A Divided Dividing Line: James White and the Hankamess

August 2, 2018

Mark 3:25 “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

I. Introduction: The Good, the Bad, and the UglyImage result for good the bad and the ugly

This will be my last substantive post about the Hankamess and it will be a long one. (I will open comments but they will still be moderated.)

For those who may not want to wade through everything, the post is divided into three main sections. Section two takes a romp through James White’s criticisms of Orthodoxy noting what I think he gets right (The Good). Section three (The Bad) provides analysis and replies to his criticisms of Orthodoxy and sometimes even of Hank. Section four (the Ugly) discusses the role James White and other well-known apologists played in Hank’s rise to power.

II. The Good
III. The Bad
IV. The Ugly

After this, I am moving on with my life, as I did nearly thirty years ago. For about the last year, I have chronicled the Hankamess resulting from Hank Hanegraaff’s reception into the Orthodox Church. I have also tried to sketch for readers the main points along the Hankamess timeline leading up to that reception, from 1989 forward. For many good and interesting reasons, I haven’t been able to present all the information, respond to every argument or tell everyone’s story who has been involved in it. I have also made Image result for gandalf little fellow in a wide worldsome mistakes along the way. There are things I could have done better. As to my standing in this whole drama though, honestly, I have always been a very small person, a hobbit of sorts, in a much bigger drama. I have only tried to tell the truth and do what is right regardless of the consequences to me.

In the main, things went as I expected them to, though at one point, God threw me a curve ball I did not expect. Hank has behaved in the way I said he would, shrugging off any calls for the slightest repentance or an apology. He immediately began working his way into the power structures of the Church, presenting himself as a “teacher” to financially benefit his Protestant private business. I know many did not believe me when I laid out this narrative in the beginning, but over a year later, it is frankly now indisputable. I told you so.Image result for garak meme

I did not expect Hank to fall to his knees and offer an apology. It wasn’t that this was impossible, but given thirty years of consistent lying and graft I judged it to be improbable. There remains a hope, but in the main I hold it as a fool’s hope. (He still has my cellphone number and the contact information for many other people.) His repentance for public wrongs would not only benefit his salvation, but his many victims as well, some who unlike me, still suffer serious consequences stretching into eternity. They are part of the reason why I have done what I have. “Many of these trees were my friends.”

I’ve Got A Little List

That said, Hank didn’t get to his Benny Hinn lifestyle all by himself. He had help and lots of it. And he had help from people who not only should have known better but I believe did know better. They were, for a very long time in a position to do what was right. The majority of them self-designate as apologists and make their livelihood based on claims of expertise to evaluate arguments and evidence and discern truth from error. It’s their job to point out fakes and sound the alarm. They are well known and some pride themselves on defending the “purity of the Gospel.” But instead of doing the very least that was morally required, they chose rather to ingratiate themselves with Hanegraaff for their own personal profit. And they did so all the while their brothers and sisters in Christ were losing their jobs, losing their homes, dying of cancer or having a crisis of faith to the point of denying Christ Himself. In what follows, I name names and bring out the role they played in the past. What they did in the past was wrong and their attempt to profit from that deception now, is also wrong.

Now, after Hank’s reception into the Orthodox Church they have broken out in a few different directions. Some continue to ingratiate themselves with Hank to promote their products. Others have tried to occupy a no man’s land between where their theological commitments are and where their financial interests lie. They’re Protestant and critique Catholic and Orthodox beliefs and practices, except when its Hank. Others by contrast have positioned themselves as the de facto and true “Bible Answer Man” decrying Hank’s lapse into heresy, offering critiques of Orthodoxy along the way. Chief among these is James White, famed Reformed Baptist apologist and debater.

Over the course of the last year or so, James White (and some of his ministerial associates at “Alpha and Omega Ministries”) has offered a series of videos criticizing Orthodoxy and Hank Hanegraaff. Here I place them in temporal order (One, Two, Three, Four Five, and Six. )In the interests of time and labor, I don’t index remarks by White (and others), but the video links provided are I believe sufficient.

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Is William Lane Craig a Christian?

