Ask the Pastor … Guns in Church?

Dear Pastor Bret,

In light of recent tragic church shootings, should churches consider having members carry concealed weapons to church?

Thanks in advance,

Shawn Channing

Dear Shawn,

Thanks for writing.

I will answer this question in terms of the laws of the State of Michigan. In Michigan, Shawn, those with a concealed carry license cannot carry on any property or facility owned or operated by a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other places of worship, unless the presiding official allows concealed weapons. So, in Michigan, one can legally according to Michigan state law conceal carry in Church if one has secured the presiding official’s permission.

Some would counsel to consult law enforcement for expert advice and perhaps even training for those who desire it before the presiding official allows such carry and I would concur with that as long as it was only one factor in the decision-making process. People must realize that law-enforcement officials could well have an interest in making sure only they are the ones carrying weapons.  All because someone is in law-enforcement doesn’t make them singularly able to provide counsel on this decision. The decision process should also realize that a Church that is declared as a gun-free zone is a church that is advertising to potential wolves that the gathering of the saints is also a gathering of easy picking sheep. The decision process should also include considering the many recent church shootings where the mortality rate may have been far lower if someone in the congregation where the shootings occurred had begun shooting back at the sociopaths who were discharging their weapons against judicially innocent church-goers.

Secondly, common sense teaches that owning and carrying a gun is a reasonable means of protection. A recent Pew survey reported that two-thirds of American gun owners cite protection as the major reason they own guns. Now, Shawn, some well-intended but misguided people might somehow extrapolate that Pew survey to mean that people are relying on guns as idols instead of relying on God for protection. Such thinking is most unfortunate. Carrying a weapon no more proves that one is not trusting in God than carrying a chainsaw proves that someone who wants a tree cut down is not trusting in God for the tree to come down. Carrying a weapon no more proves that one is not trusting in God than a Chef carrying a frying pan proves that the Chef is not trusting God for the meal to be prepared. A gun is a tool, much like a chainsaw or a frying pan. Having the proper tool for the proper job that might need to be done should not inch us towards concluding that the one carrying a chainsaw, a frying pan, or a gun, is treating that tool as an idol. Such reasoning is quite beyond suspect. American gun owners carry guns because that is one tool God has provided in order to to be protected.

Another truth we might offer here Shaun is that guns do not create the problems they solve. The problems guns solve are men with wicked hearts who wish to bring harm to us, our friends, or our families. Guns don’t create sociopaths who might well show up in Church to do harm. Guns are just one solution to sociopaths who might well show up in Church to do harm.

We should be a people who rely on God as we rely on more potential shooters as the solution to a potential active shooter situation. If we don’t rely on God this way we should seriously examine our hearts to ensure that we have not misplaced our faith by trusting in God in such a way that doesn’t include using all the tools that He has put at our disposal for safety. We need to be careful that we don’t become the butt of that well-known joke,

“Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.”

The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.”

So the rowboat went on.

Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”

To this, the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the motorboat went on.

Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”

To this, the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”

To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”

If we refuse to carry weapons to Church and end up getting shot by sociopaths in Church God may well reply to us upon our discussing the matter face to face with him,

“I sent you a Ruger, a Smith & Wesson, and a Glock, what more did you expect?”

Scripture clearly teaches that self-defense is biblically set forth (Exodus 22:2-3). To insist that one should not make provision to defend themselves so they might instead just trust God is its own kind of specious idolatry.

Finally, on this score, we should consider our history on guns in Church. There is a long storied history of guns in Church that even found, at times in history, guns be required by force of law to be carried to Church. In her book, ‘The Sabbath in Puritan New England,’ we learn this from author Alice Morse Earl,

“For many years after the settlement of New England the Puritans, even in outwardly tranquil times, went armed to meeting; and to sanctify the Sunday gun-loading they were expressly forbidden to fire off their charges at any object on that day save an Indian or a wolf, their two “greatest inconveniencies.” Trumbull, in his “Mac Fingal,” writes thus in jest of this custom of Sunday arm-bearing:–

“So once, for fear of Indian beating,
Our grandsires bore their guns to meeting,–
Each man equipped on Sunday morn
With psalm-book, shot, and powder-horn,
And looked in form, as all must grant,
Like the ancient true church militant.”

