Apologetics

Bad Hermeneutics Playing Fast and Loose with Essential Christian Doctrine

Q: I believe the Bible to be the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. If God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), why do you think there is so much confusion around hermeneutics*?

A: The answer is that we have so many different expressions within the Protestant tradition right now. I am not suggesting that Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy are singularly monolithic, but you look at the expressions within Protestantism today, they have some thirty thousand or more. Anyone today seems to be able to hang up a shingle whether or not they have any theological or hermeneutical acumen.

You have people today who are popular on radio and television in the Christian world. They are coming up with brand new ideas, and those ideas do not come out of the careful examination of Scripture, applying the art and science of biblical interpretation. Rather, they come out of a predilection in a particular direction.

So, someone hangs up their shingle and says, “Now, I got a brand new teaching, and this new teaching is going to undo everything you read in the Scripture because you have been reading the Scripture in the wrong way. Let us, by the way, get rid of all church history. No longer am I a pigmy standing on the shoulder of giants, but I am a giant and historical characters of the past are simply pigmies.”

This person now says (this is just one example), “You can never ever, as a believer, ever, ever confess your sins, because if you do, you are spitting in the face of God.” This is one of the most pernicious — I will even call it heresy, which I have seen arise in the modern-day church, and popular people are communicating this.

“So, let us dispense with the Lord’s prayer,” say false teachers, “because the Lord’s Prayer is an Old Covenant prayer, and it really does not apply to us today. It had some value at the time it was given but it really does not apply to us today. By the way, we have to dispense with it for any reason or every reason because if we do not, then our paradigm no longer will hold up under scrutiny. Get rid of that, and we will simply have this new paradigm.”

This is what happens to people that are unstable and unlearned. They are taking essentials of the Christian faith and playing fast and loose with it. I think that is at the bottom of the problem. There is so much confusion because hermeneutics is not playing a role, history is not playing a role, people are simply good with the gab. And if they are good with the gab, good enough, they can start a new expression, a new fissuring within Protestantism. This also can happen in many different constructs of Christianity where you come up with a brand new idea. This happens in Catholicism where the Pope speaks ex-cathedra, goes against everything the Catholic Church taught before, or what the Church historically has taught. I think these are problems that elevate the person over proper perception of Scripture.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

What is the Significance of Biblical Typology? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Practical Hermeneutics: How to Interpret Your Bible Correctly (Part 1) (Thomas Howe)

Practical Hermeneutics: How to Interpret Your Bible Correctly (Part 2) (Thomas Howe)

Discerning the Times: Why We Lost the Culture War and How to Make a Comeback (Donald T. Williams)

JAF7382 – Grace upon Grace: 1 John 1:8-9 and the Forgiveness of Sins (Steven Parks)

JAF5362 – Joseph Prince: Unmerited Favor (Warren Nozaki)

Check out our e-store resources:

Memorable Keys to Understanding What God Has Said: L-I-G-H-T-S On Your Path to Reading the Bible For All It’s Worth by Hank Hanegraaff

How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart

*Hermeneutics is the art and science of biblical interpretation.

Apologetics

Søren Kierkegaard: To Understand and to Understand

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37–40).

Hank Hanegraaff: I’ve invited my son-in-law into the studio. This may seem like a bit of a gratuitous gesture, but he is not just any son-in-law. First of all, he is married to my second-oldest daughter. I have three grandchildren as a result of this marriage — Caleb, Naomi, and Luke. They are extraordinary children because Katie and Adam are extraordinary parents, raising their children in the fear and nurture of the Lord, but also with a biblical worldview that is not just focused on truth but a biblical worldview that is focused on life. I want to start this broadcast in a little different way by talking to Adam about two words. Those two words are understanding and understanding. The two words do not have a whole lot in common. Adam, by the way, is a professor, a PhD; he is presently a professor at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Again, I am very, very proud of him. I want you, Adam, if you would, to just give us a sense of what Søren Kierkegaard was talking about when he talked about those two words.

Adam Pelser: Yes, Søren Kierkegaard says that to understand and to understand are two things. He is drawing on the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates when he says this. Socrates had this idea that if you really knew the truth, if you really knew the right way to live, that you would do it. Kierkegaard says, well, there’s a kind of understanding for which that’s true; there is a kind of understanding that if you really understand the truth, it makes its way into your life. You cannot help but live in accordance with it because to understand the truth is to see how good it is. Especially when that truth is an existential truth, a truth about how one ought to live, a truth about one’s life.

But, there is another kind of understanding. There is a kind of understanding that’s very shallow. That is only intellectual. That is purely cognitive. It does not make its way into your heart and into your life.

Kierkegaard was warning his readers, many of whom professed to be Christians but did not seem to be living a very rich or vibrant faithful Christian life. He was warning them about that kind of understanding that is purely intellectual. To understand and to understand are two things. He tells a great story about a pastor who stands up and preaches a sermon about helping the poor and immediately walks down from the stage on which he is preaching the sermon, walks by a poor man that is in need of his help, and does not even notice that he is there. He says that kind of understanding is not the kind of understanding that we ought to be interested in as Christians. That kind of life is not the one in which we ought to be interested. We ought to be interested in cultivating the kind of understanding that not only makes us want to live in accordance with the truth but also helps us to notice how to see, to open our eyes to the ways the world needs us. It opens our eyes to the needs of the poor. It opens our eyes to the needs of the suffering. It opens our eyes to the needs of those who do not know Jesus, and then ushers us into the kind of love of neighbor that Jesus calls us to.

Hank: He does that in so many beautiful ways. “If you give the cup of water, if give the piece of bread in my name, you have done it unto me.”

Adam: Right. You mentioned Katie and the way we parent our children, and I appreciate those kind words. They love their grandpa Hank and their grandma Kathy, and had such a wonderful time being with you this week, and seeing the model of Christian life that you give to them. I think, Katie and I have talked about this, sometimes we feel as though we do not do enough to teach our children about the doctrines of Christianity, the history of the church, and theology. You know, our oldest is eleven going on twelve years old, and we have had conversations about what we need to do to start increasing his intellectual exposure to the Christian faith, as it were. But, one thing we have always been committed to as parents, and first and foremost committed to, is we have said that the most important thing for us is that our kids learn to love God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and to love their neighbors as themselves. That is what we want them to do as followers of Christ. We are less concerned, especially at their young ages, that they dot all their i’s and cross all their t’s theologically and more concerned that they love God with their whole hearts and love their neighbors as themselves. We are trying to instill in them that kind of understanding, that kind of experiential knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ and the truth of the way He wants His followers to live that makes its way into the way they treat their teachers at school, their friends, their neighbors, those who are poor and suffering in our community, and so on.

Hank: This really ties into something that I know you are trying to teach them as well, not just them but the wider Christian community, and that is the connection between emotion and apologetics.

Adam: Yeah, I think this is something that has unfortunately been missed by a lot of Christians who are doing good work in Christian apologetics. I think one of the dangers in apologetics is the over-rationalization of the Christian faith, making the Christian faith a purely intellectual endeavor, where it is just about getting all of the facts right, getting all of your biblical knowledge right, getting all of your theology right. One of the things that I have been working on ever since I have been introduced to the idea of thinking about the emotions even as a discipline by my dissertation director at Baylor University, a man named Robert C. Roberts who has written a great book on the topic called Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtues.

One of the things that I have been trying to do is trying to help those who are doing work in apologetics see the importance of engaging the emotions and appealing to the emotions in the right sorts of ways. Oftentimes in logic textbooks, they like to point out the different types of fallacies that you can use in sort of informal argumentation trying to convince somebody of something. One of the fallacies that shows up in almost every logic book is the appeal to emotions, the idea being that if you are appealing to someone’s emotions, well, that’s not a way to get them to see the truth. You have got to appeal to their purely rational mind if you want to help lead them to the truth. But of course, the best kind of preaching, the best kind of teaching, the kind that actually instills in us the kind of deep understanding that makes its way into our lives that Kierkegaard was taking about, that kind of preaching and that kind of teaching always appeals to our emotions and, in the process, helps to form in us the right sorts of emotions. It helps us to perceive the world rightly through our emotions, and I am trying to help folks to see the importance of that in apologetics and to not lose sight of the importance of the emotional side of life — not just the intellectual.

Hank: Form your perspective, talk for a moment about the significance of a ministry in a post-truth culture: standing for truth no matter what the cost but also leading people to that second idea of understanding not just the first but also the second notion of understanding, the experience of life.

