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CRI’s Hank Hanegraaff Supports a Cult of Christianity

Pages In This Entry:

  1. A Formal Response to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association
  2. Living Stream Ministry / Local Churches respond to loss of their legal case
  3. U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Local Church Lawsuit against Harvest House
  4. Christian apologists -- Hank Hanegraaff, John Morehead, Gretchen Passantino -- defend a cult of Christianity
  5. Update: Another Local Church appeal rejected
  6. Update: Local Church Petition for Review of Defamation Lawsuit Rejected
  7. Update: Norman Geisler files Amicus Brief in Local Church case
  8. CRI's Hank Hanegraaff Supports a Cult of Christianity
  9. Gretchen Passantino also supports a Cult of Christianity
  10. CRI Statement regarding its support for the Local Church
  11. Is the Local Church a cult of Christianity?
  12. Why the Local Church was included in the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions
  13. Friend of the Court or Friend of the Cult?

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In a move that has Christian apologists and countercult experts puzzled and upset, Hank Hanegraaff - the already controversial president of the Christian Research Institute - has come out in support of the Local Church.

The Local Church - known to insiders as "The Lord's Recovery" - is widely considered to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity. Sociologically the movement has problems as well. The Local Church has a history of legal attacks against Christians who critique the movement.

Its most recent attack was a $136 million libel lawsuit against authors and apologists John Ankerberg and John Weldon, as well as their publisher, Harvest House.

Ankerberg and Weldon included a brief entry on the Local Church in their Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (Harvest House, 1999). After the Local Church filed its lawsuit, Harvest House explained why the Local Church was included in the Encyclopedia.

In their suit, The Local Church claimed that the Encyclopedia accused their group of criminal and immoral conduct. However, Harvest House and the authors have contended all along that the book does not and never intended to attribute such activity to The Local Church. Rather, the authors included the 11/4–page chapter on the Local Church’s teachings in the Encyclopedia based on the book’s definition of a religious cult: “a separate religious group generally claiming compatibility with Christianity but whose doctrines contradict those of historic Christianity….”

Though The Local Church insisted this case was not about being labeled a “cult,” they contended that by their mere inclusion in the Encyclopedia, and because the Introduction mentioned misdeeds committed by some unspecified cults, their group stood accused of any conduct that happened to be mentioned in the Introduction. Thus, they alleged, the book was libelous.
- Source: Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Harvest House and Its Authors, John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Harvest House Publishers, USA, Jan. 6, 2006

In January, 2006. the suit was dismissed by the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas.

[T]he Court pointed out that the Encyclopedia centers on doctrinal and apologetic issues, and “that being labeled a ‘cult’ is not actionable because the truth or falsity of the statement depends upon one’s religious beliefs, an ecclesiastical matter, which cannot and should not be tried in a court of law.”

As for the criminal conduct mentioned in the Introduction, the Appellate Court decisively ruled, “No reasonable reader could conclude that the book accuses the [Local] church…of rape, murder, child molestation, drug smuggling, etc….The allegedly libelous statements in the Introduction are not ‘of and concerning’ the [Local] church and are not actionable.”
- Source: Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Harvest House and Its Authors, John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Harvest House Publishers, USA, Jan. 6, 2006

In response, the Local Church has filed a petition with the Texas Supreme Court to hear the case and reverse the Appellate Court's decision.

Hank Hanegraaff Supports the Local Church

Recently it was revealed that Hank Hanegraaff has filed a so-called Amicus CuriaePDF file (Friend of the Court brief) in which he sides with the Local Church.

Hanegraaff argues in the brief that in his opinion the Local Church is not a cult, either sociologically or theologically.

In a recent newsletter, Don Veinot, president of Midwest Christian Outreach - an apologetics and countercult ministry - wrote:

[Hanegraaff] also is clear that he and by extension, CRI, view The Local Church as theologically in agreement with the essential doctrines of the Christian Faith. This raises two questions:

1) Is it now CRI’s position that the courts should be the ones to determine correct theology? If so is CRI going to close their doors in deference to the courts determining sound biblical teaching?

