12.6.10

Storm Warning - Long Review

Right, so what else do I have to say about this book. First, read my short review

Billy Graham is a man I admire. As an evangelist and preacher God has used him in amazing ways. His life, and his record, speak for themselves. Within this book, his heart for the gospel and his concern that people come to know Christ are clearly evident. His focus is in the right place, and this is where the books ends.

I feel like I need to say this because pretty much everything else I have to say is negative.

I requested this book from Booksneeze because of the author, but also to see how he would deal with the topic. As I mentioned in the short review, by page 30 I was getting very worried. There Graham explains that recent events shed light on Revelation, make it easier to understand, and that he would take this difficult book and read it literally and explain what it has to say for out time. Now, those kinds of promises and points make me nervous. If revelation is easier to understand because of recent events, then we have a serious problem... It was written two thousand years ago, and its easier to understand now? What did the first readers do? Just give up? What about context, cultural placement, biblical exegesis, linguistics, etc. Do these play no part? All we need is a knowledge of current events and voila, the bible is clear? I don't think so.

Not only that, but Revelation is not a book written to be taken literally. It is apocalyptic literature and thus full of symbols and metaphors. The entire book is structured in a spiral, and most of us in the modern west are not used to reading like that; we like linear books, and have a hard time imagining that they could be anything else.

Thankfully, Graham's book is not actually a commentary on Revelation at all. Frankly, its hardly even an interaction with Revelation... At best, Revelation is used to set the theme of the backdrop to this book. So, he brings up each of the four horses, in four different chapters, but then spends the entire chapter exploring modern events of the type the horse represents (wars, or plagues, or famines, and so on). The book is filled with scripture, but most of it is of the proof texting variety. I don't think Graham goes against scripture, but his concern is not to follow it, but to make his points and have scripture back him up.

What does the book have to say then? Basically, it can be summed up like this: Our world is a terrible, horrible, awful, no-good place and someday, maybe soon (this is hinted at many times, though thankfully Graham never makes any solid predictions), Jesus will return and 'the hoofbeats will be still.' (this is the metaphor for bad things Graham uses through the whole book, that the bad events in the world are the sound of the approaching hoof beats of the horsemen of the apocalypse).

In general, this is fine. However, it is a very truncated message. What about God at work in the world today? And while Graham never comes right out and says, he might as well be encouraging us to let this world burn while we wait for the next. Furthermore, I am not convinced that the best approach to evangelism or the gospel is to spend 15 chapters, and 255 pages, emphasizing what bad shape the world is in as motivation to hear the gospel message. I certainly do not see any examples of this in scripture. Jesus didn't preach this way (though the flip side is, of course, that we cannot avoid dealing with and pointing out the bad stuff when necessary).

Regardless of whether or not it is the best approach to evangelism, however, I can assure that it is NOT the best approach to writing a book. By the 4th chapter of this I was extremely bored. I guess I have one positive thing to say here though; Graham does pick out some powerful issues to speak to: Idolatry, deception, judgement, and selfishness being right up there. These are certainly real issues in our culture/world that need to be addressed. However, Graham could have been much more effective in addressing these if his book read less like a harangue and more like good news.

So, would I recommend this book? No... and I am sad to say that, because I would recommend Billy Graham. He has some great sermons and messages, and he is generally worth listening to.

No comments: