Apologetics

Addressing a Christian Leader as Father

Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven (Matt. 23:9 NKJV).

Jesus said not to call any man “Father,” but in Paul’s writing, Timothy and Titus are called sons, and one can assume they would call Paul “Father.” Can you give me understanding on this?

You know what? The prologue to your question was brilliant, because that is exactly right. What you have done is instead of just taking a phrase of the Bible, you contextualized that phrase by testing Scripture in light of Scripture.

I think it would only be fair to our listeners to get an idea of what is going on in this context. Listen closely to what Jesus is saying. Jesus is talking to the multitudes as well as to His disciples, and He is saying,

The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, “Rabbi, Rabbi.” But you, do not be called “Rabbi,” for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:2–12 NKJV, emphasis added).

Now, what is interesting about reading the context — I flipped open my Bible to this very famous passage, Matthew 23, and I have not taken the time to memorize it — but I flipped this open, and I read it to you. I read it to you to give you context. The first thing you see in this context is false teachers, people who want the adulation of people. Don’t call them “Father.” Don’t even call them “Teacher,” because all they want to be is exalted in the eyes of men.

If I say, “I talked to Father Steve,” or “Father Steve said this,” or “Father John said this,” well, people immediately say, “But, does not the Bible say you are not supposed to call anyone Father? This is one of the problems with Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. You have brought yourself into this web of deceit in which people are calling other people ‘Father’; this is just wrong. The Bible is very clear about this.”

The minute someone says that, you know they simply have something in their head. They have not ever gone to the Bible to examine this in context. When you do, you come up with exactly what you said in the prologue to your question. You find out that if this is really true, then the Bible must be wrong somewhere else. What is the idea here in Matthew 23:9? Context concerns the hypocrisy of false teachers puffing themselves up to be glorified by men rather than God.

Many people also like to cite this passage to say that you are in error in using this term (father), yet the passage also speaks again about teachers. That is why I put the emphasis there. If we are not supposed to call anybody “Father,” why is it that the same people complaining about those that are calling people “Teacher,” they have no problem with it whatsoever. I cannot count the number of times people have told me, “You should not call anybody Father.” But, they do not ever say, “You should not call anybody Teacher.” Well, the context here tells us both. So, you have to read Scripture in light of Scripture.

The reality is that “father” and “teacher” are applied to men many times within the New Testament, but you can never do that with people who are false teachers, or you cannot do this simply to puff people up and make them as exalted as your notion of God.

Let me give you a couple examples of the proper use of “father.” The apostle Paul refers to himself as a “father” to the Corinthian believers (1 Cor. 4:14–15). If this is taken at face value without considering context, then Paul would be doing something that he should not be doing. In the gospel of Luke — one of my favorite passages, I have referred to it a few times on this show — Abraham is approvingly referred to as “father Abraham” (Luke 16:19–31). In the epistle to the Colossians, you have the approval of the term “father” as we normally use the word to refer to our own biological fathers (Col. 3:21). If you take this in a wooden literalistic sense rather than the sense in which it was intended, you would not even call your own biological father “Father” because that would be in conflict with Matthew 23:9. Obviously, it is not.

That is what I love about what you just did. When you asked the question, you also contextualized the answer to the question by reading Scripture in light of Scripture. That was a brilliant move on your part.

Blog adapted from the May 16, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Exploring the History of Christianity in China through Shanghai Faithful

Hank Hanegraaff: You have tuned in to a special edition of the Bible Answer Man broadcast. A special edition in which I am going to be talking with the author of the book Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family. It is a book written by Jennifer Lin, who is an award-winning journalist and former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. It is a story of persecution. It is a history of the development of Christianity in China. It is an account of what will most certainly be, if not already, the largest Christian country in the world. Dr. Yang, a Purdue sociologist, has projected that if current trends progress, at even a modest growth rate, China could have as many as — this is an enormous number — 225 million Christians by 2025. Compare that to the US, which is on a sharp downward trend, with respect to Christianity. The story revolves around two key characters. One is Jennifer Lin’s grandfather, and the other is Watchman Nee. We will talk more about that in a few moments. This is a book in many ways about a church that was born in the cauldron of persecution. I could not help but think as I was reading through this book of the words of Jesus Christ: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10–12 NIV).

The author of Shanghai Faithful joins me on the broadcast right now; good to have you with us.

Jennifer Lin: Hello, Hank. Thank you for having me on your show.

Hank: This is one of the most impressive books I have read in a long time. First of all, you are an incredible writer, but this is really the history not only of the world’s largest Christian country — if not now, but in the near future — but it is the history seen through the lens of your family.

Jennifer: Yes, Hank. This is the family memoir, and it has been a long journey, the reporting and writing of this book. But, really, it tells the story of five generations of my family, the Lin family, and through their story, I think readers will learn a lot of the history of Christianity in China. Not only how it took root 150 years ago but also what is happening today in China.

Hank: You know, that has been one of the things that captivated me. I have been to China many, many times in the last ten years, and reading your book filled in so many details for me. I am very, very glad you wrote it, but talk about your passion or, better said, your obsession to write this book.

