IS THE HARBINGER FACT OR FICTION?

As far as I’m concerned that caption hits at the root of the problem with Jonathan Cahn and The Harbinger (TH). Apprising Ministries began coverage of TH with The Harbinger: Prophetic Fact Or Fickle Fiction?

He’s often portrayed in his myriad appearances promoting TH as someone who is a prophet or, at the very least, someone with a prophetic Word from God that he has allegedly discovered througb his “deep” study of Scripture.

TH is sowing much confusion, and now even discord within the camp of online apologetics and discernment with a few who ought to know better blindly promoting Jonathan Cahn, who seems rather shady in my estimation.

Leaving my opinion aside, I’ve previously brought you the following exclusive audio clip from the April 21, 2012 edition of Understanding the Times with Jan Markell, where Cahn clearly tells us:

And just a note. It’s—the form is a narrative, as you said, but the really—ninety per cent of it [his book] is non-fiction.

I also told you that Jonathan Cahn was on again with Brannon Howse this past July 3rd. At 1:18 of the audio clip to follow Cahn further clarifies what he told Jan Markell in April:

The Harbinger is ninety percent giving a real thing—a non-fiction [i.e. true to life], it’s giving the connections and the whole thing.

It’s framed in a narrative [i.e. story, fiction in this case]. The thing that’s only fiction is the narrative, and that goes around sharing these things.

It’s actually taken from teachings that I did,…

As near as I can tell, it appears Cahn is in line with the charismatic idea—even in Reformed circles—that prophecy in the New Testament differs from the OT. Reformed charismatic Dr. Wayne Grudem explains:

…Paul thought of prophecy at Corinth as something different than the prophecy we see, for instance, in Revelation or in many parts of the OT.  There, a divine authority of actual words is claimed by or on behalf of the prophets.

But the prophecy we find in 1 Corinthians is more like the phenomena we saw in extra-Biblical Jewish literature: it is based on some type of supernatural “revelation,” but that revelation only gives it a kind of divine authority of general content.  The prophet could err, could misinterpret, and could be questioned or challenged at any point.

He had a minor kind of “divine” authority, but it certainly was not absolute.1

People like Southern Baptist Beth Moore, who’s charismatic teachings border upon Word faith now, have hidden in these weeds for years. This mythology allows the speaker to claim God spoke to them and avoid scrutiny.

Concerning is God actually speaking to these quasi-prophets, to paraphrase an old familiar hair care commercial, what we’re left with is: “Does He … or doesn’t He?” Sorry to tell you, this prophetic posing is growing…fast.

More on all this another time; but for now, I leave you with the following from Dave James The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? This is the best critique of The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn, by far, that I’ve seen:

The Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn,2 is about a series of signs or omens which he believes have manifested in America beginning with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The author believes he has discovered an ancient mystery in Isaiah 9:10-11 that “explains everything from 9/11 to the collapse of the global economy.”3  Although he uses a fictional narrative as a framework, the book is based on what he believes are undeniable facts from the biblical text, the corresponding history of 8th century B.C. Israel and current events of the last decade in America.

As Cahn states at the beginning of the book, “What you are about to read is presented in the form of a story, but what is contained within the story is real.”4

You will have heard from Cahn himself above, 1) The Harbinger is 90 per cent “real,” and 2) it’s based upon his own teachings. James now continues hitting a key misappropriating of Scripture employed by Jonathan Cahn:

The heart of a biblical hermeneutic is the commitment to understanding the literary context of a passage. This is where Cahn’s thesis first runs into trouble. Nothing in the context gives any indication that either Isaiah or the Lord intended for Isaiah 9:10 to be understood as having to do with anything other than the Northern Kingdom in the 8th century B.C. Although the author has insisted in a moderated discussion with this reviewer that he does not believe Isaiah 9:10 is to, for or about America,5 the book paints a very different picture.

Although Cahn has tried to explain that the passage is only functioning as a “sign” to America, this is not a meaningful distinction. Biblical signs are revelatory and therefore prophetic, in that they signify that something is happening or is going to happen. And, this is exactly the way Cahn handles these “harbingers” in the bookmeaning that in at least some way he actually does see a direct connection with Isaiah 9:10.

Also, if Isaiah 9:10-11 functions to demonstrate a pattern of God’s judgment, as Cahn believes, why is it not identified as such, either here or elsewhere in Scripture? If it is a predictable pattern as he suggests, why is there neither a precedent nor repetition of the pattern in the Bible? Yet, it is the author’s contention that the nine harbingers he believes he has found in Isaiah coincide precisely with recent historical events, beginning with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001…

The Mystery of Isaiah 9:10: A Direct Link between Israel and America?

The author denies that he is arguing for a direct connection between Israel and America and maintains that the passage only demonstrates a pattern of God’s judgment. Likewise, he concludes that recent events in America, beginning with 9/11, are only parallels to that specific pattern.

Yet, in multiple places the book gives the very clear impression that these are more than simply parallels and that a direct connection does exist. Based on what is clearly stated in the book, it is difficult to conclude that this is not precisely what Cahn intended to convey at the time…

The Mystery of Isaiah 9:10: A Driving Force?

Not only does Cahn seem to believe that there is a connection, but he also presents Isaiah’s words as functioning as a driving force in specific events in America over the last decade, set into motion by the attacks of 9/11. According to The Prophet [character in The Harbinger], because of the link between Isaiah 9:10 and Israel, once the pattern is set into motion, each step of the progression must inevitably take place.6

The cause/effect relationship is also confirmed in his The 700 Club interview on January 3, 2012:

[The mystery] even has determined the actions and the actual words of American leaders. A mystery that goes back two and a half thousand years and is a warning of judgment and a call of God—a prophetic call of God.7

This comes perilously close to being a mystical view of the prophetic Scriptures because biblical prophecies do not function this way. Any prophecy as specific as Isaiah 9:10 also has a unique, specific future referent in view which sets parameters and limits on what constitutes literal fulfillment. That what is being suggested about Isaiah 9:10 sounds more like a sort of mystical incantation than a prophecy is reinforced when the author introduces the idea of “The Isaiah 9:10 Effect” later in chapter 15.

Undoubtedly, Jonathan Cahn did not intend to give this impression. But he would not be the first person to unintentionally confuse genuinely spiritual approaches with unbiblical and dangerous mystical ones. (source)

Further reading

Endnotes

  1. as cited at http://www.gfcto.com/articles/theological-issues/grudems-view-of-nt-prophecy, accessed 7/15/12
  2. Jonathan Cahn is the senior pastor of Jerusalem / Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne, New Jersey. On the church’s website, it is suggested that Beth Israel is perhaps the largest Messianic congregation in the United States. He is generally referred to as “Rabbi.
  3. The Harbinger, from the back cover.
  4. The Harbinger, p. v.
  5. On April 4, 2012, Dr. Jimmy DeYoung moderated a discussion between Jonathan Cahn and this author which is available on the Prophecy Today website (www.prophecytoday.com
  6. Page 141.
  7. Beginning at the 2:15 minute mark: http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/mp4/SUB109_JonathanCahn_010312_WS