The Heart of the Hanegraaff Hubbub: Dethroning the God of Your Personal Experiences

Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man. If you hadn’t heard of him before, you probably have by now. President of the Christian Research Institute, author of over twenty books, and host of the popular Bible Answer Man radio call in show, Hanegraaff has been highly regarded in the field of apologetics for years.

Until recently, that is, when he publicly announced that he had been chrismated into the Greek Orthodox church he had been attending for about two years.

Why? Because the Greek Orthodox church holds many beliefs which conflict with Scripture in much the same way, and on some of the same issues, the Roman Catholic church’s beliefs conflict with Scripture.

Much ink and airtime has been dedicated to specific, unbiblical Greek Orthodox doctrines, and you can learn about those in the Additional Resources section at the end of this article, but I’d like to take a look at a statement Hank made during an interview about his decision to join Greek Orthodoxy:

His journey to Orthodoxy began with a trip to China, when “I saw Chinese Christians who were deeply in love with the Lord, and I learned that while they may not have had as much intellectual acumen or knowledge as I did, they had life,” he said.

On the flight back, Hanegraaff wondered if he was even a Christian. “I was comparing my ability to communicate truth with their deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus Christ.”¹

There are two telling points in these remarks that I think we, as Christian women, would do well to examine and learn from:

Your feelings and experiences aren’t the biblical basis for decision-making.
Just taking Hank’s own words at face value, his feelings about salvation and what the Christian life “should” be like, and his experience with the Chinese Christians – not Scripture – were, at the very least, his first step away from a doctrinally sound church.

The Bible – which is what this whole Christianity thing we’re doing is based on – makes very clear that we can’t trust our feelings. We can’t trust that they’re real, rational, or biblically appropriate. And our experiences are notoriously unreliable as well. How many times have you acted, spoken, or made an assumption based on what you thought was happening right in front of you, only to find out later that your assessment of the situation was wrong, you had misunderstood, or you had jumped to the wrong conclusion?

That’s why God tells us that His written word – not our feelings and experiences – is the standard by which we live our lives and the basis for every decision we make. Our hearts and minds are sinful and fallible. God’s word is not. It can be trusted. It proves true every time it’s tried. God’s word is sufficient, and it – not our feelings and experiences – is our authority.

Most of us have heard the scenario of the woman who cheats on her husband and then says things like, “I think God is calling me to divorce my husband so I can be with my lover. I just feel like God would want me to be happy.” And most of us could point her to Scriptures that clearly refute her feelings- that God is not calling her to get divorced because He intended marriage to be for life, and that adultery is sin that needs to be repented of, despite how “happy” it makes her.

If we would give Scripture the preeminence over feelings in that kind of situation, why would we not give Scripture the preeminence over feelings when it comes to something as important as what we believe about God and the kind of worship He finds acceptable? One woman’s adultery is paltry in comparison to the nature of God and the doctrine and practices of Christ’s church. Yet, so often, we bow the knee to the god of what we think and feel and prefer rather than what the God of the Bible commands.

“Head” versus “heart” is a false dichotomy.
Their “love for the Lord” and “life” versus his “intellectual acumen or knowledge.” Their “deep and abiding love” for Christ versus his “ability to communicate truth.” And what hangs in the balance? Hank’s salvation.

During His earthly ministry, it was plain to see that no one had a greater intellectual grasp of Scripture and ability to communicate its truth than Christ. Yet, at the same time, no one had a greater love for God or a more vibrant relationship with Him.

Being a serious student of God’s word and loving Him with your whole being aren’t mutually exclusive. Jesus did not say, “Love the Lord with all your heart or all your mind.” He said:

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30

Notice that this verse doesn’t pit knowledge against love, it says that knowledge is one of the ways we love God. God calls us to multi-task when it comes to loving Him. And the great thing about this multi-tasking is that each “task” feeds off the others. The more you love God with your emotions, the more you want to love Him by learning about Him, which leads you to study His word. And the more you love Him through the study of His word, the greater your emotional love for Him.

One thing Hank didn’t mention about these particular Chinese Christians that’s often noted by missionaries in places where God’s word is prohibited or scarce is that the very Christians you see worshiping joyfully and tearfully crying out to the Lord for hours at a time are the same Christians who will do anything to get a copy of God’s word to study. These are not people who draw a line of distinction between loving the Lord with their hearts and knowing Him with their minds.

