We do not see all that God is doing in the world, and we certainly don’t determine who is or isn’t a follower of Jesus. Hank Hanegraaff certainly hasn’t ceased to be a Christian (as some have said) any more than my parents have. Not that my opinion matters most, but I, for one, will continue to listen to him, even though I think the move to Orthodoxy is unhelpful for someone who has been the “Bible answer man.”
Though I think there are better answers for “the Bible answer man” then converting to Orthodoxy, I still can acknowledge that my own tradition needs to be reevaluated in light of scripture and, yes, the practices of the early church. During such times, it’s worth considering (and hearing why) Hanegraaff made such a move (along with Rod Dreher, Michael Hyatt, Frederica Mathews-Green, John Mark Reynolds, and many others). I can, and should, learn from their journey, though I may not take the same road.
Don’t normalize cultural church forms.
I’m not moving toward Eastern Orthodoxy, so let me add why. For one, I think the tendency towards (big-O) Orthodoxy and its liturgy is missiologically unhealthy, not just theologically problematic. Many segments of Orthodoxy take Hellenistic (or other) cultural forms, consider them normative to today’s context, and apply them as the “true” or “authentic” way.
That’s not helpful and it actually hinders the advance of the gospel, which in part explains why American Orthodoxy has far more converts from evangelicalism than it does from secularism.
Don’t import, export.
A better approach than importing and normalizing cultural church forms is one that is built on Sola Scriptura. In the way of Jesus, and walking in the Spirit, I believe we need to go back to scripture for each and every generation of Christians and ask, “What would it look like to live out this timeless scriptural faith in this time and in this place?”
This, then, exports the truth of scripture to our modern context.
Perhaps the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is a good time to remember the value of Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solo Christo, and Sola Deo Gloria as signposts for our unique expression of the gospel that goes deeper than tradition. In fact, it brings us to principles which are expressed in different cultural languages using different cultural methods.
(And it is worth remembering that the solas are biblical truths restated, not cultural truths discovered 500 years ago.)
Stay with the message.
We want to lovingly and graciously acknowledge that others will follow Hanegraaff and swim the Tiber or swim the Bosporus, but ultimately we are reminded that evangelicalism is a movement based on scripture sought to be lived out in a context. I believe Hanegraaff has walked in a place that is unhelpful and undermines his lifelong ministry of pointing people to the truth.