Talking about the Week That Changed the World

CRI-Blog-Maier, Paul-Week that Changed the World

Hank Hanegaaff: We have a special broadcast on tap. It has to do with the resource available for those who support the ministry all this month. It is called The Week that Changed the World (DVD) by Dr. Paul Maier. This week, The Week That Changed the World, is a week in which Jesus Christ suffered fatal torment. It is a week in which He was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. It is a week in which we know that He was going to appear and give many convincing proofs that He had risen from the dead. In fact, it was a week that resulted in an absolutely transformed world. This is not called The Week That Changed the World in the sense of just one epic week but this is called The Week That Changed the World in the sense that this is the quintessential week in all of human history.

To talk about that, Dr. Paul Maier, his is a professor of ancient history. He has written some of the most exquisite books. I love his two novels, particularly Pontius Pilate and The Flames of Rome. He has written many nonfiction works, including Josephus: The Essential Works and Eusebius: The Church History, a book on the first Christian historian. He has also penned a lot of children’s books, and he was the author of The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction? Glad to have you on the broadcast!

Paul Maier: Coauthored with you, I might add. Good to be back, Hank.

Hank: We did that one together, didn’t we?

Paul: We certainly did.

Hank: You know that was a book that had a lot of significance because the subject never went away.

Paul: How true. We documented absolutely all the errors that Dan Brown made. It was an incredible book (The Da Vinci Code), I tell you. I’ve never seen a book where every time where Jesus or Christ or the church is mentioned is a lie either in whole or in part. I’ve never seen a book like that.

Hank: Well, let’s talk about the DVD. I mean, it is absolutely splendid. I’ve watched it a number of times. You know, I mentioned this in the opening of the broadcast, but this is not just a week, this is the week.

Paul: Indeed. It is the most carefully documented week also in the gospels. I’m glad for that because Jesus didn’t make a move, I think, during that week that hasn’t missed countered aside by some critic somewhere. I’m so glad we have such detail, especially in the gospel of John, as you well know.

Hank: Paul, I want you to talk about what leads up to Holy Week because, for many Christians, the thought of Lent raises the question: I’ve heard about that, but I’m not sure exactly what that’s all about and why it might be significant? Why is Holy Week, the forty days, so critical for Christians?

Paul: Well, because it’s one of the earliest church festivals. Easter, of course, was celebrated before Christmas was, and then, of course, what caused Easter and what led up to it, the church had to prepare for it. Indeed, this was one of the earliest festivals of the early church. It is the Paschal Season, they call it. Indeed, we have here the culmination of Jesus’ ministry. What happened from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is very critically important for the Christian faith and everyone else’s eternal fate.

Hank: You have gone through some very, very difficult situations in your life overall, as all of us have, but recently you suffered a stroke. I suppose when you suffer a stroke, you get a true evaluation of things in terms of what really matters not just for time but for eternity. Talk about that.

Paul: How very true that is. You realize you’re mortal after all. Yes, it was on Election Day, November 8; I had a mild stroke. I didn’t think I had a stroke at first. I wasn’t going to call a doctor, and I said, “No.” Then, I heard myself say “No,” and the way I talked with this slight slur that I’m using right now. I’m not fully over it. I hope to God that I could finally say, “Goodbye,” to this strange speaking ability of mine, but this is a problem right now, and I hope you hearers can be very generous and listen anyway, despite my attempts at handling the English language from a complicated vantage point.

Hank: You know, Paul, it’s interesting to me. I remember this with respect to my father as well. He was a speaker, then he got a fibrosis of the lungs, it encroached on his ability to assimilate oxygen, and so the very thing he had done all his life became very, very difficult for him. You’re one of the most eloquent speakers I’ve ever heard, and the proof of that is in The Week That Changed the World. The job you did in that DVD is absolutely unbelievable. It’s superb. It’s spectacular. How difficult is it to lose the very skill that God has given you, that you have used to teach so many students and lecture around the world?

