Christian Research Institute (CRI)

Ecumenical Fellowship With Rome

The Christian Research Institute (CRI), located in Rancho Santa Margarita, California (moved there from San Juan Capistrano in 1997) was founded by the late Walter Martin. Hank Hanegraaff is now CRI's president, assuming that post after Martin's death in June of 1989.  Hanegraaff is a Chuck Smith/Calvary Chapel ordained pastor, which allows him considerable ministerial tax breaks. (This could also explain why the questionable doctrines of the Calvary Chapel movement are never questioned by CRI.) Reportedly, Martin handpicked Hanegraaff as CRI president because Hanegraaff brought his "Memory Dynamics" techniques to the field of apologetics. (Hanegraaff wrote Memory Dynamics: Your Untapped Resource for Spiritual Growth, which contained significant amounts of material some think Hanegraaff plagiarized from Jerry Lucas's The Memory Book and from memory expert Harry Lorayne). (See Note at the end of this report for the recent rift between Hanegraaff and Walter Martin's heirs.)

CRI's stated purpose is to focus on aberrant religious groups (especially the "cults"), current theological disputes, and Christian education. CRI has a tremendous influence across North America through its nationwide Bible Answerman radio program (heard in 125 cities in the U.S. and Canada) and its broad range of literature, the most noteworthy being the quarterly Christian Research Journal (CRJ). For the fiscal year ended 6/30/99, CRI had annual revenues in excess of $7 million -- $6 million from donations and $1 million from sales of merchandise. Hanegraaff operates from a huge office with wooden bookcases, big windows, leather couches, and paintings of serene golf scenes. Hanegraaff lives in the gated community of Coto de Caza, but says his salary ($147,500 for FY99) is stretched thin by his eight children. 

In our opinion, however, whatever good work CRI has done or is doing, has been overshadowed by its accommodation with Roman Catholicism, its compromise with Charismaticism, and its support of psychological integration. The remainder of this report develops these issues.

-  CRI has always maintained an aura of intellectual arrogance, but that seemed to peak near the end of the reign of Walter Martin. Martin was a Pentecostal. He taught Comparative Religions at the Melodyland School of Theology (charismatic) in Anaheim, California, and was perhaps most famous for his 1965 book, Kingdom of the Cults, which was a perennial best seller with 24 printings. Amazingly though, throughout Martin's many years of teaching and writing, never did he print material or speak specifically to expose Roman Catholicism as the foremost of all the cults in America. To the contrary, his CRJ continues to attack the so-called "heroes of the Reformation," approves the papal system, and defends it as a Christian church. Because of the tremendous influence upon evangelicals around the world, Dr. Martin and CRI must bear major responsibility for today's wall of neutrality, tolerance, and silence that surrounds the exposure of Romanism as a cult. (CRI also treats Seventh-day Adventism as evangelical rather than as a cult and apostasy. Martin claimed that the SDA gospel is sound, whereas, in reality, it is a demonic mixture of law and grace. As in Martin's last edition of Kingdom of the Cults, CRI's 1997 edition also presents the Seventh-day Adventists in an extended appendix, again titled: "The Puzzle of Seventh-day Adventism.") Martin also believed that abortion was okay in cases of rape, and that it was all right for someone to be hypnotized as long as a "Christian" was doing the hypnotizing.

-  By 1993, CRI moved openly into the ecumenical camp. This was stated in a book entitled The Cult of the Virgin. Sponsored by CRI through its editors Elliot Miller and Ken Samples, the book contains an appendix by  Jesuit priest Mitchell Pacwa, giving the Vatican version of the apparitions of the "Mother Mary." Miller and Samples present Pacwa as a "Scripture scholar" and a "Bible-believing Catholic" with whom they have "positive fellowship in Christ and cooperative efforts in the common cause of Christ's kingdom." The book states: 

"The underlying purpose of this book is ultimately ecumenical rather than anti-ecumenical" (p. 161). 

