Hanegraaff was born in the Netherlands and raised in the United States in the Christian Reformed Church. He came to faith by examining the scientific evidence for creation, the resurrection of Christ, and the inspiration of Scripture, and was later discipled under the ministry of Dr. D. James Kennedy, holding significant positions in major church programs. He was eventually ordained by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel in California. In 1989, he succeeded Walter Martin as president of the Christian Research Institute and assumed the role of anchorman on The Bible Answer Man radio program.
Hanegraaff is noted for his belief that Biblical inerrancy can be proven on a rational basis. Hanegraaff has also been an outspoken opponent of what he describes as pseudo-Christian cults, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and the Word of Faith movement. Questioning the validity of religious beliefs and practices has resulted in considerable controversy for Hanegraaf, particularly with fellow Christians. On his radio program and in books such as Counterfeit Revival, for example, he has criticized charismatic movements like the Toronto Blessing as unbiblical and dangerous, which has drawn opposition from leaders who disagree with his assessments, including attacks on credibility and legal battles.