Review: Franklin Graham on end-time

By UWE SIEMON-NETTO, UPI Religion Correspondent  |  Aug. 6, 2002 at 9:35 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Time is running out, as far as God's clock is concerned, according to Rev. Franklin Graham, so he does what he deems appropriate under these circumstances -- he reflects on the name of Christ.

"Of course, I don't know what a minute is on God's clock," Billy Graham's son told United Press International, on Tuesday. "It could be 100 years or 1,000." Nonetheless, the time for God to set up his throne on earth seems near enough. "There is little time left," he went on.

"God has left the door open for salvation -- because there are a few more he wants to call to himself." As an evangelist, Graham considers it is job "to offer this invitation to faith to all."

Franklin Graham, 50, is by no means the only prominent cleric to sense the end of time. Famous theologians of highly academic denominations are whispering it by now, even though "eschatological expectation" is not considered a mark of sophistication.

But Graham looks around and sees like Lutheran Bishop Steven P. Bouman of New York City a "reenchantment," as opposed to the "disenchantment" of the world, which according to Max Weber, the father of sociology, defined modernity.

In other words, especially since Sept. 11, there is a return to faith. "The Catholics feel that way, too," Graham affirms. But other signs point to a crescendo in the pace of salvation history, which leads from the Alpha, the moment of creation, to the Omega, the establishment of God's kingdom.

There is, to take an example, the breathtaking growth of Christianity in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Says Graham. "The Bible speaks of a real outpouring of God's Spirit in the latter days." At the same time, he warns, "There is a rise in evil and wickedness -- the devil's outpouring."

He points to the corruption of morality that will, "spell economic disaster for mankind in the next 10 years. There are already 40 million HIV/AIDS cases in the world now. There will be 100 million in 10 years' time. Among other things, it will ruin the world's insurance system."

The only remedy is a return to God's parameters for sexual activities, Graham insists, using this analogy: "I'm a pilot. If I stick my head out the window at 40,000 feet, I won't live very long. Why? Because I'm leaving the parameters set by God." God's parameters for physical love are the confines of marriage.

As president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, he doesn't pull any punches regarding the concerns of these latter days. On Tuesday, he released his newest book titled, "The Name."

In this feisty volume, he takes to task those who ridiculed Christianity -- Ted Turner, who famously had called it "a religion for loser;" Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who termed all religion as something just for the "weak-minded," and German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who had accused the Church of leaving "nothing untouched by its depravity."

Graham reminds his readers of Beatle John Lennon's famous dictum, "We're more popular than Jesus now: I don't know which will go first -- rock and roll or Christianity."

Graham's footnote to Lennon: "Today, the Beatles have dispersed... Overwhelmingly, though, the Name of Jesus and what he taught and did -- and insists his followers do -- continue to transform life."

"Just why is "The Name" so controversial and stirring such a brew of conflicting passions?" asks Graham. The names of Allah or Mohammed, Gauthama Buddha or Krishna do not stir negative emotions.

Graham takes a swing at critics such as Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz who chided him for having prayed in the name of Jesus at President George W. Bush's inauguration last year.

"What was he talking about?" wonders Graham, "I am a Christian. Don't ask me to pray like a Hindu... Don't ask me to pray like a Muslim." And then, with a touch of sophistry of his own, he challenges the jurist Dershowitz, this great defender of freedoms:

"Since I am a minister of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, if I am to express my religious freedom, how am I supposed to pray?"

Doubtless, Graham is not alone in getting, as he admits, "frustrated when I encounter intolerance toward the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ." Except, of course, he is probably the most prominent American yet to voice such frustration, which he illustrates thus:

"Since the September 11 attacks ... one California school district went so far as to require seventh-grade students to learn the tenets of Islam ... learn verses from the Koran, pray 'in the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful,' and chant 'Praise to Allah, Lord of Creation.'

"Can you imagine the lawsuits ... if a teacher commanded students to memorize Bible verses, recite the Lord's Prayer, or pray in the Name of Jesus?" Yet, he points out, "Our democratic system did not spring from Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto or Moslem traditions... The Bible is the source of our nation's philosophy on the value of mankind and how they should treat one another and be governed."

Against those praying the postmodern mantra of "tolerance," Graham posits this Biblical verity: "The greatest act of tolerance in all of human history was the death and resurrection of God's son, Jesus Christ. It was not exclusive for one class or another, for one rather or another, but for all."

At the risk of being viewed -- in Graham's words -- as a "borderline subversive" like any Christian minister proclaiming the truth of the Gospel, Graham unabashedly confesses the God of Christianity as the one "above all other 'gods'" -- meaning the deities of the estimated 9,900 distinct and separate religions in the world.

Graham does not ascribe to the fashionable theory bantered about in interfaith get-togethers that the gods of all faiths are really all and the same. As an example, he points to the seemingly irreconcilable difference between Christianity and Islam:

"In the Christian faith, God ... has revealed himself in the human form in the person of Jesus Christ, God's Son. The god of Islam is not a father and does not have a son, and so to a Muslim, that very thought would be blasphemous.

"The Bible teaches that individuals have a free will in making decisions about God; Islam often relies on force, intimidation or conquering entire nations to recruit converts. Muslims are free to worship Allah, and even proselytize in the United States, but Christians are not free to worship the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, or openly discuss their faith in most Muslim countries."

In order to distinguish between Christianity and other faiths, Graham borrowed a powerful word from his mentor, the late evangelist Roy Gustafsohn, who said, "Religion is what sinful people try to do for a Holy God, and the Gospel is the Good News of what a Holy God has already done for sinful people."

To nonbelievers, Graham's work may sometimes seem a hefty dose. But given the relentless challenges to Christianity over the last 60 years in the United States and the rest of the Western world, this untainted confession of a man convinced to be living in the last minutes of the divine clock is bound to resonate refreshingly with many:

"One day we will all stand before Jesus, either as our Savior or our Judge. I don't know about you, but I am ready to face the One who is owed all the glory and honor, the One who bears the Name -- Jesus."

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