Testimony of a Former Skeptic
by Hendrik Hanegraaff
Before his recent death, Dr. Walter Martin, author of Kingdom of the Cults and founder of the Christian Research Institute (CRI),* handpicked Hendrick Hanegraaff to succeed him as president of CRI. It was Dr. Martin’s goal to make CRI the world’s foremost ministry dedicated to equipping committed Christians to be able to communicate what they believe and to know why they believe it.
Now, under the able leadership of Hanegraaff and his staff, CRI continues to see Dr. Martin’s dream become a reality. CRI has become the world’s "specialist" when it comes to teaching Christians how to recognize the false teachings of cults, the occult, world religions, and aberrant Christian theologies.
Hanegraaff is the author of several books, including Personal Witness training: Your Handle on the Great Commission, an easy-to-understand self-study program designed to equip Christians, through powerful and proven memory techniques, to communicate their faith, answer typical objections, and to discern where cult teachings stray from historic Christianity.
If Adam had not eaten of the forbidden fruit and fallen into a life of sin terminated by death, what need would there be for redemption? None! If, in fact, you can undermine the first few chapters of Genesis, the rest of the Bible becomes irrelevant.
And so it was for me. I grew up in a Christian home and was the product of a Godly heritage. Each day I heard the Bible read by my father at mealtimes, and each week I attended an orthodox church and Sunday school. My parents and my pastor both taught me about sin and how it separates me from God and from others. They also taught me about a God who not only loves me with an everlasting love, but who is righteous and just, "whose eyes are too pure to look on evil, and who cannot tolerate wrong." They taught me that it is only through the Person and work of Jesus Christ that my life could have true meaning, purpose, and direction.
Yet there was a catch, for they also made it clear that in order for me to experience true peace and fulfillment, I must be willing to repent, to turn away from a life of sin, and to be willing to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. No longer would I be able to travel the road of life guided by the dictates of my own will. I would have to be willing to submit myself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And this I was not willing to do. I did not want to be deprived of all the pleasures the world had to offer, and so I chose rebellion instead of repentance.
It was not hard for me to make the transition, for while I was reading the Bible at home and in church, I was also reading my textbooks in school, and it was in these that I discovered an avenue of escape from accountability. In these texts, I was presented with a world that had arisen by random processes, originating with a "Big Bang." I was taught that man had arisen from a primordial slime, that atoms evolved into amoebas, that invertebrates became vertebrates, and that a monkey eventually evolved into a man. I can recall the words of "enlightened" teachers who were quick to point out that true men of science and learning had "proven" the Bible to be little more than mythology and superstition. They said that man could no longer take refuge in the arms of a divinized father figure, whom he, himself, had created as a figment of his own imagination.
I was finally free, or so I thought—free to grab for all the gusto that life could offer me. I was no longer bound by a restrictive God—a cosmic kill joy—who was mean, and narrow, and who would have required me to live within confining parameters. Such a God was for the ignorant and for small-minded obscurantists.
And so, until the age of 29, I followed the dictates of my own will. I strove for happiness, moving from one "happening" to another, grabbing for one empty bauble after another, and yet never finding true peace, joy, and contentment. Regardless of the successes I experienced, I was always left with a sense of emptiness, loneliness, and despair that never seemed to go away. Whenever I stopped long enough to think, reality would come crashing down on me. I knew that something was wrong—desperately wrong.
Then, on a wet, windy January night in 1979, three people from the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, knocked on my door. During their visit, they shared their love for me, and told me that God loved me and had a special purpose, direction, and plan for my life. They talked about Jesus Christ, claiming He could replace the emptiness of the human heart with true peace, joy, and life. They also said the Bible could provide me direction and guidance day by day.
Although they seemed well-meaning and were certainly quite pleasant, I could not restrain myself from reacting to their words with sarcasm and condescension. I pointed out that science had long ago demonstrated that God was merely an illusion of the lower senses, that Jesus Christ was not God, and that the Bible and the Biblical account of the resurrection were nothing more than a fairy tale for adults. I also said that all of this mythology was merely a crutch for weak-minded people, and that the earth - plants, animals, humans, and even religion itself - all were merely a function of random chance and of evolutionary processes.