Paul: Well, certainly it’s tough indeed. By the way, the DVD, however, was filmed before I had the stroke. I talk normally on that one. Again, it’s an odd coincidence it was Election Day, November 8. I think — a little joke here — it may have been my response to the options we had for presidential candidates, but I don’t want to get into politics at this point. Yes, it is very difficult. Again, there’s something satanic about the nature of hitting a person where he’s at his strongest. I think public speaking was my gift, following in many ways the work of my dad, who founded the Lutheran Hour years ago, Dr. Walter A. Maier, and then to find out that I have this slight speech handicap is very unnerving. Fortunately, people have been very generous. They claim they can understand me. I hope that goes for your hearers also.

Hank: I can certainly understand you. One of the first things that I want to drive home is the fatal torment of Jesus Christ. Your comments would be very helpful because there are many people that deny that Jesus Christ suffered fatal torment. For example, the Muslims will say that Jesus was not crucified, God made someone look like Jesus, and the lookalike was crucified in place of Jesus. How can we be certain from a historical and archeological perspective that Jesus did in fact suffer fatal torment?

Paul: When you find dispassionate, non-Christian, secular sources saying the same thing that the New Testament does in terms of Jesus suffering on the cross and dying, then, for goodness’ sake, that pretty well clinches the case for me. Whenever I find people claiming that somebody took his place, I say, “Wait a minute. This sounds like it comes from the Qur’an. This, of course, comes six centuries after the fact.” So, I always ask, “Which is the more reliable source of information: eyewitness testimony or something that happened six-hundred-plus years later?” Of course, the answer is obviously you have derivative material in the case of Islam, and by the way, we can now trace where that material came from. Unfortunately, the prophet Muhammad was in touch only with heretical Christianity in his formative years. It was a Gnostic heresy of Egypt under a Gnostic teacher, Basilidies was his name, who claimed that somebody else took Jesus’ place. This kind of remained with him. If only we would have had Muhammad in touch with normal Christianity, and if only there had been a good Arabic translation of the Old and New Testament available to him, and if only Christian missionaries had dealt more directly or kindly with him during his formative years, I cannot tell you how changed the world would be today. It is such an incredible shame that Muhammad was who he was and was not an Eastern martyr for Christianity or Eastern witness to Christianity. That’s one of the great might-have-beens of history.

Hank: Paul, there is a lot of conjecture on what the cross looked like. I was listening to Bill O’Reilly the night before last. He said of certainty that the cross Jesus was crucified on looked like a capital “T.” Jehovah’s Witnesses say that it was a torture stake. A lot of different forms of the cross. Is there any historical or archeological clue in terms of what the shape of the cross actually was that Jesus was specifically crucified on?

Paul: I don’t know how Bill O’Reilly can say of a certainty. There’s certainly not certainty. But, it is pretty clear that the regular looking cross (†), the so-called crux immissa, which is the typical cross we’re used to is the one because there is a titulus over Jesus’ head, which says, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.” This would be very appropriate in a placard placed over Jesus’ head. I know in the tau cross, the T-shaped cross, they would have had this strung out along the top of the cross beam, that’s very unlikely, and by the way, you find a lot of evidence of mistaken logic in some of Bill O’Reilly’s material there. He claims that he spent all of ten months researching the life of Jesus. Well, you know, others of us spent our whole life times and don’t come up with pat answers. There’s a lot of picking and choosing in terms of cherry-picking the evidence there in that book. No, the regular cross we’re used to best answers all the problems.

Hank: This is one of the things you’ve given your life to. You have given your life to actually doing the first-rate primary research. This is very, very significant when it comes to the life of Jesus Christ, and most particularly when it comes to The Week That Changed the World.

Paul: This is so terribly important. We call it Holy Week of course, but what happened from Palm Sunday to Easter are momentous events in the life of Jesus, the culmination of His ministry, and really the beginning of the Christian faith as we know it. If it had gone any differently, if Jesus had not risen from the dead, we wouldn’t be talking, you wouldn’t have a program today, and nobody would be listening to me, either. It would be a different world. But, instead of that, we have the most successful single phenomenon in the history of humanity, namely the Christian church. There’s never been any other movement on Earth which has the loyalties of over two-and-a-half-billion people or three-billion people in the present generation alone. This could not have developed from a vacuum. This developed from situations that are well known in history and can be verified in the use of secular materials, which is my particular specialty. I love to compare what is explained in the New Testament gospels and epistles, then see what the outside sources for the ancient world say. Do they contradict what we have in the gospels, or do they agree? They agree magnificently again, and again, and again.