Jennifer: Hank, my father, who will turn ninety in a week, has called this book project my obsession, and he is right. I can actually pin-point the moment it started. It was the morning of June 18, 1979. It was my first morning of my first trip to China.

A little bit of a backstory: my father immigrated from China in 1949. He came to the United States. He is a doctor, and he ended up practicing in Philadelphia. He married my mother, who is an Italian nurse from Camden, New Jersey. But, I grew up in Philadelphia, but I did not live in Chinatown, so I did not really have a deep connection to my Chinese roots.

In 1979, my father took us back to China. The United States had just renewed relations with China in 1978, and it was easy for families like ours to travel. So, we went to Shanghai, and we actually stayed in the home that he grew up in. The first hours of the reunion were very happy. It was all sweetness and smiles. We met at the airport, we drove to his home, the International Settlement, and you know these aunts and uncles and cousins whom I only knew by name suddenly came to life. I went to sleep that first night being very uplifted and happy for my father.

Then the first morning, Hank, it was one of those moments that I will just never forget. My father came down the stairs, it was just after dawn, and I was on the porch just looking out at the alleyway, taking in China (I was only twenty years old at the time), and when I turned around, I saw this look that was a mixture of fear and sadness on my father’s face. He said to me, “This is so depressing.” Apparently, the night before, he had stayed up all night, and an uncle, the younger brother of Watchman Nee, had pulled him aside and said to him, “Do you have any idea what has happened to us since you’ve been gone?” The truth was, we were pretty clueless. I mean we knew that the family probably had a hard time, but we did not know until then was just how bad it was.

For my grandparents in particular, life was very hard during the years of the Cultural Revolution, and this was from 1966 to 1976. During that time, churches were closed, people were not allowed to go to church, and my grandfather, who was an Anglican priest, Lin Pu-Chi, was accused of being an American spy. My grandmother, though, had it the worst, and the reason was she was the sister of Watchman Nee. He was a counterrevolutionary, and he was imprisoned, and she was really tormented and abused by everyone around her.

In terms of my own journey, we went back to Philadelphia after this family reunion, and my father, although he was very disturbed by what he had learned during this trip, he kind of put it in a box and put it away. He could not undo the past, so he just moved on. But for me, I was a budding reporter. I was at Duquesne University, I was studying journalism, and I wanted to be a reporter. I just could not let go. I just had to know what happened to them and why. So I started researching the family history. It really began then, and it has been a lifelong process. I thought at first I would just be trying to find out what happened to them during the Cultural Revolution, but really with every answer, I had two more questions. I kept getting pushed further and further into the past where I ended up finding out about the very first convert in the family. I went back five generations to find out the family story. That is how it began.

Hank: We are talking to Jennifer Lin. She is an award-winning journalist, a former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the book that she has written, Shanghai Faithful, truly, I could not put this book down. Now, I have a deep and abiding interest in China, but seeing what has gone on in China, talking about the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and so much more, through the eyes of Jennifer Lin’s family has been absolutely revolutionary for me.

Jennifer, that makes me think of an ultimate question. Why would the average American or the average American Christian be interested in this particular story? Maybe better yet, why should they be?

Jennifer: Well, you know, Hank, the story is set in China, but really it is a story with universal themes. One of the themes is just the faith of a family. I think Americans might be interested in knowing that. I think there is also kind of a curiosity about China. You know, Hank, there are many books that have been written over the years, over the century really, by missionaries who went to China, and they told their stories. British missionaries, American missionaries, libraries are filled with books by missionaries. What I try to do in my book is really to tell the story from the other perspective, from the people they were encountering in China, the Chinese themselves. I think anyone who would be interested in China or interested in the missionary experience would be also I think intrigued with the story of family because, again, the Christian roots of my family go back five generations. The first convert was a fisherman in the Fujian province who went to work then for the Anglican missionaries in the city of Fozhou as a cook. He was a simple cook. That really was the start.

Hank: I think in some way this is the story of how Christianity gains a foothold in a culture steeped in the teachings of Confucianism. When you think about two of the most exemplary people that came out of China; you immediately think of Confucius, and then you think of Watchman Nee. I mean Watchman Nee, though he was imprisoned in 1956, originally arrested in 1952, and he died in prison, the branch grew over the wall, and made a real impact and continues to make an impact around the world.

Jennifer: Yes. You know after the Opium War, and that was like 1852, China was forced to open up port to foreigners and so the traders came into China and then the missionaries. The missionaries, the Jesuits, had been in China for hundreds of years, the Catholics, but in terms of the Protestant missionaries, waves of them came into China after 1850. The foreigners introduced Christianity to the Chinese, but really the point I am trying to make in my book, Hank, is that it was Chinese Christians like Watchman Nee, like my grandfather the Reverend Lin Pu-Chi, who had really created a foundation of Christianity.

