Lou: I want to shift gears just a little bit. Here is a question that arises, perhaps, out of a bit of frustration: “If scholars and theologians still disagree about God, what chance do I have to figure all this out?”
Graham: Yes. I’d tell this person to read the gospels again. They’re not that complicated. I think theologians have made it complicated. It impresses me that “the common people heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37). I think we’re the ones that have made the Bible appear to be difficult.
Lou: I once received letters from an individual who talked about the impression of the Holy Spirit, about how the Spirit came on him and he wrote and wrote. That leads me to a question that someone else has raised: “If I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide and then I have this deep conviction, isn’t that enough?”
Graham: It might seem to be. Fortunately the Bible warns us about that and offers some safeguards. This warm feeling of conviction within could come from prejudice, it could come from indigestion, it could come from all kinds of things. The Spirit will not lead you away from what He has already inspired. So we should always judge the work of the Holy Spirit by the revelations He has previously inspired.
Lou: But what difference does it make what kind of Person I believe God to be? What does it matter as long as I submit to His authority? Why not just say, “God has said it; I believe it; that’s it.”
Graham: Well, that reminds me of what we said about Saul of Tarsus. The conception of God that Saul had drove the way he did evangelism before his experience on the Damascus road. In God’s name he imprisoned people and he had them stoned to death. But when he got the true picture of God so dramatically, Saul proceeded from the thunders of Sinai to the still, small voice at the mouth of the cave in a few minutes. He really grew up in a hurry. His new picture of God changed his whole approach to evangelism.
Lou: So you’re saying that one’s picture of God inevitably affects everything.
Graham: Everything: the way we worship, the way we witness to others, the way we behave.
Lou: Someone has written this: “Our Great Dane is gentle, faithful, patient, trusting, of lovely disposition. What does this dog’s wonderful quality of character say about the human lack of achievements along these lines?”
Graham: Oh, I rather like that question. I think we can learn a lot from nature. Even the posture of a Great Dane is magnificent compared to our slouching! There are so many ways in which the animals are an example to us. But when it comes to faithfulness, think of a dog that weighs more than most of us, having enormous strength, yet being safe to have around in the house all the time! I think it’s wonderful that mere creatures can show these wonderful qualities, and I think it speaks well of God.
Lou: A final question: “Why did Jesus have to die? Wasn’t God’s mercy sufficient by itself?” Isn’t that the topic of chapter eight?
Graham: The answer to that question is really the climax of everything. Everything points to the cross. And fortunately, that’s where all Christians agree. We may have many different theological opinions, but almost all Christians agree we ought to go to the foot of the cross. We ought to watch the way Jesus died. We ought to listen to His cry and ask the question, “Is death the result of sin? Is it torture and execution at the hands of our gracious God?”
Lou: No one should overlook the next chapter.