Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Billy Graham Interview in Newsweek

I mentioned to someone a couple of months ago how Billy Graham had altered his views on the Gospel - they were in complete disbelief. This is really nothing new and has been well-documented over the past 10 years or so, but the recent Newsweek article demonstrated yet again his confused soteriology (doctrine of salvation).

"A unifying theme of Graham's new thinking is humility. 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: 'As an evangelist for more than six decades, Mr. Graham has faithfully proclaimed the Bible's Gospel message that Jesus is the only way to Heaven,' says Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross. 'However, salvation is the work of Almighty God, and only he knows what is in each human heart.'"

Obviously these statements are entirely contradictory. You cannot believe that "Jesus is the only way to heaven" and that practicing Jews, Muslims and Buddhists will also get there without Christ. The exclusivity of the Saviour is often defended by those of Graham's persuasion by saying something like, "The Jew's salvation is still based on Christ and the merit of His work, even though that particular Jew never expressed personal faith in Christ (or in some cases even had any knowledge of Christ)." This deserves a very large hoogly all around.

One only need read the New Testament book of Romans from start to chapter 10 to see what I mean:

"if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? [3] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."

These things are not that hard. And don't buy the nonsense that you are "not nuanced enough" in your understanding or that you are some primitive "fundamentalist/literalist." Those are just smokescreens (otherwise described in the Bible as submerging by their sinful thoughts what men know in their hearts to be true) and attempts to get your eyes off of the Bible.

No one questions that Billy Graham has been used of God. Nor is anyone I know questioning his integrity, love for God or attempt to remain faithful. I, for one, would certainly question to what degree he has been used... I still think Whitefield was far more mightily used of the Lord in real conversions (but that is another post). No, the issue here is whether his representation of the Biblical data concerning how men are saved is correct or not... and it is not.

Earlier in the interview, we read this:

"If he had his life to live over again, Graham says he would spend more time immersed in Scripture and theology. He never went to seminary, and his lack of a graduate education is something that still gives him a twinge. "The greatest regret that I have is that I didn't study more and read more," he says. "I regret it, because now I feel at times I am empty of what I would like to have been. I have friends that have memorized great portions of the Bible. They can quote [so much], and that would mean a lot to me now."

Even more than being able to quote Scripture, perhaps Graham would have been forced to think through his own understanding of salvation more intensely, and would have avoided these disappointing statements later in life.