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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Take On Discernment Ministries

I remember back in 1993 when Hank Hanegraaff's book, Christianity In Crisis, was released.  At the time I was a sophomore in college, and I was also pretty involved with the charismatic renewal movement.  So, being at that time I liked a lot of those TV preachers, I took great offense with Hanegraaff's assertions that some of them were "cultic."   However, in time, I would come to realize that his concerns were legitimate and when I made the step to become a Catholic Christian, I left most of that behind.   Today, I still have very little to do with much of what is on "religious TV," as I find a lot of it to be just plain ridiculous.  Sadly, there was a time when there were actually good television ministries, but in the past 20 years or so they have gotten worse.   There are still some good ones out there, obviously, but they are few.   I do appreciate the work Hanegraaff has done as far as rooting out error and exposing some notoriously off-base ministries, but Hanegraaff also is a source of concern for me personally as I grow more in my faith, and today it is people like him I wish to talk about a little.

Hanegraaff of course took over where the late Dr. Walter Martin, a stellar apologist whose book, Kingdom of the Cults, is still a classic textbook for studying apologetics.  The organization Martin founded, the Christian Research Institute, has done some amazing work over the years, and after Hanegraaff took over upon Martin's passing, it still has been a valuable resource and has aided many in the pursuit of defending the truth.   However, Hanegraaff has at times gotten a little too pharisaical, and he has fallen into the same trap as other well-meaning organizations - the Southern Poverty Law Center being a radical example - in that he lumps a lot of good ministries and dedicated people of God together with the sham artists; for one, he has practically lumped all Pentecostals and Charismatics in with the likes of Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen without any regard for the diversity of thought among these churches and ministries.   His recent target has been actor Kirk Cameron, a born-again Christian who I have a great deal of respect for because he stands for the truth of the Cross and is also a strong voice for traditional family values.  In Hanegraaff's view, Cameron is supposedly promoting "reconstructionism" or something because he simply believes we need to, as a nation, get back to Judeo-Christian values.   And, Cameron is right - we do!  So, what is Hanegraaff's issue?   Ahhh...where do we begin; let's just start at the source.

Hank Hanegraaff unfortunately has turned himself into a modern-day Pharisee, and has obsessed himself with constant witch-hunts against practically everything because simply put he sees himself as somehow a "lone crusader for truth" (to interpret that, it means Hanegraaff thinks he is right and everyone else is wrong).   Also, despite being part of a large Pentecostal/Charismatic church himself (Hanegraaff is a member of Calvary Chapel, Chuck Smith's group that evolved out of the Jesus People in the 1970's and over the years has had a good track record of balance in doctrine, although unfortunately it also has proven to be an inspiration for Rick Warren and the "Seeker-friendly" movement), it seems like our "Bible Answer Man" is one of the most anti-Pentecostal personalities within American Evangelicalism (more so, I might add, than even some of the Sword of the Lord people in Murfreesboro, TN, who are strict independent Baptists!) - or at least that is how he comes across in his writings and broadcasts.   Also, despite his constant dogging of many TV ministries - rightfully so, I may add here - concerning questionable financial practices, in 2003 an issue arose between Hanegraaff and the late Dr. Martin's family over his reported abuses of CRI non-profit status, and Martin's widow even called for his removal in 2000 over issues like this.  ("Casting Stones: Questions About Radio's 'Bible Answer Man' Are Coming From Within," Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2000 and Letter to Editor by Darlene Nesland Martin, "Hanegraaff Wasn't Handpicked," Los Angeles Times, {Orange County Edition}, April 30, 2000.).   Another issue is Hanegraaff's Calvinistic tendencies, which of course have a lot of bearing on his anti-Pentecostal rantings - by what I have read of his stuff, Hanegraaff comes across as a cessationist (meaning that the gifts of the Holy Spirit don't go beyond the book of Acts) and also as a fatalist (he has almost, in his reaction against the excesses of the Word/Faith movement, gone to the opposite extreme by more or less saying that God allows trials, doesn't intervene in them for us, and more or less doesn't answer any prayers).  It is this Calvinistic cessationist/fatalist mentality I feel has colored his judgment, and it comes out quite fully in his writings and on his radio program.  Of course, in that regard he is like a lot of other like-minded mainstream Evangelicals such as Mary Hunt (author of Seven Money Rules For Life who, on a broadcast of "In the Market With Janet Parshall" dated February 8, 2012, told a vulnerable young lady that she and her husband should give up their plans, move in with her parents, and live life flipping burgers at McDonald's - it was the stupidest thing I had ever heard - and she considered this "encouragement!") who have adopted this unbiblical view that we should stoically accept our fate in life, despite how unhappy we may be, and rejoice because "Jesus saved us" and we are going to heaven one day.  Yes, Jesus does save, and yes, we need to be thankful if we are born again at the promise of eternal life, but for heaven's sake - we have things in this life too that need to be taken care of as well, and God hasn't lost that on us.   Phillipians 4:19, for instance, promises that God shall supply ALL of our needs according to his riches in glory (remember, God created the universe, so as the Scripture in Psalm 24:1, the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof!).  Also, people like these "gloomy Gus" Evangelicals fail to recall the Scripture in Matthew 10, which talks about the birds and flowers being taken care of by God, so how much more we are as well.   And, for Mary Hunt and these people who discourage people from pursuing their dreams, I remind them of II Timothy 2:15 - study to show yourselves approved!  That does not mean just efficiency at knowing the Bible, but in our daily lives as well.   God's blessings can be slow, and I myself have been frustrated with the wait out of desperation on occasion I admit, but he still does what he does because of Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus IS the same yesterday, today, and forever!!  Note something here on this though - it talks about supplying needs, not greeds - God is not going to give someone a million bucks, a Rolls Royce, and a palatial Roman villa just because he does have the control over those things.  However, I have seen God do financial miracles in my own life, and I have seen Him work in the lives of others, and Hank Hanegraaff doesn't have the final word on what God can do, and praise be to God for that!!  And, thanks be to God for giving us minds and the opportunities of education, NO ONE has to settle for flipping burgers at McDonald's when God has so much more in store - Mary Hunt, your garbage may sell books, but it is a lie!  God is ultimately in control of everything, and because one of his attributes is immutability (meaning he doesn't change) then his promises - ALL of them! - are still valid for today too, and that includes miracles, gifts of the Spirit, and other things the Bible talks about too.   That being said, let us now tie it all together.

