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.