Popular Christian author and radio host Hank Hanegraaff (aka “Bible Answer Man”) made headlines in April when he announced that he and his wife were joining the Greek Orthodox Church. On Palm Sunday, the 67-year-old former Protestant officially entered St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. While the decision stunned many of his longtime followers and led to nearly half of the Christian radio stations that carried his show to drop him, Hanegraaff has fully embraced the criticism and questions—opening up about his own faith journey.
In a new interview Charlotte public radio station WFAE, Hanegraaff admitted he wasn’t totally prepared for what was to come in the aftermath of his announcement.
“April 10th I came into the office and there were news agencies from all around the world that wanted to talk to me,” he said. “A picture had gone out over the internet. There were postings that said Hank Hanegraaff had walked away from the Christian faith – the fallout was dramatic.”
It didn’t take long for him to lose radio stations, with some citing the “antithetical” positions of the Orthodox faith, but Hanegraaff, who is undergoing treatment for a blood cancer known as Mantle Cell Lymphoma, refuses to worry about the backlash.
“That’s not of concern to me,” he said of the lost partners. “I’ve seen over the years that God closes one door and he opens other doors. For example, we’re now on the Orthodox Christian Network. For me this is not a popularity contest or the size of the platform; it is simply doing what God leads me to do. Let the chips fall where they may.”
With that in mind, Hanegraaff candidly shared what prompted his move away from Protestantism. Born in the Netherlands and raised in the reformed Protestant tradition, he “walked away” from his faith in his teens and twenties, before finding a home in the evangelical Protestant community. In the interview, Hanegraaff described how the growing entrepreneurial tactics of pastors, which he refers to as the “pastor-preneur” style of leadership, has made him increasingly uncomfortable.
“Where the pastor is like an entrepreneur, branding, formulaically getting people into seats-that became troubling to me and I decided I was going to explore,” he said.
Having attended Eastern Orthodox services while traveling around the globe, Hanegraaff realized there was a Greek Orthodox church not far from him and decided to pay a visit. He thought his trips would be an “experiment for a few weeks,” but it ultimately “has turned into being chrismated.”
Hanegraaff understands that some people may find his decision difficult to understand—with many even questioning whether or not he has “left the Christian faith”—but he explained in Holy Week post for the Christian Reattach Institute that while his church has changed, his theology “by and large” has not.
“While there are many secondary issues genuine believers will continue to debate this side of eternity,” he wrote, “I have and will always champion what C.S. Lewis called mere Christianity: ‘In essentials unity, non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.’”
H/T: Relevant Magazine