A Living Legend Has Passed

I just learned that Bill Bright died yesterday. Even though he and I would have probably differed quite strongly on some points had we talked in person (one of the reasons I minister with Chi Alpha instead of Campus Crusade), I still held him in the highest esteem possible and would like to publicly honor him.

In case you aren’t familiar with him, Bill Bright founded Campus Crusade for Christ, wrote an extremely influential booklet called The Four Spiritual Laws, and was responsible for the creation of The Jesus Film–arguably the most effective evangelistic tool in history.

Campus Crusade for Christ is a tremendous ministry, and the fact that it will continue strong is a testament to Bill Bright and his leadership.

May the peace of God be with his family and friends…

6 thoughts on “A Living Legend Has Passed”

  1. Just curious, what would have been some of the points that you and he would have differed quite strongly on?

    I’m also curious about the phenomenon of the ‘Jesus film.’ I agree that various forms of media of communication, including motion pictures, can and should be used (properly) effectively in evangelization.

    But I think that the principle underlying various Evangelical missionary’s use of the Jesus film is by and large the same as the Catholic Church’s use of various kinds of images: statues, icons, stained glass windows, etc.

    Good motion pictures about Jesus and statues of Jesus both appeal to that part of human nature which is sensory. It also appeals to our desire to be tied to and reminded of those important people in our lives who are not physically present with us. So, for example, parents might display more prominently in their house a picture (often a senior picture) of a child who has gone away to college. This usually applies more especially to relatives who have died.

    The images remind us of and help maintain that bond of love that ties us to those who are not physically close to us. Indeed, they can play a central role in creating that bond from the start, especially for those young children who might have never met their grandparents or other ancestors.

    In the same way the Jesus Film for Evangelicals or statues, icons, etc. for Catholics help to remind them of and maintain their bond with the Lord or (for Catholics) those whom they believe through whom Christ worked through his grace. In addition, the Jesus Film or statues, icons, etc. can help create that bond from the start for those coming to the faith for the first time. From a more theological perspective, such images can, if approached properly, be a channel of grace for confirmed believers or new believers alike.

    And yet many of the same Evangelicals who effectively employ the Jesus Film in evangelization will, at the least, have serious concerns about the Catholic Church’s use of statues, icons, etc.

    From my perspective, again, I believe that the principle informing the use of the Jesus Film by Evangelical Christian missionaries is the same as the one informing the Catholic Church’s historic use of other images.

    What do you think?

  2. Bill Bright and I would have differed on what it meant for a believer to be filled with the Holy Spirit, for example.

    As far as visual representation of the gospel, I’ve always been a huge fan of icons, stained glass, and other artwork being used to communicate the gospel.

  3. I’m glad to see your appreciation of the use of images in communicating the Gospel. It would be nice for more Christians to have a similar apprecation. But I would at least like folks to get past the notion that what Catholics (and other Christians as well) do with these images is somehow idolatry.

    Upon reflection I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about your appreciation. I have the impression that many who might be described as Pentecostal Christians (including those in the Assembly of God) are more ‘sacramental’ (in a broad sense of that term) than other Christians.

    Could you enlighten me on what the AG–in general–believes about and practices anointing believers with oil? In one AG church where I heard a pro-life presentation I saw small bottles of oil on a special shelf in the pulpit.

  4. When someone requests prayer we generally annoint them with oil (smear a small amount of oil on their forehead, usually in the shape of a cross.)

    FYI, Assemblies of God folks are still pretty skittish about statues. The seminary I graduated from had a large statue of Jesus and Peter set up in the entry hall, but was scrupulous to refer to it as a “scuplture” and not a “statue.” Calling it a statue would have raised people’s hackles.

    For that matter, if it had been a sculpture of Jesus or Peter alone it would have been problematic.

  5. Sculpture? Statue? Couldn’t either be used in idolotry?

    Would you say that Mark 6:13 and James 5:14–15 serve, in large part, as the biblical basis for the AG’s practice of anointing?

    They serve as the primary biblical basis for the Catholic Church’s sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

    That sacrament was important in the life of my family recently. My 14-month-old son Michael was anointed after he was hospitalized due to pneumonia. The first Sunday after he was admitted Mk 6:13 was in the Gospel reading at Mass. Needless to say, that reading was a little more powerful for me than hearing it in more ordinary circumstances.

    Thankfully, Michael is now home from the hospital (after being there for 12 days) and is recovering from his illness slowly but surely.

  6. The James passage is the one we tend to cite the most.

    As far as either statues or sculptures being usable in idolatry, sure. Heck, anything can be turned into an idol.

    But I think my seminary correctly understood the mentality of my movement. People think of sculptures as artwork. People think of statues as things built to honor people. The second idea is much closer to the whole idol thing than the first idea.

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