January 25, 2005

Hanegraaff Claims Contributions Mis-Delivered

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 8:58 pm

Here is an article from the Left Angeles Times (a childish epithet from Hugh Hewitt that I’ve decided to embrace.) I came by this article thanks to Christianity Today.

It seems that donations to the Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraaff have been dropping off lately, which Hanegraff blames on mis-delivered, and subsequently destroyed, mail. He says the post office apologized, and has fixed the problem, except that the post office knows nothing of this error. The unintended recipient of the mail denies that any was thrown away, but Hanegraaff has accused him of destroying US mail, a federal offense. Meanwhile, Bill Alnor, a journalism professor at Texas A&M, has accused Hanegraff of mail fraud, since Hanegraaff sent a fund-raising letter to his supporters saying that this problem has caused him to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions.

Hanegraaff, who holds pastors and churches accountable for teaching “Bible-based Christianity”, was paid $280,000 and his wife was paid $111,000 in 2002. In 2003, the Christian Research Institute (Hanegraff’s organization) reimbursed contributions to donors after the Evangelical Council for Fiscal Accountability found them out of compliance with their standards. Among problem expenditures: CRI bought a $66,000 Lexus for Hanegraaff while laying off employees and asking for donations to prevent cutting back its ministries. Several employees that spoke out about financial misappropriations were fired, one for “tardiness”.

Now at this point in the post, I was going to unleash the righteous indignation, call Hanegraaff a hypocrite and a Pharisee, dismiss him as a fraud, explain how we progressive Christians are “real” Christians and thank God that I am not like those other “sinners”. But, I can’t do it. It would be too simplistic, and I would be falling into the same trap that Hanegraaff has fallen into.

Hanegraaff has put a lot of effort into interpreting what the Bible says. I don’t believe he is just a fraud along the lines of Steve Martin’s character in “Leap of Faith“. I accept his sincerity of belief. Instead of demonizing him, I see him as a cautionary tale for all of us.

I don’t know the man, haven’t listened to his broadcasts nor read his writings extensively, but it appears to me that for Hanegraaff, Christianity is an intellectual exercise of “right belief”. He is, after all, the Bible Answer Man, devoted to making sure we believe the right things about what the Bible says.

It seems Hanegraaff doesn’t connect the intellectual “right belief” with the call to “right action”. He doesn’t relate his intellectual pursuit of Biblical truth with its implications for his behavior in his day-to-day life. He sees nothing wrong with presenting the true meaning of God’s Word while driving a $66,000 Lexus paid for by donations to his ministry.

We mainline Protestants don’t like to think too much about the “Cost of Discipleship“, as Bonhoeffer put it. We prefer to keep our religion safely in the intellectual realm, where we can debate poverty, abortion, homosexuality or racism among fellow affluent straight white males. Instead of caricaturing Hanegraaff as a morally corrupt Christian, I think we should see in him a reminder of our call to follow Jesus in our daily life, not just in blog debates about our beliefs.


  1. thanks so much for your post. i have never been a fan of hanegraaffs and even less of a fan of john acarthurs. thanks for the intellectual discussion on this apparent corruption.

    Comment by kyle watson — January 27, 2005 @ 11:02 am

  2. As a clergy person in a mainline Protestant denomination, I too am dependent upon the
    contributions of others for a salary. The difference is that in a denominational church, the
    church establishes guidelines for the appropriate receiving and disbursement of funds. I cannot
    hire my wife, set my salary, or oversee the dispursement of funds. Committees of the congregation
    do this so there is a clear separation of pastoral ministry and financial responsibility. And once a year the
    record of disbursments and plan for future spending (budget) presented to and approved by the
    entire congregation. The point of all this is accountability: elected leaders hold the pastor
    accountable and the congregation holds the elected leaders accountable.

    What’s missing from TV/radio ministries is accountability. If I appoint myself as the CFO and
    my wife as the President of the Board, which is made up of friends and relatives, that is hardly a
    layer of accountability.

    It has been shown that contributors to TV/radio ministries are not people with excess income but
    persons who are on a limited fixed income. I cringe at the thought that some person in Oklahoma
    goes without a prescription med or fresh meat because she gave the money so someone could drive
    around in a $66k Lexus. A number of years ago, a member of my congregation came to me with a letter
    she had received from Oral Robers, personally signed! The letter says: “I know that you are an elderly
    lady in fragile health. God has told me that this next year will be very difficult for you, and
    you are in danger of many health problems. However, if you send me $71.69, I will pray for you
    that you may prosper and be in good health.” The woman who received the letter was frightened and
    came to ask me if it were true and if she should send the money. I think such financial appeals
    amount to nothing more than spiritual blackmail. I read the letter in a sermon and after church a woman said to me: “I wish you wouldn’t say bad things about other religions.”

    So what can we do to protect people from religious predators?

    Comment by Tony — January 27, 2005 @ 1:28 pm

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