Defending Dr. Billy Graham
Yesterday, I invited friends to hear John MacArthur’s strong criticism of Billy Graham. John MacArthur describes Billy Graham’s language about the salvation of the sincerely-seeking-uninformed as an unbiblical “wider mercy” and further says “I cannot imagine a worse view than that.”
In Billy Graham’s defense, he preaches what I would call the “Jeremiah 29:13 principal” – God responding to our honest seeking and “rewarding those who diligently seek him.” Paul describes this idea in Acts 17, where from the very beginning God’s intention was for people to seek and find God. Paul says even those without any direct revelation of God still have his moral law written in their hearts (Rom. 2:14–15) and can know much about God through the witness of creation (Rom. 1:20). God has made it possible for every person to have knowledge of him, which makes faith in him possible. No one is totally “in the dark,” and, as Isaiah attests, those who seek God and find him will find mercy and forgiveness (Is. 55:66). These are the necessary components of salvation. BG has a great heart…I aspire to a heart for the lost like his…I invited friends into a conversation. I still affirm Solus Christus….Christ Alone – Only Christ. The question is, how does God goes about this?
This turned into a passionate conversation about the need for scripture in the experience of salvation and the necessity of Jesus death and resurrection. It raised questions about BG’s belief in exclusivism vs. universalism. We talked about criticizing leaders and Biblical precedents to speak strongly on behalf of good theology. Other good points were raised as well.
I found myself remembering the arguments that followed Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. Maybe all our arguing is good for us! I won’t hold personal confusion, a cultural barrier, or a lack of mental comprehension against anyone. I hope no one holds it against me. God knows, I am going to be in for a few surprises when I get to heaven myself. But, at least I am expecting to be joyfully surprised. Heaven should have joyful surprises for us all.
Here is another way to talk about part of this issue…Jeremiah 29:13 says “when you look for me with all your heart, you will find me.” BG is not saying that other religions can lead to heaven. BG has always said that all of creation knows God and is called to respond to the work of Christ. BG is suggesting that some are responding with all of their hearts without a full understanding of who God is….BG is using the 1960’s language of the “anonymous Christian.” This was a popular language in the 60’s and 70’s. The downside of this language is that the anonymous person would say “no, I am not a Christian.” They would claim to be a Samaritan, or Hindu etc.
Tony Campolo used to say the good Sam parable would sound like this today…”Jesus, show me a good Christian…..(reply) let me tell you about a guy named Gandhi.” BG is suggesting that theology is a tool to bring the heart to God. BG is also suggesting that an absence of understanding may not be a barrier in a world where, according to Romans 1, we all know that God is, and according to Hebrews 11:6b, “He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”