe the pope who would be Urban VIII (1623-1644), whose family coat-of-arms was covered with “lilies and roses.”1

In Petrus Romanus Horn & Putnam further explain the prophecy as it relates to the pope who will follow Benedict XVI, and thus be the 112th pope:

As the legend goes, Malachy experienced what is today considered a famous vision commonly called “The Prophecy of the Popes.” The prophecy is a list of Latin verses predicting each of the Roman Catholic popes from Pope Celestine II to the final pope, “Peter the Roman,” whose reign would end in the destruction of Rome. According to this ancient prophecy, the very next pope (following Benedict XVI) will be the final pontiff, Petrus Romanus or Peter the Roman. The final segment of the prophecy reads:

 

In persecutione extrema S. R. E. sedebit Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis civitas septicollis deruetur et judex tremendus judicabit populum. Finis.

 

Which is rendered:  In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will nourish the sheep in many tribulations; when they are finished, the City of Seven Hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End. 2

Horn & Putnam have captured the imaginations of many Christians who, through their work, are being seduced by the possibility of insight into future events through the prophecies of a 12th century Catholic monk. And just as when Jonathan Cahn caught the attention of WND (formerly World Net Daily) and its founder and CEO Joseph Farah with The Harbinger, Farah’s team is once again putting a lot of effort into getting another very troubling story involving prophecy out to its large subscriber base. The following is from a WND Exclusive on March 14:

An author who predicted Pope Benedict XVI would be the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign believes the election today of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the 266th Roman Catholic pontiff lines up with a medieval prophecy that would make him the “final pope” before the End Times.

 

Tom Horn, co-author with Cris Putman of the book “Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope is Here,” told WND today Bergoglio’s selection was a “fantastic fulfillment of prophecy.”

 

His book examines St. Malachy’s “Prophecy of the Popes,” said to be based on a prophetic vision of the 112 popes following Pope Celestine II, who died in 1144.

 

Malachy’s prophecies, first published in 1595, culminate with the “final pope,” “Petrus Romanus,” or “Peter the Roman,” whose reign ends with the destruction of Rome and the judgment of Christ.

 

Horn has said a pope of Italian descent would fulfill the prophecy, noting Bergoglio is the son of Italian parents and a Jesuit. 3

On February 11, an article by Jerome Corsi on the WND website is obviously an effort to get this story out and to establish Tom Horn’s credibility and authority on this matter:

Although a Roman Catholic pope had not stepped down in nearly 600 years, the startling resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was predicted by the co-authors of a book published last spring about a medieval prophecy that the next pontiff will be the last.

 

In “Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope is Here,” co-authors Tom Horn and Cris Putnam examine St. Malachy’s “Prophecy of the Popes,” said to be based on his prophetic vision of the next 112 popes, beginning with Pope Celestine II, who died in 1144. Malachy presented a description of each pope, culminating with the “final pope,” “Peter the Roman,” whose reign would end with the destruction of Rome and judgment.

 

Horn explained to WND in an interview today that his conclusion [that] Benedict would resign rather than die in the papacy was based not only on St. Malachy but also on a host of historical and current information. “We took ‘The Prophecy of the Popes,’ we took what was happening in Italian media, and we determined, based on a great deal of information, that Pope Benedict would likely step down, citing health reasons, in 2012 or 2013,” he said. 4

All of this is so problematic on so many levels, it would take several articles to deal with it adequately, so for the sake of relative brevity I’ll just discuss a few of the major issues.

NOTE:  This article is not intended to be anything close to full-fledged review of Petrus Romanus. Horn and Putnam have done an enormous amount of very good research and accumulated compelling evidence concerning the convergence of many historical elements in setting the stage for history’s final drama leading to the return of Christ. They accurately deal with significant errors within the Roman Catholic church, especially as they undergird the power of the papacy. They also lay out a strong argument for how powerful pagan influences have shaped much of world history, including that of the United States. However, the problem is that this good work is entangled with the parts of the book that are quite questionable. In addition, a large portion of the beginning of the book, as well as the end of the book, specifically focuses on the question of the final pope as it relates to Malachy’s prophecy of the popes and what they believe is corroborating evidence. This article only focuses on concerns related to the weight the book gives to the idea that extra-biblical prophecy is being fulfilled in the election of the current pope as being history’s final one, Peter the Roman—who, according to the subtitle of the book, “is here.”

 

The source of the “prophecy”

It is difficult to imagine why Horn and Putnam, who are considered evangelicals, would lend so much credibility to Malachy’s prophecy. Their work does not simply explore the question of whether Malachy may have accurately predicted all future popes. Rather the point of Petrus Romanus is to demonstrate that his prophecy is accurate, meaning they obviously think it is a genuine prophecy to be accepted as true. So, then the question is, Was Malachy actually a prophet of God—or was he at least inspired by God to give this list of popes to the world?

First of all, it is important to understand just who Malachy was. The following are excerpts from the Catholic Encyclopedia (available online at NewAdvent.org):

St. Malachy, whose family name was O’Morgair, was born in Armagh in 1094. St. Bernard describes him as of noble birth.

 

He was baptized Maelmhaedhoc (a name which has been Latinized as Malachy) and was trained under Imhar O’Hagan, subsequently Abbot of Armagh. After a long course of studies he was ordained priest by St. Cellach (Celsus) in 1119. . . He was then chosen Abbot of Bangor, in 1123. A year later, he was consecrated Bishop of Connor, and, in 1132, he was promoted to the primacy of Armagh.

 

In 1127 he paid a second visit to Lismore and acted for a time as confessor to Cormac MacCarthy, Prince of Desmond. . . . On the death of St. Celsus (who was buried at Lismore in 1129), St. Malachy was appointed Archbishop of Armagh, 1132, which dignity he accepted with great reluctance.

 

During three years at Armagh, as St. Bernard writes, St. Malachy restored the discipline of the Church, grown lax during the intruded rule of a series of lay-abbots, and had the Roman Liturgy adopted.

 

Early in 1139 he journeyed to Rome, via Scotland, England, and France, visiting St. Bernard at Clairvaux. He petitioned Pope Innocent for palliums for the Sees of Armagh and Cashel, and was appointed legate for Ireland. On his return visit to Clairvaux he obtained five monks for a foundation in Ireland, under Christian, an Irishman, as superior: thus arose the great Abbey of Mellifont in 1142. St. Malachy set out on a second journey to Rome in 1148, but on arriving at Clairvaux he fell sick, and died in the arms of St. Bernard, on 2 November.

 

Numerous miracles are recorded of him, and he was also endowed with the gift of prophecy. St. Malachy was canonized by Pope Clement (III), on 6 July, 1199, and his feast is celebrated on 3 November, in order not to clash with the Feast of All Souls. 5

The point of including all of this rather detailed biographical information is to show that Malachy was a thoroughly Roman Catholic bishop of the medieval period. This means that the heretical theology and pagan practices that shaped the Church of Rome in the centuries leading up to and actually precipitated the Reformation were undoubtedly an integral part of Malachy’s life. That being the case, should Malachy really be regarded as a prophet of God by evangelicals (when this is even questioned by some Catholic theologians)? Furthermore, if he was not a prophet of God yet had mystical experiences and claimed to have visions of the future, does that not rather make him a false prophet by definition? Again, how can two evangelical authors appeal to such a person for support—and why would evangelicals among their readership be willing to accept their conclusions concerning Malachy?

In Petrus Romanus Horn and Putnam seem to uncritically accept that God was also actively working in and through one of Malachy’s mentors, specifically as a performer of at least two miracles (which, it should be noted, is precisely the number of confirmed miracles required for someone to be considered for canonization as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church):

Eventually Malachy headed to Lismore to revise and sharpen his knowledge of the canon under the teaching and advice of well-known scholar Bishop Malchus. (St. Bernard writes that Bishop Malchus was “an old man, full of days and virtues, and the wisdom of God was in him.”[5] He goes on to further explain that the bishop was later acknowledged as performing two miracles, one wherein he healed a young boy of a mental disorder who later became his porter, and another wherein “when the saint put his fingers into his ears on either side he perceived that two things like little pigs came out of them.”[6] These distinctions of Bishop Malchus’ reputation are of importance to St. Bernard, “that it may be known to all what sort of preceptor Malachy had in the knowledge of holy things.”[7] Needless to say, Malachy worked and studied with associates whose names circulated within the Church as significant.) 6

Such acceptance of notoriously inaccurate and problematic medieval accounts of Roman Catholic miracle workers, mystics and prophets only serves to underscore concerns that biblical discernment is fast disappearing even among some more theologically conservative Christians. “Two things like little pigs came out?” Is it reasonable to believe that these bishops of the medieval Roman Catholic Church (who held to such unbiblical doctrines and practices as they did) were genuinely serving the God of the Bible and being used by Him in this way? And is it reasonable to believe that the Lord would have been involved with these things when they would have only served to validate the heresies these men believed, practiced and taught?

Furthermore, the authors don’t even acknowledge the possibility that these may be entirely false reports—or worse. If these reports are actually true, it must also be considered that there may have been supernatural forces at work that were not of God. Undoubtedly many false prophets are simply deceivers. However, others may be acting under the demonic influence of those beings who have the desire and ability to influence the outcome of events such that these prophets are able to accurately “predict” the future. Of course, because only God in His omniscience can know and reveal the future, false prophets (even those under demonic influence) are very susceptible to errors in their predictions—which is obviously one reason they can actually be caught and identified as false prophets.

Unfortunately, Horn’s and Putnam’s failure to at least consider the possibility of them being false prophets highlights a very real problem that plagues an increasingly large segment of Christianity. It seems to be broadly assumed and often taken for granted that if something inexplicable and apparently supernatural takes place in almost any sort of Christian religious setting, then it must be from God.

