28 December 2018

Nigeria: Frost's Dialogues On Faith With Billy Graham

For 30 years, Billy Graham and the author Sir David Frost fascinated television audiences with their conversations about God, the bible and Graham's decades' long ministry. Frost asked the questions that millions of viewers wanted to ask. Graham answered them with authenticity and grace. In this book, put together by Frost, with engaging honesty, Graham tells stories of his earliest crusades, his civil rights escapades and his role as a spiritual mentor to several American presidents. He also speaks about his failures, his ideological anguish and doubts.

With a chronology of Graham's earthly sojourn, a preface from Frost who weaves the stories with the interviews, the reflections will inspire you as you hear from a theologian who has lived and loved triumphantly. Billy Graham: Dialogues on Faith, Family and More (David Paradine Limited, London; 2014).

The publisher was happy to be invited to publish a book by intellectual giants: Graham and Frost who fascinated audiences with their dialogues on faith. Graham answered every question without pretense or religiosity. If Graham didn't know the answer to some puzzling theological conundrum, he said so. If he had an opinion not rooted in the Bible, he qualified his answer. When the answer was in Scripture, Graham put a spotlight on God's word and gave his interpretation. Invariably, he uttered what later became his trademark: "The Bible says... ."

The television interviews went for grand viewing all over the world. The overriding question was as regards the relevance of the interviews. But in reviewing the footage, they found that far from being dated, they were as relevant as ever to the world's spiritual rebirth. The bible as a book for all seasons confirmed that Graham's ministry was focused on the ageless word of God, which was why publishing the interviews was a way of giving them historical permanence. It is gratifying that the Dialogues on faith works to document the life and times of Graham who died only recently at the age of 99 years. His life served to glorify the existence of God.

From chapter four, in this second part of the book, Frost once asked Graham his goal on the pulpit; his reply, "First of all, I want the content to be accurate. I want it to be biblical and I want it to be simple." According to daughter Gigi Graham, one of Graham's five children, her father was away from home most of the time. He left most of the responsibilities and the burden of rearing the children to her mother, Ruth whom he married in 1943. Whenever Billy was home, he led them in daily prayer, reading the bible and praying. How precious it was to have him take up his role as spiritual leader. Graham practiced at home what he preached in public.

Children need to see fathers on their knees, acknowledging and bowing to a higher authority and loving their wives. However, on politics, like in other spheres of life, Graham has no hidden agenda. Though fascinated by politics, Graham was not an emissary for any political party or leader. In spite of being friend to many U.S, presidents, he was only an emissary for Christ. But he was involved in politics in 1964 when the Republicans sought to nominate him for president. Graham didn't renounce his presidential ambition until his wife said: "If you announce you are going to run for president," she said, "I'll divorce you, and America will not elect a divorced man."

Graham said the presidential ambition was there "for a moment as telegrams were coming in from people who said that they would pledge their delegates to me and so forth. And interestingly, it was the Republicans and I'm a Democrat." Graham had also been offered positions by presidents. President Richard Nixon offered him any position he wanted. President Lyndon Johnson offered him the ambassadorship to Israel. In response to that offer, he told the Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, "I am not the man. God has called me to preach." He happened to be friends with three presidents - John Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon - before they became presidents. Interestingly, this review is being written on November 22, the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination.

Graham's association with American presidents established him as their spiritual adviser and global evangelist. His lifetime audience, including those reached by radio and television, was over two billion people. He appeared on Gallup Poll's list of most admired people 57 times, more than any other person in history. He lived and died at Charlotte, North Carolina. He had a voice that pulls people. The simple country preacher had preached in 185 countries. He had preached by word of mouth to more than 210 million people. Frost first interviewed Graham for the London Daily Mail newspaper during his crusade in Paris, France, in 1963.

Surprisingly, Graham's evangelism was not diminished by having to speak through an interpreter in France. To his credit, Graham didn't offer pat spiritual answers to inexplicable questions. Thus, when disaster strikes and he is asked whether God had a hand in it, he didn't prevaricate. Random floods, hurricanes, tornadoes - scenes which he often visited offering comfort. He didn't beg the question. He believed God must have a hand in them. A case in point was the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. At the memorial service where President Bill Clinton, Oklahoma governor Keating spoke, it was Graham who offered the most comfort to those who lost loved ones. There, he urged the people to face the adversity with faith and trust in God. He believed God allowed disasters for purposes that are unknown to us.

On sin and temptation, Graham was regarded as having the qualities of raw, childlike, unblinking goodness. He simply happened to be stricken by a staggering passion for the pure, the sanitary, the wholesome and upright. He had been described as a paragon of American righteousness. For the author of Dialogues on Faith, Sir David Frost (1939-2013), he was an English journalist, comedian and television host. He was famous for his history- making interviews of top political figures. Frost was the only person to have interviewed eight British Prime Ministers who served between 1964 and 2010 and seven U.S. presidents in office between 1969 and 2009. He was also the last person to interview the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.Frost was the author of several books, including his autobiography. His famous interviews with President Nixon were the basis of the film Frost on Nixon. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth 11. Frost died in 2013.

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