I was anxious to receive my copy of Hank Hanegraaff's newest book, Has God Spoken?, mostly because I really enjoyed two of his other books, The Prayer of Jesus [an answer to that whole Prayer of Jabez thing, which was nothing more than materialism with a pseudo-spiritual sugarcoating, that Bruce Wilkinson unleashed upon the Church] and Resurrection [which is summarized in Chapter 15 of this book]. I was also a little trepidatious on account of the revelation since the publication of those two books that the Bible Answer Man has a preterist view of eschatology.
Of course, preterism does color his views on future prophecy in this book. In fact, he uses the term "prophetic stars" as a condescending term to refer to folks who promote non-preterist eschatologies like Hal Lindsey and Tim Lahaye [p. 110], a term he also associates with the term "impotent" [p. 111] and likens to astrology. I understand his dislike of date-setting Doomsday prophets like Harold Camping and Jack Van Impe [who thinks the Rapture will occur in 2012 as confirmed by a peculiar Biblical numerology and, well, the Mayan "Doomsday" calendar. p.111], but I think he's throwing out the baby with the bathwater. In order to make room for his preterism, he makes the curious statement that "Scripture is not intended to tell us when Christ will return - but that he will return" [p. 112]. This is eerily reminiscent of the erroneous cop-out that Genesis is not intended to tell us how or when God created, but that He created. And the problem is that Scripture does give us signs to look for which shall precede the end of things, but of course also warns us against date-setting.
In any case, I think that a lot of what Hanegraaff writes in Has God Spoken? is sound Biblical exegesis. In the process of showing believers how to defend the veracity of the Bible via his standard method of memorable acrostics, he demonstrates why such critics as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, Paul Ehrman and President Barack Obama (who apparently gets his information about the Bible from viewing the West Wing [Chapter 22]) are just wrong when they attempt to criticize the Bible without truly understanding it in context. Throughout the book, he offers sound evidence from manuscript evidence, archaeology and predictive prophecy to support the Bible's claim of being God's inspired Word.
Unfortunately, the Bible Answer Man ultimately leaves a wedge of doubt in the Biblical foundation he sets out to support.
First, he holds to an extraBiblical "Two Books" approach to revelation [p. 97]. Basically, this is the idea that we can know God through both Nature [natural revelation] and the Bible [supernatural revelation], which is true at face value. The error comes in thinking that Nature and the Bible are equal authorities. Jesus correctly noted that no man can serve two masters [authorities] and in the end he will ultimately prefer one over the other. Hanegraaff forgets that nature requires interpretation and that in modern times it is largely being interpreted by men who are statistically speaking at enmity with God and suppressing the truth in unrighteousness by insisting that science operate by pure naturalism. Since supernatural explanations are precluded from all consideration, science then becomes not a search for truth but a search for all-natural answers, whether true or not [and which are most certainly false where supernatural agency was actually responsible]. The consistent Christian must hold the Bible as a superior revelation to natural revelation and must say, "Let God be true and every man a liar," where the "Two Books" differ in their interpretation. Otherwise, our worldview and our interpretation of the Bible is arbitrary, for we will reinterpret the Bible where it speaks of a young Earth because of uniformitarian interpretations of natural revelation, but will affirm miracles and the Resurrection despite the protests of that same naturalistic science! Worse still, as our ultimate authority is neither naturalistic science nor Biblical revelation, we reduce Biblical interpretation to relativism; that is, we become the ultimate authority since we decide when one authority is true or false when it speaks of Creation, miracles, the Flood, the Resurrection, etc.
Hanegraaff comes close to affirming Stephen Jay Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria, or NOMA: the idea that science and religion operate in separate but equal domains (science dealing with fact, and religion with spiritual and moral matters). It is purest dissemblance. Jesus refuted this concept in John 3:12 when he asked Nicodemus, “If I tell you of earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of spiritual things?” The moral and spiritual claims of Biblical Christianity are intimately tied to its earthly, historical claims (e.g., our Blessed Hope is tied to the historical veracity of the Resurrection). Hanegraaff must know this because he makes the following statement with little modification at least three times in this discourse:
"...miracles are not only possible but necessary in order to make sense of the universe in which we live. According to modern science, the universe not only had a beginning but is unfathomably fine-tuned to support life. Not only so, but the origin of life, information in the genetic code, irreducible complexity in biological systems, and the phenomenon of the human mind pose intractable difficulties for merely natural explanations. Thus, reason forces us to look beyond the natural world to a supernatural Designer who not only sustains the world but intervenes in the affairs of his created handiwork" [p. 97, see also 135 & 288].
At first glance, Hanegraaff’s statement would find acceptance within Biblical [young earth] Creationists circles, for what he states here is true. Furthermore, I cannot imagine a Biblical Creationist disagreeing with Hanegraaff’s observation that:
"If we are willing to believe that God created the heavens and the earth - as opposed to the untenable notion that nothing created everything - there is little difficulty respecting the Flood account" [p. 97].
