Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Billy Graham

I first heard Billy Graham when I was eleven or twelve years old. He led a crusade at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. I don't really recall my impressions of his preaching other than that he was old and hundreds of people rushed the aisles when he beckoned that they come. It wasn't until I was older that I grew to appreciate the sheer magnitude of the ministry that God has entrusted to Billy Graham. Graham has personally preached Jesus to arguably more people on planet earth than any human in history. He is likely the most influential and respected evangelical Protestant living today. This is, perhaps, what makes his latest interview in Newsweek magazine so troubling (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14204483/).

When asked about his belief in the inerrancy of Scripture Graham says the following: "I'm not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord." The interview continues to say this about Graham's views on Scripture: "He has, then, moved from seeing every word of Scripture as literally accurate to believing that parts of the Bible are figurative—a journey that began in 1949, when a friend challenged his belief in inerrancy during a conference in southern California's San Bernardino Mountains."

This is troubling. But more disconcerting is the soft-stance that Graham assumes regarding the exclusivity of Christ for salvation. It is in this context that Graham's new "humility" emerges. Here is an excerpt from the article: "He is sure and certain of his faith in Jesus as the way to salvation. When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: 'Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't ... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.' Such an ecumenical spirit may upset some Christian hard-liners, but in Graham's view, 'only God knows who is going to be saved.'"

Let me begin by saying that I am out of my league in this argument. This is Billy Graham for crying out loud! I have deep respect for his life-long ministry and what once appeared to bea rock solid commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, if this quote indeed represents the new "humble" view of Graham regarding salvation, it is an irresponsible, negligent view of the teachings of Scripture that neuters the gospel of its power because it pushes the propitiation of Jesus for sinners into the margins of faith and effectively makes the message of the gospel meaningless. It is quite true that only God knows who will be saved, but it is also true that God's salvation will only come through His Son Jesus Christ. "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1Tim 2:5).

The exclusivity of Christ is not about God's love for sinners and desire to save them. Graham mistakenly makes this the issue in his non-committal statements about who will enter the Kingdom when he says he doesn't want to speculate about who will inherit eternal life because he believes the love of God is absolute. This isn't an issue of God's love. It is an issue of God's means for salvation. No sincere Christian who has a heart for the nations would question God's desire to redeem Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, secular people or even misguided church people! The exclusivity of Christ isn't about God's love for His creation. It is about how God has intervened in the quandry of sinful man and provided a means for sinners to be reconciled to God.

One last note that came out of the Southern Baptist Convention in June. A bronze statue of Billy Graham will be erected outside of Lifeway this year in honor of his life and ministry. Fantastic. A tribute to someone who doesn't hold to the inerrancy of Scripture and questions the exclusivity of Christ. I hope and pray that this interview doesn't really reflect what Billy Graham believes. I pray that the media has simply distorted and twisted his intended message. I even pray that these are the words of a man struggling with Parkinson's disease leading him to think and say confusing words. But this isn't the first time Graham has made these kind of remarks. I thank God for Graham's faithfulness to proclaim God's Word over the years, but this latest peek into Graham's heart is a cause of concern.


At 1:21 PM , Anonymous Meredith Beck said...

Wow. I didn't know any of that about Graham.

At 1:18 PM , Anonymous dawidmelek said...

I bet you feel really righteous after your little "slam-the-Graham" tirade, you fundamentalist miscreant.

At 10:59 PM , Blogger r a i n e r said...

what's a miscreant? i didn't know you were a fundamentalist either.

At 8:54 AM , Blogger Aaron said...

A "miscreant" is a villian, heretic or infidel.


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