Martin was a close friend of Pacwa, and a known apologist and defender of his Roman church. Pacwa wrote for the CRJ and spoke on Martin's Bible Answerman program. Ironically, Walter Martin once debated Pacwa -- the same man now allied with CRI's new leadership -- on TV's The John Ankerberg Show. On that program, Martin stoutly defended Protestantism and stated that Pacwa's heretical teachings are "a denial of justification by faith." (The CRJ's Fall 1992 issue published an article by this same Jesuit priest. Perhaps "C.R.I." now stands for the "Catholic Resource Institute"?)

-  The Cult of the Virgin offers an historical background to the Roman Catholic church's veneration of Mary. However, the authors tend to understate the full degree to which devotion to Mary exists in Catholicism, leaving the impression that devotion to Mary is almost exclusively confined to an aberrant sect within Romanism. (Mary's role is extremely important to virtually all Catholics. Pope John Paul II has repeatedly emphasized the need for strong devotion to Mary -- a fact that CRI's authors failed to state.) The authors conclude that "many anti-Catholics have overstated the influence of paganism on the church."

The authors also believe that, with the exception of Mary's divine maternity (as the "mother of God"), none of the doctrines of Mary are heretical even though they are not Biblical. To the contrary, every one of them is heretical simply because they ascribe to Mary a status above all other humans (e.g., the Immaculate Conception). For Roman Catholicism to say that one human is exempt is to deny the full efficacy of Christ's atonement -- Rome teaches that His blood does not cover Mary because she didn't need His blood shed on her account. What is more heretical than that? In the spirit of ecumenism, the authors tend to downplay the heretical nature of Mariology. (Excerpted/adapted from Media Spotlight, Vol. 14 [1993], No. 1.)

-  Part One of a lengthy article in four parts ran in the Winter 1993 issue of the CRJ entitled, "What Think Ye of Rome -- an Evangelical Appraisal of Contemporary Catholicism." In this series, the CRJ strongly opposes calling the papal church a cult. It instead states, "Catholicism affirms most of what the cults deny and possesses an orthodox foundation which all cult groups lack." A Vatican ecumenist could not have improved on the image of Popery created by this CRJ series. The Winter 1993 (Part One) issue states, "From the fourth century to the present, Roman Catholic thought has had a momentous influence ... The Church has wielded great power over the centuries, often spreading enlightenment and benevolence among humanity." The Winter 1993 CRJ's lengthy presentation of Popery was a flow of half-truths, distortion, falsehood, and deceit, all staged with the obvious purpose of altering the accusing facts of history. [The Vatican has struggled by deceit, by armies, and by anathema to establish and maintain its Sceptre of the Papal Theocracy. The ecumenism of the Vatican II Council was added in 1965. Sadly, this now involves most of today's evangelicals -- tragically not recognizing that Roman Catholicism is indeed the world's deadliest cult. (Source: Today's Evangelicals Embracing the World's Deadliest Cult, Wilson Ewin, pp. 58-61.)]

-  CRI director Hank Hanegraaff's book, Christianity In Crisis (Harvest House:1993), offers some excellent insights into the charismatic word-faith mentality. Hanegraaff traces the roots of the word-faith movement to New Thought and science-of-mind religious philosophy. Hanegraaff goes so far as to call the word-faith movement a cult in its own right.

Defining a cult from a theological perspective, he states that a "pseudo-Christian" group like the word-faith movement, would claim to be Christian but deny one or more of the essential doctrines of historic Christianity. These doctrines focus on such matters as the meaning of faith, the nature of God, and the person and work of Jesus Christ. He quotes Denver Seminary professor Gordon Lewis as saying, "A cult, then, is any religious movement which claims the backing of Christ or the Bible, but distorts the central message of Christianity by (1) an additional revelation, and (2) by displacing a fundamental tenet of the faith with a secondary matter." If Hanegraaff would only take a lesson from his own book, he'd recognize that he has described all the elements that make the Roman Catholic Church a cult. And while the word-faith teachers erroneously claim that man is a god, the Roman church goes even further by claiming that a piece of bread becomes God through the priests' incantations! Moreover, that piece of bread must be worshipped as God! Perhaps, if CRI keeps trying, it will eventually reveal to itself its own blind spot. (Excerpted/adapted from Media Spotlight, Vol. 14 [1993], No. 1.)

