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Friday, January 16, 2009

To My Baptist Friends: Is This Still Your Icon?

Listen to the most famous, highly lauded, Southern Baptist minister promote Universalism which says that any and all will come to heaven whether or not they know Christ. This is a false doctrine and a straying from the fundamental foundational truths of Christianity making Billy Graham a heretic in the historical sense of the word. And yet, the SBC continues to praise him, hold him in high honor and have even erected a statue to him in Nashville, Tennessee. When a person or a group strays from the historic faith and give to themselves the right to interpret scripture void of Apostolic Tradition or historic consideration (Sola Scriptura) this type of aberrant convoluted interpretation of Christianity is inevitable. What else in the Baptist system of theology has been tainted since John Smythe founded the denomination in the 1500's? How much does Baptist theology and practice look like the undivided Church of the first 1000 years? Keep seeking.


20 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:57 PM

    Dear Brother in Christ,

    I thank God that I am not alone in sharing many of the same reservations about Billy Graham that you have expressed. It was known a long time ago that Billy Graham was supportive of a position of Universalism. Universalism is blasphemous because it makes out that Christ is not the only way to the Father and that Christ is not the Way, the Truth and the Life. Billy Graham had already started this road of demise many years ago when he was promoting downright liberals and modernists in Protestant churches even in the 60s. It is shameful to see a number of Orthodox hierarchs and clergymen not to mention lay people promoting the same kind of heresies that Billy Graham has been promoting.

    Amongst the many reasons why I chose to give Protestantism and evangelicalism the flick and accept Orthodoxy is because of the likes of Billy Graham and John Stott as well as other actual heretics being promoted in full without question in evangelical and Protestant churches. Protestantism when followed to its logical end can only lead to total denial and rejection of the Christian faith altogether. In fact, since it is the same side of the coin as Papism/the Latins, it does not fall far from the tree in its elevation of private interpretation as final authority.

    Yours in Christ,

    Timothy Kwoh

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  2. pstr mike7:55 PM

    my goodness!!! I don't know if I would have believed it unless I had heard it with my own ears!! In essense he just nullified he whole ministry, all the while that false teacher Schueller cheering him on!!!!

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  3. Pstr Mike, It is a sad fact that one can live his whole lives in the truth then step over into heresy. This is what has happened with Billy Graham. It does give one pause as to why this could happen to such a one. Was he indeed, as some have said, a wolf in sheep's clothing all along? Even the demons believe and know the truth...and they tremble.

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  4. pstr mike5:58 PM

    King Uzziah did the same thing.
    2Chr 26.

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  5. From what I understand of apophatic and mystical theology, Eastern Orthodox theology can very easily arrive at the same conclusion as you heard from Billy Graham. (I think Lossky doesn't land too far from that mark.) And this is NOT "Universalism" (the belief that all will be saved), nor is it "total relativism" (the belief that all ways are equally valid). The correct term for it is "pluralism," which holds that God is at work, in varying degrees, through paths other than the church. That is where apophatic theology might come in: the transcendent God cannot be constrained to one path. If I recall correctly, Lossky explains that there is true knowledge of God that lies tacit and dormant even in those outside of the church, but that latent knowledge becomes alive in the encounter with Christ. Perhaps he might say that knowledge they've had all along is quickened into life after the resurrection when they encounter the risen Christ? That is essentially the same thing Billy is saying: that some people may be Christians and not even know it--"anonymous Christians" as it is called by some. (By the way, I'm not saying I believe all of this. I'm just trying to do my best to explain a little of where Graham is coming from, and how that might be similar even to what some Orthodox theologians maintain. But of course, I'm quite the amateur--especially when it comes to Orthodox theology.)

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  6. If Pluralism means all religions have equal paths to God, and Universalism means that all (even unbelievers) will be saved whether they accept Jesus as Messiah or not...both are heretical. So, no, Eastern Orthodoxy theology cannot "easily arrive at the same conclusion as you heard from Billy Graham" as you have suggested. In that Lossky suggests that all humans have an innate longing for that which only God can fill, he is correct. But to suggest that Lossky even comes close to suggesting that any individual can be filled in any manner other than accepting Christ as Messiah, thus having his soul regenerated by the infilling of the Holy Spirit, is quite a stretch indeed and just as heretical.

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  7. Nor does "pluralism" necessarily mean that "all religions are equally valid." Think of pluralism apophatically: it is not the affirmation (kataphatic) of this or that, it is denial (apophatic) that the Grace of God is restricted to one and only one avenue (the Church).

