Remembering Ruth Graham--because the media won’t!

Yesterday, Ruth Graham, the wife of evangelist Billy Graham passed away. To read about her life, follow this link: Ruth Graham.

While I do not know a lot about Mrs. Graham, it is quite telling when Billy says, “Without her, my ministry would have been impossible.” Indeed, for those of us who are married (and especially those in the ministry), we know that a supportive spouse is invaluable. Hearing about Ruth’s death made me reflect on my ministry and how grateful I am for having such a supportive wife. Yet, it also caused me to reflect on our culture and our media, especially in regards to who is eulogized or getting press coverage.

Think, for instance, about the two women who have been getting the most press coverage lately: 1 porn-star who overdosed on drugs and killed herself, leaving behind a whirlwind of confusion as to who her infant daughter’s father was because she had slept with so many people and 1 porn star who got arrested for DUI and tried to buy her way out of jail. When we compare the press coverage of these two women—Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton—with the scant coverage that Ruth Graham will get, it speaks volumes about our society. Now, I know that the Graham’s have never been in it for press coverage but the fact remains, our culture values ungodly women far more than they do godly ones.

What can we do to curb this? As parents, we can raise godly women and for those of you who are women, you can live your lives in such a way that people will see Christ in you and long for what you have. Within the next month my wife and I will have a newborn daughter. While I am not nervous about parenting, in some ways it is frightening to bring a girl into this world and in particular, into this culture. My prayer for her though, is that God would raise her up to be a godly woman, one of the godliest women of all time, so that she might touch this world with the love of Christ and make a positive, holy, godly influence on it. May it be so.


  1. It’s truly appalling that a person so respected for supposed Biblical knowledge would show so little thereof by declaring that his wife “had a great reception in heaven.” Although we understand that this must be a difficult time for him, we need to maintain a clear discerment even in moments of pain.

    Not only is the belief that people go to heaven when they die grossly foreign to the Bible, it also shows how much modern Protestantism is close to Catholicism and far from its ideal of restoring biblical truth to Christianity.

    NOWHERE does the Bible teach the immortality of the soul, this is greek philosophy originated in Plato which infiltrated Christianity. Jesus taught that dead people are sleeping (read his resurrection miracles), not floating to heaven or being punished somewhere.

    Furthermore, the immortality of the soul totally contradicts a belief in the resurrection. If people are already in heaven, why in the world would they have to come back and resurrect when Jesus comes back to Earth?? It makes absolutely no sense. How much can we learn by simply reading the Bible plain as it is!!

    People should stop worshipping these Star Pastors and their erroneous teachings and return to simple Biblical truth. Billy Graham is misleading people and his teachings are actually DANGEROUS!

    Sola scriptura PLEASE!! For more information, visit www.amazingfacts.org.

    June 16, 2007 6:59 PM

  2. Genesis2day,

    Thanks for your comments. For the most part, I agree with you. Yet, I wonder if you share the same tendency as I do sometimes: to totally ignore the idea of heaven. While the Scriptures speak of it only on occasion (and usually in the sense of referring to God as the "God of heaven" or something like that), you have to admit, it is a biblical teaching. If you truly affirm Sola Scriptura, you would agree.

    The problem is: We have become too heaven-focused. Indeed, our hymns and things are latent with promises of heaven and whatnot. The sad thing is that this has been a detriment to Christianity in that it steers us away from serving right now.

    As for your comments on the resurrection, that makes sense. Many argue that the soul leaves the body but at the 2nd Coming it will reunite with a transformed body. The verdict may still be out on such a teaching.

    As for Billy Graham beign a "Star Pastor," he really was not. He was not out for stardom and in a technical sense, he was not a pastor--he was an evangelist. If you remember, Paul distinguishes between the two in both Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12.

    Billy Graham is a godly man. While his theology may have some kinks in it, that should not prevent us from recognizing all the kingdom work he has done. Just as well, the same is true for his late wife Ruth. They should be applauded for submitting their lives to God.

    One last thing, I'm not so sure that Biblical truth is always a "simple" thing. Indeed, if you are familiar with Church history, you know that it took the first 6-7 centuries to hammer out the dogma of the Trinity, many more centuries to work out a doctrine of Christ's 2 natures, still, many more years to understand the ramifications of salvation, ecclesiology and so on and so forth. Simply put, theology is not always simple! Even a cursory look at the website address you gave me suggests that.

    Anyways, good post. Perhaps you should read my next entry--"On Ichthus..." because it deals with the very issue you're talking about here: heaven!

    Look forward to hearing more from you.

    --Michael Halcomb

  3. Thanks for your cogent reply.

    On the contrary Michael, I'm a faithful believer in HEAVEN and believe that Christ is preparing mansions even as we blog, as he promised in John 14:1. The problem is, when does HEAVEN happen and how does the Bible's eschathology fit in?

    I believe the problem lies with the belief in the immortality of the soul. The Bible has many references to the state of the dead as being a sleep and a state of unconsciousness. The verses below substantiate that.

    People quote the episode of Jesus on the cross to support this idea. Any greek Lexicon will tell you that the Greek didn’t have punctuation so Jesus didn’t say, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” He really meant in today’s English: “I tell you today: You will be with me in Paradise.” That is also confirmed on John 20:17, when Mary wanted to touch Jesus in the Garden after his ressurection: “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; FOR I AM NOT YET ASCENDED TO MY FATHER: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God.” If Jesus went to Heaven on Friday when he died, why did he say he had not yet ascended to His Father?

