Do Leopards Ever Change Their Spots?

March 18, 2010

For those who have had a chance to read my book you realize that as a politically correct person may say, Hank Hanegraaff is a truth challenged individual (he lies to people a lot).

Originally my book was to be coauthored by a friend. However, he had to drop off the project and did not write the chapters he was planning. One of those was the chapter on how the CRI office in Canada, that had started some ten years before Walter Martin had died, was decimated by Hanegraaff in the mid 1990s. This was  after the director in Canada and staff began to realize the things they were hearing about the lawsuit of Brad Sparks against Hanegraaff and the damage that Hank had done to dozens of CRI staff who were fired without any actual cause (except for realizing how inept Hanegraaff truly was, due to his almost universal lack of knowledge in the areas that CRI specialized in) were true. Unfortunately, my friend had done the research on the CRI-Canada problems and I would have had to delay for months the publishing of my book to come up to speed with the information. Therefore, I did only a cursory treatment of the Canadian issue in my book.

A couple weeks ago my contact in Canada (a former CRI-Canada researcher) sent me a copy of a CRI-Canada board meeting minutes dated 11-12-1994. In the meeting that was attended by the Canadian board, Hank Hanegraaff, and Sealy Yates (Hanegraaff’s attorney from the US); the board asked Hanegraaff a series of questions about what they had been hearing of his problems down under in California.

One of the questions was why Stan Tonnesen left the board, after some 20 years of working with Martin, after Hank took over? Here was the response made by Hanegraaff , recorded in the minutes :

Re: Stan Tonneson [sic] leaving CRI’s board. This was during the 1990 coup. Everett Jacobson voted him off the board after having sat with him for 26 years on the board. Craig Hawkins tried to oust Hank and accused him of being demon possessed after Hank returned from a trip to Brazil.

Darlene Martin replaced Stan Tonneson [sic]. Stan offered a full apology and it was accepted however they agreed to not reinstate him because it was  felt that it would de-stabilize the board.  

First, if you wish to know the truth of Hanegraaff’s distain for Craig Hawkins, read the letters by Craig Nelson and Anthony Horpel found  starting on pages 45 and 57 respectively in my book (hint: Craig never accused Hank of possession). It had nothing to do with this fairy tale coup that Hank was trying to sell to the Canadian board. 

Second, Stan Tonnesen has written me a response to Hanegraaff’s absurd allegations (dated 3-11-2010). The following is the unedited content of his letter:

Dear Jay,

Thank you for sending me page 4 of the Nov. 12, 1994 Canadian Research Institute minutes, pertaining to me, which refers to  a 1990 coup attempt, IS A FLAGRANT LIE (emphasis in original letter). I took letters with me to show Hank the great concerns that the researchers and other staff members had for his irrational behavior (for our board meeting in Georgia). Hank said he would not hear their concerns and then he pulled out a letter he wanted me to sign. The letter stated I had to agree with everything Hank said and did (100%). After working with Walter Martin for more than 20 years, in a wonderful Christian Manner, being totally loyal to God’s word and will, I told Hank I could not be signing such a statement and walked away from the meeting – resigning from the CRI board. Since that time I have not spoken to Hank and NEVER (emphasis in original) “offered a full apology that was accepted” – Another lie.

I write you this note to confirm his paranoid behavior to demean anyone who raised a question about his actions, and give you permission to use this note if you need verification – to refute such lies. Keep up the good work in sharing that truth; so more believers in Christ will not be deceived.

Sincerely your,

Stan Tonnesen

Stan’s letter needs no comment from me. So once again people are going to have to decide who is telling the truth about Craig Hawkins and Stan Tonnesen’s statements about his leaving the board. Who is being truthful here:  Stan Tonnesen or the old leopard who has been shown through my book, and a host of other people to lie with impunity, over the last 20 years, when it benefits his agenda? Because as we all know, Truth Matters. Now, where have I heard that phrase before?

CRI on the Road to Wickenburg

March 10, 2010

The  other day I was watching an episode of a Western called, Paladin(1958). The show in its day was quite unique for Westerns on television. The protagonist was played by the late Richard Boone. Paladin was a gunfighter, who I believe had a college degree in either literature or philosophy. One moment he was shooting at bad guys the next moment he was quoting Aristotle.

In this episode called, The Road to Wickenburg Paladin finds himself visiting a town called, Wickenburg and  is robbed of his gun, horse and $1,000. Within the first few minutes, it is revealed that the peaceful and innocent town of Wickenburg is run by a ruthless and quite corrupt sheriff and his 4 associates who happen to be related to him. This cadre of less than stellar citizens are behind the theft of Paladin’s belongings and what is more, they have done the same to many others.

The town of peaceful people reminded me of those individuals who continue to support Hank Hanegraaff and are totally in the dark about his unChristian behavior over the last 20 years. His constant pushing for larger and larger salaries, his bad treatment of CRI staff, his plagiarism of Dr. D. James Kennedy’s book Evangelism Explosion, and the other equally reprehensible  activities that are painfully recounted in my book, Hard Questions for the Bible Answer Man.

When people in authority become corrupt and use their office for their own selfish desires as the sheriff and his relatives did in this episode of Paladin or Hank Hanegraaff has done for the last 20 years as the head of CRI, many people suffer. I further believe that the integrity of the office itself will suffer for years to come, as trust is rebuilt, even after the corrupting influence is removed.

