Hank Hanegraaff's Conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy
By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries
Hank Hanegraaff has been the President of the Christian Research Institute and the host of the Bible Answer Man radio show since 1989. He has been one of the fiercest defenders of Evangelical Christianity, combating cults, false religions, the Word-of-Faith movement, and other false doctrines. As a result, it came as quite a surprise to the Evangelical Christian community to learn that Hanegraaff "converted" to Greek Orthodoxy on April 9, 2017.
This has resulted in a lot of confusion among Evangelical Christians. Is Hanegraaff denying the faith? Is he still a Christian? Are Evangelical and Orthodox beliefs compatible? Should I still listen to the Bible Answer Man radio show?
Before I begin my response, full disclosure: I met Hank Hanegraaff several years ago. I did some brief web consulting for the Christian Research Institute. I found Hank to be kind, respectful, caring, and gracious even though we have some theological differences on ancillary issues. I also noted how incredibly intelligent Hanegraaff is. As a result, I have absolutely no doubt about the genuineness of Hanegraaff's faith in Jesus Christ. I also assume that Hanegraaff would not have made a decision like this had he not thoroughly examined the issues, prayed over it extensively, and believes that Orthodox Christianity is a better reflection of God's truth than Evangelical Christianity.
However, with that said, I completely disagree with Hanegraaff that the differences between Evangelical and Orthodox Christianity are minimal and/or unimportant. Orthodox Christianity rejects Sola Scriptura and salvation by grace through faith alone. Orthodox Christianity embraces authoritative church tradition, praying to saints, an overemphasis of Mary, and extensive iconography which borders on idolatry. Orthodox Christianity is closer to Roman Catholicism than it is to Protestant/Evangelical Christianity.
Interestingly, the Christian Research Institute had an article that addresses this very issue located at http://www.equip.org/article/the-eastern-orthodox-church/. As I suspected, the article was removed shortly after Hanegraaff announced his conversion. I saved a copy of the article before they removed it.
Two of the more notable statements in the article:
Orthodoxy follows a different theological paradigm; for example, within Orthodoxy the doctrine of salvation has a different meaning than within Catholicism or Protestantism. Protestant evangelicals who have joined the Orthodox church often display an inadequate understanding of the faith they have embraced.Again, Hank Hanegraaff is a brilliant man. From what I could tell by spending time with him for a few days, he is also a godly man. But, I think he is a tragically incorrect on this matter. In listening to his defense of his decision, he is glossing over the differences between Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism. The Orthodoxy he is describing is, as the article that used to be on CRI's website said, "a romanticized, idealized church of Western imagination."
Although it is clear from Peter Gillquist's (a convert to Orthodoxy) writings that he and his colleagues do not have a clear understanding of the Orthodox faith in its complexity, their claims to have discovered the true apostolic faith can mislead others, whose search for religious experience is influenced by limited knowledge and the current American hunger for mystical realities. A close look at Orthodoxy can help both the sincere searchers and the Orthodox churches themselves to avoid adding members to a romanticized, idealized church of the Western imagination rather than the real Orthodox churches.
I have absolutely no doubt that there are many people in the various Eastern Orthodox traditions who are saved and truly have a vibrant relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. However, it is my contention that this is despite the doctrine and practices of Eastern Orthodoxy, not because of them. I have no doubt that Hank Hanegraaff is fully convinced that his decision is correct. I am equally fully convinced that he is wrong.
While it is a satirical website, the Babylon Bee's fake headline of "Hank Hanegraaff Rebrands as 'Apostolic Tradition Man' After Conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy" has an element of truth to it. If Hanegraaff has truly embraced Eastern Orthodox, he can no longer use the Bible as the sole authority for his answers. In Orthodoxy, apostolic tradition is the authoritative interpreter of God's Word.
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Tags: Biblical-Truth | Church-Issues | Controversial-Issues | Current-Issues | Other-Religions | Theological-Beliefs
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