Tim LaHaye and Hank Hanegraaff: The Men Behind the Headlines
by Jill Martin Rische
“Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:16-17
What has happened to accountability in the Church of Jesus Christ? Who is upholding the standards of integrity in our leaders” ”standards the Bible requires? What has happened to us that we can sit back and silently watch while one “Christian leader” attacks another with impunity? These actions are not biblical, and our reaction (or lack of it) is not biblical, either. God requires accountability whether Christians find it distasteful or not, and if we remain silent in the presence of evil, we become guilty of it ourselves (James 4:17).
Some might say why bother with accountability? There is no justice in the world; the rich get richer and the poor, only poorer. And there was a time when I would have agreed with them.
Shortly after my father, Walter Martin, died in 1989 his ministry was taken over by a man who we later discovered had a disturbing habit of “borrowing” other people’s work and claiming it for his own. :”(For examples of plagiarism evidence see Dr. William Alnor, “More Details on the Plagiarism of Christian Research Institute President Hank Hanegraaff,” Cultlink, http://www.cultlink.com/plagiarism/Hankplag.doc [accessed December 9, 2007].)”: The world defines this light-fingered approach to literature as plagiarism or literary theft” ”and many prominent careers have been destroyed because of it. :”(Plagiarism. [n.d.]. 1621, from L. plagiarius . . . used in the sense of “literary thief” by Martial . . . . Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=plagiarism [accessed October 15, 2007].)”: Remember Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter? He plagiarized multiple articles and lost his job in a matter of days. :”(Rose Arce and Shannon Troetel, “Top New York Times Editors Quit,” New York Times, March 1, 2004, http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Northeast/06/05/nytimes.resigns/.)”: ‚ His credibility and career were destroyed, but Hank Hanegraaff has dodged the plagiarism bullet for years; in fact, he’s benefited greatly from his actions.
My father hired Hank and placed him on the Christian Research Institute Board of Directors largely due to Hank’s success in the memory techniques he “borrowed” from other people, and once Walter Martin was gone, he even went so far as to claim the title, Bible Answer Man, though he had no formal education in the Bible, and my father never named him as his successor. :”(This statement is based on many conversations with my father, supported by other Martin family members and a CRI Board Member at the time of my father’s death.)”: ‚ Hank then proceeded to systematically wipe out the memory of Walter Martin from Christian Research Institute so that today, many think of Hank as the founder of it and if you call there looking for Walter Martin resources, you will only find a few Martin tapes still on the CRI Resource List. This is Hank’s response to a man who trusted him.
The world disciplines plagiarists and holds them in contempt, but the Church of Jesus Christ rewards them. Only a few Christians ever denounced such blatant plagiarism and demanded accountability. Only a few stood and defended the widow and the fatherless. The vast majority remained quietly on the sidelines and applauded Hank. They handed him book contracts and gold medallions for his books; they sold him valuable radio airtime and appeared as guests on his 1-800-ASK HANK radio show. And some even defended him against the grieving family of Walter Martin. This travesty of justice has been going on for eighteen years, and there is still no end in sight.
But I believe in the certainty of Divine justice, no matter how impossible things may look. “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 10:18). I trust that God will weigh each of our lives in the balance and act accordingly. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7-8). It is because of this that I have tried to speak out against this injustice and to demand accountability, regardless of the cost. And it has been high.
Through the years, Hank launched attack after attack” ”not at the cults, which seem to have faded from his personal radar screen” ”but at his brothers in Christ, some of whom publicly demanded the reason why he hadn’t come to them first about the issues in question before attacking like an unpredictable pit bull. Dr. D. James Kennedy remained silent for years about Hank’s plagiarism, until Hank turned around and bit the hand that fed him, publicly implying that Kennedy was a heretic. This attack was too much, even for the gracious Dr. Kennedy, and it prompted him to finally respond to Hank publicly:
To Whom It May Concern:
Until now I have refrained from commenting about Mr. Hank Hanegraaff, but I understand from several sources that he has continued his attack on me. Therefore, I feel I must make some sort of response. This I do reluctantly.
Hank was brought to Christ through the ministry of this church, of which he then became a member. I employed him some time later at Evangelism Explosion International in the Development Department. It was here that he learned his basic knowledge of the Scriptures. Here that he learned to evangelize. Here that he learned Mnemonics, the science of memory. It was from here and from me that he learned most of the things needed to get the position that he now holds.
Years later he published a book on evangelism, which numerous people wrote to me about, telling me that he had plagiarized my book, Evangelism Explosion. Some sent me page after page from his book with the comparable pages from my own. It did appear to be a blatant case of plagiarism, but I told them all that I did not want to sue him because I did not think that is what a Christian ought to do.