-  Roman Catholicism is a cult because it has the major characteristics of one: (1) a false gospel of works and rituals; (2) an allegedly infallible leadership which must be obeyed; (3) the prohibition of its members to interpret the Bible for itself; (4) the placing of its hierarchy's dogmas and traditions on a par with Scripture; (5) its claim to be the exclusive vehicle of salvation; (6) the cultic claim that members cannot be saved apart from its sacraments; (7) the anathematizing of all who reject its dogmas and traditions; etc.

On 8/12/93, Hank Hanegraaff boldly stated, "We believe that Roman Catholicism is foundationally Christian." The Bible Answerman program that day had been devoted to the defense of Catholicism. Whether Catholicism is or is not a cult is not the main issue, but its false gospel. Yet, CRI spends a large part of its time trying to prove that Catholicism is not a cult. CRI needs to state clearly that Rome's counterfeit gospel is sending hundreds of millions to hell. Instead, CRI has defended Catholicism on radio and in its Journal, while its "criticism" has been so vague as to leave one wondering what was meant. For example, on one Bible Answerman program, Catholic apologist Scott Hahn was given free rein to promote Catholicism, defend his conversion to it, and to defend it from callers' objections without any rebuttal from CRI to his false statements! The average listener would have had to conclude that Roman Catholicism is merely another "Christian" denomination (10/93, The Berean Call). [And this is exactly how it is perceived. In a 2/94 letter-to-the-editor of the Catholic Answers magazine, This Rock, a writer credits CRI for being instrumental in bringing him to the Roman Catholic Church; i.e., he thanks CRI for opening his eyes "to the truths of Catholicism," and for showing him that Catholicism "held firmly to all the essentials of the historic Christian faith."]

-  If anyone doubts that Hank Hanegraaff is pro-Roman Catholic, one only need read Hanegraaff's 6/7/95 fund-raising appeal letter and the pro-Catholic book offered therein -- Hanegraaff offers for a gift of $25, the book Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, by Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie. (Geisler and MacKenzie believe that a "cooperative effort between Roman Catholics and evangelicals could be the greatest social force for good in America" [p. 357].) Hanegraaff calls Roman Catholics and Evangelicals "must reading" for "thinking Christians who are concerned, not only about sound theology, but also about the future of our nation." He goes on to proclaim that any obstacles (such as doctrine?) between Protestants and Catholics should not stand in the way of cooperation in areas where we share mutual interests and concerns. This is the same compromising spirit expressed by the Evangelical & Catholics Together (ECT) document authored by Charles Colson in March of 1994. [On two other Bible Answerman programs (one in late-April, 1995, and the other in late-June), Hanegraaff interviewed Geisler concerning the book Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. The compromise with Catholicism was absolutely sickening.]

CRI's strong move toward ecumenism has led them to refuse to recognize Roman Catholicism for what it is -- a cult at best and a false religion at worst. Hanegraaff, et al., continue to insist that Catholicism is a Christian religion with merely some teachings that they cannot agree with. In the process, CRI denigrates those who insist on not pandering to the Vatican's ecumenical designs. CRI positions itself as the last word in apologetics and knowledge of theological issues. Their rallying cry is for adherence to orthodoxy rather than Biblicism; indeed, they would consider Roman Catholicism an orthodox faith. But orthodoxy is not Biblicism. Orthodoxy is largely based on religious tradition, and is, therefore, often found wanting. "Orthodoxy" is predicated upon the canons of whatever religious authority happens to interpret Scripture; it is not based upon Scripture directly. CRI wants us to believe that Roman Catholicism is a pussycat we can snuggle up to and join paws with for the Reconstructionist agenda of restructuring society. (Source: "Hanegraaff Urges Cooperation With Roman Catholicism," Media Spotlight, Vol. 16 - No. 2 [9/95], pp. 5-6).

[Further evidence of CRI's efforts to establish the belief among Protestants that Roman Catholicism is orthodox is a series of Bible Answerman broadcasts in early-1996 -- Hanegraaff made statements that (1) the Roman Catholic Church was the only Christian church in existence prior to the Reformation, and, therefore, if it went into apostasy, then Christ's promise failed (that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church), and (2) it is ludicrous to identify the Roman Catholic Church as the whore in Revelation 17. (Source: FBIS, 5/22/96.)]