If you consistently, long-term, have zero desire to read, hear preached, or be taught God’s word, or your heart is never stirred with love and affection for God, there’s some kind of spiritual problem there. You do need to examine yourself to discover whether or not you’re truly born again. But you need to examine yourself against Scripture, not against your feelings and your observations of others. Maybe you even need to change churches, but, again, you need to measure your current church and potential new churches against Scripture, not against what you perceive to be their emotional or intellectual love, or lack of love, for the Lord.

The bulk of the hubbub over Hank Hanegraaff has been focused on the false teachings of Greek Orthodoxy. But how does a person eventually get to that point of ignoring biblical doctrine in hopes of what he thinks is a more fulfilling worship experience? It starts at the throne of the heart. And the only only One who has a right to occupy that throne and issue edicts from it is the God revealed in Scripture, not the god of personal experiences.

¹Zylstra, Sarah Eekhoff. “‘Bible Answer Man’ Converts to Orthodoxy,” Christianity Today, April 12, 2017,

Additional Resources

What Do We Do with Hank Hanegraaff? Todd Friel on Wretched TV

The Bible Answer Man Is No Longer Biblical? Gabe Hughes on When We Understand the Text

Can a Consistent Eastern Orthodox Believer Be the Bible Answer Man? James White on The Dividing Line

Sanctification, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Pursue the Imperishable

Originally Published June 30, 2010

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,

15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;

16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;

18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,

19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you

21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,

23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Peter 1:3-9, 13-23

Luke 11:12 says that if we ask God for an egg, He won’t give us a scorpion. But sometimes, when I ask God for an egg, He gives me a Denny’s Grand Slam instead.

Such was the case with my Bible study this morning. I asked God to speak to me through His word about something that’s a concern for me right now, thinking He would lead me to one of those comforting passages that says that He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7, Matthew 11:28). I only ordered an egg, but God knew I needed something more filling and nutritious. Something I could chew on for a while. Something that would stick to my ribs.

So He served me up a heaping helping of the first chapter of 1 Peter.

I’ve been asking God to teach me to need Him more. No, not just “need”. NEED!!! And guess what I’ve learned– God delights to answer prayers like that. Guess what else I’ve learned– He doesn’t usually do it by waving a magic wand over your head and instantly making you the way you want to be. He brings circumstances or people into your life that you have to walk through and work through. Along the way, He’s quietly transforming your character to make you more Christ-like. It’s like nuclear physics homework, only not as easy or fun.

(Personally, I would prefer a magic wand. It’s easier, faster, and requires nothing on my part. On the other hand, Cinderella got the magic wand treatment, and where did that get her? She didn’t learn to sew a designer gown, shop for comfortable shoes, or make her own travel arrangements. How could she fend for herself the next time there was a ball? But I digress…)

So, I find myself in this situation where God is teaching me to really NEED Him. I’ve done literally everything I can do on my end. The only thing left is for God to move. And, boy, do I need Him to move. Like, yesterday.

So, I’m praying and praying and praying about this situation and God helped me understand that I’m missing the point. The whole point of this little exercise is not about the end result (the resolution of the situation). That’s temporal. It’s not going to last. The point is what God is teaching me as He walks me through it. That’s imperishable. Eternal.

And so, I pursue the imperishable.

Because I was redeemed –bought back– not with perishable seed (23) or with perishable things like gold or silver (18), but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (19), and until I reach my inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for me (4),

I will forsake lusting after the perishable (14) and pursue obedience and holiness (15-16), which are imperishable.

I will greatly rejoice whenever I am distressed by perishable trials (6), because the proof of my faith –which is imperishable– even proof by fire, is more precious, more valuable than all the perishable gold or material things in this world (7).

Pursue the imperishable things of God. They are more precious than food, shelter, safety, family, money, reputation, things. They are eternal.

Mark Bible Study

Mark: Lesson 1

Welcome to our new study- Mark: God’s Good News for the Gentiles. “Tell me the story of Jesus,” Fanny Crosby wrote in her timeless hymn, and that’s just what the Gospel of Mark does. From John the Baptist’s preparing the way of the Lord to Jesus’ triumph over the grave, we’ll be examining the story of Jesus, up close and personal, over the next few months.

