Walter Martin's family urges Hank Hanegraaff to step down as head of CRI

(YouTube/CRInstitute .CRInstituteBAM)Hank Hanegraaff appears in a screen capture of a video from CRInstitute .CRInstituteBAM.

Hank Hanegraaff has been asked to step down from his post as president of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) by family members of Dr. Walter Martin, who founded the organization in 1960.

A majority of Martin's family members signed a statement asking Hanegraaff to resign, following his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Hanegraaff confirmed in April that he had joined the Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte that month after attending services there for more than two years.

In an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday, Martin's eldest daughter, Jill Martin Rische, stated that she and many other evangelical Christians were "shocked and surprised" when Hanegraaff was formally received into the Eastern Orthodox Church.

She accused the popular radio host of being "fundamentally dishonest" because he has since been teaching a blend of Eastern Orthodoxy and evangelical Christianity on the "Bible Answer Man" show.

In an interview with NPR's Charlotte affiliate earlier this month, Hanegraaff had maintained that his theological beliefs have remained mostly unchanged.

However, Rische cited an article on waltermartin.com to point out that there are major differences between Eastern Orthodoxy and evangelical Christianity, adding that it would be dishonest to claim that the two traditions have no disagreements on major aspects, such as on Sola Scriptura, or Scripture alone.

"Evangelical Christianity believes that the Bible is the absolute and final authority, and Eastern Orthodoxy does not," she insisted.

Rische explained that while evangelicals believe in Salvation by the grace of God as a gift, Orthodoxy considers salvation to be a progress based on good works.

She argued that CRI was started by her father in 1960 as a Protestant ministry, and asserted that it is problematic that it is now being run by a man who has joined the Eastern Orthodox Church.

"It is not OK for an Eastern Orthodox believer to run a Protestant ministry," Rische stated. "You have to be one or the other. It is fundamentally dishonest from a theological standpoint for Hank Hanegraaff to be teaching Eastern Orthodoxy on the 'Bible Answer Man' program," she continued.

The statement calling on Hanegraaff to resign as CRI's president has been signed by Rische and her husband, as well as other members of Martin's family, including his children — Daniel, Elaine, and Debbie — and his widow Darlene.

However, Cindee Martin Morgan, who is also Martin's daughter, did not sign the statement. In May, she defended Hanegraaff from critics who have indicated they have a problem with his conversion.

Morgan contended that her father would never declare that someone who had converted to either the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church had "left the faith" if the person "professed faith in Jesus Christ demonstrated by the fruit of their life."

In response, Rische stated that Martin should be allowed to speak for himself, and pointed to her father's comments on one of his series on Roman Catholicism, where he warned against the reuniting with the Vatican.

"There is a great movement on today in apostate Protestantism to reunite with Rome. The threat of Communism is pushing Eastern Orthodoxy — the Greeks, the Coptics, the Egyptians — and the Roman Catholics together ... I would return to one Universal Church and to one supreme bishop if the theology of that church were consistent with the theology of the Word of God," Martin reportedly stated.

Rische clarified that the disagreements between evangelicalism and Eastern Orthodoxy need to be discussed, and she said that she continues to pray for Hanegraaff, especially in light of his battle with a rare form cancer known as mantle cell lymphoma.

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