However, such thinking fails to recognize the reality of false signs and wonders with the potential to deceive even the elect, as Jesus warned in Matthew 24:

“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”(Matt. 24:24)

Likewise, the Apostle John also warned his readers:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1

Although unbelievers are easily deceived by false teachers and prophets in the world at large, this is not as much of a problem for believers who can fairly readily recognize the errors in that realm. The greater danger for believers is found in the Apostle Peter’s words when he clearly warned that deception would arise from within the church:

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” (2 Peter 2:1–2)

In light of these warnings, to rely on Malachy as a legitimate source of prophecy requires so many questionable and misguided presuppositions that any conclusions that they are from God can never be more than outright speculation. Yet, there is no doubt, and it requires no speculation to recognize that Malachy was most certainly a false prophet during a time when false prophets flourished within Christendom. Unfortunately, the situation today is no better—and arguably it has become worse.

 

The evidence for the “prophecy”

Another significant problem with Malachy’s prophecies is that there are serious doubts about the authenticity of the documents in which they appear. There is important and compelling evidence (which is widely accepted) that strongly points to the fact that these documents were actually forgeries created in the 16th century.

The Catholic Answers website, which states that its purpose is “to defend and explain the faith,” provides the following as part of an answer to a question from a reader about the possibility that Malachy’s prophecy may indicate that we are living in the end times:

Malachy’s prophecy has been cast into doubt by the fact that the descriptions become vague from the 16th century on–about the time the prophecy was “discovered” in the Roman Archives. But there have been a few good matches in modern times. The phrase “pastor et nauta,” meaning “shepherd and sailor,” was attributed to John XXIII. This pope hailed from Venice, historically a city of sailors, and on the day he took office he indicated the goal of his pontificate was to be “a good shepherd.”

 

There have been many more misses, though. Describing the popes to follow John XXIII are the phrases “flower of flowers” (Paul VI), “from a half-moon” (John Paul I), and “from the toil of the sun” (John Paul II), none of which is an obvious connection. After our current pope there are only two left in Malachy’s prophecy, “the glory of the olive” and “Peter the Roman.” The latter will supposedly lead the Church through many tribulations, concluding with the last judgment.

 

Is “Malachy’s” prophecy legitimate? Probably not. The consensus among modern scholars is that it is a 16th-century forgery created for partisan political reasons. 1

In Petrus Romanus Horn and Putnam discuss the forgery issue in great detail and present convincing evidence that the original document had likely been altered:

The bad news is that part of the prophecy may be a forgery which was fabricated in the late sixteenth century. We say forgery meaning that over half of the prophecies, the first seventy or so predictions, could be vaticinia ex eventu (prophecy from the event). It seems likely that someone irrevocably altered the original medieval document and the original is either hidden away or lost to history. According to Vatican insiders, there is ample evidence that the original twelfth-century manuscript was discovered in 1556 by a Vatican librarian. Even so, the first known publication of the “Malachy Prophecy of the Popes” was in Arnold de Wion’s massive eighteen-hundred-page volume entitled Lignum Vitae (Tree of Life), which was published in 1595.That text will be presented and examined below. Even though we have good reason to believe a much older document is still visible, we must accept that the earliest instance of the prophecy surfaced nearly four hundred years after its alleged origin in 1139. Despite the legend which pleads it was locked away in a musty Vatican vault those four hundred years, the skeptics still have valid points. 8

The forgery question has to do with only about the first half of the list. However, according to Horn and Putnam, it is the second half of the list which deals with the next 400 years of popes after the forged documents that is significant. They argue that because of what they suggest are uncanny fulfillments, these prophecies, whether they come from Malachy or Nostradamus or someone else, they are still genuine prophecies from a true prophet. They continue the preceding section in the book:

Even so, it very well could be the work of Saint Malachy coarsely corrupted by a forger. Of course, this would fall neatly in line with the Roman Catholic practice demonstrated by the Donation of Constantine and Pseudo–Isidorian Decretals. Alternatively, some have suggested it was partially the work of Nostradamus cleverly disguised to protect his identity. While the identity of the actual prophet remains unclear, the author was a prophet whether he knew or not.

 

The exciting news is that the Prophecy of the Popes, although tainted, is still a genuine prophecy. Despite the superficial insincerity detectable in the first section of “prophecies,” the post publication predictions show astonishing fulfillments. We have no critical analysis to explain away the sometimes jaw-dropping, post-1595 fulfillments. Indeed, we are currently at 111 out of 112 and believers argue they seem to have increased in precision over time. 9

How is this “exciting news,” and how is it “still a genuine prophecy?” If there really are so many “sometimes jaw-dropping” fulfillments, why would there be so much skepticism among scholars, even within the Roman Catholic Church (given that the Church has historically accepted such dreams, visions and prophecies)?

An alternate theory, which the authors seem to accept as possible, is that even if there is no genuine original first half, the second half was written by Nostradamus or someone else who was a genuine prophet. It is difficult to comprehend the logic at work as Horn and Putnam go on to explain that their conclusions depend heavily on the scholarship of John Hogue in his book The Last Pope:

In recent history, the most popular and exhaustive handling of the Prophecy of the Popes is arguably the book, The Last Pope, by author and self-proclaimed “prophet” John Hogue. Hogue is a regular guest on the Coast to Coast radio show with a pretty impressive bio, and we have availed ourselves of his scholarship. While his own predictions do not typically fare so well, he is a well-respected figure in Nostradamus studies. 10

So, although the authors rely on Hogue for support, he is, by their own admission, a false prophet who is highly regarded as an “expert” on another false prophet, Nostradamus. (And the fact that Hogue is a regular guest on Coast to Coast is not exactly a positive since that radio program showcases some of the most outlandish personalities and topics of any program in the nation.) Furthermore, the “Nostradamus” section of Hogue’s website makes it clear that he, too, fully believes the prophecies of Nostradamus are genuine, just as much as Malachy’s are.

It would seem that Horn and Putnam could hardly have found a more unreliable and biased source of information pertaining to this particular issue. However, it appears that the authors view prophets and prophecy the same way Hogue does, namely that genuine prophets aren’t necessarily 100% accurate.

Hogue follows the conventional theory dividing the prophecy at Wion’s 1595 publication: “He left us a list of 35 mottos, numbered 77 through 111 that, unlike the previous 76, are not 100 percent accurate; however, the average of success makes their author one of the most astounding prophets in history.”11

The biblical view would not be that the prophecies’ author was one of the most astounding prophets in history, but rather that he was a false prophet with an astounding accuracy rate. This is consistent with the prevailing view in the Charismatic movement that prophets of the present age do not need to be 100% accurate to be genuine prophets of God.

There are two significant problems with this view because it contradicts both the Old Testament and New Testament standards for prophecies and prophets. The first problem is that the OT standard is 100% accuracy and failure to be completely accurate is an identifying characteristic of a false prophet. The second problem is that it essentially eliminates “false prophet” as an objective category since someone could have multiple false prophecies and still be considered a genuine prophet of God. Yet, Peter makes it clear that false prophets will be a problem faced by the church in this age, which means they must be identified—but how?

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” (2 Peter 2:1–2)

Horn and Putnam apparently believe that the entire original Prophecy of the Popes did exist, and although tainted (by forged alterations), is still a genuine prophecy. They appeal to book written by a Jesuit mystic:

Written by René Thibaut (1883–1952), a Belgian Jesuit, the book is a meticulous reading of the prophecy which comes to completely different conclusions than his skeptical predecessors. Adopting the methodology of a mystic as well as a scholar, he makes a compelling case that the Prophecy of the Popes is a real supernatural prophecy. 12

Therefore, even though the first half of the list has been altered, the entire original document, if written by the same person, may have also been a record of genuine prophecies because of what they maintain are fulfillments of the prophecies in the second half. The statement about Thibaut being a mystic is also troubling. Horn and Putnam apparently view this favorably and see it as a helpful factor in his arriving at correct conclusions.

As an example of the genuine part of the prophecy, they present an argument used by Thibaut that a prophecy concerning Pius VI, the 96th pope “transparently” contains an anagram of his name:

While he is reluctant to authenticate the legend, he refers to the author as Pseudo-Malachy, believing him to be Irish. He bases this on the stylistic use of numbers and word plays which form many acrostics and anagrams.[40] Commenting on the style, he observes, “Note that this way of dividing the words to sort various meanings is a method dear to the ancient Irish.”[41] A simple example of an anagram is seen in the Latin text “Peregrinus apostolicus”[42] which was the prophecy for the ninety-sixth pope on the list, Pius VI. The anagram not only reveals the papal name, it does it twice: PeregIinUS aPostolIcUS. That’s right! The name “Pius” is rather transparently embedded in the original Latin text twice! 13

At points it becomes rather difficult to take the authors seriously as they appear to be willing to grasp at virtually anything for support no matter how far-fetched it seems. In this case, they rely on Thibeau’s cryptographic analysis of the supposed prophetic text. Much could be said about just this issue when discussing just the matter of an encryption key alone.

However, as troubling as it is that Horn and Putnam appeal to Hogue for support, it is quite incredible that Christian authors would also cite a significant number of pagan apocalyptic prophecies as further evidence that Malachy’s prophecy is almost certainly true:

The Mayan calendar ends in 2012 with the return of their flying dragon god Kulkulkan.

The Aztec calendar ends in 2012 and their flying dragon god Quetzalcoatl returns.

The Cherokee Indian calendar ends in the year 2012 and their flying rattlesnake god returns. The “Cherokee Rattlesnake Prophecies,” also known as the “Chickamaugan Prophecy” or the “Cherokee Star Constellation Prophecies,” are part of a series of apocalyptic prophecies made by members of the Cherokee tribe during 1811–1812. Like the Maya, the Cherokee calendar ends mysteriously in the year 2012 when astronomical phenomena related to Jupiter, Venus, Orion, and Pleiades cause the “powers” of the star systems to “awaken.”

According to ancient Mayan inscriptions, in 2012, the Mayan underworld god Bolon Yokte Ku also returns.