    I just looked on wikipedia and found the following statement by an Orthodox theologian saying essentially the same thing as Billy Graham:

    "Writing for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Rev. Protopresbyter George C. Papademetriou has written a summary of classical Christian and Greek Orthodox Christian views on the subject of the salvation of non-Christians. In his paper An Orthodox Christian View of Non-Christian Religions writes:

    In our times. Professor John N. Karmiris, University of Athens, based on his studies of the Church Fathers, concludes that the salvation of non-Christians, non-Orthodox and heretics depends on the all-good, allwise and all-powerful God, who acts in the Church but also through other "ways." God's saving grace is also channelled outside the Church. It cannot be assumed that salvation is denied non-Christians living in true piety and according to natural law by the God who "is love" (1 John 4:8), In his justice and mercy God will judge them worthy even though they are outside the true Church. This position is shared by many Orthodox who agree that God's salvation extends to all who live according to His "image" and "participate in the Logos." The Holy Spirit acted through the prophets of the Old Testament and in the nations. Salvation is also open outside the Church."

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  8. Adam, That God's grace of salvation extends outside of the Church is Orthodox. That a person can be saved outside of the knowledge and acceptance of Christ is not Orthodox. This is the distinction you may be missing here. This is what Billy Graham is advocating.

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  9. Thanks for the conversation, Nathan.

    The thing is, these Orthodox theologians are explicitly speaking not just of "grace" in the sense of, for example, having food on the table, but of *saving grace.* Especially here:

    "God's saving grace is also channeled outside the Church. It cannot be assumed that salvation is denied non-Christians living in true piety and according to natural law by the God who "is love" (1 John 4:8), In his justice and mercy God will judge them worthy even though they are outside the true Church. This position is shared by many Orthodox who agree that God's salvation extends to all who live according to His "image" and "participate in the Logos."

    Note that it says "MANY Orthodox"--indicating that this is not a belief necessarily limited to only a scant few. Also note that this Orthodox scholar reached that conclusion
    by reading the Early Church Fathers.

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  10. Just to clarify, this "anonymous Christian" belief is not saying that people are saved "outside of faith in Jesus Christ." It is purporting that Jesus--the divine Logos--perhaps reveals himself anonymously to people, and they respond in faith to the Logos without realizing they are responding in faith to Jesus.

    C.S. Lewis paints a scenario just like this in The Last Battle. One character who thought he was worshiping the false god Tash, Aslan explains, was really following Aslan all along, without even realizing it.

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  11. Adam, if you are advocating Universalism by saying that Orthodox fathers advocated it, you are still in error and are still missing the distinction between God's grace being "extended" to those who don't know Him and whether those to whom the grace is extended find salvation outside of knowing him. Origin spoke of the Greek Philosophers "participating in the Logos" in the the way you are advocating, but he believed that such participation was inadequate to bring them to a "saving knowledge" of God. Orthodoxy does not advocate nor teach such a salvation is possible. Period. Baptists don't either. SAVING KNOWLEDGE is the key. I'm not sure where you are coming from nor what your argument is. Are you saying you agree with Billy Graham?

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  12. I'm certainly not advocating "Universalism" (again, the belief that all people, indiscriminately, will be saved). To this point, in fact, I've not proposed anything as my own perspective on the issue. By default, I suppose, I fall into the tradition that believes that Jesus is the only way to eternal salvation, and that no one can come to the Father except by him. This would typically be taken to mean that if a person is not a Christian, then they will not be "saved" (meaning they will not receive "eternal life"). That is my default position, but I am trying to give a fair hearing to this type of pluralism that seems to be described by Graham and the Orthodox theologians I quoted. The belief that only Christians will be "saved", exclusivity, is not explicated in either the Apostles' Creed, nor the Nicene Creed. Nor do I see a reason to hold such a belief as 'creedal,' though I could be wrong. I'm still learning. But even then, there are all kinds of theological assumptions even if that absolute exclusivity is taken as "creed." What really is "salvation"--a get out of hell card? What does it mean to be a "Christian"?

    What I have been doing is trying my best to understand and explain where Graham (and these Orthodox theologians) might be coming from. Of course I could be wrong, but I don't see how what I quoted of the Orthodox theologians can any more explicitly speak of the experience of salvation by those outside of the Church.

    "God's *SAVING GRACE* is also channeled outside the Church."

    "It CANNOT be assumed that *SALVATION* is denied non-Christians living in true piety..."

    "...many Orthodox who agree that God's *SALVATION* extends to all..."

