JONATHAN CAHN HARBINGER OF DISCERNMENT GONE WILD?

For the past six plus years now Apprising Ministries has been among many who’ve been pioneering a new mission field of online apologetics and discernment ministry. An area of serving the Church that is every bit as viable as when the late Dr. Walter Martin realized there was a kingdom of the cults no one was ministering to.

In similar fashion, the visible Protestant community has become more and more fragmented; and at the same time we’ve seen the rise of cult of personalities within the professing Christian community where only “names” within a given sector have the ears of the masses. A bad combination as spiritual darkness continues falling.

So the Lord has begun raising up works like this one in order to cover issues that are springing up and/or being uncovered as Jesus rains 1 Peter 4:17 judgments upon the visible Christian church. The fact is, if the names were addressing these things in this time of division within Christendom then you’d have never even heard of me.

Remember, even Satan can read and our Lord did warn us — “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:25). Well, as you’re about to see, sadly even within this community of online apologetics and discernment ministries we see a possible coming divide.

What would appear to be at the root of this particular difference is a book called The Harbinger (TH) by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. For more background I point you to The Harbinger: Prophetic Fact Or Fickle Fiction? There I referred you to three different well-written reviews of TH by Gary Gilley, Larry DeBruyn, and David James.

The review by James, which in mind I still think was a very fair apologetic against TH, brings out the problems I have seen with this book as well. He points out:

The Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn,1 is about a series of signs or omens which he believes have manifested in America beginning with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The author believes he has discovered an ancient mystery in Isaiah 9:10-11 that “explains everything from 9/11 to the collapse of the global economy.”2  Although he uses a fictional narrative as a framework, the book is based on what he believes are undeniable facts from the biblical text, the corresponding history of 8th century B.C. Israel and current events of the last decade in America.

As Cahn states at the beginning of the book, “What you are about to read is presented in the form of a story, but what is contained within the story is real.”3 (source)

Before I go on, let me clarify; when I said in other pieces on this issue that Jonathan Cahn struck me as a “shady” character I’m using the metaphor of someone standing under the heavy shade of a tree toward the back of the shadows it casts. For example, I’ve seen many interviews where his work is said to be “a prophetic word.”

Cahn remains silent; neither agreeing with, or correcting, the comment. To me, this somewhat obscures his real motivation for TH, which then serves to keep this work mostly hidden in the shadows. By not responding to the interviewers one way or the other Jonathan Cahn can then claim he personally never he was a prophet, etc.

It also allows him to be billed as follows at events such as The Summer of Prophecy Begins With John Shorey! on the Jim Bakker Show, who told us yesterday:


(source)

Since the point of this piece is a possible growing rift in online apologetics and discernment ministries over TH, and not a review of it, I’ll simply focus your attention upon the following from James’ aforementioned article:

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,4 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. ((Page 141.))

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.5

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)

In her Implications Of The Harbinger Erin Benziger, associate editor of the Christian Research Network, then zeroes us in on a critical matter involving Jonathan Cahn’s misuse of Scripture:

Cahn claims that the previously unknown “Isaiah 9:10 Effect” was launched in America on 9/11. It is now on a trajectory that cannot be stopped. God has provided nine harbingers, or signs, to America, just as He did to Israel, as a means of warning her of impending judgment. Yet, if Isaiah 9:10 was written as more than just a prophetic word to Israel, but also as a warning of a pattern for future nations, where is the pattern?

The word “pattern” is defined by Merriam-Webster as a “frequent or widespread incidence.” ((Merriam-Webster Dictionary, accessed 11 June 2012.)) Unfortunately, the “Isaiah 9:10 Effect,” if true, only has been implemented in ancient Israel and now, in America. Where, then, is the pattern? There doesn’t seem to be one. (source)

With the heart of the matter regarding Jonathan Cahn and his TH in mind I now bring to your attention a couple of radio programs this past weekend on Understanding the Times with Jan Markell. The first is a Web Bonus:


(source)

Now please know that I am not attacking those on the Markell programs; absolutely they are entitled to their opinions. That said, because I happen to know personally almost everyone who is anyone in the field of online apologetics and discernment ministry my concern is these “accusations flying around the Internet and on radio.”

