Bible Answer Man Discusses Biblical Illiteracy, Joel Osteen, and Essential Christian Doctrine

Part 2 of an Exclusive Interview With The Christian Post

The Christian Post released Part 1 of an exclusive interview with Hank Hanegraaff yesterday. He's the president of the apologetics ministry the Christian Research Institute and the creator of daily broadcast the Bible Answer Man. Hanegraaff spoke about his new book The Last Temple that deals with prophecies found in the book of Revelation. He also discussed many other important topics pertaining to Christianity with CP, including biblical illiteracy amongst believers and the theology of many prominent pastors such as Creflo Dollar and Joel Osteen. Here is part 2 of CP's exclusive interview with Mr. Hanegraaff.

The Last Temple by Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer
The Last Temple by Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer |

CP: Do you think that Christians sometimes sacrifice making quality art in order to convey a message in their work?

Hanegraaff: ... [Christians] should ultimately do everything that we do with excellence. There's a story about repairs in the Sistine Chapel ... when some repair work was being done the craftsmen saw that the work on the other side of the plaster, [the part] not visible to the human eye was done with the same kind of craftsmanship that was [done on what was visible and observable]. And the explanation for that is that the work that Christians do is not just for human consumption, but it is [also] for the eyes of God. And therefore in my writing, in the work that I do in the Bible Answer Man broadcast, [and] the work of the Christian Research Institute, we are concerned that what we do is excellent in every way and I think we should set the example for the world in these categories and not the other way around.

CP: Do you ever plan on making a movie or a television show based on your book series that ends with The Last Temple?

Hanegraaff: There has been some talk in the past about this and I'm not at liberty to divulge the people in Hollywood who contacted us in that regard, but there have been some talks. But will it happen in future? Well that I don't know.

CP: Will you be working on any new fictional books in the foreseeable future? Maybe something dealing with origins?

H: It's not something that is on my horizon at the moment. At the moment I'm working on a book that deals with authentic New Testament Christianity and I just finished a book on afterlife. That book will be published by Worthy Publishing and will be out in the spring. It deals with death and the afterlife. And then as I said I'm working on a book called Authentic [which is] dealing with what authentic New Testament Christianity, and what a New Testament Christian Church actually looks like.

CP: Do you feel that fiction or entertainment could be a better vehicle for teaching than other commonly used methods?

H: I think it's a powerful means of communication. ... The power of story is potent and that's why historical fiction can be an extraordinarily significant way of teaching people logical truth propositions in a way that- as you mentioned at the beginning- moves you along, moves your emotions as well as informs your intellect.

CP: Why do you think that many of today's Christians are biblically illiterate?

H: We stand in the shadow of the Bible today as opposed to in the pages of the Bible. I think that the biblical illiteracy comes as a direct result of a failure to recognize that the DNA of western civilization comes from a biblical worldview. From arts, to literature, to science, to the founding of Christian institutions, all of that has its roots in a biblical worldview, but when you fail to recognize that [it's] the systemic reality of the greatest civilization in the history of humanity, you can become apathetic about what you actually now have. We have something that generations of people did not have.

We often sometimes forget that- prior to the invention of removable pipe- there really were no English Bibles. So we have treasures, we have Bibles in every size and shape and color. But there's a failure to recognize what's contained [inside the cover of the Bible]. And so again, we grow apathetic, and I think that the issue is [reacting] to the Word of God. Not just carrying, but get back into the Word of God and then get the Word of God into us. It's all about mining the scripture, memorizing the scripture, and meditating with our scripture. That's the foundation not only to western civilization, but it's the foundation for living effectively as Christians.

CP: Do you think that there could be a "liberal Christian," or a believer that holds values that contradict what is found in the scripture?

H: I think that as Christians we want to think Christianly, and that means that we want what the Bible says as a rule for life and living to impact every [aspect] of [our] life. So we're concerned about things like the redefinition of family. We are concerned about the issue of life [and] when life begins. The Bible informs us of such issues and we need to as Christians do what a first century church did and that is realize that we are not living to be politically correct, popular, or prosperous, but we 're living with eternity in mind.

