Hank Hanegraaff — an example of fundamentalist/evangelical Christian beliefs about Satan

May 1, 2009

Today I surfed onto a blog belonging to a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian named Hank Hanegraaff, who runs something called the Christian Research Institute (CRI).

He seems to be, in some ways, one of the more honest and reasonable evangelical Christian public figures. Back in the early 1990’s, CRI published some articles debunking the “Satanic ritual abuse” scare , for which I would like to thank him. Back then, standing up against the SRA scare required quite a bit of courage.

In most other ways, though, I still have to regard him as being very much in the enemy camp, for reasons aptly summed up here on RationalWiki (although, as I’ll detail later, the RationalWiki page contains some inaccuracies).

Anyhow, I would like to call attention to some things he says that are of interest both to Satanists and to Pagan Witches.

Hanegraaff on Satanism and Pagan Witchcraft

Although I do appreciate the stand he took against the SRA scare back in the 1990’s, his page Satanism and Witchcraft: Is Satanism the Same as Witchcraft? contains some erroneous statements about Satanism. For example: “Now, while witches deny the existence of Satan as a personal being, most Satanists affirm just the opposite. All Satanists believe in, call on, pray to, and worship Satan, although they may differ on their individual conception of Satan.”

The best-known and most public form of Satanism, LaVeyan Satanism, is atheistic, and certainly does not “affirm … the existence of Satan as a personal being.” Of course, we theistic Satanists do exist too. But even some theistic Satanists (those who revere Satan as a deity) are allergic to the term “worship,” and even some theistic Satanists do not regard Satan as “personal.”

Hanegraaff then says, “Furthermore, Satanists generally believe that magical rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices are the keys to increasing personal power. Thus, they regard sacrificial offerings (whether symbolic or actual) as a legitimate and even desirable means to achieve their own ends.” Even among theistic Satanists, most do not believe in “sacrificial offerings,” as far as I can tell.

Hanegraaff seems to have accepted many Pagan Witches’ would-be monopolization of the term “witch.” He uses the term “witch” (lower-case W) as a synonym for “Pagan Witch” (an adherent of a specific modern religious movement). He correctly notes that Pagan Witchcraft does not include Satan in its pantheon, but he seems unaware that the word “witch” (and the existence of self-described “witches”) pre-dates the modern Pagan Witchcraft movement.

Terminology aside, his description of the beliefs of many Pagan Witches is essentially correct, though a bit overgeneralized.

Nevertheless, like nearly all fundamentalist/evangelical Christians, he then says: “Witchcraft and Satanism are equally satanic in the sense that they both oppose God’s teachings and are demonically inspired (Deut. 18:9-14; cf. Gal. 5:19-20).” To Pagan Witches, he concedes only that “we must draw the distinction between these two religions so that we can respond to them with intelligence and in a relevant manner.”

Similarly he says, in a blog post titled Our Heavenly Father:

In fact, Jesus made it clear that there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who should refer to Satan as “our father” and those who can legitimately refer to God as “our Father who art in heaven.” There simply is no other option.

Note to Pagan Witches: Statements like the above are the best you can possibly hope for from most fundamentalist/evangelical Christian leaders, including even the relatively reasonable ones who understand that Pagan Witchcraft is not Satanism. As Hanegraaff’s example illustrates, it is easier to convince fundamentalist/evangelical Christian leaders that Satanists aren’t all a bunch of baby-eating monsters (and neither are Pagan Witches) than to convince them that any religion other than their own isn’t “Satanic” or “demon-inspired.”

Note to Satanists: Hanegraaff’s statements are a good example of what Satan means to those Christian leaders who promote belief in the Devil. To him, Satan rules the entire human realm outside his little Christian box. Note that Hanegraaff does not equate Satan with any particular economic system (such as laissez-faire capitalism — most fundamentalist/evangelical Christians are not socialists, and many are Republicans). Nor does he equate Satan with war (which I suspect he regards as sometimes justified), or the death penalty (which I suspect he regards as sometimes justified, too, though I could be wrong about this), or even vengeance (many conservative Christians would not be above filing lawsuits under certain circumstances, for example). Rather, he equates Satan, primarily, with all theological doctrines other than his own.

The RationalWiki page on Hank Hanegraaff

Earlier, I mentioned this RationalWiki page about Hank Hanegraaff. While I agree with its sentiments for the most part, it contains as least two inaccuracies:

(1) Although Hanegraaff is indeed a creationist and has written a book denouncing evolution, his is apparently not a young-earth creationist. He seems to be neutral on young-earth creationism vs. the scientifically accepted age of the universe (as explained here).

(2) He does not absolutely forbid all birth control. (For example, he published Should Christians Use Birth Control? by H. Wayne House, which takes a middle-of-the-road position on contraception.)

But he does indeed oppose all abortion and does believe, apparently, that full-fledged “human life” begins at conception. And he does indeed have 12 children, and dismisses overpopulation as even a potential threat. (I wonder, does he even know what exponential growth is?) And, of course, he opposes gay rights.

The Rational Wiki page also links to a page of personal accusations against Hank Hanegraaff by a daughter of Walter Martin, founder of CRI. I have no idea whether the accusations are true. H.ere is his reply to some of the allegations.

The RationalWiki page also says that Hanegraaff’s “reputation as a voice of intelligence and moderation within evangelical Christendom” is “wholly undeserved.” No, it’s not “wholly” undeserved. As the RationalWiki page goes on to acknowledge, he frequently debunks claims by the wackier evangelists. And I don’t think it’s fair to call him a “stopped clock.” It is true that even the most reasonable (relatively speaking) fundamentalist/evangelical Christians, such as Hanegraaff, hold some very irrational and deleterious beliefs. Even his attitudes are clearly bad news for the rest of us. But we should acknowledge a spectrum here, rather than descend to black-and-white “they’re all exactly alike” thinking.

Below are some of the articles Hanegraaff published against the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare of the 1980’s and early 1990’s:

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