How Walter Martin sowed the seeds for the current Hank Hanegraaff controversy

Back in early April, I posted the news about Hank Hanegraaff (photo right), the successor to Walter Martin (photo left) as president of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and host of “The Bible Answer Man” radio show, converting to the Greek Orthodox church. See here. The news caused no small stir among evangelicals, many of whom called for Hanegraaff to step down as the leader of what was always a distinctly evangelical para-church ministry. At least one Christian radio network stopped carrying “The Bible Answer Man.” But Hanegraaff refuses to consider giving up his position and maintains that the core beliefs of Greek Orthodoxy are the same as Bible Christianity.

Walter Martin’s two daughters have taken opposite sides in the ongoing controversy (see article far below). Jill Martin Rische, Martin’s oldest daughter, claims Hanegraaff “stole” the CRI presidency following the death of her father and that Martin definitely did not view Greek Orthodoxy or its cousin, Roman Catholicism, as Christian denominations/churches. See here for Rische’s You Tube video expounding on Hanegraaff’s “conversion.”

Rische makes many valid points comparing Greek Orthodoxy with Bible Christianity, but makes a serious blunder in her criticism of Hanegraaff’s claim that he still supports the core beliefs of Christianity as espoused by C.S. Lewis in his popular book, “Mere Christianity.” Rische states Lewis “might be rolling over in his grave, now,” knowing Hanegraaff was using “Mere Christianity” to support his conversion (7:15-7:22). In actuality, Lewis differed with evangelicalism on several important doctrines and certainly DID view Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as valid Christian institutions. See my review of “Mere Christianity” here. Rische’s and evangelicalism’s inexplicable love affair with C.S. Lewis actually fosters the kind of accommodation and compromise that leads to “evangelicals” joining works-righteousness denominations as Hanegraaff has done. Question: Why would Rische refer to C.S. Lewis in her argument when Lewis most certainly would have sided with Hanegraaff in this debate? Answer: Spiritual blindness.

In opposition to Rische, her sister, Cindee Martin Morgan, claims her father did recognize Greek Orthodoxy and Catholicism as Christian institutions and supports the continuation of Hanegraaff’s tenure as president of CRI. See her video here. At the 6:21 mark, Morgan inserts an audio recording of Martin as supporting evidence that he believed Catholicism was a Christian entity. In the audio, Martin states that he believes if any Catholics are Christians, “they are Christians not because of the Roman Catholic church, but despite the Roman Catholic church” (9:03-9:22). So far so accurate. But he then goes on to say that Catholicism teaches the basic core beliefs of Christianity including “justification by faith” (10:24-10:30). He continues by saying he believes pope John XXIII was a “sincere Christian” (14:33-14:35). It’s with these two points that Martin stumbles VERY BADLY. Catholicism has ALWAYS taught the doctrine of justification by faith AND works. Even Catholics will admit to that. Question: So how could the evangelical church’s leading apologist and “expert” on cults of a generation ago have been so ignorant of Catholicism’s teachings on justification? Answer: Spiritual blindness.

Martin’s confused and contradictory view of Catholicism helped open the door to future ecumenism with Rome and the current controversy involving  Hanegraaff. Martin’s examination of Catholicism, “The Roman Catholic Church in History” (1960), unexplainably sidestepped the issue of justification (see my review here), and now I know the reason why.

Daughter of CRI Founder Defends Hank Hanegraaff Amid ‘Fake News’ Charges That He Stole CRI Presidency

Catholicism: A spiritual chain gang

Imagine believing that you had to obey the Ten Commandments perfectly in order to be allowed into Heaven. That’s right; no lying, no lusting, no stealing, no envying, no road rage, no gossiping, no pride, always putting God above yourself. And then believing that every single time you messed up and disobeyed God you had to see a priest and confess the sin in order for it to be cleansed away. Repeat cycle. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

1.3 billion people believe the above. They are called Roman Catholics.

Roman Catholics acknowledge that God the Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross of Calvary for their sins, but they also believe they must do their part by receiving the church’s grace conferring sacraments and “cooperating with grace” by perfectly obeying the Ten Commandments. I could not perfectly obey the Ten Commandments for one day let alone a week.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” – Romans 3:21-25

Go to the Lord, Jesus Christ, in prayer. Repent of your sins and accept Christ as your Savior by faith alone. No one can be saved by trying to obey the Law. He is the only One who lived a life worthy of Heaven. He desires to be your Savior. Won’t you trust in Him by faith alone?

