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From Evangelical Protestant “orthodoxy” to Eastern (Greek) “Orthodoxy”: Leading Apologist Converts to the original “Historic Church”

May 17, 2017

I’m over a month late on this, and the big clue was the CRI e-mail about the question of whether president Hank Hanegraaf “left the faith” http://www.equip.org/article/left-christian-faith. I get these in a side-email that I only read on the phone, usually on breaks at work. For some reason, I brushed it off, thinking maybe it was some late April Fool’s joke, or perhaps some radical movement saying he’s gotten too soft on some point of doctrine or morality or something (like IFB’s have long said CRI was too soft on Catholics and “separation”; the “psychoheresy” critics say he has “compromised” in the issue of “counseling”; the KJVO’s of course will think he errs on translations, etc). I was still getting CRI/Equip e-mails from him, so he wasn’t ousted from that organization. I think I did actually glance at that article, and all it was, was him reaffirming the universal doctrines of the “historic Church” that he always championed: The deity of Christ, original sin, the Church and the scriptures, the Trinity, Jesus as incarnate savior, salvation by “grace through faith”, making one a “new creation”, and the resurrection of the dead and the life to come.

So on that same side e-mail, today, where I also get notifications from the old Baptistboard about ongoing threads, I see a new one saying directly, “Hank Hanegraaff Converts to Greek Orthodox”. In it, someone points out the topic was already covered, in a month old thread matching his own blog article, “Has Hank Hanagraaf left the faith?”. (Both of these were in “Baptist only” sections which always seem to have the most interesting topics, but non-Baptists are not allowed to post there). Now, I find on CRI his direct Q&A about Orthodoxy: http://www.equip.org/questions-answers-orthodoxy/ There was a link to this on the other page, but I thought “Ask Hank: Questions and Answers About Orthodoxy” meant what he formerly considered “orthodoxy”: evangelical Protestant “orthodoxy”!
Wow!

It was right there on the BB, over a decade ago, where I had heavily debated several Eastern Orthodox believers, and some Catholics. (One EOC “catechumen” was for some reason rejected from admission, and ended up Anglican instead. There was another Anglican as well, and they argued on the side of “catholicism” on most of the points, especially Eucharist and “tradition”). For a time, they had swarmed the board, and gotten pretty aggressive, until the mods began cracking down on it. This is what led me to put up a page answering “Catholic” arguments, and consisting in part (the second half) of the key points copied from those very debates: http://www.erictb.info/tradition.html

To reprint the opening text:
I myself always looked with interest at the Eastern Orthoodox Church, since becoming acquainted with the claims of an “original true Church” through the literature of the Church of Christ years ago, and then finding similar claims by the Worldwide Church of God (Armstrongism), Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even some Baptists use it. I always found the claims of those groups being preserved through such small sects as the Waldensians, Catharii, and Anabaptists to be farfetched, as those groups were vastly different from these modern groups. I quickly realized that the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches had more of a stake to that claim, since they were the historical “Church” stemming from the original Churches planted by the Apostles. And I further figured out that the EOC has an even greater claim than the RCC, because the latter was actually one single patriarchate of the original five of the Church, which broke off because it was continuing to add new doctrines the other four patriarchates did not accept.

Still, I do not believe that the EOC of the 11th century and after was the same as the first century Church either, as is assumed by EOC advocates. However, some have now begun to become aggressive in claiming to be the true Church, and condemning Protestantism and “sola Scriptura”, “with its thousands of splinter groups”, instead of “just following the [oral, apostolic] traditions of the Church”. Many of those groups that claim to be the original Church had a point in pointing out that the Church rapidly began changing after the death of the apostles. You can even see the warnings of apostasy in the writings of the apostles themselves.