    The key here is the word "salvation." That is a strong word. If "salvation" is bestowed upon a "non-Christian," then they are "saved." I don't understand how it can be "saving grace" if it does not save.

    I'll leave you with another quote from an Orthodox theologian. This comes from ‘The Mystery of Faith’ by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev.

    "Jesus Christ’s Parable of the Last Judgment (Matt.25:31-46) indicates that for many people the Judgment will become a moment of insight, recognition and conversion, while for others it may turn out to be a great disappointment and frustration. Those who were sure of their own salvation will suddenly find themselves condemned, while those who perhaps did not meet Christ in their earthly life (‘when did we see Thee?’) but were merciful towards their neighbour, will be saved. In this parable, the King does not ask people about matters of belief, doctrine and religious practice. He does not ask them whether they went to church, kept the fasts, or prayed for long time: HE ONLY ASKS THEM HOW THEY TREATED HIS 'BRETHREN.' The MAIN CRITERIA of the Judgment are therefore the ACTS OF MERCY performed or not performed by people during their earthly lives."

    [....]

    "Can there be an answer here to the complex question of whether or not there exists the possibility for non-Christians and non-believers to be saved? The Orthodox tradition has always asserted that there is no salvation outside Christ, Baptism and the Church. However, not everyone who during his earthly life did not meet Christ is deprived of the possibility of being liberated from Hell, for even in Hell the message of the Gospel is heard. Having created the human person with free will, God accepted responsibility for his salvation; and this salvation has been accomplished by Christ. A person who deliberately rejects Christ and His Gospel makes his choice for the devil and becomes himself guilty of his own condemnation: ‘...He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God’ (John 3:18). BUT HOW CAN SOMEONE WHO HAS NOT HEARD THE GOSPEL AT ALL BE CONDEMNED, someone born in a non-Christian country or who grew up in an atheist family? ‘Imagine that the Gospel was not proclaimed to those who died before Christ’s coming’, Clement of Alexandria says. ‘Then both their salvation and their condemnation is a matter of crying injustice’. In the same manner THOSE WHO DIED AFTER CHRIST'S COMING BUT HAD NOT HEARD THE GOSPEL'S MESSAGE CANNOT BE TREATED AS IF THEY DELIBERATELY REJECTED HIM. This is why Christ preached in Hell in order that every human person created by Him would make a choice for good or evil, and in connection with this choice be either saved or condemned."

    These quotes from Orthodox theologians do not at all sound much different than what Graham said here. Graham, too, is talking about people who "loved" Christ without even knowing that it was Christ they were loving--like the people at the last judgment who did not realize that it was indeed Christ they clothed and fed. Maybe I'm missing something, but could you please explain how what Graham said is worthy of being anathematized as heresy, whereas these Orthodox theologians are not?

    Lastly, I mentioned to my Missions professor our conversation, and he responded confused. He said that pluralism is widespread in Orthodox belief. Whether or not he is correct, I'll leave up to my Orthodox brothers to judge. But except for your comments on this blog, all I've seen of Orthodox theology (even from Orthodox theologians) on this matter has been some kind of pluralism similar to Graham's. And what I've read so far of the Orthodox position sounds pretty compelling and Biblical. Maybe I'm missing something big though. I appreciate your patience.

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  13. Again the distinction in the argument: There "may" be salvation outside of the Church, but there is not salvation outside of Christ! (The latter is what Billy Graham refuted therefore ...heratical.)

    One must be In Christ and Christ must be in him. There is no other way to heaven and the Church, Orthodox, is the body of Christ.

    The Orthodox Church advocates a conservative view of Pluralism. It does not hold to Universalism...(again Graham.)

    For more on the Orthodox view of Pluralism and Universalism go to:
    http://www.antiochian.org/node/16917

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  14. Thanks for continuing the conversation. Let's see if we can set a record for number of comments! haha

    Even according to your distinction, Graham can neither be called a "Universalist" nor a "heretic," because he does not claim that there is salvation outside of Christ. Here is an exact transcript of what Graham said (the CAPS are for highlighting, not because I'm screaming...hehe):

    "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. And that's what God is doing today, He's 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."

    What Billy Graham actually said here was simply not "Universalism"--at least not as I and many others would define it, as I've already said--but a kind of pluralism. Universalism would be if he said "everyone will go to heaven, no exceptions," and then left it at that. But that is simply *not* what he says in this video. He gives the distinct qualifier "everybody THAT LOVES CHRIST OR KNOWS CHRIST whether they are conscious of it or not...." Thus Graham very clearly connects salvation to the person and work of Christ--every bit as much as the Orthodox theologians I quoted.

