I always detested substitute teachers. Such disdain does not derive from some OCD-obsessed anxiety about disturbed routine. Such teachers were simply, for the most part, such a waste of time and added to the general ennui, I felt at school.
I think that I am developing a similar aversion for itinerant preachers. I am usually able to tame the theological flyswatter in me to the state of a lethargic, somnolent male lion. But the last few times when the local pastor skedaddles on holidays, the replacements always seem to bring a disturbance to my universe. The last time, I felt a need to fire off a missive to correct comments the pastoral temp made about Justification; an endeavour that I do not repent of, because of the import of the subject. On this occasion, no single item deserved all-out disputation. However, the accumulation of irritants rattled the soul and I made mention of it to my mother. She suggested that I raise my disagreements with the preacher. I deferred; prudently in retrospect.
I have heard this elderly preacher preach before and preach well; including at my eldest son’s wedding. And I am comfortable that he remains orthodox in all that matters; good-willed and gentle, perhaps too much the latter; a true servant. However, he has fallen for or has always believed in this Christendom fiction that Western principalities were ever Christian nations. That whole issue deserves it own dedicated series of essays.
Furthermore, he has become enamored by one of those really bad ‘Christian’ pulp fictions, called “The Harbinger” (2012). In it, the Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn suggests that the 9/11 Twin Tower attack and the near-collapse of the global economy in 2008/9 were “ancient harbingers of judgment are now manifesting in America”. “God is sending America a prophetic message of what is yet to come”. 1 Written in fictional form, giving this pseudo-prophet deniability; verses from Isaiah are cited to apply to the current American situation.
“‘The bricks have fallen down,
but we will rebuild with dressed stone;
the fig trees have been felled,
but we will replace them with cedars.’
But the Lord has strengthened Rezin’s foes against them
and has spurred their enemies on.“2
Apparently, what must be one of the most hilarious and classic cases of Scriptural proof texting, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, seeking an encouraging word on the day following the Twin Tower attack, selected the above verse; not noticing that it was spoken in derision by the prophet in the context of unfaithful ancient Israelites, exhibiting national hubris, boasting of their nation’s resilience.
“I know that there is only the smallest measure of inspiration that can be taken from this devastation. But there is a passage in the Bible from Isaiah that I think speaks to us all at times like this. ‘The bricks have fallen down but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled but we will replace them with cedars.’ That is what we will do. We will rebuild and we will recover…”
Do I believe that Western nations are in decline? Yes. Though, I speculate that all the nations of the world have entered this Grand Prix Race to the bottom. And I can rationally correlate the relative decline of the Western nations to particular deviations from ethical conduct and the Christian outlook. The Twin Tower attack might very much to do with arrogant imperialist myopia and insularity, resulting in blowback. I am no credentialed specialist on Islam. But I knew that continuing to station American ‘infidel’ troops in Saudi Arabia after the 1st Gulf War was tantamount to holy war and anathema to Muslims; giving spur to zealot backlash. It would not differ from Antiochus IV, Pompey the Great, Emperor Caligula’s attempts to profane the Temple or Emperor Hadrian’s forbidding of circumcision. Apparently, the boys at Foggy Bottom were clueless or too timid to raise proper hackles. Perhaps, they were all graduates of Harvard!
The problem with such pulp fiction, disguising as valid prophetic commentary, is that it purports to have insight into the Sovereign Mind of God. On the day of the book’s release (January 3rd, 2012), Jonathan Cahn was interviewed by Pat Robertson on The 700 Club, with Robertson evidently endorsing the book. Obtaining an endorsement from a certifiable false prophet, (who purported to know the day of the Lord’s coming (October or November of 1982), a knowledge, even the Christ is denied4), should be a red flag. From the CBN web site (The 700 Club), America as chosen Christian nation is reiterated:
“Israel and America are the only two nations that God sovereignly planted as a light to the nations. “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 a covenant with God,” the Prophet says. To whom much is given, much is required.”5
Applying verses, geared specifically to the Northern Hebrew Kingdom, as applicable to the United States nowadays, violates Paul’s admonition to Timothy concerning careful instruction.5 Such stretching of prophetic vagaries belong to Nostradamus. It discredits Biblical prophecy and prepares the day when real prophecy will understandably be ignored because false prophets were allowed free rein to blather without sharp rebuke by the timid and undiscerning Church leadership.
