Some of our readers may recall that The Local Church of Witness Lee had filed suit against Harvest House Publishers, John Ankerberg and John Weldon for their inclusion in the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions. To the surprise of most missions for cults and New Religions movements and discernment ministries, CRI had come out positively for the Local Church and against Harvest House Publishers, John Ankerberg and John Weldon. Near the end of the litigation, “More than 70 evangelical Christian scholars and ministry leaders from seven nations have signed an unprecedented open letter to the leadership of the “local churches” and Living Stream Ministry.” This week, Apologetics Index uploaded Five Christian apologists evaluate the teachings of Witness Lee and The Local Church. There is also a synopsis of this situation on this page and other links and evaluations. The dilemma we face is how to view CRI in its present incarnation. Over the years CRI has produced some of the leading researchers, writers and scholars in the area of missions to cults and New Religious Movements, training and equipping the Body of Christ in discernment and evangelism. Names like Dr. Ron Rhodes, Rich Poll, Paul Carden, Dr. Craig Hawkins, Rob Bowman, William Alnor and many others whom we respect and in many cases are now friends, began at what once was a fine institution. That was under the era of Dr. Walter Martin.
I have given this piece a great deal of thought. Apologists are often characterized at fighting at the drop of a hat (and they will drop the hat) and eating their own. Sometimes one or both are true but as a rule what we are concerned about it what is true as being more important than who is our friend. We are very concerned about fidelity to God and His word ahead of whether or not we are hurting someone’s feelings. Many in the body of Christ today are more worried about hurt feelings than about truth and as a result any discussion in this vein is viewed as mean spirited and divisive. It may be divisive but as Dr. Norman Geisler points out, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The example he gives is that when he married his wife, Barb, he promised to divide from all other women. No one at the wedding thought that was a bad thing. Sometimes making division is necessary. Having said that I am not calling for divisions here but rather am asking questions. CRI doesn’t play well with the rest of the discernment ministries. They sort of have their own sand box if you will and don’t invite cooperation with others. As I have thought about this it occurs to me that the current state of affairs happened after the passing of Dr. Martin and the installation of Hank Hanegraaff. I don’t know Hank well. We have met a few times and shared meals and discussion together. I will reserve personal comment and observations at this time.
One of the questions I have is, is “The Bible Answer Man” program more about equipping and encouraging the saints to defend the faith or is it more of a nightly infomercial selling Hank Hanegraaff’s book? The CRI Journal has traditionally been a good scholarly publication but has it become more of a promotional piece about Hank Hanegraaff? Some or even many are concerned about Hank’s support of what they see as a cult of Christianity. Is his use of litigation against other believers in opposition to sound biblical teaching. While it is true that the Defamation lawsuit filed by Hank Hanegraaff thrown out of court that doesn’t seem to answer the biblical question on this issue. There have been accusations of “extensive plagiarism” which seem to have merit. I have had several ministries contact me to research and perhaps assist in bringing about accountability to CRI. There are a few problems with this. The first is one of resources (time and treasures). Something of which MCOI is sorely short. Another is the question of would Hank submit to repentance and correction if it was demonstrated that such was necessary? Based on several conversations I have had with Dr. Norman Geisler, it does not seem so. Dr. Geisler has been Hank’s advocate and defender and as he says he “has the scars to prove it.” However, when Dr. Geisler began raising issues Hank simply cut him off. So, at this point it seems proper to raise questions but I probably cannot go beyond that. I certainly don’t know Hank’s heart and cannot discern his motives. I understand a book is in the works taking a more in-depth look at Hank and his tenure as president of CRI. I suppose what brings this to mind for me at this time was news that the CRI Journal will soon be coming out with a new puff piece promoting the Local Church. I wonder, will they soon endorse the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society or the LDS as being truly Christian?