My guests listened politely as I ranted, and while I paused to catch my breath, inquired if I might be unbiased enough to consider objectively the evidence for origins with an open mind. Then, they said, I could make an informed decision, based on the facts, as to whether to accept or reject them. They informed me that, in just one week, their church was sponsoring a seminar on origins, and that both the creation and evolution models would be examined in light of empirical or verifiable laws of science. And with that, they left.
Somehow, that next week, I was irresistibly drawn to the sanctuary of the Coral Ridge Church and to a day of destiny. That day would forever change my life in the here and now, and my destiny for all eternity, as well. That day would impact the lives of my wife, my children, and a multitude of others, for on that day, I encountered the Institute for Creation Research and two of its excellent spokesmen, Dr. Henry Morris and Dr. Duane Gish.
As I sat in the sanctuary that Saturday morning with a host of other people, I was constrained not only by the love that radiated through these two men and their host, Dr. D. James Kennedy, but also by the tremendous impact of their words. As the day progressed, they systematically dismantled the foundation of the "religion" of evolution and demolished the pillars of the world view I had embraced for so many years. Moreover, they forever destroyed my smug stereotype of Christians, whom I had consistently caricatured as Bible-thumping idiots who had lost their brains somewhere in the narthex of some church building.
I began to identify with the reality that people did not reject the concept of a Creator-God because the evidence for evolution was overwhelming; rather, it was because they, like I, did not want to yield their lives to His sovereign control.
During the creation/evolution seminar, and through subsequent study of material produced by the Institute for Creation Research, I learned three primary facts that completely destroy the evolutionary hypothesis.
First, I discovered that basic laws of science, such as the laws of thermodynamics, militate against the theory of evolution and clearly support the creation model for origins.
The second thing I learned through the Institute for Creation Research is that the fossil record is an utter embarrassment to evolutionists. Rather than finding millions upon millions of vertical transitional forms in the fossil record, one finds exactly what has already been declared to be true by God: namely, that plants, fish, fowl, and animals were created after their own kinds.
Third, and even more significant, is the science of statistical probability, which demonstrates beyond any doubt that evolution is not only improbable, but is, indeed, impossible.
Truly, as Psalm 14:1 declares, "The fool has said in his heart, 'there is no God.' " The fool described by the psalmist is not someone lacking mental acumen, but, rather, one who says, like Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way."
Perhaps the overarching principle I learned as a result of ICR's ministry is that people do not reject the concept of a Creator-God because there is such a wealth of evidence to the contrary; rather, it is because they do not want to yield their lives to His sovereign control, even though we as creatures are accountable to Him, the Creator. The real problem, then, is rebellion, not scientific revelation.
Jesus said it most clearly in speaking to Nicodemus: "Light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
As a result of my day of destiny, which now seems like a lifetime ago, I examined in detail not only the evidence for the Biblical account of creation, but also the evidence for the resurrection, which demonstrates beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ is God in human flesh and that the Bible is God's divine revelation to mankind.
Three months after examining the evidence, I humbly knelt beside my bed and asked the Creator and Redeemer of the world to be my Savior and Lord. Now I not only experience Him day by day in His creation, but I experience Him as a living reality in the Person of Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Today, Jesus Christ, God incarnate, is as real to me as the very flesh upon my bones.
How I thank God for three committed Christians who, some twelve years ago now, knocked on my door, shared with me their love of Christ, and invited me to attend ICR's Creation/Evolution Seminar at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
And how I thank God for the ministries of Dr. Morris, Dr. Gish, and the wonderful, capable staff of the Institute for Creation Research. It is through their bold and courageous stand for the truth that the Savior is now a living, indwelling reality in my life. Now, more than ever, these soldiers of the Cross need the support of committed Christian men and women, particularly as they face the vicious attacks of men like Bill Honig.
It is my fervent prayer that those who read these words will renew their commitments to pray for and financially support this great ministry raised up by God. ICR is truly a ministry of great integrity, and is worthy of our support. If I were not the President of the Christian Research Institute, I would gladly serve in any capacity with ICR.
* Christian Research Institute, 17 Hughes, Irvine, CA 92718; (714) 855-9926
Cite this article: Hendrik Hanegraaff. 1990. Testimony of a Former Skeptic. Acts & Facts. 19 (4).