"Christian" Research Institute?

Ecumenism, Charismaticism & Psychoheresy

       The Christian Research Institute (CRI) was founded by the late Walter Martin. Hank Hanegraaff is now CRI's president, assuming that post after Martin's death in 1989. Hanegraaff is a Chuck Smith/Calvary Chapel ordained pastor, which allows him considerable ministerial tax breaks. (This could also explain why the questionable doctrines of the Calvary Chapel movement are never questioned by CRI.) Reportedly, Martin picked Hanegraaff as CRI president because Hanegraaff brought his now defunct "Memory Dynamics" techniques to the field of apologetics.

CRI's stated purpose is to focus on aberrant religious groups (especially the "cults"), current theological disputes, and Christian education. CRI has a tremendous influence across North America through its nationwide Bible Answerman radio program and its broad range of literature, the most noteworthy being the quarterly Christian Research Journal (CRJ). In our opinion, however, whatever good work CRI has done or is doing, has been overshadowed by its accommodation with Roman Catholicism, its compromise with Charismaticism, and its support of psychological integration.

CRI has always maintained an aura of intellectual arrogance, but that seemed to peak near the end of the reign of Walter Martin. Martin was a Pentecostal. He taught Comparative Religions at the Melodyland School of Theology (charismatic) in Anaheim, California, and was perhaps most famous for his 1965 book, Kingdom of the Cults, which was a perennial best seller with 24 printings.

Amazingly though, throughout Martin's many years of teaching and writing, never did he print material or speak specifically to expose Roman Catholicism as the foremost of all the cults in America. To the contrary, his CRJ continues to attack the so-called "heroes of the Reformation," approves the papal system, and defends it as a Christian church. Because of the tremendous influence upon evangelicals around the world, Dr. Martin and CRI must bear major responsibility for today's wall of neutrality, tolerance, and silence that surrounds the exposure of Romanism as a cult. (CRI also treats Seventh-day Adventism as evangelical rather than as apostasy. Martin claimed that the SDA gospel is sound, whereas, in reality, it is a demonic mixture of law and grace. Martin also believed that abortion was okay in cases of rape, and that it was all right for someone to be hypnotized as long as a "Christian" was doing the hypnotizing.)

Ecumenism with Rome

By 1993, CRI moved openly into the ecumenical camp. This was stated in a book entitled The Cult of the Virgin. Sponsored by CRI through its editors Elliot Miller and Ken Samples, the book contains an appendix by a Jesuit priest named Mitchell Pacwa, giving the Vatican version of the apparitions of the "Mother Mary." Miller and Samples present Pacwa as a "Scripture scholar" and a "Bible-believing Catholic" with whom they have "positive fellowship in Christ and cooperative efforts in the common cause of Christ's kingdom." The book states: "The underlying purpose of this book is ultimately ecumenical rather than anti-ecumenical" (p. 161).

Dr. Martin was a close friend of Pacwa, a known apologist and defender of his Roman church. Pacwa wrote for the CRJ and spoke on Dr. Martin's Bible Answerman program. Ironically, Walter Martin once debated Pacwa--the same man now allied with CRI's new leadership--on TV's The John Ankerberg Show. On that program, Martin stoutly defended Protestantism and stated that Pacwa's heretical teachings are "a denial of justification by faith." (The CRJ's Fall 1992 issue published an article by this same Jesuit priest. Perhaps "C.R.I." now stands for the "Catholic Resource Institute"?)

The Cult of the Virgin offers an historical background to the Roman Catholic church's veneration of Mary. However, the authors tend to understate the full degree to which devotion to Mary exists in Catholicism, leaving the impression that devotion to Mary is almost exclusively confined to an aberrant sect within Romanism. (Mary's role is extremely important to virtually all Catholics. Pope John Paul II has repeatedly emphasized the need for strong devotion to Mary--a fact which CRI's authors failed to state.) The authors conclude that "many anti-Catholics have overstated the influence of paganism on the church."

They also believe that, with the exception of Mary's divine maternity (as the "mother of God"), none of the doctrines of Mary are heretical even though they are not Biblical. To the contrary, every one of them is heretical simply because they ascribe to Mary a status above all other humans (e.g., the Immaculate Conception). For Roman Catholicism to say that one human is exempt is to deny the full efficacy of Christ's atonement--His blood does not cover Mary because she didn't need His blood shed on her account. What is more heretical than that? In the spirit of ecumenism, the authors tend to downplay the heretical nature of Mariology.

A lengthy article in four parts began to appear in the Winter 1993 issue of the CRJ entitled, "What Think Ye of Rome--an Evangelical Appraisal of Contemporary Catholicism." In this series, the CRJ strongly opposes calling the papal church a cult. It instead states, "Catholicism affirms most of what the cults deny and possesses an orthodox foundation which all cult groups lack."