He seems to be speaking the language, but we need to ask ourselves: How does Hanegraaff believe God created the heavens and the earth? Does he believe that God created the cosmos in 6 literal 24-hour days according to Genesis and Exodus 20:11? In answering that question, he warns that "the language of Scripture is a heavenly condescension so that we might comprehend both the nature and purposes of an infinite God" [p. 216] and then complains that Genesis is "difficult to categorize," being "largely a historical narrative interlaced with symbolism and repetitive poetic structure" [p. 217]. After this dissemblance, concludes that:
"[Genesis] Chapter 1 presents a hierarchy of creation memorably associated with days of the week. Chapter 2 focuses on the crowning jewels of God's creation mandated to be in a right relationship with their Creator as well as the whole of creation... In both chapters, the depiction of a chronological order of creation events is merely a literary device employed to facilitate the author's primary concern, which is to reveal God's purposes in creation" [p. 216].
One is tempted to ask Hanegraaff the question God asked in Job: "Were you there?" You see, that's a fair question, for - unless the Bible Answer Man has a time machine - by what authority does he claim the Creation Week was merely a literary construct or that a hierarchy of creation was associated with days of the week, as opposed to the Creation Week being, well, an actual 6-day period of 24-hour days?? If he says by the authority of science, he is speaking of science chained to naturalism which precludes supernatural agency or revelation from all consideration. In other words, if he appeals to science ala’ naturalism, he has a problem for such science denies the possibility of a personal Creator as the Bible describes. In attempting to accommodate millions of years insisted upon by evolutionists, Hanegraaff is forced to allegorize Genesis in broad strokes; but in doing so he cannot appeal to the Bible he wishes to defend, for the Bible speaks again of a personal Creator and a plain sense reading of Genesis 1 and 2 reveals a cosmos created in six consecutive 24-hour days (which further serve as the basis of God’s 4th Commandment). Holding neither as an absolute authority, he has made himself the ultimate authority over the Bible and science!
The second mistake Hanegraaff makes is predictable. Almost all extraBiblical [old earth] creationists make the mistake of conflating nature itself with the interpretations of scientists who study nature. As I’ve mentioned more times than I care to count, the origins argument isn’t about facts. We have the same rocks, fossils, plants, animals, chemistry, planets, universe – the same facts as evolutionists. Yet facts are not self-explanatory. Facts must be interpreted. As explained already, when he accepts the interpretations of folks biased against supernatural agency or revelation, he’s abandoning wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. If we begin with a presupposition [pure naturalism] which precludes the fear and knowledge of God, we will not find truth. Since no man can love two masters [authorities], the claims of one authority will have to be re-interpreted [or abandoned] to fit one or the other [naturalism or supernaturalism]. It is impossible to escape bias when it comes to the origins issue, so there’s no use pretended we ought to be neutral. We either believe the Bible is authoritative or we don’t; we either hold it to be the flawed work book of pre-scientific men or we believe it never came at any time by the will of men. There is no neutral ground, and neither science nor nature may make any claim; rather scientists interpret nature and make claims about it. Forgetting the naturalistic bias inherent in old earth dating methods, Hanegraaff does not realize that in trying to appear rational, he’s actually made the foolish mistake of letting Bible-doubters dictate how the Bible is to be interpreted. Professing himself wise, he becomes a fool, simply because he did not remember that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge [Proverbs 9:10].
In short, what Hanegraaff has done is to make the assumption that facts or science speaks for itself, when it is actually interpreted. This allows him to erroneously claim that “those who tenaciously follow evidence wherever it leads will read both the book of Scripture and the book of science with an open mind” [p. 216 & 247]. We can’t follow the evidence wherever it leads because facts do not speak for themselves. We cannot read the book of science because science is an interpretation of nature and, thus, we must take into account the bias and presuppositions of those doing the interpretation before we take their claims as “gospel.” While it is true that God-honoring science and Scripture will never be in opposition, this is because we interpret the evidence in light of the more perfect revelation of Scripture rather than re-interpreting Scripture in light of the naturalistic interpretations of men who are, statistically speaking, at enmity with God.
His credulous and naïve view of nature/science causes him to make the further mistake of advising his readers concerning the age of the Earth, “Those concerned with chronology need look no further than God’s revelation in the book of nature” [p. 216]. In fact, he further claims that “to believe… that the earth is five thousand years old is no doubt related to a miscomprehension of the genres of Genesis… Genesis is not designed to answer the age question – that question is answered in God’s other book, the book of nature” [p. 247].