At the end of the episode, Road to Wickenburg Paladin becomes the agent  by which  the corrupt sheriff and his cronies are removed. In Hank Hanegraaff’s case, he will someday answer for his evil deeds to God Himself . Unfortunately, for Mr. Hanegraaff, his reckoning will not come at the end of a fictional television program.

Former CRI Employee Attacks My Book

March 1, 2010

I found a small article on the net over the weekend: 

http://www.examiner.com/x-27802-Televangelism–Pop-Christianity-Examiner~y2010m2d17-Christian-Research-Institute–fighting-a-battle-on-two-fronts?cid=email-this-article 

Mr. Hunter claims in an incredibly general statement that all the issues I bring up in my book have already been answered. However,  just a few days ago, Paul Young of CRI claimed that CRI was preparing a response to my book. So which is it, CRI has already answered the problems I reference in my book or they are still working on a response?

Please notice that Mr. Hunter gives the same type of answer that a couple others have stated after a fashion: All my issues have been answered  several years ago by CRI to people’s satisfaction. He fails to mention any of the issues I bring up or exactly how CRI went about answering the problems. Is this the best CRI can do? “We have answered all the problems raised but we don’t plan to tell you how we did it.” Since CRI has, since it’s inception, been extremely proficient at answering the public’s questions with seeming ease, why can they not directly answer my questions from the book and satisfiy those who are also asking the questions?  Are you satisfied with CRI’s answers?

You should also know that 2 years ago I created a 2 CD set called, “Is Hank Hanegraaff the Rightful President of CRI?” It was based on some of the material I had put together for my book.  I had delivered this same information in a lecture, March 2008, at the EMNR Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. I placed the CD set on my website: www.focusonthefaulty.org for sale in March of 2008. Within 2 weeks I received a credit card order from a man named Stephen Ross. He lives near Charlotte, NC. There just happens to be a fellow named Stephen Ross who was working as Hank Hanegraaff’s personal assistant in 2008. Just a coincidence?  Therefore, it is apparent they have had 2 full years to answer the issues on the CD set but there has been no public release of their answers. My book has been out for just 6 months but those CD sets contain a large amount of the book and should have been responded to by now.  I continue to look forward to the CRI report and not this form of personal attack found in Mr. Hunter’s internet article, trying to pass it’s self off as an answer.

CRI Prepares to Answer the Critics

February 22, 2010

On January 4, 2010 Hank Hanegraaff announced on his radio program that against his friends better judgement he was going to be answering the myriad of questions his critics have been leveling at him soon. Then this morning, I was told by a friend of mine that a man he knows had called CRI to ask if they had a prepared rebuttal to my book, Hard Questions for the Bible Answer Man? He spoke with Paul Young, the CRI vice president, who told him that they were preparing a response to the book.

Now a little history lesson on CRI’s speed of preparation for important responses. The most recent: Hanegraaff said The Local Church came to his office in 2003 (probably not the entire church body) and asked for help to vindicate them from the “C” word label. It took Hank, Gretchen and Elliot from 2003 to 2010 to prepare their response (see the CRI Journal vol. 32 no. 6 2009). The Local Church would have been better off asking for help from AAA. They at least promise to respond to your  emergency in 90 minutes or less.

The other attempt at answering critics came in August of 2000. Elliot Miller had called a friend of mine and promised that within 2 weeks CRI would publish definitive proof  Walter Martin had asked/promised that Hank would take over the whole ministry someday. My friend never saw the proof and Elliot Miller never called again explaining why the report was never put together. His call, to my friend,  came a little more than a month after I had called CRI in July, at John Stoffel’s (CRI Operations manager at the time) request to talk about the article I was writing on Hanegraaff (see this article at my website: www.focusonthefaulty.org click articles). Stoffel also had me speak to Elliot Miller, who when I asked if there was a letter or an audio recording of Martin offering the presidency to one Hendrik Hanegraaff, Miller replied that none existed. I am left with two possibilities concerning this alleged report Miller was speaking of, either it does not exist (And we have only been waiting 91/2 years) or perhaps Elliot was calling my friend from a parallel universe where time moves exceedingly slow.

I will have to read this answering the critics report when and if it comes out. I love a good exercise in creative writing.

CRI and The Local Church Part V

February 1, 2010

There seems to be one last question that people are asking about CRI’s interest in seeing that justice is done for the Local Church. What is the price tag for justice? Who paid for the justice? There were three intrepid souls that went to South Korea, China, Taiwan and England on this fact finding mission from CRI. I have a few international trips under my belt and none of them were cheap. So did CRI pay for the research junket? Perhaps the Local Church gave CRI the money for the trip? Or a member(s) of LC (well intentioned I’m sure) gave the funds to CRI? And then there are all those pesky incidental expenses.

If CRI is called upon by other cult groups to unsully their names, will they also rise to the occasion? “Have research project will travel!” This could be a whole new carreer path for Hank and CRI. In these tough economic times we all need job security, don’t we?

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.

Welcome to the blog

August 19, 2009

Please feel free to place your thoughts on my book

pro and con but you will of course need to be civil.