After 1949, things became really difficult. As I said before, churches closed in 1966, and they only reopened in 1979. At the time, I was in China, as I mentioned on that family reunion in 1979, and there was a news account in the paper in the English language, China Daily, saying churches would reopen. I remember talking to my cousin about it, who was my age, and saying, “Wow, I wonder what’s going to happen?” This cousin said, “Oh, nothing’s going to happen, it’ll only be the old people because for young people, you know, we grew up during the Cultural Revolution, and we saw how churches were closed, and no one is going to be interested.” He and I were very wrong in our projection, because now Christianity is flourishing but the reason is because of the Chinese Christians themselves who really helped to build a foundation for the Christian church.

Hank: Tell me about your grandfather. I almost feel like I could pick him out in a crowd after reading the book.

Jennifer: I am so glad to hear that. He became the central character really. Hank, he was an intellectual. He went to St. John’s University, which was run by the Episcopal missionaries in Shanghai, and then from there he went to the United States to go to graduate school. He went to the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school. He studied philosophy. He also was sent by the Episcopal Church to Philadelphia to the seminary. The missionaries knew that they needed to cultivate Chinese clerics, so they encouraged men like my grandfather to go to the United States or to go to seminary.

Interesting story, my grandfather really wanted to help make China strong again. This was after 1911 and the fall of the Qing Dynasty. He wanted to get an American education. He really wanted to get his doctorate in philosophy, but it was two years into his stay in the United States and all of a sudden, he got a letter from home from his father saying you need to come home because I found a woman for you to marry. It was an arranged marriage. He was facing this dilemma. He wanted to be a modern man. He wanted to grab everything he could get in the United States, but at the same time, he was brought up in a Confucius culture, and he was very much the dutiful son. He was torn between goals and desires. At the end of the day, he was the dutiful son and he went home. He cut short his time in the United States, and he went back to Fozhou and married by grandmother, who was only nineteen years old, and she was the older sister of Watchman Nee.

So my grandfather then became very active in the Anglican Church. He was an editor. He edited The Chinese Churchmen, which was a Chinese language magazine that went out across China, and he was a very deep intellectual man, who also like you, Hank, had a deep interest in the teachings of Confucius. He really felt Christianity as complementary, in fact. He was a very empowering figure.

Listen to the rest of the interview here.

This blog is adapted from the May 12, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Looking for a Million $1 Apologists

Hank Hanegraaff: The author of Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith joins me now on the broadcast. Welcome, Jim.

J. Warner Wallace: Thank you so much for having me, Hank. You know what a big fan I am I am; proud to be a part of your show.

Hank: It’s great to have you on the show. Look, a couple of things. First of all, you are a homicide detective.

Jim: That’s right. That’s how I really started out examining the claims of Christianity. I wasn’t a Christian until I was about thirty-five, and back in those days, I didn’t even know there was a field of study called apologetics. I was just presented with the person of Jesus, and I thought, well, I need to know, Do the gospels tell me something I can trust? And I just applied the skillset that I had for testing eyewitnesses. I’m usually working in cases that are old, which haven’t been solved. I worked cold cases, so that skillset actually came in handy. That’s the only technique I had available to me, that’s the only thing I knew in my professional work. So that’s the approach I took. It was very much an investigative approach from the top down.

Hank: Again, you are a homicide detective, making the case for a more reasonable, evidential Christian faith. Now, this is the third in a trilogy of books, and I think it is reasonable to explain to our listening audience why this trilogy (what each one of the books) really teaches us in sort of a sequential fashion in which we build precept upon precept.

Jim: That’s a great point. For me, I started off backwards. I was interested in Jesus because I came to the church. I had never sat in a church before, and I attended this evangelical church. I sit in this church and the pastor pitches Jesus as a smart ancient sage. Off I go now; I bought a Bible. I’m studying the gospels to see if I can trust anything they had to say about Jesus. As I’m studying through those, I got to a point where I felt like they are passing the test in any number of ways that I would typically examine and test any eyewitness account. But they contained these supernatural miraculous events, and that was, for me, a deal killer because I was a very committed philosophical naturalist. As an atheist, I had no Christians or believers in my family. Some might have believed in God, but they certainly weren’t Christians. I needed to know was the existence of God even reasonable. So, I have two books. Cold Case Christianity is about my investigation into the gospels, and God’s Crime Scene is about my investigation into the existence of God in general.

But, I’ve noticed, Hank (you might notice, too; you speak around the country as much as anybody), I find myself at locations where people have asked me to come in and make the case either for Christianity, for the reliability of the Bible, for the existence of God, any number of things, and I find myself in a bit of a dilemma. Typically, I’m just going to be honest with you, I get asked in sometimes by a member of the church who has some say with the pastor, has some influence (the pastor sometimes isn’t even sure he wants me there, to be honest). The idea of coming in and making a case evidentially for some of these things seems foreign in many places. For me, I found myself having to take a first step to be able to make the case for why we should be making the case before I can ever make the case for Christianity or for God’s existence. This third book does just that. This is a case for why all of us have this duty to be able to make a case for what we believe the reason for the hope we have in Jesus. That’s what this book Forensic Faith is about. It is about rethinking the way you may have been thinking about faith, and in a way that I think is much more biblically consistent. By nature of its evidential approach, I start to call it forensic, and that’s why we call this Forensic Faith.