The Hindu Kali Yuga calendar ends in the year 2012 at the conclusion of the age of “the male demon.” 14

After this series of pagan prophecies, the authors then cite Jonathan Edwards:

Over two hundred sixty years ago, the leader of the first Great Awakening in America, Jonathan Edwards, tied the arrival of the Antichrist and Great Tribulation period to the timeframe 2012. 15

Then they refer to William J. Reid, a 19th century Presbyterian minister:

One hundred thirty years after that, in 1878, Reverend William J. Reid did the same, writing in his “Lectures on the Revelation” concerning the papal system: “…we are prepared to answer the question, When will the Papal system come to an end? [It] will be destroyed in the year 2012.” 16

The obvious question this raises is, How is this minister’s prophecy any different from the utterly failed prophecies of Harold Camping concerning the Rapture taking place in 2012? Or how does it differ from Edward Whisnant’s predictions, which are set forth in his book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988?

But there is more. For additional support, Horn and Putnam also delve into the mystical writings of the Zohar, the most important text of Jewish Kabbalah:

In addition to interpreting Scripture, the “Vaera” section (volume 3, section 34) includes “The signs heralding Mashiach,” or “The coming of the Messiah.” The fascinating date for “his” appearance is set in the Zohar in late 2012! Given the rejection of Jesus by orthodox Jews as Messiah, Christians understand this “coming” would herald the unveiling of Antichrist in 2012.

J. R. Church of Prophecy in the News called our office a couple years back and led us through verses 476–483 of this part of the Zohar to point out what nobody in the 2012 research community had written before—that the time of Jacob’s trouble (the Great Tribulation, which some Catholic scholars say begins with the election of Petrus Romanus) will commence according to this ancient text in the year 2012 when the “kings of the earth” gather in Rome, possibly during a papal conclave, and are killed by fiery stones or missiles from the sky. 17

With all of the above prophecies, Horn and Putnam make exactly the same mistake made by Jonathan Cahn in a message when he said of parts of the text of the Zohar, “God just got in there.” 18 Perhaps the authors would also defend their conclusions on the same grounds as Jonathan Cahn, as he has countered that the Zohar is simply a “hostile witness.” However, this defense only works if the rabbis weren’t inspired by God. If God was directly involved, as Cahn says, this removes the significance of it being a “hostile witness.” In fact, the authors do cite Balaam’s prophecy concerning the Messiah, referring to it as a “hostile witness.” (This is discussed more in a note after the next paragraph.)

Even though angelic beings (elect or evil) might be able to make good guesses about the future, they are not omniscient and therefore cannot see or otherwise know the future with certainty. Another possibility is that demons manipulate events so as to give the impression of fulfilled prophecy. (Horn and Putnam acknowledge both of these near the beginning of chapter 2.) Therefore, prophecies cannot be considered reliable unless it is presumed that God is involved in some way—that somehow “God just got in there” and in some way inspired all those pagans to accurately prophesy. If this were not true they would be relying on false prophets, who are either making predictions on their own or are being influenced by demonic forces.The problem is that they have no objective way to determine which of the various possibilities is actually occurring, yet in the final analysis they choose in favor of God’s inspiration and genuine prophecies through multiple pagans and false prophets.

NOTE: Cris Putnam responded to the first version of this article, citing Balaam’s prophecy which he says concerns the star that guided the magi at Jesus’ birth to justify seeking support from the Zohar, pagan prophecies, Nostradamus, etc. (For what it’s worth, the star is probably Christ himself, but that doesn’t matter here.) However, there are at least a couple of problems with this defense. First, false prophets not only get things wrong, they also get things right by guessing or by demonic influence, which is how they can be deceptive. Second, Balaam’s attitude had changed by the time he gave the “star” prophecy and he knew that he was speaking exactly what the Lord had verbally given him to say. He wasn’t just inspired in some subjective, mystical way. And third, we only know that the Lord gave Balaam the words to say because the Holy Spirit has revealed this in Scripture. However, Horn and Putnam have no way of knowing whether God actually inspired any of the prophecies they use for support. They are guessing as much as a false prophet does when he tries to foretell the future. And they can only hope they are right just as the false prophet. (This is not to say Horn and Putnam are false prophets, but that their methodology is similar.)

And if all this were not enough to recognize the insurmountable problems with Petrus Romanus, the authors actually go so far as to appeal to “prophecies” made by a computer program known as the “Web Bot Project”:

Also of interest is the Web Bot Project, which was developed in the late 1990s for tracking and making stock market predictions. This technology crawls the Internet, much like a search engine does, searching for keywords and following “chatter” in order to tap into “the collective unconscious” of the global community for tipping points regarding past, current, and future buying patterns. In 2001, operators began noticing what looked like more than coincidences, and that the “bot” was taking on a mind of its own, accurately predicting more than just stock market predictions, including June of 2001 when the program predicted that a life-altering event would be felt worldwide and would take place within sixty to ninety days. On September 11, 2001, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center fell. The Web Bot also predicted the 2001 anthrax attack on Washington DC; the earthquake that produced the December 26, 2004, tsunami; Hurricane Katrina; and more. The Web Bot has now foretold global devastation for late December 2012. 19

Did God “just get in there,” too? 20. Beyond the absurdity of appealing to a computer program because of its supposed accurate “prophetic” abilities, Horn and Putnam seem to miss the obvious explanation for the program’s prediction of apocalyptic events in December 2012. The results provided by the Web Bot Project depend entirely upon tracking references on the internet to the end of the world. The end of the Mayan calender cycle on December 21, 2012, which was interpreted by many as marking doomsday, was discussed by countless writers on countless websites and media outlets around the world. How can it be actually suggested that this is a prediction by a computer program that was “taking on a mind of its own?” Any search engine would have produced the same results, as it was only monitoring things that had already happened. The fact that the Web Bot Project even needs to be discussed at all is probably sufficient commentary on the whole issue by itself.

The authors also spend a lot of time discussing the historicist view of the book Revelation, which holds that the last book of the Bible portrays how history will play out. This is in contrast to the futurist view which sees the entire fulfillment of Revelation in the future, after the rapture of the church. Although they argue for a “hybrid view” with elements of both the historicist and futurist views, they lend a lot of weight to the work of historicists, particularly a number of date calculations that point to 2012 as the endpoint and year of the culmination of these events. While not drawing firm conclusions based solely on these, they do believe all of these things seem to provide significant support for their overall thesis.

 

The fulfillment of the “prophecy”?

Unfortunately for Horn and Putnam, we are now well into 2013 and none of the supporting pagan prophecies were fulfilled in 2012. And yet, in spite of the overwhelming problem this presents, Horn remains unfazed as is clear from the quote in the WND story cited earlier where it is reported that he “believes the election today of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the 266th Roman Catholic pontiff lines up with a medieval prophecy that would make him the ‘final pope’ before the End Times.” 21

Although Horn now believes that Cardinal Bergoglio likely became the fulfillment of Malachy’s prophecy on March 14, when Petrus Romanus was released almost a year ago, he and his co-author spent a great deal of time trying to show how several other cardinals could fulfill the prophecy and become Peter the Roman. In fact, they provide a list of their top ten candidates based on their extensive research.

Besides Francis Arinze, Tarcisio Bertone, Peter Turkson, and Angelo Scola, we would round out our top ten candidates for the Final Pope in descending order with Cardinals Gianfranco Ravasi, Leonardo Sandri, Ennio Antonelli, Jean-Louis Tauran, Christoph Schönborn, and Marc Quellet. 22

How is it that the authors can have such a high degree of confidence in their research and conclusions concerning everything else, when Bergoglio was not even on their radar as a possible candidate? Perhaps this is connected to a pattern particularly characteristic of Horn’s approach (both in this and other works, which I may deal with in a future article). The pattern that seems to emerge is that no matter what actually happens it is inevitably interpreted as either a confirmation of one of his theories or the fulfillment of a prophecy, including those of mystical and pagan origin. The matter of Bergoglio being elected as the pope is just one clear example of this tendency. In spite of the fact that they apparently had not even considered Bergoglio as even being in the running, Horn now confidently declares Bergoglio’s election to the papacy to be a “fantastic fulfillment of prophecy.”

Horn has explained that Pope Francis fulfills the specific prophecy of being “Peter the Roman” even though he didn’t take the name Peter and he is not from Italy (i.e., Rome)—and yet Horn has explanations for how he fulfills this part of the prophecy, as well. Part of his explanation includes the fact that Bergoglio’s parents were Italian immigrants to Argentina. However, Bergoglio was born in Argentina and is an Argentine citizen. But, even if Horn is given the benefit of the doubt on this point, another major point is at best very contrived and less than convincing—and at worst it is misleading and arguably dishonest:

He [Horn] also sees significance in Bergoglio naming himself after Francis of Assisi, an Italian, or Roman, priest whose original name was Francesco di Pietro (Peter) di Bernardone, “literally, Peter the Roman.” 23

So, what this means is that not only is Pope Francis not “Peter, the Roman,” neither was Francis of Assisi, as is claimed in the cited article. Rather, Francis of Assisi’s name means “the son of Pietro, the son of Bernardone.”

However, this is not the only problem in Horn’s argument concerning prophetic fulfillment and the name Benedict XVI’s successor would take for himself. One person with great influence on the author’s theories is Ronald Conte, Jr., who believed that Francis Arinze would be the next pope (and who also happened to be black). Conte is a Roman Catholic layman who identifies himself as a theologian and to whom Horn and Putnam refer as a mystic in Petrus Romanus. 

On this order, the man who in 2002 correctly predicted that the pope succeeding John Paul II would be named Benedict XVI, Ronald L. Conte Jr., believes the next pope will be Cardinal Francis Arinze and that he will take the name Pius XIII. This name (Pius) is associated historically with popes who emphasized authoritative doctrine during their pontificates. Cardinal Arinze fits this description, and Conte interprets this qualification as best fulfilling “Peter the Roman” as a pope who “will reaffirm the authority of the Roman Pontiff over the Church; 24

Clearly, his argument is no more convincing than Horn’s. Furthermore, while they mention a supposedly accurate prophecy by Conte, thereby giving credence to Conte’s claim (and apparently their belief) that he is a genuine prophet, he made a number of predictions concerning 2011 that demonstrate that he is nothing more than a false prophet of the highest order. The following are just some of those predictions:

Pope Benedict XVI suggests building three places in Jerusalem, a Temple, a Church, and a Mosque, so that the three religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, can worship in peace in the City of Peace. (But it does not happen soon; instead there is war.)
The Jews decide to build the Third Temple of Jerusalem

 

There is war, insurrection, and coups among the Arab/Muslim nations of the Middle East and northern Africa. Extremist leaders fight against more moderate leaders, and the extremists win. If they cannot win by coups and insurrections, then one Arab nation attacks another in outright war.