October 17, 2017

Below is a presentation I recently made at a local apologetics discussion group I am a member of. I’ve known about this issue for a long time. I thought it would eventually resolve itself, but it seems to have only gotten worse. I have noticed over the years that a few bloggers here and there have tackled this issue, but they have only done so piecemeal and they by and large really lacked the competence to represent Christian theology accurately and provide a proper diagnosis. Given this blog’s focus on the theology of St. Maximus the Confessor, I saw that I was well placed to address it more fully and adequately.  So I have undertaken to address it as part of a wider project. I hope you find it profitable.

I. What is the Question?

“Christology is the doctrinal locus where Christianity has the greatest need for theological precision. To be wrong here is to be wrong everywhere.”[i]

Now that I have your undivided attention, I need to take some space to toss out the questions that I am not asking. This list will not be exhaustive but sufficient to narrowImage result for big fish movie down the question to something workable.

  1. I am not asking if Craig is a recipient of divine grace. I am not asking if Craig is regenerate or “born again.” This is something neither I nor anyone else could know, maybe not even Craig.
  2. I am not asking if Craig thinks of himself as a Christian. A person may take themselves to be a Christian and may not in fact be one and likewise, one may be one and not know (e.g. Crucified thief)
  3. I am not asking if Craig is a nice person or a mean person. Nothing I write here implies or is meant to imply that Craig is malicious, intentionally deceptive or any other deliberate gross moral failure. Whether Craig secretly eats baby hamsters or some such thing is not something I know nor is it relevant to what I write here.
  4. I am not asking if Craig is the member of a or the Christian church. Whatever Craig’s ecclesial membership is (I simply do not know) is irrelevant to the question I am asking.
  5. I am not asking if Craig has done beneficial things to the furtherance of Christian belief in the world. Whatever good things Craig has done elsewhere or on other topics is irrelevant to whether what he professes in core areas of Christian doctrine count as Christian doctrines or not.

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Come and Get it

February 4, 2013

Free Choice in St. Maximus Chap 9

Free Choice in St. Maximus Chap 8

Free Choice in St. Maximus Chap 7

Free Choice In St. Maximus Chap 6

Free Choice in St. Maximus Chap 5

Free Choice in St. Maximus Chap 3 – 4

Free Choice in St. Maximus Chap 2

Free Choice In St. Maximus Chap1

Free Choice In St. Maximus Intro 1


What Would Mr. Newman Do?

August 8, 2011

“Yesterday, the eighteenth of the month, which was holy Mid-Pentecost, the patriarch sent me a message, saying,: ‘What church do you belong to? Constantinople? Rome? Antioch? Alexandria? Jerusalem? Look here, all of them are united together with the provinces subject to them. If, therefore, you belong to the catholic church, be united, lest perhaps you devise a strange path by your way of life and you suffer what you don’t expect…’Listen, then,’ they said. ‘The master and the patriarch have decided, following an instruction from the pope of Rome, that you will be anathematised if you do not obey, and that you will be sentenced to the death they have determined.'”

The Letter of Maxmus to Anastasius, His Disciple (CPG 7701)


The Heresy of Calvinism. I

July 10, 2010

About a year ago, his Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah addressed the meeting of the ACNA at which he delineated a number of things that must be jettisoned were real ecumenical dialogue to occur between the Orthodox and this newest iteration of Anglicanism. Among the eschewed was what his Beatitude called “the heresy of Calvinism.” That very weekend, while attending a reception for my nephew John and his new bride Becca, her father, a minster of the Reformed Episcopal Church, and a friend of mine from some years back (more than twenty: we had attended seminary together, we both served as clergy in the PCA parish in Allentown, PA), accosted me wanting to know what was heretical about Calvinism. The following post(s) is my reply.

