Broken Religion

Newsweek Magazine . 14 August 2006. Excerpt from interview with Billy Graham ~ A unifying theme of Graham’s new thinking now is humility. He is sure and certain of his faith in Jesus as the way to salvation, but when asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, 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.”

You would think, when a man of Graham’s pedigree made a statement like that, people would lean forward and listen more closely. “This is something to think about…a perspective to contemplate and pray about.” That was, however, not the response.

If you were in the church at that time, you heard the howls of the defenders of the faith. He was labeled a heretic, a universalist and a false teacher. That response prompted my cartoon, posted above. We have curiously morphed from being people of the Good News to doctrinal police and moralists who think they impress God by what they condemn. I suppose the church has done this a lot throughout our long history. It’s something Paul addresses all the way back at the beginning of the church.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Romans 2:1-16 as we continue our study in that book.

When you read Paul’s warnings, what overall theme emerges to you? Do you think Paul is trying to say there is no right or wrong? What would you consider the best defense against adopting a moralist approach to our Christian faith?

4 thoughts on “Broken Religion

  1. Rob, I sent you a message on FB Messenger and received no response, so I’m contacting you here in the hopes of hearing back form you. I want to start by saying that I really enjoy your preaching and am happy to be back at Eastgate after a long time away.

    Concerning the Newsweek article, I believe Rev. Graham’s response was confusing (especially to the non-believing seeker). I think any honest person would acknowledge that his answer at least insinuated that believers in the teachings of other religions may be on their way to heaven while holding those beliefs. I agree with Rev. Graham that only God can judge the hearts of people and I also agree with him that God loves everyone. What I don’t understand is why he didn’t take the question as an opportunity to clearly and unequivocally state that Jesus is the one and only way to heaven. Believing the teachings of Islam and also believing that Jesus is the only way to heaven are logically inconsistent, i.e., Jesus cannot be God and not God. I’m not trying to join the “doctrinal police,” but I don’t see how watering down the Gospel is a sign of humility as asserted in the article.

    Do you believe that Rev’ Graham should have taken the opportunity to clearly state that faith in Christ alone is the way to heaven? Do you agree that faith in Christ is logically inconsistent with the teachings of other religions?

  2. Hey Troy – sorry, I’m rarely checking FB these days. I do all I can to preserve my peace, and FB has not been instrumental in that for me. 🙂

    As to your question – I get that it seems as though Graham was watering down the gospel – albeit, the entire article makes it clear that he points to Jesus as the means of salvation. I think that the way the question was presented to him has a lot to do with why he answered it the way he did. Had he been asked “do you believe Jesus is humanity’s only source of redemption?” – I believe (though I don’t know, no one can) he would have answered “Yes!”.
    But that’s not how the question was framed. It was set up the way people typically do, as an “us” vs “them” test. I believe Graham was wise enough not to allow for that sort of “siloing” of the conversation, especially on such a huge public platform. Our real mission is to reveal a God who wants ALL people to come to him (2 Pet 3:9). Setting up the walls of exclusion don’t usually communicate that concept well.
    I look at Paul’s presentation on Mars Hill as a great example of this. In Acts 17:16-f, Paul was grieved by all the idolatry he saw represented in Athens. However, when presented with the opportunity to speak, he din’t lead off with a condemnation of other religions – rather, he literally commended them for being so attentive to religion (v23) – and then used their own superstitious views about gods as a platform for introducing them to the One True God, revealed through Jesus Christ.

    My point in highlighting this article was to question the quickness we have as 21st Century American Evangelical Christians to condemn and dismiss everyone who doesn’t adhere to a non-scriptural litmus test of orthodoxy, rather than engage in conversations to more fully understand a person’s position and convictions. Weighing in on Graham’s views wasn’t my real issue.

    However – to answer your question, I do believe that a faith in Christ presents a logical contradiction to other religions. I believe Graham would have agreed with that as well. But I still insist, that was not the question posed to Graham. He was asked specifically to take on God’s perspective as judge, which I think he wisely chose not to do.

    I truly believe that our calling as followers of Jesus is to declare Jesus is the Messiah of God who alone brings us salvation. I believe Graham did that (even though, I actually have my own issues with Graham’s evangelistic message). I’m not as convinced that we have to engage in the “us” vs “them” model that seems to only widen the divide and ruin our chances of interaction that will give us opportunities to share that good news.

    Those are my thoughts, anyway.

    1. Rob,
      Thanks for the quick and thorough answer, and for helping me to see Rev. Graham’s comments from a different perspective.

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