Friday, August 10, 2018

The old boy network

Perry Robinson has a final "substantive" (in his words) post on the Hank Hanegraaff scandal:

Topically, it's basically two posts in one, linked by the Dividing Line episode. Perry's view of parachurch ministries forms a kind of segue. A lot of his is about philosophy and theology, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't. Then there's the ethical indictment, which may be the ultimate target. I'm going to discuss the ethical indictment in this post, then the philosophical/theological issues in a separate post. 

I've quoted some representative samples. But Perry's post has additional supporting material. If you wish to see all his documentation, you need to read the original post. 

What is more, it really doesn’t matter what mechanisms of accountability Pierce discusses in the video. Here is why. First, having a board just means that they pick people to be on the board even if those people are not members of the organization or JW’s congregation.

I agree with Perry that a board can be a sham accountability mechanism. Handpicked yes-men. Indeed, Pierce is a classic yes-man. 

But of course, this brings us to a key example of the Apologetic Para-Church Corporate Complex. Craig himself is an open an avowed Christological Apollinarian and Monothelite...Please note, these are heresies that are condemned by Orthodox, Catholic and confessional Protestants and they are in a core area of theology, Christology.

I agree with Perry that Craig's neo-Apollinarian Christology is deeply heretical, although I don't agree with him for the same reasons. I don't think it's heretical because a church council classified it as heresy. Rather, it's heretical because it denies an essential component of the Incarnation. That makes it a radical heresy. Monothelitism isn't on the same level. 

Craig has been espousing these major Christological heresies for nearly twenty years and nary a peep out of anyone in the Apologetic Para-Church Corporate Complex. There has been nothing from James White, Hank Hanegraaff, Greg Koukl, Ligonier, Probe, Poached Egg,, Reasons to Believe, Apologetics 315, Tektonics, and on and on the list goes. Not a peep. And yet these are the people who are supposed to be defending the faith and sounding the alarm in such cases. Now why do you suppose that is? Is it at least possible that such a move would be bad for business? 

1. White routinely criticizes Craig, although he attacks Craig on other grounds (that I'm aware of).

2. It's an interesting question why Craig has gotten a pass all these years on this issue. I don't know that there's just one reason. In a sense, he's still getting a pass. His position has come under greater scrutiny, without making a dent on his fandom (that I can see). 

What we have here is a loose network of personalities running “ministries” that are nothing more than businesses. And these businesses support and help to create personality cults. Whatever benefit they claim to provide, they in fact take resources, people and talent away from churches across traditions. And there is nothing they do that churches can’t and shouldn’t already be doing. They are not churches on either Reformation grounds or on Orthodox or Catholic grounds. They are businesses and nothing more. They work to protect each other. They go on each other’s shows and sell each other’s books. They scratch each other’s backs and protect each other. But make no mistake. Below the surface the egos are hard at work trying to carve out and expand wherever possible their amount of market share. Any time there is a case of one of these “ministries” accusing another of theological error or deficiency there is a fair chance something else is going on.

What we have then is an apologetic corporate complex where members mutually protect each other. This is quite evident in examples such as coming from William Lane Craig. I don’t think it is possible to give Hank a softer touch from a Protestant perspective than what Craig provides here.

1. I disagree with Perry's view of parachurch ministry, but I'll save that for the sequel post. 

2. I don't think most parachurch ministries are nothing more that businesses, or even primarily businesses. 

3. It's true that they can foster a personality cult. 

4. Off the top of my head, there are roughly four ways to swing it as a Christian apologist:

A. Be independently wealthy. Beholden to no one. 

That's rare, but not unexampled. Oswald Allis comes to mind. 

B. Be a childless bachelor with a job unrelated to apologetics, then do apologetics in your leisure time.

That's how some budding apologists start out, but when they get married and start having kids, they no longer have the spare time or book budget for apologetics.

C. Be a Christian academic whose speciality is apologetics or a cognate field.

That gives them a regular source of income, and they can do apologetics on the job. 