Hank: The case for making the case. Maybe I’m getting ahead of our schedule here, but I like the fact that you want all of us to be sheepdogs. Somewhere in your book, I read that you’re not looking for the next million-dollar apologist; you’re looking for a million one-dollar apologists. Explain all that.

Jim: When I first started talking about it years ago, when I wrote my first book, my publishing agent said, “You know what, Jim, you can’t say that, because if you say that, you’re going to be offending people who we might consider to be million dollar apologists.” I said, OK, I get it. So, I never wrote about it until this third book.

What I’m trying to say here is not that — no one doing apologetics is making a million dollars — but the idea here is that at church, we have a sense of value for the people we trust, we go to. Hank, you were that guy for me when I was becoming a Christian, and I needed some reasonable evidential approach to what Christianity taught — the claims of Christianity. I would listen to the radio every day in Los Angeles at 3:00 pm. I can tell you that I would consider you at the time a million-dollar apologist because the value you had in my life was huge, and there is probably for everyone listening here a similar story.

What I’m trying to say is this: if the goal is that we are going to become case makers and defend Christianity and someday have a radio show, well then no one is going to start. What we need instead are people who see their everyday walk as Christians as an exercise in making the case for what they believe. Instead of one million-dollar apologist, we need a million one-dollar apologists. We all have to take on this responsibility. Young people, for example, are far more likely to want to hear the case for Christianity from their parents, especially in their younger years, junior high and high school. We, as parents, have to be the best apologists that our kids know. That is going to require us to know just enough, doesn’t mean everything, but know enough to get started when people ask tough questions.

Hank: Back to the idea of sheepdogs. What do you got in mind there?

Jim: In every sheep yard, you’ve got sheep and you’ve got wolves. I think cops, me especially, I know most of us who work this job in law enforcement, we kind of see the world as divided between sheep and wolves. Our job is to protect the sheep from the wolves. In Christianity, you know I didn’t realize this until I became a Christian, but Jesus referred to believers as sheep. We are like sheep. To me, as a cop, that was never a compliment; that was a pejorative. The sheep don’t even know they’re often under attack. But, there’s a third animal in the yard. Those were sheepdogs. Sheepdogs are there to protect the sheep from the wolves. So, every sheepdog ministry across America today is either a military ministry or a first responder law-enforcement ministry, those folks who see themselves as the guardians — the sheepdogs. What I always say is if the yard was full of sheepdogs, we wouldn’t have a wolf problem. We have a wolf problem because we don’t have enough sheepdogs doing the sheepdog job. Of course, all of us who are sheep have that option of studying and become a sheepdog. It’s up to us, and if we did that, we wouldn’t have the wolf problem I think we’re seeing in the culture right now.

This blog adapted from the May 10, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Agender Max and the Abolition of Humanity

A New Generation Overthrows Gender,” an article from NPR, says “Max, age 13, is agender — Max is neither male nor female. When referring to Max, you don’t use ‘he’ or ‘she;’ you must use ‘they.’” But, this is actually pontificated. It is not a suggestion. The dogmatic assertion is Max, thirteen, agender, is not male nor female.

This comes through people who are very knowledgeable as psychiatrists and psychologists. One psychologist quoted, Diane Ehrensaft, says, “We are seeing more and more kids saying, ‘You know what? What’s with this either/or business? What’s with this boy/girl, and you have to fit in one box or the other?’” All the paradigms of civilization, to be a bit redundant, seem to have been kicked to the curb.

“So, what does ‘agender’ mean to Max?” Well, Max is instructing us now. It is sort of like he is teaching those people who are Neanderthals a little bit about how human sexuality works. He says, “Because I don’t feel like I’m both guy and girl,” that means, of course, “that I’m neither.”

Just as an aside, there is also a little sidebar in the article about gender versus sexual orientation. The explanation is “Gender is the way you express yourself to the world, and your sexual orientation is who do you go to bed with.” The definitions are, well, I would say interesting at best.

So if, according to NPR, “same-sex marriage was yesterday’s battle to redefine gender roles and privileges, and transgender rights is today’s fight, American society may now be on the cusp of the most transformational shift yet — the end of categorizing people as either male or female.”

How do you translate all of that? You translate that by saying we have to as Christians come to the realization that the sexual revolution has posted a very decisive victory. Complementarity with respect to same-sex marriage is now, well, I mean you know it — if you have not been under a rock, you know it — it is considered pure unadulterated bigotry. Of course, the latest permutation is what we ae talking about: gender fluidity, or agender status, or fifty-seven different gender designations.

What we are witnessing in real time is what may rightly be called the abolition of what it means to be human. (By the way, the cover story in the Christian Research Journal is on just that: “The Abolition of Man Today.” It is one of the reasons that all last month I was so excited about putting that Journal into the hands of people. We have to look at what the abolition of humanity looks like today. Dr. Adam Pelser did that in eloquent fashion in the Journal. It is a must read.) Again, biblical anthropology has been cast aside, meaning that the Christian worldview has been jettisoned.

