Apparently, an Arminian radio host (“The Bible Answer Man,” Hank Hanegraaff) is undergoing conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy. Hey, it happens to the best of us.
This occasion elicited the less than charitable response by popular blogger at Pulpit and Pen, Jeff Maples. He condemns the move and accuses Orthodoxy of heresy. In doing so, he exposes a crucial error in Protestant epistemology, an error I have addressed in my articles “How To Interpret Scripture When You Have A Heart Deceitful Above All Things” and “Which Doctrines Are Not Going To Affect Your Salvation.”
Maples makes the following claims:
There are numerous reports that Hank Hanegraaff, the well-known talk show host, and evangelical apologist known as “The Bible Answer Man,” has left the biblical Christian faith for Greek Orthodox tradition.
Mr. Maples failed to ask himself what is the Biblical Christian faith. The Orthodox will say that they are. Ditto Catholics and Protestants. This accusation lacks all substance and unless Mr. Maples is an infallible Pope, I do not see how he can even make it.
The Orthodox Church is a false expression of Christianity, much like the Roman Catholic Church, that is highly driven by graven images…
Icons are two-dimensional, not graven. Furthermore, I wonder whether or not he has thrown out all of his images, including children’s Bibles and Bible movies with Jesus in them.
…and denies the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and instead, trusts in meritorious works and a sacramental system for salvation.
Except this is not true. The Orthodox reject any convention of man meriting salvation quite emphatically. Furthermore, the Bible explicitly states that sacraments “save” people (1 Pet 3:21) and forgive sins (James 5:14-15). (See “In Defense of the Sacraments.”) Maples may disagree with the exegesis of these texts, but those texts are there and explicitly say what they say. The burden of proof would be on one to say that there aren’t sacraments in the Bible and that Christians, normatively, do not need them.
So what is the significance of this? This should be a testimony of the dismal state of the evangelical church in our modern day. There is a sure lack of biblical truth and doctrinal stability to which many can be left wandering.
Or, perhaps this is a reflection of the epistemological and historical difficulties with Protestantism. This is why no honest Christian studying the issue can long remain Protestant after he or she has seriously interacted with the evidence. We have seen that Maples does not even understand some basic differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. So, I question whether he has seriously inquired into any of these issues.
May God have mercy on the ignorance of all of us and grant us wisdom. Amen.