 

The war and the insurrections and coups end within the same year that they began. Then the leader of Iran and the leader of Iraq will have much power and influence over the other Arab/Muslim nations, all of which will be led by extremists.

 

The holy Pope Benedict XVI dies.

 

The holy Pope called ‘Peter the Roman’ by St. Malachy is elected. I think that he will be Cardinal Arinze and that he will take the name Pope Pius XIII.

 

New York City will be struck by a nuclear bomb (not a missile; not a dirty bomb) in 2011 (sometime after the Miracle, in the same calendar year). You will make them like an oven of fire, in the time of your presence. The Lord will stir them up with his wrath, and fire will devour them.

 

World War 3 begins as a result of the nuclear attack on New York City. World War 3 is the first horseman of the apocalypse and the first of the Seven Seals.

 

World War 3 is a war in which the Arab/Muslim nations of the Middle East and northern Africa invade and conquer all of Europe, parts of Eastern Europe, parts of Scandinavia, and the northern part of Africa above the equator.

 

During the Reign of Pope Pius XIII (2011 to 2013) he will emphasize the authority of the Roman Pontiff.

 

In the year 2012, during World War 3, he will flee the Vatican at night, he will flee to a location to hide, but then he will be captured by the Arab forces, he will be taken to Syria, he will put on trial and be given an unjust verdict and sentence, he will watch as they kill members of the clergy in front of him. Then they will blind him by putting out his eyes. They will bind him and send him to prison in Iraq. Soon he will die in that prison in Iraq; no one will be able to rescue him.

 

For a time, the Popes after him will not reign from Rome, until the year 2040, when the papacy returns to Rome. He is NOT the last Pope ever; there will be many more Popes and many centuries before Christ Returns.

It is difficult to fathom the sort of ethic and methodology that would allow Horn and Putnam to use part of Conte’s work as support for their theories while remaining completely silent about the vast majority of his predictions, which have turned out to be patently false and / or completely contradicted other portions of their theories.

Horn also believes that another way in which Bergoglio is a “fantastic fulfillment of prophecy” is the fact that the new pope is a Jesuit, and thus a “black pope.” What is truly astonishing about this “fulfillment” is that the “black pope” issue has nothing to do with Malachy’s prophecy, but rather involves a “prophecy” from none other than Nostradamus:

In Quatrain 6.25 Nostradamus wrote:

Through Mars adverse [a time of war] will be the monarchy

Of the great fisherman [the pope] in trouble ruinous

A young black red [a young black Cardinal] will seize the hierarchy

The predators acting on a foggy day 25

Apart from the serious problem of Horn directly relying upon a false prophet for support, his conclusion that Pope Francis fulfills the prophecy by being a “black pope” seems to be a real stretch. It is true  that the Superior General of the Jesuit order is sometimes popularly (or pejoratively) referred to as the “black pope” because of the fact that the he wears a black cassock and has worldwide authority, usually for life, over the order. However, there is nothing official about this title and it is is not one used by the Jesuits themselves. Beyond that, it is a completely different type of fulfillment than the one he and Putnam suggested in Petrus Romanus. After giving their list of potential papal candidates, they write:

With these in mind, a finishing thought each of these papal contenders may want to consider is how many Catholics believe the sixteenth-century seer Nostradamus was actually the author of “The Prophecy of the Popes.” If that is so, a point made by the National Catholic Reporter earlier in this chapter concerning the popular West African Cardinal Peter Turkson being “young” in terms of electability at age sixty-three may have a way of coming back around. The “dark horse” candidate Turkson—and his ideas for a one-world financial and political authority housed in the United Nations—could become a remarkable and unexpected fulfillment of both the Prophecy of the Popes and Nostradamus’s prediction of an end-times “young black pope” who seizes control of the Roman Hierarchy with the assistance of conspirators during times of darkness and war. 26

So, rather than even considering that “black” might refer to a Jesuit, they were focused on two Cardinals who are racially black. Then the authors demonstrate that they are willing to grasp at anything to prove their points as they go on to suggest that Barack Obama’s election as the first black American president could actually pave the way for a black pope.

And this is where things start getting interesting, as some soothsayers were already predicting that the author of the document, Peter Turkson of Ghana (Peter the Roman?) could be the next pope, as he is considered papabile by the College of Cardinals. Following the election of America’s first black president in Obama, analysts around the world began speculating that perhaps Rome would follow suit and roll out the red carpet for a black pope, the first in fifteen hundred years, in somebody like Turkson. 27

Is it even remotely possible that the College of Cardinals (which is an international group of men who answer to no one except the pope) would be influenced in the least by the race of the President of the United States? It is just this sort of tortured logic that is actually the glue that holds everything in Petrus Romanus together and that even now continues to allow Horn to see fulfillment of the prophecies of Malachy and Nostradamus in the newly elected pope.

And finally, although Horn and Putnam do state that they are not setting dates and argue that they are merely reporting what others have written concerning 2012, in Petrus Romanus they are very focused on 2012 as the likely year of fulfillment of Malachy’s prophecy. This can be seen in the pagan prophecies they cite, all of which point to 2012. They also see significance in the fact that 2012 was predicted by Thibaut, as well.

As we write, it is two days before Christmas, 2011. At the risk of sounding like a “bird of ill omen,” 2012 is here folks! Over sixty years ago, Thibaut derived the ominous date of 2012 by calculating the average length of papal reign up until the time he wrote his book circa 1950 to be eleven years. We have verified his math and extrapolated it to our current time. Astonishingly, the average of eleven has held true to three decimal places, 1/1000th accuracy. For this simple derivation, allowing the average of eleven years per reign and a total of forty popes (11 x 40) he extrapolated 440 years from 1572 (1572 + 440) to arrive at the date for the arrival of Petrus Romanus in 2012. 28

In other words, 2012 was seen as an end-times “event horizon” by at least one Jesuit priest before most readers were born. 29

Also note the quote above asserts, “in many ways” this means he derives 2012 from several distinct methods of cryptographic analysis. These will be examined after we survey some essential background, but as the final year he derived 2012 exclusively. Indeed, while he (and us) acknowledges the folly of setting a date for Christ’s coming, he still centers on 2012 but for no other reason than he believes the prophecy demands it. 30

The work that Thibaut does to come to this conclusion involves tortuous logic and tortuous calculations that even Horn and Putnam agree feel contrived. Yet, in the end, they seem to ultimately yield to Thibaut’s conclusions because they apparently agree with him that the results point to a supernatural origin.31

They further point to what they was an accurate prediction on their part concerning the resignation of Benedict XVI based on Thibaut’s calculations that the penultimate pope would leave office in 2012. They stated in Petrus Romanus that if he were to resign in April 2012 that this would be a “staggering authentication of Thibaut’s work but anytime in 2012 would still be incredible.”32 Even though we know that Benedict XVI resigned on February 23, 2013 the authors argue that he really resigned in March or April of 2012 because they say that is when he informed some within the Vatican of his decision. But, it would appear that whatever Benedict XVI did in 2012, it was not a resignation. To quote Yogi Berra, “It’s not over till it’s over.”

Once again, it seems that no matter what actually happens, virtually everything is interpreted as being a confirmation of their conclusions. However, Horn and Putnam are still faced with the fact that essentially none of the supporting / corroborating pagan prophecies were actually fulfilled in 2012.

To be fair, it must be noted that Horn and Putnam acknowledge the possibility that the Roman Catholic Church, being aware of the prophecies, may actually implement certain strategies in order to cause the fulfillment of Malachy’s prophecies. However, they also dismiss that this is sufficient to account for what they believe are many things over which individuals and the Church as a whole could not exercise influence.

 

Summary and conclusions

So, is Pope Francis history’s final pope? The Lord certainly knows. But that he is the final pope cannot be known based on the research, evidence and logic used by Horn and Putnam in drawing their conclusions on this point. Although they have done a tremendous amount of helpful research, the emphasis they place on the accuracy of extra-biblical prophecies and conjecture, including those from pagan sources, and the conclusions they draw from these present serious problems. As it relates to the prophecies, much of the foundation upon which the authors have built is made up of the work of pagans, mystics, frauds, forgers, heretics and false prophets.

The following is just one of numerous examples of how the authors acknowledge the potential problems with their methods and conclusions, but seemingly dismiss those problems and proceed:

Please note that we do realize that date-setting has a well-documented 100 percent failure rate but, even so, we must acknowledge, there it is, 2012, brazened all over the pages of this 1951 tome. The simplest calculation which derives 2012 for the last pope is based on extrapolating the average papal reign of eleven years.33

This issue is even reflected in the subtitle of Petrus Romanus—The Final Pope Is Here. On the one hand, even though in a comment criticizing this article Putnam says that he only assigns a 60-70% probability that they are right, the subtitle of the book implies that they are quite confident they have it right when they conclude that the pope following Benedict XVI would be the final one.

One concern with this is that despite these problems, the authors are apparently having a tremendous influence on at least certain segments of the Body of Christ. As of today, March 22, 2013, the paperback version of Petrus Romanus is ranked at #945 out of millions of books on Amazon.com, with it sitting at #4 in the “Religious Warfare” category, #4 in the “Catholicism” category and #74 in the “Christian Living category. However, even more telling and more sadly, the Kindle version of Petrus Romanus is ranked at #1 in both the “Eschatology” and “Prophecy” categories, and #10 in the “Christian Reference Works” category. This represents a lot of books being sold and a lot of people being influenced—undoubtedly believers and unbelievers alike.

