Review of Cindee Martin Morgan's "The Bible Answer Man: Walter Martin and Hank Hanegraaff"
I loved this book! Cindee has brought back so many wonderful memories of her dad, Walter Martin. It is a refreshing work that calls for Christian unity with all our Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant brethren! I get so tired of members in each of these denominations going against the counsel of Martin when he said for us not to major in the minors.This is a main theme in the book. They all hold to the same Creator of all, Triune God, who graciously came in the person of Jesus to do that which we couldn’t do for ourselves, namely cancel the debt of sin, and then rise from the dead. When that is truly believed, the Spirit of God begins radically transforming one’s life. That is Christianity. That is the gospel or the Good News in its essence.
The primary fight I see going on among the members of these groups is the role of works in the Christian life. N.B.: it’s a sanctification or, better, an eternal security issue; it’s not an issue of the gospel or what initially gets one into the kingdom of the saved. Every church declares, for example, that if you’re sleeping with your dad’s wife and refuse to repent, then you aren’t saved (cf. 1 Cor. 5). Does that entail that works are necessary for salvation? This is where clear delineation is critical, and sadly, it is lost by many who are too lazy and comfortable with their own traditional categories. Prior to the Reformation, basically everyone in the 1,500 year history of the Church would say that your lack of work here in indulging in the flesh (cf. Gal. 5) nullifies any salvation you may have had. Salvation for them simply isn’t a once and for all event. People have been saved, are being saved, and will one day be saved. Post Reformation, many--not most--would claim that your lack of work here merely illustrates you never had salvation to begin with, since those who truly are saved do in fact repent of their sins. Regardless and again, the same true gospel is held by both sides. It truly is unfortunate that the Church 1) continues to confuse the minors with the majors and 2) castigates the other side with caricatures. The latter has to do with many of the pre-Reformationists accusing the post-Reformationists of being antinomians whereas many of the post-Reformationists accusing the former of being legalists. For more on this, see my blog "Is Catholicism a False Gospel Like Mormonism?" as well as Colson and Neuhaus’s, eds., Evangelicals & Catholics Together (Dallas: Word, 1995).
Cindee’s interview with Hanegraaff at the end of the book touches on how someone like Hanegraaff, who has converted to Greek Orthodoxy, sees the role of works. He clearly articulates the view I have set forth and underscores what is really important, viz., mere Christianity.
Another interesting piece of this book is Cindee’s take on the controversy that ensued after Martin’s death and Hanegraaff’s installment as CRI’s subsequent president. I have heard of this controversy for years and purposely didn’t care about it… until I read the book. Those interested in what happened owe it to themselves to get Cindee’s take. Given the evidence presented, as well as learning from Cindee in a Facebook message that the whole board voted Hanegraaff into his position, the matter seems incontrovertible. Their vote is the only thing that should matter.
There is also the related matter of Cindee being sued by her own family members, which I found to be very interesting. Given that CRI has the exclusive right to do with their material as they see fit, the lawsuit against Cindee and CRI seems frivolous.
I urge everyone to pick this book up and read it! I have been shaped by both Martin and Hanegraaff. I used to attend Martin's Sunday school class at Newport Mesa and was Hanegraaff's first intern at CRI. (I must say that I was really disappointed not to intern under Martin though.) These men have devoted their lives to carefully examining what the core of Christianity is and they have warned others of those who deviate from it. The Church today needs to humble themselves, stop pridefully assuming there is only their way to look at the ultimate authority of scripture, learn from these other great authorities (Martin and Hanegraaff), and stop the self-inflicted irrelevance of the Faith once for all delivered to the saints. There are more clear-cut enemies of the Faith that require our joint efforts in converting. That is not to minimize the converting of all unbelieving individuals within all these traditions of the Christian Faith, and Cindee does a job good at pointing that out.
R. M. Sivulka
President, Courageous Christians United
May 14, 2020
Update July 7, 2021:
|Marshall Almarode says... ()|
|"Rob ignores the fact that just like Mormonism, Rome has more Sources of authority than the Bible. Mormonism has the BOM, D&C and the Pearl of Great Price along with a Prophet who is an equal in position to the Pope (ruler). These other sources of truth cause added "Inspiration" which is always a different gospel. The priest who is Jesus (in Persona Cristi) dispenses GRACE through the confessional and penance and forgiveness is given through Absolution. . None of this is the biblical gospel. A false gospel.
Marshall Almarode" (9/3/20)
|Rob Sivulka says... ()|
|"I ignored that fact, since it has nothing inherently to do with the gospel. We all have various sources of authority and truth--parents, teachers, pastors, mayors, police, governors, etc. If inspirational sources are “always a different gospel,” then you have just ruled out most Christians who believe in continuing revelation today. They don’t offer a different gospel, so your claim of it “always [being] a different gospel” is patently false. Only if you pervert the gospel and add to it that it entails there must be no other inspirational sources of authority or truth does Rome turn out to have a different gospel. I don’t see in the concise definition of the gospel found in 1 Cor. 15:3-4 a statement that rules out having other inspirational sources of authority or truth. In fact, if it did, then all the other scriptures that came after this statement would be indications of a different gospel. Again, this is a fine example of majoring on the minors." (9/3/20)|
|MARSHALL E ALMARODE says... ()|
|"Hi Rob, Our Source of truth must match one thing. The Bible. You implied this when you said, "Only if you pervert the gospel and add to it that it entails there must be no other inspirational sources of authority..." You have to hear the true gospel from some source. The Bible is the original source. All other "Lesser"sources of truth are judged to be "True" or false when they agree or disagree as you have mentioned, "continuing revelation".... "Most of them don’t offer a different gospel..." Titus 1:9 clearly states, "Hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it HAS BEEN TAUGHT so that you can encourage others by sound doctrine and REFUTE those who oppose IT." Jude 3 states, "Earnestly Contend for the faith which was once and for all given to the saints." Both of these verses clearly state that the Gospel has been given in the past and therefore all "continuing revelation" must conform to the original gospel "as it has been taught." I disagree with your final sentence, "Again, this is a fine example of majoring on the minors." Our Source of truth teaches us two major things, 1) The Identity of God (which includes what He has said and done) and 2) How we get to Heaven." These two are NOT MINORS. These are the two most major of the majors. Marshall Almarode" (9/26/20)|
|Rob Sivulka says... ()|
|"Hi again Marshall,
This is certainly much better. So long as we are talking about the gospel, I agree with it. We find the gospel in the Bible and anything that contradicts that gospel found in the Bible is another gospel.
However, what you said still needs a little further clarification since the Bible isn't our source of.truth for just anything. Truth was prior to the Bible, since Jesus was the Truth from eternity. As a result, there are all sorts of truths out there that are not found in the Bible.... and the Bible affirms this (e.g., Ps. 19, Proverbs, and Rom. 1). So all I am trying to get you to see is that if you take issue with that and deny natural revelation from creation which is prior to and in addition to the Bible or personal revelational truth claims that are outside of the Bible, then you are indeed majoring in the minors, since this isn't a salvation issue and most Christians hold that there is truth to be found outside the Bible. However, I now see that you really aren't talking about that; you are simply referring to the gospel and with that I am in full agreement.
So the issue isn't whether one has additional sources of authority. The issue is whether those sources of authority are contradictory to or in agreement to the Bible with supplemental information on matters of truth.
Given what you stated about the priest dispensing grace, I and most other Protestant theologians find that to be in no way contradictory with the Christian gospel. I find it to be supplemental and it may or may not be true. If the latter, it doesn't effect the fact that the Catholic Church has always taught the essential true gospel that I stated in the first paragraph of my blog." (9/27/20)