“Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.” Thomas
The Apostle Paul, who was put to death as a result of (or at least partly as a result) his Christian evangelism, wrote to the Ephesian church saying “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Paul’s bold attitude, exhibited in the midst of intense persecution, is starkly contrasted by the one advocated by Franklin Graham, President of Billy Graham Ministries and Samaritan’s Purse, in a live panel interview with Sean Hannity that was broadcast on Fox News this week. When asked about his vociferous and public opposition to Islam, Graham responded with a short, token condemnation of Islam. He spent the majority of his face-time making the following gospel presentation (having already made another earlier in the same interview):
“I want people to know, the Muslims to know that, in their heart; they can put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I’m not asking them to go openly and denounce Islam. I’m talking ‘bout, they can do this in quietly in their heart and just say God I believe in You and I believe in that your son Jesus Christ died for my sins and I want to invite Him to come into my heart and I want his forgiveness and I want Him to transform my life. But they don’t have to go out and tell their Muslim family what they have done because they’ll be killed…they can do this quietly in their heart and have that assurance knowing that their sins are forgiven and they can spend eternity in heaven and they don’t have to die in son jihad to please God.”
According to Derek Thomason at The Atlantic, “Half of Fox News’ Viewers are 68 and older…Fox News is at an unassailable advantage on its turf because it’s selling a conservative political product to an older audience, which tends to be more politically conservative…Fox News gets many things right when it comes to building telegenic politico-entertainment…maybe Fox’s secret sauce isn’t TV. It’s demographics.”
It’s not hard to imagine that an older, white, evangelical demographic was just plain giddy when they heard Franklin give not one, but two, gospel presentations to Muslims living in repressive Islamic states. Unfortunately, there were numerous problems with Graham’s gospel presentation to Muslims:
- Muslims who live in repressive Islamic states weren’t watching. Fox News makes its hay in heartland of America, not the inner recesses of Medina. The effective recipients of Graham’s message were older evangelical Americans who already believe in the gospel. One should wonder how many of them, after hearing Graham proclaim the gospel so forthrightly on the air waves, opened up their checkbooks and wrote out a donation to Samaritan’s Purses. Graham knows the demographics of Fox News as well as any blogger with Google (like the author of this post). He was clearly pandering to the home crowd rather than making any meaningful statement about religion and global politics. Old, white people love to hear about asking Jesus “into the heart,” “assurance,” and “eternity in heaven.”
- Asking Jesus “into one’s heart” is found nowhere in the Bible. Christians who have grown up with a biblical understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can understand what this phrase means in terms of soteriology, but it’s doubtful that Muslims without any biblical knowledge can. Graham was effectively asking Muslims to utter a silent prayer that they don’t understand. It’s also one with which they would be disgusted. Even Muslims who are opposed to jihad are uncomfortable, to say the least, that someone would say that God has a son.
- Graham’s gospel presentation was incomplete in that it made no mention of acknowledging the Lordship of Christ. As Paul makes clear in Romans 10:9, one must believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess Jesus as Lord. Repeating a prayer “quietly in their heart” like the one Grahams laid out is no guarantee of salvation.
- Graham’s encouragement of Muslims who get saved to stay quiet and refuse to denounce Islam is patently unbiblical as demonstrated by Matthew 5:10-16, Matthew 10:32-33, Romans 10:14-15, John 16:33, and the Great Commission. Jesus commanded his disciples to make other disciples, baptizing them (which is a public act) and teaching them Jesus’ commandments. Fulfilling the great commission and being salt and light in the world does not involve secret prayers (or continuing in a the type of Muslim lifestyle expected in repressive Islamic States)
Graham’s presentation reeked of easy-believeism and pandering. Graham comes off more as a red-white and blue cultural Christian than someone interested in making disciples. To make matters worse, he, the son of America’s most respected evangelist, propagates the insufficient gospel of easy believeism to an American Christian population in desperate need of encouragement to make disciples. If anyone is tempted to give Graham the benefit of the doubt as someone who was just honestly trying to get as many people into heaven as possible, consider the following statement that Sean Hannity made to Graham:
“I’m a Christian as you are.”
Sean Hannity is not a Christian as Graham is. Hannity is a Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic Church rejects the biblical gospel that salvation is not earned by works but rather received by grace. Although few, if any, repressed Muslims were watching Fox News that night, thousands of free, American Catholics were. Graham did not offer a refutation to the false gospel of Rome to Hannity and the rest of his show’s Catholic viewership. He might not get invited back if he did. In Graham’s own back yard, Duke University recently considered allowing Muslim calls to prayer from its chapel. Graham made his disapproval loud and clear. No Muslim prayers should be allowed, in Graham’s opinion. At the same time, the Duke campus is replete with theology and philosophy professors who deny the truth of the bible. These professors, like the Catholics in Hannity’s audience, are no threat to Graham’s American freedom. Apparently, Graham is not threat to their unbelief.
Readers…share the gospel of Jesus Christ with someone who needs it. Professional evangelists and the talking heads of the visible church were not put here on earth to do for you. As Jesus told his disciple before the hungry throngs, “You give them something to eat.
[Contributed by Seth Dunn]
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.