Thinking Out Loud

October 5, 2018

The Danger of an Inherited Faith

In the last several years, many of us have watched Franklin Graham make statements which grate against the Christianity many of us are practicing and what we know of the Jesus many of us are striving to follow.

His remarks and their underlying attitudes simply don’t pass the WWJD litmus test. The fruit of the indwelling of the Spirit has left the building.

There is a danger in an inherited faith. At least three decades ago, someone pointed out to me in my much younger days how they had observed people in the Christian publishing industry who were second generation owners, CEOs and managers. He noted that they lacked the fervor of their parents; they simply didn’t breathe the industry the same way; they didn’t have the same love for books.

As someone who grew up in a Christian home I certainly get this. Receiving it all second-hand isn’t the same as crashing and burning and having nothing to do but look up. I’ve often remarked that the people who find faith in Christ after their adolescent years seem to have a much greater appreciation for the grace offered to them. Like the woman at the feet of Jesus at the home of Simon the Pharisee, those who have been forgiven much will love much. Or more.  

It also stands in contrast with the stories of Christian refugees who have come to North America escaping persecution. They are head-over-heels in love with Jesus.

That doesn’t mean that everyone needs a “before and after” story. I can stand with everyone else giving a testimony; and while they testify to what they were saved out of, I can testify to what I was saved from doing. Furthermore, your testimony is what Jesus is doing in your life today. If your salvation story is entirely about something that happened 30 years ago, I’m not sure you have a story.

I would argue that if a person’s life doesn’t reflect the fruit of the Spirit, then we have to ask if they are a Christian. Simple as that.

I’m not exempting myself from that.

The things we post online — or if we have such a platform, say to the media — represent the fruit, or if you prefer the abundance of our hearts. If what I write or say doesn’t resemble Christianity or pass the WWJD litmus test, then I would expect you to ask the question, am I truly a Christian?

I’m saying that perhaps some of Ruth Graham’s and Billy Graham’s faith didn’t stick.

In other words, he needs to get reacquainted with the One he claims to serve.


  1. I do have to take issue with you, Paul, re your first two paragraphs. I don’t follow Franklin Graham very much, so I googled him to see what he has been saying of late. There’s very little here that I could take issue with. And I give him this – there is no-one that I know of who is taking a public stand for our faith the way he is. “The fruit of the indwelling Spirit…” comment is leaning heavily towards judgment, I’m afraid. i wonder if we are embarrassed by him, maybe it’s because he is standing up for the faith much more than most of us are. We are SO afraid of making waves. he is not!

    Comment by Kaybee — October 5, 2018 @ 8:26 am

    • I understand. Franklin is a very polarizing figure right now. But there are a host of Christian authors, pastors and leaders whom I greatly respect who are calling him to account. If the time permitted, I could have added many comments of such people that perhaps would have given this more authority. I assure you, I am not speaking on my own, and I’m not simply condemning him. Rather, I think he needs to return to his first love.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 5, 2018 @ 8:52 am

  2. I’m really interested in following up on this, Paul. Honestly not wanting to be argumentative at all. Would you mind emailing me the names of some who are calling him out. Thanks!

    Comment by Kaybee — October 5, 2018 @ 11:43 am

  3. A reader tried to post this earlier. While it was very critical of what I wrote, I want to share it:

    I agree with Kaybee. Franklin Graham’s boldness for Christ is the salient feature of his ministry for me.

    I think your assessment of Graham is too harsh. The concluding remark, “perhaps he even needs to meet Jesus for the first time,” actually seems like a cheap shot.

    Plus, you don’t even give your readers evidence of what Graham has done or said that so concerns you (that seems very strange to me). Privately, you have written me that it is his response to the issue concerning Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Yet there is not a word of that in this piece. I read it, suspecting that Graham’s remarks about politics were what unnerves you (that, I know, is troubling to some leaders in the body of Christ). But, no, it is the current U. S. controversy. Read your piece again – how would your readers know that?

    I also have to tell you that when I contrast this piece with the praise I have seen you give other people on your blog, again I have to agree with Kaybee, it seems that Graham’s evidently old-fashioned declaration of the Gospel combined with his political inclinations, are less appealing to you than people like Nadia Bolz Weber. Then I wonder if it is not your politics that are in play when you write such a piece such as this.

    As your brother in the Lord, I have other stronger comments to make concerning this matter you have made public (viz, calling out Graham), but I will reserve those for our private communication.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 6, 2018 @ 4:41 pm

    • Some short responses:

      The last three paragraphs of the piece have been amended. The sentence you quoted was removed and was overly judgemental.
      I have no skin in this game, politically.
      I’m assuming people have been following the news.
      I stopped listening to Nadia about a year ago.
      Christians should not be involving themselves in politics. Period.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 6, 2018 @ 4:49 pm

  4. Thanks for posting this Paul. Franklin Graham seems like he is missing the heart of Christianity — love. Almost all the publicity about him is so negative — his angry and hateful words about all other people. He seems to represent well what the world says of Christianity – we are hateful, against this, that and everything else. And we are self-righteous and never repentant. He seems to have the strong belief of his father, but missing the heart of care and love for the world like his father did. His father cared about reaching Muslims and the world for Jesus; I don’t see it in his words or actions.

    Kaybee and anyone else — if you want to find out about him, just google “Franklin Graham controversy”.

    As a side note, our family has supported his ministry (Samarirtans Purse) of Christmas gift boxes for 7+ years, but have to take a stand this year and not do it. We cannot support someone who leads a ministry for the poor and unfortunate yet cares more about sharing his feelings about NOT caring for the poor and unfortunate if it meets his political ideals.

    Comment by DavidSJ — October 6, 2018 @ 5:01 pm

  5. Franklin Graham struck out from the “family business” and was content with the mission work he was doing with Samaritan’s purse. I think there was some pressure from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Billy Graham followers and perhaps even from Billy and Ruth themselves for Franklin to follow in his parents footsteps. I don’t think he grew up planning to be the next Billy Graham. Some of the inherited faith, at least in terms of the public persona involved, has been pushed onto him. Maybe he reluctantly accepted it but never asked for it. He looks like his dad but never planned to step in and fill his shoes.

    Having said that, I though this was going to be a post about the things you touch on in the introduction. What has he said that doesn’t sound like the Christianity you grew up with? I turned out to see him at the Georgia state capitol two years ago. I’m more likely to listen to Franklin Graham than Andy Stanley ;-) But seriously, what are hearing that you don’t like?

    Comment by Clark Bunch — October 7, 2018 @ 1:49 pm

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