We’re told, “The radio team also asks why not one critic would reach out and contact Cahn before the criticisms and accusations began?” Leaving aside the loaded term “accusations,” the fact is, when Jonathan Cahn decided—for whatever reason—to take his teachings and then publish them in a book, he entered the public arena.

As such critics aren’t obligated to contact Jonathan Cahn privately. The reason being, people are receiving his teaching in that public forum so our criticism must also be done in public for the benefit of those people reading him. Make sense. We’re also told:

Cahn made many attempts to reach those accusing him of many false theologies and associations. In most instances — although not all — the accusers would not even respond to his calls or emails. (source)

You’ll see below that I was one Cahn contacted and I am not among those who didn’t respond to him. Now consider this final section of the bonus piece:

Whether one appreciates “The Harbinger” or not, this ministry is asking if the manner in which a near lynching has been going on is Christ-like and in the manner suggested in the Bible as it concerns contending for the faith? When Cahn is accused of occultic involvement when he teaches against it, has the discernment community pushed too far? Are they then just shrill accusers of the brethren? (source)

I don’t know who wrote this unfortunate section. With all due respect, and the Lord be praised, it’s well known that I’m a part of what’s known as “the discernment community.” I would ask how can mere words—no matter how terse and no matter how they are hurled—possibly be compared with the extremely heinous act of “lynching?”

Couldn’t I now turn around and say, with such a broad brushing of the discernment community—lumping us all in together—this section is also making accusations and attributing associations to us that we teach against. Now I could also ask, has the Markell radio team “pushed too far? Are they then just shrill accusers of the brethren?”

Then there’s the following concerning the next day’s radio program:


(source)

We’re told, “Cahn states that it was his intent to write a message emphasizing repentance, salvation, and the restoration of America to God’s grace.” I’ve not seen anyone credible in the discernment camp deny this. I also don’t know anyone who thinks this is anything other than admirable and necessary; good for Jonathan Cahn.

It’s repeated concerning alleged “questions his critics are hurling” that Cahn:

states no ministry leader has reached out to him before the accusations began, nor have most read the book “The Harbinger” or viewed the DVD, “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment”. (source)

Above I addressed the nature of the public arena. However, if Jonathan Cahn really has “stated” what we just read, isn’t he now hurling accusations himself? How does he know “most” of us in the field of online apologetics and discernment ministry haven’t read his book and/or watched the DVD in question. Answer: He doesn’t.

Next we read, “Cahn feels information is being twisted and distorted with extensive guilt by association.” I say, fair enough; fine. Jonathan Cahn is welcome to his opinion. However in the same way, for example, I am just as entitled to share in my criticism of TH that I personally believe Cahn has “twisted and distorted” the Scriptures.

In addition I could also argue that the Markell radio itself, with its talk of discernment ministries in general, has now also implicated me by using guilt-by-association. We’re also told, “Cahn’s concern is, nonetheless, that some could be turned away from the story and thus not come to repentance and salvation.” A valid concern.

Well, I have one as well: I’m concerned that because of these sweeping statements made by “Jan and her team” toward an unspecified “discernment community” some could be turned away from those of us who strive to cover online apologetics and discernment issues with the highest of Christian ethics and be swept up into falsehood.

I would say, the following is a vivid illustration; we’re told:

Because one radio person suggested is a false prophet and in the Bible they were stoned, Cahn’s wife now fears for the safety of her husband and two very small children. Is this where the apologetics and discernment community want to go? (source)

Might we look at this as the Markell team acting as shrill accusers of the brethren? I happen to know Brannon Howse, we spoke on the phone just today. He is the host upon whose program the other “radio person” mentioned above, Jimmy DeYoung, made the alleged suggestion. Howse released a partial transcript right here.

