Family members of Dr. Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute, are calling on current CRI president Hank Hanegraaff to step down due to his conversion from evangelicalism to Eastern Orthodoxy.
A majority of the family members have signed a statement asking the “Bible Answer Man” to leave his leadership post.
Jill Martin Rische, the eldest daughter of Dr. Martin and who leads Walter Martin Ministries alongside her husband, Kevin Rische, told The Christian Post in a phone interview on Thursday that she and many other evangelical Christians were “shocked and surprised” when Hanegraaff was formally received into the Eastern Orthodox Church back in April.
She argued that Hanegraaff has since been teaching a blend of Eastern Orthodoxy and evangelical Christianity on the “Bible Answer Man” show, which she called “fundamentally dishonest.”
Hanegraaff insisted in an interview with NPR’s Charlotte affiliate WFAE earlier in July that for the most part, his theological beliefs have not changed.
“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,” he said.
But Rische pointed to an article on waltermartin.com that highlights the major differences between Eastern Orthodoxy and evangelical Christianity, and said it would be dishonest to claim there aren’t major aspects where the two traditions disagree, such as on Sola Scriptura, or Scripture alone.
“Evangelical Christianity believes that the Bible is the absolute and final authority, and Eastern Orthodoxy does not,” she said.
Evangelicals also believe in Salvation by the grace of God as a gift, she added, while Orthodoxy considers salvation to be a progress based on good works.
Rische argued that Hanegraaff has been “trying to take Eastern Orthodox theology and blend it with Protestant theology.”
She noted that her father started CRI in 1960 as a Protestant ministry, and said it is problematic that a man who has now joined the Eastern Orthodox Church is running it.
“It is not OK for an Eastern Orthodox believer to run a Protestant ministry,” Rische said.
“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 Rische signed calling on Hanegraaff to step down as CRI president also contains the signatures of her husband and other members of Martin’s family, including his children — Daniel, Elaine, and Debbie — and his widow, Darlene.
The statement claims that Martin “would be appalled” by Hanegraaff’s conversion to the Eastern Orthodox Church.
“CRI was founded on the absolute authority of the Bible and salvation by faith alone, doctrines the Eastern Orthodox church denies. A rejection of that foundation is a rejection of Biblical truth. Historically and theologically, Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelical Christianity are two distinctly different faiths that cannot be combined,” it reads in part.
“In view of this, Mr. Hanegraaff should immediately cease teaching Eastern Orthodox doctrine on the Protestant Bible Answer Man program, and step down from the leadership of Christian Research Institute. To do anything less, from a Biblical perspective, is unethical and profoundly dishonest.”
Cindee Martin Morgan, who is also Martin’s daughter, did not sign the statement. In a separate interview with CP in May, she pushed back against critics who have indicated they have a problem with Hanegraaff’s conversion.
Morgan told CP at the time that “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.”
She added: “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.”
Rische told CP in response that while she does not want to push a sister vs. sister narrative, she contended that Morgan’s statement about what their father believed is not truthful.
As evidence, she sent CP transcribed comments from Martin on one of his series on Roman Catholicism, where the late CRI founder said:
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SOURCE: The Christian Post – Stoyan Zaimov