Moore About Billy Graham
Last night, I was made aware that Billy Graham has written to Newsweek magazine in the upcoming issue (
I was overwhelmed by NEWSWEEK's generous coverage of the life my wife, Ruth, and I are experiencing as we grow older. "Pilgrim's Progress" was an apt title for the article. Like every other Christian, I see myself as a pilgrim journeying through life, looking expectantly to what God has promised in the future and yet yearning to be faithful in the present. Jon Meacham worked diligently to understand how my thinking on certain issues has grown over the years, and I commend him for seeking to capture my commitment to the Gospel I have always preached. The world is constantly changing, and I am only one in a long line of men and women who have sought to relate God's unchanging truth to the challenges of their time. As I grow older, my confidence in the inspiration and authority of the Bible has grown even stronger. So has my conviction that only Christ can give us lasting hope—hope for this life, and hope for the life to come. As the Bible says in John , "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Billy Graham Montreat, N.C.Dr. Russell Moore, academic dean of Southern (of which I attend) as well as director of The Henry Institute, shares in the great disappointment of many evangelicals who read the article called “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Two main areas, two fundamental, non-negotiable areas for conservative evangelicals is the inerrancy of the Bible and the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In both of these areas, Billy Graham has compromised his once-held positions as he has sought to distance himself from what his interviewers call “fundamentalism” and “traditionalism” (which are implied as antithetical to the progressive and inclusive tenor of Graham).
Graham in Newsweek (interviewer Jon Meacham) on
“When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: ‘Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won’t . . . I don’t want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.’”
Graham in USA Today (interviewer Cathy Lynn Grossman) on
“Today, as many fundamentalists and traditionalists refuse to share podiums with people who don’t share their exact vision of salvation, Graham opens his events to Christians of every stripe. . . . ‘There are a lot of groups that feel a little bit strange around me, because I am inclusive,’ says Graham who draws a distinction between ‘evangelical’ – a label often claimed by conservative Protestants – and ‘evangelism.’ ‘Evangelism is when the Gospel, which is good news, is preached or presented to all people,’ he says.” (emphasis original)
“The Christian world today is full of niches – from the vaguest spiritual seekers to the most doctrinally rigid conservatives who decry the ecumenical movement and see tolerance as moral relativism. Words like pluralism and inclusivity, which Graham considers positive, have taken negative connotations, as if they meant all paths to God were equally valid.” (emphasis mine)
Graham and Schuller on
“SCHULLER: Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?
GRAHAM: Well, Christianity and being a true believer — you know, I think there’s the Body of Christ. This comes from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ … I think James answered that, the Apostle James in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for His name. And that’s what God is doing today, He’s 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 that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.” (emphasis mine)
“SCHULLER: What, what I hear you saying, that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts 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?
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, and never heard of Jesus, but they’ve believed in their hearts that there was a God, and they’ve tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.” (emphasis mine)
"SCHULLER: [R.S. trips over his tongue for a moment, his face beaming, then says] I'm so thrilled to hear you say this. There's a wideness in God's mercy. (emphasis mine)
GRAHAM: There is. There definitely is."
Graham in January 1978:
“I used to believe that pagans in far countries were lost if they did not have the gospel of Christ preached to them.. I no longer believe that.” (McCall’s, January, 1978).
Here you get just a sampling of what Graham has said for the lat 28 years. Like I said, one cannot take his comments from the latest Newsweek article and think this is an anomaly. He has been saying this for more than a quarter century. Were one remove the name and simply took the statements themselves, one would come to the conclusion that this person was more influenced by the Vatican II than Scripture, lining up with Catholic theologians Karl Rahner, Gavin D’Costa, and Jacques Dupuis than Ronald Nash, R. Douglass Geivett, or John Piper. As Graham has sought to broaden his base and become more inclusivistic, he has been forced to ride the fence on issues which do not allow it. You hear him making statements like, “I feel I belong to all churches. I am equally at home in an Anglican or Baptist or a Brethren assembly or a Roman Catholic church. I would identify with the customs and the culture and the theology of that particular church” (David Frost, Billy Graham in Conversation, 68) which make you wonder if his theology drives understanding of the gospel, the church, and even God. While Graham has adapted an agnostic claim on those without Jesus, the Bible makes it very clear where God the Father stands. Consider the Scriptures:
If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:9-13It doesn’t get any clearer than that. And God’s testimony is much greater—even greater than Billy Graham’s. Indeed, we can know that we have eternal life, because whoever has the Son has eternal life which has been granted by the Father. This testimony all Christians have in themselves, for God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). Ironically enough, as I was driving home this morning from work, I was reminded of my paper which I wrote for Dr. Moore in which I addressed the role of general revelation in the fate of the unevangelized. It was my first paper here at Southern. From my research and studies that semester, I was launched into a field of religious pluralism that has marked my theological education for the past three years. In that paper, I argued against inclusivists like Rahner, Clark Pinnock, and John Sanders. I made my case very clear where I believe the Bible stands. Obviously, as I received my paper (and even a personal phone call) back, Dr. Moore whole-heartedly agreed. However, it would have been no different had I put Billy Graham’s name next to Pinnock, Sanders, Grenz, or any other our school disagrees with, and were Graham to write a paper on his views of salvation, I am quite certain he would not get an “A” in Dr. Moore’s class. My point is simply this: when someone is wrong, let us lovingly yet truthfully make it plain that they are in error and seek to bring them back to a biblical understanding of the gospel. This is my hope and prayer for Billy Graham and others who have been influenced by him to adopt a view of the gospel and salvation apart from the saving knowledge of Christ. Just this past December, I eulogized my grandfather who died at the age of 89. Graham is 87 right now, so there is some similarity. My granddad was a graduate of Southern Seminary in 1943 and was the first in our family to ever have a high school diploma. He went on to minister for 64 years laboring among people who needed Jesus. As a chaplain in both wars and VA hospitals to pastoring little churches all across the heartland of
“I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).My granddad never merited an interview except from the little ones which loved to sit on his lap. He never preached to more than a couple hundred at a time. But by God’s grace, He ran the race faithfully. No matter how big or small you are in the world’s eyes, we are nothing without Jesus. And as we reflect on what it means to preach the word, in season and out of season, to endure suffering, to do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill our ministry, may we ever be mindful to be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). *************************** Note: Over the past couple of days, I have had the exciting privilege of catching up with a man I mentioned in the comments section of my previous post. His name is Larry Backlund, and he has served as the President of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism across America. He has been very kind to email me, and I am hoping to meet up with him during the week I am in Minneapolis. Having known Graham personally, Mr. Backlund said, "I DO know where Mr. Graham stands on the Cross and the Gospel and the Bible." While he mentioned that he hasn't read the articles, he is certain that Graham holds strongly to the gospel and inerrancy of Scripture. Speaking of that, I was able to find an article in which Graham speaks of that now well-known crisis in the summer of 1949. You can access it by going here.
**************************Below are some selected works I picked out that would be helpful for further study. Tomorrow, I am going to post some specific questions that, were I able to sit down an interview Graham myself, I would ask him concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Some selected works to consider:
“A ‘Paradigm Case’: Billy Graham and the Nature of Conversion” in Evangelical Landscapes: Facing Critical Issues of the Day by John G. Stackhouse (
Drummond, Lewis. The Evangelist: The Worldwide Impact of Billy Graham.
Frost, David. Billy Graham in Conversation.
Graham, Billy. How to Be Born Again.
_________. Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham..