“While there are many secondary issues genuine believers will continue to debate this side of eternity, I have and will always champion what C.S. Lewis called mere Christianity. ‘In essentials unity, non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.'” Hank Hanegraaff
Hank Hanegraaff recently joined the Greek Orthodox Church. His change of congregation has caused a great gasp in some corners of evangelical Christianity. A voice of evangelicalism through a syndicated apologetics radio program, Hanegraaff and his wife on Palm Sunday were accepted into the Greek Orthodox Church.
He’s walked away from Christianity! He’s gone from grace to works! That’s the view many have of anyone who moves from evangelicalism to a liturgical tradition–especially to Catholicism or Orthodoxy.
But lately, many have changed pews, some, like Hanegraaf, moving from evangelical to liturgical and others from liturgical traditions to under the steeples of evangelicalism.
My two favorite authors illustrate this point. Eric Metaxas came to evangelical Christianity from Greek Orthodoxy. And Rod Dreher came to Eastern Orthodoxy from Methodism.
Now Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, has followed Dreher’s route–to Orthodoxy. And some are horrified.
But we shouldn’t be. Evangelicals follow the God who is the Way. We are not the way. Christ is the way and Orthodoxy embraces Christ.
Orthodox Christians find their way into relationship with Jesus Christ. From Dreher:
“In Orthodox Christianity, the personal relationship with God is everything, but it is not conceived in terms of Jesus being your buddy, which is what a lot of us hear (fairly or not) in the phrase “personal relationship with Christ.” Rather, in more philosophical terms, it is about entering into a radically subjective relationship with the living God — something that has been central to Christianity since the beginning.”
It’s that radically subjective relationship that connects us to Christ. It acknowledges our need for His saving work on the cross to forgive us for our sins. It acknowledges our commitment to live for him all our days.
Just as liturgical believers often “hear” (as Dreher admits) the notion that evangelicals see Christ as a “buddy”, many evangelicals “hear” a false gospel of works when they think of liturgical believers. And so often what we “hear” is a distortion of each other’s faith.
Hanegraaff is trying to help us hear each other more clearly.
“I thank God daily that I am a new creation in Christ. For by grace I have been saved through faith, and that not of myself; it is the gift of God, not of works lest I should boast. ‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them’ (see Ephesians 2:8–10).”
Hanegraaff is walking in grace–not trying to work his way to heaven.
In Mere Christianity, Lewis presents faith in Christ as a hallway with different doorways. The hallway is common to all believers. The doorways lead to different denominations.
The denominations in the hallway are faithful to orthodox doctrines–doctrines not exclusive to any one Christian tradition–the Trinity, the virgin birth, Christ’s sinlessness, our sinfulness and need, Christ’s sacrificial death and bodily resurrection, His future return, and the present ministry of the Holy Spirit.
There are wheat and tares–true believers and pretenders–in every congregation. But my congregation is not comprised only of the truly faithful. And liturgical churches do not contain only the deceived.
This is a time of great challenge for Christ’s Church. The community of His true followers must recognize each other for us to effectively navigate unsettled seas ahead, different doors that represent one way to the hallway of Heaven.
Instead of slamming ourselves behind a locked door, may we enter the hallway and celebrate Hanegraaff’s walk of faith.