By Walid Shoebat
Major Protestant theologian Hank Hanegraaff, the well-known talk show host, and evangelical apologist known as “The Bible Answer Man,” after decades of deciphering the Bible is now Eastern Orthodox.
Of course his departure from Protestantism caused some to state:
“The Bible Answer Man, has left the biblical Christian faith for Greek Orthodox tradition”.
In other words, to some, Christianity is exclusively Protestant, that unless someone is ‘Protestant’, they are no longer Christian. Talk about the criticism that when Catholics and Orthodox state that “only through an apostolic succession church” that one becomes ‘Christian’ to only encounter a Protestant insisting that Luther is the only way truth and the life.
So when 1 Timothy 4 stated: “Now the Spirit manifestly saith, that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error, and doctrines of devils” this is departing from Protestantism.
So prior to Luther, were Christians “in” or “out” of the faith for fifteen centuries?
Known to millions as the “Bible Answer Man,” 77-year-old Hank Hanegraaff and his wife were received into the Orthodox Church this year on the great feast of Palm Sunday, at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC.
The Bible Answer Man addressed his conversion to the Orthodox faith on his program yesterday, in response to a caller who had seen remarks claiming that, in becoming Orthodox, Mr. Hanegraaff had “left the Christian faith” in which Hanegraaff responded:
I am now a member of an Orthodox Church, but nothing has changed in my faith. I have been attending an Orthodox church for a long time—for over two years, really, as a result of what happened when I went to China, many years ago. I saw Chinese Christians who were deeply in love with the Lord, and I learned that while they may not have had as much intellectual acumen or knowledge as I did, they had life. And so I learned that while truth matters, life matters more, and I remember flying back from China after spending time with just common people who had a deep, intense love for the Lord, and wondering, “Was I even a Christian?”
I was comparing my ability to communicate truth with their deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus Christ… One man, by the way, said to me, truth matters but life matters more. In other words, it is not just knowing about Jesus Christ, it is experiencing the Resurrected Christ. As a result of that I started studying what was communicated by the progeny of Watchman Nee with respect to theosis and that drove me back to the early Christian Church.
And I suppose over that period of time I have fallen ever more in love with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s sort of like my wife—I have never been more in love with my wife than I am today, and I’ve never been more in love with my Lord Jesus Christ than I am today. I’ve been impacted by the whole idea of knowing Jesus Christ, experiencing Jesus Christ, and partaking of the graces of Jesus Christ through the Eucharist or the Lord’s Table. And that has become so central in my life, but as far as the statement that you mentioned, that I’ve left the Christian faith—nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact I believe what I have always believed, as codified in the Nicene Creed, and as championed by mere Christianity.
Indeed. I can relate. Knowing the truth is one major issue, but living it is completely another. Just having knowledge made me too wonder “was I even a Christian?” How many amongst the protestants even emphasize on “theosis” or the early Christian Church? Being Catholic is what made me understand marriage as a ‘sacrament’, my love for my wife and the necessity to understand sacraments.
But this is also countered with the necessity of ‘having a personal relationship with Jesus’.
Indeed, but it is the ancient church is what defines ‘personal relationship’.
Only the apostolic succession Christian can understand this by comprehending the corporate as described in Matthew 25:
“you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me”.
It is the verse that haunted me for decades. Dealing with other Christians, as if they are Christ Himself, is a form of ‘personal relationship’.
Forgiving sin is just as corporate:
“And to whom you [the priest] have pardoned any thing, I also. For, what I [as a priest] have pardoned, if I have pardoned any thing, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:10)
“I have done it in the person of Christ”. Nothing can be more personal than this.
So if aiding Christians is done in the person of Christ forgiving sinners is also done in the person of Christ by a priest.
Nothing can be more ‘personal’ in this relationship with Christ than this which the Protestant doesn’t have.
Once a true Christian understands this concept, then Scripture becomes a breeze to comprehend as far as our limited capacity can understand the matters of God and His Temple.
The Protestant, by redefining Christ’s mediation as something abstract, without it ever being conduced in any incarnational manner or personal, portraying it as only man directly asking God for forgiveness, in which there is no human authority confirming absolution, this becomes the sort of teaching that Islam has. Paul was clear “I done it [forgiving sin as a priest] in the person of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:10)
After reciting the entire Nicene Creed, Hank concluded, “In other words, I am as deeply committed to championing mere Christianity and the essentials of the historic Christian faith, as I have ever been.”
Hank Hanegraaff succeeded Dr. Walter Martin at the North Carolina-based Christian Research Institute (CRI) since 1989, when he also took over previous-president’s radio talk-show “The Bible Answer Man.” Martin used to debate Catholics like Fr. Mitchell Pacwa.
Pacwa himself jumped the Protestant ship:
So here we have the man who answered the toughest questions about matters of Protestant doctrine and Biblical interpretation, denominational particularities and cults; after three decades jumps the Protestant ship just as I did.
In March, Mr. Hanegraaff answered a caller’s question about what is missing from Protestant, the Orthodox and Catholic teaching of theosis, ably explaining the doctrine of man’s sanctification on both a Biblical and Patristic basis:
“We become Christ-bearers since His Body and Blood are distributed throughout our limbs, as Cyril of Jerusalem said… The whole idea being that we become by grace what God is by nature… We become, as Peter put it, partakers in the divine nature.”
I must say, that for decades, without the Eucharist, I was never able to rid myself from the usual sins I had when I left Islam. This is the crux of the whole sanctification process. It is really that simple. Without the continual confession to a priest, Communion, and this true personal relationship, I was never able to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling”.
What we all must accept is this: certain theologies cannot be dissected. It becomes as complex as attempting to figure out how Christ healed the blind man who said “one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.”
Many accuse Hanegraaff of Antisemitism. But Hank is far from being an Antisemite:
Well, in light of the incarnation, this Zionist suggestion that the modern land of Palestine along with its capital Jerusalem, is to be reserved exclusively for a single ethnicity or that the temple must be rebuilt and its sacrificial system reinstituted, borders on blasphemy. While the modern state of Israel does have a definitive, in my point of view, a definitive right to exist, to suggest that native Palestinians – many, by the way, who are brothers and sisters in Christ – should be forcibly removed from the land is not only unbiblical, but it’s unethical. By standing on the steps of the Capitol and protesting a two-state solution in the Middle East, Christian Zionists are creating an actual roadblock on the pathway to peace. Just as it’s a grievous sin to turn a blind eye to the evil of anti-Semitism, so it is a grievous sin to turn a blind eye to a theology that divides people on the basis of race rather than uniting them on the basis of righteousness and justice and equity.
In other words, Christians need to look at theology instead of ‘race’. Should we approve of temple sacrifices? It would be blasphemy indeed to state that animal sacrifices now equals Christ’s sacrifice. To state that a peaceful Arab should not live amongst peaceful Jews also goes contrary to scripture (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:34). In Ezekiel 47:22, scripture says:
“You shall divide it by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your midst And they shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.”
While I suggest that Hank goes to Israel as he did China, there he will see that most Arab Christians are in reality syncretists and that many support terrorism. Scripture clearly insists that the sojourner intents no ill-harm to the nation. However, the problem are extremists on all sides of the fence.
While I do not agree on Hanegraaff’s eschatology and his view that prophecy ceased, I pray he grows in the faith to understand the issues of what is to come.
Protestant reformation apologist James White laments such departure from Protestantism and admits that the apostolic succession churches have an edge. He explains:
Pray that White also gets it.