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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Billy Graham School of Ecumenism?

As usual, I am usually last to find out about important matters going on in the world. However, when I find the issue important enough, I will address it nonetheless. And the current issue with Billy Graham and his recent interview in the August 14, 2006 edition of Newsweek is a big issue. Many others have written about this already, and I the links are provided below. However, my point in addressing this issue is for three reasons.

  1. I am a current student in the Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Missions and Church Growth. When I am a member of a school whose honorary name is given to a man who says, when asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people,
"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,"

there is a real problem. I am beginning to wonder if our school at Southern should look for a name change. How about The Andrew Fuller School of Evangelism, Missions and Church Growth?

  1. Just a few months ago, the Southern Baptist Convention erected a statue in honor of Billy Graham. Granted, Graham has done some amazing things, but wouldn’t it be fair to say that the conservative resurgence has been unapologetically and uncompromisingly faithful to the view of biblical inerrancy? No so for the “monumental” Billy Graham. He says,
"I'm not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord . . .”

Shortly after this surprising statement by Graham, the interviewer adds,

“He is not saying Jesus is just another lifestyle choice, nor is he backtracking on essentials such as the Incarnation or the Atonement. But he is arguing that the Bible is open to interpretation, and fair-minded Christians may disagree or come to different conclusions about specific points.”

After this, one might wonder what to make of the statue of ole’ Billy in Nashville. Methinks the correspondence should begin as, “Houston Nashville, we have a problem.”

  1. Finally, Billy Graham has made a tremendous impact on the contemporary styles of evangelism, and by that I am referring to the altar calls and decisional regeneration. This has done more to confuse sinners, change the gospel, and cause greater harm in the church than any recent thing in recent history. I know that is a big assertion, but I stand by it. We are in danger of losing the gospel today, and our churches are in serious need of reform. Reform from what you might ask? Reform from easy-believism and man-centered theology that assumes that salvation can manipulated or coerced by tactics, schemes, or moods.

My heart was grieved when I heard news of this interview of Billy Graham. People have said that when people get older, they get wiser and soften their once passionate views which they held with such conviction and boldness. Recently I heard this also argued concerning J.I. Packer who in his earlier years wrote such potent stuff as Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God as well as the remarkable introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Whether this is true, I know that in the Christian life, it is not how you start but how you finish. As Billy Graham nears that finish line, let’s pray that the Lord will clear up the doubts he has about God’s inerrant Word and the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Other articles about Billy Graham in Newsweek:

Ingrid Schlueter (Slice of Laodicea): Billy Graham's New Thinking on Salvation Nathan White: Billy Graham: False teacher, or just a little wayward in old age? Josh Buice: When a Hero Falls Chip Thornton: Billy Graham: What Means This?

17 Comments:

Blogger Stephen Newell said...

Count me among the throng of those scratching their heads and going, "Huh?"

I like Billy Graham. He was the first preacher other than my pastor that I really paid attention to after I was saved. I own several of his books and have read them through several times. But this is a confusing time to be someone who followed Graham.

I might quibble a bit with your 3rd point. Graham's crusades, in his own words and that of his staff, were merely the capstone of extended efforts. We all know that. There is nothing "easy believist" about his crusades--the Word was first sown and watered.

But perhaps we are guilty of watching him and thinking "that's all there is to it?!? Dang!!!"

If anything, we ought to at least stop and remember that Graham and his team worked hard for every conversion (or decision, depending on how you view these things), spending months in prayer and coordination with local churches for evangelism. Then we ought to kick ourselves in the pants for not being willing to work and pray just as hard.

I suppose this attitude is why we're confused at the moment--is all that hard work and prayer for naught? I'd like to see brother Graham clarify his statements, but I think he won't. He does deserve sweet rest after his zealousness.

8/10/2006 06:07:00 AM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Stephen,

I really appreciate your comments, bro.

Like you, I have been privileged to have been influenced by Billy Graham. For instance, I will never forget going to the Billy Graham School of Evangelism in Orlando, FL my sophomore year of college. It was revolutionary for me. What was extra special was when Larry Backlund, president of the BGSOE caught me on a walkway and engaged in a conversation which ended up in being prayer partners for the week. I am forever grateful for such an impact on my life.

However, I do not agree with the decisional rengeneration and man-centered evangelism which makes up the Billy Graham method. I am well aware of the crusade evangelism style as I actually have the book in my library which details every aspect of their planning, administrating, and counseilng.

I also have friends and even close family (who are Catholic) go forward at his invitations who could not explain to you the gospel or what it means to be saved apart from praying a praying and wanting to go to heaven. What has happenend in the crusades has carried over into the local churches as well.