In 1640 it was ordered in Massachusetts that in every township the attendants at church should carry a “competent number of peeces, fixed and compleat with powder and shot and swords every Lords-day to the meeting-house;” one armed man from each household was then thought advisable and necessary for public safety. In 1642 six men with muskets and powder and shot were thought sufficient for protection for each church. In Connecticut similar mandates were issued, and as the orders were neglected “by divers persones,” a law was passed in 1643 that each offender should forfeit twelve pence for each offence. In 1644 a fourth part of the “trayned hand” was obliged to come armed each Sabbath, and the sentinels were ordered to keep their matches constantly lighted for use in their match-locks. They were also commanded to wear armor, which consisted of “coats basted with cotton-wool, and thus made defensive against Indian arrows.” In 1650 so much dread and fear were felt of Sunday attacks from the red men that the Sabbath-Day guard was doubled in number. In 1692, the Connecticut Legislature ordered one fifth of the soldiers in each town to come armed to each meeting, and that nowhere should be present as a guard at time of public worship fewer than eight soldiers and a sergeant. In Hadley the guard was allowed annually from the public treasury a pound of lead and a pound of powder to each soldier.

No details that could add to safety on the Sabbath were forgotten or overlooked by the New Haven church; bullets were made common currency at the value of a farthing, in order that they might be plentiful and in every one’s possession; the colonists were enjoined to determine in advance what to do with the women and children in case of attack, “that they do not hang about them and hinder them;” the men were ordered to bring at least six charges of powder and shot to meeting; the farmers were forbidden to “leave more arms at home than men to use them;” the half-pikes were to be headed and the whole ones mended, and the swords “and all piercing weapons furbished up and dressed;” wood was to be placed in the watch-house; it was ordered that the “door of the meeting-house next the soldiers’ seat be kept clear from women and children sitting there, that if there be occasion for the soldiers to go suddenly forth, they may have free passage.” The soldiers sat on either side of the main door, a sentinel was stationed in the meeting-house turret, and armed watchers paced the streets; three cannon were mounted by the side of this “church militant,” which must strongly have resembled a garrison. …

In spite of these events in the New Haven church (which were certainly exceptional), the seemingly incongruous union of church and army was suitable enough in a community that always began and ended the military exercises on “training day” with solemn prayer and psalm-singing; and that used the army and encouraged a true soldier-like spirit not chiefly as aids in war, but to help to conquer and destroy the adversaries of truth, and to “achieve greater matters by this little handful of men than the world is aware of.”

The Salem sentinels wore doubtless some of the good English armor owned by the town,–corselets to cover the body; gorgets to guard the throat; tasses to protect the thighs; all varnished black, and costing each suit “twenty-four shillings a peece.” The sentry also wore a bandileer, a large “neat’s leather” belt thrown over the right shoulder, and hanging down under the left arm. This bandileer sustained twelve boxes of cartridges, and a well-filled bullet-bag. Each man bore either a “bastard musket with a snaphance,” a “long fowling-piece with musket bore,” a “full musket,” a “barrell with a match-cock,” or perhaps (for they were purchased by the town) a leather gun (though these leather guns may have been cannon). Other weapons there were to choose from, mysterious in name, “sakers, minions, ffaulcons, rabinets, murthers (or murderers, as they were sometimes appropriately called) chambers, harque-busses, carbins,” …

The armed Salem watcher, besides his firearms and ammunition, had attached to his wrist by a cord a gun-rest, or gun-fork, which he placed upon the ground when he wished to fire his musket, and upon which that constitutional kicker rested when touched off. He also carried a sword and sometimes a pike, and thus heavily burdened with multitudinous arms and cumbersome armor, could never have run after or from an Indian with much agility or celerity; though he could stand at the church-door with his leather gun,–an awe-inspiring figure,–and he could shoot with his “harquebuss,” or “carbin,” as we well know.

These armed “sentinells” are always regarded as a most picturesque accompaniment of Puritan religious worship, and the Salem and Plymouth armed men were imposing, though clumsy. But the New Haven soldiers, with their bulky garments wadded and stuffed out with thick layers of cotton wool, must have been more safety-assuring and comforting than they were romantic or heroic; but perhaps they too wore painted tin armor, “corselets and gorgets and tasses.”


In Concord, New Hampshire, the men, who all came armed to meeting, stacked their muskets around a post in the middle of the church, while the honored pastor, who was a good shot and owned the best gun in the settlement, preached with his treasured weapon in the pulpit by his side, ready from his post of vantage to blaze away at any red man whom he saw sneaking without, or to lead, if necessary, his congregation to battle. The church in York, Maine, until the year 1746, felt it necessary to retain the custom of carrying arms to the meeting-house, so plentiful and so aggressive were Maine Indians.

