I fully adhere to the fundamental tenets of Christian Marriage for myself and my ministry, but as an American, I respect other venues that married men choose for satisfying their sexual needs.
We might be able to overlook Graham’s false dichotomies and oxymorons but the quote where Graham says that “I found that my beliefs are essentially the same as those of orthodox Catholics,” is deeply troubling because if he really believed that then Graham’s earlier preaching of the Cross is emptied because Rome does not believe that the Christ alone by His work on the cross saves.
Dr. Gordon Clark caught Graham in an emptying of the sufficiency of the Cross upon attending one of Grahams Crusades. Clark wrote in his book “Predestination,”
If Graham really believed that God has no power over the will of man than it is not God through His provision of Christ and Christ’s Cross work that saves but man saves himself as he engages the power of his will to activate a merely tendered salvation. Maybe Graham really was a Brother with Rome?
That Graham became squishy on the centrality of the Cross and the importance of a unique and known Jesus was articulated in an interview with at least twice. Once with McCall’s magazine,
(“I Cant’ Play God Any More,” McCall’s, Jan. 1978)
And again in an interview with Robert Schuller, Graham speaks:
“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…. He’s [God] 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 that they are saved and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.”
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 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..”
Schuller: “I’m so thrilled to hear you say this. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.”
Graham: “There is. There is”
(“Graham Believes Men Can Be Saved Apart from Name of Christ,” Christian News, Oct. 20, 1997, p. 15).
Now, what Graham is advocating here is called “soft inclusivism.” There are those who would say that Graham is not denying Christ or the Cross but merely believed people can be saved by Christ and the Cross without being explicitly knowing Christ and the Cross. However, should one really believe this one wonders how it is the urgency of Missions or preaching could be maintained? If soft exclusivism is true why would St. Paul, as inspired by God say,
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 and how shall they preach, except they be sent?
Well, returning to Graham’s three menaces, we still have Islam to consider. In 1948 Graham listed it as a menace but later in life comments by Graham suggest that Billy also became weak on this menace as seen in a David Frost interview,
“I think Islam is misunderstood, too, because Muhammad had a great respect for Jesus, and he called Jesus the greatest of the prophets except for himself. And I think that we’re closer to Islam than we really think we are.”
Closer to Islam than we really think we are? Muhammad had a great respect for Jesus? No one who refuses to embrace Jesus as the Christ has a great respect for Jesus. This is just claptrap that helps nobody.
So, Graham at worst reversed himself on the menaces he cited when he was 30. At best Graham muddied the waters. Graham also either reversed himself or muddied the waters on the uniqueness of and necessity for the finished work of Jesus Christ. This kind of doubletalk is a positive impediment to the cause of Jesus Christ. Yes, Graham said many many good things regarding Christianity. Alas, Graham also said many many other things that contradicted directly the good things he had to say regarding Christianity.
Now comes the answer to the objection that says, “Well, so many people got saved under Graham’s ministry so I should keep my mouth shut.” Allow me to say that I believe that many people were genuinely converted to Christ via Billy Graham’s ministry. What does that prove? It does not that Billy Graham understanding of Christianity was Christian but rather that God can use crooked sticks to draw straight lines.
Remember, all because Balaam’s Donkey properly warned Balaam that doesn’t mean we conclude that Balaam’s donkey was a Christian. Praise God for the message that converts even when it falls from the lips from someone who sends a double message.
Secondly, on this score of we should be uncritical of Billy Graham because so many people were saved under his ministry we should respectfully inquire about the effect of the Billy Graham crusades.
Billy Graham’s ministry began just after WW II’s end. Let’s concede just for a moment that scads and scads of people were saved via that ministry. Now let’s take a step back and look at the culture. What kind of impact did those scads and scads of people being saved have? During the years of BG’s ministry,
1.) Birth control was made legal (Griswold vs. Connecticut)
2.) Abortion was made legal (Roe vs. Wade)
3.) Sodomy was made legal (Lawerence vs. Texas)
4.) Criminal Rights were expanded (Miranda vs. Arizona)
5.) Obscenity laws were rolled back (Miller vs. California)
6.) Freedom of Association laws were negated (Brown vs. Board of Education)
7.) No fault divorce was implemented
I could go on but one sees the point I’m sure. All those scads and scads of Billy Graham converts didn’t seem to make much of a dent in the sanctification of our social order.
Maybe someone would argue that all those converts may have not made a dent in the decline of the broader culture but they certainly made an impact locally. Really? What counties? What states? What cities had their social order impacted for Christ by the transformation of Billy Graham converts?
A cynic could easily conclude that all the money spent on those crusades was more about profit for individuals than it was about the Kingdom of God being advanced.
And just so people understand this isn’t personal I’d say much the same about Wesley, Finney, Rodeheaver, Moody, Sunday, etc. Revivalism has been a scourge and if there is any lesson to be learned from it, it is that people enjoy being conned more than people have an interest in Christ.
Many more quotes could be adduced. I have just offered a Whitman’s sampler of suspicious Graham quotes that testify that Graham’s ministry was at the very least a mixed bag. My contention is that as long as Graham’s ministry and methodology are unquestionably praised then we are just going to continue to repeat his egregious errors and the Church will continue in the malaise in which it has been now for decades. Our narrative momentum needs desperately to be changed.
May the Lord Christ give us the wisdom to repent of our own sins and errors and to love His Church enough to want to defend her even against her putative friends.