-  Despite Hanegraaff's 1993 anti-charismatic book, Christianity in Crisis, CRI is not to be trusted when dealing with the charismatics either. In an interview printed in the 5/93 Charisma magazine, Hanegraaff admitted that he himself is a charismatic and that more than half of the CRI staff are charismatics as well! He said, "Spiritual gifts are not an issue at CRI. We have never made a single anti-charismatic statement on our show." This is a serious problem, because the danger of the Charismatic Movement is found in its very foundational doctrines, not just the extremism of the movement. The charismatic understanding of Spirit baptism, second blessing, healing, miracles, extra-Biblical revelation, sign gifts, apostolic succession, kingdom power, and "holding out faithful" is the foundation upon which the movement is built. To warn of charismatic extremes without warning of these issues is like warning of Purgatory in Romanism without mentioning the Mass. (Source: O Timothy, Vol. 10, Iss. 10, 1993.)

-  This same charismatic sympathizing is evident in another so-called "anti-charismatic" book by Hanegraaff -- Counterfeit Revival (1997). Here are a couple of the "concessions" Hanegraaff makes to the "pentecostals-charismatics": (1) "we must never divide" over "tongues" (p. 157); and (2) "Healing is provided for in the atonement" (p. 159). Number (1) shows an incredible ignorance of the false doctrine inherent in the tongues movement. Concerning statement number (2), the "healing" provided for in the Atonement has absolutely nothing to do with modern "healing" practiced by the false prophets in the "miraculous healing" business. (The "healing" of the Atonement has to do with redemption from the spiritual consequences of the fall of man, and the "body" part of that "healing" will not transpire until the Resurrection. The idea that "healing is provided for in the atonement" in relation to bodily illnesses is one of the "cornerstone" theological errors of the charismatic movement.)

Hanegraaff's recording in Counterfeit Revival of many of the lying "wonders" of these false prophets makes for some interesting and curious reading, but the above two "concessions" in the doctrinal category fatally weaken the theological structure of the book. [Hanegraaff spends a lot of time and effort in trying to "explain" the probable sources of the "phenomena" associated with some of these charismaniacs, but curiously absent from the "target zone" is the chief offender in the "signs and wonders" business -- Romanism. The modern "pentecostals" and "tongues" sects are so far behind Romanism in the field of "mysticism" and "subjectivism," they don't "hold a candle." Not in a hundred years will the likes of modern-day charismaniacs catch-up to the hokey-pokey of the "miracles" and "wonders" claimed by Rome. Sadly, Hanegraaff pays no attention to the "counterfeit revival" as it relates to Romanism.] (Source: 8/18/97, Pilgrim Publications:Bob Ross.)

-  In 12/97, Hanegraaff made a trip to the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida, the southern home of the charismatic "Laughing Revival" (the northern home being the Toronto Vineyard), to "dialogue" with his "charismatic brothers" -- the same "brothers" he criticized in Counterfeit Revival for their heresies! Hanegraaff attended a revival meeting and even addressed 500 of the revival school's students, receiving a standing ovation before beginning his message. (Would 2 John 9-11 have any applicability here? Isn't it wonderful how "Christians" can have sweet fellowship with error -- all that's necessary is that we utter the magical words of Hanegraaff -- "We are going to spend eternity together as brothers"!) To Hanegraaff's credit, there is no record of him taking part in the laughter, dog barking, floor crawling, or spirit shaking common in these revivals.

-  Dr. John H. Coe is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University. He has written a paper titled "Educating the Church for Wisdom's Sake or Why Biblical Counseling is Unbiblical." The paper claims that believers have a mandate to look beyond Scripture for the wisdom and truth necessary for righteous and successful living (cf. 2 Pe. 1:3)! Of course, we expect a psychological/psychotherapeutic view of Scripture from a professor at the psychoheretical Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology, but CRI evidently also agrees with Coe! In reply to a personal letter from a CRJ reader, CRI said, "Dr. Coe has written an excellent article defending Christian psychology against the Bobgans' claims." (Reported in Bob Ross's 1/94, BBH.)

