Wednesday, October 25, 2006

living well, dying well

Did anybody catch this Newsweek article on Billy Graham?

Billy Graham's New Thinking on Politics, the Bible - Newsweek National News -

It's worth reading. The photo album on the right side is really worth viewing.

Do any of his statements trouble you like they trouble me? Which ones? Do we chalk these up to the Parkinsons or inaccurate quotes or what?


Tim Weaver said...

There were a few things that rubbed me a bit wrong, but I have a feeling that if I were to sit down with him and discuss the context and his thought process I would not find his views too far from my own.

This quote I find troublesome at first.

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 think his answer is wise as there is not an absolute 'yes' or 'no' to it and his audience is not one that he could spend time elaborating and think that it would make it into the article. Unfortunately the quote allows someone to read into it a lot that he didn't say.

Here is another one that bugged me.

"I'm not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord," Graham says. "This is a little difference in my thinking through the years." He has, then, moved from seeing every word of Scripture as literally accurate to believing that parts of the Bible are figurative

Again, I would love to know more of the context and his thoughts. My thought on this is that we are looking at a translation into a different language and a different culture. We have to realize that even if we believe that the original that was translated is perfect we would be foolish to think that a literal reading of our English translation is always capturing the exact nuance that our God put down for us. Otherwise Godly scholars would not sit on opposite sides of theological discussions. That said, I believe that God does clearly communicate what we need to know for salvation and to live a life that is pleasing to Him. I don't think that Billy Graham would disagree with that at all.

Jeannett Gibson said...

The biggest thing that jumped out at me was first and foremost how well the article was written, and how regardless of a couple of "weird" parts (i.e. the idea that the Bible isn't literal), it depicted Billy Graham the way I believe we should all strive to be perceived: kind, loving, God honoring, compassionate, and sincere. We could sit and argue whether we agree with some of Mr. Graham's particulars, but ultimately, I believe he has managed to live the Gospel in a way that even a mainstream media outlet has no choice but to present him in an amazing light...even when they'd probably prefer to do otherwise. I'd like to believe that even non-christians would be drawn to the man depicted in that article. In Growth Group we talked about what it meant to live as Christ...I think Mr. Graham has given us some insight into what that actually looks like. :0)

Roy said...

Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth,and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.
John 14:6

That's about as easy and straight forward as it gets!

Gordon said...

I'm certainly with Tim W on some of his observations: Graham saying he's not a literalist in every sense. I think this could be taken out of context. It would have been nice to read and discuss with Graham what he meant. This article certainly like to blur the lines of right and wrong with the line, ‘In a Pew Research Center survey released last week, 66 percent of all Americans want a "middle ground" on abortion. Six out of 10 white evangelicals also support compromise; meanwhile, 44 percent of white evangelicals—the highest figure recorded in five years of polling—back stem-cell research.’ Unfortunately, I see a bit of NewsWeek using Graham for the author's personal perspective of morality.

However, more importantly - Graham's life as admirable as it may have been in the prime of his life - I found it sobering and worth some consideration how he said as Christians we're taught how to die as a Christian, but not how to grow old. "When you get older, secondary things, like politics, begin to fall away, and the primary thing becomes primary again—and for Daddy, the primary thing is, as Jesus said, to try to love God totally, and to love our neighbor as ourselves."

I personally think Graham's life in his 'twilight years' is a stronger spirtual testimony of a transformed life than his preaching in this sense: it's a humble life. He sees his mortality, his love of his life Ruth is still strong and enduring, and more importantly he knows what truly matters: "but know that they have been covered by the blood of Christ, and that gives me a great sense of confidence."

Brianna Heldt said...

I was impressed by Billy Graham's gentleness and humility. So often I think people reach the end of their lives more bitter/angry than they started out, and I think the fact that he's become more gentle and quiet-spirited is a testament to his walk with the Lord.

In CS Lewis' "The Problem of Pain" he talks about how he takes much of the Old Testament less-than-literally. There are some very well-respected Christians who believe that way, and after having read that book I'm not really surprised when I hear so-and-so takes the old Bible stories figuratively.

I actually really respect Billy's answer to the question about good Muslims, unbelievers, etc. going to Heaven. I felt he cut right to the heart of the matter saying that God knows each and every heart, no matter who/what the person is, period. In a world where we so quickly want to slap a label on everyone and draw a line in the sand in an "us vs. them" sort of way (be it due to race/class/culture/beliefs) I found it refreshing. I don't believe he was arguing that "all roads lead to Heaven" or denying John 14:6, although I can see how it could be taken that way.

Joe Pollon said...

The mainstream media's bias being what it is, it seems to me from the title to the end, the intent of the author was to say, "Look, this giant of the Christian Right has lightened up, the rest of you should too."

I think Tim's right, if you filtered out the authors agenda and could get elaboration on Mr. Graham's views there wouldn't be as much "Progress" as the author tries to intimate.

David Leece said...

As I read this article in Sojourners by Barak Obama, I was struck by some of the similarities, some nuanced, to some of the thoughts of this thread this week. I think some of the challenges brought up in the Billy Graham article is how do we intersect our faith and the public arena when we live in a pluralistic society. I don't think we need to compromise our faith and morality but in a democratic society we have to find ways to unite ourselves and live out the gospel even with those who may come from significantly different backgrounds, political parties, and even different religions.

Craig Cappiello said...

A few things are puzzling, though I'm not sure whether it's Graham or the writer that is to blame. For example, the use of the words "literally" and "literalist":

He does not believe that Christians need to take every verse of the Bible literally; "sincere Christians," he says, "can disagree about the details of Scripture and theology—absolutely."

While he believes Scripture is the inspired, authoritative word of God, he does not read the Bible as though it were a collection of Associated Press bulletins straightforwardly reporting on events in the ancient Middle East. "I'm not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord," Graham says. "This is a little difference in my thinking through the years." He has, then, moved from seeing every word of Scripture as literally accurate to believing that parts of the Bible are figurative.

No good biblical scholar would suggest that the whole of the Bible is to be taken literally. There are passages that are clearly intended to be allegorical or metaphorical, such as the parables. So yes, his belief that parts of the Bible are figurative is both reasonable and orthodox. However, his statement that, "I'm not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord" is in direct contradiction with his statement that, "Scripture is the inspired, authoritative word of God". Neither of these statements has anything to do with the literal/figurative aspects of Scripture, but rather with its authorship and inerrancy. Either the writer got confused and took Graham out of context, or Graham is speaking out of both sides of his mouth regarding the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. [Ref. 2 Tim. 3:16 - "All Scripture is inpired by God...."]

Nevertheless, I can't think of many men whose lives I have more respect and admiration for than Billy Graham's. He is a model of a life well lived.