15 Questions I Would Ask Billy Graham
At the close of yesterday’s article, I shared that I think more clarification is needed regarding Billy Graham’s theology of religions and exclusivity of the gospel. On several occasions, Graham has tacitly denied one of the most important issues of the Christian faith—the necessity, extent and efficaciousness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His redemptive plan through His Spirit and Church. Because I would attempt to probe into these issues and press for theological precision, Graham’s interviewers would label me as one of those “rigid” traditionalists. And that’s okay with me, so long as they are referring to classical Christianity as expressed in a firm conviction in sola Scriptura and solus Christus along with due treatment to the conciliar creeds formative to orthodox Christianity. One does not have to go far in church history to find that the early Church continually had to define, clarify, and become more precise in their beliefs in order to refute heresies—heresies that would simply change a word here or take a word out there and completely alter the definition of an essential doctrine to the Christian faith. We can find this in such heresies as Arianism, Nestorianism, Doceticism, Apollynarianism, Modalism, and so on. The Definition of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) is a word-specific, theologically precise definition which unified the Church. Other creeds and historical documents universally agreed upon were not the result of development new doctrines or formulating new beliefs but rather the clarification and acknowledgment of beliefs and doctrines held from the beginning of the church. New heresies and false teachers come with each generation, and it is necessary for Christians to care for sound doctrine, to give a defense for the gospel, and to contend for the faith once for all handed down to the saints.
15 Questions I Would Ask Billy Graham
- Do you believe that a sinner must have knowledge about Jesus Christ in order to be saved?
- Do you believe that a sinner can be saved and not know it?
- Do you believe that other religions are included in God’s redemptive purposes, either as viable “vehicles” of salvation or find their fulfillment in Christ(ianity)?
- Do you believe that a sinner who has never heard the gospel will go to hell?
- Do you believe that a sinner can respond positively to general revelation and be saved by that light?
- Do you believe that the Holy Spirit accomplishes another work of redemption apart from Christ and His Church?
- Do you believe that a sinner can experience a post-mortem encounter with Jesus if he did not have the opportunity to hear the gospel in their lifetime?
- Do you believe that a sinner has to have an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel to go to hell? In other words, what qualifies a person to go to hell when they die?
- How do you define lostness?
- You have stated that only through Christ a person can be saved. How would you define the content of saving faith placed in Christ? Can it be implicit as well as explicit?
- Do you agree with this statement by Vatican II, “Those who can attain to everlasting salvation who through on fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or his church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do his will as it is known to them through the dictates of their conscience”?
- Do you believe there is a distinction between a believer in God and a Christian?
- Would you agree that “outside the Church, there is no salvation” (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus)? How so?
- You have mentioned often about the love of God as a motivating rationale for your inclusive beliefs. How do you believe the love of God is balanced with his other attributes such as holiness, justice, and righteousness?
- Finally, do you believe that Christianity as defined by Christ and the Scriptures is sufficient and satisfactory for explaining God’s purposes on earth, or do you believe that Christianity must learn from other religions and integrate other religious beliefs consonant to Christian ideals?
These are 15 questions that I thought of today specifically related to Graham’s statements. How Graham would answer these questions would clarify a great deal about his belief in the gospel, other religions, and the nature of his exclusivism (whether he is of the Pinnock/Sanders/Rahner mold of inclusivism or Carson/Piper/Geivett/Nash mold of particularism).
Tomorrow, I hope to provide some resources for further research on inclusivism for those interested. Instead of putting up a lengthy and running bibliography, I will try to organize the books and articles in sections, with those for inclusivism and those against it. Some would be debatable of course as the lines are not clearly drawn on some of the finer points. Anyway. The matter which has received spotlight (inclusivism) through Billy Graham’s interviews is a huge topic of discussion and debate among evangelicals, and now is NOT the time to be vague, ambiguous, and evasive. May God give us wisdom from His Word, coupled with humility that speaks where God has spoken and remains silent when he hasn’t. Let there be a clarion voice from truth-abiding, Christ-confessing, gospel-proclaiming Christians who do not apologize for the Cross and don’t shy away from it when it is their turn to carry theirs.