Christian Research Institute (CRI) descends deeper into error and controversy

With its stance on the Local Church, the Christian Research Institute (CRI) descends deeper into error and controversy

In 2006 the Christian Research Institute, under the controversial leadership of Hank Hanegraaff, came out in support of the Local Church — a movement the vast majority of Christian apologists and theologians consider to be a cult of Christianity (theologically).

Among other things the ministry went on to support the Local Church in its lawsuit against against the authors and publishers of a Christian Encyclopedia on Cults and New Religions. (The Local Church lost the lawsuit)

In the most recent issue of the Christian Research Journal, CRI continues on its course of error with a front-page article titled, “We Were Wrong — A Reassessment of the “Local Church” Movement of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.”

Editor Elliot Miller introduces the issues by writing, “One of the largest and most dynamic Christian movements in China, the “local churches” (LC) of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, planted churches in the United States beginning in the 1960s. It was greeted with suspicion by the evangelical community, and it was not long before CRl and other discernment ministries began labeling it heretical. But, after a six-year reevaluation, CRl has concluded that the LC has been misunderstood and is neither cultic nor aberrant, but merely different. Learn the reasons why in this special five-part article, along with some valuable lessons on how to do-and not to do-discernment ministry.”

An overview of the content is posted at the forum of

It is profoundly sad to see the erstwhile leading discernment ministry descend deeper and deeper into error and bad behavior.

At Apologetics Index we have received quite a number of messages from members of the Local Church, all pointing at CRI’s change of heart regarding their beloved religious movement.

Our response is always the same. We point them to this website, where more than “70 evangelical Christian scholars and ministry leaders from seven nations have signed an unprecedented open letter to the leadership of the “local churches” and Living Stream Ministry.”

The letter is a “a public appeal to disavow and withdraw controversial statements made by their founder, Witness Lee, on the doctrine of God and the doctrine of man. The letter also asks the “local churches” and Living Stream to renounce statements made by Lee that denigrate evangelical Christian denominations and organizations. Finally, the letter appeals to the leadership of the “local churches” and Living Stream to discontinue their use of lawsuits and threatened litigation against Christian individuals and organizations to answer criticisms or resolve disputes.”

Jay Howard, who runs the Focus on the Faulty website, recently published a book titled, “Hard Questions For The Bible Answer Man.”

In a recent series of blog posts Howard also addresses the CRI / Local Church issue.

Meanwhile, if you remember the original Christian Research Institute as founded and led by the late Walter Martin, you’ll want to bookmark Walter Martin’s Religious Info Net — an apologetics ministry operated by Martin’s eldest daughter and her husband.

See also:
A Response to the Christian Research Journal’s Recent Defense of the “Local Church” Movement, by Dr. Norm Geisler and Dr. Ron Rhodes
Is the Local Church a cult of Christianity?
Why the Local Church was included in the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions

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This post was last updated: Nov. 11, 2010