Hank Hanegraaff and the “Christian Research Institute”

By Wayne Jackson

Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute, an organization located in southern California that specializes in reviewing the major doctrines of various “cults” that profess an identity with “Christianity.” Hanegraaff is the host of a radio program, called The Bible Answer Man. The program is broadcast daily throughout the United States and Canada.

Currently, however, the “Answer Man” is under pressure for some “answers” relative to his own ethics. And this is not the first time the gentleman has been in legal trouble. See: “CRI – Hank Hanegraaff Lawsuit”.

Dr. James Kennedy is “Pastor” for the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Kennedy is widely known for his own radio and television ministry, during which he enunciates strong positions relative to certain moral and social issues. For example, he vigorously opposes abortion, and he courageously exposes the fallacies of the theory of evolution.

For some years Kennedy and Hanegraaff were associates and close friends. It seems that Kennedy was significantly responsible for training the “Answer Man” for the position the latter now holds with the Research Institute. Currently, though, the two are at serious odds.

Recently, Hanegraaff, via his radio broadcast, rebuked Kennedy for some statements the minister had made relative to “astrology.” On the other hand, Dr. Kennedy is charging that Hanegraaff has flagrantly plagiarized his writings. Supposedly, the offense is so serious that a lawsuit would be a viable recourse were it not for Kennedy’s scruples against such a drastic action.

Conversely, Hanegraaff claims that he has been conscientious in giving Dr. Kennedy credit for the training he enjoyed under the prestigious clergyman. For further information, see: “Is the Good News Bear a Copycat? Hank Hanegraaff and Plagiarism”.

Plagiarism is not an uncommon phenomenon — even in religious circles. It is an amazing thing that some operate under the impression that they can provide a sort of “wave-of-the-hand” acknowledgment to another’s work, while copying line-after-line of material, without the common use of appropriate grammatical devices which indicate the identity of the real author.

In this brief editorial, though, I want to focus upon another of Mr. Hanegraaff’s problems.

Hanegraaff’s predecessor was the late Walter Martin. For years, these gentlemen have challenged those groups they deem to possess the characteristics of a “cult.” They have debated with the Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, the Watchtower organization, etc. And, quite frankly, they have done a commendable job in some instances.

The reason for their success has been that, when arguing against the peculiar doctrines of these well-known cults, they have presented truth in many cases. Tragically, however, on some issues the “Christian Research Institute” is as rank with error, and as unscrupulous in their misrepresentations, as anyone they review.

With considerable regularity the C.R.I. receives inquiries regarding the churches of Christ. They must weary of the questions for they have prepared rote responses, either in a printed or taped format. Congregations of the Lord’s people are castigated as cultish simply because they do not acquiesce with some of the fundamental doctrines of sectarianism. In one small sheet, the C.R.I. has made several charges against those who profess to be Christians only. The two most prominent are summarized as follows.

First, it is alleged that those affiliated with the church of Christ teach the dogma of “baptismal regeneration,” namely that sins are actually remitted in the waters of a baptistery. The accusation is totally false. “Baptismal regeneration” is the sectarian notion that infants, having been born with the guilt of Adam’s sin, are cleansed by the Spirit of God when baptism is administered to them (see Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, London: James Clarke & Co., 1960, Vol. III, p. 591).

No informed Bible student subscribes to this theory. Babies are not born in sin, and the water of baptism has no intrinsic power to remove sin. Baptism is simply an act of obedience, commanded by God, that provides the believing, penitent person with access to divine grace, by which he is saved (Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21).

Was Peter a cultist when, on the day of Pentecost, he proclaimed: “All of you repent, and let each of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ in order to obtain the forgiveness of your sins . . .” (Acts 2:38)? Was Jesus himself a cult leader when he announced: “He who believes and is baptized, shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16)?

Second, the C.R.I. faults the Lord’s people for teaching that the child of God must remain steadfast, continuing in God’s grace, if he is to inherit eternal life — a concept, incidentally, explicitly taught in the Scriptures (see Acts 13:43; 2 Cor. 6:1; Heb. 12:15).

Mr. Hanegraaff and his spiritual kinsmen contend that no matter what the Christian does (even to the point of openly renouncing God), he remains eternally secure and cannot be lost. A doctrine more corrupt could scarcely be found (see Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:12; 10:26; 2 Pet. 2:1).

A dramatic example of the falsity of this dogma is demonstrated by the apostasy of Judas Iscariot. Judas was a disciple chosen by the Lord himself. He was granted miracle-working power by which to confirm the validity of his ministry (cf. Mt. 10:2-8). Yet, he “fell away” from his divinely entrusted role (Acts 1:25), committed suicide (Mt. 27:5), and died lost (Jn. 17:12).

In such a brief discussion as this, one could hardly hope to deal with the wide range of anti-biblical views advocated by Mr. Hanegraaff and those associated with him at the “Christian Research Institute.” A concluding remark will be sufficient to underscore the absence of confidence that Hanegraaff actually entertains with reference to his doctrinal platform.

Over the years the folks at C.R.I. (Martin, Hanegraaff, et al.) have lustily pursued debate encounters with a host of cultists. They have engaged the heretical movements in verbal and written battle time and again, and begged for additional conflicts.

By way of remarkable contrast, they utterly refuse any responsible exchange with qualified representatives of the churches of Christ. There are any number of competent men who would happily meet Hank Hanegraaff in a public debate format, should the gentleman agree to such an arrangement. It is quite unlikely, however, that the encounter will ever transpire.

And why not? The obvious needs not to be stated.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.