Posts Tagged ‘Hank Hanegraaff’

As discussed in my previous post here, on April 9 Hank Hanegraaff, the host of the Bible Answer Man radio program and president of the evangelical parachurch ministry Christian Research Institute (CRI), formally joined the Orthodox Church.

In a forthcoming post I hope to delve more deeply into the story of Hanegraaff’s conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy and its implications for CRI and for evangelicalism. Right now, however, I want to explore some of the initial reactions we are seeing to this story and then point to some resources for those who want to learn more about evangelicalism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

 

The Fundamentalist Reaction: “Hanegraaff…Has Left the Biblical Christian Faith”

Some fundamentalists (and I use that term to distinguish them from mainstream evangelicals) have been quick to judge that in leaving Protestantism, Hanegraaff has left the Christian faith. This is precisely what one blogger, Jeff Maples, claimed at the Pulpit and Pen blog. His post was entitled “The Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff, Leaves the Christian Faith?” The question mark does not imply that Maples thinks Orthodoxy might be Christian. The only question in his mind at the time was whether the story of Hanegraaff defecting to the Orthodox Church was true. According to Maples,

There are numerous reports that Hank Hanegraaff, the well-known talk show host, and evangelical apologist known as “The Bible Answer Man,” has left the biblical Christian faith for Greek Orthodox tradition…. The Orthodox Church is a false expression of Christianity, much like the Roman Catholic Church, that is highly driven by graven images and denies the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and instead, trusts in meritorious works and a sacramental system for salvation.

For Maples and other fundamentalists, it’s as simple as that: Catholics and Orthodox are not Christians because they don’t understand salvation in the same way that evangelical Protestants do. They are supposedly trusting in their works and religious rituals for salvation. Read the rest of this entry »

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On Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017, Hank Hanegraaff formally joined the Orthodox Church. Since 1989 Hanegraaff has been the President of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and (since ca. 1992) the host of CRI’s Bible Answer Man radio program.[1] Hank, his wife Kathy, and two of their twelve children were inducted by a sacramental rite called chrismation into the Orthodox faith at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, near where CRI is based. In chrismation, a baptized individual is anointed with oil in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.[2]

There was no prior announcement of Hanegraaff’s conversion, although there were rumors he was a catechumen (someone in a formal process leading to conversion). Ironically, the day before his chrismation an evangelical blogger, Jason Engwar at Triablogue, documented evidence from Hanegraaff’s radio broadcasts over the past year that suggested he was moving toward Eastern Orthodoxy.[3] Father Thomas Soroka, an Orthodox priest, first broke the news of Hanegraaff’s chrismation on Facebook.

Although Hanegraaff’s conversion to Orthodoxy is a dramatic development, in a way his theology and religiosity has been in almost constant movement throughout his nearly three decades at CRI. Hanegraaff’s family background was Dutch Reformed and his ministry experience prior to CRI included working with Calvinist pastor and broadcaster D. James Kennedy. When he arrived at CRI he was also a staunch young-earth creationist. Over the years Hanegraaff transitioned to old-earth creationism (which happens to be my position as well) but also passed through two or three forms of eschatology, eventually becoming an advocate for the controversial view known as preterism (which views almost all NT prophecy as fulfilled in the first century). Presumably now that he has become Orthodox he will need to support its traditional eschatology, which is amillennial.

Hanegraaff’s conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy should not be viewed as a mere isolated occurrence. There has been a definite trend for the past few decades of a growing number of American evangelical Protestants converting to either Catholicism or Orthodoxy. As long ago as 1992, the trend of conversions of evangelical clergy to Orthodoxy was noted in a book.[4] I want to suggest some lessons (by no means exhaustive) that need to be learned from this recent turn of events.

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The apologetic testimonies of Hank Hanegraaff, Gretchen Passantino Coburn, and Fuller Theological Seminary in defense of the Local Churches are highly problematic. As I explained in my previous post, they lack serious argument to justify the about-face of those who (in the case of Hanegraaff and Passantino Coburn) for years deemed the Local Churches, at the very least, theologically unsound. But there is something else that makes these testimonies problematic and even troublesome. There is something oddly familiar about them. Specifically, what general and unsubstantiated claims that these evangelicals make about the Local Churches eerily parallel claims that some evangelicals have also been making about the Mormon religion—as well as some claims that Mormon apologists have made. Indeed, in one instance it is the same evangelical making these claims in both cases. Read the rest of this entry »

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According to an article posted online two days ago at Christianity Today, “Two notable critics have changed their minds on the controversial ‘local churches’ movement that follow the teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.” The two critics are Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute (CRI), and Gretchen Passantino Coburn, director of Answers in Action (AIA). The article refers to a booklet to which Hanegraaff and Passantino Coburn contributed and that the Defense and Confirmation Project, a pro-Local Churches group, published in November 2007. Entitled The Local Churches: “Genuine Believers and Fellow Members of the Body of Christ”, the booklet includes “Testimonies” (as the title page quite correctly calls them) from Hanegraaff, Passantino Coburn, and Fuller Theological Seminary. Fuller’s contribution is a statement representing the assessment of Richard Mouw, the school’s president, and two other Fuller professors.

I have been quite reluctant to enter the fray of this debate, which has actually been going on for several years, but have decided now to say something. Read the rest of this entry »

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