2) If Hank and CRI believe that The Local Church is a theologically sound Christian group in the essentials of the Christian faith, as he indicates, why would he appeal to a court of unbelievers asking them to clear the way for believers to sue other believers before a court of unbelievers in clear violation of 1 Corinthians Chapter 6?
- Source: Don Veinot, The Crux, newsletter of Midwest Christian Outreach. Oct. 9, 2006 [Subscribe]

Spiritual Counterfeits Project

In December, 1980, the Local Church filed a religious defamation case against another author, and against the Spiritual Counterfeits Project. In that case, cult apologist J. Gordon Melton supported the Local Church.

Brooks Alexander, at the time SCP’s president, addressed the outcome of that case in an article titled, “When Talk Isn’t Cheap and Speech Isn’t Free: The Abuse of Libel Law.

Some Initial Responses

Jackie Alnor, wife of SCP's Access Director Bill Alnor, addresses the Hanegraaff/Local Church controversy in her Apostacy Alert newsletter. She writes:

The most shocking thing about this report is that the founder of CRI, the organization that Hanegraaff heads up, is Walter Martin, author of The Kingdom of the Cults. Ankerberg happened to be one of Martin's closest associates in the defense of the faith. Martin joined co-defendant John Weldon on the platform of The Ankerberg Show frequently to debate cultists and other aberrational teachers. The three men were quite a team. In fact, Ankerberg emceed Martin's memorial service after he passed away. This was the same service in which Hanegraaff reportedly made his move to take over CRI (Christian Research Institute) by manipulating Martin's widow to announce to the mourners that he was Martin's appointed successor when indeed he wasn't. (See the report on that on Martin's daughter and son-in-law's website at: and scroll down to read: Hanegraaff Wasn't 'Handpicked')
- Source: Jackie Alnor, Bible-Answer-Man Turns Traitor, Apostacy Alert, Oct. 8, 2006

In an email to Bill Alnor, of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, Norman Geisler - Dean and Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary - wrote:

“I was shocked when I saw his brief…. I have sided with Ankerberg from the beginning. I personally pled with Hank not to side with the Local Church. I believe this was a very unwise and unfounded decision.”

Dwayna Litz of Lighting the Way Ministries encourages Christians to voice their concerns over Hanegraaff's actions by calling his radio show. In addition she writes:

Also, I must warn anyone, if someone gives financially to CRI (with Hank as president), the person will receive phone calls for years after his or her last donation, asking to please give more. The poor trusting soul will also continue to receive mail solicitations years after placing an order.
- Source: Dwayna Litz, Voice Your Concern About Hank's Lawsuit, Lightin the Way International, Oct. 9, 2006

That is is not the first time CRI's fundraising tactics have come under scrutiny.

In the October 12 newsletter of Midwest Christian Outreach, Don Veinot writes:

As I mentioned last week I have not been able to make direct contact with Hank and have not had my message returned from CRI V.P., Paul Young.

It is unclear if the version of the Scriptures CRI is currently using contains 1 Corinthians chapter 6 or perhaps it was overlooked. This issue becomes important because, unlike the top down authoritarian leadership of the world, the higher one ascends in leadership in the Church which is the Body of Christ, the more accountable they are to a larger number of people. It is the case that Christian leaders live in glass houses and everyone around them has Windex. Having a clear and understandable message is very important in the process of teaching and accountability.
- Source: Don Veinot, The Crux, newsletter of Midwest Christian Outreach. Oct. 9, 2006 [Subscribe]

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16 Responses to “CRI’s Hank Hanegraaff Supports a Cult of Christianity”

  1. Daniel Wynne says:

    While I am equally concerned about the alleged behavior of Mr. Hanegraaff, and as a result have stopped supporting CRI, I have NOT experienced what Dwayna Litz says about phone calls, though I do still get mailings, which I discard. Maybe this is because I am on the "do not call" list?

  2. Laurence Hamlin says:

    I am totally bewildered at the dealings of Hank Hanegraff and CRI.
    In 1986 CRI under the directioin of Walter Martin aided my family and I in getting our daughter and son in law out of the Local Church in Odessa Texas.
    They, under advise of the Local Church, had broken contact with us, their family, back here in California.
    While I hold no ill against the Local Church, they do not represent the orthodox beliefs of Christianity.
    Hanegraff, me thinks, does these things to draw attention to himself!
    It is time I fear, to dismiss Hanegraff and instead of calling the Bible Answer Man program we should just ignore Hanegraff in a way which he very well understands.

