Thursday, April 28, 2005

Eric Svendsen Sez Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, and Dr. James Dobson Betray the Gospel and R Lousy Evangelicals, in Distinct Danger of Damnation

[for background, see my blog post: Dr. James Dobson and "Anti-Catholicism"]

Ironically, anti-Catholic apologist Eric Svendsen is far tougher on Dr. Dobson than I was. I made it clear that I greatly respect the man, and don't question his basic Christian integrity as a Protestant evangelical. But Svendsen does not take such a favorable view:

. . . evangelicals like James Dobson are more committed to politics than they are to the truth of the gospel. They think it's more important to get social laws passed to increase their own comfort in this life than to make sure that people are not deceived by a false gospel and perhaps increase the comfort of many in the next life. Dobson thinks he represents evangelicalism when he is interviewed by the national press; he thinks he represents the “evangelical agenda.” He doesn’t. Far worse, the national press thinks he represents evangelicalism. Dobson and his ilk are far, far removed from representing the concerns of true evangelicalism; namely, contending for the "once-for-all-time-delivered-to-the-saints faith." He buckles—and embarrassingly so—when asked to defend that kind of thing. He’d just rather not talk about it. He’d rather allow others to believe that the pope is just another Christian leader, that Roman Catholicism is just another Christian denomination, and that we are all just Christians fighting together for the same political causes. If Dobson, Graham et al can’t get it right and can’t be faithful in defending the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ--when asked about it no less!--they should just stop making appearances on national media.

(Are the “Focused” Chickens Coming Home to Roost?; italics his; bolding mine)

Now, it's bad enough that Svendsen goes after Dr. Dobson in such a fashion, but when he says that Billy Graham (of all people!) "can’t be faithful in defending the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ," it makes me really furious. Billy Graham has done more to promote the gospel than Eric could ever do in a hundred lifetimes.

Billy Graham (he being an evangelist by vocation) preaches the gospel; Eric and his anti-Catholic cronies preach misinformation and disinformation, and unnecessarily, sinfully fuel divisions and suspicions. Billy Graham can be credited more than any other evangelical for providing a stellar example of an evangelical Protestant Christian to the world. But Svendsen has the unmitigated gall to suggest that both Dr. Dobson and Billy Graham "should just stop making appearances on national media," because they supposedly don't defend the "gospel" and do not represent "evangelicalism."

Where is the outrage from evangelicals themselves when someone like Svendsen writes such outrageous, outlandish things? Maybe it's out there somewhere and I have to work harder to find it, but I haven't seen it yet, and I've done my fair share of research on anti-Catholicism.

One expects Svendsen et al to get it wrong about Catholicism, but when he can't even refrain from lying about and slandering fellow Protestants (and some of the most noble and great ones at that, who have done so much good work for the Kingdom, and positively influenced so many lives), then he has clearly crossed into territory far more absurd and ludicrous than he has already been inhabiting, lo these many years. Now he is virtually anti-Protestant, too, with his criterion that any Protestant who dares classify Catholicism as a Christian entity must be a bad Protestant and no evangelical; ergo, compromises "the gospel" and so forth.

How sad . . . . . But I am happy to have a chance to defend my esteemed Protestant brethren (in this case, two men for whom I have very great admiration and respect) against public attacks from their extreme Protestant brethren.
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Clarification as of 4-30-05:
 
It turns out that I made an error in assuming that Svendsen's reference to "Graham," was to Billy Graham. It was, rather to Billy's eminent son, Franklin Graham. Svendsen also clarified that he does not deny that Dobson is an evangelical , in a post which he now has removed, because it was too insulting to me personally (but more on that below). Thus, I have removed a complete citation of that post from this paper because Svendsen removed it and apologized (which apology I appreciate and glady accept):

Waddling in the muck of Internet apologetics eventually takes its toll. I'm moving on to higher ground. While I'll continue to point out the errors of errant theological systems (such as Roman Catholicism), as well as the mis-steps of certain evangelical leaders who seem to walk a bit too close to the edge of the heretical cliff, I am going to pass on the mud-wrestling challenges from Internet e-pologists. To that end, I have deleted a previous entry written in rash response to Dave Armstrong, to whom I apologize along with any others I may have mud-wrestled in the past. While I may continue to check in on their various blogs from time to time, any response to them will be a tempered and measured one.