I also received letters stating that he had obtained his position on The Bible Answer Man program by methods that were less than ethical. Numbers of staff, many of whom have since left that ministry, also said he was plagiarizing Dr. Walter Martin’s material. I do not have the data, the time, nor the interest to try to ascertain where he gets all of his material. I do know that when he left here, he had no formal training preparing him for his present position. (I did happen to be in graduate school at the Ph.D. level with Walter Martin [at New York University] when we were both working for our degree at the same time. I know he was well prepared for what he did.)
In conclusion, much of what Hank has learned he learned at this church and through my other ministries. I have tried in every way to be helpful to him. I have also endeavored to be gracious in spite of the many letters I have received accusing him of plagiarizing my book. In spite of all this, for some reason, totally unbeknownst to me, he has started attacking me on his public radio program. And as I just recently heard, has now had the temerity to call me a heretic. I have been called all manner of names by the enemies of the Cross, but one name I have never been called before is heretic. Given my 42 years of ministry, almost 50 books that I have published, the thousands of radio and television programs which have been broadcast here and around the world, it is almost laughable to think that we must wait until this late date to have it discovered by no less a scholar than Hank Hanegraaff that I am a heretic.
For those who have any question about the matter, I suggest they get a copy of the book in question, The Real Meaning of the Zodiac, and they will see that the idea that I believe in astrology is utterly preposterous. The book is written as a refutation of the ancient pagan idea. I would simply say get the book, read it yourself, and then tell me what you find in it that is heretical.
It is with sadness that I have found myself having to write this letter and I only hope that Hank will find something better to do with his time than to attack evangelical Christians, especially the one who taught him most of the orthodoxy that he knows.
Sincerely in Christ,
D. James Kennedy, Ph.D.
Dr. Kennedy wrote this letter to a friend of ours, who gave his permission to publish it. A few years ago, I spoke with Dr. Kennedy at length about this issue, and he told me he believed Hank had plagiarized his work. He mentioned a recent conversation with Hank about his verbal attacks, but told me he was too weary to fight him, and they had resolved the situation, at least temporarily.
Apparently Hank did not learn from this encounter, however, and now the latest target of his aggression is Tim LaHaye, a man whose only transgression is his eschatology. Rev. LaHaye takes the Pretribulationist position, and unfortunately for him, Hank does not. This disagreement on a peripheral issue in the Church has placed Tim LaHaye directly in the line of fire.
According to Hank, Tim LaHaye, a man who has spent the last 60 years of his life preaching the cause of Christ, displays narcissistic tendencies and undermines in his writings the “uniqueness and significance of Christ’s resurrection” and His Deity. :”(Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code, xix, 116.)”: ‚ Hank attacks Tim LaHaye with a vengeance, mentioning LaHaye’s name more than 200 times in a 270 page book. All this bitter invective from a man who still refuses to answer any of the charges brought against him by more than 30 brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s right, under the authority of Matthew 18, Hank Hanegraaff has been approached by at least 30 of his fellow Christians, and he has ignored them all. Where is the biblical accountability here? Where is the Christ-like spirit of reconciliation?
My father, Walter Martin, the Original Bible Answer Man and the founder of Christian Research Institute would never have countenanced such an attack on another believer. When Robert Schuller first wandered off into his Possibility Thinking, my father sat down with him face to face and tried to resolve the theological issues. These issues were not peripheral: they had a direct bearing on the salvation of souls, and yet my father never said a word publicly against Robert Schuller until he had given him every chance to explain.
One thing is certain, Hank did not offer Tim LaHaye the same courtesy in Christ, and my father would denounce Hank Hanegraaff for his glaring lack of Christian love. And that is exactly what I am doing. We tried to resolve our issues with Hank privately years ago in the spirit of Matthew 18, but Hank couldn’t find time for the widow and children of Walter Martin. He referred us to his staff.
I contacted Rev. LaHaye recently about Hank’s literary attacks, and was impressed by his kindness. He didn’t rant or attack Hank in any way; he didn’t say all the things it would have been so easy to say. Instead, he addressed a difficult situation with humility and grace. After my personal experiences with both Hank Hanegraaff and Tim LaHaye, I cannot help but see a stark contrast in character; two men with two very different responses.
Someday, there will be Divine justice; God does see and He will deal with all of us. He will deal with Hank Hanegraaff, a plagiarist who has tried to wear the shoes of the Original Bible Answer Man and failed miserably because they will never fit him.
I believe in accountability, in fighting for the truth, and in Divine justice. The Church must not be afraid to question its leaders and hold their lives up to God’s gold standard. I challenge Hank Hanegraaff publicly and personally to Christian arbitration. Answer your brothers and sisters in Christ, Hank. Please respond to the multiple charges against you or step down from the Bible Answer Man platform.
There will be justice one day, I know, and I find peace in God’s promise and a joy in knowing that no matter how difficult the circumstance, all things work together for good.