Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Review: Billy

Billy by William Paul McKay & Ken Abraham
Billy is a (somewhat fictionalized?) biography of Billy Graham’s start as a evangelist, his interactions with Charles Templeton, who was at one time an evangelist and eventually renounced his faith, and the struggle of faith to which these interactions led. The biographical information is framed by a story of an interview with the aged Templeton.
I see there being two parts to a book review: the writing and the message. Concerning the writing, this book was not outstanding, but it was not awful. The writing at the beginning was slow and weak. It seemed much like the way some of my papers start out, a writer’s block exercise. Once the authors, however, got into the book, any imperfections in the writing faded to the background, and the story took over. One concern I have is where the line between truth and fiction is. The back cover says this book is “based on the remarkable true story.” I am not an expert on the life of Billy Graham but from what I could find, the major events mentioned are all correct. I am assuming that the conversations for the most part have been fictionalized. Fictionalized does not mean bad though. The authors have crafted a wonderful story of love of God, romance, doubt, and a strengthened love of God. One minor problem was on pages 57 and 62, the authors mention the Greek word for sin. They, however, use the word metanoia which happens to not be the Greek word for sin but for repentence. The Greek word for sin is hamartia. It could be possible that they were trying to show the greenness of the young Billy Graham at his first preaching engagement, but since they don’t point out the correct word, I doubt it.
The message of the story was thought-provoking. The contrast between the questioning of Billy Graham which leads to faith and the questioning of Charles Templeton which leads to apostasy offers much to think about and is something that many people need to consider. I know I have doubts and how I deal with these doubts influences how my faith grows. Charles Templeton’s problem was his lack of theological basis. Without that, attacks on faith aren’t blocked by anything; they can just come in and take over. Billy Graham didn’t have much training but he had some, and that bit he had gave him something to stand upon. But more importantly, he clung to God through his doubts. His example in that is encouraging; God can guide us through doubts.
The strangest thing that the authors did was toward the end of the book when Billy Graham was wrestling in prayer about his view of the Bible. The authors add in the forces of Heaven and Hell battling over Billy Graham’s soul. It felt a bit contrived. Also, while they did portray Satan as being on a leash (something that it seems many Christians don’t realize anymore), they also put God on a leash saying that God could not do anything to influence Billy Graham except keep Satan at bay (well, I should say angelic forces, not God, because God does not partake in this struggle). I disagree with the theology of this section, but there are a lot of Christians whose view of theology I disagree with, but they still have something to offer that I can learn from. And, this book offers a portrayal of two faiths, one that dies and one that survives, and we can learn from that.

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