The Dilemma Called CRI

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?


The Dilemma Called CRI — 13 Comments

  1. Compared to Martin, Hanegraaff is also very soft on Roman Catholicism, which is one of the first things that disturbed me. Some other problems I found were in his two volumes of “The Bible Answer Book.” He teaches that the tithe is for today, but there is nowhere in Scripture that says the Christian is required to give 1/10 of his income. Hank’s explanation of 1 Tim. 2:12-13 leaves open the idea of women elders and pastors, claiming it was a cultural thing Paul was discussing. His eschatology really bothers me, especially his idea that the Church replaced Israel, when Scripture plainly states that we were grafted in. Although these things are somewhat minor in the whole scheme of things, when added along with his support of the Local Church it led me to cancel my subscription to the CRI Journal.

  2. Dear Br. Veinot:
    Thanks! for this article. I have, and continue to be a supporter of CRI and the Bible Answerman, despite many misgivings. These include: Hank’s support of Rick Warren, modern/multiple Bible translations, Papists, the Local Church (esp. Witness Lee), the CRI soft article on Tatoos, and many other smaller (and larger, eg. Calvinism) issues. I have read and sympathize with many of the criticisms (incl. Jackie Alnor’s), but am still not totally convinced of his culpability. I just hesitate to bring anything against an elder (or, pseudo-elder in his case), and am trusting the truth “will out.” Right now, all I am thankful for is the work God has allowed him to do for the multitudes snared by the Faith Movement and other popular delusions and madnesses of crowds. Many people, thank God, have been helped by CRI and Hank’s ministry – if one goes by the conversations and testimonials. I guess it comes down to: I haven’t found the straw that will break the camel’s back – though the Warren issue is close.
    Keep up the Good Work,

    Yours, for the Cause of God and Truth,

    Harry Ludwig

  3. It has been a telling thing to me about the state of the Evangelical church that it has not been willing – with any sense of urgency – to investigate the claims against HH. The fact that that man continues to usurp the BAM title can be a bit upsetting until one considers the pending Bema Seat.

    Early on, when still a supporter, I often wondered why so many gifted ones left that ministry and kept their mouths shut. Usually, when there is a good relationship upon a departure, the departing one will refer to the previous relationship occassionally and favorably. Their silence speaks volumes.

  4. “Over the last few years, it seems like whenever I check in on ‘The Bible Answer Man’, it is Hanegraaff talking with someone selling a book, DVD, album, or software in what amounts to an infomercial without much useful, practical information other than ‘buy this resource.’ If it is a program where Hank is taking calls, there seems to be little practical information given out – usually it is ‘I wrote a book that addresses this – I’ll send it to you.’ Everyone else can call the toll-free number or go on to the website to order it.”

    That’s what I wrote as part of an extensive blog entry about CRI and how it has changed over the years – click on my link to read it.

    Also, I read _Apocalypse Code_ trying to get a better understanding of Partial Preterism (even if HH doesn’t call it that), and I read it with an open mind as some of his other books have been great, and I am NOT set in my “end times” beliefs. I was disappointed, however. The book seems to be a lot of assertions with little to back them up or show how the alternatives were likely in error. I have not ruled out PP, but it didn’t give me a strong reason to believe it. For all I know, John’s letter could have been about the first century AND the future. It is called TYPES and SHADOWS.

    I support Isreal for political reasons anyway, so even if there is NO connection between present-day Israel and Biblical Israel, I still don’t call it “Palestine” like HH does. Whether there is a Rapture and Tribulation and Antichrist yet to come, I’m not sure – BUT I do look for Jesus’ return and I will NOT deny Christ for anyone or anything. He is my Lord and Savior, and I will plan like I have a long life and natural death ahead of me, but live like God could call me home at any moment – because He could!

  5. HH is simply the poster boy for all that is wrong in the field of Christian/psuedo-Christian counter-cult/apologetics.( Actually, that’s redundant, since MOST of what goes on in Christian cc/a is WRONG.)

    As an ex-cultist, I know all too well the fact that the MAJORITY of individuals in this field are book-smart and people dumb, as is evidenced by the fact that so many weren’t able to discern the true nature of wolves like HH, Ole Anthony and others YEARS ago.

    Arrogance, a condescending attitude toward those “less learned”, a desire to be recognized as an authority on cults, and a near COMPLETE lack of accountability are just some of the many glaring and galling traits of the “Christian” counter-cult/apologetics ministries.

    Closely related to this is the appalling and thoroughly laughable gullibility of many.
    Take for instance EMNR:

    – Jon Trott and other cult members from JPUSA have been a part of this counter-cult organization in the recent past.

    – JPUSA defender ( and former member ) Eric Pement is now VP of EMNR.

    – Horror obsessed (see his site “Theofantastique”) John Morehead used to be the president of this organisation.

    It’s all a cruel joke. The very people that should be helping ex-cultists are simply too busy accumulating knowledge, playing king of the “intellectual hill”, and are undiscerning and clueless to the abominations in their midst.

