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Franklin Graham, Decision 2016 and the Future of Evangelicalism

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I breathed in the cool, crisp Colorado air as I gazed above at the bright blue canvas punctuated with wispy clouds. I maintained a determined, brisk pace straight to the Denver library. On the other side, I saw the growing sea of people congregating at the foot of the capitol building, waiting for Franklin Graham’s Decision 2016 rally.

People waited two hours for the big event. I only waited ten minutes.  Many had American flags to waive earnestly. I had a phone to photograph the earnest people.

Graham talked and preached for about thirty minutes. Or rather, he talked and preached less than that since there were three separate prayer times near the beginning. Or rather, there were three separate group prayers, one in which everyone prayed a different prayer out loud at the same time—a cacophony jarring my sensibilities (1 Corinthians 14:40).

And his time to talk and preach was further shortened by his request to text him. One time, near the end, the audience was exhorted to take a pledge which they can sign by texting him. This would seal his message on their hearts.

The other occasion was to seal their decision for Christ.

After he delivered the sinner’s prayer, he urged those with smartphones to text him the word “decision.” From there they would be given some more follow up info.

However, he was apologetic toward those who had no texting ability.

What about his message?

“Our nation is in trouble…we are on the verge as Christians of losing this nation. And I think the only hope is in God. Listen. We are broken spiritually as a nation. We are broken racially, economically, and politically.”

“So,” as some jaded readers my think, “is he is pushing for political reform to fix all these problems.”

No. He emphatically declared that he had “zero hope” in either party to fix America. His hope was in God.

Graham asserted that America needed a spiritual revival, because “America is being stripped of her Biblical heritage and God-inspired foundation.”

Yet the bulk of his message focused upon the duty of Christians to act in the political arena:

“You may have to go to the polls and hold your nose at who you are going to vote for. But I tell you what: you better vote. And I’ve heard people say ‘ If this person gets in or that person gets in I am not going to vote.’ Shame on you.

If you have not guessed it already, I was less than thrilled.

I am glad the duty of civic participation was presented. Some people need to hear that.

I am especially glad that trust in God was stressed. Everyone needs to hear that.

Yet I could not help but see this large crowd and a popular preacher as a microcosm of the problems in Evangelicalism.

Consider the opening cacophony, I mean group prayer. It vividly illustrates the Evangelicalism of the last generation: united in actions but divided in words.

Many Evangelicals do many good things through good organizations. And they attend the same rallies.  But they represent so many conflicting interpretations of the Bible, that the likes of Franklin Graham can only unite them with the most minimalist Biblical theology.

Take, for instance, the sinner’s prayer he read. It was brief and generic. Men and women are not generic sinners. They have particular sins that need particular repentance.

This prayer was preceded by a truncated and effeminate Gospel presentation that too many Evangelicals are known for. Spending more time on “God loves you [and has a wonderful plan for your life]” is not the pattern of the New Testament sermons.

And that Gospel call (rightly included the call of repentance) did not include the call of baptism or at least a way for anyone converted to find a local church (which was surprising given the past practices of the Billy Graham Association).

Also, consider what was missing in the talk. It was a lament for the lost spiritual moorings of America and a call to political action. But there was nary a word about repentance of the church in America.

More Evangelicals are tolerant of so-called homosexual marriages.  Within the more committed group of Christians, only three percent have a nominal Christian worldview (unChristian). And Biblical literacy is an ongoing problem. While 57% of Evangelicals deny that Christ is the only way to heaven.

The political future of America is dim. But with such statistics, the future of Evangelicalism is not any better.

How can Evangelicals be a good influence in society if they do not know their own Bibles?

They want to do right in politics and maintain a positive force for good.

Yet if more Evangelicals vote in 2016 yet still decide to remain biblical ignorant, then what has been accomplished?

If the salt looses its flavor, then it is good for nothing but to be trampled underfoot by men.



 

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