Now, why is this important? Why am I talking about this? I am talking about this because this is a social experiment that is going to end very, very badly and that for millions and millions of people. Which means this: the church continues to have a role. The church will be picking up the pieces of lives that have been devastated. The reason is now we are all kind of marching lockstep to the tune of a social experiment based on the size and scope of the latest lobby group. We are not sailing by a North Star; we are sailing by winds that are extraordinarily dangerous.

—Hank Hanegraaff

This blog adapted from the May 3, 2017, Bible Answer Man.

Apologetics

Thoughts on the Message of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church


Q: I am curious about the Bethel Church with Bill Johnson. My church is getting into their music, teaching, and conferences. What advice can you give me?

A: This is a very, very, toxic ministry. I wrote about this in principle in a book called Counterfeit Revival: Looking for God in All the Wrong Places. In that book, what I do is contrast genuine revival from the kinds of things that you are going to find at Bethel Church in Redding, California, with Bill Johnson as the senior pastor.

There are others like Todd White — now the newest rage in these Christian circles. He has tens of thousands of followers. Why? Because he is promising that as he walks through crowds, as he walks through malls, as he goes about his daily life, people are getting healed left and right from all kinds of maladies. And so, there is a great, great propaganda machine that backs him up: Charisma magazine. You have big churches that start talking about it. Pretty soon, very much like what happened with the Counterfeit Revival in Pensacola, Florida, people start flocking to the scene.

The hell of it, if you will, those people who are most desperate — and when you are sick, I can tell you from personal experience, if you are not enveloped in a cloak of peace, you can get very desperate — you want to be healed. This world has its good points (we know the next world’s a lot better), but all of us feel like we have a mission to complete in this world, and so you want to be healed. I still remember with great pain in my heart when I was writing the book Counterfeit Revival, hearing the story of a man whose baby had just died. He was so desperate for a resurrection, and he was listening to a Counterfeit Revivalist in Pensacola, Florida. He drove all the way across the country with a dead baby in an ice chest, a baby on ice, drives across the country, you can imagine the agonizing experience, only to find when he gets there, it is all a hoax. This is precisely what Bill Johnson is unfortunately perpetrating.

They have their healing rooms. They have their schools of supernatural ministry. They emphasize the need of believers to return to a ministry of signs and wonders. They consider miracles, signs, and wonders to be a norm. Now, do I believe in healing? I absolutely do. I absolutely do. But, through proper means. Not through a con artist’s sleight-of-hand / sleight-of-mind kind of shenanigans.

If you look at the theology of Bethel Church, what you in essence find is the theology of a very capricious God. Not only that, but you find loads and loads of examples of the supernatural that really are not examples at all. In other words, this is being hyped. Johnson tells of God having a storehouse of body parts. He says,

Years ago, one of our students had an encounter with the Lord. It was really quite bizarre. In heaven she actually saw this room with spare body parts. You say, “Well that doesn’t exist in heaven.” I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. But she did. And she was with Chris ministering down in Santa Rosa, I think it was. And a gal came up that was in a head-on collision, had really messed up her legs. Used to be a dancer and had very little function….and she says, “I don’t even have a kneecap.” Well, the gal who’d seen the spare parts room in heaven says, “Well, I’ll get one for you.” That’s like, that’s got to be like the ultimate response ever! “Well, I’ll get one for you.” She reaches her arm like this, she brings it down, lays hands on the knees and within fifteen minutes, she has a new knee cap.

Here we have a warehouse in heaven and the spare parts are coming down. This is a common occurrence. In his theology, you are not to pray, “Thy will be done.” This is a nonstarter in this community.

If you look at the Bible, Jesus prays, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:44 KJV). The apostle Paul teaches us to pray in this manner. Peter teaches us to pray in this manner. Who can forget the apostle James? The words ought to be familiar to all of us. Chapter 4 of his epistles says, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’” Then James says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Here are the operative words: “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13–16 NIV). The reason that I bring that up specifically is because in an article that we did in the Christian Research Journal (I do believe it is up on the Web right now), there is an article entitled “Off the Map: Johnson and the Pursuit of Extrabiblical Authentication,” an article written by Bob Hunter. This article really goes into the excesses that you will find in this ministry. In fact, it has a section on what Bill Johnson and company believe when it comes to Christ praying, “If it be thy will.”

I can tell you, having now gone through a bone marrow biopsy, and waiting for the results, the greatest thing in my prayer is to be in the center of God’s will. That is what I really care about. I’ve had a cough that has plagued me for many, many months. It has been undiagnosed, and I have been praying about this, and praying about this, and praying about this, but, always in the context of “if it be your will Lord,” because I have found — I have been on this a long time — I have found that God teaches you so much in your suffering and sorrows. C. S. Lewis said it is His megaphone to a deaf world.

—Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the May 2, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Faulty Paradigms Producing Faulty Science

I want to say a little something about an article that I read in USA Today entitled “People Trust Science. So Why Don’t They Believe It?” The article was interesting on a lot of levels, including the fact that a lot of anti-science is being passed off as actual science, which is precisely the problem.

