Billy Graham, the 95-year-old preacher who is just about as famous as God, has a spanking new book out, called “Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity and Our Life Beyond.”
With this latest tome (his 38th or so, and counting) Reverend Graham aims to fill us in on our futures, which is laudable, seeing as how the future, as The Amazing Criswell used to say, is where most of us will spend the rest of our lives. But what Dr. Graham has in mind is even more helpful than an outline of our earthly destiny: he wants to tell us about life beyond the grave, and how to prepare for it.
“Join me in these brief chapters as we explore together what the Bible says about the two roads to eternity,” he says breezily in the introduction to his book (which is, I confess, all that I read of it). The roads are Heaven and Hell, and they lead to eternity, but Heaven and Hell are eternities in themselves, so how can they also be—but never mind. We get the idea: It’s not over when it’s over, not by a long shot.
The bad news, as Graham assures us, is that Hell is as real a place as Heaven. Most people, he says, are okay with the former while remaining dubious about the latter—from a personal standpoint, that is. As he puts it, “Many…believe they will go there (Heaven) because God is a God of love. Many of these same people, however, reject that Hell is real.”
That willful blindness occurs because people forget that God is also a God of righteousness, and it (the blindness) is the Dark One’s doing, Graham explains. “Hell was created for the devil and his demons,” he says, “and Satan wants to take the world with him into this diabolical place.” (To show off the décor, maybe.)
How do we escape this kidnapper’s clutches? “We must confess our sin, turn from it, and receive Christ on His terms…Continuing in rebellion against God, whether the sin be pride or murder, will send souls to Hell.”
Well, if murder is no greater an offense than pride, why not do the murder or murders we want, confess, and then get right with Christ, thus punching our ticket to Heaven?
But what’s the use of sarcasm, or indeed any kind of a dissenting response, to the Grahamian worldview? He’s impervious to it, because he knows he’s right, because, as he crows again and again, “the Bible says so.”
To Graham’s credit, he’s still churning out these pronunciamentos at an age when most of us wouldn’t be able to lift a pencil. But wasn’t there an editor available, at least? Maybe one could have tidied up such purple passages as this one:
“(The unrepentant) will face the inferno of God’s wrath that will last not an hour but for all the never-ending hours of forever.”
As Graham nears his centennial (he’s almost as old as God, too), he assures his followers and readers that “Where I Am” is in a good place—“with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
But not too close to God, perhaps. He seems like an unstable character.