Furthermore, I have made it my major focus in ministry and studies to contend for the exclusivity of Christ Jesus and His gospel in our world. To me, it doesn't get any bigger than this. Such quesitons as "Who do you say that I am?" and "What is the gospel you preach?" are fundamental to our Christian faith.

I applaud Graham for his integrity through the years, his passion to preach, and his humility which has exuded from his interactions with other people. By far, he is one of the most respected men in the world. Yet, all that does not excuse him from his recent comments nor does it eclipse the glaring problems with his theology and methodology. I know it sounds like I am coming down hard, but I believe there are certain issues and certain times when it is necessary. As I have stated, my admiration for him on the areas I mentioned still stand while I strongly disagree with him on some of the most essential, non-negotiable matters of the Christian faith. This is one case where moderation simple won't stand.

8/10/2006 06:49:00 AM

 
Blogger Shannon Mckenzie said...

Tim,
Thanks for the post! I just received my Newsweek in the mail yesterday and read the article as soon as I saw the cover story was Billy Graham. I was going to write a post, but now, I can just link to yours. It is sad to see great icons of modern Christianity give up those beliefs that made them icons. Graham is not an isolated case; you mentioned Packer and there are others. I think this should serve as a reminder to all believers that we need to pray that other Christians finish well, not just that they make it through a single day.

8/10/2006 08:09:00 AM

 
Blogger Nick Kennicott said...

Timmy: I just want to say that I am continually inspired and grateful for your insight and thought. This post, along with so many others, is yet another reminder to me that you are putting thought and careful reasoning into every effort instead of blasting meaningless rhetoric like so many in the blogosphere are guilty of doing. Thank you, and keep up the great work - there are many of us who depend on your words and, most importantly, a revealing of the work of Christ in your life.

8/10/2006 11:05:00 AM

 
Blogger Mark Combs said...

Timmy,
Great post!! Everybody is talking about this, & not to make excuses for the guy, but I wonder how much Graham's age & mental capacity comes into play.

I remember watching a clip of Billy Graham on Larry King in Lawless' evangelism class & afterwards the instructor (Lawless was gone that day) said that they called Graham's association & they told SBTS that the comments came because of Graham's failing health & mental fatigue.

I wonder if that is not also the same for J.I. Packer?

Again not making excuses for these guys. If indeed that is the case they should have had Graham step down long ago so as not to damage the witness of the gospel.

8/10/2006 12:14:00 PM

 
Blogger Matthew R. Perry said...

Timmy:

Good thoughts, brother. We could add to the list John Stott who now embraces annihilationism --- a conviction he did not have when he was younger.

I posted an article on my blog about this subject, but I would like to add this article as well. Good stuff!

8/10/2006 12:30:00 PM

 
Blogger Bill Combs said...

Timmy,
What did you think when Dr. Mohler supported (sponsored?) the Billy Graham in Louisville, assuming you were there then?

8/10/2006 02:10:00 PM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Bill,

I am sorry, but you have asked a question I cannot answer. While I am aware of Dr. Mohler's involvement with Graham, I am not in the least bit in a position to speak on behalf of him. I was not in Louisville at that time either, so my knowledge is superficial at best. My suggestion is to shoot Dr. Mohler and email and ask him yourself.

8/10/2006 02:25:00 PM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

@ Shannon,

Amen bro. Actually, my Newsweek subscription ended a couple of months ago, so I am wagging the tail on this one. I am encouraged to see others taking up this issue to a much greater depth than I have. Yes, we should pray for our faithful soldiers as they fight their last battle (even death) that they would not become a casualty in the latter years. This is a solemn warning for all of us young bucks out there as well.

@ Nick,

Really appreciate the kinds words man. I am grateful for the great interaction I have received (from those who agree as as well as those who don't) of late. Thanks for taking the time to comment and engage the issues.

@ Mark,

Yeah, I think old age might have something to do with it, but I am not going to leave it there. Furthermore, as Chip Thornton as shared in his post, the interviewer is not a friend of conservative, evangelical theology, so I am beginning to wonder about the purpose of this interview, coming from Newsweek and highlighting the changes in Graham's positions which are so crucial to the conservative evangelical position.

8/10/2006 02:35:00 PM

 
Blogger Rev. Scott Welch said...

This is a sad thing to see unfold but part of me is glad it is coming out in such a public way. Billy Graham has been a sort of "Untouchable" in most evangelical, and especiall Baptist, circles. I am a recent grad of Southeastern Seminary and had a brother ready to go to blows with me (literally) because I had the audacity to criticize something Billy Graham had said. It was so bad that the student didn't even look me in the eye the remainder of the semester. No kidding! Thanks for the great post, Timmy!

