My former pastor, Dr. Jeremy Smith’s former pastorate was in east Chattanooga in 2005 and he had two great men preach for him: Dr. Lee Roberson and Dr. J. R. Faulkner. Smith was a graduate of Tennessee Temple University where the two men had been President and Vice President. After the evening service following Dr. Faulkner’s message, Pastor Smith and Faulkner were chatting and Billy Graham’s name came into the conversation. The big issue since 1950 was that Graham was a great preacher and winning many people to Christ, but he was compromising with unbelieving pastors to guarantee a large crowd during his citywide crusades. That was the discussion on all the Christian campuses across America.
After Smith’s calm, courageous, and correct assessment of “cooperative evangelism,” Dr. Faulkner criticized him, saying that Graham “was a man greatly used of God” and Smith should not say anything against him. That shows that a good man, even a great man, and even a godly man can say stupid things! The issue is not great crowds or people getting saved but obedience to the Word. The Scripture is very clear that Christians should not encourage unbelieving preachers even if they wear sheep’s clothing over their obvious wolf skins. That is true even if they wear a bejeweled cross around the neck and carry a Bible that they no longer believe and preach.
Graham and Faulkner had known each other since young manhood and had been classmates at Bob Jones College (now University). They remained close even though Graham broke with fundamental Baptists to become the major founder of New Evangelicalism while Faulkner remained in Independent Baptist circles and became one of their most respected leaders. Graham and Faulkner were good friends and talked two or three times a month on the phone and it is good that they remained friends even though they took different paths; however, Faulkner should never have tried to justify Graham’s compromise. Faulkner was my good friend, as was Roberson for whom I had enormous respect; however, there can be no justification for climbing into bed with unbelievers. Yes, talk with them, eat with them in an exercise to influence them but never give any indication that their unbelief is acceptable.
In I Kings 13 there was an old prophet in Bethel who probably had been trained at Samuel’s School of the Prophets (Hebrew Fundamentalists) but had moved to Bethel, a seat of apostasy and location of one of the two “worship centers” boasting a golden calf. The prophet had left his calling, lost his fervor, and lined up with the paganism of King Jeroboam. He was not about to criticize, complain, or confront the king. That would not be a good career move.
So God sent a young prophet from Judah to confront the king for promoting idol worship. After an incredible public experience of his rebuke of the king, a splitting altar, and the king being smitten then healed by the prophet from Judah–the unbelievable happened: the prophet rejected the king’s offer to spend the night at his “White House” and sleep in “Lincoln’s bedroom.” Wow, a man of convictions!
The old prophet of Bethel was a coward, collaborator, compromiser, and cast-away and was overwhelmed with guilt and shame at the courage of the young prophet. The old prophet remembered his youth, idealism, energy, courage, and realized he had sold out and the prophet from Judah was him in his youth. Wanting compliance, complicity, and company for himself, he deceived and led astray the young prophet who then lost his ministry and his life.
While not a perfect example, for there is no such thing, Graham is like the old prophet who wanted the king’s favor as well as all that went with that favor. So, he trimmed his sails to the prevailing winds of political and religious opinion. After all, “one must be practical.” No, one must do right and leave the results up to God.
Billy Graham proved to be so human. He must have thought his legitimate desire for conversions trumped God’s clear commands about running with radicals. His life, like the old prophet from Bethel, proves that the flesh prefers the gold, glory, glamour, glitz, and glitter of the palace to the loneliness of the desert. No one on earth wants to stand alone.
As a young evangelist, Graham was convinced, confident, courageous, and committed but he compromised and no longer confronted evil leaders–political or religious. In fact, he admitted that he had known Bill and Hillary Clinton for many years and had talked to them often but had never discussed abortion or homosexuality with them! He confessed that if he had done so, he would not be invited back to the White House! I rest my case.
While there was some good from Graham’s life and ministry, there was also disillusionment, disappointment, disarray, and defection in the ministry of younger, less talented men.
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.