However, beyond their influence through this book as well as interviews and articles, the authors are being offered major speaking platforms. For example, Tom Horn was a keynote speaker at the The Strategic Perspectives Conference  in last October, which was hosted by the Koinonia House ministry of Chuck Missler, who was also a keynote speaker. (Other speakers included Jonathan Cahn and David Barton—both of whom have had questions raised about the accuracy of their work, and Joseph Farah, who continues to promote books on the WND website which have serious problems, even heresy in the case of books by Joe Kovacs, one of their contributing writers.)

In June of last year, Tom Horn was keynote speaker at the 2012 Prophecy in the News Conference in Branson Missouri. Speakers at that conference included Jonathan Cahn, Joseph Farah, Chuck Missler, Bill Salus, and Gary Stearman among others.

In July of this year, Horn will be addressing the Pike’s Peak Prophecy Summit, which is already sold out of tickets. The list of other speakers includes Cris Putnam, Jonathan Cahn, Joseph Farah, Gary Stearman, Chuck Missler, L.A. Marzulli, Mark Biltz, Lennart Moller, Bill Koenig, Ken Johnson, Paul McGuire, Jerry Robinson, Stan Monteith, Doug Woodward, Bob Cornuke, Barrie Schwortz, Doug Hamp, Bill Salus, David Olander, Samuel Hoyt, Doc Marquis, Derek Gilbert and David Brennan. I do not know about the work of some of these men, but the list does include those who are respected and have quite a bit of influence among believers. When good men join together with those whose work is problematic, especially in a conference-type forum, it can create a lot of unnecessary confusion within the Body of Christ.

Although we cannot know with any certainty whether or not Pope Francis will be the last pope, we can know with certainty that we continue to witness the ongoing erosion of biblical discernment as evidenced by the sales of books like Petrus Romanus and attendance at conferences where these kinds of things are taught. Beyond this, those who are exposing these issues are coming under fire more than at any time in recent memory.

_______________________

  1. http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/do-the-prophecies-of-st-malachy-suggest-we-are-living-in-the-end-times
  2. Horn, Thomas; Putnam, Cris D. (2012-04-15). Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here (Kindle Locations 421-430). Defender Publishing LLC. Kindle Edition
  3. http://www.wnd.com/2013/03/pope-francis-historys-final-pontiff/
  4. http://www.wnd.com/2013/02/final-pope-authors-predicted-benedict-would-resign/
  5. http://saints.sqpn.com/catholic-encyclopedia-prophecies-of-saint-malachy/
  6. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 327-337).
  7. http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/do-the-prophecies-of-st-malachy-suggest-we-are-living-in-the-end-times
  8. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 444-452).
  9. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 452-459).
  10. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 465-467).
  11. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 950-952).
  12.  Petrus Romanus  (Kindle Locations 727-730).
  13. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 737-747).
  14. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 9287-9301).
  15. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 9305-9307).
  16. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 9308-9311).
  17. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 9262-9265).
  18. This part of Cahn’s message was subsequently removed from YouTube.com by someone at Beth Israel because of the controversy it generated.
  19. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 9313-9320).
  20. To be fair, Horn and Putnam did not use this phrase. It was used by Jonathan Cahn in a similar context as noted above
  21.  http://www.wnd.com/2013/03/pope-francis-historys-final-pontiff/#jEkZ7zX5UAzSW7OM.99
  22. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 9238-9240).
  23. http://www.wnd.com/2013/03/pope-francis-historys-final-pontiff/#jEkZ7zX5UAzSW7OM.99
  24. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 8666-8670).
  25. Horn, Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 9246-9253).
  26. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 9240-9246).
  27. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 9046-9050).
  28. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 792-797).
  29. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 798-799).
  30. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 801-804).
  31. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 1592-1593).
  32. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 1693).
  33. Petrus Romanus (Kindle Locations 1231-1233).
]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/03/22/pope-final-2/feed/ 42
Dr. Roy B. Zuck, Now Home with His Savior http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/03/18/dr-roy-zuck-home-savior/ Mon, 18 Mar 2013 16:46:23 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/blog/?p=1415  

I just received word on Sunday morning that late Saturday evening, a great man of God, a partner in the ministry and a dear friend, Dr. Roy Zuck, passed from this life into the presence of his Savior.

The last timZucke I saw Dr. Zuck was at the Pre-Trib Study Group conference in early December. Even though we frequently corresponded, sometimes several times a week, we had not actually seen each other for many years so this was an unexpected gift from the Lord to see him once more on this side of eternity. I frequently tell my students that while we must be careful to not put men on pedestals, there are good reasons for us to have “heroes in the faith” – not just those who have lived in the past, but those who are our elders and from whom we can learn as living role-models in the present. Dr. Zuck is one of those heroes for me and he finished well.

I first met Dr. and Mrs. Zuck when they came to Hungary in the late 1990s and he became one of our regular guest teachers in the Bible institute. The Word of Life Hungary ministry soon found a special place in their hearts and they came many times over the next several years until Mrs. Zuck’s health began to decline. At one point, we learned from another DTS professor some “inside” information about just how much Dr. Zuck loved the students, staff and ministry in Hungary. This professor told our students in class one day that DTS seminary had been trying desperately to get Dr. Zuck to teach classes at the seminary, all of which would have been completely full and would have meant somewhere in the neighborhood of $80,000 in tuition to the school. However, Dr. Zuck declined the offers, telling them that he was too busy with other ministry commitments. However, that was the same year when Dr. and Mrs. Zuck came to Hungary twice, once for two weeks in the spring and again for three weeks in the fall.

It was just this sort of relationship that came from serving the Lord together on the mission field with great servants of the Lord which was one of the great blessings of being the director of the school for 15 years. We were able to have so many to our homes for meals and fellowship. Some of my most treasured memories of being parents on the mission field was when tthey would sit at the table with us, sometimes for hours, and just talk about the ministry, the Bible, theology (and yes, even Hungarian politics on occasion) and our kids were able to be a part of that. Our daughter Becky, being younger, would often decide that leaving the table to play was more fun than discussing a particular fine point of theology. Yet, Chris, even from a very young age, would almost always stay at the table listening to the discussions with men like Roy Zuck, Stan Toussaint, Tom Constable, Mark Bailey, Homer Kent, Ron Blue, Stephen Bramer, Dave Wyrtzen, Jimmy DeYoung and countless others—the list is incredible. These were gifts from God to us as missionary family.

Dr. Zuck was a unique man with tremendous talent and an incredible work ethic. I remember that during one of his “days off” as a guest teacher in Hungary, he edited 100 pages of an upcoming book. And it was his meticulous attention to detail which made him one of the premier editors in the evangelical world. Many of you reading this article have undoubtedly benefited greatly from his work as a co-editor with Dr. John Walvoord of the Bible Knowledge Commentary written by the DTS staff. His book, Basic Bible Interpretation, (published in 1991), is, in my view, the definitive introductory resource on the subject and can already be considered a classic work on the subject (and should be in every believer’s library). The list of books that he authored or edited is an incredible testimony to his heart, talents and giftedness from the Lord.

His commitment to the Lord, people and ministry was evident in many ways. He always carried around a notepad in his shirt pocket and I’ve seen him pull it out on many occasions during just a normal conversation to write down a name or a fact or just something someone said so he could refer to it later. He was very devoted to his students in particular—even to those he hadn’t met yet. I have heard from others that during his years as a full-time professor at DTS, he would memorize the names and faces of every incoming student. And when he came to Hungary, he always asked for a student directory to be sent several weeks before he arrived. I have watched students from all over the world be stunned when as the new guest teacher for the week, he would walk up to them on the first day and call them by name (and usually getting the pronunciation close to right even for notoriously difficult Hungarian names).

Dr. and Mrs. Zuck touched the lives of many, many people from around the world. As I travel, it is not unusual for me to run into someone who knew them and had stayed in there home, even as Karen and I had on at least a couple of occasions. When you were with them, they made you feel like you were at the very center of their lives. And this showed up in many ways for us personally. Not only was Dr. Zuck one of the first formal endorsers of the ministry of The Alliance for Biblical Integrity when we were just beginning to think about a new ministry in 2008, he was committed to what we are doing and began to personally invest in our lives and ministry with monthly financial support over the past couple of years.

Dr. Zuck’s commitment to the ministry of ABI and to us personally was especially evident over the past year. As soon as it looked like my article about The Harbinger was going to actually turn into a book, I asked him if he would consider being an editor. He graciously agreed and I am so very grateful for the work he did as the first of three editors who contributed so much to making the book far better than it ever could have been had it depended only upon me. Then after the book was completed, he provided a powerful endorsement and purchased a number of copies to share with others who were being caught up in The Harbinger illusion.

His attention to detail, which made him a great editor, also contributed to him being a master teacher who always had a tremendous command of the subjects he taught. One of his favorite books of the Bible was the Book of Job with its message of learning how to handle adversity and suffering in a godly way. I witnessed Dr. Zuck’s mastery of that book in a chapel service at the Bible institute in Hungary as he taught the entire book of Job (through a translator, no less) in 30 minutes. And it was no mere academic exercise for him. The lessons he had learned and taught were deeply reflected in his book, Barb, Please Wake Up! which chronicled the long, faith-challenging road to recovery for his daughter who was involved in a nearly fatal car accident from which she suffered severe brain injuries.

During Dr. Zuck’s tenure as a professor of Bible Exposition at DTS he also served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean (1985–1992). In the Dean’s office he helped start new degree programs as well as extension programs. Under his leadership the Doctor of Ministry, the Master of Arts in Cross-Cultural Ministries, and the Master of Arts in Christian Education were started and took shape. In 1991, he published the textbook Basic Bible Interpretation, which has been widely used in classrooms around the world. After leaving the Dean’s office in 1992, he devoted himself to teaching and served as Chair of the Bible Exposition Department from 1992 to 1996, after which he continued as Professor Emeritus of Bible Exposition.

