Update: I added a link to a video and a book review. Both involve Iain Murray’s book Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000.
The book is a historical record of the ecumenical movement in the United States and Great Britain in the latter half of the twentieth century. In it, Murray traces the developments in the ministries of several key figures in the era, most notably Billy Graham, J.I. Packer, and John Stott. His conclusion is that because of a desire to have a place at the table of ecumenical discussion, a long series of what seemed at the time to be relatively innocuous decisions eventually blurred the bright line that marks out what it means to be a Christian.
Graham has much to do with the divide, having been an active ecumenical preacher for most of his life. Graham’s legacy impacted much of the evangelical world for half of the last century. Please read the review, the book, or watch the video. It’s highly interesting.
Billy Graham, aged 99, has passed away. Best known for his itinerant global evangelism, his Decision Magazine, his Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and the popular radio show Hour of Decision from 1950 to 1954, Graham spent his life preaching to the masses.
He developed mass evangelism events that came to be known as “Crusades”. His first major outdoor preaching Crusade occurred in Los Angeles in 1949, with 350,000 attending over 8 weeks. Afterward, when Singer-songwriter Stuart Hamblen announced on air that he had been converted, national newspapers and radio personalities perked up over this new fiery preacher. Newspaper Magnate William Randolph Hearst telegrammed his editors across America to “puff Graham” meaning, to write pleasant and complimentary features on Graham in order to promote him. As a result, Graham rapidly became a coast-to-coast figure. His fame and name only increased since that moment to within five years, Graham was featured on the cover of the national magazine of Time, an enormous honor for a personality in the public eye for so short a period. He retired from public Crusades in 2005.
Graham perfected the ‘aisle walk’ introduced by Charles Finney, usually to the tune of Just As I Am. At the conclusion of the music and preaching, Graham invited those who were seeking to “accept Christ” to stream down the aisles and speak to counselors in the front. There, they would receive further information or answers to their questions. Some would ‘decide’ to become Christian there on the spot.
Graham was also the author of what is now known as The Billy Graham Rule, a short version of his original Modesto Manifesto. The Manifesto was a white paper generated by Graham and his inner circle outlining a rigid set of rules to which the association would adhere as they traveled the road with the Crusade, so as to encourage accountability and limit temptation of all kinds, sexual and financial, foremost. The rules were:
- The Graham team would avoid any appearance of financial abuse.
- They would exercise extreme care to avoid the appearance of sexual impropriety.
- They would cooperate with any local churches that were willing to participate in a united evangelism effort.
- They would be honest and reliable in their publicity and reporting of results and
- never argue with local journalists reporting about the numbers of participants in the crusades.
Through 2016, Gallup Poll’s “Most Admired Man and Woman Poll” showed Graham with 60 appearances in the top 10, the most of anyone, with eight second-place finishes.
The above is the Billy Graham the world knows. It is the Graham most of the evangelical world knows. But the truth is available and it’s public and can be seen by those willing to look.
Mr Graham no doubt preached with fervor and intensity, at least in the early days, However soon enough, as early as 1952-54, he began to compromise his message. Some say it was even before that, when Roman Catholic Bishop Fulton Sheen took a young Graham under his wing in 1944. In 1954 Graham spoke to the Liberal Union Theological Seminary in NY, repeatedly calling his ministry “ecumenical”. By 1957 Graham’s split from conservative fundamentalist preachers was complete.
Graham believed that if a person was sincere enough, even if they didn’t know Jesus or hadn’t repented, they would go to heaven. In fact, Graham held to what is known as a “Wider Mercy” view, that God, in the end, will have a wide mercy on all, not just those who are in Christ. He stated this not only on the Hour of Power with Robert Schuller in 1997 but to Larry King in a televised interview, to McCall’s Magazine in 1978, and the BGEA affirmed this has been Graham’s belief since 1960 when he wrote about it in his own Decision Magazine. (Source). Youtube video here.
In 2005 he refused to state the Gospel clearly and affirm Jesus’ exclusivity as the Door to heaven. (source here.)
Those counselors at the front? They included people from liberal Protestant churches, rabbis, and Catholic priests. This was because in order to obtain sponsorships, Graham had promised ‘we wouldn’t try to compete with their churches’ nor ‘to draw congregants away from their churches’. Seekers would be asked which church bus they came in on or which church they attended or which friend they came with, then shuttled to the appropriate counselor. Billy’s son Franklin works with Catholic priests in the same way at his events that he calls Festivals.
A major research project was done some years after the major crusade at Harringay, London. It found no lasting effect from the Crusade, though there had been thousands who professed Christ at that time. Belfast native Cecil Andrews of Take Heed Ministries has more in his sensitively done video, Billy Graham, the Man & His Message.
Unfortunately, Graham’s unorthodox views did not end with his denial of Jesus as exclusive way to heaven.
Graham didn’t believe that a literal fire and torment was part of hell, that the virgin birth wasn’t necessary for belief, and that Roman Catholics were brothers who differed with Protestants only in later church tradition. Graham was a Legalist who even threw his own daughter under the altar of popularity and reputation, reversed himself on AIDS, reversed himself on Mormonism (all when it as politically expedient), perfected “decisional regeneration,” believed in baptismal regeneration, thought that not everything in the Bible was literally true, said he didn’t feel called to state the dividing line between truth and false, heaven and hell (to Larry King in 1997), and more. Harry Truman called him a counterfeit in 1950. Editor-Publisher of the Sword of the Lord, John R. Rice broke with Graham in 1956.
I have many, many links and video and written newspaper proof of these assertions. They exist. I don’t present them lightly. Or you can search. One wonders how many aberrant beliefs one can hold before one is declared a false teacher.
Now to turn to Matthew 7:21-23.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
I pray that Billy Graham had indeed repented in his youth and was truly saved. At the same time I don’t know how someone with the Holy Spirit in them could say that if you’re just sincere and know there’s a God you go to heaven, even if you don’t know Jesus. If that Matthew verse wasn’t written for someone like Billy Graham, I don’t what is. He lived a life harboring aberrant beliefs from the start, compromised the Gospel from the start, sought fame and popularity from the beginning. The world loved him. Look at these verses:
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19).
I repeat, the world loved him.
Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26).
I repeat, all the world speaks extremely well of Graham.
Should we be surprised that someone like Billy Graham could spend his life as a counterfeit? It’s possible, if you know how deep sin goes and what the Bible says about false conversions, like the Luke verse.
What I hope is that Billy Graham will be in heaven. What I fear is, that he is not.