I have to agree with the following:

Here is a transcript of what Dr. DeYoung said on Worldview Weekend Radio with Brannon Howse. After reading this transcript, we believe it should be clear that anyone that cannot understand the Biblical context of which Dr. DeYoung was speaking should be seriously questioned as to their ability to provide correct theological and Biblical analysis of the book, The Harbinger… (source)

As I get set to close this out, I’ll also bring to your attention When Discernment Turns Ugly, the July 18, 2012 newsletter from Markell team member Eric Barger. Barger tells us:

Both Jan and I have become increasingly uncomfortable, even disturbed, with the tone and lack of civility being portrayed by some within the apologetics and discernment community of speakers, writers, and commentators. (source)

Interesting comments when you consider what you’ve seen here in this piece, no. Might I use this opportunity to offer that we begin to call out publicly, by name, who we’re talking about; if not, we’re guilty of sowing confusion ourselves. Making these kinds of statements toward nameless ministries only serves to cause to division.

Now I will leave you with the following to make sure it’s on record what I am criticizing concerning the public work of Jonathan Cahn. As you’ll see, as a pastor my main concern is establishing that Cahn is misusing Scripture in making the case for his harbingers of God’s judgment upon America, particularly Isaiah 9:10.

First, there’s the following from Jonathan Cahn in TH, which I see at the very least implying that America is a covenant nation with God a la ancient Israel:

“Now? So it’s some kind of key?” “A key for the appointed time, for the word to be given and for the message to go forth, but not for an ancient nation.” “Then for what…for what nation?” He was silent. I asked him again, “Then for what nation?” It was only then that he voiced it. “America,” he said. “Now for America.” With that, he got up from the bench and walked over toward the water. I couldn’t let it go at that. I followed him there. “All this has to do with America?”

“Yes.” “So it’s the appointed time for America? For a mystery to be revealed and a message to be given to America?” “Yes.” “But what does America have to do with ancient Israel?” “Israel was unique among nations in that it was conceived and dedicated at its foundation for the purposes of God.” “OK…” “But there was one other—a civilization also conceived and dedicated to the will of God from its conception…America. In fact, those who laid its foundations…”

“The Founding Fathers.” “No, long before the Founding Fathers. 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.” “Meaning?” “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.”

“What calling?” “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. It would stand against tyranny. It would fight, more than once, against the dark movements of the modern world that threatened to engulf the earth. It would liberate millions. 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.” “But there’s a but coming, isn’t there?”

“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.” “But wasn’t Israel surrounded by nations far worse,” I asked, “with no concept of God or moral code? So why would Israel be judged?” “Because to whom much is given, much is required. And no nation had ever been given so much. None had been so spiritually blessed. So the standards were higher, the stakes greater, and the judgment, when it came, more severe.” “And America…” I said.

“And America has done much good. And there’s no shortage of nations far exceeding any of its faults or sins. But no nation in the modern world has ever been given so much. None has been so blessed. To whom much is given, much is required. If a nation so blessed by God should turn away from Him, what then?” “Its blessings will be replaced with curses?” “Yes.” “And has America turned away from God?” I asked. “It has turned, and is turning.” “How?”

“In the same way Israel turned. It started with a spiritual complacency, then spiritual confusion, then the merging of God with idols, and then, ultimately, the rejection of His ways. Just as with ancient Israel, America began ruling God out of its life, turning, step by step, against His ways, at first subtly, and then, more and more, brazenly.”6

This first clip is Jonathan Cahn on It’s Supernatural with Sid Roth in January of 2011. Notice Cahn says that his message is the same as what the late David Wilkerson shared just after 9/11. Cahn tells us Wilkerson didn’t get it “seeing these things,” but that it “just came to him from the Lord,” and he [Wilkerson] said, “this is the Word.”

Concerning God’s judgment, you’ll see that Cahn also says America is following the “same pattern” right now as did ancient Israel, whom God chose as His covenant nation:

Next we have an appearance by Jonathan Cahn on Jewish Voice with Jonathan Bernis, whom Bernis introduces as “our good friend,” from January of this year. Bernis begins by telling us:

before its destruction by Syria ancient Israel received prophetic omens of warning. Well, my guest today [Jonathan Cahn] has observed that those same nine signs are being revealed right here in America.