After retiring from the classroom, he continued to serve as editor of Bibliotheca Sacra. He also continued to work on many writing and editing projects, including serving as managing editor of the twenty-eight-volume Swindoll Leadership Library. He freelanced for several publishers and created tracts for the American Tract Society. In the summer of 2000, he began working as the copy and theological editor for another of the seminary’s publications, Kindred Spirit. It was also during this time, as I mentioned earlier, that he served with us in Hungary on several occasions.

Dr. Zuck’s character, as a man of God, was also seen in his devotion to his wife in her last years as she succumbed to the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. He cared for her at home, when it would have been a difficult task even for the staff of a care facility. After she had gone home to be with the Lord, he would often mention in our fairly frequent email correspondence how terribly lonely he was and how much he missed her. Saturday night must have been quite a reunion.

]]>
Threatened Lawsuit by The Harbinger Publisher & Author http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/01/31/threatened-lawsuit-harbinger-publisher-author/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/01/31/threatened-lawsuit-harbinger-publisher-author/#comments Thu, 31 Jan 2013 05:37:42 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/blog/?p=1371 I hope that you will take a few minutes to read this special edition of the “ABI Blog.” 

We have received letters threatening legal action related to the publication of my book The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? These letters were from a lawyer with a firm which “serves as litigation counsel for Charisma Media, publisher of The Harbinger by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn and published by Charisma Media.”

Therefore, we are asking that concerned believers everywhere make this a matter of prayer—that the Lord would graciously give us wisdom and that He would protect us in the midst of this challenge. We also believe it is important to bring this matter to the attention of the Body of Christ and would encourage you to share this article with others given the millions of people who have now been influenced by The Harbinger and its author.

_____________________

IS THIS MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING?

Some may be wondering if the controversy surrounding The Harbinger really is a big deal. I want to assure you that it definitely is – and it show no signs of slowing down. Last spring I suggested that The Harbinger could well end up being one of the most significant theological issues of 2012. As it turns out, this could extend well into this year. It was recently announced that The Harbinger passed one million copies sold (in just twelve months), and also achieved the distinction of being the longest running Christian book presently on The New York Times bestseller list.

And, the influence that Jonathan Cahn and his teachings are having through his book, the many interviews and his numerous messages continues to grow unabated. He was even the keynote speaker at one of the main annual (though not official) inaugural prayer breakfasts in Washington D.C. on January 21.

The author has said that he has been approached numerous times concerning turning The Harbinger into a movie and I would not be at all surprised if the production of a movie will be announced sometime this year. If that happens, the influence of The Harbinger will receive another significant boost and reach people who otherwise might not even be aware of it. Given the inevitable artistic license taken in most book-to-movie adaptations, with all the problems already in The Harbinger, what might we expect in a movie version?

_____________________

THE THREAT OF LEGAL ACTION

The following is an excerpt from the lead article by T.A. McMahon in the February edition of The Berean Call monthly newsletter.

Although for decades we at TBC have been exhorting and encouraging believers to be Bereans (i.e., to check out everything they are being taught by searching the Scriptures-Acts 17:10-11), we too have experienced the increased intensity of the spiritual battle and witnessed its exponential growth. The latest issue, which we submit to you for prayer support, is a threatened lawsuit over the book we published by David James (The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?). The complaint is that the author used too many quotes from the New York Times best-selling book, The Harbinger, without permission from author “rabbi” Jonathan Cahn and publisher Charisma Media Publications (CMP). The complaint further states that our use of the quotes has inhibited the sales of The Harbinger and has thus financially damaged Cahn and CMP in an amount yet to be determined. In effect, we are being told that we must limit our documentation in warning the body of Christ of the biblical errors in The Harbinger. In other words, we cannot be Bereans or like the watchman of Ezekiel 3:17-19 without Cahn’s permission.

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

In October we received the first letter from Charisma’s lawyer concerning my use of quotes from The Harbinger. This threat of litigation was followed by two additional letters about a month apart making various demands for specific information concerning sales of my book and actions that we must take, including specific deadlines for compliance. So, although this is the first time we have made this issue public in writing, we have had these threats hanging over our heads for several months.

Furthermore, the October letter was actually the second threat of legal action. The first threat came less than two weeks after my book became available in early August and concerned the original cover design of The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? In that first letter the attorney made the following charges:

Our client learned that you, along with author David James, are using a strikingly similar book cover design of The Harbinger in commerce in connection with your book The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction. The book cover of The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction infringes Charisma’s intellectual property rights in the trade dress of its book The Harbinger. No doubt exists that the cover for your book The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction is designed to confuse consumers into thinking that either (1) this book is actually The Harbinger and/or (2) that the book is sponsored, affiliated with or approved by Charisma.

The basis for the threat of legal action involves two primary points: 1) that we intended to confuse consumers and 2) that consumers would actually be confused. Regarding the first charge, it is pure speculation with no supporting evidence whatsoever. But more importantly, it is both judgmental and factually wrong. There was never any intention by anyone to deceive, mislead of confuse. A comparison of the two covers (shown below) makes this obvious.

Regarding the second charge, once again, even a cursory glance makes it clear that my book is a direct negative response to The Harbinger, and therefore, obviously neither produced by nor endorsed by Charisma Media. Of course, we wanted people to understand that my book is about The Harbinger, but almost every design element of my cover was intentionally different to avoid any question of copyright infringement.

However, as a demonstration of good faith we changed the cover without a fuss. Of course, because of our belief that it is vitally important for my book to be available as a response to The Harbinger, and given the threat, we were also concerned that the Charisma lawyers might try to tie things up in the courts and thus keep my book off the market.

Now, in an unexpected and inexplicable turn of events, the Charisma attorney claims in the most recent letter (of January 22) that the fact that we changed the cover is itself an admission of guilt on my part that we had indeed infringed copyright.

Mr. James eventually recognized that he had violated Charisma’s trade dress and changed the cover on his critique. That Mr. James infringed Charisma’s rights in its intellectual property with respect to the cover is without dispute. Yet, Mr. James’ admitted infringement is curiously absent from his recent diatribe against my client and its author.

 

harbinger - small

The Harbinger

New Cover promo - front - 400px

Present cover

Order the book

Original cover

 

Once again, this is not only pure speculation, but the allegation is factually wrong because neither I nor The Berean Call have ever believed that we ever violated Charisma’s trade dress. We did not intend to violate copyright. We intentionally

sought to avoid violating copyright. And we continue to believe that we were completely successful in not violating copyright. So, the charge that we admitted guilt in this matter is difficult to comprehend – even baffling.

Another odd aspect of this recent letter is that the Charisma lawyer attributed to me the article which was written by T.A. McMahon (referenced above), and called it a “diatribe against Charisma and Jonathan Cahn.” Earlier the letter also states that the article was published on my website—which is also wrong because the article is actually on The Berean Call website. Besides being a bit strange, these are unnecessary “unforced errors” that could have been easily avoided with even the least bit of research.

Returning to the second threat of legal action, the following are excerpts from the first letter concerning that threat.

Dear Mr. James,

Our firm serves as litigation counsel for Charisma Media, publisher of The Harbinger by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn and published by Charisma Media. I write concerning your critique of The Harbinger, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction (“Fact or Fiction”) and your use of significant portions of The Harbinger’s original copyrighted work in your book. In short, we believe your use of The Harbinger‘s text, which comprises over 10% of your book, constitutes infringement of Charisma Media’s exclusive copyright in the text of your book. We further believe your considerable use of The Harbinger‘s text is not defensible under the fair use doctrine.

Although we have always been confident that my book is well within the boundaries of the fair use doctrine, unfortunately these threats of litigation made it necessary to seek the services of an experienced copyright lawyer. His well-informed opinion is that there is no basis for bringing a lawsuit against us and he sent his findings and conclusions to the Charisma Media attorney in the middle of December. Last week we received the fourth letter as a response to our legal counsel’s letter in which the Charisma lawyer completely rejected the argument in our defense.

Later in the letter, Charisma’s attorney goes on to make further allegations.

Specifically, Fact or Fiction was written with the specific purpose of deriving a financial benefit from Charisma Media’s copyrighted materials as evidenced by the original infringing cover for Fact or Fiction; you are profiting from the use of the text, but have not obtained consent or paid a license fee for its use. Although Fact or Fiction purports to be a critique of The Harbinger, your use of The Harbinger’s original and protectible expression, including extensive use of the dialogue created by Rabbi Cahn to analyze Isaiah 9:10, is usurping demand for Rabbi Cahn’s work and will continue to do so as long as Fact or Fiction remains in circulation.

Several things can be noted about the above allegations.

First, building on the unsubstantiated claim in the first threat concerning the cover of my book, they once again argue that I wrote the book for the specific purpose of deriving financial benefit from Rabbi Cahn’s work. And once again, this is pure speculation from a legal perspective, clearly judgmental from a moral perspective, and from a factual perspective it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Second, the phrase “purports to be a critique” clearly suggests that I intentionally employed a ruse in order to deceive the public by making my book only appear to be a critique, but with the real alleged purpose being to profit financially from Rabbi Cahn’s work. One has to wonder if someone could scan my book in even the most cursory way and then suggest that The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction is anything but a very serious and well-researched critique of The Harbinger.

Third, the Charisma lawyer contends that because of quoting The Harbinger to the degree that I did, demand for my book has undermined demand for their book. Through this they argue that I have been accumulating sales for myself while denying what would have been sales for Jonathan Cahn. Once again, it is difficult to express how far removed from reality this charge really is. When my book was released in early August, I believe the sales of The Harbinger were somewhere in the neighborhood of 700,000 copies sold. Then in January (as previously noted) it was reported that Jonathan Cahn had achieved two important milestones during the 2012 calendar year. The first was that his book had surpassed one million copies sold (meaning that nearly one third of his sales have happened since the appearance of Fact or Fiction). The second milestone was that at the end of 2012 it was the longest running Christian book currently on The New York Times bestsellers list.