This, like any essay on some historical ism, immediately demands an explanation of what exactly that ism entails. The matter becomes more urgent when certain people wish to rearrange categories at one time more-or-less settled, and with these disputes I shall have little to say. By “these” I mean the suppliants of the erstwhile Bishop Thomas Durham (aka N. T. Wright) and his putative new readings of Paul, and the tentacles of such readings that have ensnared contemporary Reformed circles under the sobriquet of Federal Vision. To be just, federal vision predates N. T. Durham’s musings by decades, many tracing it back to the disquiet surrounding Norm Shepherd at Westminster Seminary in the early 80s. I remember at the time thinking Shepherd’s stance odd, and later in the decade, having fallen in with a circle sympathetic to Shepherd (the aforementioned PCA parish in Allentown) due to some sacramental and ecclesiological affectations on my part, I found Shepherd more to my newly acquired taste. It is all now too easy to see such readings’ incoherence and inconsistency, both with the Westminster Standards, and with Calvin (though I do not equate the two), and like the Finns with Luther, all seemingly suffering from a case of ‘deification envy’. Thus for them, claims to be “Calvinist” at best must come with the obscene caveat “Calvinism better-informed.” All the arguments about Federal Vision and its accouterments I shall leave to one side, for they do not concern the basic Orthodox critiques: perhaps they are of great weight, but not to the basic problems as the Orthodox see them, for they concern matters “after the fact”. That is, they don’t address the questions of predestination, satisfaction theories of the atonement, and human union with Christ based upon human nature’s redemption through union with the Incarnate Logos. Thus, whether one wishes to sail on R. C. Sproul’s end of the Reformed boat, or on Jim Jordan’s, it is all of apiece for the Orthodox.

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De Deo Uno in Calvin

February 22, 2010

“At the same time, in spite of these laudable efforts, [Paul Jacobs and Richard Muller] it is difficult to avoid the impresison that at a crucial level Calvin has failed to integrate his doctrine of election thoroughly with the broader trinitarian theology of revelation, redemption, and human response that we are highlighting here.  For example, in Comm. John 17:9, Calvin asserts that Christ ‘commends to the Father only those whom the Father himself willingly loves.’  Here, as at many other points, the will of the Father is understood as something omniously arbitrary, rather than as being intrinsically and perichoretically related to the divine manifestation of grace in the Son.  Examples could be multiplied. It appears that in spite of the helpful trinitarian direction Calvin has taken in formulating his undersanding of the divine-human relationship, at the point of the doctrine of election his normal emphasis on the thorough perichoresis of Father, Son and Spirit in the divine operations has been effectively and inexplicably suspended.”

Philip Walker Butin, Revelation, Redemption and Response: Calvin’s Trinitarian Understanding of the Divine-Human Relationship, Oxford, 1995, 168, ednt. 6.

“It may be taken as further evidence of his committment to the perichoresis of the trinitarian hypostaseis in God’s economic work that Calvin consistently qualifies the statement that ‘God is the proper object of faith’ with the immediate affirmation that access to God is only through Christ (1159 Institutes II.6.2,4; cf. III.2.6), which appears to turn the relationship around, asserting that the Father offers Christ to us ‘as the goal of our faith’). However, as we have suggested earlier, Calvin is not entirely consistent in focusing faith on God’s benevolence as expressed in ChristHis commitment to the doctrine of the ‘double decree’ (cf. 1559 Institutes III.21.1ff.) leads to the a priori exclusion of the reprobate from this Christological access to God by faith.  This results at certain points in severe tension between his otherwise trinitarian paradigm of revelation, redemption, and human response and his doctrine of election. For example, in the1159 Institutes III.2.9-12, he appears to theologically justify the concept of the ‘double decree’  by making a deliberate exception to his normally characteristic insistence that the work of the Son and the Spirit be held together in the exonomy of redemption.  Thus-in the attempt to explain why some who appear to believe are not ultimately saved (vf. Hebrews 6:4-6)-he can speak of a ‘lower working of the Spirit…in the reprobate.’ This stirs in them a sense that God is merciful toward them and allows them to ‘recognize his grace,’ but apparently operates apart from the effectual grace that God offers in the Son, and hence does not lead to saving faith (1559 Institutes III.2.11).  It seems that Calvin never faced the omnious theological implicaitons of this move for a doctrine of the Trinity that otherwise wants to hold that God’s immanent trinitarian relations are consistently reflected in the ad extra activity of the hypostaseis.  In addition, at this point he seems inexplicably to suspend his otherwise rigorous insistence on the thoroughgoing perichoresis for the doctrine of the divine decrees. Rather, he applies that paradigm only to the issue of the elect believer’s assurance of election, while the operation of election itself is apparently excempted from the consistency with God’s otherwise trinitarian nature, and left to an inscrutable divine will.”

