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Bo Sanders: Public Theology

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Billy Graham

Billy Graham: Case Study

Graham’s life show us so much about the changes in our society and the church: from newspapers, TV, civil rights, evangelicals, politics, media, and so much more.

I was moving into my new office and purging some old files. I found a magazine (Promise Keepers) from 1997 that had Graham on the cover.

Here are some of my thoughts in this short video.



I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, and concerns.

G is for Genre or Billy Graham got one thing wrong

Genre is by far the most important thing about the Bible that many Bible believing people don’t know. Empire is a close second but nothing matters more than genre when it comes to reading the Bible.

Genre: A term that refers to different types or varieties of literature or media. In the interpretation of texts, particularly the Bible, most exegetes agree that identifying the genre of the text to be interpreted is crucial and that the text must be understood in light of the common conventions that typified that genre at the time of its writing. Thus, poetry is not to be interpreted in the same manner as historical narrative, nor is prophecy properly read in the same manner as an epistle (letter).

Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Kindle Locations 593-595). Kindle Edition.

Simply stated, one must read a poem differently than history, prophecy differently than a gospel, an epistle differently than apocalyptic literature.

When people say “the Bible says …” it is a bit of a misnomer. The Bible is not one book per se but a collection of books. These 66 books were written at different times over several centuries by dozens of different men and women.G-Genre

This is why one can not say “The Bible says X” with any accuracy.

It would be better to say “In Romans Paul says” or, better yet, “The epistle the Romans says”.

Saying “the Bible says” is like saying “the Kindle says”.

If you said “according to the Kindle”, one would ask ‘in which book?’ and ‘who was the author?’

We need to do the same with the Bible.

This is where Billy Graham comes in. I was recently re-acquainted with the 1998 TED Talk delivered by the legendary evangelical preacher Billy Graham. You can hear the highlights here on the TED Radio Hour.

If you listen to those highlights, I expect 5 things will stick out to you.
1) The humble and sincere spirit of a man who impacted the world.
2) The quote about Thomas Edison.
3) The allusion to Pascal.
4) The ‘Liar, Lord, or Lunatic’ option

Now it is important to stop here are make a confession. Growing up Evangelical, I idolizing Billy Graham and was trained as an apologist in the Billy Graham School of Evangelism. I can not tell you how many times I quoted those same three lines (Franklin, Pascal, and Lewis).

I thank God for this man and have only one lingering concern:

5) The story about believing that the Bible was ‘God’s word’ because ‘God was a gentleman and does not lie’. That is an interesting cultural snapshot.

BUT what it leads to is viewing the Bible as a single-entity and being comfortable say “the Bible says …” as if the Bible did not have competing and contentious voices within its collection!

  • Many people love listening to Billy Graham.
  • Many of those same people love reading the Bible.
  • Many of those same people have never heard of J.E.D.P.

Which is the most basic entry-level of Biblical Scholarship that I know.

All of this is to say that ‘Genre’ is an important element of any Biblical examination and is essential to any discussion regarding faith and religion in the 21st Century.

I know that Billy Graham played a monumental role the American political and religious landscape in the second half of the 20th Century.
The phase “the Bible says”, however, is not one that we can carry into the 21st Century.

The books of the Bible need to be read according to the genre that they were written in.
That is how we hear the truth that is in them – and Christians, beyond anything else, should be lovers of  the truth.

_______________

You can read the rest of the series here:
A is for Atonement

B is for Baptism 

C is for Christology 

ABC Podcast (TNT)

D is for Deconstruction 

E is for Empire 

F is for Fideism 

the 99 and the Tebow: success, Billy Graham and Canada

I blog both here at at Homebrewed Christianity. Sometimes after a post rotates off the front page over then I re-post it here for ongoing conversation.

Several weeks ago I had fun looking at the difference between Tim Tebow’s* faith and what his zealous (mostly evangelical & charismatic) fans do with it. I took some flack from asserting that Jesus was not intervening to help him win close games.
Since then he has lost 3 games. The choir has gone shockingly quiet. It appears – and this may come as a surprise – that Americans worship success more than any ‘god’. In fact, one might wonder if success is America’s god.

It always piques my imagination when politicians say ‘May God bless America” at the end of their speeches … I try to pay attention to how they say it and what they might be expecting that blessing to look like.

 There are two elements to this that really attract my attention:

  • Part of the reason this sticks out to me so sharply is that I have dual-citizenship with Canada. I went to High school and started Bible College there. When I see Tebow bowed on the sideline praying in the 4th quarter, I smile as I think of the completely different religious and political atmosphere in Canada. Almost every Canadian I know – even the believers – I can hear saying “Easy big guy, don’t make too much of a display”.

American zeal is a phenomenon. I have a theory that it is actually embedded in the DNA of this country courtesy of those original Calvinists who brought with them the concept of “signs of divine benevolence”. This little mechanism says
‘while we can’t know who is elect unto salvation or damnation – certainly we say that a good tree will bear good fruit. So, while no can know for sure if they are “in” certainly God graces the chosen with “signs of divine benevolence”. Continue reading “the 99 and the Tebow: success, Billy Graham and Canada”

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