Importance of Proper Research & Apologetic Methods
Excerpts from Bible Answer Man Radio Broadcasts Concerning the Teaching and Practice of Witness Lee and the Local Churches
In these excerpts from broadcasts of the Bible Answer Man radio program, Hank Hanegraaff, President of the Christian Research Institute, and Elliot Miller, Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal, discuss the need of apologetics ministries to apply proper research and apologetic methods, including evaluating others’ statements in context, engaging in dialogue to gain proper understanding of others’ teachings, and avoiding presumptive use of loaded language such as the term cult in describing others:
Critics of the local churches have not engaged in dialogue with representatives of the churches nor have they fairly represented the corpus of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee’s ministry. Such dialogue and fairness should be the hallmarks of apologetics work but often are not. On January 5, 2010, Hank Hanegraaff and Elliot Miller discussed the importance of doing discernment ministry properly and the consequences of statements made in error.
As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, criticisms of the teachings of Witness Lee and the local churches have typically relied upon short quotations divorced from their original context. On June 6, 2010, Hank Hanegraaff spoke about the importance of context in understanding others’ teachings.
In 1985, after extensive research into criticisms of the ministry of Witness Lee, Dr. J. Gordon Melton wrote an open letter in which he clearly demonstrated that The God-Men, an early book critical of the local churches, took statements from Witness Lee’s teaching out of context and made them say the opposite of his intent. Although Dr. Melton is generally considered to be an eminent authority on contemporary American religious movements, his open letter was largely ignored. On January 6, 2010, Elliot Miller spoke about Dr. Melton’s findings and the countercult community’s response.
In the same broadcast Elliot Miller remarked on the importance of dialogue in understanding others’ teachings and how dialogue with representatives of the local churches led the Christian Research Institute to reassess its earlier criticisms.
On the next day’s broadcast, speaking in the context of the history between CRI and the local churches, Elliot Miller described the barriers to dialogue created by calling a group a cult and commented on the initial reticence that he and Gretchen Passantino felt concerning the value of dialogue with the local churches. This was due to a long history of past conflicts between the churches and CRI. Elliot also discusses the change in their view that resulted after engaging in such dialogue.