It is a time of international mourning since Dr. Billy Graham, a true saint of God (as opposed to a church-made saint), has just died. Of course, all Christians are saints; no church has authority to “make” a saint of anyone for any reason. Graham was a good preacher, good administrator, good father, good husband, good friend, and a good person. He was not a saint because he was good or did good things but he became a saint when he became a child of God through faith in Christ. The most unimpressive, unknown, unlikely child of God in a storefront church is as much a saint as Graham or me.
Graham has been one of the cleanest preachers of our time. When he started to hit the big time, he determined “I would never walk alone with my secretary, never have lunch or ride alone in a car with her. And I never have….” He rightly believed that a preacher should be blameless, giving no ammunition to the enemy.
Moreover, he has been punctilious about finances, receiving a very nominal salary especially when the size and influence of his ministry could justify a much higher personal income. The revelation that Graham’s personal worth is 25 million caused many people to raise some eyebrows; however, maybe he had good investment advice.
Graham made a massive mistake when he decided to use unbelieving pastors to gain access to their church members. I never questioned Graham’s desire to serve God and to do right but he must have become convinced that it was all right to do wrong if good could come of it. He was wrong and informed Christians know he was wrong, but most refuse to say so.
Anyone expressing criticism of such a highly loved and respected person risks being scalped by Christians and beheaded by religionists who refuse to hold their heroes to the same high standard to which normal people are held. However, Graham must be held accountable as anyone else. It is illicit human worship to put Graham in a protected class. Respect, yes; reverence, no. Honor is required but so is honesty.
There is no question that Graham had an incredible impact on the world. The numbers alone are impressive: the sermons preached, the crusades held, the crowds, the books, the television programs, the influence on politicians, and much more. However, I must add that numbers have very little to do with excellence, truth, quality, or character.
When one even suggests that Graham had some deficiencies, the critic is shunned as if he has an active case of leprosy. Graham defenders almost always suggest that he is immune to criticism until the critic has attained the stature and influence of Graham. But surely, no honest person believes that silly statement. Another arrow shot by Graham defenders of the Holy Grail is, “Oh, you are just jealous,” or “You are a hater and find fault with everyone.” Mature Christians know that unpleasant information is not always untrue, unkind, or unfair and is not always hate speech. Moreover, they know that people of lesser stature than the spiritual heroes can learn from their faults, failures, and foibles. We can learn good and bad from the preaching, policies, and practices of Billy Graham.
Many will use the same defense of Graham that is used of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “His personal flaws were very small compared to his impressive, important, and impacting accomplishments.” Is that to say that we look at everyone like that, or just our heroes? Do we decide good and bad by making comparisons? Is there an unspoken and unwritten and unbiblical rule that some people are exempt from examination of their lives? That is not biblical or good common sense. Still others accuse critics of “attacking the dead who can’t answer their critics,” but that is nonsense because it is not an attack, but observations; the record of offenses is clear. After all, Bible characters did not have that protection.
The Bible holds everyone to account: Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon, etc., all had feet of clay and were held accountable. Paul pointed out the sins in others to warn the rest of us not to emulate their sins. He often called, corrected, and criticized many people by name in the Scripture for the world to know! He even publicly corrected his friend and peer the Apostle Peter because Peter needed to be corrected. Peter’s sin, if uncorrected, would have been an encouragement for others to follow in his steps. Paul disagreed with his friend Barnabas, and in that, Paul might have been wrong, or it could have been simply a matter of opinion.
The Apostle Paul spoke very clearly when he commanded in Gal. 1:9, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Paul even repeated his command, “let him be accursed.” As I can easily prove, Graham deliberately stopped preaching the true Gospel early in his ministry except to selected groups. He never antagonized modernists with the truth, knowing that was not a good career move.
Graham declared his intentions at the April 3, 1957 meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals in Buffalo, NY: “I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody, to preach the Gospel of Christ, if there are no strings attached to my message.” I have no doubt that Billy would have resisted any attempt by modernist preachers to restrict his message; however, he decided to put strings on his own preaching! That is a concept missed by most of us over the years. He knew if he accepted support from infidel pastors, he had to have them on his platform, have them pray, send converts to their apostate churches, and generally hobnob with them. After all, that was the ethical thing to do. He used them and they used him. A different twist on a Faustian bargain!
Christians need to understand that there are no perfect, complete Christians. We are all flawed people who must be careful every day because we are under daily attack. Paul admitted that in Rom. 7:14, “I am carnal.” That was not false humility (since that would be lying!); it was a fact and Paul was honest enough to admit it. Many preachers seem to think they have arrived at the peak of personal perfection and often look down upon the hoi polloi as they dispense their advice and counseling from the Mount. Every Christian, without exception, struggles with sin! Everyone! Graham was no exception. His most public sin was compromise. He thought it was right to do wrong that good may come of it.
Graham was wrong and so are his defenders and their defense of Graham will be interesting and revealing. I am reminded of a statement by a radical, left-wing economist, John Maynard Keynes that is germane here: “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?” What will Graham’s defenders do with this factual information about him? Most will whimper, “I don’t care about the facts, I want to continue my hero worship.”
Since everyone struggles with sin, we are commanded to help each other and be the Christians we should be; and help keep the churches as pure, powerful, and perfect as possible for the sake of the Body and the testimony of Christ.
Socrates’ concept that “a man must not be honored above the truth” is valid in respect to Graham. We honor what he accomplished but much reject his unscriptural compromise with unbelieving pastors.
Boys’ new ebook The Rise and Decline of Billy Graham: He Tried to do Right the Wrong Way! is available here.
Fact, Fraud or Faith?
by Don Boys, Ph.D.
Only an uninformed fanatic says that evolution or creation can be proved scientifically. Christians believe in creationism because we believe in the veracity of the Bible but we also have scientific evidence to support our position. In every debate I’ve had with evolutionary scientists, the arrogant, asinine accusation is made, “Well, evolution is scientific while creationism is religion.” Evolution is about as scientific as a voodoo rooster plucking ceremony in Haiti. Almost.