Letter From Hank

Hank HanegraaffMay 2018

Dear CRI Partner:

Chances are you haven’t thought of them in this light. And you’re not alone.

In fact, if I were to mention “cults,” like most Christians, you’d probably think of Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Or, more viscerally, perhaps the horrendous images of the burning Branch Davidian compound in Waco, or Jim Jones and the masses of bodies strewn about in Jonestown, Guyana.

Regardless of what ideas or images come to mind, they’re poignant reminders of a truth no one should miss: ideas have consequences.

Yet here’s a problem:

How we frame things determines how we see them,
and the most dangerous cults by far
are those rarely thought of in these terms.

For example, I’ll argue that materialism (philosophical naturalism) is a cult with consequences far outweighing the threats of any religious cult we can think of (with the exception of Islam, clearly the bloodiest religious cult in history).

While I don’t want to minimize the very real and serious threats of religious cults, the simple truth is that compared to materialism — the notion that there is ultimately nothing more than “matter in motion” — the threats of religious cults pale in significance.

In fact, tens of millions of human lives were lost just in the last century to godless ideologies that saw human beings as ultimately nothing more than expendable clods of matter.

While one wishes we might have learned a lesson from the horrors of history, the tragic truth is that tens of millions of American young people are steeped daily in the same deadly philosophy, propped up by the prestige of “scientific” claims that are as vacuous as they are philosophically indefensible.

And this systematic indoctrination into the cult of materialism will continue unimpeded until sufficient numbers of thinking theists (not just Christians) loudly and firmly protest the perpetuation of this “zombie” philosophy (though dead, it still keeps walking undeterred through the halls of academia).

The problem is that so many have uncritically chugged the materialistic Kool-Aid that in their stupor they failed to note its intellectual demise. As distinguished theologian and philosopher Keith Ward has noted,

“Scientists who speculate on philosophical questions usually agree that classical materialism — the view that reality consists of nothing but small massy particles bumping into one another in an absolute and unique space-time — is intellectually dead. Accounts of the universe now regularly involve notions such as that of manifold space-time, quantum realities that exist at a more ultimate level than, and are very different from, massy particles in one specific space, and informational codes that contain instructions for building complex integrated structures displaying new sorts of emergent property.”1 (my emphasis)

Informational codes? Instructions for building complex integrated structures? Arising from the random collision of atoms over billions of years? Are materialists really serious?

Just consider the “fearfully and wonderfully made” brain (Psalm 139:14) that enables you to read and reflect upon these words right now:

Animal brains are really impressive. In a cubic millimeter (about a pinhead) of mouse cortex there are 450 meters of dendrites and one to two kilometers of axons….The human brain has a cortex 3000 times larger than that of a mouse.</p

The human brain is of such complexity that descriptive numbers are astronomical and difficult to fathom. A typical estimate is 1023 neurons, each with several thousand synapses (possibly tens of thousands). Each neuron can “talk” to many others….

In the most organized structure in the universe, so far as is known, molecules, trillions of them, spin around in this astronomically complex webwork and generate the unified, centrally focused experience of mind. For this process, neuroscience can as yet scarcely imagine a theory.

This cognitive network, formed and re-formed, makes possible virtually endless mental activity. The result of such combinatorial explosion is that the human brain is capable of forming more possible thoughts than there are atoms in the universe….In our hundred and fifty pounds of protoplasm, in our three-pound brain is more operational organization than in the whole of the Andromeda galaxy.2

Atheist philosopher David Chalmers, a leading philosopher of mind and consciousness, writes in a similar vein,

Consciousness poses the most baffling problems in the science of mind. There is nothing that we know more intimately than conscious experience, but there is nothing that is harder to explain. 

He poses the intriguing question no materialist has been able to adequately answer,

“How does the water of the brain turn into the wine of consciousness?”

Christians have an answer to that question. Because materialists get it all unfathomably wrong. They think that mind has randomly, purposelessly, and accidentally arisen from blind matter.

Christians know that matter was created by Mind, and it is no surprise that, as the apex of His creation (“the quintessence of dust”), we can gratefully “mirror” a small but nevertheless stunning portion of the Logos by whom we were made and in whom, by God’s grace, we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Because creatures of infinite value are at stake in how we think and live, at CRI our vision entails harnessing the power of social and digital media to equip millions of Christians at home and abroad to “think and live Christianly.”

That entails restoring the Christian mind, which in turn entails the ability to discern bankrupt and fraudulent ideas, whether those come in the form of aberrant doctrine or cults such as materialism, which undermine a correct understanding of the very nature of reality and our place and roles within it.

Yet more than mere discernment, we must do more than just wake up. We must have the courage to stand up and speak up if the deadly lies of materialism and other cults, religious or philosophical, are to be countered.

That’s why we continue our work of equipping you and others with quality resources. Because merely thinking Christianly does little to change our world, we’re offering Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post-Truth World by Abdu Murray. It’s a penetrating analysis and potent resource that will help you and countless fellow believers to go beyond just thinking Christianly to actually making a difference in a world that desperately needs the light of truth.

For all that your partnership means as we strive to restore the Christian mind and its influence to its rightful place in our world, I’m deeply indebted.


Because Life and Truth matter…




  1. Keith Ward, “God As the Ultimate Informational Principle,” in Information and the Nature of Reality (Cambridge: Canto Classics, 2014), 282.
  2. Holmes Rolston, III, “Care on Earth: Generating Informed Concern,” in Information and the Nature of Reality (Cambridge: Canto Classic, 2014), 224–27.


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