Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cahn'd Again

This Saturday, I spent much of my first day of Spring Break near tears, deeply saddened and troubled that "Rabbi" Jonathan Cahn would be returning to speak at Gateway Church. Now, I will admit, the first time he visited I was swayed by his charismatic presentation. Then a friend corrected me, pointing out some Biblical problems with his teaching. After further research, I posted a strongly worded "apology" for recommending him which inflamed a firestorm of controversy, making me the center of much gossip...and I took the posts down, choosing instead to send a respectful, brotherly letter (vetted by a trusted Southwestern Seminary professor with a PhD) to church leadership. After a few more poorly received attempts to engage my friends on Facebook in similar Biblical issues, I began this blog, dedicated to examining such issues in a better setting. I have found that the best outlet for my distress and the most productive way of addressing my concerns is to conduct a Biblical examination of Mr. Cahn's claims and then to share it so others can learn and even engage in the discussion.

This weekend, Mr. Cahn claimed that "We are living in the days of Elijah." In a coordinated post, Pastor Robert Morris said on his official facebook page that "I believe he is a modern day Elijah." (note from 3/18: He articulated this claim again this weekend, asking the congregation to pick up Cahn's books, calling "The Harbinger" fascinating.) This is a lofty and audacious claim. Let's examine some of his other claims to see if such lavish praise is warranted, shall we?

Claim #1 "The Shemitah"
In his sermon as he does in his book, The Shemitah, Mr. Cahn claimed that God has caused numerous stock market collapses as judgement on the American people based on the principle of the Shemitah, introduced in Deuteronomy 15:1-3. Aside from the fact that no one alive on earth could possibly know the dates of the year of the Shemitah, Verse 3 clearly states that this rule does not apply to foreigners, or to use a New Testament term, Gentiles, like us. So obviously it does not apply to the United States. Furthermore, Shemitah means to "release," or to let drop of exactions--meaning to not collect a debt. In Deuteronomy 15:1-3 God commanded the people of Israel to release everyone from their debts once every 7 years. If you have ever been told to "let it go" or "let it drop" this is what this word means, to cancel or grant a remission of debts. Picture opening your hand to let go or release something you have been grasping tightly to and this is what the word Shemitah describes. Shemitah is the Hebrew word for the FORGIVENESS of debts. This practice is meant to demonstrate God's grace and the way that He forgives us of our sin debt against Him. Cahn's claim, that God caused the stock market to crash as a judgement on America based on the Shemitah, is equivalent to saying that God crashed the stock market because of forgiveness. It is utterly and completely ridiculous. In his book, Mr. Cahn predicted that one of the biggest financial disasters of all time was going to occur in September 2015. As it happens, the stock market made a major recovery in September of 2015, the bulls were running, so to speak, throughout the whole month, leaving so-called Rabbi Cahn with Egg on his face. Did this humble him? No. He simply looked back over the year's statistics, found a day when the stock market had dropped and claimed it was caused by the Shemitah. Mr. Cahn has badly misinterpreted and twisted one of the Bible's most beautiful illustrations about the remission of sins and the forgiveness of debts and exploited it sell his books. The New Testament application of this concept is simple: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12) We must be a people who are willing to let go and forgive.

Claim #2 Trump's Election Was An Act Of God
Cahn claimed that Donald Trump's election was orchestrated by God and he insinuated that he predicted this in his book The Harbinger. Let's be clear. No prophet anointed Trump's head with oil, nor was he granted supernatural victory on the battlefield to conquer an enemy. Donald Trump is not a King. He is a President. He was voted in by the will of the people. America is neither a Kingdom, nor a Theocracy. We are a Democracy. We have boldly declared that we are a government Of the people, BY the people and FOR the people. We choose our own leaders and most of our nation is unconcerned with who God would choose to be our leader. There were several good, Christian men who could have been the Republican nominee, but sinful America rejected them. Trump's election was the result of human choice. America chose it's own President, even though, in my opinion, there were better, more godly men available. While Trump may have been much less terrible than Clinton for Christians to vote for, due to the Republican stance for religious freedom and against abortion, think of the implications for the spread of the Gospel in claiming that Trump was God's choice. I, for one, am not willing to grant President Trump a divine endorsement to rule, though I will be a respectful and honorable citizen who follows the law, cooperates with authority and prays for my President, as mandated by Scripture.

