The Wider Mercy Doctrine is not particularly new, having been a part of the peripheral, heretical teachings of the Christian church almost since its inception. What makes its appearance unique today, is the fact that it appears to be accepted and given doctrinal status by certain members of the historically orthodox faith.
DEFINITION OF "WIDER MERCY"
The "Wider Mercy Doctrine" is a belief that salvation can be obtained even when a person has not heard the gospel and does not know Jesus Christ. It is a belief that, somehow, God grants status to persons who are sincere in their religious beliefs, even if those beliefs are false. Therefore, a sincere Buddhist or Shintoist or any other religious adherent can obtain salvation, simply because they are sincere in their belief and desire to approach God.
This doctrine, in a slightly revised form, has been the main creed of Universalist belief for centuries. Universalism teaches that all religions are the same and that all beliefs are ultimately pointed toward the one true Deity. It does not matter which religion is accepted or practiced, they are simply different roads that ultimately lead to the same destination.
THE DOCTRINE IN PRACTICE
On May 31, 1997, during an interview with Robert Schuller, Billy Graham made statements in a conversation that would indicate that he does not necessarily believe in the singular means by which salvation is granted and the relationship that salvation has to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the gospel that He has preached. The conversation below occurred between Billy Graham and Robert Schuller, who is the pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California and founder of the Hour Of Powertelevision program.
Dr. Schuller begins by speaking to Billy Graham:
Dr. Schuller: "Tell me, what is the future of Christianity?"
Dr. Graham: "Well, Christianity and being a true believer, you know, I think there's the body of Christ which comes from all the Christian groups around the world, or outside the Christian groups. I think that everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ, whether they're conscious of it or not, they're members of the body of Christ. And I don't think that we're going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time."
"What God is doing today is calling people out of the world for His name. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they've been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don't have and they turn to the only light they have and I think they're saved and they're going to be with us in heaven."
Dr. Schuller: "What I hear you saying is that it's possible for Jesus Christ to come into a human heart and soul and life even if they've been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you're saying?"
Dr. Graham: "Yes it is because I believe that. I've met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, have never heard of Jesus but they've believed in their hearts that there is a God and they tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived."
Dr. Schuller: "This is fantastic. I'm so thrilled to hear you say that. There's a wideness in God's mercy."
Dr. Graham: There is. There definitely is."It is not particularly surprising that Robert Schuller would agree to the "Wider Mercy Doctrine" since his definition of sin is, "...any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem." Given that theological slant, Robert Schuller is far away from any orthodox belief.
Dr. Graham makes several statements that simply cannot be reconciled with the message of salvation that he has preached his entire life. An inquiry directed toward the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association produced the following reply. The question of exactly why he made the statements that he did is not addressed, so the reader must determine for themselves if the reply answers the issues raised in the interview with Dr. Schuller.
Thank you for your email.
We appreciate your interest and concern about an interview with Mr. Graham that was conducted by Rev. Robert Schuller. Mr. Graham has faithfully and clearly preached the Gospel for over 50 years, and since the interview he has reaffirmed his belief in Christ as the only way of salvation: "In all our Crusades we place a prominent banner with Jesus' words, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.' We put that verse there because people live in a confused world, with so many competing religious voices calling men and women to follow them. But Christ is distinctive and exclusive about the way to God. There can be no true Christianity apart from Him. While some of the ethics and idealism of other religions may run parallel to Christian teachings, the fact remains, as stated by Jesus Christ, 'No Man cometh unto the Father but by me' (John 14:6, KJV).
"Over the years I have met people with many religious and philosophical views. Many of them have had deep commitment to their beliefs. But I have become even more convinced of the uniqueness and the truth of Christ and His Gospel. And I want to continue preaching it as long as possible."
We trust that you will pray that Mr. Graham will always correctly interpret God's Word and be sensitive to the Spirit's leading in every situation.