Just as the masses only see what their paradigms allow them to see, so too scientists are not exempt from being bound by paradigms that unconsciously function as what we would call frames or perceptual filters. Put another way, scientists are not immune from being stuck in cycle epistemological cocoons or stuck in their own linguistic hall of mirrors or stuck in their own echo chambers. Therefore, scientists, like virtually all of us, are subject to misperceiving psychological certainty as though it were some kind of epistemological validity.

Moreover, there is also what I like to call stakeholder interests. These interests affect research in the sciences no less than any other discipline, perhaps even more. Add to that motivated blindness, and the elixir becomes ever more toxic. Once you drink the Kool-Aid, it becomes very difficult to perceive the force of inconvenient data.

The problems with objective science, of course, do not stop there: think shoddy research or sophistry or sensationalism. Worst yet, consider the possibility that scientists — I am thinking now in my mind of Bill Nye and James Watson — they are clearly advancing their own parochial cultural agendas. James Watson, for example, was a Nobel Prize laureate — you probably know this, but he was the co-discoverer of DNA, and very, very famous for that. His so-called scientific objectivity though is very, very colored by his worldview. That is why he has a very eugenic view, particularly when it comes to children. It was James Watson who said because of the limitations of present “detection methods, most birth defects are not discovered until birth.” However, says Watson, “If a child were not declared alive until three days after birth….the doctor could allow the child to die if the parents so chose and save a lot of misery and suffering.” Think of the implications of that? You have a child, you look it over for three days, then say, “I’m going to send that one back.” In other words, “I’m going to kill it.”

Bill Nye the anti-science guy has raised his anti-science rhetoric to a new decibel level. He is now suggesting that people (I think people like Kathy and I, living in the developed world) should be penalized for having extra kinds. Why? Because in his benighted view, we are woeful contributors to climate change. Of course, there is nothing original here. Celebrated Baptist pastor, Oliver “Buzz” Thomas pontificates having more than two children is downright sinful.

In truth, whether one has two or twelve, as in our case, is far less important than whether our children grow up to be selfless producers or merely selfish consumers. I have written about that in different places, including The Complete Bible Answer Book Collector’s Edition (see especially “How Should Christians Think about Global Warming?”)

Regrettably, both Watson and Nye not only suffer from all of the things I have just mentioned, but I think as well a serious case of Christophobia is in play. Bottom line: make sure you examine your paradigm. We do not think as much about our paradigms as we think with our paradigms. We have to cleanse our perceptual lenses.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

Is Intelligent Design Really Science? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How Serious are the Consequences of Believing in Evolution? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Objections Overruled: Responding to the Top Ten Objections against Intelligent Design (William A. Dembski and Sean McDowell)

What Is Darwinism? Why Science Clings to a Fractured Paradigm (Phillip E. Johnson)

This blog adapted from the April 28, 2017, and April 28, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcasts.

Apologetics

Ananias and Sapphira

Acts 5:1–11

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.  With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events (NIV).

Do you think the account of Ananias and Sapphira is an example of two Christians being Satan-filled?

Remember that, if you are a believer, your temple is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that temple will not be shared by a demon (1 Cor. 3:16–17; 2 Cor. 6:14–18). Remember also that there are so many people that we would look at from the exterior and say, “Wow! That is a really cool believer that I want to emulate and be like.” But we just look at the exterior, God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). Judas is always the favorite example because he was in the inner circle of Jesus Christ and he did the things of the Lord, but Jesus lets us know that he was there not because he loved the Master but rather what was on the Master’s table (John 6:70–71; 12:1–8). There are a lot of examples like that in the Bible.

Ananias and Sapphira knew the Holy Spirit’s power. They had experienced the Holy Spirit’s power. They had seen it unfold all around them in their circumstances; yet they purposed to deceive. They were not simply deceiving human beings but they were attempting to deceive God. If you are really attempting purposefully to deceive God, it is an indication you probably do not know Him in the first place.

Do you think God’s punishment of Ananias and Sapphira was too harsh of a judgment?

First of all, I do not think that anything God does is too harsh. It is a perfect blend of His mercy, love, and grace, taking all converging circumstances into consideration. That is precisely what happened in this case.

You have to remember that this is a nonnormative situation because this is the first recorded sin in the life of the New Testament church. Here you have Ananias and Sapphira, who are accountable for allowing Satan to fill their hearts with lies, for breaking the integrity of the emerging New Testament church. Their sin is not only keeping back possessions but deception; they were lying to the church, and lying to the church can be equated to lying to the Spirit of truth. This is a very, very serious sin. They had conspired to lie, which is to say that they had little regard for the Holy Spirit and for the embryonic New Testament church.

This is nonnormative, but taking all the converging factors into consideration, God’s justice is always perfectly meted out with His love.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related reading, please access the following:

The Great Comfort of God’s Wrath (Drew Dyck)

Was the Early Church Communist? (Jay Richards)

Nadab and Abihu (Hank Hanegraaff)

Does Satan Have Access to Our Minds? (Hank Hanegraaff)

This blog adapted from the March 22, 2017, and April 4, 2014, Bible Answer Man broadcasts.

Apologetics

Snowflake #94: Truth and Life Personified

I want to read a letter. I am going to have a hard time getting through this letter, but hopefully it is as meaningful to you as it is to me. It is written by Eric and Kris and their daughter Alysse.