Not only in the time of Indian wars were armed men seen in the meeting-house, but on June 17, 1775, the Provincial Congress recommended that the men “within twenty miles of the sea-coast carry their arms and ammunition with them to meeting on the Sabbath and other days when they meet for public worship.” And on many a Sabbath and Lecture Day, during the years of war that followed, were proved the wisdom and foresight of that suggestion.

The men in those old days of the seventeenth century, when in constant dread of attacks by Indians, always rose when the services were ended and left the house before the women and children, thus making sure the safe exit of the latter. This custom prevailed from habit until a late date in many churches in New England, all the men, after the benediction and the exit of the parson, walking out in advance of the women. So also the custom of the men always sitting at the “head” or door of the pew arose from the early necessity of their always being ready to seize their arms and rush unobstructed to fight. In some New England village churches to this day, the man who would move down from his end of the pew and let a woman sit at the door, even if it were a more desirable seat from which to see the clergyman, would be thought a poor sort of a creature.”

Alice Morse Earle, The Sabbath in Puritan New England (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), 19-25.

 

 

Is Everything Politics?

“Everything is politics.”
Thomas Mann

For the purposes of this post, we will follow a standard dictionary definition for politics as found in the Webster’s dictionary,

a political affairs or business; especially: competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership.

I think when Mann offered that “everything is politics” Mann was especially referencing the idea of competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership.  Mann was offering that all of life in all our relations is about competition for power and leadership. Of course, this assumes that the proper paradigm of human relations is the one of conflict of interests. This paradigm is in competition with the Reformed understanding that any social order ideally should be comprised of a harmony of interests.

That Mann’s paradigm has a long history in other non-Christian cultures can be seen in this proverb from the Muslim world,

“So before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; and the tribe against the world. And all of us against the infidel.”

Indeed, in this kind of mindset, everything must indeed be politics. Everything is conflict of interest. Everything is a kind of survival of the fittest.

 
Mann was not Christian but he understood as the state increasingly becomes God walking on the earth that the consequence is that everything becomes politicized if only because the State seeks to bring everything into its orbit and everything that resists that must be competed with.

In a social order or climate where it is true that “everything is politics” to deny that “everything is politics” is a political act. But, keep in mind that even when everything is politics for fallen man, it is still their humanist theology that is making politics their theology. They still haven’t gotten away from theology being the Queen of the sciences. They are merely calling their humanist theology, “politics.”

 
When fallen man gives up theology as queen of the sciences something has to replace it and that something is power politics. (This will eventually give way to naked power over time.) As such, politics for fallen man becomes his theology. When Christians are living in a social order where Politics are everything then they must craft a Politics that is based on their theology to compete with the pagan worldview that “everything is politics.” Christian theology emphasizes not competition with rivals but coordination with those who share a common faith. Yet, ironically enough, the Christian must compete with the humanist for this kind of politics and until a harmony of interests, political paradigm obtains the Christian must engage in a conflict of interest paradigm against the humanists who desire to make everything political.

In the end, though I pity the person for whom it is true that “everything is politics.” Imagine going through life seeing all your closest relationships as being a competition for power and leadership. I can’t imagine how miserable it must have been to grow up Muslim where even in the home everything is politics.

The Mercurial Rev. Billy Graham

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” 

George Santayana

‘This past not only informs our self-understanding in the present but also carries narrative momentum that creates expectations of future continuity.”

James C. Miller

The reason to continue to be preoccupied with the past is that it hovers over the present and constantly giving birth to the present. This means that if one gets their past wrong, or if one has a wrong understanding of history, or if one misinterprets what has occurred one will perpetuate the error so that the error twists one’s own self-identity in the present and will create a future that is based on a lie thus ensuring the twisting of both future self-identities and collective identities. An accurate and proper history is that important.  If I can control individuals or peoples understanding of their past I can control their present and their trajectory into the present.

As such, a proper understanding of whatever history we take up is important. This is even more true of what is called Historical Theology. Historical theology is that theology which asks: how has the church in the past interpreted the Bible? How has the church formulated and expressed its theology? The answers to these questions have monumental implications for if the Church has been wrong in the past the odds are overwhelming that it will be wrong in the present and will continue on the trajectory of error into the future.