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  15. Perhaps I should not venture into this conversation, but I have a couple of comments that may clarify some of the terms that are being used. I will also say that I am not qualified even to speak-- especially since I didn't watch the video posted on the blog-- but I think that I've gathered enough from the discussions here to give some input.

    First, I think you are both making too strong of a distinction between "pluralism" and "universalism." While they are different, the distinction is subtle.

    Pluralism recognizes that there are multiple pathways to God. Think in terms of a city's infrastructure: many highways lead to the capital and heart of the city. Pluralism is no different. There is a "plurality" of religious practices and worship styles and settings that lead to one apersonal God. Pluralism is heresy because it nullifies the Messiahship of Christ. The Son of God ceases to be important, and indeed, ceases to be the Son of God.

    Universalism is different in a slight, but very important, way. While it certainly implies that all of the "highways" are legitimate, it does not recognize this belief outright. Universalism states that everyone will be together with God when they leave this life. That means Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Pagans, and Athiests alike will be together. This does not nullify the Messiahship of Christ, but rather elevates His forgiveness and mercy, by saying that He will accept all those who are in His image.

    While these terms are essentially the same, the subtle difference changes the way that an Orthodox Christian should approach them. It has been said that St. Gregory of Nazianzus was a universalist. For him, how could Christ come and die on the cross for all, only allow some of the sheep to wander in the wilderness?

    I am not sure whether or not I agree with this assessment, but it certainly is compelling. It is true that heaven will be filled only with Christians. After all, if a Hindu made it into the Kingdom of God he could not remain Hindu after seeing the infinite glory of Christ. The fact is, it is impossible and even sinful for us to condemn any practicer of a foreign religion. We may condemn the beliefs and practices promoted by that religion, but anything beyond that criticism ceases to be done in love, and collapses into hate and vanity.

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  16. Thanks for entering the conversation, Joel.

    I was aware that Gregory of Nyssa was a Universalist, but I was not aware that Gregory of Nazianzus was a Universalist. Origen was also a Universalist, but was condemned for it, whereas Gregory of Nyssa was not. On the "Neo-Orthodox" side of things, Karl Barth was also a Universalist (and also a Calvinist).

    Truth is you are right, there are very many different types of Universalism, and different types of Pluralism, as well as 'Inclusivism.' The distinctions between the terms are often subtle. There are types of Universalism and Pluralism that do not come across to me as a "watered down" Gospel, but place the work of Christ at the very center--even if (as in Universalism) that work is done post-mortem. In the kind of Pluralism (or you might even say 'Inclusivism,' though I'm not entirely sure how the two can be ultimately distinguished), it's kind of like in C.S. Lewis's Pilgrim's Regress when John hears a voice, and sees a man in a coach beckoning him to "come," but he did not know who the man was. He just knew he needed to come, and follow that path. It was only in the end that he discovered it was the Landlord (God in Christ) beckoning him all along.

    Thanks for letting us ramble on so, Master Lewis!

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  17. Thanks, but you shall call no man Master! "Your Majesty" will do. Just include "a sinner" after it :)

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  18. I have no opinion about the everlasting destination of souls. However, I do wonder if Graham's engagement in American civic religion (of which he was the trusted high priest for so long) is somewhat responsible for his ecumenically generous views. America's inclusive to its danger, and its faith must be as open. Without the tradition of the Church, Protestants easily fall prey to the spirit of the age. Perhaps general American "spirituality" got to Graham over the years.

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  19. Joseph,
    Please forgive if I do not address you with your appropriate title (Father? Deacon? Puppy lover? Connoisseur of Boston Baked Beans?). But since "Joseph" means "Jehovah Increases" perhaps that is honor enough. Thank you for your measured input and response. God protect us all from such straying. I enjoyed visiting your website and blog(www.arimathea.org) and reading the inspiring history of your church in Toronto. Do not disdain your web ability. It far surpasses mine. As a convert I am ever seeking to know the roots of our Orthodox faith. I have been blessed to meet one other of the Holy Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, here in the Nashville area. I welcome your continued input in my meager Journey To Orthodoxy. I could learn much from you. Pray for me a sinner.

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  20. Mr. Lewis, thank you for your kind words. I hope that you were able to find something of interest on my page. It's incredible how the internet exposes you to so many different views and testimonies of experience. Oh, to address your post, I'm just a simple layman -- though perhaps a simple-minded layman would be better. Anyway, take care and I wish you well. I'll visit here often.

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