This blog adapted from the March 24, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast. Listen to the full interview here.


Speaking About Flawed Climate-Change Models

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Climate Change Models FlawedI want to mention an article I read in the Boston Globe, a very progressive Boston Globe. If I am not mistaken, it is owned by the New York Times. This article is by Jeff Jacoby, who I think has been a columnist for the Globe since 1987. The article is entitled “Why Are Climate-Change Models So Flawed?” And the answer: “Because Climate Science Is So Incomplete.”

The gist of Jacoby’s article is that the Environmental Protection Agency’s new director, Scott Pruitt, says we just do not know whether “CO2 is the primary control knob for climate.” Well, of course, hysteria broke out in the media and the broader American community.

Jacoby thought, “Well, let’s add a little discernment to the mix,” and starts explaining that “CO2 is certainly a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, but hardly the primary one.” This is about thinking. A lot of people don’t allow thinking; you have to lockstep march. But Jacoby is thinking out loud in this article, as it were, saying, “Water vapor accounts for about 95 percent of greenhouse gases. By contrast, carbon dioxide is only a trace component in the atmosphere: about 400 ppm (parts per million), or 0.04 percent. Moreover, its warming impact decreases sharply after the first 20 or 30 ppm.”

At any rate, Jacoby goes on to write that “Earth’s climate system is unfathomably complex. It is affected by innumerable interacting variables, atmospheric CO2 levels being just one.”

The list of variables that shape climate includes a whole bunch of things including:

Cloud formation, topography, altitude, proximity to the equator, plate tectonics, sunspot cycles, volcanic activity, expansion or contraction of sea ice, conversion of land to agriculture, deforestation, reforestation, direction of winds, soil quality, El Niño and La Niña ocean cycles, prevalence of aerosols (airborne soot, dust, and salt) — and, of course, atmospheric greenhouse gases, both natural and manmade. A comprehensive list would run to hundreds, if not thousands, of elements, none of which scientists would claim to understand with absolute precision.

The bottom line, according to Jeff Jacoby, is that “Pruitt got it right: Measuring human impacts on climate is indeed ‘very challenging.’ The science is far from settled. That is why calls to radically reduce carbon emissions are so irresponsible — and why dire warnings of what will happen if we don’t are little better than reckless fearmongering.”

Again, I was very, very surprised to see this article in the Boston Globe. The point, I guess, by Jacoby is that science is not about consensus, and the present policies are things that we ought to examine very, very closely, because one thing we know beyond a peradventure of a doubt: they harm the poorest of the poor. As I wrote in an article, which is available in The Complete Bible Answer Book Collector’s Edition Revised and Updated, you need to learn to ask the right questions, and ask the right questions in the right sequence. Overall, we all need to learn discernment skills. This is a discernment ministry, teaching people those very skills, hopefully, by modeling those skills in many of our outreaches around the world. —Hank Hanegraaff

“The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” (Prov. 18:17 NIV).


Evidence for the Historical Jesus in Non-Christian Sources

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Historical Evidence of JesusEvery now and then, I want to start the broadcast — I do not do it as often as I should — with an email question, or a Facebook question, or someone that texted in a question. A good example is a question from Jesse, who writes, “My faith has been shaken for doubt as well as for personal reasons because I read that there is historical and archeological evidence of Jesus being mentioned by Josephus and by Pliny and by other people of history but I read of evidence of Jesus being debunked due to the writings of historical figures having been altered in the process. So, is there really such evidence for Jesus?”

