Regeneration and the Second Great Commandment

May the absolute necessity of regeneration never stop me from doing good to my neighbor when it is in my power to do it.

A … combination of theological principle and careerist caution meant that [Billy] Graham’s critique of segregation never went nearly as far as civil rights activists wanted him to go. He stressed individual conversion over political change, supporting legal reform in lukewarm terms while insisting that only the Gospel could really improve race relations. He maintained strong friendships with segregationist clergymen and politicians, and his attacks on racism were always tempered by deliberate hedges and straddles—denunciations of extremists on “both sides” of the debate, suggestions that race relations were worse in the North than in the South, and so forth. Where Martin Luther King used eschatological language as a spur to political change, Graham used eschatology to emphasize the limits of politics. “Only when Christ comes again,” he reportedly said after King’s speech at the March on Washington, “will the lion lie down with the lamb and the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with the little black children.”

[From Book Review – ‘Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South,’ by Steven P. Miller – NYTimes.com]

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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