This provides the context of why it is so important to critique the errors of Billy Graham now that he has passed. This essay will not labor to argue that Billy Graham did not articulate some very orthodox truths at certain times. There are countless videos, interviews, and articles where one can read or listen to orthodox statements by Rev. Billy Graham. Ironink tips its cap to Graham for those countless times when he was orthodox in speech and writing.

However, it is those times when Rev. Graham was not so orthodox that troubles me. In the old James Kennedy “Evangelism Explosion” program one was taught that the proper response to someone who was offering up a works performance answer to the query as to why God should let them into His heaven our response should reference omelets and rotten eggs. One was taught to gently challenge the listener who was pinning his hopes on heaven on the basis of the good eggs (works) in his life with the reality that his omelet also had some rotten eggs in it as well. Then one was taught to ask if they would accept a prepared omelet made with five good eggs and one stinky rotten egg. Obviously, the answer one is hoping for is “no.” From there one was taught to press on their listener the necessity of trusting in Christ alone and not their performance to have a certain foundation and hope for heaven.

In the same way, Rev. Billy Graham’s life and ministry had many many fine and wholesome eggs in it. However, Rev. Billy Graham’s own words also demonstrate there were many filthy eggs in his life and ministry as well. Unless we identify those rotten eggs the danger is to continue to repeat the lousy methodology and message that those sulfur smelling eggs represent. If all we do with the history of Billy Graham’s work and message is look at the teeming denizens of people shoehorned into his venues as combined with the countless numbers of people who “went forward” or the millions of dollars spent in his organization we will walk away repeating the very practices that Graham repeated as inheriting them from those who went before him (Finney, Sunday, Rodeheaver, Moody, etc.).  It is these practices that were packaged, marketed, and decentralized so as to now represent many modern local churches in the West today. The local Church as it gathers for worship every week, notable exceptions notwithstanding,  has become an up-to-date version both in its theology and in its worship what a week-long Billy Graham Crusade was for an urban setting. Unless this theology and worship are challenged, as it comes to us in its historical sitz-em-Leben garb the Church will continue to suffer the insufferable malaise that this theology can only produce.

Rev. Graham started off well enough. His parents were reputed to be Calvinists and he was educated by what then would have been considered “Fundamentalist” schools.  In 1939 Graham was ordained by the Southern Baptists. Not long after graduating from Wheaton Graham Pastored and then worked with the “Youth For Christ” organization and then it the sawdust trail as a Tent Revival minister.  Graham was aided along the way by, of all people, William Randolph Hearst, who legend has it sent a missive out to his reporters to “Puff Graham,” in their articles. Truly, God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

In 1948, at the tender age of 30, Rev. Graham said that ‘the three greatest menaces faced by orthodox Christianity are Communism, Roman Catholicism, and Muhammadism.’ This would have been a pretty standard position for a young conservative Protestant in 1948.  Also, there can be little doubt that at this age Graham’s message included the foundational ideas of Christianity that included man’s sin,  man’s fall, and man’s restoration by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Though Graham always gave an Arminian flavor to these ideas the ideas remain present in his preaching as any cursory examination of his sermons reveals.

So, we have four points that we credit Rev. Graham with.

1.) His opposition to Communism

An opposition that is necessary to Christianity since it is perhaps the best heretical and anti-Christ imitation of Christianity. Graham said as much in a 1954 interview Graham stating, “Either communism must die, or Christianity must die because it is actually a battle between Christ and anti-Christ.” 

2.) His opposition to Roman Catholicism

An opposition that is required since Roman Catholicism anathematized biblical Christianity at the Council of Trent and has never repudiated that anathematization.

3.) His opposition to Islam

An opposition that someone conversant with Church history would realize is necessary since Islam has always seen Christianity as a weed that must be pulled up by its roots.

4.) His preaching of Christ crucified.

The Christian message has always placed Christ at the center and in reading Graham’s sermons there is no doubt that Graham attempted to do this in his own Arminian Baptist way.

We might say this is the positive take away from Graham. These are matters we can agree with him on and salute him for articulating during his career. However, having said that we must see that Graham spoke as a trumpet giving an uncertain call. What Graham gave with his right hand he often took away with his left hand. So, at best what we end up having is a man who leaves the thoughtful Christian scratching their head in bewilderment.

That there was confusion in Graham is seen as early as 1957 when he offered,

“The one badge of Christian discipleship is not orthodoxy but love.”