Adam: It is so important today. You say we live in a post-truth culture. I think that is right. We live in a culture where many people are uncomfortable even talking about truth, at least in certain realms. They are comfortable taking about scientific truth, but they are not at all comfortable talking about religious truth or moral truth, and it is religious truth and moral truth that we most desperately need. Truth in the areas of religion and the areas of morality are not opposed to scientific truth but actually enhance it and come together with scientific truth to help inform our entire worldview. A ministry, like CRI (Christian Research Institute), that is reaching people with truth, communicating truth to people, both biblical truth (theological truth) but also historical truth, truth about the history of the church, and philosophical and moral truth, is so critically important today because there are so many people who are not sure that it’s even acceptable to say that they believe that something is true anymore. They are not even sure that is an appropriate thing to do, but of course, in not being sure that is an appropriate thing to do, they are recognizing that there are certain truths about what we ought to say, what we ought to profess, so everyone does have a deep recognition of objective truth, but we are afraid to talk about it, at least in certain realms, and CRI helps people to know how to do that.

It is also important to help people get beyond just knowing the truth. Right? Just having this intellectual grasp of what Christians believe, how Christians ought to live, but having that truth make its way into your life. The “P” in the E-Q-U-I-P acronym that CRI has used for its motto for so long stands for para-church, meaning that CRI comes along the church; it does not replace the church. It does not supplant the church, but CRI comes along the church to equip believers for evangelism and for education by providing research and providing resources that the church desperately needs in this post-truth culture. That is crucially important today. It is then in the church where that truth can be combined with the profound practice of liturgy and worship and right preaching and teaching and building up one another in love that makes its way into that understanding, that makes its way into our life, and helps to inform how we live in love of God and the love of neighbor.

Listen to the rest of Hank’s interview with Adam here.

For further related study, please see the following:

We Get to Carry Each Other: Kierkegaard and U2 on Authentic Love (Michael W. Austin)

Kierkegaard: Understanding the Christian Father of Existentialism (Michael W. Austin)

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

Apologetics

Where Jesus Christ Went after the Crucifixion

Jesus said to repentant thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 24:43 NIV); however, three days later, the Lord said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father” (John 20:17). How do we resolve this apparent contradiction?

There are two entirely different scenarios going on here. You have the thief on the cross, on the one hand, who is going to die, and you have Jesus Christ, who also is going to die. When we talk about dying, we are not taking about ceasing to exist. (They were both dying.) Jesus is then saying to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Remember also Jesus saying to the Father, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46 NIV). The thief on the cross and Jesus Christ were absent bodily but they were present with the Lord, as the Scripture communicates. They were in the presence of God.

Now, Jesus resurrected from the dead. The Lord Jesus Christ, who was Theanthropos (the God-man in the flesh), became Theanthropos, the God-man, once again, and He is forever that.

Mary Magdalene, remember, was communicating with Jesus during the time between His resurrection and His ascension. (The risen Lord had not yet ascended.) Jesus subsequently ascends to the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:9–11; 2:32–36; Rom. 8:33–34; Eph. 1:18–21; Col. 3:1; Heb. 12:1–2; 1 Pet. 3:22). All of these are anthropomorphisms, but it is a way of saying that Christ transcends time and space. Certainly, it is not a way of saying Jesus Christ was “ascending” in the sense of going up like a rocket ship. If that were the case, even traveling at the speed of light, He would not even be out of this universe yet! But the ascension is a transcending of time and space.

The thing all of us look forward to with great anticipation is the time when Jesus appears a second time to judge the living and the dead (John 5:28–29; 1 Cor. 15:1–58; 2 Cor. 5:9–10; Heb. 9:27–28; Rev. 20:11–12; cf. Dan. 12:2).

There is a different scenario with the thief on the cross because that is prior to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and with Mary, which is between the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ.

— Hank Hanegraaff

Learn more this subject in Hank Hanegraaff’s book AfterLife: What You Really Want to Know about Heaven, the Hereafter, & Near-Death Experiences.

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

Apologetics

Separating the Fact from Fiction about Islam and Manchester

On May 22, 2017, a great tragedy in England happened. It is almost beyond comprehension what happened there, but this is the new normal. It is going to continue to get worst as the days drag on, partly because of how Western leaders are reacting to these kinds of tragedies. You think of what Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said right after the tragic terrorist attack. She vowed to “defeat the ideology,” but she does not understand the ideology; she has a false narrative with respect to the ideology, and goes so far as to render what happened a function of a “warped and twisted mind.”

What is behind all of that? I am not going to get into a lecture on Islam right this minute, although I did do a Facebook live session on it. Let me say, all of Islam is segmented into two parts. Bifurcated if you will. One part is the house of Islam, and the other part is the house of war. If you are not part of the house of Islam, then inevitably you are part of the house of war.

Lest someone think this is hyperbole, all one needs to do is get out one of the legal books, the Sharia books. There are five schools that can be counted, four prominent schools. But, you look at a book like Reliance of the Traveler, a classic book on Islamic law, and you find that this very presupposition is not only communicated but underscored.

