Evangelical icon worshippers‚Äîthose who have not already skedaddled, that is‚Äîwill be relieved to know that this will probably be my last mention of Billy Graham for the present time.
Compromise with people of all theologies was a common thread running through Billy Graham‚Äôs ministry. In the effort to garner support for his evangelistic crusades, it seems there was no heresy he was not willing to let slide. As time passed, it was not merely his associations that were unorthodox; as the following account* of his embrace of inclusivism will demonstrate, his thinking was altered as well.
Achieving common ground with the Roman Catholicism is one of the things for which Mark Noll commends Graham. But agreement with non-evangelicals has gone still further. In 1978 McCall‚Äôs magazine quoted Graham as having said, ‚ÄòI used to believe that pagans in far countries were lost if they did not have the gospel of Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that.‚Äô That statement alarmed supporters BGEA and Christianity Today was quick to claim that the evangelist had been misquoted. Subsequent disclosures would appear to show that it was Graham‚Äôs paper rather than McCall‚Äôs which was inaccurate, for a Graham interview with Dr Robert Schuller on 31 May 1997 put the matter beyond doubt. Schuller has attained fame as the promoter of a liberal ‚Äòself-esteem‚Äô gospel which he preaches in his Crystal Cathedral in California. In the course of his discussion with Graham, conducted by means of a television link-up, Schuller asked for the evangelist‚Äôs view on the future of Christianity. Graham answered by giving his belief about the final make-up of the body of Christ. That body would be made up, he affirmed, from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ. And I don‚Äôt think that we are going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at one time. I think James answered that‚Äîthe Apostle James in the first Council in Jerusalem‚Äîwhen he said that God‚Äôs purpose for this age is to call out a people for his name. And that is what he is doing today. He is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven. Surprised by this, Schuller was anxious for clarification: ‚ÄòWhat, what I hear you saying, that it‚Äôs possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they have been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you are saying?‚Äô ‚ÄòYes, it is‚Äô, Graham responded in decided tones. At which point, his television host tripped over his words in his excitement, and exclaimed, ‚ÄòI‚Äôm so thrilled to hear you say this: ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a wideness in God‚Äôs mercy‚Äù.‚Äô To which Graham added, ‚ÄòThere is. There definitely is.‚Äô ‚ÄîIain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided (Banner of Truth, 2000), 73‚Äì74.
* Those who doubt the veracity of this account can easily find video of the Graham-Schuller exchange on YouTube.
Good news from Pope Francis (the humble pope) for conscientious infidels. In “An open dialogue with non-believers,” published in the Italian La Republica, he writes:
First of all, you ask if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith. Given that - and this is fundamental - God’s mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience. In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil. The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision.
So it seems that the blue fairy was right.
Protestants will be pleased to be reminded that this good news does not originate in the Vatican. Respected Protestants have said this before.
Of course, there will always be unloving, heartless cranks, down on human nature, who insist on a narrow, exclusive religion:
The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? —Jeremiah, Prophet, Spokesman for God
I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. —Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah, Son of God, God Incarnate
But those guys have never even been on television, so I wouldn’t pay too much attention to them.
Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. —Ephesians 2:12
How serious a matter is it to be without Christ? Is it really to be with “no hope and without God”? Or are there other ways to God? One very popular view says, yes, there are.
J. C. Ryle takes the biblical view: Reconciliation with God is necessarily mediated, and there is but one mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).
To be without Christ is to be without God. The Apostle St. Paul told the Ephesians as much as this in plain words. He ends the famous sentence which begins, ‘Ye were without Christ,’ by saying, ‘Ye were without God in the world.’ And who that thinks can wonder? That man can have very low ideas of God who does not conceive Him a most pure, and holy, and glorious, and spiritual Being. That man must be very blind who does not see that human nature is corrupt, and sinful, and defiled. How then can such a worm as man draw near to God with comfort? How can he look up to Him with confidence and not feel afraid? How can he speak to Him, have dealings with Him, look forward to dwelling with Him, without dread and alarm? There must be a Mediator between God and man, and there is but One that can fill the office. That One is Christ. Who art thou that talkest of God’s mercy and God’s love separate from and independent of Christ? There is no such love and mercy recorded in Scripture. Know this day that God out of Christ is ‘a consuming fire.’ (Heb. 12:29.) Merciful He is, beyond all question: rich in mercy, plenteous in mercy. But His mercy is inseparably connected with the mediation of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. It must flow through Him as the appointed channel, or it cannot flow at all. It is written, ‘He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him.’—‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.’ (John 5:23; 14:6.) ‘Without Christ’ we are without God. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), PP.