This is the kind of false dichotomy which we will see more than once in Graham quotes.  First, Christian discipleship has several badges, one of which is orthodoxy,

“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:” (2 John 1:10)

“Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and obstacles that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Turn away from them.” (Romans 16:17)

” If any man teach otherwise and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing…” (I Timothy 6)

A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject… (Titus 3:10)

Second, there is also the fact that love apart from orthodoxy is undeterminable and unknowable. How can one know what love is or looks like apart from God’s Word (orthodoxy)?

Graham may have been responding to the love quote cited above to his Fundamentalist detractors but their lack of sense doesn’t warrant Graham’s lack of sense. The cited quote is really quite bad.
Keeping with the “love” them Graham even could insist that God loves Satan in a interview with Larry King,

King:  Does God love Satan?

Graham: … he must love him, but the end of Satan is hell. Hell was created for the devil and his angels, or his demons, not for men.

God loves Satan?  Someone better tell God,

“You are not a God who delights in wickedness; . . . You hate all evildoers.” “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked.”
“He who sits in the heavens laughs. The Lord holds them in derision.”

Psalm 5:4–5,  Psalm 11:5, Psalm 2:4

And if God did not create hell for men, how is it that men end up in hell?

But beyond what looks to be a studied confusion on the subject of love Graham would end up contradicting his early quote about the menaces to Christianity.

On communism, Graham seemingly had concluded that Communism was far less a problem when he visited the USSR in 1982. During that visit, Graham responded to a question from a reporter on religious persecution in the USSR by saying, “I have not personally seen persecution.” Graham sought to walk that comment back later but the comment was taken so seriously that even in light of Graham’s attempts to walk the comment back Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, referring to Graham, in his reception comments upon being awarded the 1983 Templeton Award,

“It is with profound regret that I must note here something which I cannot pass over in silence. My predecessor in receipt of this prize last year – in the very months that the award was made – lent public support to communist lies by his deplorable statement that he had not noticed the persecution of religion in the U.S.S.R. Before the multitude of those who have perished and who are oppressed today, may God be his judge.”

Apparently, Solzhenitsyn was not satisfied with Graham’s attempts to walk back his comments. One is left asking who should be given the benefit of the doubt, Graham or Solzhenitsyn.

On the menace of Roman Catholicism, it is clear that Graham’s ecumenicalism eventually did not see Rome as a menace.

“I think he’s (Pope John Paul II) with the Lord because he believed. He believed in the Cross. That was his focus throughout his ministry, the Cross, no matter if you were talking to him from a personal issue or an ethical problem, he felt that there was the answer to all of our problems, the cross, and the resurrection. And he was a strong believer.”

Now Rev. Graham was certainly intelligent enough to know that the Jesus and the Cross and the Resurrection of Roman Catholicism is filled with a meaning that is fundamentally different from the meaning that Jesus, the Cross, and the Resurrection has for Protestants. Indeed, so different is their respective understandings that once the explanations of each are laid side by side one discovers that they each believe in different Jesus’, different Cross’ and different Resurrections so that they embrace different Christianities. He knew of those difference well enough in 1948 that he could speak of Roman Catholicism as a menace.

That Rev. Graham had warmed towards Roman Catholicism is seen in a McCall’s magazine interview from 1978,

“I found that my beliefs are essentially the same as those of orthodox Catholics we only differ on some matters of later church tradition. I find that my beliefs are essentially the same as those of orthodox Roman Catholics.”

This is beyond confusion. Confusion is something like this,

“I fully adhere to the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith for myself and my ministry, but as an American, I respect other paths to God.”

Billy Graham 
Parade Magazine Interview

One might as well say,

I fully adhere to the fundamental tenets of Christian Marriage for myself and my ministry, but as an American, I respect other venues that married men choose for satisfying their sexual needs.

We might be able to overlook Graham’s false dichotomies and oxymorons but the quote where Graham says that “I found that my beliefs are essentially the same as those of orthodox Catholics,” is deeply troubling because if he really believed that then Graham’s earlier preaching of the Cross is emptied because Rome does not believe that the Christ alone by His work on the cross saves.