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” – Galatians 2:21

The 25 most frequently viewed posts from the past two years

To borrow a hackneyed expression, my, how time flies! We’re quickly approaching the second anniversary of this blog, excatholic4christ. I’m not a big sentimentalist but it is interesting to stop and take a look back at a few aspects of my blogging experience the past two years.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the unusual circumstances that led to the creation of this blog. See here.

I thought it also might be interesting to briefly review the 25 most frequently viewed posts from the past two years (as of this morning). Many thanks to WordPress stats!

As Christian writers, we send our humble creations off into the blogosphere, hoping and praying they will honor the Lord and be useful to another soul. Some land with a resounding thud (in our estimation) in blog “limbo” while others seem to take on a life of their own.

Jim Tetlow wrote this fascinating book about Islam’s veneration of Mary. Could a future Marian apparition be the catalyst for a one-world religion?

Apologist James R. White’s masterful debunking of KJV 1611-Onlyism.

James McCarthy’s book is one of the best examinations of Roman Catholicism available.

Rob Zins has been reaching out to Catholics with the Gospel for decades.

Robert Jeffress is one of many conservative evangelical pastors who oftentimes put American nationalism ahead of the Gospel.

An examination of one of Catholicism’s most popular sacramental talismans.

A look into the gradual rise of Mariolatry in Catholic theology.

Evangelicals love to quote Spurgeon but many would not abide his stand against Catholic error.

Karol Wojtyla, pope John Paul II, was canonized as a saint but his unusual relationship with a married Polish woman was kept under wraps.

Zacharias, one of evangelicalism’s most popular apologists, is an advocate of ecumenism with Rome.

Quoted by evangelical pastors ad nauseum, “Mere Christianity” is less than orthodox in several regards. Charles Colson cited the book as the inspiration behind his “Evangelical and Catholics Together” ecumenical project.

In his 2015 address to the U.S. joint congress, the “Vicar of Christ” didn’t mention Jesus Christ even once.

Few evangelicals are aware of the pagan origins of Catholic saint veneration/worship.

Convent escape narratives, popular in 19th and 20th century Protestant literature, were routinely dismissed as “Protestant/Puritan porn” by Catholic spokespersons, but they had no comment on this 2015 convent expose by a respected historian.

Zondervan’s important series on the 5 Solas was published in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year.

National Geographic’s cover story on Mariolatry was a revealing glimpse at the high priority Mary is given in Catholic theology.

I’m not sure how wise it is for Christian street preachers to disrupt a Catholic mass, but the Holy Spirit does not always follow our reasoning.

Catholicism’s refusal to bury unbaptized babies in “blessed” Catholic cemeteries defies comprehension and basic charity.

No doubt many people googled “cilice,” a strange contraption pious Catholics use for self-mortification, and were led to this post.

Apologist James R. White confronts Zacharias’s sellout to Rome. Sadly, White himself has recently compromised the Gospel with his controversial dialogues with a Muslim imam.

Many Catholics googled “Maria Goretti,” the popular “saint” whose body toured the U.S. in 2015 and were led to this post.

Cult expert Martin’s decision to omit any critical mention of Catholicism from “The Kingdom of the Cults” was inexplicable.

This excellent cable channel program examined some of the dark underside of Mariolatry.

A very simple post but with many hits, revealing the popularity of Mary worship within Catholicism.

I attribute the many hits for this post to google searches for “Clavius Aquila Valerius Niger,” the protagonist of the novel.

My thanks to all of those who have supported me and this blog ministry with friendship, prayers, and comments over the last two years. In this post-modern era, when relativism and plurality are cherished idols, I understand it’s not popular to associate with a blog titled excatholic4christ.

We are but clay pots with many flaws and weaknesses. May the Lord our God use us despite our shortcomings! May Roman Catholics and others soften their hearts to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

“Call no man your father…”

“And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” – Matthew 23:9

Taken at face value, the above verse records Jesus’s command to His followers that they address no man as “father.” In violation of this instruction, the Roman Catholic church directs its members to call their priests “father.” The supreme ruler of the church of Rome is called the “pope,” a variation of the Latin “papa,” which we all know means “father.” The church even addresses the pope as “Holy Father,” a title that would be appropriate for God alone. How can Rome justify addressing its priests as “father” when Jesus strictly forbids it?

Catholic apologists claim Christ’s words aren’t to be understood literally in this case. They point out that Jesus approvingly refers to biological fathers many times in the synoptic Gospels (e.g., Matthew 15:4, Mark 10:7, Luke 15:20, etc.). They also refer to Paul’s writings such as 1 Corinthians 4:15 and Philippians 2:22 in which the apostle refers to himself as a spiritual “father.” The apologists say Jesus only meant in this passage that His followers should not elevate spiritual leaders above God or to a God-like status.

