Book Review: Christianity in Crisis

by Anna Blanch on August 3, 2009

As an update to his earlier book Christianity in Crisis, Hank Hanegraaff’s Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century (Thomas Nelson: 2009warns of twisted teachings and false prophets. 
Having lost the ability to think biblically, postmodern Christians are being transformed from cultural change agents and initiators into cultural conformists and imitators. Pop culture beckons, and postmodern Christians have taken the bait. As a result, the biblical model of faith has given way to an increasingly bizarre array of fads and formulas (Preface).
Simply put, Christianity in Crisis addresses concerns about the “prosperity gospel” movement. Hanegraaff is bold in his naming of names and labelling of heresies. In this updated edition he builds around the same core acronym F-L-A-W-S while providing recent quotes and examples as illustrations. It examines the evolution of the word-faith movement over the last few decades and singles out “mega-faith stars” Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, John Hagee & T.D. Jakes for particular criticism in this new edition while he traces their teachings from EW Kenyon to Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, and Benny Hinn. 
Hanegraaff also details what he describes as “eerie similarities” between Rhonda Byrnes The Secret and Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now. Certainly neither rank up there as great works of literature, but his comments were sobering nonetheless.

Recommended by both the Billy Graham organisation and Focus on the Family Hanegraaf advocates a return to fidelity to God’s word as a primary objective away from “faith formulas” ensuring material wealth, leading to Spiritual security. It certainly brings to mind Phillipians 4:12 for me:

 10I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Another reviewer put it like this:
“Which would you rather hear? That God has promised unequivocally to bless you and prosper you. That you can demand health and wealth from God. That he’s there to grant all your wishes and desires. There to play Santa and genie all in one. Or that God has told us “in this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” Time and time again–in the gospels and the epistles–we’re told that we’re to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, follow Him even if it means suffering, persecution, discomfort. God never promised us heaven-on-earth. He never promised us a comfortable life. He wants to conform us, transform us”. 

Grateful for what you have, when it is plenty and overflowing, and grateful in times of lack and little. Linking my salvation to my standard of living is abhorrent to me. Although it seems that there are those who live an ascetic life in order to “earn” salvation as much as there are those who contend that they must outwardly display material blessings because it shows how pleased God is with them. 
Sure the health, wealth, prosperity gospel sounds nice enough in theory. But is it true? Hanegraff argues that you should take care that you’re not deceived by people who proclaim another gospel, another God, another Jesus. Hank Hanegraaff uses the words of the Preachers and teachers of the “prosperity gospel movement to present his case against them. He argues that they can and do twist and contort, abuse and misabuse, warp Scripture.
He uses their own words, both written and spoken, and argues that all he writes about these preachers and personalities is “carefully documented” and “contextually defensible.” In legal terms I hope so, because otherwise there may be fireworks! Both in the text and in the end notes he suggests what these preachers and teachers have said, have preached, have believed, have promoted. Hanegraff presents their message. Then presents proofs as to how their interpretation cannot be the correct one through the use of scripture.
One of the most shocking things I learned while reading this is that there are a handful of preachers out who teach that Christians should not pray the Lord’s Prayer. They explain that it is wrong, unbiblical, and even spiritually damaging to pray “if it’s according to your will” or to say “God willing” because this isn’t taking ownership of the power within you. 
Hanegraaff’s argument is never that the people who listen to these messages are stupid and foolish. He never one says that they are to blame or at fault though one has to suggest that he does think they are misguided. He does not attack the listeners. Instead he attacks the message itself.
If Hanegraaff is accurate in his “careful documentation and the quotations and illustrations he uses are “contextually defensible” then what he has to say should shake the church out of apathy. If he is right (when someone is as negative as Hanegraaff is on a subject I have chosen not to immerse myself in then I am always concerned about accuracy – I do not demand objectivity, that would be pointless, but fairness is important) then I doubt the sinking feeling I often get when i read of the rejection of Truth from within the church itself is going to go away.
** The book was provided free to Goannatree for review **** No other compensation was provided. Here’s a link to the Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century Publisher page.

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