The Weak-Knees of Billy Graham

24 08 2006

Pop quiz:

What major evangelical leader recently said this: “I’m not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord. This is a little difference in my thinking through the years.”

A) Father Guido Sarducci

B) Bullwinkle the Moose

C) Billy Graham

billy_graham.jpgGive up? The answer is “C.” Billy Graham, indeed, and no small difference it is. For those of you who have been paying attention over the years, this statement, sadly, comes as no surprise.

In the aftermath of 9/11 as his own son, Franklin Graham, condemned Islam as a false religion, Billy said precious, deliberately little.

Recently I saw Mr. Graham on Larry King Live.  Sometimes I think Larry likes to get these limp-wristed evangelicals on and ask them direct questions so he can watch them sputter and sell out their convictions in front of him. Larry asked Billy if Muslims could go to heaven. Billy said that that wasn’t for him to decide and that God would sort it out.

How does a man who has devoted so much time and energy to evangelism come to a point at which he undermines the exclusivity of the message he has preached? It’s a long, sad, story paved with you-know-what: good intentions.

Historian and author, Ian Murray, in his book “Evangelicalism Divided” (Banner of Truth, 2000) records that when Mr. Graham was dating his future wife, a Presbyterian, that his own fundamentalist disdain for all the mainline denominations was so strong that it caused friction in the relationship. But over the years, his care for the finer points of theology faded as he pursued more and more opportunities to preach. He began to see some of the negative aspects of fundamentalism as the time, and lumped them in with the doctrines. Further, in order to gain access to preach to broader audiences, Mr. Graham was increasingly willingly to bury the doctrinal distinctives that had once defined him. In particular, in order to be able to preach to Catholic audiences, Mr. Graham began to agree not to call Catholics out of the Catholic Church.

Billy Graham played a huge part in the ecumenical movement over the last half-century. Evangelicals, in an effort to reach a wider audience have compromised their message for the sake of popularity. That we now so often hear the call to focus on what we have in common with other professing (stress professing) Christians is in great part his legacy. Some of his motives are valid:

-He saw that legalism inherit in fundamentalism and all of the squabbling and petty divisions linked to the movement.

-He wanted to get his message out to as wide an audience as possible.

-He saw that there could be some believers to be reached that hadn’t come out of their churches.

Unfortunately, truth was the casualty. Valid criticisms yielded compromise because the Scriptures were not held above all. It is no surprise that in his waning years, Billy Graham confesses to having lowered his view of Scripture.

And it is sad. A friend of mine from a previous job owes his salvation to having heard that gospel at a Billy Graham crusade some many years ago. At one time he did preach the right gospel, but now he says “It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be in heaven and who won’t. He gave His son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have. (Newsweek, August 14, 2006)”

Let this be a lesson for us. Doctrinal compromise begins with a weakened view of Scripture. Everything starts with your view on the nature of Scripture. Be assured that the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Scriptures are indeed the Word of God and they will be a light unto your path and a lamp unto your feet (Psalm 119:105).

If you take matters into your own hands the spiritual slide is inevitable. Just as Mr. Graham denies the literal “day” in Genesis but believes that Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, we too will be the hapless authors of our own faith if we don’t let God establish the foundation.

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12 responses

24 08 2006
Tyler

Matt,

Enjoyed might be the wrong word, but appreciative is. I appreciate your candor and supporting references to the quotes of Billy Graham. This is in fact sad, but a lesson we can all learn from now and remind ourselves of in the future. None are above sinful retreats into the deceptive ways of the flesh. Thanks.

29 08 2006
GSCOT81

Um, WOW… nice, er, Rant against someone who has, over 60 years, been used by God to introduce Jesus to so many minds and hearts…

Is it possible that Billy Graham has actually grown WISER over the years, that he has reached a level of wisdom that the “literalist” has not yet reached?

And if you’re going to crucify Graham as a “limp-wristed Evangelical”, are you prepared to toss C.S. Lewis in there, as well? Lewis also believed that only God knows precisely who will be “saved” and who won’t, and he also wrote that “while there may only be one correct answer, some ‘wrong’ answers are closer to the right one than others”…

The extreme over-simplification of the Scriptures and word-by-word Literalism, by some Christians, has done more to alienate the world over the centuries than just about anything else. God, and Salvation through Christ, are BIGGER than the Bible; I take a line from an old Russ Taff song as perhaps the single “dividing line” between believers and non-believers: “If you believe in Jesus, you belong with me…”

It’s time we put down our theological, dogmatic Weapons and embrace the World around us…

29 08 2006
erik

GSCOT81- thanks for your comment.

couple of quick thoughts:

1) in your comment against ranting you rant at me…seems kinda hypocritical.
2) in the name of tolerance you don’t accept the literalist viewpoint…not very tolerant.
3) “if you believe in Jesus you belong with me”…so are demons going to heaven? “demons also believe” (James 2.19) or maybe this is too literal of an interpretation?
4) In your concluding statement calling for us to “put down” theological and dogmatic weapons, I think you forgot to also call for us to put down our Bibles. In order to embrace your intolerant view of Scripture the word of God must be edited.

erik

29 08 2006
eric (who spells his name correctly)

There’s nothing new under the sun, “(2 Tim 4:10) for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”

29 08 2006
erik

eriC, –when you say world, does this mean WORLD or world? 8-D hehehe…

29 08 2006
Johnnie Burgess

(John 14:6) Jesus said to him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.