As I have said, I am as much against the excesses and abuses of the Word/Faith teachers and TV preachers as Hanegraaff is - they do deceive people, and they often result to false teachings to do it.  If Joel Osteen and Paula White are so sure of themselves, for instance, then why aren't all their church members driving Rolls Royces and Beamers??  Last time I went by Without Walls' parking lot in Tampa, I didn't see Rolls or Beamers sitting out there - what I saw, for the most part, were used economy cars!  However, I do believe God heals, I do believe in God's provision for needs, and I believe in miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we can't throw that out because a few huckster TV preachers twist them around for personal gain.  And, not all Pentecostals and Charismatics are like those TV preachers - many of them are simple folk in small churches that see God at work in their lives, and their testimonies speak that.   So, Hanegraaff needs to look at these issues through untainted lenses instead of the rose-colored lens of Calvinistic cessationist/fatalist cynicism, and he needs to research himself better  - he calls himself the "Bible Answer Man," but in many cases he is giving his opinions and not the Bible's answers.   And, it isn't just Pentecostals he's attacking - he has went after people like Jack Chick (I don't agree with Chick on a lot of things, but at least he has a basic, simple Gospel message for the most part in his literature) and Kirk Cameron (another bold witness of the simple Gospel - Kirk was discipled by Ray Comfort, whose approach to sin and the Cross challenge people to self-examination, which is what the Gospel is about in the first place), as well as other sincere ministers of the Gospel.   Hanegraaff has almost become cultic himself, as he pretty much labels as "heretics" people who disagree with him on even the most minor of doctrinal issues.  What I find ironic though is that Hanegraaff has for the most part remained fairly silent regarding real apostates such as the Emerging Church movement and Rick Warren - the latter promotes Chrislam, which is a heresy - and even has endorsed Rick Warren's literature on his program while condemning those who are opposed to it.  Also, I fail to see Hanegraaff addressing other issues - he has been silent on the pro-life front, and seems to be promoting the Communist Chinese government (this he has in common with his most common target, Paul Crouch) and Contemporary Christian Music industry personalities.   While I applaud his standing against things like excesses in the Word/Faith movement, and I support his strong creationist stand as well, Hanegraaff overall comes up short when it comes to being truly spiritually discerning because his observations are often tainted with his own prejudices.  Therefore, I would strongly caution anyone supporting him to be careful, as in many aspects he is no better than those he himself criticizes (fundraising tactics, etc.). 

This was a rather short perspective on something I have been pondering for a while, but I hope it aids you in searching for suitable ministries to support.  That being said, we need to avoid modern-day Pharisees (Hanegraaff), Saduccees (Warren, Osteen, and the "Emerging Church" crowd), as well as the fruitloops and con-artists (most religious television).  Look for sound ministries to invest in if the Lord is laying it upon you to help out someone with financial support, and don't give your money to just anyone - we have to exercise wise stewardship over our giving too, remember!  Any rate, God bless you until next time.