Say It Ain’t So, Billy!

Great men often die not so great. Augustine died sick in a cell, as Vandal barbarians destroyed his state and his church. Gregory of Nyssa, Patriach of Constantinople during the First Council of Constantinople in 381 died a lowly rural cleric in the backwaters of the Empire, estranged from that other great Cappodician Father, his childhood and lifelong friend, Gregory Nazianzus. Ulysses S. Grant, former president of the United States, died of throat cancer, desperately writing his biography to raise money to support his soon-to-be widow. And now we watch Billy Graham.

Billy Graham

Billy Graham is to evangelical Protestants what Messiah Obama is to the adoring American masses. He is an icon, not to be questioned, but to be quoted, and venerated. Fundamentalists, of course, have never liked Mr. Graham. In the light of what Billy Graham has recently stated, one may well ask, were the fundamentalists perhaps correct?

Here is the record:

· Billy Graham in 1997 being interviewed by Robert Schuller:

“I think there’s the Body of Christ. This comes from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ… And that’s what God is doing today, He’s calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.”

Well, God forbid that I bring up logic, but how in the world does one “love Christ,” or “know Christ” without being conscious of it? This is very deep stuff. I had all along thought that Mr. Graham was an evangelist, not a theologian, but I see now that I was wrong.

Here’s Billy Graham being interviewed by Jon Meacham of Newsweek (August 14, 2006):

On being 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.”

This is good news. Apparently God even loves Democrats and Republicans, and will let them into heaven. Such a wide mercy!

In the same interview, Graham goes on to say:

“I’m not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord,”

Hmmm. One wonders where the jots and tittles that aren’t from the Lord came from? The world? The flesh? The Devil? One also wonders which jots and tittles didn’t come from the Lord, and how does one discover what those jots and tittles are? Perhaps a shaft of light from heaven will strike us, even such as happened to Obama supporters, to tell us. Perhaps this is why postmodern emergenics find it so hard to oppose sodomite “marriage.” Perhaps they wonder if those embarrassing Scriptures damning homosexuality are a jot and tittle that didn’t come from the Lord. Oh Happy Day! Billy Graham, like the modern age, is free! Free from the rigid circumscriptions of some sort of medieval morality, imposed upon us by that paper pope we call the Bible.

I have read two bloggers who called or wrote the Billy Graham Association for clarification. One response was a cheery “There only one way to heaven.” Well, I’m glad Mr. Graham’s troops believe what he can’t seem to bring himself to say. Another response was: “You have to understand, he’s getting old.” Ah, the senility defense – all is forgiven old people. Another response was: “Read what he believes in his books.” The inquirer responded, my Catholic father who thinks everyone is saved and my unsaved friends don’t read Billy Graham’s books, they read Newsweek.

I have recently poked fun at several outlandish Christian compromisers. Perhaps it may be thought that the intellectual and theological rot I have been noticing in the American church is not widespread; that I have merely found outliers, evangelical freaks outside the mainstream. Well, Billy Graham ain’t no evangelical extremist. He is evangelicalism. And as he fades into irrelevance, not with a bang but with a whimper, let us recognize him for what he is: an icon beautifully representing the dying American church, as it too fades into irrelevance, too ashamed of its Head to even accurately represent what He said about Heaven and Hell.

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~ by matthewdavidcameron on July 13, 2009.

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