Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Journey: How to Live by Faith in an Uncertain World

By Billy Graham, 312 pages.

“On which road are you traveling? Is it the right road—the road God has set out for you? Or are you still on the broad road of which Jesus spoke—a road that looks deceptively inviting and easy, but in the end leads only to emptiness and sorrow and death?”

This extraordinarily straightforward book assumes that sainthood is simple, though not easy. Billy Graham hatches no new theologies, but offers instead the traditional beliefs of American born-again evangelicals.

Pastoral rather than philosophical or academically-theological, The Journey focuses on the trials of people living in a materialistic, socially unstable world. Graham does not tinker with his successful evangelical formula. The Journey reads like the advice of a very loving, thoughtful grandfather with an urgent message he has learned from all his years of living.

In particular, Graham focuses on the sinful nature of humans. In order to truly accept Christ, we have to accept our sinful nature. This is something that liberal Christians from every church have rejected. This sense of sin—or lack thereof--is one of the greatest differences between traditional / conservative and liberal Christians.

“Sin is serious—it is, in fact, the most basic problem of the human race. It is my basic problem and yours as well. Don't ever think sin is only a minor misdeed or an occasional outburst of wrongdoing. Sin is far deeper than that. It is a spiritual disease that leaves us weak and powerless. Its hold over us is so strong that only God can overcome it.”

This strong sense of sin and of human powerlessness grounds this theology of redemption, and explains the deep contrast this book has with liberal theology, where sin is social or psychological, but never, as with Graham, in the deepest part of each individual: “Remember:” he writes, “This world is not the way God meant it to be, and neither are we. Something devastating has happened—and that 'something' is sin.”

Graham rejects post-Christian values, linking it to “human dignity”: s“If we think we are only sophisticated animals, we will begin to act like sophisticated animals...Our souls make us uniquely human, and they give dignity and value to every human life.”

Lastly, Graham delicately touches on “the mystery of evil” with wisdom and maturity, simultaneously respecting and being sensitive to the terrible suffering of people, and the hope in God's response of grace and love to this suffering, even when we don't feel this divine work.

The Journey deals with temptation, Satan, the church, pride, grief and adversity, and countless other concerns we all have. Graham thoughtfully and sparingly touches on his own life, though not to beat the drums of his own achievements or holiness.

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