WHY BILLY IS NO PAUL
The third week in June the Minneapolis Metrodome hosted a total of 348,000 people (not counting the nationwide television audience) for a Billy Graham Crusade.
Some in the media have compared Graham to the apostle Paul. Here are a few reasons why, from our vantage point, Billy Graham is no apostle Paul.
While Graham denies the biblical teaching of infant baptism and the fact that baptism is a sacrament (a sacred act in which God forgives sins), Jesus Christ teaches: “Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). And St. Paul writes: “According to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5f); again: “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). No, Billy is no Paul.
Likewise Billy Graham denies that Holy Communion is a sacrament, though Jesus Christ instituted it with the words: “Take eat . . . Take drink . . . given and shed for you for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:26ff, Mk.14:22ff, Lk. 22:15ff) Read what is written in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, and see again why Billy is no Paul.
When it comes to the sinner’s conversion, Billy Graham is known for his altar calls or “calls for decision.” Implying a human being can decide or choose to believe by drawing on some latent innate spiritual powers, Graham preached like this in the Metrodome: “(Jesus) knocks at your heart’s door. Open the door, please, and let him in. I’m going to ask you to get out of your seat now and say, ‘I want to experience Christ. I want him to be my savior, Lord and master.'” By contrast, Jesus Christ told His disciples: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you . . .” (Jn. 15:16). The prophet Jeremiah pleaded: “Turn thou me and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God” (Jer. 31:18). In this regard notice how St. Paul teaches that “no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Sprit” (1 Cor. 12:3). In other words, Billy’s contention that by cooperating with God man receives part credit for a spiritual turn-around is further evidence that he is no Paul.
Further testing of the spirits whether or not they are of God (1 Jn. 4:1) would reveal other areas where what Billy Graham teaches conflicts with the Word of God — areas such as the millennium, progressive sanctification, limited atonement, unionism, and the Antichrist.
None of this is to say that God can’t use Billy Graham crusades for some good. By whomever and whenever Christ is preached we say with Paul: ” . . .Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice” (Php. 1:18). But such rejoicing must always be tempered with an awareness of the subtle dangers of doctrinal error.
To preachers of international renown, or to local country preachers, God’s warning stands: “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it” (Deut. 4:2). And as St. Paul writes: “If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:18).
Our church office is favored with a gratis subscription to the “Prairie Catholic,” a monthly publication of the New Ulm (Minn.) diocese. The May 1996 issue devoted many of its pages to a bishop who recently died. It was said: “Other priests, family, friends, and former students rose to share their stories about how grateful they were to have been touched in some way by this holy man.”
We have no problem with the title “holy man” being applied to the bishop if it is to mean that he believed in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of all sins. The Scriptures call all such believers “saints” by virtue of the alien holiness of Jesus Christ (see Rom. 1:7, 1 Cor. 1:2, Eph. 1:1, Php. 1:1, Col. 1:2.; for greater elaboration read Eph. 5:25-27, Heb. 10:14 etc.).
What troubles, however, is the implication — from the page-after- page description of the bishop’s “good works” — that this man was “holy” in a way that set him apart from the simple Christian believer.
All believers are privileged to bask in their holy status as it is described by St. Peter: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. . .” (1 Pet. 2:9-10) Good works follow as a fruit of faith.
“Let us then reject the stupid and godless notion about the term ‘saints’ according to which we imagined that the word was fitting only for the saints in heaven and for hermits and monks on earth who had performed certain extraordinary works. Let us now learn from Holy Scripture that all believers in Christ are saints.” (What Luther Says, Vol. III, p. 1251).
CAN YOU NAME THE CHURCH?
While in Eau Claire for synod convention I was out for my early morning jog. I ran past this sign on a church in that city: “God allows our choosing of Him to be His choosing of us.”
The catchy sentence is — as we see it — not only theologically loaded but theologically flawed. Can you name the denomination of the church? (We’ll give it in a future issue.) Hint: see the article on Billy Graham above.
WHERE ARE THE MINUTES?
The editor receives a gratis copy of the Concordia Historical Institute (CHI) Quarterly. The Winter 1995 edition had an article encouraging each Missouri Synod congregation to take an inventory of its parish records. Questions were asked such as: Where are the minutes of the voters’ meetings? Where are the records of the official acts (baptism, confirmation, marriage, funeral)? Are Sunday bulletins and newsletters being preserved? Is there a collection of photographs of confirmation classes, pastors, teachers etc.? And perhaps one of the most important questions asked was: Who is responsible for such records in your parish?
After a question about secure facilities for such records, the CHIQ writer goes on to tell how Europe’s wars have been destructive of parish records which are “particularly important to genealogists and family historians.” It is said that enemy troops often took these records intentionally and destroyed them.
For a variety of reasons we may feel little urgency about record- keeping. And after all, can’t we take for granted our pastors are doing this for us? Speaking from experience, I would answer that question in the negative. Not all pastors are good at keeping current and accurate records.
The encouragement to inventory church records was given as the Luther- an church Missouri Synod is about to mark its 150th anniversary. God- willing, it’s not too far away when the CLC will mark a significant anniversary of its own — the 50th in the year 2010. One way it might choose to do this would be to put together a book with a brief history on each of its congregations.
For this, and other, reasons, “. . . your congregation will do well to make adequate provisions for the preservation and use of your extremely valuable and unique parish records.” (CHIQ)