During Holy Week of 2017, Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and host of the worldwide radio show Bible Answer Man (BAM), joined the Greek Orthodox Church. Much has been publicized about his decision to join the church over the years. Personal attacks have been thrown at him. Also reported is his viewership and radio stations that subscribe to BAM have withdrawn support. I’ve read at least one story that now mockingly refers to him as “The Bible and Tradition Answer Man.”
Thankfully, Hank has never been one to do things based on popular opinion. In 2015, I remember him publicizing the book The OSTEENification of American Christianity which tore apart the Prosperity Gospel/ Word of Faith movement that’s popular in Evangelical Christianity. Furthermore, the title of the book is borrowed from the lead figure of the Prosperity Gospel with one of the largest platforms in the nation, Joel Osteen. Ranging from the growing transgender movement, radical Islam/ISIS, Non-Christian sects or the growing gay rights lobby, Hanegraaff has definitely made a name for himself as opposing secular trends and countering cults.
I recently heard Hank on a Catholic Answers podcast titled “The Bible Answer Man Finds the Eucharist” discussing his new perspective on so many Orthodox/ Catholic beliefs. At approximately 44 minutes long, his interview goes in-depth into many amazing new insights including his appreciation of Mary, Eucharist, mysteries of the faith, and Theosis (a similar idea is deification or divinization).
This new transformation of the heart he has experienced by the Holy Spirit reveals very important things about our own faith journey that everyone can embrace. Primarily, a growth mindset vs fixed mindset in regards to embracing a more “authoritative and authentic” form of Christianity as Hank describes vs the divisions of Protestantism.
In education, we teachers encourage our students and ourselves to embrace growth socially and academically. What it boils down to is whether we have a fixed or growth mindset. The fixed mindset is harder to expand and grow upon because the person is essentially stuck in their “fixed” traits about themselves. However, a growth mindset is one that encourages the malleability of the mind to “grow” in our talents and beliefs.
After hearing Hank’s testimony about his transformation on so many doctrinal issues, I can tell he has embraced a growth mindset. He even mentions this in his interview about the value of constantly learning in the faith.
In particular, his under-appreciation of Church history revealed so much he missed out on. In his interview, he pointed out the importance of rediscovering church history. He emphasized the use of authoritative oral tradition in the 1st-century church. I believe Hank quoted 1 Corinthians 15: 3 to highlight the importance of oral tradition:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.
He dug deeper into the apostolic age of history and found that this verse conveys the “community memory” as Hank declares, handed down from the time of Jesus Christ’s death until written as an epistle. This is new coming from Hank. As a dedicated former listener of his, I don’t recall him speaking on the importance of Sacred Tradition in a positive light.
Protestants, for the most part, don’t uphold Tradition as an authoritative source of divine revelation. Some would say that its too much man-made beliefs corrupting the infallible Word of God or no direct continuation of early church transmission orally. Hank could’ve also easily pointed to passages such 2 Thessalonians 2:15 or 1 John 1: 5, 2:7 to further show the authoritative scared Tradition by the apostles. Nonetheless, his newfound appreciation for Tradition and Church history is an important step toward embracing Orthodoxy.
Similarly to Hank Hanegraaff, I had an underappreciated view of Church history. Honestly, I focused on the Reformers, the Westminster Confession, and to theologians such as R.C. Sproul. I was totally comfortable with Reformed theology and I couldn’t see myself leaving it.
In the last 10 months, I’ve been bombarded with the quote by John Henry Cardinal Newman, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” I took this verse at a challenge and began trying to discover if Church history is in disagreement with Protestantism. Surprisingly, Patristics really helped connect Catholicism. When I read through the writings of the Fathers of the Church, I saw the convincing proof for the Catholic faith. I allowed this new learning to be a ladder to further my interests in the basics of Tradition and Scripture. Step by step, I crept out of my fixed mindset thanks to the Holy Spirit.
Since April, I’ve been paying more attention to Hank and his journey. What’s interesting is so much of what the Orthodox Church believes in, I’ve heard him speak against on his radio show. What a true transformation of the heart that only the Spirit can perform!
Our learning never ceases. I realize this every day in and out of the classroom. We must get into the habit of furthering our faith from a rudimentary level to a firmer apprehension of the true mystery of the faith.