D. Be a full-time apologist who supports himself through donations, odd jobs, &c. 

i) There's nothing wrong with (D). However, in order for the aspiring apologist to support himself and get name recognition, he cultivates patron/client relationships, riding on the coat tails of established figures. That invites cronyism.

But it can also mean competition for the same donor base. So there's a converse temptation to take the rival down. The dynamic tugs in opposing directions. If someone is above me, it helps if he reaches out his hand to pull me up. But once I'm at his own level, he's in the way of my advancement. 

ii) We owe mentors prima facie loyalty and gratitude. But that's by no means unconditional. Yet human nature being what it is, that sometimes fosters the old boy network. 

But ethics also matter and the Orthodox would have been far less likely to defend him and the hierarchy to elevate and promote him, if Protestant critics would have focused on financial improprieties and abuse of employees over a long period of time in the public record. Under that kind of pressure, the Orthodox hierarchy would have been motivated to have Hank sit down and be quiet, perhaps even retire. But the opportunity was missed because the only people making those kinds of criticisms of Hank were former employees like myself and the Martin family.

Of course JW couldn’t make those kinds of criticisms nor bring them to light. The reason is quite simple. White had been in bed with Hanegraaff since the mid 1990’s, going on to the BAM show, promoting his books on the BAM show and writing numerous articles for the CRI Journal. James White defended him against the accusations from former employees like myself and many others... In fact, given his past defenses of Hanegraaff and his complicit behavior with Hanegraaff’s fraud which resulted in a personal benefit to himself, James White is in a worse position than Pulpit and Pen. Consequently, his ability to criticize Hanegraaff is limited by the ties from the past that, like it or not, tie him to Hanegraaff. 

JW is working to capitalize on Hanegraaff’s loss of market share. The fundamental thrust of JW’s arguments were that Hanegraaff can’t be a “Bible Answer Man” because the Orthodox tradition already settles matters for him in some a prior manner. This explains why JW’s ministry released a video after the Hankamess started detailing the ways in which their “ministry” operated as a “parachurch” ministry with integrity. The message was clear. James White is the de facto Bible Answer Man and his “ministry” has integrity, so send your donations to Alpha and Omega Ministries. The grabbing hands grab all they can because, well, it’s a competitive world.

In the mid to late 1990’s James White became more prominent in part due to his being a guest on the BAM show and the obvious vacancies in the research department. There he was able to promote his own “ministry”, and books and to increase his standing in the apologetic community. He also became a contributing author for the CRI Journal, which he remained at least until 2006. He was also able to get CRI to carry his books for sale, which to date they still do. That of itself is highly ironic, but I digress.

During the late 1990’s White had to know and recognize that prominent names in the apologetic community were being eliminated from CRI’s research staff. He would have known this from just the fact that persons he knew who had been there, were no longer there. That would have been apparent when he was on location and in studio for the BAM show. In White’s videos criticizing Hanegraaff he is clearly aware of such figures Image result for Paul Carden and many others as staple names in the counter cult and apologetic community. What is more, he  defended Hanegraaff against charges made by former employees in 1998 (White Defends Hanegraaff). 

Back in 1992 and forward, he knew from me and other former employees that there were serious problems. And eventually this spilled out into public venues such as the LA Times and Christianity Today, among others. Given that White’s “ministry” is an apologetics and discernment ministry, it is part of his job to piece together information and to call out wrongdoing.

So what did he do? Did he distance himself and his “ministry” from CRI? Did he no longer appear on the BAM show or use it as a platform to promote his books and other materials? Did he cease writing for the CRI Journal? Did he publicly call for an independent investigation? The answer to these questions is of course “no.”

Instead he continued writing for the Journal, continued appearing on the BAM show and he continued to publicly defend Hanegraaff. And along with that, he continued to profit from that relationship because Hanegraaff needed someone who could write articles, do debates and such.

