Potpourri 6/22/17

  1. A failed takedown of the Bible Answer Man
  2. Real preparation for life
  3. Conservative in the Year of Trump
  4. Friends of Feticide speak with forked tongue


“Bible Answer Man” Hank Hanagraaf was the successor to Dr. Walter Martin at the Christian Research Institute. Dr. Martin’s daughter, Jill Martin Rische, made a YouTube video discussing his reception into Orthodoxy and faulting CRI for not firing him:

Since she disabled comments, I’m responding to some of her mistakes here.

I am not accusing her of dishonesty; it is very hard to understand a tradition from outside it. I have the advantage of having been inside her world for roughly 50 years.

  • First, I thank her for graciously distinguishing Orthodoxy from “Evangelical Christianity.” Some Hanagraaf critics tendentiously style it Orthodoxy versus “Biblical Christianity.” We Orthodox are not only biblical, but more biblical than Evangelicals. Fr. Peter Gillquist sometimes described Orthodoxy as “the parts of the Bible we didn’t underline as Evangelicals,” and in case after case, there’s a lot to that somewhat humorous distillation. I also thank her for her gracious delivery, with no table-pounding or vein-bulging.
  • Second, she probably is right that Hank Hanagraaf renounced his former errors as part of his chrismation, but I have no reason to think that he explicitly denounced the “solas” that she’s concerned with. Here’s a link to the renunciations that a Lutheran must make upon entering Orthodoxy. In sum:
    • The addition of the filioque to the creeds confession regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit;
    • That in the Eucharist, the elements are not transmuted into the Body and Blood of Christ;
    • The rejection of Sacraments of Chrismation, Marriage, Anointing with Oil, and the Priesthood itself;
    • The presumption of administering Baptism and the Eucharist  without apostolic succession;
    • Rejecting the traditions of the Church, reverence for the Saints, and prayers for the dead; and
    • The errors and false doctrines Lutheran Confession generally.
  • Sola fide … Anything we do doesn’t matter as far as earning our way to heaven.” This at first struck me as a typical inadvertent “blind spot” misrepresentation. But it’s more than that. First, she appears to have theologized away the James 2:24 (“You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone”), which has vexed Reformation theologians from the beginning. Make of James 2:24 what you will, but it’s not nothing, and it makes “sola fide” at best equivocal if not unbiblical. Second, her understanding of salvation as simply getting into heaven is deficient. More on that momentarily. Third, Orthodoxy does not teach that we “earn our way to heaven.” She hammered away with that mistaken impression quite a bit.
  • “The good works themselves do not have anything to do with our salvation.” In Protestant terms, I think she’s truncating “salvation,” leaving it to mean nothing more than justification (which is assumed to suffice for getting into heaven, to put it crudely if typically). When I was in an Evangelical high school, we learned that salvation can be divided into justification, sanctification and glorification. In the ensuing 50+ years there’s an epidemic of salvation being reduced to justification and no more. In Protestant terms, the Orthodox Church teaches (I believe after 20 years) that works do have something to do with sanctification, which is part of the process of salvation. I’m sorry her understanding is so impoverished and unhistoric even in Protestant terms. [UPDATE: I just read a recent Fr. Stephen Freeman blog on The Work that Saves. He’s much more reliable than I.]

Beyond that, she tries to play gotcha, tries to show how the Orthodox Church itself should forbid Hanagraaf from continuing his ministry (!), or why Christian Research Institute is messing up by allowing Hanagraaf to continue as Bible Answer Man.  She seems to consider the richness of Orthodoxy to be an indictment all by itself.

She misuses an ancient text from Justin Martyr. It was an apologetic for Christianity “in behalf of those of all nations who are unjustly hated and wantonly abused, myself being one of them,” to Emperor Titus Ælius Adrianus Antoninus Pius Augustus Cæsar — whew! It only incidentally and sketchily described weekly worship in Chapter 67 of 68. It is very foolish to think that this sketchy apologetic refutes the Orthodox Church’s claim that its liturgical worship is that of the primitive church as well.

And here’s an irony: immediately preceding the chapter she takes out of context is a ringing endorsement of the “close communion” and a clear reflection of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist she objects to in Orthodoxy:

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do in remembrance of Me, Luke 22:19 this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone ….

