By: Brian Chilton | April 25, 2017
Hank Hanegraaff is a name known by many in the apologetic and theological community. Hank Handegraaff is a writer and host of his daily radio show The Bible Answer Man. Hanegraaff is associated with the Christian Research Institute and of Equip.org. Due to the prolific nature of Hanegraaff’s position in Christian intellectualism, the evangelical community was rocked to hear of a change in Hanegraaff’s denominational affiliation. Hank Hanegraaff left evangelicalism to be confirmed and christened in the Greek Orthodox Church. Some evangelical commentators have claimed that Handegraaff had left the Christian faith. However, is such a notion true? What does it mean to be a Christian? This is a heavy topic that truly transcends the scope of this sole article. However, I would like to provide what I consider to be three essentials of a transformed life—that is, the Christian life. Before we investigate these three essentials for what it means to be a Christian, I must confess in full disclosure that I am a Protestant evangelical Christian. That being said, I do have a bias towards evangelicalism. Yet, I will try to keep these three essentials to the basics of Scripture and let you be the judge about whether Hanegraaff has left the faith.
- Christians must hold the essential of central core beliefs. Certain doctrines are so essential that they contain the perimeters of Christianity. Without them, Christianity would not be Christianity. The apostle Paul notes that it is important that the Christian both confess and believe in the core essentials of the faith. Some limit these essential doctrines to five. I, however, extend them to about seven: 1) monotheism (the belief in one God); 2) the identity of Jesus (his divinity and humanity); 3) the incarnation (that Christ is God come in the flesh); 4) the Gospel (that is, salvation is through Christ alone); 5) the resurrection of Jesus (the belief that Jesus literally rose from the dead); 6) the Trinity (that God eternally exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); and 7) salvation through grace (that is, salvation is a work of God). These essentials comprise the heart of the Christian faith. Has Hanegraaff denied these essentials? It does not appear so. Hanegraaff writes the following:
“I confess my faith in the deity of Jesus Christ — “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not created, of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made.”
I affirm the doctrine of original sin — “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
I am deeply committed to “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) and to the Holy Scriptures, the only infallible repository of redemptive revelation (2 Timothy 3:15–16).
I love the Holy Trinity — one God revealed in three Persons eternally distinct. And am deeply grateful that the true and living God invites us to participate in the loving relationships that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have enjoyed throughout eternity.
I hold to the glorious reality that Jesus “rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”
I am grateful to the Lord Jesus “who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.”
I thank God daily that I am a new creation in Christ. For by grace I have been saved through faith, and that not of myself; it is the gift of God, not of works lest I should boast. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (see Ephesians 2:8–10). “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come.”
To be forthright, I have always held some differences with Hanegraaff in some areas of Christian theology (particularly in the realm of his eschatology), but mainly in secondary and tertiary issues. I do think that he is within the boundaries of the Christian faith.
- Christians must hold the essential of a repentant heart. When a person becomes a Christian, there must be a sense of brokenness in that he or she cannot save oneself. The Greek term “metanoia” refers to a changing of a person’s heart and mind. After Pentecost, Simon Peter preached with boldness to the people in Jerusalem. The people asked, “Brothers, what should we do” (Acts 2:37)? Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The Christian must turn from their old ways and turn to Jesus. Does Hanegraaft hold a repentant heart? To me, it appears that he does from his testimony.
- Christians must hold the essential of a transformed witness. Excuse the phrase as I know it sounds a bit harsh, but perhaps harshness is necessary. A Christian cannot live a hellish life and expect to go to heaven. That is to say, a Christian must be a new creation. A Christian cannot live a life of evil and expect everything to be okay oneself and God. Jesus made this point quite clearly as he said, “every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:17-20). How does one produce good fruit? It’s simple, really. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me…My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples” (John 15:5, 8). Does Hanegraaff depict a witness of a transformed life? From what I have seen and know of him, it seems that he does.
While I as an evangelical do not agree with all the practices of other branches of Christianity (which is why I identify with evangelical Christianity), I do not see any evidence that Hanegraaff has left the faith. As an evangelical, I may hold differences with the Greek Orthodox Church on issues of sola scriptura and other matters. But, I cannot claim that Greek Orthodoxy is beyond the scope of Christianity as are the Jehovah Witness movement and the Mormon Church. Some may disagree. That being said, we should pray for Hanegraaff rather than ostracize him. After listening to some of his podcasts subsequent to his christening into the Orthodox church, Hanegraaff revealed that the love that was expressed to him and his family by the church they now attend led to his change. We evangelicals could learn a lot from the reasons behind his denominational alteration. Many in the evangelical community have expressed themselves in a harsh and hurtful manner. As the cliché goes, “You can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
Some radio stations and programs have dropped The Bible Answer Man. That is the prerogative of each station and producer. Each producer must do what he or she feels is right for their station. However, when it comes to distinguishing a true Christian from a false one, only God can make that judgment. The best we can do is to evaluate the fruit of each person. From the essentials we have noted in this article and the fruit of Hanegraaff’s life, I cannot in good conscience agree with the charge that Hanegraaff has left the Christian faith. Again, as previously stated, only God is the judge of who is and who is not within the faith–those whose names are found written in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:15). That is precisely the way it should be.
Note: Hank’s last name is Hanegraff. In a previous edition of this article, I misspelled his name as “Hanegraaft.” My apologies.
 Hank Haneegraff, “Have I Left the Christian Faith,” Equip.org (April 2017), retrieved April 25, 2017, http://www.equip.org/article/left-christian-faith/.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).
 That is to say, the Scriptures alone are the authorized standard of written divine revelation.
 Jehovah Witnesses reject the divine nature of Jesus.
 Mormons reject the eternal nature of Jesus as they claim that we are all the offspring of a Father God and a Mother God.
About the Author:
Brian Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He hopes to enter doctoral studies soon in the realm of theology and/or biblical studies. Brian is full member of the International Society of Christian Apologetics and the Christian Apologetics Alliance. Brian has been in the ministry for over 14 years and serves as the pastor of Huntsville Baptist Church in Yadkinville, North Carolina.
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