The early Christian church, and of course I write about this in The Last Temple, the early [church] knew that Christ has risen from the dead, and so they didn't live their lives with earthly vanities, but they lived their lives for eternal verities. And I think that if we might catch that enthusiasm and the reality of resurrection, we would live by a completely different standard as well.

CP: What Bible teachers have you learned the most from?

H: One of the Bible teachers in the past that I've been greatly blessed by is Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He said that the old covenant was a convenant of prosperity, [and] the new convenient is a covenant of adversity, whereby we're being weaned from the present world and made meek for the world to come. I not only have gained a lot from reading Spurgeon, but also have gained a lot from his ability to turn a phrase and make things memorable.

There are many [teachers who have inspired me]. I've been impacted in the present by great popular theologians like R.C. Sproul. Even though I'm not reformed in my theology, I greatly appreciate R.C. Sproul and his ministry and his personal impact on my life. [Other] people too like Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic who has drank deeply from the Word of God [and] from the wellspring of Christian theology ... [as] a result of that, [she] has been able to bless multitudes out of the overflow of a life spent in wheelchair where she could really spend time with the Lord. So both on a personal, and a public basis I have been impacted by her life and ministry.

CP: How do you respond to believers that criticize you for calling out pastors who teach things that are not biblically sound?

H: I think that we're guided by the motto in "essentials unity, non essentials liberty and in all things charity." So if pastors compromise essential Christian doctrine, I think that there is a biblical warrant for naming them. Just as there [was] a practical warrant for calling out Tylenol [when] it was laced with cyanide. You had to name names. It was for the good of people and when there are ministers who are communicating or dispensing spiritual cyanide by the mega dose- I think that it's proper to warn people when they have clearly crossed the line between the Kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the cults.

However, on secondary issues, I think that these are the kinds of things that we can debate vigorously. We don't have to ultimately divide over them and I think when we debate, we should do so in a collegial fashion, with a great deal [of] gentleness and humbleness, recognizing that we can learn from one another. The main and the plain things are clear, but the secondary issues aren't quite as clear, and therefore I think that there has to be a lot of humility and gentleness in terms of how we conduct a debate on secondary issues. And then again, even with people who have moved over from the Kingdom of Christ to the kingdom of the cults, we need to treat them with love and with gentleness and with a heart to restore them to proper life and doctrine.

CP: You sometimes criticize megachurch pastors such as Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar. A lot of believers agree with some of your criticisms, but still enjoy listening to these pastors. Can there be positive teachings extracted from these pastors who teach concepts that are either too light on the gospel or not biblically sound?

H: I am under the impression that if you could discern between wheat and chaff and heat and light than you could gain some positive things from teachers like Creflo Dollar and Joel Osteen. But the reality is, you need discernment skills, because Creflo Dollar is compromising, confusing or outright contradicting essential Christian doctrine. Joel Osteen does exactly the same thing. Now, not necessarily the exact same doctrines, but he is compromising, confusing or contradicting essential Christian doctrine. In Joel Osteen's case, it revolves around such things as the atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross. ... In both cases they are comprising a biblical concept of faith. Their view of faith is a force, words are the containers of the force, and through the force of faith, one can create his or her own reality. That's not biblical faith. That's a false faith, or faith that doesn't satisfy and ultimately will lead people into harm's way.

CP: What's next for the Christian Research Institute?

H: We [will] continue doing what we do ... [making] people so familiar with truth that when counterfeits loom on the horizon, they know it instantaneously. So we're a discernment ministry, continually trying to build Christians up so that they can discern between truth and error.

CP: Will CRI be dealing with aspects of pop culture the way you did in the past with "The Hunger Games" and Lady Gaga?

H: Well we're continually doing that. That's the purpose of the Christian Research Institute. We want to remain relevant with respect to the culture's issues and the reason we want to do that is so that people can use the deviations as spring boards or opportunities to share the truth, light, grace and peace that only Jesus Christ can bring to the human heart.

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