Her glomming onto Chapter 67 and making it more than it really is was just sloppy, sloppy cherry-picking.

Overall, she exhibits some mild outrage (probably concealing the depth) that her father’s Protestant ministry is now purporting to teach “mere Christianity.” I guess that’s understandable. I’ve said from the first breaking of the news about Hanagraaf that it’s a game-changer. I knew many Evangelicals would recoil in horror; I hoped many others would say “maybe I ought to look into this.”

But Jill Martin Rische does not understand Orthodoxy after her crash course, and although she gets a few things right, she’s a very unreliable source — starting with Orthodoxy “known as the ‘Twin Sister’ of Catholicism” which is a dubious characterization and probably coined by her for just this occasion.


College is supposed to help young people prepare for the future. But as headlines warn that automation and technology may change—or end—work as we know it, parents, students, and universities are grappling with a new question: How do you educate a new generation for a world we can’t even imagine?

A recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,408 technology and education professionals suggested that the most valuable skills in the future will be those that machines can’t yet easily replicate, like creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, adaptability and collaboration. In short, people need to learn how to learn, because the only hedge against a fast-changing world is the ability to think, adapt and collaborate well.

But many American college students may not be learning them at all. In the 2011 book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Richard Arum and Jarip Roksa chronicled how few American students really improved cognitively–and learned to learn–during their undergraduate education. Few bachelor’s programs require sufficient amounts of the reading, writing, and discourse needed to develop critical thinking skills. In fact, forty percent of American undergraduates now major in business and management-related subjects, reading mainly textbooks and short articles, and rarely writing a paper longer than three pages. Further, the social bonds and skills formed in college today often center on extracurriculars that have little connection to cognitive development and collaborative problem-solving.

But perhaps instead of reinventing higher education, we can give students what they need for the future by returning to the roots of liberal arts. Consider St. John’s College, America’s third-oldest institution of higher education, founded in 1696. With fewer than 700 students between two campuses in Annapolis and Santa Fe, St. John’s is a bit under the radar. But it’s emerged as one of the most distinctive colleges in the country by maintaining a strict focus on the classics of the Western canon.

Panacea? No. Graduates will be liberally educated sinners.

Universal? No. We do need engineers and scientists, and some of them will want to “cut to the chase” without a liberal arts foundation.

But Yes! This! And it needn’t wait until college. One family is moving from Louisville to Indianapolis for this. Another is (probably) staying in Indy despite an opportunity elsewhere.


But just as progressives tend to dismiss the virtues of the past, they also overvalue the future and its promises of liberation and change. Consider a perfect summary of this attitude in an early-2000s advertisement for a technology company: “Welcome to the smarter, brighter, greener, more connected, more responsible, more inspiring, tech-driven, everything-is-knowable, anything- is-possible, no-problem-is-too-big century.’ The emphasis here is on the new, different and iconoclastic, and these sentiments permeate all of contemporary life.

Conservatives tend to undervalue the fact that young people do want to study issues of race and gender. Questions of race, in particular, stand front and central in the American experience and are well worth academic study. The problem is that students usually approach these subjects as activists, from a one-sided perspective inculcated by a progressive professor. Yet this is to have made up one’s mind before the inquiry ever begins’ For example: affirmative action policies have both supporters and opponents. A college class should therefore consider the strongest and best arguments both for and against it. But one can be sure that Clarence Thomas’s views are not welcomed or treated charitably in most university classes about race and politics.

But liberal learning is not just self-forgetting. Nonactivist education also encourages us to pay a different kind of attention to our lives and choices. With Aristotle we can consider how habits are formed; with Plato, how little we know even when we are most self-assured; with Homer, what heroism looks like; with Augustine, how to recognize that we are pulled toward temporal and eternal goods at once. These universal insights into human nature have implications for the ordinary, humble activities that all of us engage in every single day. They encourage a type of attention to the self that does not begin and end with questions of power.

(Elizabeth Corey, The Conservative Disposition in a Revolutionary Age, Modern Age Journal, Spring 2017, with the theme “Being Conservative in the Year of Trump”)


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There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.