Monday, August 21, 2006

The Thief and the Robber

Billy Graham’s recent comments about the availability of salvation outside of Christ have come under fire.

Graham’s position is especially incongruous considering the fact that he has consecrated his entire adult life, at great personal sacrifice, from his dynamic prime to doddering old age, to mass evangelism.

But the irony of Graham’s position merely highlights a tug-of-war in any generically Arminian theology.

For if you believe that God loves everyone equally, that God desires the salvation of everyone, that Christ died for everyone, and also that the Holy Spirit is working to engender conviction in every heart, then that logically implies the availability of salvation apart from faith in Christ.

You end up with a scheme of potential universalism. Everyone may not be saved, but everyone has an equal chance to be saved.

And if not in this life, then in the next. (Postmortem evangelism.)

Calvinism is the only theological tradition that lays a logical foundation to consistently honor faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone for salvation.

Otherwise, Christ gradually fades from view as the object of saving faith.

Ironically, many evangelicals in the SBC and beyond regard unlimited atonement as a precondition of effective evangelism.

To the contrary, unlimited atonement cuts the root of sola fide, sola gratia, and solus Christus.

The Lord Jesus Christ is both a road and a roadblock. A road to heaven for believers, but a roadblock for unbelievers. There is a way through him, but no way around him.

24 comments:

  1. Your message may be true, but your cheap shot at Billy Graham in his 'doddering old age' is in poor taste. You may disagree with the man's theological perspectives, but he has given his life in service, and is living what he preaches.

    Yes, he's old. But you obviously are phrasing it in a way to discredit him, rather than show respect to a fellow believer.

    Disgusting.

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  2. No cheap shot. Just a statement of fact. He is a doddering old man. Enfeebled by age.

    It is to his credit that he continues to do what he can despite the infirmities of old age.

    You're projecting your own unconsciously agist prejudice onto my remarks.

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  3. I still think it is YOU who were projecting your feelings about Mr Graham when using the word 'doddering.'

    If, in good conscience, you were not, than I still think your choice of words is not helpful or needed.

    Whatever...carry on, wordsmith.

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  4. Sam,

    That is a harsh response to a Christian brother over the use of the word "doddering". Could you not in Christian charity put the best construction on Steve's use of the term? I think characterizing it as "disgusting" is beyond propriety. I think everyone is generally thankful for Billy Graham's life of service for the gospel, but he does have some very serious theological problems that have to some degree undermined the cause of the gospel he has expended himself to preach. It doesn't seem like you're reading this blog without prior prejudices against it. Just some thougts...

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  5. Shining and Burning,

    I understand and agree with your idea of being charitable towards Christian brothers.

    I can do better in this area.

    I also think Steve could too, don't you agree?

    I have great respect for Billy Graham, and think cheap-shots at his age are not needed.

    Couldn't Steve, in the interest of Christian charity, choose a word that doesn't paint Mr Graham as a "doddering" old fool? (which is how the term is often used)

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  6. Jones is now adding to what I said. I didn't call Graham a doddering "old fool."

    Rather, I said that Graham "consecrated" his life at "great personal sacrifice."

    Hardly an attempt to discredit him.

    The fact that he's continued to preach whenever he can, even when the aging process has left him frail and unsteady on his feet is admirable.

    The news media often commented on Pope John-Paul's physical decline.

    There was nothing malicious in their observation. Just a statement of the obvious. Same thing with Graham's public appearances into his 80s.

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  7. Sam,

    I don't think it was a cheap shot, as that implies Steve had some kind of malicious intent when he used the term. I think "doddering" is generally a nuetral term, although it is more often used with negative connotations. Perhaps another word would have been better, but I think you overreacted because of your respect for Billy Graham and perhaps not having enough respect for Steve. Besides, Steve clarified his intent and you should take him at his word. Thanks, brother...

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  8. Reading the full sentence, rather than quoting out of context, we have:

    '[...] he has consecrated his entire adult life, at great personal sacrifice, from his dynamic prime to doddering old age, to mass evangelism.'

    A reference to physical weakness, rather than a suggestion that Graham is losing it. Perhaps Steve's choice of words was open to misunderstanding, but I think he's made it clear that no disrespect was intended.

    Steve was not even suggesting that Mr. Graham's advanced age was responsible for the opinion he expressed (which would have been below the belt), but observing that Mr. Graham's comments were particularly surprising in light of the fact that his life has been dedicated to evangelism.

    Christian charity cuts both ways, and one should not accuse people of using forms of words which have not been used. We can all do better in the field of Christian charity.

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  9. Steve was charitable and gracious to Mr. Graham, recognizing his dedication to mass evangelism over many decades. However, those of us who have read Iain Murray's disturbing Evangelicalism Divided may have a different perspective on Mr. Graham's legacy than the conventional lauditory attitude that prevails in the American Protestant church.

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  10. What do you guys make of his lament that he hadn't read enough Scripture in his life, or memorized enough, rather.

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  11. I find that highly commendable, Berny. I think that when it's all said and done, Dr. Graham will regret (a) not spending enough time in Scripture and (b) not spending enough time with his children. His daughter, Anne, in particular has been very outspoken about that fact already. It's true that he was a great evangelist, but one cannot do so at the expense of the family. Miss Ruth had a lot put on her as a result, and while she made the best of it, their kids still say that, while the understand now why things were the way they were, they did feel the pain of neglect at times. I think that's a mistake he made.

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  12. My understanding is that Whitefield and Wesley had the same problem--familial neglect for the sake of preaching the gospel all over the countryside. It's difficult to criticize them for this, but it is a neglect that ought not to have been. While no man has chapter and verse that states he should preach in this venue or that, he does have chapter and verse commanding him to be a faithful, loving father and husband. It must be admitted that it is a difficult balancing act to maintain a faithful international ministry and investing enough time in your family life....