I love this question because there is really historical archeological evidence for Jesus the Christ. But, I also think this question is astute in that it evidences the fact that there is spin that has been produced by second and third century documents as well as credible evidence. In fact, from early external evidences provided by credible historians, historians like the Jewish Josephus, or the Roman Tacitus, or Suetonius, or Plinius, through those evidences, it is actually possible to piece together highlights of Christ and Christianity completely apart from the internal biblical evidences themselves. But, the contrast between these credible first-century external evidences and then later less credible sources could not be more stark.

Tacitus is rightly regarded as the greatest first-century historian of the ancient Roman Empire. While the Talmud rarely mentions historical details surrounding second temple Judaism, and where it does, it consistently muddles them. There is a big difference between Tacitus and the Talmud. Just two examples.

I think it is incredible to think that Tacitus — by the way, when we are talking about him, we are talking about a person who is widely considered to be the greatest first-century historian of the ancient Roman Empire — that he would provide credible external evidence for the biblical account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and that at the hands of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Or for that matter, that the Jewish Josephus — I said this many times on the broadcast, he was writing to please the Romans — that he would provide ancient authoritative attestation to the authenticity of the sacred text, but that is precisely the case.

Therefore, I would say to Jesse, the words of the hymn writer still echo through the ages: “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word.” But, not only in His excellent Word but also in external credible evidences by which you can piece together highlights of the life of Christ, wholly apart from the biblical text itself.

—Hank Hanegraaff

“But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whiter all things horrible and disgraceful flow, from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly, first those were seized who confessed they were Christians: next, on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of hating the human race” (Tacitus, Annals 15.44).

“Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works — a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day” (Josephus, Antiquities 18.63–64).

For further related study, please consult the following books:

Has God Spoken (Thomas Nelson) by Hank Hanegraaff

Josephus, The Essential Works (Eerdmans) by Paul Maier

The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (InterVarsity Press) by Michael Licona

This blog adapted from the March 14, 2017, Bible Answer Man Broadcast.


The Literal and Metaphorical Use of Fire in the Bible

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Fire MetaphorI begin today’s broadcast with just a word about metaphors. A good example is fire. You know fire can be very, very real, or it can be used, as it is many times in the Bible, in a metaphorical sense. When the Bible speaks of God’s throne as flaming with fire (Dan. 7:9), we intuitively recognize that an implied comparison is in view.

When we read of the lamps of fire before God’s throne, we apprehend that there is more going on than mere physical fire, because John actually tells us that what he is describing when he says the lamps of fire are the seven Spirits of God (Rev. 4:5).

Consider James; he described the human tongue as being set on fire by hell. Remember when he said, “The tongue is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body”? He goes on to say “it corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6 NIV). Now, James obviously does not intend for us to think that the tongue, which in itself is a metaphor for human language, is a literal fire that literally sets on fire the course of one’s life. Nor are human tongues or languages literally set on fire by hell. James is using the language of fire as a metaphor for the destructive power of words and, in the same way, uses the language of fire as a metaphor for the destructive nature of hell.

The Bible over and over again uses the metaphor of fire in different ways to describe jealousy (Deut. 29:20; Ps. 79:5), sexual lust (1 Cor. 7:9), unbridled passion (Rom. 1:27), and the like.

I think it is safe to say that figurative language is the principle means by which God communicates spiritual realities to His children. Why do I mention this at the beginning of the broadcast? Simply to reinforce in your mind that when you read the Bible literally, it means you take what the Bible says in the sense in which it is intended. Golden bowls full of incense. What are they? They are the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8).

—Hank Hanegraaff

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6 NIV).

For further related study, please access the following:

What Does it Mean to Interpret the Bible Literally? (Hank Hanegraaff)

When Literal Interpretations Don’t Hold Water (John Makujina)

This blog adapted from the March 15, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.


Love, Not Eradication: What Down Syndrome Babies Deserve

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Down SyndromeJust before I came into the studio, I was reading an article. It is a National Right to Life article by Lauren Bell. It is entitled “Babies with Down Syndrome Deserve Love, Not Eradication.”