Jesus said the only way to the Father was only through Him. It does not matter what some famous preacher says. If what they say does not agree with what Jesus said it does not matter what the preacher says.

12 09 2006
Lazaro

dogmatic, what a loaded word… here’s what it means:
characterized by or given to the expression of opinions very strongly or positively as if they were facts

so SCOT you’re not dogmatic? Isn’t the following statement dogmatic? “It’s time we put down our theological dogmatic Weapons and embrace the world around us.”

We are all dogmatic it just depends what dogma you want to be dogmatic about.

12 09 2006
Last Row

Everyone is Dogmatic

Here’s a nugget from the pen of Ken Ham . Love him or hate him what he says here is pretty accurate:
“Many think that some people are dogmatic and others are not. It is not a matter of whether or not you are dogmatic or not, but of which…

13 09 2006
Corinne

I found this site through Slice and I am glad I did. When Billy Graham came to San Diego in 2003 (which is where I have lived all of my life) I was not too thrilled. Almost everyone told me I was being stubborn or too “Ray Comfort” and that God used Mr. Graham to preach the gospel and I shouldn’t be so against the outreach. My problem then and is still that he didn’t preach the gospel, he preached the parts that were easy to take, but he didn’t preach the God or Jesus Christ of the Bible. Some would like to blame it on age but I have read and heard of PLENTY of brothers and saints in the Lord who were taken at an old age who were still as doctrinally sound and zealous as they were in their prime… We need to stop being respectors of persons and be concerned about our God being represented correctly! From one “half-Irish”, “mostly Calvinist”, thanks! I can’t wait to enjoy this site!

17 09 2006
javaguy

Wow! So much condemnation and finger pointing. Can anyone truly say that anyone is worse off for having heard Billy Grahm preach? When Jesus healed people, he sometimes simply said that their faith had healed them, now go and spread the word. Did Jesus always tell the ugly with the beautiful? Did Christ not heal some and send them away with nothing but hope in their hearts? Does the seed need to contain the weed as well in order to grow? I am dismayed that some people are so eager to tear down those who are doing God’s work simply because they may not be doing it the way they think it should be done. Billy Grahm is all about sowing the seed. He doesn’t have a home church where people can go and hear him every week. He doesn’t promise that all will be easy once you have been saved. Some are called to be prophets, some teachers, some garbage men, some waste management workers. My point is that Billy Graham is doing what he was called by God to do and if any one person has come to Christ through his ministry, there were hosts of angels singing and rejoicing because of it. I, personally, don’t want to be the one to crash an angelic party. Maybe we should start using the gifts that God has given us and stop wasting our efforts on judging who is using theirs.

18 09 2006
javaguy

To add to my previous comment. I realize that the main issue hear is Billy’s inclusive style which appears to exclude Christ. I kind of touched on it in my previous comment, but feel that I should explain more. Billy Graham’s job is not to be a reference book that people can look to in order to establish doctrine. His job is to introduce people to God, or rather introduce God to people. I will admit that I have not heard Billy preach since 1979 (or so) in Spokane WA, but the problem with blogs like this is that we take one person’s opinion of someone and accept it as fact. That gets the roller coaster moving and once it starts, it is hard to stop. How many people who have jumped on this bandwagon have actually heard Billy preach in recent years? I am quite certain that he does mention Jesus Christ. He is not so exclusive of Christ that someone would mistake him for something other than a Christian. His Crusade is very thorogh and at each stop in their travels, they do their homework. They have thier own resources as well as having information on local churches handy so that when a person leaves the crusade, they can find a church and learn doctrine there. Billy’s purpose is to plant the seed so that local churches, pastors, laypeople can cultivate it, fertilize it and help it grow. One thing I do know. Billy doesn’t base his ministry on attacking others. He actually preaches from the Word and has something positive to say. I am becoming frustrated with how many people I have found who call themselves Christian who spend all their time telling how other people are not behaving in a Christian way and attacking their ministries when that person’s own ministry is 90% attacking others and 10% actual instruction from God’s Word.

21 10 2006
The Advanced Soul

Is it just me, or has Larry King had like 5 heart attacks and 5 divorces. I guess that’d be a broken heart for each.

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