David James and T.A. McMahon discuss: "Is it justifiable to misapply scripture in order to bring America to repentance?"
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24?/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call, featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us.
This week, Tom’s special guest is David James, author of the new book The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?, a critical review of the book The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn. And now, along with his guest, David James, here’s TBC Executive Director, Tom McMahon:
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24?/7, a program in which we encourage our listeners to be like the Bereans of Acts:17:11. They listened to the Apostle Paul and were commended for searching the Scriptures daily to see if what he was preaching was true to God’s Word. That’s the only way Christians can truly discern truth from error regarding what they’re being taught, no matter who or what is the source.
As Gary mentioned, our topic for today is a book that is atop the New York Times bestseller list titled The Harbinger, authored by Jonathan Cahn. Our guest is Dave James, the author of The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?, which in fact takes issue with Jonathan Cahn’s best seller, a book that is obviously growing in its influence among Christians and non-Christians alike.
Dave James: Hi, Tom! Thanks, it’s great to be with you.
Tom: Yeah, Dave, give us an overview of your book and what motivated you to write it.
Dave: My book is a response and a critique of The Harbinger, and it basically looks at every aspect of The Harbinger, and looks at the claims and examines the details of the things that Jonathan Cahn says are actually factual events that have happened since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
The Harbinger is a novel, but according to Jonathan Cahn, it’s 90 percent factual, so the fiction is just a vehicle for communicating what he believes are true things. So what I do is I don’t look at it from a literary perspective. I don’t evaluate it as far as whether it’s good or bad fiction, or whatever. I just take it at face value, the things that he says are true, and examine those to see if they really are true.
And his book largely centers around a passage in Isaiah chapter 9, Isaiah:9:10, which was given by God to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the face of impending judgment that He was going to bring at the hands of the Assyrians. And according to Jonathan Cahn, there are identifiable events, or harbingers, or signs, or omens, in the Isaiah:9:10 passage, which not only did they happen back at the time that the Assyrians attacked Israel, but history is repeating itself on American soil, beginning with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
And so I examine those. I examine the hermeneutics, I examine the way he’s handling the Scriptures, I examine what he says are the replay of the events, and I look at them through a biblical lens and an historical lens. And the reason I did it was because I was concerned that it had become so popular and it was influencing a lot of people. So I just started to check into it to see if a book of this influence was really true and biblical and historically right.
Tom: Dave, in past, when we’ve evaluated…tried to biblically evaluate books that have come out, particularly those that are, as you said, with Jonathan Cahn’s book, when the vehicle is fiction, people think, Oh, therefore fine! It’s just this guy’s opinion. Don’t get too excited about it. And so on—on one hand! On the other hand, when it’s a so-called fictional book but it describes either biblical issues or the character of God, which we’ve seen in a number of so-called fictional books, now you’ve got a problem, because it’s talking about doctrine—doctrine meaning the teachings of Scripture, and it’s either true to the Word of God, or it’s not. And that’s what I appreciate about your book. You’re just trying to evaluate—even though it’s called a fictional book, it’s dealing with doctrinal…Old Testament, the Tanakh, as well as the New Testament scriptures. And once you do that, you need to be a Berean. You need to check these things out and see if they’re true to the Word of God, which is what I appreciate about your book.
Now, what kind of feedback have you gotten so far with your book?
Dave: Well, it’s been varied, as you might guess. Thinking about the front end, as far as pre-publish of the book, we actually had three different editors and three different theological readers who went through my book as I was writing it, really with a fine-toothed comb. And so I got very positive feedback from those who did that, and they had read The Harbinger as well, so they knew to be looking for how accurate I was in that representation.
I also—the Lord gave me eight different endorsers, who also read both books, and so these are men who are well known in conservative evangelical circles, and they feel like my book does a good job of being fair and addressing the issues but also sounds the warning.
I’ve also received a lot of positive feedback from other people who are in apologetic and discernment ministries who are really concerned about handling the Word of God correctly, and they feel like my book really addresses things that need to be addressed, and so that’s been very positive from that side.
On the other side, I have to say that a far greater amount of negative criticism has come from a wide variety of people in various walks of life and various aspects of ministry, because The Harbinger has become so popular. For example, on Amazon.com, it has over 1,000 reviews, and about 90 percent of those are 5-star ratings. So it’s very positively reviewed.
And so the people who give it a very positive review have really come strongly against me because they believe that The Harbinger is a book that God has used and continues to use, and they feel like I have launched a personal attack. And some of it has been very well toned and moderate in saying, “We’re concerned about you having written it.” Some of it, the volume has been turned up quite a bit, and actually, publicly, there have been public letters, there have been radio programs, that have taken not just me to task but anyone who has had concerns about The Harbinger, and so it’s actually become kind of the national phenomenon—not just The Harbinger, but the criticism of my book as well.
Tom: Dave, you’re familiar with our ministry, of course, you know, The Berean Call. When you deal with issues, and you’re trying to biblically evaluate something, I mean, to me that’s the playing field that we all need to be on—you know, we, as the publisher of The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?—I’ve taken a lot of heat as well. And I don’t mind that, if indeed the issues that are being brought forth bring you to the Scriptures. You know, let’s circle the wagons; let’s sit down and discuss these things from a biblical perspective. I mean, what else have we got? Isaiah said, “To the law and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, there is no light in them.”
Now, that could be on either side, but here’s my question: What, for all of the negative input, the flak that you’ve received, what have been some of the issues that your…well, we’ll call [them] “denigrators,” or people who just are interested in knowing what the Scripture says—what have they brought that we could discuss biblically?
Dave: Well, Tom, this is actually one of the more interesting phenomena surrounding this whole issue. You know, my greatest concern has been my passion for the Word of God and to teach it correctly and to be biblically accurate, and so that’s why I went through the process of, you know, having different editors and theological readers, and making sure that I’m on target. But the interesting thing is as I’ve done that, and gone through the process—I’ve also read the negative criticisms and I tried to read them objectively and see what truth I can glean from them, and where I may have missed the point—misstated, mishandled the Bible, misstated history, whatever it might be. And the interesting thing is that I would say 95 percent-plus of the criticisms have not dealt with the content or the actual issues that I’ve raised. For some reason, this has become a very emotional issue that has been disproportionate almost to…it’s out of line with what we’re trying to do, in other words, deal with the biblical issues, like you said. So there’s a lot of emotion going on but very little content saying, “Well, Dave, you got it wrong here…you got it wrong here…you got it wrong here.” In fact, on top of that, some of my harshest critics have said, “Yeah, you’re right, this is what it says, but that’s not what the author means.” And so, it’s acknowledged that I’ve got so many things right, but they said that I just don’t understand it.
Tom: And, Dave, The Berean Call—we’re a ministry that…well, we’re involved in correction, but if we’re Bereans, we’re open to be corrected ourselves. But on what basis? Well, the Bereans—they were Jews in the synagogue of the Greek city of Berea, and they were commended because they searched the Scriptures daily—they were willing and wanting to correct the Apostle Paul for what he was preaching and what he was teaching. And in that, they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Again, this needs to be the playing field—the ring, as it were—in which we discuss things as Christians to see if it’s true to God’s Word or not. So that’s been a concern not only for you—that we’ve had for you and the attacks that…well, I don’t like to use the word “attacks,” because this is what they say, “Well, you’ve attacked Jonathan Cahn,” and so on. But in terms of the criticism of you, well fine! If it’s something that’s critically wrong on the basis of what you’re saying, well, what would be the basis? It’s go to be the Word of God. It’s got to be the Scriptures. And I’m not seeing a lot of that.
Now, we’ve taken a bit of heat, because as you know, before I talked to you about the book that you were working on, we brought out some—well, initially, a critical article of The Harbinger—and, by the way, we did…I did, personally, because of my background as a screenwriter in Hollywood, I mean, I look at fiction—I mean, I used to write fiction—so, you know, I evaluated it from that standpoint. But that wasn’t the major issue. The major issue is how is this book—is it in line with the Word of God, or isn’t it? Is it doctrinally correct or not? And that’s—I don’t mind criticism as long as it’s on that playing fields that we’re…because then I can say, “Hey, these guys are right. We’ve got this wrong biblically.” But if it’s just somebody’s opinion, or just somebody doesn’t like some aspect of our ministry, or of you, Dave, they don’t like some of your, you know, your other ideas theologically, or whatever…but that’s beside the point! The point is, Is this true to God’s Word? Or is it not?
Now, Dave, there’s another question I want to ask you along this line. We’ve had people say, “Well, yeah, we know there are problems with it, and we know it doesn’t line up biblically, but God can still use this. You know, He can, He can turn people around because of the popularity of this and recognizing the fact that, you know, America is going to hell in a hand basket….” What do you think about that?