Lauren writes that “In recent remarks to the Citizens Assembly in Ireland, Dr. Peter McParland” pointed out that “in Iceland…every single baby—100 percent of all those diagnosed with Down syndrome—are aborted.” One hundred percent. As such, “Iceland has become the first nation to boast of eradicating Down syndrome from its country.” Moreover, “Denmark follows closely behind Iceland and predicts to be a ‘Down-syndrome free’ nation in the next 10 years.” In addition to all of that, “90 percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are aborted in Great Britain and the United States.”

That of course raises a very serious question. What makes a Down Syndrome baby less valuable than a proposed designer baby? The answer is this: one is not less than the other. Both are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27), and that should make all the difference in the world. The imago Dei insures that a Down Syndrome child must be afforded the very same dignity that we give to a distinguished scientist; of course, the imago Darwinii leads in quite another direction.

I wrote about this in Has God Spoken? The point being amplified by none other than the late Stephen Jay Gould, one of the most prominent Darwinian theologians on the planet. He observed that the highly regarded evolutionary notion of recapitulation — this of course is the idea that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny —served as a basis for Dr. Down labeling Down Syndrome as “Mongoloid idiocy.” Why? Because he thought it represented a throwback to the Mongolian stage in human evolution. As Gould said, the term “Mongoloid” was first applied to mentally defective people because it was then commonly believed that the Mongoloid race was, well, not yet evolved to the status of the Caucasian race. Thankfully, Stephen Jay Gould decried recapitulation’s responsibility for the racism of the post-Darwinian era. In his words, “Recapitulation provided a convenient focus for the pervasive racism of white scientists; they looked to the activities of their own children for comparison with normal, adult behavior in lower races.”

Anyway, I was reading the article, and as I was reading the article, I was just stunned to think that this is the condition we find ourselves in today, a condition in which people no longer regard the image of God in humanity as sacred. I actually took the time to watch the video (mentioned in the article). I think it was 29 minutes. It was memorable time. It was chilling to hear Dr. Peter McParland speak in clinical fashion about having Down Syndrome–free babies. As we all know statistically, the vast majority of people with Down Syndrome are happy, satisfied, and affectionate members of our society. To discriminate against them is simply chilling and unthinkable, and yet we see once again how ideas have consequences.

—Hank Hanegraaff

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Gen. 1:27 NIV).

This blog is adapted from the March 7, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.


Lenten Disciplines: Training for the Eternal Inheritance

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Lenten SeasonWe are now well into the Lenten season. Lent literally means fortieth. It is marked by Christians through fasting, prayer and acts of kindness. Western Christianity began Lent March 1 this year, which ends April 13, and Eastern Christians began on February 27 and will end on April 7 this year.

The Lenten disciplines train us for our eternal inheritance. I love what the apostle Paul said: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24–27 NIV).

You know wishing does not win a race. It takes disciplining the appetites. It takes making them your slave. Thus like a coach, Paul urges his young protégé to forego endless myths and legends and instead train hard in the gymnasium of life. Why? Because physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things (1 Tim. 4:7–8). It has promise not only for the present life but also for the life to come.

I would say that prejudice against the spiritual gymnasium is breathtaking. We live in this self-indulgent culture in which feeling good is esteemed to be the highest value or virtue. The apostles had a decidedly different perspective. That is why Paul practiced disciplines like fasting (Acts 13:1–3; 14:19–23). He was emulating Christ. He believed that was the highest virtue. Therefore, Christ fasted (Matt. 4:1–2) and Paul emulated that fasting as well. He lived and practiced the things that his Lord taught so that he might be empowered by God’s energies and not just his own energy.

I think if each person listening to me right now were brutally honest with themselves, they would say that more often than not they walk in the way of the world. How many can truly say that we have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires? Who among us can truthfully say that he has engaged in mastering those passions that for far too long they have been mastered by? Yet, that is precisely what Christ calls us to do. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34 NIV).