(Toward Higher Ground, 4-30-05)


Okay, so I "got the wrong Graham" (sounds like an inadvertant oversight at a bakery specializing in sweet crackers). But it really makes no difference in my overall argument, because Svendsen also included Billy Graham in his larger complaints, as is clear when consulting a related post of his. But in deference to his clarification (stated in most gentlemanly fashion), I have modified the title of this post. The original title was, "Eric Svendsen Sez Billy Graham and Dr. James Dobson Betray the Gospel and R Not Evangelicals."

So Mr. Svendsen thinks Dobson is an "evangelical." Fine. And he protested because I mistook "Graham" for Billy Graham. That's okay, too. I have no problem admitting that I made a mistake. I don't think it is this super-serious thing that he thinks it is, but it was a mistake, and I 'fess up to it and offer Mr. Svendsen my apology (he has more than once denied that my apologies are insincere, but nevertheless, I offer him my sincere apology. How he receives it is his business: and God sees everything).

[note: the above apology of mine was offered before Svendsen's apology. As of this writing, he has not yet publicly acknowledged and accepted it]

Now, back to the issue at hand: has Svendsen included Billy Graham in his critique along these lines of (lousy) evangelicals who appear on television, agree with Catholics to some extent, and therefore (as he thinks) compromise the gospel? The answer is yes, certainly. I shall now cite a post of his from a few days ago:

On Evangelical Comments Concerning the Death of the Pope: An Apology [link]

[bolding is mine; italics are Svendsen's]

So far I have not commented on this blog about the evangelical response to the pope's death, but the responses have become so conspicuous by their predictability that I think it's time to comment. By now, I have heard/seen all the responses by James Dobson, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson et al. But it didn't really come home with me until I saw Franklin Graham on Hannity and Colmes a few nights ago. Graham, as always, attempted to get the gospel in at every turn (for which I commend him). But when directly asked by Sean Hannity what still divides Roman Catholics and Protestants, Graham danced around it ("well there are still some doctrinal issues we don't fully agree on") and then quickly added (paraphrasing from memory), "BUT, Catholics and Protestants agree on what's important. We agree on the cross, we agree that Jesus died and rose again."That's what's important?

[Yes. I think most Christians would agree that Jesus' death and Resurrection are highly important components of the Christian faith. But Eric apparently would disagree with that.]

That's what unites us?

[Yes, among many other things]

That's the gospel upon which we agree?

[Yes, according to the Bible: see my paper, What is the Gospel?]

. . . Let me be very clear here. The official teachings of Roman Catholicism stand in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ--no less than the teachings of the Judaizers in Paul's own day stood opposed to the gospel. Indeed, Roman Catholicism has added so many obstacles to salvation that have to be hurdled as a prerequisite to salvation, that the Judaizer heresy anathematized by Paul in Gal 1:8-10 looks like a Christian denomination by comparison!

[Quite clear indeed! Quite tragically misinformed and mistaken too . . . ]

. . . What gospel? What good? How can we speak of the "good" a man does if his life is dedicated to another gospel, one we have not received, and one that is in fact based on those "good" things he did? What "good" is there in standing up for moral causes if in the end the people you've won over by those moral causes end up believing a "gospel" that cannot save?

