Sunday, February 25, 2018

Do USA evangelists like the Late Rev. Billy Graham teach that non Christians will burn in Hell forever? If so, do most USA evangelicals believe in that teaching?

These questions cropped up in the context of a recent post of mine on Billy Graham. One view was that most USA evangelicals would have the view that salvation was possible only through Jesus Christ, and that people of other religions like Hinduism who believe in other gods (divine beings/Avatars) would burn in Hell forever.

A relevant extract from the Billy Graham post that I put up on my spiritual blog here: http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2018/02/billy-graham-one-of-most-influential.html, is given below:

*) What We Believe from Billy Graham's main web site: https://billygraham.org/about/what-we-believe/.

[Ravi: I need to say here that my religious and spiritual beliefs do not match with that of Rev. Billy Graham as expressed in the above webpage. In particular, while I view Lord Jesus Christ as a divine figure, I do NOT view Jesus Christ as the ONLY way to achieve merger in God ('merger in God' in Hinduism is roughly equivalent to salvation in Christianity). I am a multi-faith person believing in the divinity of Jesus Christ as well as the divinity of Hindu Avatars like Rama, Krishna, Shirdi Sai Baba and Sathya Sai Baba (who is my beloved and revered Gurudev). Readers wanting to know more about my multi-faith beliefs expressed in short statements may want to view this post of mine: Crisp Statements of Belief in God that is Compatible with Science, https://iami1.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/crisp-statements-of-belief-in-god-that-is-compatible-with-science/.]

--- end extract from my blog post ---

Now my view is that I know that as far as some Evangelical preachers are concerned I am headed straight to eternal Hell fire as though I revere Lord Jesus Christ as a divine being, I pray more often to Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba who I view as an Avatar. I also have belief in the One formless Brahman (Absolute Divinity/God) and sometimes pray to that too. But many times I find it easier to pray to the name and form of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and so most of my prayers, as of now, are to the name and form of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. So going by views of some evangelical preachers, I am headed to eternal Hell fire!

But so long as such evangelical preachers and their followers don't impose their belief in me and scare me, I don't have a problem interacting with them and learning from some of the good of their faith and community. It is if they threaten me and say that I have to convert to their form of Christianity or else they will harm me, that I will have a problem. They don't do that. So I don't have a problem. I mean, I view them as having a limited understanding of spirituality and religion but which does not harm me directly.

Further, it is my experience in India that many of those who may be attending their evangelical preachers' hell fire type sermons do not show that attitude in practise when they meet people from other religions. For example, I was having a chat with one local Christian (Protestant denomination) boy in Puttaparthi, whose preachers preach that Jesus Christ is the only God and that Sathya Sai should not be viewed as God. But this guy, while attending that church, does not subscribe to that belief/teaching. He told me recently that he views Sathya Sai as divine being and Jesus also as divine being.

For me, it is not so much the written beliefs and dogma of a religious/spiritual community that matter but their behaviour in practice that matters.

However, I was curious to know whether a) Do USA evangelists like the Late Rev. Billy Graham teach that non Christians will burn in Hell forever? and b) If so, do most USA evangelicals believe in that teaching?

I did some browsing on the Internet to get some answers.

This Washington Post article: Billy Graham warns of fire and brimstone in ‘final’ book, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/billy-graham-warns-of-fire-and-brimstone-in-final-book/2015/10/02/0c627a54-6940-11e5-bdb6-6861f4521205_story.html, 2nd October 2015, gives the view that Billy Graham did believe in that though he does not seem to have preached much of that.

Here's a post on the matter: http://www.mercifultruth.com/graham.html. A few short extracts from it:

The Orlando (Florida) Sentinel for April 10, 1983, asked Billy Graham:
"Surveys tell us that 85% of Americans believe in heaven, but only 65% believe in hell. Why do you think so many Americans don't accept the concept of hell?" He replied: "I think that hell essentially is separation from God forever. And that is the worst hell that I can think of. But I think people have a hard time believing God is going to allow people to burn in literal fire forever. I think the fire that is mentioned in the Bible is a burning thirst for God that can never be quenched."

"Hell is not the most popular of preaching topics. I don't like to preach on it. But I must if I am to proclaim the whole counsel of God. We must not avoid warning of it. The most outspoken messages on hell, and the most graphic references to it, came from Jesus Himself. ...Jesus used three words to describe hell. ...The third word that He used is 'fire.' Jesus used this symbol over and over. This could be literal fire, as many believe. Or IT COULD BE SYMBOLIC. ...I've often thought that this fire could possibly be a burning thirst for God that is never quenched. What a terrible fire that would be-- never to find satisfaction, joy, or fulfillment!" (A Biblical Standard For Evangelists, Billy Graham, A commentary on the 15 Affirmations made by participants at the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, July 1983, Worldwide Publications, Minneapolis, Minnesota, pages 45-47). Endquote.

--- end extracts from mercifultruth.com ---

The above mercifultruth.com links to this youtube video: Robert Schuller And Billy Graham Speaking Wide Acceptance, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNCnxA91fHE, 1 min 3 secs, published on Sept. 23rd 2007. I have transcribed it below (note that the audio and video seem to be slightly out of sync):

Dr. Robert Schuller: Tell me what do you think is the future of Christianity?

Rev. Billy Graham: I think that everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ. And that's what God is doing today. He is calling people .. out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus. But they know in their hearts that they need something that they don't have and they turn to the only light that they have and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in Heaven.

Dr. Robert Schuller: Fantastic! I am so thrilled to hear you say that. There is a wideness in God's mercy.

---- end transcript of video interview segment ---

Ravi: I find the above words of Rev. Billy Graham said on video (and so can be easily verified) to CLEARLY SHOW that, at least in this case, he is NOT PREACHING that non Christians will burn in Hell forever! In fact, I find his above words to be very encouraging for a pluralistic, multi-faith approach to divinity approached via various divine figures (gods & prophets) of various religions like Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism etc. The Hindu may approach the same ONE God/Divinity through the name (and form) of Rama and Krishna, the Muslim through Allah and the Christian through Jesus Christ! And some multi-faith people like me may worship divine figures of multiple religions like, in my case, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam!

I tried to see if survey information of USA evangelicals belief on this topic is available on the Internet but could not get suitable results.

If readers have some information on this, I would be glad to know of it.

[I thank the Late Rev. Billy Graham, and have presumed that he (and his heirs) will not have any objections to me sharing the above quotes of Rev. Billy Graham on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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