Archive for January, 2010

CRI and the Local Church Part IV

January 26, 2010

There is another component of the CRI articles on the LC that is disturbing (what else is new?). There are several times in this issue where the three researchers Hank Hanegraaff, Elliot Miller and Gretchen Passantino interact with members of the LC in very emotional scenes. An example of this is on page 4, “Gretchen Passantino uttered the words, “I was wrong,” to a  believer in Shanghai who had been in prison from the time his daughter was born to the time she turned seventeen. Elliot Miller said, “I was wrong,” to a man in Fuqing who had suffered imprisonment for a total of twenty-four years.”

There are a few more of these emotional encounters sprinkled throughout the articles. Many people know that since Mao Tse Tung and his troops brought Communism to China in 1948, all religions and their members were targeted by the atheistic government, this persecution included long prison sentences and even executions. So as terrible as the imprisonment of LC members is, it is important for people to realize it will never replace orthodox beliefs in the attempt to understand the LC movement.

If I was a cynic toward CRI and its current administration, I might be tempted to think that the insertion of these emotional encounters by the research team of CRI were partly used to add an extra element of “pulling on the heartstrings”, to their misguided attempt to rehabilitate the image of the Local Church. Some may see this as a minor point in the criticism of this issue but with the repeated use of this emotional appeal it seems to be a calculated move to help bolster their argument that LC can now be trusted.

Maybe some ministry should come along and dedicate an issue of their publication to rehabilitate the image of CRI. Are there any takers out there?

How CRI Speaks of Others in Counter Cult Work

January 20, 2010

This is my third post concerning the CRI’s Journal on the Local Church. There is something in the articles that others in our field have found extremely troubling. During the course of the material describing  what CRI believes is the true orthodoxy of the Local Church there are  statements that CRI makes (Elliot Miller long time employee of CRI writes the majority of the material for this issue) that are extremely derogatory toward  Christian counter cult ministries. Hank Hanegraaff states on page 5, “In the midst of the turmoil I have reminded staff that ministry is no place for a popularity contest.” Well he sure proves it here. Hank and CRI will find that their popularity and credibility will continue to erode after the material in this issue gets out. This is the same man who in an interview with Ron Rhodes in the early 1990’s  said that it was his belief that God had singularly placed his hand on CRI. Therefore, why speak kindly of other cult research ministries when God obviously is not as concerned with them as He is with CRI. As it will be demonstrated, Elliot Miller takes several shots at those in the cult/apologetics field in the body of his material.

In CRI’s attempt to rehabilitate the image of LC it appears they believed it was necessary to denigrate anyone in the field of cults and apologetics that didn’t seem to understand LCs well hidden orthodoxy.  Miller is the author of most of the material found in this issue, though the research was performed by Gretchen Passantino Coburn, Miller and Hanegraaff. (p. 4)  But the following quotes come from those portions written by Miller.

In speaking of LC’s supposed problems with the Trinity Miller  appeals to the notion that those who can not appreciate the verses that work to explain the economy of the Trinity have trouble with “nuanced systematic theologies”. But in speaking of the LC he says, “But not all systematicians have been dulled to this reality in God.” (quotes from p. 22) Then he quotes a passage from a Living Stream Ministry publication. Perhaps it is not the theologians CRI looks at that have problems with passages on the Trinity but the LC. It is common  when cult groups are caught promoting bad theology they claim that they are the ones who truly see the minutiae of Scripture.

 Next he takes on those that use ellipsis and therefore incomplete sentences to show where a group is distorting a Christian doctrine. He says, “When an author is indicted on the basis of a incomplete sentence it should raise a red flag for any discerning  reader…” (p. 23) Quite frankly portions of sentences and paragraphs are many times isolated to highlight specific points of religious groups and I would suggest even CRI has done this when quoting portions of material from groups they research. It would be virtually impossible to quote large sections of a text, especially in print, due to space restrictions. I  expect anyone who doubts a quote I would use would go and check out my source I have quoted. No one in a legitimate ministry would misuse material from a group to prove “false doctrine” when they know the group is indeed orthodox. Using a portion of a text is not inconsistent with good research.