    Oh, and lest I forget: There is the infuriating fact that some in the CC/A ministries are easily duped by cults themselves. Case in point: JPUSA told one CC/A ministry over 6 years ago that they would cooperate with the ministry’s inquiry into JPUSA, and that they would provide the ministry with positive testimonies of those who left JPUSA. 6 years later, the ministry is still waiting on JPUSA to provide the testimony, not realizing that they’ve been played for fools by JPUSA. In other words: JPUSA stopped a ministry from exposing them by effectively (and permanently?) stalling them.

  6. I count among my friends a few (VERY few) individuals in Christian CC/A, who actually have a heart for people. One of them told me several years ago that they would MUCH rather work with non-Christian CC organizations than Christian ones.

    To sum up my two posts: Most of the Christian counter-cult/apologetics ministries are just as messed up as the rest of the church.

  7. Thanks for this healing article! It really needed to be said – finally! I would love to know the title of that forthcoming book that will take “a more in-depth look at Hank and his tenure as president of CRI.”

    I also strongly concur with the above Blogs – especially Harry and Ken. I suppose we are primarily talking about content here, while some are also addressing style.

    First, as to content, like Ken, I can plainly see that the Bible Answer Man Program has decayed in terms of helpful on-air answers. I teach theology at a “Bible -believing” university, and would love to recommend a useful apologetics program to my students. Sadly, I can no longer recommend the Bible Answer Man Program itself.

    I concur with Ken, that the program has degenerated into an infomercial – a term that tragically fits here.

    Like Harry, I reluctantly support CRI, taking the form in my case by recommending its resources to my students, though not the program.

    Second, in terms of style, Hank’s voice comes off as angry, indignant and defensive. Equally off-putting is his use of unhelpful terms. How many Americans understand his term “epistemic warrant”? How many will run to a dictionary to look it up?

    I now listen to an apologetics program that competitively runs in the same timeslot as Hank’s. While I believe its theology to be inferior (not as biblical), the pastors who give their perspectives are gentle and kind. They helpfully reference, chapter and verse, a must-have resource that every American already has in their home – the Bible.

  8. As Hank says I think the majority of Gods church is biblically illiterate and even the word ” apologetics ” is not recognized or understood. Unless you have a story like Marks above many of us won’t even investigate ourselfs or beliefs. I know I didn’t until I found myself up to my neck in the shepherding movement.
    Maybe Hank is off track …not sure. CRI is proably the most notable and only well known radio program out there of this sort.
    A few things I think about is this: those who teach bear a stricter judgment;we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. How much error God allows I don’t know but if finances and money and the pride of life are at the heart of the matter there is a testimony and chastening coming eventually.

  9. When I first listened to the BAM years ago, it was Hank H. I learned a lot, and respected him a lot.
    Then I heard something on the show from Hank H. regarding former workers with unfounded accusations. I put out some searches and found a lot of information that seemed to come from Christian people who were telling the truth, in a kind and gentle way, as I would expect Christians to do. Hank H. didn’t seem to want to deal with it.
    Then, Hank H. came out with the book regarding the book of Revelation and end times, and I couldn’t believe how far away from the mark he was.
    I also noticed his personal infomercials, and, one of my greatest pet peeves, “The Hank H. Study Bible” ( not it’s exact title ). I don’t think any man should be putting his name on God’s Word: maybe I’m a little over zealous for The Name, The Great “I AM” – but, in this day and age, that is something that almost seems impossible for a sinner like me to do.
    I think CRI needs a very strong light applied to it – in a biblically sound manner, first by a few godly men who are above reproach, then, depending upon the responce, continue as God’s Word says to – to bring out the truth, repentance and forgiveness, or allowing God to turn wrong doers over to Satan for the salvation of their eternal souls.

  10. For those of you who posted concerning Hanegraaff, I would like to let you know my book, Hard Questions for The Bible Answer Man is available through our ministry website. It is unfortunate that this book needed to be written but it will answer several questions about how he became president of CRI and others that people keep asking. If you want to wait until the middle of September it can beordered at bookstores here in the U.S..

  11. Hey Bill

    As a former LC member… I think it is a cult.
    Thanks for the info, by Gods grace I got out of it in the early 90’s when Bro Lee started saying he was the oracle of God.


  12. The Dilemma Called CRI. …”The dilemma we face is how to view CRI in its present incarnation.”…????
    Whoa wait min. shouldn’t the dilemma be how now to view Witness Lee’s teachings and the “local churches”? CRI must have known this would cause them major trouble. They must seen things that demanded the need to set things right.
    Jerry Force

  13. I see the real danger is not Hank Hanegraaff but a person who was born in Middle East and now lives in London since 1977. British famous painter Benjamin Creme is promoting him as Maitreya for all religions. By examining his teachings – presented here in Q&As:

    Their view of Jesus Christ is extremely similar to what Witness Lee of the Local Church teaches. So this sudden change of Hank Hanegraaff from denouncing LC as cult to supporting it is not a surprise at all. Time will reveal that many, many evangelical Christians, especially their leaders will switch position and supporting views of Witness Lee and Benjamin Creme. This is the real trouble for Christians before the Second Coming of Christ in ultimate glory as these are signs foretold in the Bible – there will be many false Christs before the coming of real Christ.

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