. . . I would indeed like to offer an apology. But the apology I would like to offer is in behalf of the misguided Protestants--both those who have appeared on the media as well as those who have appeared on the Internet and presumed to apologize on my behalf (thank you very much, but please restrain yourselves in the future)--who have misled people into believing Roman Catholicism is just another option for those wanting to be Christians, who have abandoned fidelity to the gospel, and who have become the cause of stumbling to those who have looked to them for validation of following a false gospel. My apology is to the truth, to the gospel, and to the Lord Jesus Christ who has entrusted each of us with fidelity to his word, and has charged each of us to uphold it without fear, without wavering, and without giving in to the spirit of this age--the spirit that screams at us to be "broadminded" about the narrow way that saves. I want to apologize on their behalf for their shameful abdication of truth. I want to apologize on their behalf that they were too ashamed of the offense of the gospel to uphold it faithfully. I want to apologize on their behalf that they gave in to the pressures of political correctness and did not remain faithful to his word. And mostly, I want to apologize on their behalf that they, as a result of their "embarrassment" over the proclamation of the truth, have numbered themselves with those of whom Jesus himself will be ashamed at his coming. I pray they would be spared from that which in the end will be truly shameful.

Now, who is Eric talking about in the above rant? Well, obviously in context, those "evangelicals" who have appeared on television speaking (reverentially) about the death of Pope John Paul II. Do we know any specific persons to whom he refers? Yes: James Dobson, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham "et al." Those are the four he named. So it is a clear implication that one or more of these men (if not all) are being referred to (i.e., as sad examples of Protestants who said nice stuff about the pope, which is a naughty no-no in Eric's eyes and cause for the gravest concern for their very souls). It's quite reasonable, therefore, to assume that he had Billy and Franklin Graham, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson in mind when he listed the outrageous errors they committed:

1. "abandoned fidelity to the gospel."
2. "misled people into believing Roman Catholicism is just another option for those wanting to be Christians."
3. "giving in to the spirit of this age--the spirit that screams at us to be "broadminded" about the narrow way that saves."
4. "shameful abdication of truth."
5. "too ashamed of the offense of the gospel to uphold it faithfully."
6. "gave in to the pressures of political correctness."
7. "did not remain faithful to his word."
8. " '"embarrassment' over the proclamation of the truth."

As a result, Svendsen (sad to say, predictably) categorizes them as close to eternal damnation as he can without sounding utterly ridiculous and laughable (even by low anti-Catholic standards):

9. "they . . . have numbered themselves with those of whom Jesus himself will be ashamed at his coming. I pray they would be spared from that which in the end will be truly shameful."

Yes, what a spectacle: Eric Svendsen praying fervently that Billy Graham and Dr. James Dobson avoid a quite-possible and plausible damnation at the Second Coming, due to their almost unforgivable sins of acknowledging that Catholics are Christians too. I truly believe that I have seen everything in anti-Catholicism now, and that this can't be topped. I don't believe I will see this sheer folly bested in my lifetime. But I've been surprised before . . . .

All this being the case, I need not take back anything I said about Svendsen's opinion of Billy Graham or Dr. Dobson above (except -- technically -- for one phrase: "can’t be faithful in defending the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ," that Eric applied to Dobson and Franklin Graham, not Billy Graham -- but that is only the merest trifle in light of all this additional information, which expresses virtually the same thing in only slightly different words).

It's even worse than I thought. All I had wrong was the particular article where Billy Graham was skewered; it was this earlier one. Ah, yes, but Billy Graham and Dr. James Dobson are still evangelicals! They're just a hair's breadth away from damnation, for committing the unforgivable anti-Catholic fundamentalist "sin" of extending the right hand of fellowship to Catholics!

[Since it is almost inevitable that as soon as Svendsen sees this he will mindlessly accuse me of being a "breaker of solemn oaths" again, I will anticipate his foolhardy objection and provide the link for my paper, Resolutions and "Solemn Oaths": Are They Identical?: Anti-Catholic Apologist Eric Svendsen's Incomprehension of the Meaning of English Words and His Ludicrous Charges That I am a Liar and Deceiver (With James White's Blessing) --- he did indeed make this charge, in his post which he later removed]

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