The body of Christ has suffered tremendously at the hands of a group of “leaders” who peddle faith as a commodity, preach a “name-it-and-claim-it” gospel, and otherwise wreak havoc on sound doctrine.
In writing Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century (2009, Thomas Nelson), Hank Hanegraaff has provided the body of Christ with a biblical antidote for this infection. His withering analysis of the Faith movement–covering the span from “old timers” like Kenneth Hagin to current celebrities such as Joel Osteen–shows it for what it is: a doctrinal house of cards that crumbles at the slightest investigative touch.
Christianity in Crisis is written in such a way as to be valuable to three major groups of people. Serious pastors who struggle to compete with the slick TV performances of the Faith “ministers” will find ample material with which to better inform their congregations. Laymen will be brought face-to-face with clear comparisons between what these charlatans claim and what the Scripture teaches. Missionaries will also be given amunition with which to combat the influence of these “faith mongers” in foreign lands.
In the first part of his book, Hanegraaff defines the problem in basic terms, and introduces us to the cadre of shady characters that make up the Faith movement. There are easily recognized names like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn. This update version also targets new kids on the block like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer.
After introducing the “plot” and the cast of characters (would to God that this were fiction), he spends the bulk of the book elaborating the main points of the Faith movement. These are, in order, a misguided concept of faith, the idea that men are/can become gods, a twisting of the atonement, an emphasis on material prosperity, and denial of God’s purpose in suffering.
Hanegraaff is very concerned that his readers understand what it is he is saying. The chapters of his book are filled with mnemonic devices to insure easy memory. For example, the above list is given as F.L.A.W.S. (Faith in faith, Little gods, Atonement atrocities, Wealth and want, and Sickness and suffering). At first I found these to be cumbersome, but as I continued reading, they began to be helpful to me. Almost every chapter is divided into its own neat little acrostic.
After dealing at length with the problems of the Faith movement, Hanegraaff spends the last part of his book sharing basic tools to help his readers gain a biblical worldview. Here I sensed his genuine desire to rescue lay-people from the clutches of these unscrupulous prevaricators.
I recommend this book in the highest possible terms. It should be in every church library, and in the personal study of every pastor, missionary, and lay leader.
On a personal note, I know that the original version of this was published in Portuguese here in Brazil. I should like to see this new version published also. It would be nice if Hanegraaff could collaborate with someone here in Brazil and add some chapters dealing with our own homegrown and wildly successful “Faith preachers”–Edir Macedo, R.R. Soares, and others of their ilk.