Unfortunately, the most recent letter from Charisma’s legal counsel further expands the range of allegations and accusations against us to include a charge of defamation of character:

Second, I write to put you on notice that Mr. James’ recent fund raising efforts at the expense of both Charisma and Rabbi Cahn are defamatory in nature and intentionally designed to impugn both Charisma and Rabbi Cahn’s character for the benefit of Mr. James.

Once again, in this new threat, the Charisma lawyer gets so many factual things wrong that it should be almost embarrasing. He accuses me personally of 1) trying to raise funds with the article, 2) by defaming Charisma and Rabbi Cahn; 3) then claims that it was intentional, 4) and further alleges that it was designed to impugn their character, 5) and finally argues that I did it with the intent to accrue personal financial benefit to me.

Where do I begin?

1. I didn’t write the article and was only aware of it shortly before it was published on The Berean Call (not my) website. As previously noted, Tom McMahon wrote the article and it was approved by The Berean Call Board of Directors. (The full article can be found here: http://www.thebereancall.org/content/demise-biblical-discernment)

2. There is nothing in the article that makes any reference to money whatsoever. There is no appeal for funds and it was never intended to be a fund-rasing effort. The only thing that McMahon requests anywhere in the article is that believers make this a matter of prayer.

3. There was no intention to defame Charisma or Jonathan Cahn. There is a well-documented pattern of repeated attempts by Jonathan Cahn to contain and respond to any and all criticism of The Harbinger. This has happened time and again – and a video on YouTube is available where Cahn specifically (and quite cynically and sarcastically) responds to the critics of The Harbinger (with many swipes at things I have written and said)—and yet he offers no specifics whatsoever.

4. It seems to me that the accusation that I intentionally impugned Charisma and Jonathan Cahn’s character for the purpose of financial gain, while using demonstrably false information, is the very definition of defamation itself. Who has defamed whom? And since this is in the context of claiming that my book is damaging sales of The Harbinger this obviously raises the question of exactly who is pursuing this for financial gain. The reader can decide.

___________________

Returning to the accusation that I exceeded fair use of The Harbinger in my book and thus have violated copyright law, the following salient points are provided from the Citizen Media Law Project website.

The Four Fair Use Factors

1. Purpose and Character of Your Use

If you use another’s copyrighted work for the purpose of criticism, news reporting, or commentary, this use will weigh in favor of fair use. See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569, 578 (1994). Purposes such as these are often considered “in the public interest” and are favored by the courts over uses that merely seek to profit from another’s work. Online Policy Group v. Diebold, Inc., 337 F. Supp. 2d 1195, 1203 (N.D. Cal. 2004). When you put copyrighted material to new use, this furthers the goal of copyright to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.”

In evaluating the purpose and character of your use, a court will look to whether the new work you’ve created is “transformative” and adds a new meaning or message. To be transformative, a use must add to the original “with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message.” Campbell, 510 U.S. at 579. Although transformative use is not absolutely necessary, the more transformative your use is, the less you will have to show on the remaining three factors.

Clearly, my book, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? meets this criteria. I am not seeking to merely profit from Cahn’s work as has been alleged. Rather my work is both completely transformative and is “in the public interest,” while putting the material in The Harbinger to a completely new use. There is no copyright violation.

2. Nature of the Copyrighted Work

In examining this factor, a court will look to whether the material you have used is factual or creative, and whether it is published or unpublished. Although non-fiction works such as biographies and news articles are protected by copyright law, their factual nature means that one may rely more heavily on these items and still enjoy the protections of fair use. Unlike factual works, fictional works are typically given greater protection in a fair use analysis. So, for example, taking newsworthy quotes from a research report is more likely to be protected by fair use than quoting from a novel. However, this question is not determinative, and courts have found fair use of fictional works in some of the pivotal cases on the subject. See, e.g., Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417, 456 (1984).

Once again, my book meets this criteria because as the author states in his note at the beginning of The Harbinger, “What you are about to read is presented in the form of a story, but what is contained within the story is real.” Furthermore, Jonathan Cahn has stated publicly in a radio interview with Brannon Howse that his book is only 10% fiction and 90% factual. Again, there is no copyright violation.

3. Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used

Unfortunately, there is no single guide that definitively states how much of a copyrighted work you can use without copyright liability. Instead, courts look to how such excerpts were used and what their relation was to the whole work. If the excerpt in question diminishes the value of the original or embodies a substantial part of the efforts of the author, even an excerpt may constitute an infringing use.

If you limit your use of copyrighted text, video, or other materials to only the portion that is necessary to accomplish your purpose or convey your message, it will increase the likelihood that a court will find your use is a fair use.

Of course, if you are reviewing a book or movie, you may need to reprint portions of the copyrighted work in the course of reviewing it in order to make you points. Even substantial quotations may qualify as fair use in “a review of a published work or a news account of a speech that had been delivered to the public or disseminated to the press.” Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enters., 471 U.S. 539, 564 (1985). However, substantial quotations from non-public sources or unpublished works do not enjoy the same protections.

There are two relevant and important issues in meeting the third criteria for fair use that can be observed. The first is that the “over 10%” of The Harbinger that I quoted (referred to by the Charisma attorney) is irrelevant when the other criteria are considered. The 10% is an arbitrary number with no legal significance. Far less than 10% can violate fair use if the other criteria are not met, while far more than 10% can be used if they are. Quotes from The Harbinger do comprise over 10% of my book, but they are also under 13%.

Similarly, I only quoted a little more than 10% of The Harbinger, which in the context of such an indepth and detailed critique is a very small amount. I could have easily quoted much more to further bolster my argument, but was careful to use no more than necessary to keep from being accused of taking things of out context.

However, more importantly, relevant to the second major point, my use of The Harbinger clearly qualifies as fair use because it is “a review of a published work…”

4. The Effect of Your Use Upon the Potential Market for the Copyrighted Work

In examining the fourth factor, which courts tend to view as the most important factor, a court will look to see how much the market value of the copyrighted work is affected by the use in question. This factor will weigh in favor of the copyright holder if “unrestricted and widespread” use similar to the one in question would have a “substantially adverse impact” on the potential market for the work…

Assessing the impact on a copyrighted work’s market value often overlaps with the third factor because the amount and importance of the portion used will often determine how much value the original loses. For instance, the publication of five lines from a 100 page epic poem will not hurt the market for the original in the same way as the publication of the entirety of a five-line poem.

This fourth factor is concerned only with economic harm caused by substitution for the original, not by criticism. That your use harms the copyright holder through negative publicity or by convincing people of your critical point of view is not part of the analysis. As the Supreme Court has stated:

[W]hen a lethal parody, like a scathing theater review, kills demand for the original, it does not produce a harm cognizable under the Copyright Act. Because “parody may quite legitimately aim at garroting the original, destroying it commercially as well as artistically,” the role of the courts is to distinguish between ‘[b]iting criticism [that merely] suppresses demand [and] copyright infringement[, which] usurps it.'”

The significance of this point cannot be overstated because the Charisma attorney contends that my book is usurping demand (his words) for his client’s book. However, it can be easily argued that the controversy surrounding the entire issue has only served to increase demand for The Harbinger as evidenced by the 300,000+ copies that have been sold since the release of my book.

In summary, although courts will balance all four factors when assessing fair use, the fair use defense is most likely to apply when the infringing use involves criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.  In addition, some general rules of thumb can be helpful in analyzing fair use:

  • A use that transforms the original work in some way is more likely to be a fair use;
  • A non-profit use is more likely to be considered a fair use than a for-profit use;
  • A shorter excerpt is more likely to be a fair use than a long one; and
  • A use that cannot act as a replacement for the original work is more likely to be a fair use than one that can serve as a replacement.

One has to wonder why such an influential media empire like Charisma Media would threaten a lawsuit against an essentially unknown individual, particularly when my book falls so far within the boundaries of the fair use doctrine. But more importantly, why would a Christian organization (Charisma Media), with a Christian founder and CEO (Steve Strang), along with a local church pastor (Jonathan Cahn) threaten to sue another believer in this way, particularly in light of what the apostle Paul says about such lawsuits in 1 Corinthians 6?

None of this makes any sense from a biblical, ethical, legal or financial perspective. One has to wonder exactly what is the motivation behind this. Why is it so necessary to try make it so difficult to keep my book, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? on the market. Why all this effort to get it off the market?

One thing we do know is that my book is presently the only one that has been written and published which exposes the many significant problems in The Harbinger. And as the influence of The Harbinger in America continues to increase, the need for people to also read The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? is greater than ever. We hope you will take time to read it if you haven’t – and if you do, please take time to leave a brief review on Amazon.com because these are extremely important in the process of getting the message into the hands of more and more people.

Once again, we covet your prayers, not only in relation to the threatened legal action against us, but also concerning getting the important information in my book into the hands of believers who have been influenced, confused and misled by The Harbinger, the accompanying DVD and the dozens of interviews and messages by Jonathan Cahn.

If you want to stand with us in the midst of this challenge, please take a moment to shoot me an email at dave@jamesjournal.org.

]]>
http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2013/01/31/threatened-lawsuit-harbinger-publisher-author/feed/ 53
The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? (now available) http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2012/08/02/harbinger-fact-fiction-2/ http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2012/08/02/harbinger-fact-fiction-2/#comments Fri, 03 Aug 2012 02:40:11 +0000 http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/blog/?p=1340

Click here to order the book on The Berean Call website

Click here for the Kindle version on Amazon.com

(Paperback version available soon through Amazon.com)

The last three months have been quite incredible. Since Tom McMahon (executive director of The Berean Call) first contacted me on April 29 about my ABI article critiquing The Harbinger, we have been on a speeding train just trying to hang on.

I am extremely grateful to the entire staff of The Berean Call who have been with me every step of the way since my book was little more than just the article. Everyone involved has put in a monumental effort to make everything come together in a such a short time frame. Roy Zuck (who has been in publishing for decades) recently described this as being “almost unheard of in publishing circles.”

