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

29 thoughts on “The Heart of the Hanegraaff Hubbub: Dethroning the God of Your Personal Experiences”

  1. Thank you, Michelle. I often listen to Mr. Hanegraaff on my way home from work. Your posts keep me grounded as I often get caught up in my feelings and experiences vs the truth of Holy scripture.


    1. I think that’s a lifelong struggle for all Christians in various areas of our faith. I might not choose a “feel good” church over a doctrinally sound one, but I struggle with acting on my feelings of irritability or eating things I shouldn’t instead of being obedient to Scripture in those areas. The flesh wants what it wants, and we give in to it all too often.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. How can anyone walk without discernment. We are supposed to train our senses to discern between good and evil..That can only come from knowing and obeying God’s Word-Scripture.

    You were right about Life Action ministries adhering to Keswick Theology. Nancy Leigh has crossed over into bridging the Emergent Movement. She is not trustworthy as a spiritual leader.


    1. Can you tell me more about Nancy Leigh Wildermuths ministry, and I just facilitated her True Woman 201 class. I didn’t realize she had flipped on her theology.
      Thank you in advance.


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  4. One of the reasons I’m following your blog, Michelle, is that you put the Word of God over what your feelings and reason might tell you. Some women say, “I FEEL God wants me to preach.” Or “1 Timothy 2:12 says I shouldn’t teach men, but I THINK…” If you know what God says in the Holy Bible you should trust Him rather than your thoughts and feelings.


  5. Well said. Our hearts and emotions are tricky things–closely tied to the Old Adam in us. You refer to but don’t quote Mark 7:20-23: 20 And he [Jesus] said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (ESV)


    1. And Paul said it was by their very NATURE that the Gentiles who did what the law said to Israel were able to be a law unto themselves. Rom.2:14,15
      “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written IN THEIR HEARTS, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

      It’s not only bad things that come out of a man’s heart.



      1. It’s all a matter of free will. That’s how Adam and Eve made their decisions too. Just like we do today.


      2. Dear Brother or Sister in Christ,

        Paul’s thesis is in the early chapters of Romans is that all people have sinned and are in need of a savior. Paul’s point in Chapters 1 and 2 that even though the pagan Gentiles know the law of God (since it is in their hearts/consciences as you point out), they are unable to keep the law and are sinful people deserving of God’s wrath.

        If we take your proposition to its logical conclusion we will say that people can do something good before God without the Spirit. This is not correct doctrine. It is like saying that our Old Adam is not evil and sinful, and that is false.

        I believe a better way to approach this is to acknowledge that even non-believers can do good works in the civil realm. That acts are good and are God pleasing.
        However, the motives of these non-believers in doing these good acts are ultimately selfish and self-serving and before God in the spiritual realm, their acts are sinful. Our civil righteousness carries no weight before God for our salvation. So to say that we can do good is correct if we keep in mind the distinction between the civil realm and God’s spiritual realm.

        In Christ,



      3. Tim,
        Can you show me where the scripture says that Adam became evil after eating the fruit? It can not be because of the new knowledge he gained from eating the fruit. Because God says in Gen.3:22 that the knowledge made Adam more like God, not less.


      4. Adam’s sin brought death to all of his descendants and as a result all are enemies of God and are sinful. Sin is evil, Sin is rebellion. Psalm 51:5; Mark 7:17-23; Romans 1:28-2:1 (for those not under the law); Romans 2:12, Romans 3:10-20 (for those under the law); Romans 5:12 and 18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. To ask Paul’s question of you, if you are not sinful and evil, then “who will deliver me (you) from this body of death?” You can’t!


  6. Edwitness said:

    It’s all a matter of free will. That’s how Adam and Eve made their decisions too. Just like we do today.

    I know the matter of free will is a matter of significant debate between different schools of Christian thought, but suffice it to say that we cannot choose for God without the Spirit acting in us first. We have free will in the civil (horizontal) realm but not in the spiritual (vertical) realm.

    In Christ,



    1. Doesn’t the scripture say that we make choices exactly the same way today as Eve did in the garden? Gen.3:6 and 1John2:16.
      And of course it is the Father that empowers our choice to choose to worship Him. But, it is still our choice, free will, that we make the choice with. He draws us and we choose whether to answer yes or no to that drawing. Free will.
      By the way, Luke wrote of Zachariah and Elizabeth in Luke1:6 that “they were both righteous before God, walking in ALL the commandments and ordinances of the Lord BLAMELESS.” Paul says the same thing of himself in Phil.3:6 and God says the same thing of Job in Job1. These are three witnesses of the fact that man could keep the law blamelessly. There are none that say otherwise.


    2. The problem with the thinking that the unsaved can not do good is that it rejects the clear teaching from Paul that says the Gentiles who have not the law do by their nature what the law told Israel to do. And the imperical experiences we see everyday. They do good by not stealing, murdering, coveting, etc… How many of your neighbors stole from you recently?…… You get the point.

      So the scripture clearly says that man could do either evil or good without God being a reality in their lives. Depending solely upon their choice. Free will. I see it every day.

      To choose the true God we must be drawn by Him first. He does this through the sharing of the gospel through His ministers of reconciliation. Christians. Faith comes by hearing…. And because it is not God’s will that any should perish we know that He makes His gospel available to every person who has ever lived. That gospel is that eternal life comes by way of knowing Him. John17:3


  7. “I saw Chinese Christians who were deeply in love with the Lord.”
    I really wish Christians would stop saying things like this, it’s cringey and unbiblical. I love the Lord Jesus Christ but I’m not *in* love with him. Big difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No need to read anything sexual into it. I didnt even notice that; I just wondered why. someone would be moved by the fervency of love that Christians. who, yes, hunger for scripture and withstand threats for being faithful to Jesus, would be motivated by that to turn in the direction of ritual, no matter how aesthetic thr ritual is.


  8. Hank is dealing with an issue that started when long ago interpretations began to reject the clear teaching of what happened in the garden when Adam and Eve sinned. This rejection has brought the church to believe all sorts of heresies.
    And these heresies have to do with who we have come to believe God is. And why He came to die for mankind. I believe that this is an issue of salvation or I would never make an issue of it.
    Please, put down our religious glasses and put on our Bible study glasses and re read the events of Genesis 1-3.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When Cornelius gave alms, it was not with.a selfish motive. God would not have memorialized his devotion if it had been selfishly motivated. But Cornelius had fallen in love with the God of Israel, and his alms giving as well as his reading or other seeking were motuvsted to know God better. Giving was thr kind of God He revealed himself to be in scripture. He knew that God is, and that He rewards them that diligently seek Him. God saw Cornelius’s alms not as works salvation, but ss seeking Him through the things the Bible reveals God is pleased by. And God was pleased, although Cornelius didnt even know the gospel yet. What Cornelius never coukd have done was to seek God without God seeking him first. But because God was seekimg Him sincerely in response to God seeking him, God was pleased by his posituve, hungering and thirsting response.


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