Heresies

Hour of Decision

Looking objectively at the legacy of Billy Graham in the wake of his passing is virtually impossible, especially for me personally.  I know several people who answered the altar call at a Graham crusade, “just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me,” and mark that occasion as their conversion to Christ; and about these conversions I have no doubt.  Then again, I grew up in a fundamentalism that demanded full separation from the likes of Billy Graham, because he associated with the likes of Roman Catholics and liberals; and their concerns were real because Graham’s increasingly broad associations throughout his career—always in order to preach the Gospel to a larger audience—transformed what was essentially a fundamentalist Baptist appeal to repent and believe into a postmodern “make of this what you will” message.  And then again, I am a Missouri-Synod Lutheran who confesses along with the Small Catechism that “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him”; and that last phrase contradicts the letter, and to an extent the spirit, of that sweet old hymn of the crusade altar call, which my heart still loves: “O Lamb of God, I come.”  Am I saved by grace alone through faith alone, or on account of my asking Jesus into my heart?  Was Graham’s message, then, faith...

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