The sophistry of Hank Hanegraaff — an examination of a defense of Teen Mania

Nov. 11 Update: Jay Howard of The Religious Research Project claims Hank Hanegraaff unethically took the healm of the Christian Research Institute. Howard substantiates his claim with several interviews. Read Howard’s article.

(Please also see “A Rebuttal to Hank Hanegraaff’s claims about brainwashing in China in his defense of Teen Mania“, written Nov. 12, 2011.)

The latest defense of Teen Mania Ministries (following MSNBC’s documentary “Mind Over Mania”) comes from an unlikely source: Hank Hanegraaff, one of the most ardent defenders of historically orthodox Christianity.

In a commentary on the Charisma News website, Hanegraaff completely ignores the most important element of the documentary: the young women who went through Teen Mania programs and claim to have been hurt and misled by the organization — and, he fails to back up several important points.

I’m not sure if Hanegraaff is entirely dismissive of the young women, or if he doesn’t want to judge them publicly.

Either way, let’s be clear exactly what Scripture teaches us to do when we are confronted with hurt people, even hurt people who attack us, and then we’ll look at the weaknesses of what Hanegraaff says in his commentary.

(1) “Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you.”

(2) Are we supposed to imitate God’s character? Well, what is God’s attitude toward His children who have been wronged? “A bruised reed he will not break; a smoldering wick He will not extinguish.” God won’t break you, but Teen Mania’s defenders don’t care about you at all.

(3) Jesus taught if someone asks for your jacket, give them your shirt, too. This is not just a rule about clothing, but rather it is a metaphor for our disposition toward other people. So far, the defenders of Teen Mania get a massive FAIL on this giving trait of Christ when it comes to the young women who claim to have been hurt by the ministry.

Also in his commentary, Hanegraaff makes several statements that he does not back up. In other words, his commentary is drive-by shooting, and before I get to those statements he doesn’t back up, let me just point out how his off-the-cuff response is a shame for a man who has led evangelicals and fundamentalists with thorough research. But because his target is the mainstream media, and Christians dislike liberal journalists (no need to love enemies there!), Hanegraaff can get off scott free with an argumentative fallacy known as “appeal to the crowd.”

I’m sure Hanegraaff can do better, so I welcome him to prove the following points, or at least use Stephen Toulmin’s method to give us a reasonable case for the following points I have quoted from his commentary:

1. Hanegraaff writes, “Doug and Wendy Duncan, billed as experts specializing in recovery from mind control…” Hank, why don’t you take a little time to find out about the Duncan’s expertise, education, and background experience? What’s so exasperating about your dismissive language? The fact that you and the Duncans are probably on the same page about a lot things. For one, they are survivors of a genuine cult, and they have written a book about the experience.

2. Hanegraaff writes, “Moreover, many of the arguments proffered against TMM could just as easily be used to establish historic Christianity as a thought reform cult.” (A) This is incredibly dismissive, almost to the point of equivocation. The implied argument is, “Because one could use these criteria to say something bad about a good institution, these criteria are’t a big deal.” In fact, not once does Hanegraaff attack the real issues of Lifton’s Eight Points. (B) Actually, of all Eight, I don’t see how “Milieu Control” could possibly be seen as a characteristic of historical Christianity prior to 20th century fundamentalism. Most of our Christian heroes of the past were vigorously interacting with people in the surrounding culture. Believing in the truth, those heroes did not need to “control” the flow of information, ever. They proclaimed, discussed, and argued.

3. Hanegraaff writes, “Equally significant is the fact that cult mind control as a sociological model has been utterly discredited.” Maybe so (back it up, please), but maybe that’s missing the point. Maybe the psychological impact on the individual is more important. Everything I’ve read indicates that unhealthy groups do influence individuals for the worse, and sometimes even theological and doctrinal “correctness” on an intellectual level can mask unhealthy social and interpersonal behaviors. See my reading list here.

4. Hanegraaff writes, “If brainwashing techniques did not work in the 20th century reeducation camps of communist China, it is sophistry to suppose it to be effectively employed in the ESOAL (Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of A Lifetime) weekend retreat of TMM’s Honor Academy.” Hank, what do you mean by “did not work,” exactly? Did not work at all, ever? Did not work after some time? Did not work after people were released from the reeducation camps? And, if reeducation camps didn’t work, do you have any problem with them? I mean, if they’re not a big deal to you, will you be advocating some of what they did in those camps? Is there something positive we can learn from those camps? Usually, you’re fairly black-and-white about these kinds of things, so forgive me if I’m stunned at how you’ve tried to reduce the moral significance and personal impact of communist reeducation camps.