Dr. Gordon Clark caught Graham in an emptying of the sufficiency of the Cross upon attending one of Grahams Crusades.  Clark wrote in his book “Predestination,”

“Toward the end of the service (there in Indianapolis), Billy Graham asked people to come forward and a crowd came. With them, before him, evangelist Graham addressed the large audience still in their seats and delivered a five or ten-minute diatribe against Presbyterianism. “Don’t pray for these people who have come forward,” he said. ‘You may have prayed for them before, and that is good. You can pray for them later on, and that will be good too. But right now prayer is useless, for not even God can help them. They must accept Christ of their own free will, all by themselves, and God has no power over the will of man.”

If Graham really believed that God has no power over the will of man than it is not God through His provision of Christ and Christ’s Cross work that saves but man saves himself as he engages the power of his will to activate a merely tendered salvation. Maybe Graham really was a Brother with Rome?

1989: Graham spoke about a meeting with Pope John Paul II-“There was a pause in the conversation; suddenly the Pope’s arm shot out and he grabbed the lapels of my coat, he pulled me forward within inches of his own face. He fixed his eyes on me and said, ‘Listen, Graham, we are brothers‘” (6/8/89 Today).

Graham said that that was a great happening in his life.

That Graham became squishy on the centrality of the Cross and the importance of a unique and known Jesus was articulated in an interview with at least twice. Once with McCall’s magazine,

“I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost–were going to hell–if they did not have the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that. I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God–through nature, for instance–and plenty of other opportunities, therefore, of saying ‘yes’ to God”

(“I Cant’ Play God Any More,” McCall’s, Jan. 1978)

And again in an interview with Robert Schuller, Graham speaks:

“I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ…. He’s [God] calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.”

Schuller: “What, what I hear you saying that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they’ve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’re saying?”

Graham: “Yes, it is, because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations, that they have never seen a Bible or heard of Jesus, but they’ve believed in their hearts that there was a God, and they’ve tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived..”

Schuller: “I’m so thrilled to hear you say this. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.”

Graham: “There is. There is”

(“Graham Believes Men Can Be Saved Apart from Name of Christ,” Christian News, Oct. 20, 1997, p. 15).

Now, what Graham is advocating here is called “soft inclusivism.” There are those who would say that Graham is not denying Christ or the Cross but merely believed people can be saved by Christ and the Cross without being explicitly knowing Christ and the Cross. However, should one really believe this one wonders how it is the urgency of Missions or preaching could be maintained? If soft exclusivism is true why would St. Paul, as inspired by God say,

14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 and how shall they preach, except they be sent? 

Well, returning to Graham’s three menaces, we still have Islam to consider. In 1948 Graham listed it as a menace but later in life comments by Graham suggest that Billy also became weak on this menace as seen in a David Frost interview,

“I think Islam is misunderstood, too, because Muhammad had a great respect for Jesus, and he called Jesus the greatest of the prophets except for himself. And I think that we’re closer to Islam than we really think we are.”

Closer to Islam than we really think we are? Muhammad had a great respect for Jesus? No one who refuses to embrace Jesus as the Christ has a great respect for Jesus. This is just claptrap that helps nobody.

So, Graham at worst reversed himself on the menaces he cited when he was 30. At best Graham muddied the waters. Graham also either reversed himself or muddied the waters on the uniqueness of and necessity for the finished work of Jesus Christ. This kind of doubletalk is a positive impediment to the cause of Jesus Christ. Yes, Graham said many many good things regarding Christianity. Alas, Graham also said many many other things that contradicted directly the good things he had to say regarding Christianity.

Now comes the answer to the objection that says, “Well, so many people got saved under Graham’s ministry so I should keep my mouth shut.” Allow me to say that I believe that many people were genuinely converted to Christ via Billy Graham’s ministry. What does that prove? It does not that Billy Graham understanding of Christianity was Christian but rather that God can use crooked sticks to draw straight lines.

Remember, all because Balaam’s Donkey properly warned Balaam that doesn’t mean we conclude that Balaam’s donkey was a Christian. Praise God for the message that converts even when it falls from the lips from someone who sends a double message.

Secondly, on this score of we should be uncritical of Billy Graham because so many people were saved under his ministry we should respectfully inquire about the effect of the Billy Graham crusades.

