Hank Hanegraaff, U2, and Cupholders in Church

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Hank Hanegraaff and the Local Church

WORLD magazine has an article about the controversy created by Hank Hanegraaff’s recent support for the Local Church.

The Local Church is, theologically, a cult of Christianity. The Local Church in 2004 filed a defamation lawsuit against two Christian authors as well as against the Christian publishers of the Enclyclopedia of Cults and New Religions.

(Incidentally, never mind that the Bible says that Christians should not take Christians to court. After all, we already noted that the group is outside the boundaries of historical, Biblical Christianity – which is why it was included in the Encyclopedia in the first place.)

Not surprisingly, the Local Church lost.

Having made a habit of using the legal system to harass its critics, the Local Church has appealed the Court’s decision.

Last August, the movement garnered support from what some might consider to be an unlikely corner: two Christian apologists. One is Hank Hanegraaf, the already controversial President of the Christian Research Institute.

The other is Hanegraaff friend, Gretchen Passantino, wife of the late Bob Passantino.

Both Hanegraaff and Passantino filed filed of the court briefs on behalf of the Local Church. In the process, they make it clear that they now do not consider the Local Church to be a cult, either sociologically or theologically.

That’s and interesting and troubling development. Note that the Christian Research Institute in a 1996 re-evaluation of an article first published in 1978 wrote:

Our conclusion can only be that some of the basic teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church are heretical and dangerous. We urge Christians to pray for those in the Local Church, help them see Lee’s errors and return to the truth as it is in Jesus and the Word of God, which is the lamp unto our feet. Let us all heed the warning of God’s Word in all matters (Acts 20:31). A number of the basic teachings of the Local Church are false, and it is man’s carnal nature as well as Satan that breeds falsity (John 8:44). Such teachings are darkness (Eph. 6:12), and the Christian must not walk in darkness (1 John 1:5-7). Let us walk in the light as He is in the Light (1 John 1:7).

That article, which is no longer available on CRI’s website, but is available here, was written by Cal Beisner and Bob and Gretchen Passantino. Beisner is Gretchen Passantino’s brother.

Heretical teachings place a person, group or movement outside the boundaries of the Christian faith.

Small wonder then that WORLD magazine reports:

Storms of protests by other cult watchers came down on Hanegraaff and Passantino. They asked why Hanegraaff would want to risk having a court intervene in matters of doctrine, and why he is supporting a lawsuit against an evangelical publisher and two Christian apologists. Apologetics scholar and seminary dean Norman Geisler said he was “shocked” by Hanegraaff’s “unwise and unfounded” action.
– Source: Edward E. Plowman, Without apology: Protests follow Hank Hanegraaff’s support for lawsuit against apologists, WORLD, Oct. 28, 2006

For background information, see this Apologetics Index entry.

U2 Worship Hymns

We have carried a number of newspaper articles on the rising popularity of the so-called U2charist – a play on the word “eucharist” in Episcopal churches. We kid you not, but these are services in which the songs of U2 are used as hymns.

Witness this USA TODAY item:

When Anglican Archbishop Thomas Cranmer compiled the Book of Common Prayer during the 16th century, he wanted to make the prayers accessible, so he wrote in English, not Latin, and made sure it was distributed to every church.

About 450 years later, there is another attempt to make prayers more accessible — by an Irish bard who wears wrap-around shades instead of a clerical collar.

It may not qualify as a mini-Reformation, but a Communion service driven by the music of singer Bono and his U2 bandmates is catching on at Episcopal churches across the country.

The U2 Eucharist is not some kind of youth service held in the church basement but is a traditional Episcopal liturgy that uses U2’s best-selling songs as hymns.

“It makes you, like, warm inside,” says Bridgette Roberts, 15, who is a Roman Catholic and attended a recent U2 Eucharist at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. “Usually at church, you love Jesus and everything. But this way you can express how you feel.”
– Source: Gary Stern, Episcopal ‘U2-charist’ uses songs in service, USA TODAY, Oct. 25, 2006

In his book, One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters To Those Seeking God, Christian Scharen explained:

If U2 had only recorded Psalm 40 on an album and then used it as a standard concert closer for a number of years, it would have been remarkable in the world of rock and roll. Yet their creative use of Psalm 40 is only the tip of the iceberg as I begin this section considering the role of Scripture in the studio and live music of U2 over the years. Many songs include either direct quotations or allusions to specific passages of scripture. For example, in the powerful live performances of “The End of the World” from their early 1990s album Achtung Baby, Bono plays the part of Judas and the Edge plays the role of Jesus as they explore this great story of desire and betrayal from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 14. And on their 2004 album How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, the song “Crumbs from Your Table” is a direct reference to parables from the Gospels of Matthew, chapter 15, and Luke, chapter 16, that set a tone for the song as a whole.

They’ve quoted the Scriptures all along in songs, interviews, and in live performances, but the influence of Scripture runs deeper still. The Scriptures have so deeply shaped the way they speak that the quotation marks often fall away. The Scriptures offer poetic modes of truthful speech about God and the world.

Without a sense of the wideness and wildness of the Bible, you can still love U2 as a great rock and roll band. Yet without that sense of Scripture in U2’s work, you would miss how, again and again, U2 is pointing beyond themselves to a deeper dimension of life, the dimension of the soul, where one meets face to face with, in Bono’s words, “a force of love and logic behind the universe.”
– Source: One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God, by Christian Scharen

See also these items:

Lure of U2 draws churchgoers to special services

Tucson church rises on the rock of U2

There are books as well:

One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God, by Christian Scharen
Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog, by Raewynne J. Whiteley, Beth Maynard
Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2, by Steve Stockman

Pass the Sugar

In a further sign that things are changing at church, Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal reports:

For years now, Leadership’s cartoonists have submitted gags about pews with cupholders. It turns out they were prophets.

At Eagle Brook Church in Lino Lakes, Minnesota, the new auditorium will feature theater-style cupholders.
– Source: Bijou Churches and Pews with Cupholders, Leadership Today, Summer 2006

Hm. With some of the churches we’ve visited an in-chair espresso machine would have been more helpful in trying to stay awake…

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Religion News Blog, Netherlands
Oct. 27, 2006
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This post was last updated: Jul. 31, 2007