Mental ascent. Good intentions. They do not in and of themselves produce transformation. It is not just our beliefs that need changing; it is our behaviors. If our habits remain the same, then our lives are going to remain the same as well. I cannot tell you how many people have told me over the years that they would dearly love to memorize Scripture, and yet very, very few are willing to embrace the disciplines necessary to carve the Scriptures into the canvas of their consciousness.

I am not talking today as I open the broadcast about fasting for the sake of fasting or fasting to curry the favor of God. No. We fast from food in order to experience union with God. Doctrinal correctness is not a replacement for correct discipline as though what we do and what we think have no bearing upon one another—of course they do.

—Hank Hanegraaff

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Tim. 4:7–8 NIV).

This blog is adapted from the March 6, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.


Having Faith to Move Mountains

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Faith and Healing

In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk (Acts 14:8-10, NIV).

What does it mean to have “faith to be healed”? Does this mean through faith we can experience healing from all our physical sicknesses and infirmities?

Here is the issue: What is your faith in and how do you define faith? The Word of Faith movement says faith is a force, words are the containers of the force, through the force of faith you create your own reality. You can then by having faith in your own faith be healed.

A biblical understanding of faith is that faith is a channel of living trust between an individual and their God, and therefore, faith is only as good as the object in whom it is placed. If it is placed in yourself, it is ill-placed. If it is placed in God, it is well-placed. That is the point of faith. We are to have faith in God.

If we have faith in God, then we can move a mountain (Matt. 17:20; 21:21-22). What does that mean God can move mountains? It is precisely what it means. Therefore, Jesus is saying If you have faith in God, then you have the kind of faith that can do anything because God can do anything in accordance with His will and in accordance with His nature.

The whole issue here is not whether you can be healed by faith; rather, what kind of faith you possess. Is it faith in your own faith or faith in your God? If you have faith in God, you are also saying, “May it be according to your will, because you know what is best for me, I do not know what is best for myself.” We see a snapshot in time, but God sees the panoply of our lives; therefore, we say, “God this is what I would like; nevertheless, not my will but Thy will be done.”

There are people like Joni Eareckson Tada who is one of my heroes of the faith. She has been a quadriplegic in a wheelchair for many, many years—decades in fact. Does she want to be healed? Of course! But, she recognizes now in retrospect that her wheelchair has become her crown. As a result of being in a wheelchair, she has been one who has sat at the feet of the Master, and out of the overflow of her relationship with God, she has blessed multitudes.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

Does Isaiah 53:5 Guarantee Our Healing Today? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is the Gospel of Peace a Promise of Ease and Prosperity? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Faith in Faith or Faith in God? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Osteenification and What it Portends (Hank Hanegraaff)

Healing: Does God Always Heal? (Elliot Miller)

Is There Healing In This Application? (Walt Russell)

This blog adapted from “In Acts 14 Paul sees that a crippled man has the faith to be healed. Can you explain this?


Infidels on the Run from ISIS

CRI-Blog-Belz, Mindy-InfidelsWe are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:8-10, NIV).

Hank Hanegraaff: As prologue to an interview with Mindy Belz, let me say this: While Christians are being marginalized in the West, they are being martyred in the East. In Iraq a vast majority of Christians have been either executed or exiled. In Mosul, this is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, almost every Christian in the city fled after the Islamic State offered exile or death. Churches across Iraq now stand empty. We can say the same thing about Syria. Islamic State has almost wiped out Christians in that country altogether. Added to the persecution problem is a very real propaganda problem. Over and over and in a myriad of ways the West is being seduced into believing that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, on the other side of the coin, Christianity is a Crusader religion, and as such the epitome of intolerance. In the midst of the propaganda and the persecution often in the blind spot of the West you need this resource: They Say We are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

Well, Mindy Belz, you are an incredible human being and you just returned from your travels to places like Iraq and Syria—places that have recently been liberated from the Islamic State. You have seen firsthand the destruction and the challenges for Christians who would deeply love to return to their homes and churches. Tell us a little about that.

