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