Jesus is the Answer: Joel Osteen

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“A Tattered Vestige of a Formerly Robust Faith” Recently I found an evangelistic appeal that closed a book by a well-known American pulpiteer. He always, according to his nomenclature, wants to “provide the audience an opportunity to make Jesus the Lord of their lives,” and, as in his spoken medium, suggested the need of his…



Partial Recoveries Encourage Relapses

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I have tried to establish a narrative illustrating the factors that have altered American evangelicalism in the last two centuries and the way in which Baptists in the South experienced the change. The purpose of this series has been to give an interpretive background to the differences of doctrinal perception presently experienced between Calvinists and…



I Am the Captain of My Soul: Billy Graham

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(This post is the latest installment in a series on Billy Graham.  See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.) Graham’s focus on human experience vis-à-vis biblical authority and as an apologetic for the Christian faith provided the bands of attachment to him and his ministry from two directions—both moderates and conservatives found resonance…



The Anatomy of a Hybrid Constituency: Billy Graham

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(This post is the latest installment in a series on Billy Graham.  See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.) Billy Graham’s strong affirmation of biblical authority, his clear proclamation of the objective truths of the gospel, and his perseverance in the calling of evangelism gave him comprehensive credibility among evangelicals, including conservative Southern Baptists….



The Bible Says: Billy Graham

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(This post is part of a series on Billy Graham.  See Part 1 and Part 2.) In the Billy Graham Museum at Wheaton, the last three figures highlighted before Graham are Charles Finney, Dwight L. Moody, and Billy Sunday. In many ways, Graham saw himself as the heir and steward of their tradition. Though like them…



Shaping an Icon: Billy Graham

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The resolutions of Graham and his team for integrity and tenacity soon bore fruit both for evangelistic success and public notice. Mel Larson, in commenting on the Los Angeles crusade of fall 1949, captured both of these elements when he observed, “Revival flowed through Billy Graham during that time until the entire world was conscious…



Blest Be the Tie that Binds: Billy Graham

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Given the two theological trajectories of the mid-twentieth century SBC and the increasingly noxious relationship between them, what commitment kept them for so long willing to work together? The glue that provided adherence was an experiential kind of evangelism. Both on the mission field and at home, the call to decide for Christ, with a…



Can a Sound Biblical Theology be Maintained without Calvinism?

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My engagement with the “old view,” as my professor of theology called it, had a profound effect on my subsequent studies. How something apparently so commonly held and so clearly and vigorously affirmed could have sunk below the horizon in seventy years of denominational life puzzled, frustrated, and fascinated me. The answer, of course, did…



Double Breakthrough

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(See the first two posts in this series: Secret Places Where Grace Lurks, Obvious Places Where Grace Abounds.) In August of 1968, in order to prepare for Christian ministry, but also in a very personal search for certainty about the nature of the Christian experience of faith, I moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to attend…



Obvious Places Where Grace Should Abound

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(See the first post in this series: Secret Places Where Grace Lurks) In church, according to the purpose and promise of God, we look for grace in the context of its revealed means, coming from “leaders who spoke to you the word of God” (Hebrews 13:7-9). We want as much of it as God designs…