Graham Celebration

May 31, 2007

Today was the dedication ceremony for the Billy Graham Library. I watched most of the ceremony live online and it was a great testimony--as the Library is supposed to be--to the wonderful ministry of Graham. We truly need more Christian leaders like him.

An interesting part of the ceremony was the speeches from all three of the living former presidents. Since some Southern Baptists have been attacking next year's Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant by claiming that it was wrong to share an event with former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, it will be interesting to see if they now turn their fire on Graham. Maybe they will accuse him of not believing the gospel because he let Carter and Clinton speak! They will not, but such silence seems to undermine their claims about the Celebration. And since national SBC leaders have spoken out against the Celebration (in part because of Clinton and Carter), then maybe they will turn on Graham. At last year's annual meeting they dedicated a statue of Graham. Maybe this year they will tear it down kind of like what happened to Saddam Hussein's statue! None of this, of course, will happen (and it should not), but maybe we should all be willing to follow the example of Graham and work together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our commonalities in the life-changing gospel of Jesus that Graham so eloquently preached for years is much more important than our differences.

12 comments

  1. "Since some Southern Baptists have been attacking next year's Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant by claiming that it was wrong to share an event with former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, it will be interesting to see if they now turn their fire on Graham."

    As neither a Southern Baptist nor as big a fan of Billy Graham as much of the Baptist world, perhaps I shouldn't be the first to comment. This part of your post -- "claiming that it was wrong to share an event with former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton" -- may define the opinion of some, but I think that just "sharing an event" with former presidents Carter and Clinton does not accurately reflect the substance of most of the objections to the organization/event. And though many who have some objections to the NewBaptCov are Southern Baptists, all of us are not. Whether or not the SBC will "be there" does seem to be the news of interest, though.

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  2. Chuck9:56 PM

    Brian,

    I just want to remind you that some Southern Baptists--I, for one--object to the notion that an "authentic and prophetic Baptist voice" can or will be heard from the NewBapCov since its most identifiable public voice is that of President Carter, who has not refuted recent reports indicating his belief that there are other legitimate paths to God--including Judaism and Mormomism.

    I'm not objecting to Baptists who share belief in the true gospel--including the exclusivity of Jesus Christ to save--rallying together in the name of Jesus and under the banner of "Baptist."

    I'm not objecting to Bill Clinton being involved, since I've not read any reports of pluralist Clinton views of the gospel.

    I must say, though, that the presence of Wake Forest's School of Divinity on the sponsors list causes me concern as well, if faculty member Charles Kimball's pluralist views are shared by the School as a whole.

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  3. Our church is just down the street from the library. Our Seniors went two weeks ago to a special preview. I would have gone had it not been the week before mission trip.

    The head of the Library is the former Sports Information Director for Bama. He gave me his book on the Faith of the Crimson Tide. I'll make a trip soon.

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  4. I have some issues with Graham. I think his theology is far too individualistic and that he buys way too much into Dispensationalist eschatology (although it doesn't dominate his evangelism as with others). But Graham did some truly admirable things over the years: He integrated his "crusades" (I never like the term) as long ago as 1960--to howls of outrage among segregationists and made some baby steps toward supporting the Civil Rights movement. (Unfortunately the left denounced him for not doing more--instead of encouraging him--while the Right, like Falwell, denounced him as the antiChrist). Later, in the '80s, Graham tried to do his part to prevent nuclear war between the U.S. and USSR--and was denounced by the Right as a Communist dupe.

    I also admire the way Graham has been almost scandal free--especially during the sex and money scandals of TV preachers during the '80s, that was refreshing.

    But Graham allowed himself to be used by the Fundamentalist leaders in the SBC WAAY to much. And, even after Watergate should have awakened him, he was almost blindly supportive of Republican presidents.

    So, I have mixed views about this museum. But Graham has been attacked by the Right before, so I don't find your scenario implausible, Brian. He hasn't been as "untouchable" as you seem to think.

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  5. Kaylor,

    The dedication of the Billy Graham Library was not a political event.

    There is a high probability that the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, while meant to be a inter-denominational event to bring about unity, will be politicized.

    Kaylor, fear not. We serve a jealous God. He will not allow the church of Jesus Christ and the Gospel to be thwarted by the schemes of men.

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  6. Thanks for all the comments!


    r.l.: I do hope that ALL Baptists in North America will attend, but I guess the SBC gets more attention because they are bigger and louder. I am curious what other objections to the Celebration may be since the critics in the SBC have only focused on the speakers.


    Chuck: I think I have previously offered my thoughts on your objection, but understand that you remained unmoved.


    Kevin: I am jealous as I will probably not make it to the Library for some time (I do not foresee a visit this year).


    Michael: You are correct that some within the Religious Right have attacked Graham, but I do not think there has ever been an effort similar to what Carter has had to endure. I do not expect anyone to attack him for the Library event (and thus far I have seen no attacks). I would say, however, that he was not as supportive of the SBC fundamentalists as many believe. It was falsely claimed one year that he supported a candidate (I forget the year and candidate at the moment). And he continues to support the Baptist World Alliance even after the SBC's withdrawal.


    livingdust: Your comment makes no sense. You rightly note that the Graham event was not political. But then you say that the Celebration probably will be. But the only "evidence" used by critics to say it will be political is that the speakers will include Carter and Clinton. But if their presence did not make the Library event political, why would it make the Celebration political?

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  7. Chuck8:44 AM

    Brian,

    I need to correct my mentioning Wake Forest's Divinity School as being on the NewBapCov sponsors list.

    Actually, I was thinking of Bill Leonard, the school's Dean, and James Dunn, a faculty member, who were among the 80 attending the January announcement meeting.

    The presence of Charles Kimball on the same faculty doesn't necessarily indicate that the school, or either Leonard or Dunn, holds the same pluralist views. Tenure issues might be in play, so they may not even endorse Kimball's views.

    See, I am for accuracy in reporting!
    :)

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  8. Chuck: Thanks for the correction. And I am glad that you point out the problems with a guilt-by-association attack (especially since have attempted to use such attacks about Kimball and others).

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  9. To truly value accuracy, please note that Charles Kimball (whom I have met at meetings of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and found very impressive) is actually a tenured professor in the religion department of Wake Forest UNIVERSITY. He is only an adjunct at the Divinity School.

    Further, WFU's Divinity School is not specifically Baptist; it advertises itself as an ecumenical seminary with a Baptist heritage. The majority of faculty are Baptist, but not all of them. The same could be said of the much more conservative Beeson Divinity School at Samford University where the VERY conservative Calvinist Baptist church historian Timothy George is founding dean.
    A specifically ecumenical school, even if wanting a Baptist-majority presence on the faculty, would surely want a greater range of theological opinions in the classroom than a strictly Baptist school.

    P.S., I have also met Rabbi Michael Lerner several times and am impressed with him and his integrity.

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  10. Michael: Thanks a lot for your comment and helping set the record straight!

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  11. Brian,

    Don't fail to notice Michael is impressed with Rabbi Lerner and his integrity.

    Thanks, Michael.

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  12. Anonymous8:17 AM

    This is a bit off topic, but I was listening to Jimmy Carter speak at the dedication and at the end of his speech, he mentioned some things about North Korea's leader and how Billy Graham's wife Ruth received a degree from a university there and also how Kim Jong Il has a deep appreciation for Christians. Am I losing my mind or did anyone else hear those comments? I need some clarification about that.

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