And their appearance has stunning ramifications for our nations.[sic]

It seems pretty clear that Jonathan Bernis is under the impression Cahn’s TH is a prophetic word and that America’s following the same pattern as ancient Israel, which is what Jonathan Cahn himself said in the previous clip. When asked to explain what he means by harbingers Cahn tells us that they are:

the signs—prophetic signs—that appeared just before the destruction of ancient Israel, and that are now reappearing, in America (1:25-1:32)

Bernis then asks Cahn to take us through the nine harbingers, which he says is a pattern we see “over and over again in the Bible.” At 3:34 Cahn asks the rhetorical question: “But, what does this have to do with America?” His answer is to draw a parallel with ancient Israel:

Then lastly, we have Jonathan Cahn’s appearance on Glenn Beck’s program last month. I don’t see how any unbiased person could watch what you’ll see below and not understand Cahn to be equating the prophetic implications of Isaiah 9:10 to the United States right now:

I’ve gone into this depth to show that someone like me is hardly being shrill to call Jonathan Cahn out on his misapplication of that passage of Scripture. In fact, it’s literally part of my job as a pastor to do so (cf. 2 Timothy 4:2). As I see it, Jonathan Cahn clearly implies America is on the same pattern for judgment as ancient Israel.

For Cahn to do so is to draw a parallel with God’s covenant nation Israel. So, while he claims he is not saying this, the logical conclusion is: If Israel as a covenant nation with God was warned thusly, then for God to warn America in the very same way, Cahn has implied the United States is also in some kind of covenant with God.

And finally, June 26th I wrote The Harbinger: Prophetic Fact Or Fickle Fiction? I would then later receive an email from Jonathan Cahn entitled The Article by Erin Benziger on The Harbinger. He was actually referring to the Erin Benziger article I cited earlier. He asked me to keep that initial email confidential, which I have.

So here I’ll just tell you that he “would request only [one] thing- in fairness, in biblical propriety” that he be able to give his rebuttal, in particular to that review by David James. Cahn wanted to do this on CRN because, in his opinion, responses to TH “from the beginning, [have] been marked by misperceptions and misunderstanding.”

He stated that Benziger’s piece in particular had “some major factual errors.” In my opinion it does not; however, as General Editor of the CRN website I did write back to Jonathan Cahn. I hadn’t planned upon sharing it, or Cahn’s response, until the Jan Markell radio team decided to make the claims which I walked you through above.

For the record, as one in the field of apologetics and discernment ministry, here is my email to Jonathan Cahn and his response, which in my opinion, ignores the substance of my reply and simply forges forth his initial agenda. Even so, I let him know I’d look over his clarification; he has yet to send me anything:

From: Ken Silva [mailto:apprisingministries@gmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2012 9:28 PM
To: Jonathan Cahn
Subject: Re: Erin Benziger’s Harbinger Article

Hello Jonathan,

Thank you for contacting Christian Research Network, which extends from Apprising Ministries. Please know there was no offense taken and I received this as written from a point of sincere concern. I’m responding in the tone of two people talking about issues over coffee.

I just put all of this up front due to the coldness of the written language, which lacks the ability to distinguish inflections, etc. Erin is my associate editor and I’m in full agreement with her piece. Below you said: “in fairness, in biblical propriety, that I be able to respond, to address and answer the concerns raised (particularly via D. James piece).”

Jonathan, when you wrote that book you became a teacher in the public arena. There is no “biblical propriety” where I need to afford you a forum here at CRN to respond to any public critiques we do of your work. As far as James, you’ve already addressed him elsewhere, which is your prerogative, of course.

You also said of Benziger’s piece “there are some major factual errors.” I happen to know that she’s gone through hours of interviews you’ve given as well as interacted with your book itself. In addition, from my own personal research, and having also written on this subject, I would have to disagree with you concerning this matter.

Again, you are welcome to write your own rebuttal and show me where these alleged errors are. That’s entirely up to you. A couple of major concerns I have is AUTHOR OF THE HARBINGER JONATHAN CAHN TELLS US: “90 PER CENT OF IT IS NON-FICTION” and your misuse of Isaiah 9:10 as if it’s a standard for all nations.

