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In 1977, the beloved evangelist sat down with Guideposts to discuss the obstacles and challenges people face in deciding to turn to God.
The following interview with the Reverend Billy Graham first appeared in the November 1977 issue of Guideposts.
When plans were being made here at Guideposts to offer Billy Graham’s new best-seller How to Be Born Again as a book selection to our subscribers, one of our editors said pensively, “All across America, many people will respond to the message in this book. But some will not. I wonder what Billy Graham would say about the mental roadblocks or emotional barriers that hold such people back?”
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“Why don’t we go and ask him?” another editor suggested. And so not long after that we sat on the terrace of the Grahams’ North Carolina home.
Guideposts: Dr. Graham, in your new book you outline certain steps that must be taken if a person wishes to be "born again." Do you think there are some mental attitudes or other conditions that make it difficult or even impossible for a person to take those steps?
Billy Graham: Yes, I’m sure there are.
Guideposts: Could you tell us about some of the major ones, please?
Billy Graham: Well, one of the first that comes to mind might be called intellectualism, the tendency to approach Christianity only from the rational point of view. I think there are sincere people who have intellectual problems with the whole idea of a God-man who lived two thousand years ago, died at the age of thirty-three, rose from the dead, and is our only way to salvation.
To the purely rational mind the whole thing is–well, it’s much like what St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth–it all seems like foolishness. Paul even used a word which is the one we derive our modern word ‘moron’ from. He said that Christianity can seem moronic to some people, because when man sinned against God in the beginning, man’s intellect was affected. A veil is drawn over the eyes of people who refuse to "become as little children," and only the Holy Spirit can lift it. That’s where the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation comes in.
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Guideposts: Can you give us an illustration of how this block can be lifted?
Billy Graham: Yes, of course. I remember the case of a man named Fred Smith, one of the greatest biochemists in the world. He was an Englishman who was brought over to this country by the University of Minnesota to do cancer research. Fred Smith was an avowed agnostic. He couldn’t accept Christianity intellectually or any other way.
Now, Fred Smith had an American neighbor who was a devout Christian. They met each other, liked each other, became good friends. One day an evangelistic crusade came to the big stadium in Minneapolis, and the neighbor asked Smith if he’d like to go. At first he refused. “I was reared in the Church of England,” he said, “and I’ve studied Christianity. I’ve rejected it, and I don’t even want to think about it.”
But the neighbor was rather persistent, and finally Smith agreed to go with him just once. So they went, and Smith was very impatient and scornful. On the way home, he said he didn’t like the music; it was corny. He said that he didn’t like the preaching; it wasn't logical. “The whole evening was a waste of time,” he said. “I didn’t get a thing out of it.”
But that night for some strange reason, before he went to bed, Fred Smith remembered a verse of Scripture that had been quoted: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9) That’s a rather long Scripture to remember, but he remembered it word for word.