Mar 3, 2009

Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century - A Review

A few weeks ago I signed up to be a Book Review Blogger with Thomas Nelson publishers. The first book I choose to review was Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff. Hanegraaff is the president of the Christian Research Institute and known as the “Bible Answer Man” because of his radio show in which he fields questions about cults and cultic groups. Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century is the author’s response to the popularity and subsequent dangers of the Word/Faith movement that has infiltrated the American church. He does a good job of not only showing the cultic nature of this dangerous movement, but also helping the reader understand that not all Charismatic branches of Christianity espouse this dangerous doctrinal poison.

The Word/Faith movement is not a new one. Hanegraaff shows how its seeds have been sown for over a century now. He also does a good job of showing how the ever-changing cast of characters have developed from its beginning with E.W. Kenyon and Kenneth Hagin to more current proliferators like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and T.D. Jakes. The movement lacks denominational structure and its teachers have differing emphases and dangers in their teachings. Hanegraaff shows, however, that most all of them have some consistent heresies in their doctrine and teaching. The author’s main points of dissention are that the movement redefines faith as a metaphysical force by which the believer can require and demand from God; a reduction of the deity of God and Jesus and a subsequent deification of man a sovereign over the earth; a redefining of the atonement of Christ in which Christ’s redemption is not won on the cross but in an encounter in hell; and a dangerous teaching that believers should never be sick or in want because of the force of their faith.

Hanegraaff’s book is well-written and well thought out. It exposes a very dangerous branch of the American church that very few in today’s society have had the courage to confront. The movement’s lack of structure and the vast bank of resources by its proponents have given it a strong foothold in the culture. Hanegraaff’s writing shows a well-crafted researcher who has spent many years studying the false teachers of the Word/Faith movement. The author has employed over 1100 footnotes and quotes directly from these false teachers, exposing the reader in a large scale manner to the depth of deception and deviation from the truth that characterize the movement. However, the author does not just expose false teaching, but shows sound theology by giving the reader firm answers to the deceptive teaching.

In addition to the solid research and sound theology, the author makes use of acronyms to present the material to the reader. While seeming a little cheesy at first, the use of these acronyms provides the reader with memorable handles to recall the dangers of the Word/Faith heresy. This helps boil down the information into memorable handles that will go beyond the reading of the book.

Overall, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century is a much-needed and timely alarm to the church today. In a time when present day books for church leaders mostly focus on missional renaissance and leadership techniques, and rightly so, Hank Hanegraaff has given those same leaders a sound call for doctrinal purity. Whether they realize it or not, all church leaders are battling every day with the subtle decay of sound doctrine and proliferation of man-centered, greed-filled teachings of the Word/Faith leaders. To overlook this decay leads to a silent endorsement of its teachings and quiet approval of its results. Pastors, read this book.