-  CRI's psychological leanings had not been well known until 1995 when CRI's quarterly Christian Research Journal published a four-part series of articles by psychologizers Bob and Gretchen Passantino titled "Psychology & the Church" (see each 1995 issue of the CRJ). When people contact CRI to ask about the CRI position on psychology, they are referred to the Passantinos' series on "Psychology & the Church." While warning that so-called Christian psychology isn't perfect, the Passantinos promote it and deny the sufficiency of the Bible. In their final article, the Passantinos erroneously contend that 1 Peter 1:3 pertains only to salvation (eternal life) and not sanctification (earthly life), thereby claiming that psychology offers some value dealing with the latter. All four articles clearly show that both CRI and the Passantinos have fallen for the "All Truth is God's Truth" fallacy. In contrast to the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 2:12), the Passantinos consider at least some of "the words which man's wisdom teacheth" to be an essential supplement to the truth of God's Word. [The Bobgans have written a book critiquing these four articles -- CRI (Christian Research Institute) Guilty of Psychoheresy? (EastGate Publishers:1998; 149pp.). It exposes the logical fallacies and illogical reasoning used to establish the Passantinos' (and CRI's) predilections for psychology.]

Dr. James Dobson is possibly the best-known psychologist in the world. He is highly praised by men in spite of his unbiblical theology regarding self-esteem and psychology. Hank Hanegraaff has blatantly joined the Dobson praisers. During a late-1999 broadcast interview of Dobson, Hanegraaff was exceedingly complimentary of Dobson and Focus on the Family. The degree of Hanegraaff’s puffery of Dobson was perversely excessive. During the interview, they discussed abortion, euthanasia, evolution, and the sexual revolution. However, they did not discuss Dobson’s views on psychology and self-esteem. (See James Dobson's Gospel of Self-Esteem & Psychology, by Martin & Deidre Bobgan.) Nevertheless, the glowing remarks during the interview cannot be separated from Dobson’s strong teachings in this area, since Dobson is arguably the greatest promoter of self-esteem and psychology in the professing evangelical church. The interview further demonstrates Hanegraaff’s continuing support of the Passantinos' CRI Journal articles on psychology. One reason for Hanegraaff’s interviewing Dobson was to advertise Dobson's book Home with a Heart, which was being offered by CRI. Hanegraaff indicates he read the book and recommends it. Within the pages of this book, Dobson weaves his ideas about self-esteem and psychology. Hanegraaff obviously supports those ideas since he praises and promotes the book. His wholesale endorsement of Dobson and his book further confirms his commitment to psychology and it's false gospel. (Source: January-February 2000, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter.)

-  Promise Keepers is the gigantic new (1991) "men's movement" among professing evangelical Christians. Its roots are Catholic and charismatic to the core. PK's contradictory stand on homosexuality; its promotion of secular psychology; its unscriptural feminizing of men; its depiction of Jesus as a "phallic messiah" tempted to perform homosexual acts; and its ecumenical and unbiblical teachings should dissuade any true Christian from participating. Promise Keepers is proving to be one of the most ungodly and misleading movements in the annals of Christian history. Nevertheless, CRI is a promoter of this ecumenical, charismatic, psychologized men's movement. In an official personal response letter dated 7/26/94 dealing with a writer's concern with Promise Keepers, CRI answered:

"... the ministry and goals of Promise Keepers are generally in line with the Bible and are in agreement with the essentials of the Christian faith. Some CRI staff members attended the recent [5/94] convention in Anaheim and thoroughly enjoyed it. [One wonders if they enjoyed Jack Hayford's rendition of "God wants to touch you in your private parts"?] ... there needs to be an allowance for disagreement regarding non-essential issues. One area where there is room for disagreement among Christians is psychology. [So, now there's room for toleration of false doctrine coming from a false religious system?] ... the authors of these articles [TBC's & BDM's Promise Keepers materials] go to the other extreme by categorically speaking out against many sound Bible teachers and Christian leaders simply because they have a trace of psychology in their teachings. [Swindoll, Smalley, Crabb, et al., have a "trace of psychology" in their teachings? And these men are "sound Bible teachers"?] ... Whatever your convictions are regarding psychology or Promise Keepers, do not let them become a stumbling block between you and others in your church who hold a different view." [Oh sure, let's not let false doctrine stand in the way of our having sweet fellowship.]

