Few people have shaped contemporary Christianity more than Billy Graham. Though not as active, popular, or visible as he once was, Graham’s decades of evangelism, writing, and preaching continue to influence Christians around the world. Even in retirement, Graham continues to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. It was thus with eagerness that this reviewer engaged one of his latest books, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation (Thomas Nelson: 2013).
The Reason for My Hope consists of a series of reflections on why humanity should have hope in God’s salvation. As with his other writings, Graham fills this book chock full of delightful stories, anecdotes, and illustrations, with lots (and lots) of name-dropping and quotations. Graham has long been a master story-teller and the descriptions he weaves here are no exception. While there are a handful of stories which may not resonate with younger generations of readers, the vast majority of what Graham writes remains accessible and thought-provoking to any interested reader.
The general focus of this work is Christian Hope, rooted in as evangelical scriptural understanding of salvation. In discussing this all-important topic, Graham walks readers through the Gospel—that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on a cross, was resurrected from the dead, and desire that all put their faith in Him in order that they may live with Him forever—and the application of the Gospel to everyday life in our world.
The Reason for My Hope includes chapters on the rescue of humanity (not only from something, but for something), the redeeming work of Christ resurrection, the seriousness of sin and God’s love for sinners, the great hope of the resurrection, the universality of Christ’s saving work on the cross, how human life should be transformed by Christ’s victory, the realities of heaven and hell, and the second coming of the Lord. Especially powerful were Graham’s reflections on the rescue of humanity—not only from something, but for something—and the importance of redemption—“Redemption is the Bible’s great theme.” After the great hope of the last chapter on the coming return of Christ, Graham offers a presentation of the sinners prayer and how to “make a decision for Christ” in an afterword.
Throughout The Reason for My Hope Graham provides strong engagement with contemporary culture, especially consumerism and self-aggrandizing religion. Graham minces few words on hot-button topics like same-sex marriage and cultural degradation, always connecting his perspectives on such issues with Christ’s just love for the world. Especially powerful is the seriousness with which Graham discusses sin and speaking the truth in love, that all-too-delicate balance with which Christians much approach an increasingly hostile world. His engagement with culture raises many good points, though occasionally Graham strikes a tone that feels a little too much like a rant to convince even readers who are on the fence that his positions are correct. Graham’s final position is ultimately very important, that “Hope rests in God’s Son alone, not in the affairs or in the change agents of this world.”
To offer a minor critique on an often vexing subject, the chapter on heaven and hell would have benefited from further theological nuance. For example, Graham writes that, “The problem is not that Hell exists, for it must, since God is holy.” Statements like this one—which might raise more questions for readers than it answers—would have been more convincing had they appeared with additional explanation on why God’s holiness and justice are understood to require punishment for unjust free agents. There is also some curious language about salvation as a “one-time transaction between an individual and the Lord Jesus Christ” which could be taken to undermine much of what Graham writes on the seriousness of sin, need for morality, and concern with culture.
Overall, The Reason for My Hope is a compelling read from one of the world’s more important Christian voices. Graham clearly articulates the Gospel of Christ and illustrates the ramifications of that message in today’s world. This books comes highly recommended for all Christians interested in learning from Graham’s experience and would also make a good read for those “on the fence” and contemplating Christian faith. With Billy Graham and Christians around the world, readers of this book can anticipate the coming Lord Jesus. May this ever be our hope.
I received this book from Thomas Nelson is exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.