Administrative Services Supervisor
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
False beliefs of the "Wider Mercy Doctrine":
1. TRUE BELIEVER
The true believer is identified as a person who comes from inside the Christian groups around the world OR OUTSIDE the Christian groups around the world. Of course, all believers at one time were outside the church or the body of Christ, but that is not what is being said. It is stated that a person can be a true believer within the church or outside the church, within the Christian world and outside of the Christian world - a person can be a believer and not claim the name of Jesus Christ and, in fact, might even be a person who denies Jesus Christ.
2. MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
Those that love and know Christ are members AND those that DON'T LOVE OR KNOW Christ are members equally in the true church. A person can be a member of the body of Christ and not even know it. He claims there is not going to be a sweeping world-wide revival, presumably because people in other religions are already part of the body of Christ and are going to heaven without the knowledge of the gospel, so they don't need to be evangelized.
What is the reasoning used for these assumptions?
1. God is calling a people for his name out of every nation in the world.The reasons start very well, but quickly deteriorate into a litany of errors.
2. People are saved because they are called.
3. People are saved because they know that they need something in their life.
4. People are saved because they turn to the light that they have, EVEN IF THAT "LIGHT" IS A FALSE BELIEF.
5. People are saved because they realize a need and have tried to live a better life than the people around them.
(1) God is calling out a people, as is noted in Revelation 5:9
(2) All people who are called are saved according to 1 Thessalonians 2:10-13.
The reasons now become increasingly distorted.
(3) The reality is that all people are not saved because of their perceived need...they are saved by the sovereign will of God. Many perceive a "need" but are not saved, and many believe they are saved when in fact they are not:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" Matthew 21-23 (NAS)There appear to be many people on the Day of Judgment who believed sincerely that they were saved, and even claimed to have worked miracles in the name of Jesus, but Jesus did not know them as His own and they were rejected by Him. Sincerity of belief does not seem to be one of the criteria for acceptance, if one does not believe the proper gospel.
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:44 (NAS)
(4) There is no "light" if the belief is false. All false belief is darkness.
"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" Galatians 1:6-8 (NAS)Apparently the Apostle Paul taught only one gospel....and it was not the "Wider Mercy Doctrine." If sincerity of belief is the criteria for acceptance with God, why was Paul so concerned with the purity of the doctrine that was being taught?
(5) People are not saved by their efforts or by a comparison to persons around themselves.
"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of god, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus form all eternity..." 2 Timothy 1:8-9 (NAS)Why preach salvation through Jesus Christ when a person can be saved by believing in any other religion in the world, justifying that belief as a turning to the only "light" that a person has? What is being said is that a person gets to heaven by sincerity. If one is "sincere" in their attempt to find light, then they will obtain heaven even if they sincerely believe a false doctrine.
What, then, is the point of the teaching in the New Testament, regarding the warnings against false teachers and false doctrine, if it does not matter if the doctrine is false.....but only that the false doctrine is sincerely believed?
Those who accept the "Wider Mercy Doctrine" must ignore the teaching of Jesus Christ about those who are true believers. True believers are those who are like sheep, because they know the Shepherd and enter the fold by means of the door which is Christ. In addition, Jesus knows His own. By His own statement, Jesus Christ declares that any who attempt to enter the into the fold of the sheep without passing through the door, which is Jesus Christ, are thieves and robbers.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." John 10:1-5 (NAS)It is abundantly clear from the words of Jesus Christ, that the hallmark of the Christian is that they must know, and do know, Jesus Christ. They cannot claim another shepherd and be considered part of the flock of Jesus Christ. Therefore, another religion or another gospel is not an acceptable substitute for a knowledge of and belief in Jesus Christ. To accept another gospel or another religion in place of Jesus Christ is to accept that which is a thief and a robber; that which claims the soul in a false belief and robs the individual of entrance into heaven.
"I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9 (NAS)
"I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd." John 10:14-16 (NAS)