The letter says,

Hank, I am deeply troubled by the backlash you and the Christian Research Institute are experiencing right now. Please know that we continue to stand with you prayerfully and financially, and are not at all personally wavering in our knowledge that you are a man of God and a man after God’s own heart. We will continue to lift you, Paul, your family, and your ministry up in our daily prayers. We are also praying for your health because I know from the broadcast you are dealing with something there, too. Please let this be an encouragement to you. I continue to praise God for the blessing you are in my life and walk. I would not be a Christian, or the Christian I am today, without your insights and modeling and mentoring. You are beloved by many, and I am proud to be among those ranks. Press on, dear brother, and may we both rejoice in how God will use even this.

I want to tell you a little about the backstory here, but before I do, the grief unspoken for me is that after thirty years, there were several broadcast networks that did not afford our ministry the courtesy of saying goodbye to thousands and thousands of dear friends. Whatever that might mean financially to the ministry of the Christian Research Institute is significant, but in the end, it is all about ministry in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The backstory with respect to Eric, Kris, and Alysse is pretty cool. I met them approximately seven years ago. I reckon Kris had adopted what was known as Snowflake #94. Snowflake #94 had been a frozen embryo for two years, but when I met her, she was a bright and beautiful little girl. I believe at the time she was around four-and-a-half years old. When I held her in my arms, in some real, tangible way, I held the realization, or the very real personification, of life and truth. While I cannot at the moment recall all the details, what I remember is that our broadcast was the impetus in part or in whole for Eric and Kris to adopt Snowflake #94. Why? Because of believing the truth that a fertilized human egg is truly a person made in the imago-Dei, made in the image and the likeness of God. Well, today Alysse in real life is tangible both physically and metaphysically. When she was frozen, she did not have a fully developed personality, but she did have, as her parent’s recognized, full personhood from the moment of conception. She is today a wonderful personality in her own right.

I met these dear people as a direct result of the ministry of the Bible Answer Man broadcast, and perhaps our program was used in a way to bring Alysse to where she is now, eleven years of age. I can tell you, I still carry her picture all these years later. It is a reminder to me that life and truth really do matter.

No matter what you hear, listen to what I am saying myself: I will never compromise the essentials of the historic Christian faith. I recognize wonderful Christians in all kinds of different places. I have seen them in the house churches in China, the progeny of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. I have seen them in the Orthodox faith. I have seen them in evangelical churches. Today, as our whole staff gathered around, at least a good number of our staff, I was looking at each one of the faces, recognizing that they all represented a different branch of the Christian tree. It was a beautiful thing to behold because many of the people that work with me (and I would think maybe the majority) have been with me ten, twenty years, and some far longer than that. Together we are making a difference for time and eternity. I am deeply grateful for those who are standing with us prayerfully and financially in the battle for life and truth.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following:

Compassionate Adoption for the Most Helpless (Richard Poupard)

Should Christians Support a Ban of Embryonic Stem Cell Research? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Stem Cell Obfuscation (Robert Perry)

This blog is adapted from the April 21, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

The Way the World was Changed Through Jesus’ Death, Burial, and Resurrection

Yesterday (April 16, 2017) concluded the week that changed the world. This was an intense week of services, I would imagine, for most Christians. What we were celebrating is known as Pascha. The Old Testament celebration was known as Passover. Jesus is ultimately the Passover lamb. Therefore, the blood of Jesus Christ is better than the blood of bulls and goats. I want to say just a few things about this before the celebration passes all too quickly.

Jesus suffered fatal torment. This is one of the most well-established facts of ancient history. Even in today’s modern age of scientific enlightenment, there is a virtual consensus among New Testament scholars, both conservative and liberal, that Christ suffered fatal torment. Therefore, these scholars agree as well that the body of Jesus was buried in a private tomb. It was the tomb of Joseph Arimathea. As a member of the Jewish court that convicted Jesus, he is hardly Christian fiction.

I think considering the fact that females in ancient Judaism were routinely considered little more than chattel, the empty tomb accounts actually end up providing powerful evidence that the gospel writers valued truth over cultural correctness. Today, we might say “political correctness.” Not only that, but the earliest Jewish response to the Resurrection presupposes the empty tomb. In the centuries following the Resurrection, the fact of the empty tomb was forwarded by the friends and foes of Christ alike.

Now here is the point: Christianity simply could not have endured an identifiable tomb containing the remains of our Messiah. One thing can be stated with absolute certainty: the apostles did not merely propagate the teachings of our Lord; they were absolutely certain that He had appeared to them in the flesh after His crucifixion, after His death, and after His burial. Although we are now two thousand years removed from the actual event, we too can be absolutely certain with respect to Christ’s post-Resurrection appearances.

I love 1 Corinthians 15. It is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture because here the apostle Paul is actually reiterating a Christian creed, and this is not just any creed — this is a creed that scholars of all stripes conclude can be dated to mere months after Messiah’s murder. Now, the creed unambiguously affirms Christ’s post-resurrection appearances. It is free from legendary contamination. Ultimately, it is grounded in eyewitness testimony.

I said this many a time on the Bible Answer Man broadcast, but I think the most amazing post-Resurrection appearance involves James. Because before those appearances, James was embarrassed by all that Jesus represented, but afterward, he was willing to die for the notion that Jesus was indeed God.

Then you look at what happened as a result of the Resurrection. This is unique in human history, because within a span of just a few hundred years, a small band of seemingly insignificant believers succeeded in turning an entire empire upside down. Within days of encountering the resurrected Christ, not merely twelve but thousands of people willingly surrendered their spiritual and sociological traditions. What I am talking about here is the Sabbath, for one. It was transformed into a first-day-of-the-week celebration of the rest we have through Christ, who delivers us from sin and the grave. Not only so, after the Resurrection, followers of Christ suddenly stopped making animal sacrifices. Why? Well, they recognized that the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant because the blood of Jesus Christ was better than the blood of animals. So, the Jewish rite of Passover was radically transformed. In place of the Passover meal, believers began partaking of the Eucharist. In like fashion, baptism took on a brand-new meaning. Prior to the Resurrection, converts to Judaism were baptized in the name of Yahweh, God of Israel, but after the Resurrection, converts to Christianity were baptized in the name of Jesus, and in doing so, believers equated Jesus with Israel’s God.

One thing I am certain, if twenty-first-century Christians could fully apprehend the reality of the greatest feat in history, they (like their first-century counterparts) could turn the world upside down. That is precisely the point.

We are those who will never die. We can be persecuted. We can be even killed, as many Coptic Christians have been lately in the Middle East. We just heard in the news last week, I believe it was Palm Sunday, of Christians dying while they are worshiping Christ. So, we are asking the question, why would anyone die? Well, they know that they will not die. Those Christians are not dead. They are alive; they are in the presence of Jesus Christ, and one day, the body that was blown up in church will be resurrected immortal, imperishable, incorruptible.

Resurrection, bottom line, makes all the difference in the world.

If you haven’t read 1 Corinthians 15, carefully do so, because in that passage Paul makes the four-part argument that I just did. Jesus suffered fatal torment, the tomb was empty, He appeared and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive, and, as a result, they were radically transformed.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5 NIV)

This blog is adapted from the April 17, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Addressing PETA’s Connection between Drinking Milk and White Supremacy

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-PETA

I want to make a couple of comments about PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). This is an organization that is increasingly out of control and out of touch. Now going so far as to say that milk has long been a symbol used by — hard to believe — white supremacists. In other words, drinking milk is not only unethical to animals but also racist.

PETA embraces a worldview that elevates animals to equivalency with humans, which at the face of it ought to be ridiculous, or a reminder that we are far removed from a biblical Christian worldview. From their perspective, the truth is this: animals are fellow beings on a level playing field with human beings. Some, such as bioethics professor Peter Singer, have actually gone even further. From his perspective, a disabled newborn has less value than a chimpanzee.

As an animal lover, myself, I embrace the ethical treatment of animals, but hardly the ethics of Singer and the PETA organization. Instead, in the tradition of William Wilberforce — who fought against the tyranny of slavery, a lot of people do not know this, and founded the Royal Society of the Prevention of the Cruelty to Animals — I am deeply committed to the humane treatment of pets and to the sanctified preservation of wildlife. All of that because I hold to a biblical world view, which is there exists a hierarchal structure in God’s creation. Within that construction, animals are to serve human beings, in order that human beings might rightly serve the King of Creation. Therefore, treating animals empathetically is biblically mandated; treating them as equals is blatantly misguided.

Like no other creature, human beings are made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27), and that should make all the difference in the world. A child is to be cherished on a level that surpasses the cherishing of a chimpanzee. PETA’s rush to ascribe to a chimp the personhood reserved for a child is both wrongheaded and, I might even say, ridiculous.

Commitment to the virtuous treatment of animals is an ethical imperative as sacred to Christians as it is to PETA. They do not have any hold on this issue all by themselves. We say we are created in the image of God; as such we are commissioned to treat nonhuman life with the care and consideration afforded them by the Creator Himself. He is our protector, and we are to be their protectors. While we may eat lamb, as the Lord did during Passover celebrations (Luke 2:41–42; Matt. 26:17–19; cf. Exod. 12:1–28; Lev. 23:4–8; Deut. 16:1–8), we must never treat animals in a way that dishonors their Creator.

This all came up in my mind today reading this idea from PETA that, somehow or another, if you drink milk, there is some tie-in perhaps to White supremacism. Just ridiculous at the face of it.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

Thy (Animal) Kingdom Come, Our Will Be Done (Wes Jamison)

Is “Animal Rights” A Biblical Concern? (Dan Story)

PETA or Just PET? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Was Noah an Environmentalist? (Elliot Miller)

Film and Pre-Apologetics: How Noah raises Questions Only Christianity Can Answer (John McAteer)

Is the Animal Rights Movement Benefitting African Wildlife? (Dan Story).

Hiding Among the Animals (Harold O. J. Brown)

This blog adapted from the April 5, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.