Charlotte, North Carolina, July 25, 2017
A majority of family members of Dr. Walter Martin, the founder of the Christian Research Institute and original Bible Answer Man, have written and signed a statement asking current Answer Man and recent convert from Evangelicalism to Orthodox Christianity to step down from his position, reports The Christian Post.
Jill Martin Rische, eldest daughter of Dr. Martin and co-leader of Walter Martin Ministries stated that she and many other Evangelicals were “shocked and surprised” by Hanegraaff’s conversion, noting that he has since been teaching a blend of Orthodox and Evangelical theology on the “Bible Answer Man” show, which she believes is “fundamentally dishonest,” despite Hanegraaff’s contention that his theological beliefs have remained largely the same.
Speaking of his conversion of his April 9 broadcast, he stated, “In fact I believe what I have always believed, as codified in the Nicene Creed, and as championed by mere Christianity,” and elsewhere he has stated, “So I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Evangelicals, with Roman Catholics, with Orthodoxy around the essentials of the Christian faith—meaning the main and plain things.”
The statement also includes the signature of Rische’s husband Kevin, Martin’s widow Darlene, and his children Daniel, Elaine, and Debbie.
Rische has pointed out that her father started CRI in 1960 as a Protestant ministry, and said it is therefore problematic for it to be run by a member of the Orthodox Church, pointing to an article on waltermartin.com that emphasizes the differences between Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism.
“It is not OK for an Eastern Orthodox believer to run a Protestant ministry,” she said, adding, “You have to be one or the other. It is fundamentally dishonest from a theological standpoint for Hank Hanegraaff to be teaching Eastern Orthodoxy on the ‘Bible Answer Man’ program.”
The statement goes on to claim that Dr. Martin “would be appalled” by Hanegraaff’s conversion, and thus he must step down as president of CRI: “To do anything less, from a Biblical perspective, is unethical and profoundly dishonest.”
Note that some Orthodox listeners have also noticed a somewhat blended theology coming from the “Bible Answer Man” program since Hanegraaf’s conversion, and have criticized the decision of the Orthodox Christian Network to pick up the freshly-converted Hanegraaf’s “Bible Answer Man” show and to start another podcast run by him, “Hank Unplugged.”
For instance, on his May 18, 2017 broadcast, while stating, “I joined an Orthodox Church because I believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” Hanegraaf went on to say, “Can you partake of the Eucharist properly-administered in other contexts? I think the answer is ‘yes,’ and ultimately remember that I’m a champion for mere Christianity… ‘In essentials unity, non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.’”
Out of step with the rest of her family, Cindee Martin Morgan, another of Dr. Martin’s daughters declined to sign the statement, stating, “My father, Dr. Walter Martin, taught that the Catholic Church has the essential ‘core’ doctrine of Christianity. He didn't agree with some of the teaching added by the Church and warned against it… Given the fact that the Eastern Orthodox Church is very similar in ways to the Catholic Church—and holds to the essential core doctrine of Christianity—I believe Dr. Martin would view this Church (Eastern Orthodox) the same way.”
“He would never declare that someone had ‘left the faith,’ in either of these churches, if the person professed faith in Jesus Christ demonstrated by the fruit of their life,” she added.
WND.com writes that, following Hanegraaff’s conversion, two Christian radio networks, The Truth Network and the Bott Radio Network, totaling 120 stations, have dropped the “Bible Answer Man” program. CRI’s website currently shows only 40 stations carrying the show.
Having carried the program for more than 25 years, Bott president Richard P. Bott II has stated that he dropped the show because “we want to make sure our listeners know that the programming that we have on Bott Radio Network is thoroughly biblical.” Hanegraaff responded that he found the statement painful, revealing “an ignorance about Orthodoxy.”
Hanegraaff announced to supporters of his ministry via a May 6th video on his “Bible Answer Man” Facebook page that he has been diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, a rare form of cancer.
Despite calling for the Answer Man to step down from his post, Rische has stated that she continues to pray for Hanegraaff, especially as he battles cancer: “I wouldn't want anyone to go through cancer. I've seen it up close, and it's a terrible thing, extremely painful. I would never want to see anyone suffering that, and I would pray for him and his family, and have.”