Billy Graham’s ministry began just after WW II’s end. Let’s concede just for a moment that scads and scads of people were saved via that ministry. Now let’s take a step back and look at the culture. What kind of impact did those scads and scads of people being saved have? During the years of BG’s ministry,

1.) Birth control was made legal (Griswold vs. Connecticut)

2.) Abortion was made legal (Roe vs. Wade)

3.) Sodomy was made legal (Lawerence vs. Texas)

4.) Criminal Rights were expanded (Miranda vs. Arizona)

5.) Obscenity laws were rolled back (Miller vs. California)

6.) Freedom of Association laws were negated (Brown vs. Board of Education)

7.) No fault divorce was implemented

I could go on but one sees the point I’m sure. All those scads and scads of Billy Graham converts didn’t seem to make much of a dent in the sanctification of our social order.

Maybe someone would argue that all those converts may have not made a dent in the decline of the broader culture but they certainly made an impact locally. Really? What counties? What states? What cities had their social order impacted for Christ by the transformation of Billy Graham converts?

A cynic could easily conclude that all the money spent on those crusades was more about profit for individuals than it was about the Kingdom of God being advanced.

And just so people understand this isn’t personal I’d say much the same about Wesley, Finney, Rodeheaver, Moody, Sunday, etc. Revivalism has been a scourge and if there is any lesson to be learned from it, it is that people enjoy being conned more than people have an interest in Christ.

Many more quotes could be adduced. I have just offered a Whitman’s sampler of suspicious Graham quotes that testify that Graham’s ministry was at the very least a mixed bag. My contention is that as long as Graham’s ministry and methodology are unquestionably praised then we are just going to continue to repeat his egregious errors and the Church will continue in the malaise in which it has been now for decades. Our narrative momentum needs desperately to be changed.

May the Lord Christ give us the wisdom to repent of our own sins and errors and to love His Church enough to want to defend her even against her putative friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Hierarchy and Inequality as Christian Doctrines IV — Christianity is Anti-Egalitarianism (Hooker and Perkins)

 

Without Order there is no living in public Society, because the want thereof is the mother of confusion, whereupon division of necessity followeth; and out of division destruction…If things and persons be ordered, this doth imply that they are distinguished by degrees: for Order is a gradual disposition. The whole world consisting of parts so many, so different, is by this only thing upheld; he which framed them, hath set them in order. The very Deity itself both keepeth and requireth for ever this to be kept as a Law, that wheresoever there is a coagmentation of many, the lowest be knit unto the highest by that which being interjacent may cause each to cleave to the other, so all continue one. This order of things and persons in public Societies is the work of Policy, and the proper instrument hereof in every degree is Power. (Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book VIII, Section 2)

Richard Hooker (1554 – 1600)

 

The common good of men stands in this, not only that they live, but that they live well, in righteousness and holiness and true happiness. And for the attainment hereunto, God hath ordained and disposed all callings, and his providence designed persons to bear them. (see here)

The whole [political] body is not the hand, nor the foot, nor the eye, but the hand one part, the foot another, and the eye another; and howsoever in the body one part is linked to another, yet there is a distinction betwixt the members….In every society one person should be above or under another; not making all equal, as though the body should be all head and nothing else; but even in degree and order, he [God] hath set a distinction, that one should be above another.

William Perkins (1558 – 1602)

Redemptive History Testifies that Pentecostalism is in Error

The question is asked why we do not continue to see these kinds of healing and miracles today since the Kingdom is still present and for the answer we have to consider the place of all this in God’s redemptive History. The reason that all this is happening is that a very particular time in Redemptive History has arrived. All of this activity is giving testimony that this unique time in History has arrived. All of what is happening here and then later with the Apostles after Pentecost is part of a single, comprehensive crescendo part of history. All this is done in light of the Historical coming of the Kingdom and it is done only with the arrival of the Messiah and His Kingdom and the establishment of His Church. Here, in this point in History, the cornerstone and foundation is laid. From the close of the canon forward the superstructure is built upon this unique point in time history. To ask for more of this Historical uniqueness is like asking to be 25 again. That historical moment has passed. This is not to say that remarkable providences or inexplicable healings don’t still happen as God ordains. It is to say that we are at a different time of Redemptive History. Do keep in mind that were it the case that we were to have the same kind of demonstration of authority and power as we find in this Redemptive time, this time would no longer be seen as a time that was unique and Historically epoch. That time of Christ would be “just another” day.

While the Pentecostals and Charismatics are full of good intentions they sully the record and uniqueness of Redemptive History with their insistence that 2018 and every year must be the same Historical Epoch as the 1st Century when Jesus and the Apostles ministered.

Sermon Teaser
Charlotte Reformed Church
Morning Service — 04 February, 2018