A year later, CRI's observation of the Promise Keepers movement had not daunted its enthusiasm. In a very favorable article on Promise Keepers in CRI's Fall 1995 Christian Research Journal, CRI derogatorily refers to Promise Keepers "most determined critics" (i.e., the Bobgans, Al Dager, et al.) as "a band of Christian heresy watchers, whose methods and conclusions range from just off the mainstream to the fundamentalist fringe" ("The Masculine Journey of Promise Keepers," p. 7). [Hank Hanegraaff was also a speaker at the 5/97 Los Angeles PK rally.]

Note: Hanegraaff/Martin Rift -- After a public rift with Hank Hanegraaff in 1996, Darlene Martin, widow of Walter Martin, resigned from CRI's board. Last October (1999), the family (through Martin's 42 year-old daughter) sent Hanegraaff a letter detailing objections to his leadership. She claims Hanegraaff has used the nonprofit CRI as a platform to sell his books and promote his two for-profit organizations. She also says Hanegraaff hasn't returned some of her father's personal belongings and claims he has mismanaged personnel at CRI. Hanegraaff says the family's claims are unfounded and that CRI's mission has not changed since he took over in 1989. More seriously, Martin's widow now claims that Hanegraaff used trickery to get her to introduce him as the new leader of her late husband's ministry shortly after Martin's funeral in 1989. Walter Martin's daughter issued the following statement (excerpted):

"My father died without naming any successor to Christian Research Institute and 'The Bible Answer Man' radio show, and contrary to what was said at the time of his death, Hank Hanegraaff was never 'handpicked' by Walter Martin. Darlene Martin was a newly widowed woman, vulnerable and trusting, and there were those around her who took full advantage of that trust. ... What we did not find out until years later was that Everett Jacobson and Hank Hanegraaff had a 'closed door' meeting at CRI within days after my father's death, and the result of that meeting -- according to a CRI Board member at the time -- was the naming of Hank Hanegraaff as CEO of Christian Research Institute. We ask Hank now: 

'Please provide the proof that Walter Martin chose you as his successor. He never mentioned this to his wife, his children, his brother, his board or his closest friends. He never announced this privately or publicly before his death. It was only after Walter Martin was dead that this claim was made. Please provide the minutes of the CRI Board Meeting immediately following my father's death in which the CEO position was discussed and voted upon.' 

"Why is this question of succession so important? It has to do with integrity. If Hank Hanegraaff's personal 'work' is suspect, if his behavior is questioned by many witnesses, than what of his claim to CRI? We believe that claim should also be closely examined.

"The night of my father's memorial service, as Darlene Martin approached the lectern, Everett Jacobson and Hank Hanegraaff intercepted her. It was suggested that some additional things be added to her speech '… in order to make a smooth transition.' The words did not register at the time, as most things do not when you have just buried a loved one twenty-four hours before. When Darlene came to the end of her statements and began to read the new sentences, she was appalled. There she stood, in front of 1,500 people, stating Hank Hanegraaff was the new man for CRI. All she could think as she read was, 'Walt never said this.'

"Why did Darlene Martin allow this to stand for so many years? Why did she support Hank? At the time, she believed he was a man of integrity, and she hoped (and kept hoping) God could mold him into a strong leader. She trusted Everett Jacobson and Hank Hanegraaff. She was grief-stricken, exhausted, and did not feel able to decide such a weighty issue. She did not know about the 'closed door' meeting or the allegation that a full board vote for the CEO position of CRI had never taken place, until years later. In addition to this, several men approached Darlene and the CRI Board after my father's death, each stating that Walter Martin picked them as his successor, and she was afraid of an all out public battle for CRI."

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Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 10/00