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  13. Shining & Burning Light, one notes that almost all the Methodist fathers, Harris, Wesley, Whitefield (who was married to one of Harris' exes), had poor marriages. Harris made his situation worse, but Welsey's wife hated him. Charles Wesley was the only contrary example.

    In general, ministers ought not to neglect their families, although finding appropriate work/life balance is not always possible. Evangelism is different, as one must be on the move. Still, I have no doubt that Billy Graham would gladly have remained at home, had others been available to do the work.

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  14. Have you seen the essay "No Other Name: A Middle Knowledge Perspective on the Exclusivity of Salvation Through Christ.

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/middle2.html

    I blogged on this here.
    http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2006/08/if-exclusivism-then-calvinism.html

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  15. Hiraeth,

    I would assert that in order for a man to be qualified for the ministry he MUST not neglect his family. The biblical qualifications for elders require it. "But if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?" (1 Tim.3:5). However, I do recognize that God can draw straight lines with crooked sticks, and has used these great men in unmeasurable ways. Be that as it may, we still have to stick with Scriptural qualifications when recognizing a man that God is setting apart for the pastorate or the missionary field. Being a pastor and a father are the two hardest jobs in the world. With regard to Billy Graham, I'm sure that he would declare with the apostle Paul, "Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel", however he should not have neglected the former for the latter. In my view, if God has called you to this kind of ministry (and there is some debate about whether or not "evangelist" is still a biblical office in the church. I would contend there are only pastors and deacons, but I digress...), then you should probably remain single like the apostle. Difficult, I know, but a reality nonetheless....thanks brother, you are a prolific commentor :-)

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  16. "You end up with a scheme of potential universalism. Everyone may not be saved, but everyone has an equal chance to be saved."

    What would your take be on the following rebuttal?

    --It is not potential b/c though "everyone" "could" choose Christ, very few actually *will* (see Christ's comments on the narrow way vs. the wide way).
    Everyone does not have an *equal* chance to be saved, but everyone does get at least a chance to be saved, some more than others. God decides who gets more chances than others (ie, who will be born in Texas vs. who will be born in Saudi Arabia) but everyone gets at least a chance to make a real choice.
    (Obviously, this kind of implies that the 5-point Calvinist position does not allow for a "real" choice on the part of the person in question. Perhaps you'd like to comment on that, too. It would be relevant.)

    Respectfully,
    ALAN

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  17. Sam,
    I don't think Steve was making things up
    Over the years, others have pointed out some troubling things that Graham has said...
    I've read/seen/heard some troubling things that just undermind the very gospel he preaches...

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  18. Shining and Burning one, I'd tend to agree with you. On the question of Wesley, however, I'd note that his wife did not like him, and appears not to have wanted him around. Howell Harris' neglect of his wife led to a serious slip in personal ethics.

    For the most part, a pastor should look to his family and his church. His wife should alert him if he's spending too much time on the latter. Certainly, itinerant ministry interferes, and you may well be right that evangelists ought not to marry.

    But, as a mere ordinary hearer in the pew, who am I to say? Is it not better for a man to marry if he does not have the gifts of celibacy and chastity? Better to have a married evangelist than a scandal.

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  19. goodyear Blimp8/22/2006 9:40 AM

    Jones is now adding to what I said. I didn't call Graham a doddering "old fool." Rather, I said that Graham "consecrated" his life at "great personal sacrifice." Hardly an attempt to discredit him.

    Come on! When are you people going to finally understand once and for all that Steve Hays is never wrong? That's right, he is NEVER wrong. I challenge anyone to show where Steve has erred. He'll show you that you have erred in trying to show that he has erred. And he'll make you feel really silly for thinking he erred, too. So don't even try it. Everyone, just hold up your hand and repeat after me: "Steve, I believe whatever you say." There. Wasn't that easy?

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  20. Blimpy, old boy, what exactly is your point? While Steve may sometimes say wrong things, I think this was a case of 'no disrespect intended', and I note that most posters agreed.

    If you have a substative point, might I respectfully suggest you make it? Otherwise, this is no more than ad hominem abuse.

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  21. Mr. Blimp,

    Should Steve admit he's wrong about something he said that was perfectly legitimate? In this instance where is the wrong? That he used the word "doddering"? So it is wrong to use that word with reference to Billy Graham? Please. Let's have chapter and verse and a clear violation of Scripture before we start imposing our opinion on someone else as if violation of it is a sin. You may disagree with what was written, you are entitled to your opinion and perhaps you would have expressed it differently, but Steve wasn't wrong in using a perfectly good English word which means "to shake or tremble due to old age".....so much for that, eh?

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  22. Come on. Of course it was a disrespectful cheap shot. And I'm an atheist.

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  23. That's why I'm not surprised you would have that reaction. I guess you're offended by such a comment made about Billy Graham? Or perhaps this is your cheap shot at Steve.........

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  24. 1) Billy Graham is a doddering old man.

    2) Billy Graham has never preached a Reformation-worthy Gospel message in his entire ministry. Graham's message has ALWAYS been the typical Arminian (dare I say semi-pelagian) "God has done backflips for you, but He is powerless unless you have pity on poor sad Jesus and invite Him into your heart." He smeared all that sentimentality with a liberal coating of "God loves everybody". Take that travesty of a 'message', throw in a few cheap shots about booze, gambling, dancing and Commies, and you could do a vintage 50s Graham or 30s Billy Sunday impersonation that would liven up any Baptist pot-luck. The one thing your impersonation WON'T do, however, is approach a Biblical Gospel.

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