In 2006 CRI moved to Charlotte, SC. There Hanegraaff picked up about a million dollar home for Paul Young, chief operating officer at CRI, and a 3.1 million dollar 9200 sqft mansion complete with a walk out golf course. The entrance fee as I documented in past posts for the country club, dubbed the Club at Longview, was 65k. And it turns out, Hanegraaff was a founding member of the country club as far back as 2004 while he lived in California. 

In any case, in White’s 2017 videos criticizing Hanegraaff he calls for people to no longer support CRI. I must confess, I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard him say this. So let me get this straight. He was fine with people supporting Hanegraaff with massive financial abuses as indicated by multiple and independent eyewitness accounts that even made their way to major secular and Christian media outlets, he was fine with dozens and dozens of Christian employees being fired and abused, some so traumatized that they became ardent atheists (think millstones here), he was fine with the exorbitant Benny Hinn lifestyle Hanegraaff engaged in, but the minute Hank kisses an icon, well, we just can’t have that!??

Of course, White wasn’t the only one who knew or was in a position to know or benefit from the situation with Hanegraaff. There were others. Between 1990 and 1994 I was an active participant in Michael Horton’s ministry, Christians United for Reformation (CURE)...At the meeting was Michael Horton, Kim Riddlebarger, and Greg Koukl, of Stand to Reason fame...(CURE eventually became the Alliance of Confession Evangelicals) When the time came, I was polled on what I knew about what was going on at CRI. I spoke for about ten to twenty minutes if memory serves...Could it have anything to do with the fact that CRI still carries and publishes numerous articles by Koukl? (55) As I have noted elsewhere what we have here is a good ole boy network between these “ministries.”

There are several elements to this allegation:

1. Was White aware of Hanegraaff's unethical activities? 

It beggars credulity that he wouldn't be, given the close-knit network of countercult ministries–like a small town where everybody knows everybody else and who they're sleeping with. 

2. White is blameworthy for failing to expose Hanegraaff years ago.

i) A code of silence can be based on financial coercion or financial incentive. In the case of financial coercion, you don't criticize the boss because you will be canned. There are situations where that's a legitimate excuse. If you're the breadwinner, you have a prior moral and financial obligation to support your family.

ii) That's morally distinct from financial incentive, where criticism might cost you something, but won't ruin you. There comes a point where you may be an established figure in your own right. You're not financially dependent on one particular sponsor. You could afford to expose the wrongdoer. 

iii) In addition, there's a morally salient and significant difference between silence and defending the boss. You can cover for someone through silence, or you can cover for someone by acting as a character witness and impugning whistleblowers. (ii) is more egregious than (i), while (iii) is more egregious than (ii). Perry accuses White of protecting Hanegraaff's  reputation both through guilty silence and by vouching for him while endeavoring to discredit the whistleblowers–even though White was in a position to know the charges were true. That's a serious moral failing, if true. I haven't studied the evidence. Perry does provide ostensible evidence to back up his claims.  

3. What was their motivation?

Apropos (2), Perry has a theory about their motives: mutual financial favoritism. I think that's a plausible explanation. If they're hawking each other's books and giving each other platforms, there's a disincentive to cut the gravy train. 

We see the code of silence in many situations. The Cardinal McCarrick scandal is a recent example. Many people were aware of his misconduct, but they either refused to go on record or confined their revelations to official channels. 

From what I've heard through the grape vine, a code of silence prevailed at SWBTS under Patterson's regime. In addition, there are allegations that Judge Pressler was a longtime pederast. That raises the question of whether Patterson covered for him. The trial discovery process may bring many details to light. 

The Tom Chantry trial is another potential example. If guilty, there must have been people in the know who ran interference for him.

Unfortunately, that's a common phenomenon. And there are other examples of moral rot in the same circles. Remember when Mike Horton had to pretend to be Van Tilian to get hired at WSC?


  1. Many "Christian" philosophers are less-than-orthodox, like WLC and Swinburne. They can still be helpful apologists nonetheless.

    But they should be identified as such, and the accountability ultimately will have to come from their local church and elders.

    1. Craig isn't a "Christian" philosopher, but a theist philosopher. He peddles many heresies.