Where does he get the Mormon-esque idea that God wrote another book in nature? From a misapprehension of the meaning of Romans 1:20, which states that God’s invisible qualities, namely His eternal power and divine Godhead, are clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse for not believing in God. This is why the Bible says it is the fool who convinces himself there is no God. [Psalm 14:1; 53:1]. We could quote other verses that point to the idea that creation testifies of its Creator; however, we must remember at the very least that the Fall has changed God’s original creation. Nature may testify of God’s existence and power, but it relates His nature imperfectly. If we only had the book of nature with all of its death, suffering and disease to tell us of God, we would suspect that He was an ogre! Clearly, we require the more perfect light of Scripture to calibrate our interpretations of nature. Ironically, Hanegraaff notes that reason sans revelation is insufficient [p. 285], but he nonetheless accepts the naturalistic age of the earth with credulity and insists that we must re-interpret Scripture in light of inferior revelation!
Due to this error, he also must re-interpret the Genesis account of the Noachian Flood [an incredible tragedy given the fact that he goes to such great lengths to defend the historicity of the Flood in Chapter 11]:
“In reality the biblical text is not designed to communicate whether the Flood was global with respect to the earth or universal with respect to humanity. That debate is ultimately settled by a proper “reading” of the book of nature. Since civilization was largely confined to the Fertile Crescent, one need not automatically presume that the floodwaters covered the globe” .
Why does he dissemble here, when the Bible plainly speaks of an earth-covering flood? How does he even come to entertain the possibility that the Flood was only anthropologically universal, when the Bible states that God’s intent was not only to destroy man, but animals and creeping things from the face of the earth as well [Gen. 6:7]? How could it have only been universal with respect to humanity, when God told Noah He was going to “bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die” [Gen 6:17]? Are we to believe that all air-breathing animal life was likewise contained to the Fertile Crescent?? Of course, the answer to this dissemblance is that he believes that geologists chained to pure naturalism have proven the earth to be millions of years old, so he must diminish the event to something that did not, in fact, cover all the mountains and high hills under the whole heaven, so that everything that moved upon the earth and in whose nostrils was the breath of life died, except Noah and those aboard the Ark [Gen. 7:19-23].
He does so because he has accepted “another gospel,” the book of nature, which he arbitrarily holds as his ultimate authority concerning the age of the earth, forcing him to re-interpret and allegorize any Scripture that contradicts a timeline designed to explain the universe as if came to be by purely natural processes; which is to say, without God. He does not hold the book of nature as his ultimate authority when it comes to the historicity of Adam’s Fall or the Resurrection. In fact, he reveals himself to be rather double-minded about the whole thing, for while he says the age of the Earth is determined by science, he also notes that “the panoply of Scripture makes plain [that] Jesus is the eternal Creator, who spoke and limitless galaxies leaped into existence” [p. 237].
As an antidote to the Bible Answer Man’s apparent double-mindedness, I recommend the following:
"If we are willing to believe the Biblical account that God created the heavens and the earth in six literal, consecutive 24-hour days - as opposed to the untenable notion that nothing created everything over millions of years - there is little difficulty respecting the world-covering Flood account."
Yet in all fairness, I suspect that Hanegraaff realizes he’s gone too far. Note for example his thoughts on Genesis chapter 3:
“If Genesis were reduced to an allegory conveying merely abstract ideas about temptation, sin, and redemption, devoid of any correlation with actual events in history, the very foundation of Christianity would be destroyed. If the historical Adam and Eve did not eat the forbidden fruit and descend into a life of habitual sin resulting in death, there is no need for redemption” .
Hanegraaff is referring here to the connection between Creation and the Cross, a chain that is plainly evident even to atheists like Frank Zindler. Bottom line: If a literal Adam did not Fall, there is no need for a literal Savior to literally die for our sin and literally rise again to give us the promise of eternal life. As Zindler so crassly put it, allegorizing Genesis puts Christ out of a job.
Yet when the Bible Answer Man denigrates Genesis 1 and 2 to mere “literary devices,” he’s definitely allegorizing Scripture! Yet both the Matthew 6:24 principle and the law of noncontradiction require that Hanegraaff deny or re-interpret either Scripture or the book of nature when they are found in conflict. I find it disappointing that a man who has dedicated his ministry to the defense of the Bible nonetheless chooses to re-interpret the revealed Word of a perfect creator God who knows everything, never lies and was there rather than the error-prone, ever-changing graspings of men who weren’t there, don’t know everything and interpret nature by a methodology that precludes supernatural agency or revelation from all consideration!
In the end, Has God Spoken? is a disappointing but illuminating example of how attempting to defend the Bible’s inspiration without holding it as your ultimate authority over extraBiblical sources is arbitrary and ultimately self-defeating. Hanegraaff’s “two books” approach is iron mixed with baked clay, partly strong and partly brittle. If you’re looking for a book to defend the Bible, I recommend you look elsewhere. I personally recommend How Do We Know the Bible Is True? (edited by Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge) if you’re looking for a book that faithfully defends the Bible as our ultimate authority.
Rev. Tony Breeden
From the Bookwyrm's Lair
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