The context of Matthew 23:6-12 clearly shows that Jesus was warning his disciples not to elevate those in the coming church who would be in leadership and teaching positions. The Jewish pharisees craved honorific titles (teacher/father/master/leader) and the honor, admiration, and benefits that went along with them. But all of Jesus’s followers were to be equal brethren in the Lord and were even to become servants to each other. Catholics point out that Jesus accepted the title of Rabbi (teacher) when some addressed Him as such, thus violating His own commandment, but, oh yeah, Jesus did claim exclusive rights to the title of Rabbi in Matthew 23:10.

Protestant apologists agree that Jesus obviously wasn’t referring to biological fathers in this passage. They also say Paul referred to himself as a spiritual “father” only in a metaphorical sense, as in being a mentor. Paul was not asking believers to address him as “father,” and would have corrected them if they had.

Even Karol Wojtyla, pope John Paul II, acknowledged Catholicism’s designation of the pope and priests as “father” was problematic and could not honestly be justified theologically beyond its roots in tradition:

“Have no fear when people call me the “Vicar of Christ,” when they say to me “Holy Father,” or “Your Holiness,” or use titles similar to these, which seem even inimical to the Gospel. Christ himself declared: “Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah” (Mt 23:9-10). These expressions, nevertheless, have evolved out of a long tradition, becoming part of common usage. One must not be afraid of these words either.” – pope John Paul II from “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” p. 6

But Catholics respond by saying Protestants who object to priests being called “father” are hypocrites because they regularly refer to their own church leaders with honorific titles such as “Pastor,” “Reverend,” or “Doctor.”

Do Catholics have a point? Do evangelical Christians also defy Christ’s teaching in Matthew 23:6-12 by elevating brethren with the gifts of leadership and teaching and by addressing them with honorific titles, which to some degree surely engender pride, envy, and class distinctions within the body? As one case in point, the independent fundamental Baptist newspaper I used to subscribe to decades ago referenced more “Dr.”s than an office directory at a medical building. Okay, so I’m exaggerating just a little bit.

Without question, the Catholic pope and priests certainly do attempt to take the place of Jesus Christ as spiritual mediators as indicated by their titles; “Holy Father,” “Vicar of Christ,” “persona Christi,” and “alter Christus.”

Are the titles we give Protestant ministers merely signs of love and respect for the ministry they share through Christ, or do we go too far by venerating with titles those in the body with the gifts of leadership and teaching?

Feedback is welcome.

“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Catholic leaders meet to try to stanch alarming exodus from the church

The article below reports the U.S. Catholic church is currently losing six members for every one it gains. That’s an amazing statistic. Why the sharp drop-off? Older Catholics look around at the empty pews on Sunday morning and wonder what’s going on. Catholic leaders from across the country are meeting in Orlando this week to try to figure out how to stanch the exodus.

Most Catholics participate in the church’s mandated obligatory rituals only sporadically. From there it’s only a short step to dropping away entirely. Most Catholics would say they “don’t get anything out of” their religion. But, as the article points out, many who leave are attracted to evangelical outreach, accept Christ, and attend evangelical churches instead.

After having been a Roman Catholic for 27 years, and with many friends and family members who are still Catholic, at least nominally, I can speak to some of the frustrations:

  • The mass is boring beyond description – Few these days want to sit through an hour-long liturgical ritual that is as dead as a door nail.
  • The eucharist is a case of the emperor with no clothes – Catholics line up to receive the all-important Jesus wafer during mass with the grace that it supposedly confers, but don’t feel ANY different afterwards. Nothing changed.
  • No relationship – Catholics are taught they were “born-again” when they were baptized as infants. Christians know that’s NOT how it works. Catholics haven’t accepted Christ as Savior and do not walk with Him. They have no joy or peace in Christ. Religion for them is legalism and sacramental ritualism. Some pious Catholics may claim joy in the Lord but they actually have no assurance of their salvation because their salvation depends on their obedience.
  • Treadmill fatigue – In Catholicism, one must do, do, do, do and hope to die in a “state of grace” with no serious sin on their soul. But the Bible says no one is good and no one can merit Heaven by trying to obey the Ten Commandments. The commandments only show us we’re sinners in desperate need of the Savior. Many Catholics become tired of the religious treadmill and step off, hoping for the best.
  • Confession – Confession to a priest at least once a year is MANDATORY upon threat of damnation but hardly any Catholics participate. Honestly, who would want to tell their deepest, darkest thoughts and actions to a sinful man? Many abusive relationships began in the confessional.
  • Conspicuous gaudiness – While Catholicism’s worldly and ostentatious displays of wealth and power may have impressed the masses in bygone eras, they hold much  less appeal today and are even seen as negatives by many.
  • Pedophile priests – With all the newspaper headlines, Catholics can’t help but look at their celibate parish priest and wonder about HIS propensities.
  • Birth control – The RCC absolutely forbids birth control but 98% of the women of child-bearing age in the pews use it anyway. Catholics legitimately wonder, “If the church is wrong about birth control, what else is it wrong about?”
  • Divorced remarrieds – Catholics who had divorced and remarried were made to feel like Hester Prynne in “The Scarlet Letter” by being barred from communion. Pope Francis is trying to surreptitiously get around this “infallible” restriction with his infamous “Amoris Laetitia” footnote but the damage has been done.
  • Why bother? – Their pope says even atheists will go to Heaven if they follow their consciences and are “good,” so the laity logically wonder why they need to bother with all the ritual and exacting religious legalities (1752 canon laws)?

To my Catholic friends, Christianity is not an institution or a religious treadmill. Christianity is a Person, Jesus Christ. He came to save sinners. Do you qualify? Put institutional religion aside forever, repent of your sin and accept Jesus as your Savior through faith alone. Let go of the 100 lb. religious weight on your back and accept Jesus Christ. Then ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise. Only after you repent and accept Christ as Savior can you follow Him joyfully as Lord.

God bless you as you desire for the Truth.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

‘For every person baptized, the U.S. Church loses six Catholics’

Actual church vs. virtual church?

My very long prodigal “season” away from the Lord and church gave me an uncommon perspective. I’m not bragging, it’s just what happened.

When I returned to the Lord in 2014, things sure looked different in churchdom. Very different. On the decline were such things as getting dressed up for church, hymns accompanied by piano or organ, expository preaching, and three services per week. Instead there were now mega-churches with hip names that featured CCM rock music and light shows, pastors in skinny jeans with swag haircuts, coffee and donut bars, topical doctrine-lite preaching, huge video screens, and weekly community groups instead of a mid-week service.

Oh, my.

And there was also the internet. In the old days, everyone pretty much relied on their pastor for their Bible teaching. Sure, many read their Bibles during the week and a few might even have had hardbound commentaries and other Bible aids. We also had Charles Stanley and a few other solid preachers on television. But the bulk of the teaching was from the pastor at the local church. That may not be the case for many today. Now we have tons of Bible aids online as well as sermon podcasts galore from many solid (and unsolid) pastors. There’s also many Christian forums and blogs like here at WordPress. Need some godly advice about a personal or doctrinal problem? There’s thousands of articles and You Tube videos just waiting out there in cyberspace, more than enough to make your head spin. Sunday worship? You can spend all of your waking hours on Sunday interacting with other believers without ever venturing out the front door just by trolling through the posts here at WordPress. Some even see that as the preferable option given the style and substance of many of the churches today.

The article below discusses how “virtual church” is impacting shoulder-to-shoulder worship and fellowship with brothers and sisters in the Lord. The internet can be a great tool for the Gospel and spiritual growth. I truly appreciate many of the online resources that are available. But there’s also a danger. We can easily separate ourselves from family, friends, neighbors, and fellow Christians in our community that we could otherwise share “real life” with as we instead increasingly become “virtual church” shut-ins.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25

In today’s world, can “meet together” mean online interaction or must it be physical face-to-face? A twenty-five-year-old would probably answer that question differently than I would.

Online Sermons Causing Low Church Attendance?

“10 Reasons I Love Being a Christian”

A few people have written to me asking why I critically examine Roman Catholicism. They advise that I should expound only on the positives about my faith in the Lord and attract people to Christ that way.

But God’s Word commands us to mark false teachers and teaching (Romans 16:17) and as one who was raised in Catholicism, accepted Christ in my twenties, and then read extensively on the differences between Scripture and Catholicism, I have a perspective that many don’t.

However, contrary to what some may think, I don’t sit around all day cogitating on the errors of Roman Catholicism. I have a sweet relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, which is daily becoming sweeter through Him. I love the Lord, Jesus. I love being a Christian. I’m so grateful to Jesus my Savior.

Here’s “10 Reasons I Love Being a Christian” by Will Graham over at Evangelical Focus which I can say a hearty “Amen” to and I hope blesses you as well. Thank you, Jesus!

