The Pen

Hank Hanegraaff, Greek Orthodoxy, and Patterns in the Cults

With the recent defection of Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, to the Greek Orthodox religion, an examination of the compatibility of this religion with Biblical Christianity is in order. Unfortunately, such an examination is a difficult task where the Orthodox religion is concerned. According to an article published by the Christian Research Institute (CRI), “Orthodoxy is not a monolithic bloc that shares a unified tradition and church life.” Despite this, a discerning examination of Greek Orthodoxy is not impossible. Using a variety of available sources, it can be concluded that Greek Orthodoxy falls outside the bounds of Biblical Christianity and exhibits patterns common to other sub-Christian cults. The Watchman Fellowship, an evangelical discernment ministry, has identified four patterns which are common to cults. Greek Orthodoxy exhibits three of them.

#1. Adding to the Word of God

The Greek Orthodox religion rejects the idea of Sola Scriptura. According to Orthodox Answers:

“Orthodox Christianity understands Sola Scriptura versus Holy Tradition as a false dichotomy, pitting the Bible against tradition, because the Bible can also be considered part of tradition.”

Clearly, the religion places church tradition on equal footing with the scripture. Thus, when the church makes any extrabiblical claim or demand, it is effectively adding to the Word of God. Furthermore, Orthodoxy recognizes twelve apocryphal books as a part of its biblical canon. The faith appears to exhibit this cult pattern.

#2. Subtracting from the Person of Christ

The Greek Orthodox religion is a trinitarian faith which properly recognizes Jesus Christ as God incarnate (there have been monophysite strains of Orthodoxy but such strains do not appear dominant). The faith does not appear to exhibit this cult pattern.

#3. Multiplication of Salvation Requirements

Greek Orthodoxy does not adhere to the biblical notion that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone. According to

“The Greek Orthodox Church claims that salvation is by faith in Christ. However, they differ from the evangelical concept of faith by adding, ‘Orthodox Christians throughout their lives receive salvation and renewal through faith, works, and the sacraments of the Church….According to St. Paul, not only loving deeds but also the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are decisive to salvation’”

The faith appears to exhibit this cult pattern.

#4. Dividing the Loyalty of the Follower

According to the Watchman Fellowship:

“The fourth and final pattern found in the cults is the practice of dividing the loyalty of the follower between God and an organization or individual. Whereas the cult will convince its followers that they are an organization wholly devoted to God, the follower is taught to put his trust in the organization instead of God…Over and over again, this deceptive practice is found throughout the cults as the followers are told to put their faith in God alone but then are commanded to place their faith in the cult! The sad thing is that many cultists are so deceived that they don’t see the division and feel they are fully trusting God.”

Within 48 hours of publishing an article critiquing Hanegraaff’s defection, Pulpit & Pen has received several communications from Greek Orthodox adherents claiming that their church is equivalent to the true church of Jesus.

“The Greek Orthodox faith is the Christian Faith. Jesus founded the church. This is that church. Protestants came later when they rejected the Catholic faith. Do your research.” Kim Clewell “The Orthodox Church is the true historic Church and the Protestants are the ones that may or may not be in the church. I’ve converted 28 years ago and I will never give up Orthodoxy. The Orthodox church was the first and only church for the first 1000 years. There weren’t any Protestants for another 600 years. Hank knows the truth.” Ken Schwark “…the Greek Orthodox faith is the one true faith started by Christ and passed down through the apostles. It is the one true church to which my whole life to has been dedicated. I would advise him to please check your historical church facts because saying that the orthodox faith is not Christian is entirely inaccurate.” Addison Foster “You’re are an idiot, you know nothing of Orthodoxy. I suppose you believe that there were no Christians from the death of last apostle and Martin Luther. Maybe you should read some Church history. I like I did before finding the original church.” David Jefferson

The faith appears to exhibit this cult pattern.

A Warning Ignored

In 1998, CRI issued a warning to those “whose search for religious experience is influenced by limited knowledge and the current American hunger for mystical realities.” CRI reminded such people that “Protestant evangelicals who have joined the Orthodox church often display an inadequate understanding of the faith they have embraced….a close look at Orthodoxy can help both the sincere searchers and the Orthodox churches themselves to avoid adding members to a romanticized, idealized church of the Western imagination rather than the real Orthodox churches.”

In 2017, CRI’s own president, Hank Hanegraaff, left truly orthodox (little “o”) Christianity, perhaps in search of this mystical, mythical ideal church.

[Contributed by Seth Dunn]

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant