See initial article on Billy Graham: “The Love of God is Absolute”
Much to everyone’s surprise at 95 years of age Billy Graham just released a new book entitled The Reason for My Hope: Salvation. I received a complimentary advance copy from the Billy Graham Association with a cover letter from his son Franklin Graham. Contrary to the sentiments Billy shared in his interview with Newsweek this book comes down hard regarding who is eternally in and out. It contains a very bold chapter elucidating the reality of a literal hell of torment. You can read the book and judge for yourselves but in my opinion this chapter reflected far more his son Franklin’s theology than his own. Having attended Franklin Graham’s “crusades” a few years back I remember thinking how radically different the mood and emphasis was from his father’s. Franklin used the fear of eternal hell as a foundational motivator to “get saved.”
Given the fact that Billy Graham is nearing a century and fighting Parkinson’s it seems reasonable to believe that he had considerable help and direction in writing this book. In light of the rampant accusations on the internet that Billy Graham has embraced “universalism” (which for many is translated as “pluralism”) perhaps Franklin wanted to set the record straight before his father went on to glory (perhaps also to “stabilize” the ministry he will inherit). If the only choices were between pluralism and evangelicalism I do understand the desire to leave behind a non-wishy-washy definitive position since Billy Graham had been leaving his thoughts on the state of the “unsaved” quite unclear. He perhaps did not want to risk a “Farewell Billy Graham” (as was the case for pastor Rob Bell after he wrote the universalistic leaning book Love Wins). However, as this website is attempting to reveal, true Christian Universalism is not pluralism and there is another choice besides pluralism and that of a “gospel” message based upon an eternal hell of torment. We believe there is a “Gospel Third Way,” using a phrase often heard coming from New York City pastor, Tim Keller.
But if on the other hand Billy has indeed refocused his view from “God’s absolute love” to an absolute hell which will eternally trump God’s love then we must once again remind all his readers of the implications of his Arminian theology. If salvation depends upon our “free-will” this means that Graham’s hope is ultimately merely a human hope. His hope is that you and I have the ability to withstand the deception of the world, the temptations of the flesh, and the lies of the Enemy. Graham’s Arminianism makes it fundamentally about us: the quality of our faith and the sincerity of our “repentance” and the works that must follow a genuine faith to prove we actually possess “saving faith.” Take a look at the list of things the author says must be in place for one to have this personal “hope” of true salvation. According to the book you must meet the following requirements:
1. “…all who will repent, turn from sin, receive His gift of salvation…and live for Him in obedience today.” (pg 145)
2. “…our acceptance of [salvation] is dependent upon our sincerity.” (pg 147)
3. “…he must come to Jesus in brokenness, exchanging sin for salvation.” (pg 147)
4. “…you must leave your defiance and rebellion behind and come in submission…Heaven or Hell is determined for all of us by this absolute truth.” (pg 147)
5. If you are not adequately “transformed” then your “act of repentance before Holy God could be insincere.” (pg 147)
6. “The requirement is a humble and repentant heart. But as we have seen human nature makes us resist handing our lives over to another.” (pg 151)
Wow. Surely you can see the problems with a faith that is dependent upon your quality decision, your level of brokenness, submission, humility, repentance, sincerity and “obedience today.” How much obedience is enough to prove you have saving faith? How much humility? How sincere? What about your doubts and sins and your battle against temptation? And how do we get around the fact that Graham tells us that mankind’s “human nature makes us resist handing our lives over” to Him?
After you tally up your score on submission, humility, sincerity, repentance and obedience how did you do? Are you now living in assurance? Where now is your hope and focus: on the finished work of Jesus Christ or is it your own performance of these “requirements”?
We’re not sure why this book seems to be in such contrast to the content and mood of Billy’s previous interviews. Perhaps it really does reflect more of Franklin’s views than his father’s as we suspect. If that is the case we say let this wise man speak his heart from his nine decades of experience with the Spirit, the Bible and myriads of people. Let him leave this world clinging to the “absolute love and hope of God” instead of a message representing an absolute hopeless and non-remedial hell for most of humanity. Let his struggle with the concept of billions hopelessly lost be what it is, a struggle– and allow it to serve the Church as a catalyst to search the Scriptures for “the hope that does not disappoint.” (Romans 5:5)
Note: It is revealing to note the extreme contrast of Billy Graham’s Arminianism with his grandson Tullian Tchividjian’s Calvinism yet Graham endorsed Tullian’s latest book: One Way Love.