Mindy Belz: I get a lot of encouragement from being with the Christians in the Middle East and particularly the Christians who are now displaced as refuges in Iraq. But I have to tell you that this most recent trip I just returned from was incredibly discouraging to me, walking through the cities and towns that have been liberated in Nineveh Provence, which is all the surrounding area outside of Mosul and actually walking through Mosul itself. Seeing the destruction of churches. Seeing the way everything connected with Christianity has been desecrated and the way that lives past, present and future were attacked by ISIS. It is monumental and it continues to be really amazing to me that in the West we are not calling this what it is, were not calling it genocide, were not calling it war crimes, when every time I go there I am confronted with the evidence of war crimes.

Hank: So many people in the West think that we could have established a democracy very easily in Iraq, we failed to do that, but what you experienced, and you have traveled throughout the Middle East, is the very reality that in the Middle East Sharia is state and state is Sharia; therefore, it is very, very difficult to establish a genuine democracy that would keep safe Christians without them having them to pay a gangster protection tax—the jizya. .

Mindy: That is right. I think definitely Christians have been caught in what sometimes is referred to is a war within Islam, there is a lot of debate of what that actually constitutes. I think it is really clear that radical Islam—fundamentalist Islam, whatever you want to call it, Jihadi Islam—is on the rise. I trust the Islamic experts who say that if you trace the origins of violence of Islam back to the original text, they are there for everyone to see. What we are seeing now among Muslim majority countries is this return to a sort of Islam as it originally was, which as we know is a conquering beast that spread out across three continents within less than the first 100 years of the coming of Muhammad. We are seeing violent Islam as we have not seen it—not in my lifetime until recent decades. We are seeing that the victims of it are people that we Christians in the West would consider to be brothers and sisters in Christ.

Muslims are victims too. I meet plenty of people who without wanting to participate in terrorism and without wanting to see their families be victims of this kind of Islam, you know have been caught in the midst of it, they too are homeless. They too sometimes have children—I was in a hospital where a 10-month-old child had lost both of her arms due to an ISIS explosion—these are everyday realities and they do affect Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, Turkmens every group there.

The reality that we keep coming back to is that ISIS is really targeting all of these groups and most especially non-Muslims to adhere to and come into conforming to its brand of Islam. It is its stated goal not to stop this kind of fighting, this kind of war, until that happens. We have this tremendous battle that we militarily, culturally, ideologically, and evangelistically, and I fear that we just do not see it quite that way in the West as people in the Middle East are confronted with.

Hank: I spoke in Iran at the University of Tehran and Allameh Tabataba’i University. I walked the streets in the middle of the night, and I was met with one random act of kindness after another. You can say, on the one hand, that Islam has many people, who are adherents, who are genuinely peaceful and tolerant. I have met many of them personally. On the other hand, if I would have taken my Bible out and sat in a public square reading the Bible, or if I have been speaking publicly about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you would immediately see the lack of tolerance. I think as someone that knows this better than probably most on the planet, Mindy, you can give us a little insight on that distinction. On the one hand, there are peaceful and tolerant Muslims, on the other hand, Islam is anything but peaceful and tolerant.

Mindy: I think what we see is the fear of ISIS and the fear of radical militant groups. Groups that are blowing up children. ISIS is now using drones armed with grenades in Mosul. That is kind of a new thing that has been happening in the last couple of weeks. Those are falling on marketplaces and soldiers and all kinds of places. There is a kind of evil here is really hard even as I have looked at it up close. It is really had to fathom. The fear it instills makes a lot of people want to conform to the brand of Islam, if you will, that they are teaching, and that is having an effect all across the region. You encounter the kind of things you are talking about, where there is freedom but only to a point.

I see churches continuing to operate, continuing to hold worship services, and continuing to gather on regular basis. They are doing it against incredible odds. They are incredibly brave believers. If you have decided to stay, I feel like anybody who is still worshipping Christ openly in this part of the world is doing it having counted the cost and having chosen to in spite of that cost. They have a lot to teach us about the depth of their faith and the depth of their commitment in the faith of the kind of peril that you are describing.