A Vatican ecumenist could not have improved on the image of Popery created by this CRJ series. The Winter 1993 (Part One) issue states, "From the fourth century to the present, Roman Catholic thought has had a momentous influence ... The Church has wielded great power over the centuries, often spreading enlightenment and benevolence among humanity." The Winter 1993 CRJ's lengthy presentation of Popery was a flow of half truths, distortion, falsehood, and deceit, all staged with the obvious purpose of altering the accusing facts of history.

Is Catholicism a Cult?

CRI director Hank Hanegraaff's book, Christianity In Crisis (Harvest House:1993), offers some excellent insights into the charismatic word-faith mentality. Hanegraaff traces the roots of the word-faith movement to New Thought and science-of-mind religious philosophy. Hanegraaff goes so far as to call the word-faith movement a cult in its own right.

Defining a cult from a theological perspective, he states that a "pseudo-Christian" group like the word-faith movement, would claim to be Christian but deny one or more of the essential doctrines of historic Christianity. These doctrines focus on such matters as the meaning of faith, the nature of God, and the person and work of Jesus Christ. He quotes Denver Seminary professor Gordon Lewis as saying, "A cult, then, is any religious movement which claims the backing of Christ or the Bible, but distorts the central message of Christianity by (1) an additional revelation, and (2) by displacing a fundamental tenet of the faith with a secondary matter."

If Hank would only take a lesson from his own book, he'd recognize that he has described all the elements that make the Roman Catholic Church a cult. And while the word-faith teachers erroneously claim that man is a god, the Roman church goes even further by claiming that a piece of bread becomes God through the priests' incantations! Moreover, that piece of bread must be worshipped as God! Perhaps, if CRI keeps trying, it will eventually reveal to itself its own blind spot.

On August 12, 1993, Hank Hanegraaff boldly stated, "We believe that Roman Catholicism is foundationally Christian." The Bible Answerman program that day had been devoted to the defense of Catholicism. Whether Catholicism is or is not a cult is not the main issue, but its false gospel. Yet, CRI spends a large part of its time trying to prove that Catholicism is not a cult. CRI needs to state clearly that Rome's counterfeit gospel is sending hundreds of millions to hell. Instead, CRI has defended Catholicism on radio and in its CRJ, while its "criticism" has been so vague as to leave one wondering what was meant.

Defending Catholicism

For example, on one Bible Answerman program, Catholic apologist Scott Hahn was given free rein to promote Catholicism, defend his conversion to it, and to defend it from callers' objections without any rebuttal from CRI to his false statements! The average listener would have had to conclude that Roman Catholicism is merely another denomination (10/93 Berean Call).

And this is exactly how it is perceived. In a February 1994 letter-to-the-editor of the Catholic Answers magazine, This Rock, a writer credits CRI for being instrumental in bringing him to the Roman Catholic Church; i.e., he thanks CRI for opening his eyes "to the truths of Catholicism," and for showing him that Catholicism "held firmly to all the essentials of the historic Christian faith."

If anyone doubts that Hank Hanegraaff continues to be pro-Roman Catholic, one only need read Hanegraaff's June 7, 1995 fund-raising appeal letter and the pro-Catholic book offered therein--Hanegraaff offers for a gift of $25, the book Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, by Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie. (Geisler and MacKenzie believe that a "cooperative effort between Roman Catholics and evangelicals could be the greatest social force for good in America" [p. 357].)

Hanegraaff calls Roman Catholics and Evangelicals "must reading" for "thinking Christians who are concerned, not only about sound theology, but also about the future of our nation." He goes on to proclaim that any obstacles (such as doctrine?) between Protestants and Catholics should not stand in the way of cooperation in areas where we share mutual interests and concerns. This is the same compromising spirit expressed by the Evangelical & Catholics Together (ECT) document authored by Charles Colson in March of 1994.

CRI's strong move toward ecumenism has led them to refuse to recognize Roman Catholicism for what it is--a cult at best and a false religion at worst. Hanegraaff, et al., continue to insist that Catholicism is a Christian religion with merely some teachings that they cannot agree with. In the process, CRI denigrates those who insist on not pandering to the Vatican's ecumenical designs. CRI positions itself as the last word in apologetics and knowledge of theological issues. Their rallying cry is for adherence to orthodoxy rather than Biblicism; indeed, they would consider Roman Catholicism an orthodox faith.

But orthodoxy is not Biblicism. It is largely based on religious tradition, and is, therefore, often found wanting. Orthodoxy is predicated upon the canons of whatever religious authority happens to interpret Scripture; it is not based upon Scripture directly. CRI wants us to believe that Roman Catholicism is a pussy-cat we can snuggle up to and join paws with for the Reconstructionist agenda of restructuring society.