Dave: I’ve thought about that a lot, because you’re right—this has been said quite a bit. And a couple of responses I have to that: one is certainly God can use anything to accomplish His purposes. And we see that throughout the Scriptures. For example, obviously the Lord used the Babylonians to accomplish His purposes, and certainly there would have been people who repented and were saved as a result of those judgments and any number of others that God brought.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that those are tactics that we employ as believers. I mean, there are things that God uses that we shouldn’t necessarily be involved with directly. One of the classic examples, I think, is found in the book of Acts, where in the city of Ephesus, Paul and his ministry team were out on the streets and going to the synagogues and preaching, and there was a girl that had followed them around for three days and was actually attracting attention to them, saying that “Even these men are from the most high God.” Now, what we find out is that after three days, Paul says enough is enough, and he turns to the girl and he actually casts a demon out of her. And she had actually been proclaiming truth, and it was attracting attention to God’s message. Now, obviously, Satan’s intention was to bring ridicule to them, but at the same time, God used it, and yet we wouldn’t say that we would want to emulate that as a way to get God’s Word out.
So, that argument needs to be evaluated, and of course, as ministers of God, we need to do God’s things God’s way.
Tom: Right. And that’s the point. If, and this what we’re saying, having evaluated—you know, I throw myself into the mix with you, Dave, not only as the publisher of your book, but we’ve taken issue with this prior to the printing of your book, but people are saying—and we’ve heard it—people are saying, “Well, you don’t understand. Yeah, we recognize that this is wrong, and that’s wrong about the book; yeah, it doesn’t hold up factually, historically, biblically…” (Maybe they wouldn’t go that far, but they would recognize the errors in the book that we have presented.) But they say, “Nevertheless, look! God’s going to turn America around through this.”
So then you have to accept the idea, as you gave the example of, that God is using erroneous—you know, even worse than the woman at Ephesus—erroneous teachings, false doctrines, the misuse of Scripture to bring America to repentance? No! That is not God’s way! And even if you’re believing that, well, what about…what about damage control here? That false ideas, false teachings, false hermeneutics—I mean, there aren’t any hermeneutics involved, which we’ll talk about in a minute—that’s not God’s way! He doesn’t do things like that. As Isaiah—I quoted Isaiah earlier: “To the law and the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, there is no light in them.”
It doesn’t mean that whoever this verse may apply to, that they’ve got everything wrong, but let’s pin down these things and say, “Hey, is this God’s way? Is this the way God works? Is this God’s truth?” Well, it’s not going to have good results, no matter how excited people get if that’s the particular case.
Dave: I think one thing that might be helpful to just mention briefly is this matter of whether it is fact or fiction, and the use of fiction as a genre. Because on the one hand, when you try to get into the details, people often say, “Well, but it’s just fiction.”
And as I’ve evaluated that, I think you can look at it in this way: If it’s fiction dealing with theology, then it’s either fictional theology or it’s theological fiction. Well, obviously, if it’s fictional theology, that’s heresy. You can’t be making theology up. So that leaves you one other choice and that is that it’s theological fiction. And the parallel that I use is historical fiction. So there are historical novels, but they use truth as a framework—I mean, they use true things as a framework for the story. So somebody wants to tell a love story about World War II, but they don’t put the bombing of Pearl Harbor at the wrong date, you know, they don’t put it in 1939. The facts have to be real, because you’re actually teaching history as well. And if you get your history wrong, then it destroys what you’re trying to do.
So you can’t just go back can say, “Well, it’s just fiction.” So for example, if in The Harbinger it is said, “A fact is that the bricks fell in New York City, and that parallels the bricks falling in Jerusalem,” if those things don’t match up, then you’ve got a historical problem that you’re saying is a fact. And so it makes it very impossible to sort out what is true and which isn’t. Which of it is fact, and which of it is fiction? And which can we evaluate on a biblical basis?
Tom: Yeah, which brings us back to the topic of hermeneutics. You know, one of the reasons that I was excited for you to do this book—and we talked about it: you’d already been working on it—but we came to the agreement that the major issue here was hermeneutics. Now we’re just about out of time for this part of our program, but we’re going to pick up with this with you, Dave, in our next program. But I’ll say this again, a major reason we wanted to publish your book was again, only in part were our concerns about the biblical errors found in The Harbinger that were deceiving multitudes, but what perhaps for us was more important is your book is a terrific lesson in applying hermeneutics in order to understand what’s being taught in God’s Word.
So The Harbinger became a terrific teaching device—that is, our criticism of it and how you go about that, and what are the issues? Yeah, there’s going to be those out there who said, “Well, yeah, but God can still use it,” and so on. But it really comes down to: Can you evaluate something that’s out there by holding it up to the Scripture? What’s the basis for that? And what’s the proper way of going about it, which is hermeneutics, which we’re going to talk about in our next program.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon. David James’s book The Harbinger, Fact or Fiction? is published by and available through The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of materials to help you in your study of God’s Word. For more information, contact us at P.O. Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708; call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at www.thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us, and we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.