The next  criticism comes in the very next paragraph on page 23 comes in the form of an either/or: “I am confident that other evangelical critics of the LC who are fair minded and open to correction will reach a similar conclusion.” It says either you are fair minded if you  agree with CRI or you are a close minded bigot if you do not come to the same conclusion. What ever happened to allowing for open discussion and forbearance?  CRI is saying, “The big dog has spoken so get in line baby!” I do not see any middle ground being offered.

In reference to the Open Letter published online to show ongoing theological problems of the Local Church, Miller has special condemnation for it. “However, countercult research truly becomes “heresy hunting” of the worst kind when the researchers make a practice of digging up seemingly heretical or scandalous statements by a teacher, without concern for context, in order to employ the shock value of such statements to turn the public against the teacher and his group. As much as I respect many of the people involved with the Open Letter and do not consider their past work “heresy hunting,” it is hard to defend them against this charge when it comes to how Lee’s teachings on deification were handled.”(p. 26) So when is quoting statements of bad doctrine from a group in question just trying to inform the public and when is it for “Shock Value”? It isn’t for insincere reasons quotes are used in our field, it is for education. This same Miller quote could equally apply to books written by Hank Hanegraaff. Go back and read his first book “Christianity in Crisis”, one thing many people who have spoken to me about his book say they found it written in a very over the top and hyperbolic fashion. You could make a very good case that many of the books that have come out with Hank’s name on them, have a “shock and awe” feel to them. At this point we could say, “physician heal thy self.”

The next quote is perhaps not so much a putdown as it is just not accurate.  “It would be somewhat easier to understand if these clearly stated theological distinctions and qualifications were missed by the lay countercult apologists who signed the open letter than it would be if they were missed by the highly qualified theologians who also signed it,” (p. 27) What exactly is a lay countercult apologist?  The only people I see who signed this were either teachers at seminaries and bible colleges or people in fulltime cult and apologetic ministry. A lay person is by definition an individual who may do something they are interested in perhaps as a hobby but their real income is derived through another means. (eg. I have a friend who is a lay archaeologist but he derives his income as a professional musician). People in cult research ministry don’t make the large salaries that Elliot and Hank do but the ones I know are in this fulltime, strictly to enlarge the Kingdom of God not their 401Ks. Miller does not seem to really know or  understand many of the people who signed the open letter or he is just being truculent.

This last quote is similar to a previous quote: ” Hank and I are both convinced that virtually anyone of good will–no matter how skeptical of the LC at the outset– who has compatible exposure to them as we have had will come away convinced of their authentic and orthodox Christian faith.”   (p. 30) Imbedded in this statement is the notion that if your research disagrees with the conclusions of CRI you probably are not a person of good will. When you agree with CRI you are praised. When you disagree with them you are scorned and ridiculed. This is not the same ministry that it was under Walter Martin.

Lastly, CRI calls for those in our field to open our arms and reconcile  with the Local Church. Hank and the current CRI know nothing about reconciling with people they have wronged. I have spoken with multiple individuals who were fired and treated miserably by Hank Hanegraaff over the last 20 years, none of them have told me that Hank has ever approached them and begged forgiveness or told them ‘I Was Wrong’. He is the last person in this discussion to preach to anyone about asking for forgiveness or seeking reconciliation. I need to see him  take action in this area and I know many people have been waiting upwards of 20 years for him to start.

Further thoughts on CRI and the Local Church

January 13, 2010

There is something else that needs to be considered about CRI’s claim that the Local Church has always been an orthodox group and should not bear the label cult. I remember when LC went after Spiritual Counterfeits Project in court. If LC is just another expression of the Church and nothing else,why did they not attempt to approach CRI or another group, at that time, to help clear their name? Suing SCP would never endear LC to anyone dealing with cults and apologetics but I do not remember any type of promotion that LC ever did before the SCP lawsuit or since (until 2003 when Hanegraaff claims they approached CRI for help) to help the public understand they are not a cult. It seems odd that if they were an orthodox group and they believed it, why did they not attempt a publicity push from the time they acquired the label cult by many groups  and individuals in the 1970’s until they approached CRI 2003? Again, I can not say this too many times, suing a legitimate organization like SCP  was a terrible idea, especially if part of LC’s intent was to remove the label “cult”. That type of behavior just reinforces the notion that that is exactly what they are. There seems very little chance they will ever be able to rehabilitate their identity.

If they are truly serious about this, and I personally doubt that they are, they will have to get other cult research groups, that have far more credibility  than CRI, to agree to do an indepth review of ALL their material.