There were several other comments made in that sermon that I could shoot basketballs through. However, after spouting a strange set of ideas and endorsement of a book, which upon studious reflection should prove disingenuous and silly, there was odd irony to complete the discomfort.
Well acquainted with Israel, having conducted several tours there; this preacher has become a bit of a Judeophile. It is not something that I am not personally acquainted with. But he made comment about Amillennialists, who deny the application of latter day prophecies as relating to the Jewish nation. It was nothing less than heresy!
As Yosemite Sam would say, “Dems fightin’ words!”
It is not that I don’t concur with a Premillennialist eschatology (except a pre-tribulation rapture) or that there is distinction between the Church and Israel. The problem lies in flinging charges of ‘heresy’ about matters of “mint, dill and cumin” and straining at gnats.6 In the context of that sermon, it was supreme irony. But, it is unnecessarily schismatic, fractious and counterproductive. It engenders bad blood. When theologues behave in such fashion, especially over picayune points of theology; it discredits Biblical and theological study and love of God with the mind in those who observe such disputes, lending to loss of discernment and acceptance of all manner of true heresy. It violates numerable passages in Scriptures concerning liberty of conscience (i.e. Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8-10). “If on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you”7, Paul wrote to the Philippians.
Being a student of history, I can always envision some great future travesty and atrocity emanating out from the pathways of minor deviations from Biblical purity. I am quite expert at it. Such an exercise could easily become a preoccupation, as addictive as online gaming. However, I am aware from own my life, it is the Spirit which protects us from falling; not scrupulous theological purity.
I can remember an period in my youth, when as a waiter in a Chicken restaurant, I would be internally confronted with difficult questions of doctrine of a substantive nature just before the supper rush. For foolish reasons, I found it incumbent to resolve such issues during the height of the dinner to relieve spiritual anxiety. I didn’t ever succeed until in the cool of the night when the answers would come to me. Day after day, this would go on for a month or so, before this sharp tool of a mind, started to notice a pattern. John Bunyan, in his autobiography, acknowledged a similar experience. So I am not singularly mad.
From my childhood, I knew that a typical man might be lucky to have 30,000 days. And I am quite certain that there are many multiples of Scriptural issues, however trivial and nuanced, that could need resolving. It would not seem profitable to expend a limited lifespan in the pursuit of resolving every theological point of order. And it would seem that with tens or hundreds of thousands of potential issues, chances are nil that we are going to get them all right. I have come across ancient and medieval Christian apologetics. And I am befuddled over what and why particular contentions had to be responded to. In summary, there will always be differences of opinion.
If we must label every difference of opinion heretical without distinction, we are bound to erecting churches, the size of johnny-on-the-spots, to serve each individual Christian. In my outhouse, of which I will be singular member, I should still think that schism will rack the pew.
It is written “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.”8 Considering that in the scheme of things, these ideological deviations do not pose a grave and immediate threat to any, it might be best to take Solomon’s advice and overlook an ‘offense’. In an age of so great a theological and ethical corruption in the Evangelical churches, we don’t need to harass and distract those who remain faithful with minor disputations.
- From the advertisement for the book from the web site http://www.theharbinger-jonathancahn.com/Book/
- Isaiah 9:10-11
- Matthew 24:36-39 – v36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, ut only the Father.” Apparently, Pat Robertson outranks the Christ; reiterating a declaration made in 1976 in a May 1980 “700 Club’ broadcast “I guarantee you by the end of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world.“
- The 700 Club, “Guest BIO – Jonathan Cahn: The Harbinger – Light to the Nations”, January 3, 2012, http://www.cbn.com/700club/guests/bios/jonathan_Cahn_010312.aspx The latter part belongs to page 19 of “The Harbinger”
- 2 Timothy 4:2
- Matthew 23:23-24
- Philippians 3:15
- 1 Timothy 5:1