Claim #3 Harbingers
Mr. Cahn has built his career on the interpretation of harbingers, which he frequently refers to as omens, another meaning of the word. He was introduced Saturday night as the author of The Harbinger, a fictional book which he claims is based on the truth. The last time he spoke at Gateway, he spent nearly the entire sermon interpreting omens and this time, plugging his book, he claimed there have been even more such harbingers. Deuteronomy 18:10-11 warns against various types of divination saying to let there be no one found among you...who interprets omens, or is an observer of the times. Making prophetic predictions about the future based on anything other than the direct revelation of God is strictly forbidden in Scripture. Any rabbi should know that. Mr. Cahn looks almost exclusively to past events and then reinterprets them, claiming credit for various catastrophies, financial disasters and even terrorist actions on behalf of God. Often, he is blaming God for the sinful actions of men. The lack of reverence for the good Name of God shown by Mr. Cahn is a violation of the  3rd commandment: Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. The word "take," means to carry before you like a banner. This commandment means that we are not to misrepresent the name of God. The way this man portrays God's character is not right and it flies in the face of grace, as well as justice.

Claim #4 America is the New Israel
Cahn stated that "America was founded solely for the purposes of God to be an Israel of the New World."  He did speak in support of the nation of Israel which was good, we should remember Psalm 122:6 "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may those who love you prosper." But claiming that America is also an Israel of the New World is bonkers. While it is true that many Christ followers came to America seeking religious freedom and it is true that a Judeo-Christian morality was present in our founding fathers and it is true that our founding documents were influenced by the Mosaic Covenant from the Bible, America, does not have a special covenant with God. We are under a New Covenant in which God's Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. Jesus said "My kingdom is not of this world." The truth is that America was founded in rebellion against authority which goes against the teachings of Scripture. There were a number of political and financial motivations for the Revolutionary War. Now, I do believe that our nation has been blessed beyond comprehension because of the incorporation of God's laws and morality into our own laws and because of the prayers of Christian people and America abandons that morality and stifles those prayers at its own peril. But it is a grievous mistake to claim America is somehow a new Israel, or God's chosen people. Certainly, we should thank God for the many blessings we have in this nation. We can absolutely learn our lessons from the nations in the Bible who were judged when they abandoned God. But the United States was founded on the freedom of religion. Israel was to have only one God. The Shema, the most important statement in the Jewish faith, directly from their constitution, their covenant document found in Deuteronomy 6:4 is Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. The United States of America is not a new Israel.

Claim #5 The Power of His Own Picture
Are you sitting down? You might want to be for this next one. I've saved the most outrageous claim for last. Saturday night, Mr. Cahn claimed that he went to Cuba, and that a man had painted a picture of him blowing a shofar before he arrived. Cahn claimed that they went to a house on a mountain where witchcraft had been practiced, where he claimed there was an idol to a certain false god that he alleges had something to do with Fidel Castro coming into power. As I remember it, he told the audience that the plate with his image painted on it had been set up in the witch-house and knocked over the idol of the false god one night so that it appeared to be bowing down to it and then claims his picture fell on the idol the next night and smashed it. He compared this to the time the ARK OF THE COVENANT, carrying the very Presence of God, was taken into the Philistine temple of Dagon and Dagon bowed down to the Ark one night and then the idol fell and was smashed to pieces another night. He directly compared his own image and its power to the Ark of the Covenant. I believe he is violating the 2nd commandment in setting up his own image as an object of worship. You shall not make yourself any graven image (idol), or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them. The absurdity of this claim would be hilarious, if it weren't so scandalous, narcissistic, downright arrogant and obviously a fictional story. This one really takes the cake.

"Rabbi" Jonathan Cahn is not a modern day Elijah. In fact, I do not believe him to be any sort of prophet at all. Furthermore, Jesus said "You are not to be called Rabbi, for you have one teacher and you are all brothers..." Cahn professes to be a Messianic Jew, a believer in Christ. It is not proper for a Christian pastor to take the name "Rabbi," as Mr. Cahn has done. During his sermon, Cahn, who failed to give a clear presentation of the Gospel, only read about one-half of one verse of Scripture, which had nothing whatsoever to do with his assorted mishmash of topics. There was no sound Biblical exegesis to be found. Jonathan Cahn is basically the Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) of Christian fiction. He is very adept at pulling random passages out of the Bible, giving them entirely new and different meanings and then speaking really fast quoting all sorts of unverifiable and unknowable numbers and mocking up connections between random, unrelated events to pretend to back up his claims in order to sway his audience and sell his books. It is a skillful way to write fiction, which is how his book The Harbinger was originally marketed. As fictional reading, the books are not that great. In fact, they are pretty lame and boring. As teaching, his books are a theological train wreck. I would not recommend his books or DVD's to anyone seeking truth and I would strongly discourage you from participating in any sort of "Bible" study based on these sketchy materials. As disgraceful as it is that Lifeway and Passages continue to carry his books, at least I did find his newest offering located in the correct section, FICTION.

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