If you have a prophetic message from God, why don’t you come out and stand by it? Since it concerns the judgment of the nation don’t you think you have an obligation to be forthright with the warning? What Biblical prophet played cat and mouse when pronouncing God’s judgment, certainly Isaiah didn’t hold back.

Which brings me to the historical passage in Isaiah from which you life verse 10 out of its context; that being the warning of the coming destruction of Israel. In his classic commentary The Book of Isaiah the great scholar Edward J. Young lists these verses 8-17 of Isaiah 9 as “The approaching destruction”. It was specific to Israel.

That’s why I see David James as quite compelling when he says:

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

Also, if Isaiah 9:10-11 functions to demonstrate a pattern of God’s judgment, as Cahn believes, why is it not identified as such, either here or elsewhere in Scripture? If it is a predictable pattern as he suggests, why is there neither a precedent nor repetition of the pattern in the Bible?

Jonathan, the truth is, you’re reading into Scripture what just isn’t there and I pray you’ll repent of this sowing of confusion.

Sincerely,

Ken Silva, pastor-teacher

President
Apprising Ministries
Ezekiel 3:7-14

Gen. Ed.
Christian Research Network
2 Corinthians 11:12-15

Notice: The information contained in this e-mail message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and is to be considered privileged and confidential under the pastor-client privilege. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply e-mail and delete the original message and all copies from your computer.

Hello Ken

I appreciate your reply and your taking the time to share with me your thoughts about everything.

Just to share and clarify, I actually felt that the tone of your article and Erin’s was much more thoughtful (and less hysterical and extreme or careless ) than most of what I’ve seen. I appreciated also that both articles sought to be careful to also highlight what was felt to be good about the call of The Harbinger – and it was more along the lines of here are some cautions to consider. I respect that very much.

Note – When I speak about errors, I’m not in any way implying that anything was intentional or the result of careless, but rather from misunderstanding a few key things.

I didn’t realize that one of our congregants wrote you to ask about a “rebuttal” I wouldn’t characterize anything I would write as a rebuttal – but rather to explain, answer, and clear up a number of points and misunderstandings in the same good and respectful tone in which you and Erin wrote. It probably wouldn’t be very long.

As to the propriety of affording someone the opportunity to address issues, I can’t speak for every case – but in this case I would say definitely yes on several biblical counts. One is that our obligation is to the truth and if something has been said that (even unintentionally) misrepresents or is not the truth, we have an obligation to rectify it. Second, in the body, if we (even unintentionally) misrepresent another minister, ministry, or work of ministry within the body, it is not only something false, but something against a minister or ministry in the Lord – and is also indirectly against the reader. Third, if we do this publicly, the misrepresentation and wrong done is multiplied.

And if a brother or sister had (even unintentionally) misrepresented your ministry or work in the Lord, And did so publicly to many people – you would want a chance to address and explain from your end. One ends up (again, even if unintentionally) bearing false witness. In such a case, yes it would need to be rectified and the opportunity given for these to be addressed.

So I am hoping for the same integrity that I saw in both yours and Erin’s attempt to give some balance in your articles, to be applied now. I would not presume that whatever is written to you would have to be posted – but that you would be the judge of whether what is written – whether it is appropriate, fair, clarifying or enlightening, deserving of being posted. I would be fine and entrust your judgment in that. But on my part, before I write, I would have to know that you would give fair consideration to what is sent you and if it meets this criteria, that it would be posted.

So with the understanding written above, may I address the concerns/ and that which was factually wrong, confused, or misunderstood and sent it to you for the possibility of posting according to your consideration?

Blessings

Jonathan

Further reading

Endnotes

  1. 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.
  2. The Harbinger, from the back cover.
  3. The Harbinger, p. v.
  4. 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
  5. Beginning at the 2:15 minute mark: http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/mp4/SUB109_JonathanCahn_010312_WS
  6. Cahn, Jonathan (2011-09-03). The Harbinger: The ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future (pp. 18-20). Strang Communications. Kindle Edition.