Further evidence of CRI's efforts to establish the belief among Protestants that Roman Catholicism is orthodox, is a series of Bible Answerman broadcasts in early-1996--Hanegraaff made statements that (1) the Roman Catholic Church was the only Christian church in existence prior to the Reformation, and, therefore, if it went into apostasy, then Christ's promise failed (that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church), and (2) it is ludicrous to identify the Roman Catholic Church as the whore of Babylon in Revelation 17. (Source: FBIS, 5/22/96.)


Despite Hanegraaff's 1993 anti-charismatic book, Christianity in Crisis, CRI is not to be trusted when dealing with the charismatics either. In an interview printed in the May 1993 Charisma magazine, Hanegraaff admitted that he himself is a charismatic and that more than half of the CRI staff are charismatics as well! He said, "Spiritual gifts are not an issue at CRI. We have never made a single anti-charismatic statement on our show."

This is a serious problem, because the danger of the charismatic movement is found in its very foundational doctrines, not just the extremism of the movement. The charismatic understanding of Spirit baptism, second blessing, healing, miracles, extra-biblical revelation, sign gifts, apostolic succession, kingdom power, and "holding out faithful" is the foundation upon which the movement is built. To warn of charismatic extremes without warning of these issues is like warning of Purgatory in Romanism without mentioning the Mass. (Source: O Timothy, Vol. 10, Iss. 10, 1993.)

This same charismatic sympathizing is evident in another so-called "anti-charismatic" book by Hanegraaff--Counterfeit Revival (1997). A couple of the "concessions" Hanegraaff makes to the "pentecostals-charismatics": (1) "we must never divide" over "tongues" (p. 157); and (2) "Healing is provided for in the atonement" (p. 159). Number (1) shows an incredible ignorance of the false doctrine inherent in the tongues movement. Concerning statement number (2), the "healing" provided for in the Atonement has absolutely nothing to do with modern "healing" practiced by the false prophets in the "miraculous healing" business. (The "healing" of the Atonement has to do with redemption from the spiritual consequences of the fall of man, and the "body" part of that "healing" will not transpire until the Resurrection. The idea that "healing is provided for in the atonement" in relation to bodily illnesses is one of the "cornerstone" theological errors of the "tongues" movement.) Hanegraaff's recording in Counterfeit Revival of many of the lying "wonders" of these false prophets makes for some interesting and curious reading, but the above two "concessions" in the doctrinal category fatally weaken the theological structure of the book. (Source: 8/18/97, Pilgrim Publications:Bob Ross.)

In December of 1997, Hanegraaff made a trip to the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida, the southern home of the charismatic "Laughing Revival" (the northern home being the Toronto Vineyard), to "dialogue" with his charismatic brothers--the same "brothers" he criticized in Counterfeit Revival for their heresies! Hanegraaff attended a revival meeting and even addressed 500 of the revival school's students, receiving a standing ovation before beginning his message. (Would 2 John 9-11 have any applicability here? Isn't it wonderful how "Christians" can have sweet fellowship with error--all that's necessary is that we utter the magical words of Hanegraaff--"We are going to spend eternity together as brothers"!) To Hanegraaff's credit, there is no record of him taking part in the laughter, dog barking, floor crawling, or spirit shaking common in these revivals.


Dr. John H. Coe is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University. He has written a paper titled "Educating the Church for Wisdom's Sake or Why Biblical Counseling is Unbiblical." The paper claims that believers have a mandate to look beyond Scripture for the wisdom and truth necessary for righteous and successful living (cf. 2 Pe. 1:3)! Of course, we expect a psychological/psychotherapeutic view of Scripture from a professor at the psychoheretical Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology, but CRI evidently also agrees with Coe! In reply to a personal letter from a CRJ reader, CRI said, "Dr. Coe has written an excellent article defending Christian psychology against the Bobgan's claims." (Reported in Bob Ross's 1/94 BBH.)

CRI's psychological leanings had not been well known until 1995 when CRI's quarterly Christian Research Journal published a four-part series of articles by psychologizers Bob and Gretchen Passantino titled "Psychology & the Church" (see each 1995 issue of the CRJ). When people contact CRI to ask about the CRI position on psychology, they are referred to the Passantinos' series on "Psychology & the Church." While warning that so-called Christian psychology isn't perfect, the Passantinos promote it and deny the sufficiency of the Bible. In their final article, the Passantinos erroneously contend that 1 Peter 1:3 pertains only to salvation (eternal life) and not sanctification (earthly life), thereby claiming that psychology offers some value dealing with the latter.

All four articles clearly show that both CRI and the Passantinos have fallen for the "All Truth is God's Truth" fallacy (see BDM's tract). In contrast to the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 2:12), the Passantinos consider at least some of "the words which man's wisdom teacheth" to be an essential supplement to the truth of God's Word. [The Bobgans have written a book critiquing these four articles--CRI (Christian Research Institute) Guilty of Psychoheresy? (EastGate Publishers:1998; 149pp.). It exposes the logical fallacies and illogical reasoning used to establish the Passantinos' (and CRI's) predilections for psychology.]