Ibid., 189., ednt. 81.

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Some Notes on the Christology of Nestorius

February 14, 2010

Since there seems to be widespread misunderstanding regarding the heresy of Nestorianism and what Nestorius actually taught, I’ve decided to post some notes illustrating and explicating Nestorius’ teaching. I have used McGuckin’s, Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy. I’ve numbered selections for ease of reference. There are a number of things to notice in the notes. Notice the problem of mixture. This was a significant issue all by itself in antiquity since for Platonists as well as Aristotle, matter was not intrinsically extensional as the modern conception has it. A mixture was a meeting of powers. Notice also that Nestorius takes the will to be almost exclusively hypostatic rather than natural so that there is only one will in “Christ.”  Terms like “Christ” also do not refer to the eternal Logos exclusively but the end result of the union. There is also an apparent confusion between person and nature as manifested in Nestorius’ language concerning the eternal hypostasis of the Logos,where hypostasis seems to do double duty to refer to the divine essence as well as the divine person. A person then seems to be an instance of a kind. It is entirely unclear where or what the divine person of the Logos is. Also notice the extrinsic relation he posits between the two instantated essences or “hypostases” where one uses the other in an instrumental way such that the union transcends nature and is one of “grace.” Christ was then the chief moral examplar. It isn’t hard to see why the Pelagians cuddled up to the Nestorians. On the other end, the instruemtnalization of Christ’s humanity with the union as one of “grace” as superior to nature maps onto Augustine’s Christology. Some overlap into semiotics is also important as well as the preceding history of medical science in the notion of prosopon as a “sign” of a nature or a somewhat metaphysically thined out energy.

1. “To be fully human, on the other hand, demands that one must be ready to attribute to Christ the fully panoply of human characteristics, excepting sin which is not a ‘humanising’ characteristic or even a defining human attribute in any case.  He must have a human mind, a human soul with human feelings choices and limitations, both mental and physical, involving him in a range of testing situations (the temptations of the Lord) which proved and refined his virtue as a man, and which involved him inexorably in all the suffering consequent on being human.  Nestorius was unswerving on the point that this demanded that the approach of Apollinaris  represented a dead-end…here it will suffice to remark that Apollinaris had found no place for a human limited consciousness in Christ, or for a human soul which could be considered as the seat of genuine human choices. Apollinaris’ logic demanded that these things must be sacrificed in the interests of the unity of the person of Christ, if one were to accept the infinite mind of the Logos inhabited his human frame. Nestorius took the earlier Christological heresy of Docetism as an extreme form of the same tendency in Apollinaris to acknowledge merely the appearance of fleshly limitations in the divine Christ who was really unlimited.

For Nestorius it was this tendency to absorb or evaporate away the human reality in the face of the divine that was the chief deficiency of Apollinaris’ heresy, and like Gregory Nazienzen before him he attacked such presuppositions on soteirological grounds, for a theory of incarnation that wiped away the human reality in the advent of  the deity constituted not only a failure of revelation theology but an inability to value the extraordinary role which the Christian Gospel gave to human experience in its conception of God’s redeeming work. Nestorius taught that such ‘absorption theory’ in Christology was sub-christian or mythological, inevitably involving its proponents in concepts of incarnation based upon Krasis or mixture. He was ever on the look out for the ‘mixture’ or ‘confusion’ of divine and human spheres of reality in Christological discourse, and regarded this as the most serious deficiency of Cyril’s work.  He regarded all sense of ‘mixture’ as inevitably connoting change, and even the annihilation, of the individual elements that were so mixed.”

John Anthony McGuckin, St. Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy, SVS, 2004, 130-131.

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