This is even more amazing given the extensive scrutiny the book has undergone to make sure we get this right. The book has gone through multiple rounds of editing by three different editors and as well as three critical readers who carefully examined it for accuracy, theology, logical arguments and overall tone. And finally, it has been read by an additional six theologians and ministry leaders, who along with two of the critical readers, have provided a total of eight initial endorsements. Besides these things, they have designed the covers and formatted the book in about one-fourth of the time usually allotted.

The level of controversy surrounding The Harbinger and concerned reviews has been virtually unprecedented in that so much of it has been generated within conservative evangelicalism. Although other recent books have caused a stir within the broader evangelical community, some have said they have never witnessed anything quite like this in their decades of ministry life.

Everyone agrees that America is in deep spiritual trouble and that the country is now or soon could be under God’s judgment. Everyone also agrees with Jonathan Cahn’s overall message, which is a broad call for national repentance. However, the serious disagreements center on whether the author has genuinely received this message from God and whether he has indeed discovered an ancient mystery in Isaiah 9:10 that correlates precisely with events over the last decade in the United States, beginning with the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Those of us with deep concerns about the book are persuaded that he has not either case.

This is not simply an academic issue nor does it only involve inconsequential minutiae. The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? demonstrates that Cahn’s book is ultimately an illusion which gives the impression that God’s direct intervention is the only possible explanation for what is said to be the replay in America of events prophesied to Israel in Isaiah 9:10. As with any well-executed illusion, the audience is astounded by what they think they are seeing – but what they think they see does not actually correspond to reality. The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? pulls back the curtain and gives another “camera angle” so that the mechanics of the illusion become obvious.

This “reveal” shows that maintaining the illusion depends the mishandling of Scripture, faulty theology, misleading statements, the selective use of historical facts and unsupported speculation. Consequently, The Harbinger falls far short of the biblical requirements necessary to conclude that such a message is truly from God. The broad implications of this are significant and far-reaching.

I have written my book so that anyone can accurately, clearly and fairly understand what is in The Harbinger whether or not they have read that book. It should be helpful for those who wonder what all the commotion is about or who have been encouraged to read it by someone else. We also hope it will be helpful for those who have had reservations and concerns and for those who are not yet sure what to make of it. We are also hopeful that those who have embraced The Harbinger will take some time to read The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction and perhaps reconsider their views once they see there is another side to the whole issue.

The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?  is now available for ordering from The Berean Call website. The book is also listed on Amazon.com, however, it will be a couple of days before they receive a shipment.

It will also be available in Kindle format in about a week. In addition, I have finished recording the audio version of the book, which will probably be available shortly after The Berean Call annual conference next weekend. There has also been some discussion of possibly doing a Spanish version, including audio, but this has not yet been decided as far as I know.

I am looking forward to discussing the book with Jimmy DeYoung on his Saturday radio program (info at the Prophecy Today website). Brannon Howse has also invited Tom McMahon and me to join him for two full hours on his radio program on Monday and Tuesday beginning at 2:00 PM EST (1:00 CST) (www.worldviewweekend.com).

Next week I will be heading out to The Berean Call conference in Bend, Oregon. Tom McMahon has invited me to take one of his two sessions to discuss biblical discernment based on my book, using The Harbinger as a case study. We believe this is an important issue which needs to be addressed in a fair way. We also see it as a significant opportunity to help many believers as they think through how to consistently apply a biblical hermeneutic and carefully evaluate anything they might read or hear that purports to be a biblical message.

I want to sincerely thank all who have prayed for me and the entire process. We would also appreciate your ongoing prayers as we are unsure of what the overall reaction might be given the immense popularity and influence that has been enjoyed by The Harbinger and its author.

Click here to order The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? from The Berean Call website

Note: The first chapter, foreword, preface and endorsements are also available for download in pdf format from the order page. (near the bottom)

 

ENDORSEMENTS

JIMMY DEYOUNG
President & Founder, Prophecy Today

“David James has done an excellent job in this book, a review of the book, The Harbinger, being very careful not to bring personality into focus but instead to take a critical look at the biblical aspects of the book. Having read the book a number of times, David studied the hermeneutic used in the book to examine the use of a single passage of scripture taken out of context to understand what the author had done to develop a fictional book while the same time telling the reader that everything in the book was real.

“I believe that David did the research required to give a fair look at Jonathan Cahn’s work and, at the same time, apply the age-old truths of Bible interpretation to help any potential reader of The Harbinger to be aware of the problems in this work. I know that David spent much time in prayer and consultation before he approached the writing of his review, and his only desire is to hold up the truth that we don’t get doctrine, or our understanding of Bible prophecy, from a fictional novel but from the Word of God, the Bible.”

_______________

BRANNON HOWSE
President & Founder, Worldview Weekend

“All across America hundreds of thousands of people have purchased Jonathan Cahn’s book, The Harbinger. By far, the majority have given it rave reviews as well as promoted it, defended it, and recommended it to everyone they know. Unfortunately, this represents a pervasive lack of biblical knowledge and discernment in the church and is why many of us have written and broadcast our deep concerns about the book. I believe David James has used true discernment, extensive research, and biblical hermeneutics to reveal the dangerous message of The Harbinger. James’s research also defends the authority of Scripture against the increasing trend of experience, extra-biblical revelation and mysticism.”

_______________

PAUL BARRECA
Teaching Pastor, Faith Bible Church
Vineland, New Jersey

“Whether or not you’ve read The Harbinger, you must read David James thorough and thoughtful response in The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? The popularity of Cahn’s book has many Christians wondering if the Bible contains a secret message for America enveloped in the details of the 9/11terrorist attacks. I recognized a dangerous hermeneutic at work in Jonathan Cahn’s fast-paced novel but was daunted by the challenge of providing a response for my congregation. David James provides such a response. This book gives the reader a detailed, point-by-point analysis challenging Cahn’s barrage of data and “connect the dot” attempts. David James does this with clear biblical methodology while avoiding personal attacks against Cahn. This book is an example of the way that Christian dialogue should be conducted.”

_______________

ROY B. ZUCK
Senior Professor Emeritus of Bible Exposition
Editor, Bibliotheca Sacra
Dallas Theological Seminary

“Jonathan Cahn’s book The Harbinger has been a bestseller for many months. A messianic Jew, Cahn is the senior pastor of the Jerusalem/Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne, New Jersey. The Harbinger presents the view that Isaiah 9:10-11 refers to the United States, and in particular to the catastrophe of 9/11 and the States’ subsequent economic problems. James masterfully demolishes Cahn’s efforts to relate this passage to the States, pointing up numerous hermeneutical and interpretive fallacies in Cahn’s approach. Anyone interested in The Harbinger needs to note the numerous errors in Cahn’s thinking, as presented in James’s excellent analysis.”

_______________

GARY E. GILLEY
Senior Pastor, Southern View Chapel, Springfield, Illinois
Director, Think on These Things Ministries

“Jonathan Cahn’s, The Harbinger, is a warning to America that God’s judgment is imminent unless the country repents and turns to the Lord, and that very soon. If the book is read merely as a novel warning our country to wake up spiritually, it has value, but the author makes immediately clear that “what is contained within the story is real” (p. 7). In other words, Cahn believes that God pronounced exacting judgment on America, and that judgment is found in Scripture, specifically Isaiah 9:10-11.

“Cahn determines that this text in Isaiah contains a mysterious prophecy directed not to ancient Israel but to modern America. At this point the author massages Scripture, American history, and current events in an attempt to prove that God’s judgment on the United States has been hiding in these verses but have now been unlocked by the careful investigation of Cahn. Once someone decides they can cherry-pick verses at will, change the meaning of these texts to fit his theories, and use random hermeneutical methods, anything can be “proven.” However, very few people will recognize what Cahn has done, and fewer still will do the hard work of investigating his interpretations.

“Here is where David James has greatly benefited the body of Christ. He has carefully, graciously and thoroughly analyzed the claims found in The Harbinger and found many of them lacking biblical support and historical accuracy. James has written this book not merely to expose error but to keep God’s people from being led astray by false teachings and improper hermeneutical approaches to Scripture. I believe he has accomplished these goals in The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?”

_______________

TOMMY ICE
Executive Director, Pre-Trib Research Center
Pastor/Teacher and Church Planter, Community Bible Church, Omaha, Nebraska

“Just because something is popular within today’s evangelical community does not mean that it is biblical. The Harbinger is a popular book for many within evangelicalism that claims to provide a message from God, but it is not built upon a true biblical foundation. Dave James provides a fair biblical analysis for anyone wanting scrutiny of The Harbinger. I commend James’s book, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?, for those seeking the truth rather than popularity.”

_______________

LARRY DEBRUYN
Guarding His Flock Ministries

 “In a fair and balanced way, Dave James exposes the eccentric biblical interpretations upon which The Harbinger is premised. He demonstrates biblical and theological inaccuracies contained in the story created by Jonathan Cahn, one which the author claims to be partially real. James connects the dots between multiple biblical, historical, and factual problems, which gives the reader the sense that The Harbinger has undertones of Anglo-Israelism and Christian Dominionism. Though perhaps not intended by the author, these concepts form an underlying philosophical framework upon which the theoretical “secret” of America’s future appears to be based. For readers possessing a heart to discern truth from error, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? frames fundamental issues related to an accurate understanding of Bible prophecy in our modern world. Highly recommended.”
_______________

LARRY J. WATERS
Associate Professor of Bible Exposition
Dallas Theological Seminary

“One of the most asked questions in biblical prophecy today is, “Where does the United States fit into eschatology?” Jonathan Cahn’s The Harbinger tries to answer that question—however, he attempts to do so with many unfounded hermeneutical “jumps” that cannot be sustained. Dave James goes to great lengths to debunk Cahn’s theories and offers a balanced look at end-time prophecy and the USA. Where Scripture is silent, it is best not to impose one’s own presumptions on the text. For those interested in this subject, James offers extensive objections to Cahn’s presumptions.”

Click here to order The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? from The Berean Call website

]]> http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/2012/08/02/harbinger-fact-fiction-2/feed/ 24