1.- I’m glad I’m a Christian because I can enjoy a relationship with God Almighty.

2.- I’m glad I’m a Christian because I know Jesus has forgiven me.

3.- I’m glad I’m a Christian because the Holy Spirit abides within me.

4.- I’m glad I’m a Christian because I have a whole new world-wide spiritual family.

5.- I’m glad I’m a Christian because I’ve got an exciting mission to carry out on earth.

6.- I’m glad I’m a Christian because I’m free to live in truth and holiness.

7.- I’m glad I’m a Christian because I can use my gifts and talents for God’s glory.

8.- I’m glad I’m a Christian because I’ve always got a reason to smile.

9.- I’m glad I’m a Christian because I know I’m never alone.

10.- I’m glad I’m a Christian because I live with the hope of coming glory.

10 Reasons I Love Being a Christian


1) Diet update, 2) James White update, and 3) Lloyd-Jones video

Today’s one of those rare days when I have more than one topic to write about, but rather than publishing them separately, I’m combining them into one post and I’ll try to be very brief:

*Diet update: Back on May 1st, I announced to the WordPress world that I had started on the famous “Sal’s Birdland Diet” in order to lose 33 lbs. See here for original post. Eleven weeks later, I’m happy to report I’m halfway to my goal after losing 17 lbs. but I’m about 5 lbs. behind plan at this point. The diet went pretty well initially but I had reached a plateau the last three weeks (see above chart). I guess I had gotten a bit lazy in my discipline (like ordering fried calamari and a wedge salad topped with gobs of creamy blue cheese dressing and crumbled bacon for dinner at a restaurant a few weekends ago). This past week I really buckled down in order to break through the plateau and it worked. I have noticed this diet experience has many parallels to our spiritual walk with the Lord. When we’re lazy, half-hearted, or double-minded in regards to our relationship with the Lord, we can expect a spiritual plateau and even spiritual decline. I’ll let you know if/when I hit my target, hopefully in about 8 or 9 weeks. By the way, my size 38″ pants now keep creeping downward whenever I power walk so in the interests of decency and propriety, I’ll need to do some pants shopping at J.C. Penney for some size 36″s in another week or two.

*James R. White & Dialogue “Controversy”: A week ago I wrote about the mounting controversy over Christian apologist James R. White’s two interfaith dialogues with aJW Muslim Imam. See here. I’m of a mind that apologists should debate false religionists rather than dialogue with them. But White believes dialogues are beneficial in the spreading of the Gospel and affirms he will continue with this approach despite the opposition. See here for White’s recent interview with Messianic Jew, Dr. Michael Brown, in which he defends the dialogues. If we disagree with Dr. White’s approach, we should do so charitably.

*Martyn Lloyd-Jones video biography available for download: I’ve been so blessed after “discovering” the ministry of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899 – 1981), the godly and beloved Welsh-English preacher and defender of the Gospel of grace of the previous generation. I’m currently reading his compiled sermons on the Sermon on the Mount and its been a tremendous blessing although very slow reading because it’s so deep. I was skimming through Paul Washer’s Twitter account and several months ago he had mentioned that a video biography of Lloyd-Jones, “Logic on Fire: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones,” was available for download. See the trailer here. To download the video for 48-hours for $6.00, see here. The DVD is also available at Amazon for $39.95+ shipping, see here. Review to follow.



Married couple at church

Sometimes when a married couple is sitting together at church it goes down like this:


He’s thinking: “I hope she paid attention to this sermon because she really needs to get down from her pedestal.”


She’s thinking: “I’m so glad Mr. “It’s-ALL-About-Me” heard this sermon. Let’s see if he changes at all.”


Ever been there? I have.


Praise the Lord for our spouses! Let’s pray for them every day and then pray that WE become the partner the Lord wants us to be!


“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12 (Three strands = God+husband+wife)

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads and Granddads out there!

I’m grateful for my Dad who passed away two years ago. Our relationship was a mixed bag as is the case with many fathers and sons. Dads, don’t push your sons too hard.

I’m very grateful for my wife and our two sons and their families which include our three grandchildren. And I’m so grateful for my Heavenly Father, for Christ my Savior, and for the Holy Spirit who indwells and seals me.

Our oldest son who lives here in town is coming over for dinner this afternoon with our two granddaughters and I’ll also be looking forward to a phone call from our other son stationed down in Texas. I hope all you Dads out there have an enjoyable day with your loved ones! Family is a great gift.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” – Romans 8:14-16