Article ID: JAFP433 | By: Hank Hanegraaff
This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 43, number 03 (2020). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal please click here.
In producing each and every issue of the Christian Research Journal, our focus is on two complementary realities. First, truth; second, life. Both realities codified by the mission emblazoned on each and every edition of our magazine: “Equipping You to Exercise Truth and Experience Life.”
As is evident in a post-truth culture, truth matters. Truth really, really matters! You, as I, have been commissioned to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15 NIV).
Additionally, we are called to communicate that the Bible, rightly understood, is a bulwark fueling our faith, shattering the waves of skepticism and doubt. For “if we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.”1
Added to providing answers and educating ourselves in the art and science of biblical interpretation, we are called to equip ourselves to counter counterfeit religions. Wrongly apprehended, this discipline might rightly be regarded a never-ending tedium. Satan packages his lies in a wide variety of ways. Thus, rather than attempt to absorb every deviation of every counterfeit, we’re better served to become so familiar with the main and plain things of biblical Christianity that when counterfeits loom on the horizon, we spot them instantaneously.
Yet being intellectually equipped “to exercise truth” is hardly sufficient. The Father’s greatest gift to those who have been saved through His Son is the impartation of a new order of life, an order of life that is of the same quality as the life of Christ. For that is precisely what it is — the impartation of the life of Christ by which the Incarnation continues. The descent of the ineffable in incarnation provides the ladder of divine ascent by which fallen humanity may rise up to union with God. To “participate in the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4 NIV).
If we relegate the Christian experience to a headful of knowledge — mental assent to logical truth propositions — we’re in danger of devolving into a transactional rather than a transformational relationship with the Lover of our souls. A transaction that offers heaven and avoidance of hell yet strangely devoid of the transformational intimacy that Christ offers to us in the present. Not a mere headful of knowledge but active participation in the kingdom of God. Entrance into the divine life of the Trinity. Union with the Triadic One.
Thus, the Christian Research Institute, through its various outreaches — including the Christian Research Journal — is committed to “equipping you to exercise truth” and to “experience life.” While the experience of life is not a prohibition upon knowledge, it most certainly is the transcending of knowledge. The transcending of all philosophical speculation.
In reading the cover story of the issue of the Journal (“Why Do Parents of Gay Children Change their Theological Minds?”), you are immediately alerted to the reality that multitudes today appeal to the weight of their own experiences to determine the viability of the truth propositions passed down from the Apostolic Fathers to the eucharistic assembly of every local church in every successive generation. As a result, sub-biblical proclivities estrange them from the experience of “wholeness.” In place of wholeness, they experience what author Matthew Kennedy smartly references as the “luminous self” (p. 09).
As noted in my Ask Hank column, Orthodox apologist Vladimir Lossky elegantly upended all such conundrums by wisely proffering that “outside the truth kept by the whole Church personal experience would be deprived of all certainty, of all objectivity. It would be a mingling of truth and of falsehood, of reality and of illusion.” As such, “Christian theology is always in the last resort a means: a unity of knowledge subserving an end which transcends all knowledge. This ultimate end is union with God or deification.”2
In sum, the historical arch stretching from the time of our birth to the continuum of ever-increasing union with God is at once an exemplar of truth and the experience of life. There can be no life without truth and no truth without life. In contrast to the gnostic, for whom knowledge is an end in itself, knowledge for the Christion is a means by which to experience a life transcendent to truth. A life of fellowship in the Holy Trinity. —Hank Hanegraaff
- Abridged paraphrase of several lines from Daniel Webster, An Address Delivered Before the New York Historical Society, February 23, 1852 (New York: Press of the Historical Society, 1852), 47, www.catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100765773.
- Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, trans. Fellowship of St.Alban and St. Sergius (1976; repr., Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002), 9.