  3. Jim Anderson says:

    In his Friend of the Court brief Hanegraaff says that he does not consider the Local Church to be a cult. Not theologicall and not sociologically. In the explanation posted by CRI they say they have been reinvestigating the Local Church. It is no wonder that they took down their original statement by Cal Beisner in which they say that the Local Church teaches heresy. If the Local Church no longer teaches heresy CRI should give us the details.

    I think something else is going on. A brother is not supposed to take a brother to court. The Local Church is sueing Christians so the Local Church is not Christian or they are carnal Christians who do not follow the Bible. Hank Hanegraaff is helping them sue Christians. Like the previous poster said people should stop supporting CRI.

  4. [...] There is a brief history of the legal battles between The Local Church and John Ankerberg, John Weldon and Harvest House Publishers at Apologetics Index. However, a short description of the issues here may be helpful. The Local Church focused in on a portion of a paragraph in the introduction discussing what some cult leaders have done which reads: …oppose moral convention, denied their followers blood transfusions and medical access, encouraged prostitution for making converts, sometimes raped women, beaten their disciples, molested children, practiced black magic and witchcraft, engaged in drug smuggling and other criminal activity, including murder… (John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR, 1999, p XXV) [...]

  5. Hanegraaff isn't representing the real CRI. The real CRI was the organization with Dr. Walter Martin at the head of it. Dr. Martin would be horrified to see what Hanegraaff has done in the name of CRI. Dr. Martin took a stand against the cults, and wasn't shy about saying it. The Local Church is a cult, and all Christians should be taking a strong stand against their heretical doctrines that don't pass the test of Scripture. Everybody should check out the real Bible Answer Man at and stay away from the present day CRI, whose present leader is supporting a non-Christian cult.

  6. tila fenton says:

    To all you people claiming to be Christains, here's a verse to ponder on...

    Matt. 7:1 "Judge not lest ye be judged".

    This is as straight forward as it gets or what would your Christain doctrines and practices say on this?

  7. cal hubbard says:

    I actually heard Hank Hanegraaff state that 'Jesus Christ was Jerusalem' and that Jesus Christ is 'the land of Israel. This is a perfect example of his preterist theology gone insane. Hank is not wrong on all issues - he is good on the word faith cult - but he is bonkers here and apparently will say anything to support his preterist position.

  8. says:

    Tila, you quote a snippet of scripture, but need to place it in context. For instance, see what the Bible has to say about spiritual discernment and the necessity of judging.

  9. Jeffrey Smith says:

    Perhaps Mr. Hanegraaff has accepted some gratuity from the "local church" or didn't want the "local church" suing him. If Hank is not above accepting money from any source and by any means, what difference would a "bribe" from the "local church" be? Does Hank simply use his biblical knowledge to get the money he wants? Is he ignoring the scriopture he knows so well for either "filthy luchre or does he want to eliminate Ankerburg and Weldon as apologists competring for the dollars that are given? I'm just saying...

  10. Rick Cheatham says:

    "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and everything that exalts it's self against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ"

    Be careful brethren against the stronghold of the enemy. He is trying to divide and conquer. Pray that Christian leader do not exalt anything- including self- “…against the knowledge of God, but bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”

  11. Belinda says:


  12. Buddy Balagia says:

    Tila, keep it in context, and look up John 7.24.

  13. I am a missionary in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Last night I came across a distribution of free New Testaments by The Local Church. Of course, they were requiring that people fill out a form with their contact info. in order to receive their NT. When I discovered who they were, I expressed my theological disagreement. I was told that Hank Hanegraaff was now endorsing the L.C., which was news to me. Hence, I found this article confirming it. I am relieved, however, to see that he is a small minority. I am also glad to see that the Evangelical Church may be discovering the "real" Hank Hanegraaff, whom I'm beginning to consider a "wolf in sheep's clothing."

  14. He has been a sheep in wolfs clothing for a long time. He spends most of his ministry coming against those that are anointed of Christ. He appears to be an anti-Christ. I say this because anything done or said in the Spirit he comes against. That is the meaning of anti-Christ, anti-anointing. I am so thankful the Bible Answer Man does not air in Los Angeles any longer. When ministry is not of God, God Himself will shut it down. He was zoo grevious to me!

  15. frank keefe says:

    having just watched Hanegraaf attacking Israel in the presence if the Ayatollahs and their cohorts in Iran proves to me he is a charlatan and should be avoided at all costs.

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This post was last updated: Mar. 13, 2011