Thursday 8 November 2012

Billy Graham on Angels


Having read Fr Seraphim Rose, Peter Kreeft and Rupert Sheldrake on the subject of angels; I was surprised to discover Billy Graham had written a book on the subject (Angels: God's secret agents). I was even more surprised at how excellent the book is.

I had always (and long since before I became a Christian) pretty much dismissed Billy Graham as being corny and somehow manipulative - I personally hate large crowds, and the idea of going around preaching to vast hordes and trying to bring people to make a public conversion seemed, somehow, wrong.


Well, even though it certainly would not suit me, I am forced to admit that I was probably the one who was wrong.

At any rate, Billy Graham's book is evidence of a sincere and deep Christianity; and displays many gifts of memorable exposition.

As might be expected, Graham's account is strongly focused on the Scriptural evidence (whereas, by contrast, the other accounts of angels have given most attention to Aquinas, Dionysious the Aeropagite and the early church Fathers plus more recent Saints. But the conclusions are very much the same.

Angels are seen as very important, and it is beneficial for the Christian to know something of them and their activities.


The only major difference between Graham and the Roman and Eastern Catholic accounts of angels, is that Graham specifically states at one point: "We are not to pray to angels. Nor are we to engage in 'a voluntary humility and worshiping' of them. Only the Triune God is to be the object of our worship and prayers."

My interpretation (as one who does pray to angels) is different; that we are not required to pray to angels (as we are required to pray to God).

But that prayer is a form of communion, not of worship - and that since angels exist it is reasonable that we commune with them through prayer. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how else their presence might be acknowledged.

There is a potential danger of idolatry, of course; but any serious Christian will know the infinite difference between God and any other potential object of prayer (angels, Saints and other departed souls, the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Plus, of course, any strong prohibition on prayer to angels will thereby reject many or most of the Holiest Christians who lived - before the Reformation and in parts of the world outwith Protestant churches. I therefore regard a strong prohibition as self-refuting - while accepting that among new Christians and weak Christians, any prayer life other than a focus on God via Christ could be misleading and hazardous.


Still, this is probably the only passage in the book which would evoke significant disagreement among Christians - and it is only three sentences!


Most importantly I have been delighted (belatedly) to discover the worth of the world's most famous evangelist - and to have benefited from his wisdom and insight.

And what I take away is that even the most evangelical of Protestants has a more 'catholic' view of the world than most would expect; acknowledging the world as alive and filled with unseen presences (good and evil) engaged in spiritual battle, focused upon Man, helping and hindering, strengthening and attacking...

Furthermore, Graham expounds clearly and strongly the idea of the Christian as one adopted into God's family.


So, the combination of joining a Heavenly family, and of the world as filled with intelligences, means that Graham's style of Protestantism is rich, various and personal; and would have the Christian 'at home in the world' - in relationship with the world - in a manner that Protestants have often been said not to allow; so that Graham's vision of earthly life seems somewhat 'medieval' in the good sense, for instance as described in C.S Lewis's The Discarded Image


Bruce B. said...

Supposedly, his website just deleted Mormonism from its list of cults (this development has received a lot of criticism from the traditional conservative right as an example of political opportunism)

Maybe he’s becoming ultra -ecumenical like you.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB - Just to clarify, I loathe and despise ecumenism (which is a liberal and bureaucratic project); it is the opposite of Mere Christianity.

Yes, I saw something about this delisting. I must say, I find the idea of classifying the LDS church as a cult in the first place, or having lists and definitions of cults, to be childish name-calling.

Bruce B. said...

I didn’t know ecumenical had a negative connotation. I’ve used the phrase “liberal-ecumenical” to describe those that want to reduce our beliefs to nothing in order to make our differences go away. Didn’t mean to offer an insult.