You know I think that it’s a great moment. We too sometimes succumb to a sort of fear of ISIS and we forget that we have a God who is bigger and a Gospel that is better that what the Jihadists are holding out. I met a refuge in Europe this past summer from Iraq who told me that after making this incredible trek, an illegal trek that we have heard a lot about, and arriving in western Europe. The first thing he said when he met someone was “Can you find me a church?” This person looked at him because he is clearly an Iraqi Muslim man and said, “Why are you looking for a church?” He said, “Because Islam has brought me nothing but trouble.” In the midst of all of this trouble there is a great moment where many Muslims are asking questions and are looking for this better Gospel, and this loving God that we have. It is a real challenge to continue to hold that out in the midst of the dangers and the fear. That is what keeps me going back is that I keep seeing the Iraqi Christians and other believers in the Middle East doing just that.

Hank: I find it quite ironic in that while the faith is being deconstructed in the West, often times Western Christians regard Christians in the Middle East as suspect because they are involved in what they think are dead churches that are just repeating liturgies that are without any life whatsoever, but you found the opposite to be true. You found that through the liturgies people have stayed with a fantastic fidelity to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. I was very struck by reading that in your book.

Mindy: That is sort of my story. In many ways, I am a cloistered Western Christian. I have lived on the Eastern seaboard, and had a somewhat sheltered upbringing. My forbearers came here in the 17th century, and here we have been ever since.

In many ways, these Christians (in the Middle East) have been through tumultuous times not just in this century but in centuries previous. One of the things that has been eye opening to me was visiting the old churches. Keep in mind that there are young evangelical churches that continue to meet and worship in Iraq as well. One of the things that was really striking to me is that part of the isolation that these groups have felt, part of the effect of being shunned, if you will, by the Western Church, is that they have also been somewhat kept from a lot of the liberalizing influences that we have seen in the Western Church. They have continued to hold on Scripture in its original form. Many of the churches that I have been in are still worshiping in Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke, they are chanting their liturgy, and they are singing in that language. They feel very strongly about holding onto what came before them. That also means holding on in some ways to an unadulterated Gospel. That is not always the case. Obviously, there are going to be dead churches and people who have fallen away from the faith, and we see that here in the United States as well. But, it is striking how many have held onto what many of us would recognize as vibrant faith.

Mindy Belz is Senior Editor of World Magazine and author of They Say We are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

This blog was adapted from the February 23, 2017 Bible Answer Man broadcast.


Life between the Dash – Living for Eternity

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff-Dash_Living for EternityBe very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16, NIV).

Just something to think about. All of us presently live in that tiny dash between the date of our birth and the date of our death. For some, the dash is short. For others, well, it may be just a little bit longer. But, all of us recognize that the entire dash represents the duration of our present life on earth.

I am thinking about my dad who was born 5 years after World War I. He was born in 1923 and he died in 1997. Therefore, the dash on his tombstone already has four digits on either side of it.

Now, I personally was born 5 years after World War II. I was born in 1950, and the dash is as yet followed by a great big question mark. I am bringing this up because what is true for me is likewise true for everyone. Whether you are young or old. Whether you are rich or poor. Whether you are male or female. You light the sky for the briefest of moments, and then eternity.

In the meantime, what you and I do today, this week, this month, this year, will have a direct consequence for all eternity. Therefore, while culture seeks to focus your gaze on greatness, Christianity rightly focuses your gaze on grace and holiness.

You and I live in a space-time continuum. We have been left in this continuum as Messiah’s mediators. Mediators by which the present universe is going to be transformed. The point is this: your greatness is not a function of stuff or status; rather, it is forever a feature of being a son or a daughter in the kingdom of heaven now inaugurated and one day it will be consummated.

We do not pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven” in vain. Nor do we pray passively. We are mediators of God’s redemption. We are rescuing stewards of creation. As such, the words of Jesus have personal application. “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21, NIV).

The bottom line: You and I are being honed as stewards of a restored garden. If that is true, how then should you live moment by moment, day by day, in the dash between your date of birth and the date that you go home to be with the Lord? Think about it.

—Hank Hanegraaff

This blog adapted from the February 22, 2017 Bible Answer Man broadcast.