Let’s get started!

Introduction to the book of Mark:

Before we begin studying a book of the Bible, it’s very important that we understand some things about that book. We need to know…

Who the author was and anything we might be able to find out about him or his background.

Who the audience of the book is: Jews or Gentiles? Old Testament Israelites or New Testament Christians? This will help us understand the author’s purpose and approach to what he’s writing.

What kind of biblical literature we’re looking at. We approach books of history differently than books of wisdom, books of wisdom differently than books of prophecy, etc.

What the purpose of the book is. Was it written to encourage? Rebuke? Warn?

What the historical backdrop is for the book. Is Israel at war? At peace? In exile? Under a bad king? Good king? Understanding the historical events surrounding a piece of writing help us understand what was written and why it was written.

When the book was written. Where does the book fall on the timeline of biblical history? This is especially important for Old Testament books which are not always arranged in chronological order.

So this week, before we start studying the actual text of the book of Mark, we need to lay the foundation to understanding the book by finding the answers to these questions.

Read the following overviews of the book of Mark, taking notes on anything that might aid your understanding of the book, and answer the questions below:

Bible Introductions: Mark at Grace to You

Overview of the Book of Mark at Reformed Answers

Gospel of Mark – Bible Survey at Got Questions

1. Who wrote the book of Mark? What was his relationship to Paul? Peter? What is an amanuensis? Does this term describe Mark?

2. What is the approximate date Mark was written? About how long after Jesus’ ascension was this?

3. Who is the intended audience of the book of Mark? What evidence is there that this was the case?

4. Which genre of biblical literature is the book of Mark: law, history, wisdom, poetry, narrative, epistles, or prophecy/apocalyptic? What does this this tell us about the approach we should take when studying this book versus our approach to books of other genres?

5. What is the theme or purpose of the book of Mark?

6. Who are the main characters in the book of Mark? Was Mark one of the twelve apostles? Does Mark make an appearance in his own book?

7. Where do the events in the book of Mark take place? Where was Mark when he wrote this book? (Sometimes, a good Bible map like this one and this one can be helpful.) What was the political situation in this area at the time Mark was writing his gospel?

8. What else did you learn about Mark or the setting of this book that might help you understand the text of the book better?


Retraction: Sorry, y’all – I made a mistake


Oops. I goofed, messed up, wrote something amiss, erred, and made a mistake. My bad.

In yesterday’s edition of The Mailbag- The Mailbag: Children’s Bible Recommendations, I recommended the NIV/NIrV Adventure Bible. I am now retracting that recommendation (as well as my recommendation of any other NIV/NIrV Bible) due to gender neutral/inclusive language in current editions of this translation. Click the hyperlink above and scroll to the end of the article for a more detailed explanation. I have also updated my article: The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend accordingly.

I do, sincerely, apologize and hope I haven’t caused any of y’all any alarm, confusion, or inconvenience. Big thank yous to Julie, a reader who caught the error and kindly brought it to my attention.


And Rebuke Those Who Contradict It

“We have to be clued into the popular false teachers and know why we disagree with them,” says Pastor Casey Lewis in his excellent article, How Do We Lovingly Guide Church Members Away From False Teaching?

And, indeed, we do, pastors as well as as those of us in the pew. People ask me all the time why pastors don’t warn their church members about false teachers. This is why. Most of the time, they simply aren’t clued in. Pastors are extremely busy and stressed by their duties at church. They often don’t have time to research false teachers and the latest fads in false doctrine.

Your pastor might find Pastor Lewis’ article helpful, and there are a few things you as a church member can do to “hold his arm up” in this area:

1. Make sure your church isn’t placing so many demands on your pastor that he doesn’t have time to both preach sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9).

2. If you’re a faithful, trustworthy member of your church, offer to be a “research assistant” for your pastor. Let him know that if he ever needs somebody to vet an author or speaker you’ll be glad to do the legwork and report back to him so he can make informed decisions.

3. Pray regularly for discernment for your pastor and others in leadership at your church. Discernment is a gift only the Lord can bestow upon a person.

The pastorate can be a very demanding job. Love your pastor by doing what you can to help him.