This reflects a time just before I started moving toward the Fulfilled View, and so still believing the “end” was future, and that the “falling away” was something starting in the first century, and continuing down through all of Church history, to our time and beyond. It was these debates, including the point that was mentioned, of all the “thousands of splinter groups”, that made me finally grow weary of futurism. Yes, that fit into the so-called “falling away” it was plugged into, but it fell so far away that nobody can really agree on much of anything regarding what the truth of scripture is; everyone just claims to be scriptural and reads their doctrines into scripture, and it seemed anyone could make scripture say anything they wanted. There’s no longer any central [spiritual] body representing the original truth like there was under the apostles, though some organizations are claiming to be that body; again, reading their doctrines and institutional structures into scripture.
So it seemed like that “body” was never designed to go on through centuries of changing leadership and political influence, and without the supernaturally guided original apostles. It was only designed to last a “short time”, —which is precisely what we see promised by Jesus Himself and the apostles!
So when the preterists next began to turn the volume up on their doctrine on the board, I likewise fought hard against that, but later found the “pantelist” variation or “Fulfilled view”, and it all finally clicked. It’s the only thing that explains why God would allow “His Church” to spiral out of control like this, as the watching world takes it as the ultimate evidence that the whole religion is just a human fabrication.

Anyways, Hanegraaf’s move would mean he no longer believes in at least two of the “core essentials” he once defended, of Grace alone through faith alone, and “sola scriptura”. (Even though he did claim to still believe in the former). The “Catholic/Orthodox” position on the role of “works” in “faith” is similar to that of several of the “cults”, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, radical sabbatarians such as Armstrongism, and the Church of Christ.

As he was the de-facto number one “apologist” for the general body of evangelical “orthodoxy” (as understood in the “Protestant” form), this is very surprising. So the perhaps next leading evangelical apologist, James White of Alpha & Omega ministries, quickly began commenting on it.
https://youtu.be/ezaECk7cBQs (this video even shows the tweet of Hanegraaf being received into the Church via chrismation!)
You would think the two ministries would be pretty much in lockstep agreement on most doctrines; since they uphold the “basics” of evangelical doctrine, but apparently, there was a bit of a light “falling out” between the two fourteen years ago, when White realized it would be his last invitation to the Bible Answer Man, as he described what he calls a pre-planned “ambush” to promote “synergism” (which is basically the technical term for “free-will” cooperation in salvation), which he says “backfired” on the hosts. White is of course, solidly Calvinist (monergistic), where Hanegraaf always seemed to be more neutral on that dispute. (I can remember him describing a “racist” attack, when some hyper-charismatic “revival” leader whom he had denounced fired back something about him being an “intellectual Calvinist” or something like that, which was assumed simply from him having a Dutch background).

White addresses the issue of the “catholic” definition of “faith” in this second video on the subject: https://youtu.be/F5EPs9EqIsc He points out how the single word “alone”, as in “grace/faith alone” makes a big difference. Removing it and substituting something like “faith working through love” (taking from Paul in Galatians, but using it differently from what he originally meant), as a Catholic he cites does, “opens the door” to the entire sacrificial system of Rome, and all the doctrines that go with that (baptismal regeneration, different kinds of sin, etc. Already, Hanegraaf can be heard in a clip talking about how [canonized] saints pray for us, though he says we can’t pray to them. White shows how the still professed “sola scriptura” is actually redefined, and around 20 minutes in excellently points out how the EOC “traditions” were “frozen” or “fossilized” in the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries [and not the 1st, 2nd or 3rd], by the threat of the rise and rule of Islam, which forced them to maintain “this is what we believe and we must defend it”; where the Western Church had the freedom and increased power to continue developing its doctrine).

I’m actually not as totally surprised as you think I would be. He is so into the “historic” aspect of the “faith”; “historicity” seemed to always be the ultimate arbiter of doctrinal matters, including how to interpret scripture, which is of course the official final authority, but as we see all too often, does get interpreted differently by nearly everyone. I always pictured him having a soft spot for some form of “catholicity” (which again, he was always criticized for not being hard enough on. He does have articles on “Catholicism” http://www.equip.org/category/catholicism, but these seem to be more focused on the specific Roman branch of catholicism. Again, the EOC doesn’t have quite the same stigma as the RCC; as it didn’t add some of the really bad doctrines like purgatory, indulgences, etc. Also, it not being as familiar here in the West. It was the RCC that Protestantism broke away from).

This is truly a major shift in evangelicalism!

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