Support for Promise Keepers

The quintessential ecumenical/charismatic/psychoheretical organization, Promise Keepers, is regarded quite favorably by CRI. Promise Keepers' roots are Catholic and charismatic to the core. PK's contradictory stand on homosexuality; its promotion of secular psychology; its unscriptural feminizing of men; its depiction of Jesus as a "phallic messiah" tempted to perform homosexual acts; and its ecumenical and unbiblical teachings should dissuade any true Christian from participating. Promise Keepers is proving to be one of the most ungodly and misleading movements in the annals of Christian history.

In an official personal response letter dated July 26, 1994, dealing with a writer's concern with Promise Keepers, CRI answered:

"... the ministry and goals of Promise Keepers are generally in line with the Bible and are in agreement with the essentials of the Christian faith. Some CRI staff members attended the recent [5/94] convention in Anaheim and thoroughly enjoyed it. [Did they enjoy Jack Hayford's rendition of 'God wants to touch you in your private parts'?] ... there needs to be an allowance for disagreement regarding non-essential issues. One area where there is room for disagreement among Christians is psychology. [So, now there's room for toleration of false doctrine coming from a false religious system?] ... the authors of these articles [TBC's & BDM's Promise Keepers materials] go to the other extreme by categorically speaking out against many sound Bible teachers and Christian leaders simply because they have a trace of psychology in their teachings. [Swindoll, Smalley, Crabb, et al., have a 'trace of psychology' in their teachings? And these men are 'sound Bible teachers'?] ... Whatever your convictions are regarding psychology or Promise Keepers, do not let them become a stumbling block between you and others in your church who hold a different view. [Oh sure, let's not let false doctrine stand in the way of our having sweet fellowship.] "

A year later, CRI's observation of the Promise Keepers movement had not daunted its enthusiasm. In a very favorable article on Promise Keepers in CRI's Fall 1995 Christian Research Journal, CRI derogatorily refers to Promise Keepers "most determined critics" (i.e., the Bobgans, Al Dager, and Dave Hunt) as "a band of Christian heresy watchers, whose methods and conclusions range from just off the mainstream to the fundamentalist fringe" ("The Masculine Journey of Promise Keepers," p. 7).

Hank Hanegraaff was also a speaker at the May 1997 Los Angeles Promise Keepers rally.

[Editor's Note: Roman Catholicism is a cult because it has the major characteristics of one: (1) a false gospel of works and rituals; (2) an allegedly infallible leadership which must be obeyed; (3) the prohibition of its members to interpret the Bible for themselves; (4) the placing of its hierarchy's dogmas and traditions on a par with Scripture; (5) its claim to be the exclusive vehicle of salvation; (6) the cultic claim that members cannot be saved apart from its sacraments; (7) the anathematizing of all who reject its dogmas and traditions; etc.]

"Let No Man Deceive You" (1st John 3:7)

The Last Days will be days of great deception. Prior to the Lord's return, "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2 Tim. 3:13). Second Peter 2:1-3 prophesies of the "false teachers" who would arise within the church to deceive the unwary. Furthermore, the apostle Paul stresses the necessity of being on guard against the wolves in sheep's clothing who would "draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:26-31). The "latter times" for the church, the Bible tells us, will be marked by "seducing spirits," "doctrines of devils," and "signs and lying wonders" (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 2:6-10).

God does not want His children to be deceived by any means, so we must be on guard when Satan's ministers appear as angels of light and ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-15). God has given us His Word to reveal and expose every devilish deception. He has given pastors as undershepherds of the flock to warn and protect the sheep against the wolves in sheep's clothing. We are not to be ignorant of Satan's devices (2 Cor. 2:11), yet multitudes are led astray.

In the name of unity, many are deceived by the ecumenical movement. In the name of the Holy Spirit, many are seduced by the Charismatic movement. In the name of evangelism and missions, many are willing to work with those who preach a false gospel. In the name of supposed scholarship, many are deluded by false translations of the Bible. In the name of church renewal, many substitute psychological manipulation for the working of the Spirit through the Word.

How can we identify deception?--"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). Sincerity is not enough; popular acceptance is not the criteria; even speaking in supposed "tongues" or the performing of "miracles" does not validate what is of God, because the devil and his angels can produce counterfeit signs (1 Jn. 4:1). No, the only safetest of truth is the Word--"the doctrine which ye have learned." God commands us to thus separate from those who espouse error--"mark them" and "avoid them" (Rom. 16:17).

By D. W. COSTELLA (Fundamental Evangelistic Association)

Ye Must Be Born Again!