We need to know what Islam means with respect to women. Inequality is enshrined as a core value. We need to know what Islam portends when it comes to war. We need to know more specifically what it portends with respect to Western civilization.

My heart goes out, as the hearts of many of you, probably all of you, to those who suffered the horrific tragedy in Great Britain. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I can say that because this is a systemic problem. There is migration without assimilation, which is the python swallowing its prey with a long, slow digestion.

Recommended for further study:

MUSLIM: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest Growing Religion (Hank Hanegraaff)

Jihad, Jizya, and Just War (David Wood)

Will the Real Islam Please Stand Up? (David Wood)

Ambiguous Islam (John Ferrer)

Submit or Die: The Geostrategic Jihad of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda (Part One) (Charles Strohmer)

Submit or Die: The Geostrategic Jihad of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda (Part Two) (Charles Strohmer)

Did Muhammad Believe in Women’s Rights? (Mary Jo Sharp)

This blog is adapted from the May 23, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

The Hell of Reincarnation in Hinduism and the Hope of Resurrection in Christ

I was at the oncologist’s office. This was a specialist who specializes in the particular disease I have, mantle cell lymphoma. While I was in the office, a pharmacist came in, and I thought, he is going to be short; he’s going to tell me what my prescriptions are. It will be over and done. Instead, a half-hour later, I was saying, “Please, please, I don’t want to know anymore.” In other words, he was giving me all the information of what I would go thorough in the next six to eight months, and some of it posed for me a very tall mountain to climb. Anyway, this guy now is my pharmacist. I never thought I would have to say, “I had a pharmacist,” but this guy is my pharmacist, and he happens to be a Hindu. So, I want to say just a little something about Hinduism.

Hinduism is interesting in that it is multifaceted. Hinduism is not monolithic; it is multifaceted. So, I’m going to make some general statements about Hinduism to inform you, if you do not already know.

In Hinduism, all of reality is believed to be a simplified whole. In other words, in Hinduism, you cannot make a distinction between, let’s say, morals and mice, something that is metaphysical and something that is physical. Everything is a simplified whole. All of what is, is believed in Hinduism to be a continuous extension of Brahman, which is believed to be the impersonal — note that word impersonal — the impersonal cosmic consciousness of the universe. Atman, they say, is Brahman, and Brahman is Atman.

The Hindu scriptures, the Vedas and the Upanishads, they hold the goal of humanity. If you read them in short, in sum, you will get the idea that liberation is the goal of humanity. What are you being liberated from? An endless cycle of death and reincarnation. Until then, the law of karma will dictate that our deeds in previous lives will determine what we do in the next incarnation. Karma is a big part of Hinduism.

The Hindu idea I often call the hell of reincarnation. The Christian idea is the hope of resurrection. On the one hand, you have the hell of reincarnation; you go around and around and around until finally you become one with Nirvana or one with the universe. On the other hand, in resurrection, this body will be resurrected.

As I sat in the office today, I could not help but wonder how I would feel if my hope was reincarnation as opposed to my hope being resurrection, and then recognizing that my hope is not a blind hope, a desperation hope, a fantasy, a panacea that I am painting with unreal colors. No! What I’m actually placing my hope in is something that can absolutely be substantiated. Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and because He rose, we too: you, me, and everyone that faces his or her own mortality. You too, Christian, will rise immortal, imperishable, incorruptible.

To find out more about Hinduism, please check out the following:

What do Hindus believe? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What is yoga? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Does the Bible REALLY teach reincarnation? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Can reincarnation and resurrection be reconciled? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Witnessing to Hindus (Part One: Background) (Dean C. Halverson and Natun Bhattacharya)

Witnessing to Hindus (Part Two: Specific Suggestions) (Dean C. Halverson and Natun Bhattacharya)

Worse than a “Vale of Tears”: Karma in the Shadow of the Cross (C. Wayne Mayhall)

Reincarnation: Lifetimes for Enlightenment? (Robert Velarde)

The Yoga Boom: A Call for Christian Discernment (Part One: Yoga in Its Original Eastern Context) (Elliot Miller)

The Yoga Boom: A Call for Christian Discernment (Part Two: Yoga in Its Contemporary Western Context) (Elliot Miller)

The Yoga Boom: A Call for Christian Discernment (Part Three: Toward a Comprehensive Christian Response) (Elliot Miller)

This blog is adapted from the May 19, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

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.