I sincerely appreciate Hanegraaff’s personal defense of Ron Luce’s character, and his note of the ministry’s financial integrity. But those aren’t at issue.


13 responses to “The sophistry of Hank Hanegraaff — an examination of a defense of Teen Mania

  1. Dragonfly — Thank you very much for posting these resources.
    All the best,


  2. gracemakesfree

    I thought it strange that he used many of the same arguments that Ron used – almost verbatim.


  3. I published a book on Hank Hanegraaff in 2009 entitled, “Hard Questions for the Bible Answer Man”. The book shows a man who lives by the question, “How can this situation further the needs of Hank Hanegraaff”? A man so ethically challenged that any ministry that gains his imprimatur should give it back and hope nobody noticed that Hank supported them!


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  5. Talk about the fox guarding the chicken coop! For a self proclaimed “watchman” who verbatim piously complained about discernment being at an all time low in the Church on an ABC program in the late1990’s, HH’s continuing hypocrisy simply sinks to lower depths. He only demonstrates how quickly he can dispense understandable observations of human behavior that knows no theological bounds for the sake of creating more room in his donor data base from credulous Christians who have their own heads in the sand. HH long ago ceased to be a relevant source of Christian discernment and has become the very thing he supposedly is called to expose: a wolf in sheep’s clothing whose cooption of CRI now looks more and more like a tragedy on the par of Scientology’s absorption of the Cult Awareness Network. .


  6. sounddoctrine2013

    ‘Love your ENEMIES’ Biblically refers NOT to ‘outsider enemies’ BUT ONLY (Greek Text) to former, currently, but now leaving also, ‘insider enemies’ FOR THEY ALL HAVE A REASON FOR LEAVING ONE’S SIDE, and that must ONLY be met with Love (which ONLY can break divorce, or severly strained FORMER RELATIONSHIPS, especially that formerly INTIMATE)


  7. sounddoctrine2013

    The entire CRI organization has been ‘flawed’ since it’s conception. As Walter continued attempting to ‘reform’ his catholicism (nicolaitanism) ONLY, rather than any ‘coming OUT’ from among them ‘and becoming separate’ (like Calvin, Luther, et al, also previously failed doing AGAINST the mandate of Scripture) the structure of CRI became apparant that IT EXISTED TO POKE HOLES AT GENUINE PENTECOSTALISMS (also as the newly ‘charismatic’ influenced, even newly re: ‘ordained’, away from the ‘strickness’, re: marriages). As to HH, his relationship with W.Martin (they shared common goals up to, including his death while sitting on the ‘throne of his bathroom’, NOT WHILE ‘ON HIS KNEES’ IN THE LIVING ROOM as ‘made up’, with Hank’s approvals) for Hank already had found a common bond with Walter’s ‘Widow’, that is: she was the ‘insurance’ beneficiary (& not CRI), she was left to chose who run’s his ministry, remaining sole beneficiary, these large INSURANCE, policies monies left to her ‘personally’. They began TOGETHER ‘the scheme’, following false report ‘leaks’ of where, how Walter had died (Hank would run the 501C3 organization, she remained receiving a significant amounts regularly from policy benefits) however, eventually did not like being threatened by Hank, nor his ‘foul mouth’ in leadership! Obviously Darlene eventually called bluff, Hank responded in ‘own unique’ style, breach began immediately (which remains as revealed unto this day with Hank having ‘upper hand’). Both ‘hiding the truth’, outright lying to friends, relatives, STAFF (including ‘the public’). As to CRI itself, it continues it’s lie as ‘actual goals’, uplift ‘reformed’ nicolaitanism (catholicism, as ‘not a cult’), while tearing down any, all forms of pentecostalism, deserved or undeserved, both of the apolostic, ‘genuine’,, AND of course the ‘fake’,’fraudulent’ LUMPED TOGETHER ALWAYS, of course, for ‘headlining’ “I told you so” ministries


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