    *Death was considered by Jesus to be a sleep; (John 11)

    *Solomon said, “The dead know nothing” (Ecc 9:5-6). ‘The dead praise not the Lord’ (Psalm 115:17). If they are in heaven then they sure are not praising the Lord there!

    *Jesus continues: “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. (John 11:11-14). If Lazarus was already in Heaven, why did Jesus bother to bring him back to life?

    *Paul also agrees by saying that Jesus “has already been resurrected and become “the firstfruits of those who SLEEP”. Elsewhere he says, ‘The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, … and the dead in Christ shall rise … and so shall we ever be with the Lord’ (1.Thessalonians 4:16, 17).

    *The immortality of the soul and the belief in Heaven and Paradise do not go together. There’s plenty in the Bible about Jesus coming back, the resurrection of the righteous, the millenium in Heaven and the New Earth. Revelation is full of references of the reward of the righteous, AFTER the Resurrection when Jesus comes, not AFTER death.

    I’m sure there are difficult passages on this subject in the Bible but those MUST NOT contradict the clearer passages on the state of the dead.

    Ultimately, the "immortality of the soul" excludes the need for the resurrection. Furthermore, it annuls the hope that I need today to overcome death once and for all when Jesus returns. It also gives me a false comfort that my loved ones are in heaven with God when the Bible clearly teaches that they're just sleeping waiting for the return of Christ and the final judgment.

    And that is precisely the problem I have with Billy Graham's statement. As a man known for his commitment to Scripture, shouldn't he be pointing to be blessed hope of resurrection promised by Jesus to those who were faithful? ‘The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, … and the dead in Christ shall rise … and so shall we ever be with the Lord’ (1.Thessalonians 4:16, 17).

    He is one of the champions of this doctrine and people are being seriously misled.

    Thanks for the discussion!
    God bless!

  4. Genesis2day

    Well said. Again, you are not at all out of line with what you say. I understand your hesitancy on some of Mr. Graham's teachings. However, I've always seen Mr. Graham as more of an evangelist (introducing and leading persons to Christ) more than I have a teacher (shaping and forming them after they have come to Christ; even though He has played a big role in Gordon Conwell Seminary among other places).

    Your comments about the false sense of hope are quite right. I wonder though if you are taking the metaphor of sleep too literally? At times you come close to sounding like you affirm "soul sleep" although you don't seem to go that far. I would suggest that the metaphor of sleep doesn't mean that people's souls are sleeping but that instead, they are actually deceased--though in some mysterious way, still overshadowed by God's presence.

    As for mansions being built, I think that is another metaphor that needs not be taken so literally. You talk about false teachers and preachers, that is their favorite prooftext (see the work of Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, etc.). In fact, it is not really the case that we will have individual mansions (something our individual culture loves) in heaven (= the sky) but rather the throne of God will descend upon the earth and everything here will be transformed anew (again, see my "On Ichthus" post for more on this).

    Finally, I would suggest that you are a bit too hard on the Graham's and in fact, too easy on those other two women I mentioned: Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton. It is they who need a good ol' rebuking.

    Good chatting with you, hope we can have more discussions.

  5. We differ slightly in that I take the Bible more literally. And the reason is, when talking about mansions, Jesus was not speaking in parables or symbolic language, therefore we need to understand it literally. It means that we will have a secure place in heaven where we will live. Also, he is not talking about the New Earth, rather Heaven in the millenium. The New Earth comes down after the millenium that's when the throne of God descends. (Revelation 21:1-3)

    When he said he would return, it means he would come back in his human body to earth, not secretly as preaches the "left behind" folks.

    Sleep when referring to death means a state of unconciousness or ceasing to exist. It would be a more specialized type of 'sleep', more like a comma, except that life is gone from the body. I don't believe we have souls, but rather that we ARE souls. When we die, everything passes away. The life gift we have comes from God and goes back to God, not a soul. (See Ecclesiates 12:7: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit (ruach=breath of life) shall return unto God who gave it.")

    The problem with modern exegesis is that people take everything the Bible says with a grain of salt, either saying that it's not literal or that it has some hidden meaning, like the Da Vinci Code. There's literal things and there are symbolic things in the Bible but they are clearly separated: i.e., Revelation has a lot of symbols [not of all of it is symbols though], Genesis is all hard facts.

    I hope you see my need to return to Scriptures and not listen to what people may think is literal or not or to twist verses that are very clear on a certain subject. I think you're on the right track on many things, but I'm really eager to find a true Biblical approach, i.e, comparing passages to come to a conclusion on a specific doctrine in religious blogs.

    As far as Graham is concerned, I think God is offended with people who choose not to see a certain biblical principle. As a Baptist loyal to tradition, he has not searched Scriptures for the truth on the subject of death. He has chosen to listen to the status quo of modern day American evangelicals and that is a problem.


  6. Genesis2day,

    I consider myself a literalist but probably not in the same sense as you do.

    When I say that I take the Bible literally, I mean that when I read a passage, I read it how it was literally meant to be read (e.g. poetry as poetry, history as history, symbol as symbol, genealogy as genealogy, etc.).

    That's what it means to take the Bible literally. Probably a different understanding than your use of literal (e.g. wooden literal), maybe not though.