8/10/2006 09:48:00 PM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Scott,

So you have taken the hits too, huh? The irony behind all that is people are being critical of people being critical. Perfomative contradictions abound doesn't it? The greatest, however, is that conservative academia trains us to combat liberalism, heresy, and our culture but tells us not to criticize our leaders/positions/ideologies when we believe they are wrong. I will post about this later, but I believe one of the weakest aspects of evangelicals and especially the SBC is our inability to criticize ourselves and receive it for what its worth.

Trust me, to attempt to touch the untouchables will sometimes cause people to want to get their hands on you, but be of good courage bro. and press on in the full conviction that is rooted in God's Word - that which has held our consciences captive . . .

8/10/2006 10:08:00 PM

 
Blogger J. Gray said...

Great thoughts, Timmy.

You are right about the "untouchables". We've seen it with Graham as well as other SBC leaders who make comments and then when questioned take it as a personal attack and have their followers go nuts because you attacked their pastor.

We (the SBC as a whole) definitely have lost the ability to understand that NONE of our leaders, or ourselves, are infallible, and that we all need to be called on the carpet of we are wrong.
No one is above criticism...though it's hard to tell nowadays.

I am curious if anyone will mention this publicly. I doubt it. Just like other pastors (ex- Bobby Welch), most leaders will simply shut their mouths and hope it passes rather than call out the error. the irony is that if Benny Hinn or Brian McLaren said this, they'd come out of the woodworks to light them up (and rightfully so), but they keep mum on this. Sad.

8/11/2006 05:08:00 PM

 
Blogger Alex F said...

Timmy: "My suggestion is to shoot Dr. Mohler and email and ask him yourself."

You should at least reverse the order and email Dr. Mohler before you shoot him. But I don't think you should shoot him.

:)

Good post, man. Like the new look too. Now nobody will think you are a nutty president.

8/11/2006 06:37:00 PM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

YIKES! I don't think I will ever use that terminology again. Lesson learned.

8/11/2006 10:38:00 PM

 
Blogger Wayne Hatcher said...

All my life the unwritten code has been "You don't criticize Billy Graham". I think the reason for that is our moralistic society. The Graham team early on signed up with some integrity accountability orginization in the 50's or 60's. I'm not sure of the details, but time has proven the orginization is above reproach, and that is what middle-class America appreciates. I believe it was Christian Smith who coined the phrase "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism". A result of 19th century revivalism, moralism is at the heart of the problems in the SBC too.
Brother Timmy, you and your fellow seminarians study hard and prepare well. We need you, badly.
In Christ, Wayne Hatcher

8/12/2006 05:48:00 PM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Last night, I was going through the difficult process of “tubbing” many books because my guest bedroom/slash office is too cluttered. As I was filing through the stacks, I came across two that I set aside to study concerning Graham. During that time I was interested in how evangelicals understood conversion and regeneration. Let me provide you the bib info in case you might be interested in checking them out.

“A ‘Paradigm Case’: Billy Graham and the Nature of Conversion” in Evangelical Landscapes: Facing Critical Issues of the Day by John G. Stackhouse (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002): 103-20.

America’s Preacher and His Message: Bill Graham’s View of Conversion and Sanctification by Timo Pokki (Landham: University Press of America, 1999).

Although it’s been a long time since I read it, Graham also has a book called How to Be Born Again (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1989).

I provide these because it is important to understand and explain the pervading belief in decisional regeneration and man-centered soteriology. Indeed, Graham has had a tremendous impact on the evangelical landscape, especially regarding conversion. However, I am afraid that his impact has had more adverse effects in the long run - effects which we are already seeing and reacting to in the succeeding generations of evangelical life.

8/13/2006 03:09:00 AM

 
Blogger Jim said...

I'm coming in a bit late on this, I suppose, but I'm just getting back from vacation. Several have put forth the theory that these statements are a result of BG's advanced age and, perhaps, an accompanying diminishment in his mental capacities.

I, too, would like to think the best about everyone, but in this case, we do need to take into account the fact that BG has held these views for at least a decade, going back to his interview with Robert Schuller in 1997.

I remember John MacArthur dealing with this in a letter that he sent out. He had contacted the BGEA for clarification and was told that BG "has always believed what he revealed in the interview.

It doesn't seem that this BG's words are a slip or ill-considered. He was approached by who knows how many people after the Schuller interview and has clearly rejected correction and maintained his position.

8/14/2006 09:30:00 AM

 

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