The American media came out in force for what was hailed as the last crusade for 86-year-old Billy Graham this month. Called the most influential Protestant evangelist of modern times, Graham is said to have preached to 210 million people in 185 countries. Newsweek’s headline was, “A Prophet in Winter” as he came to New York. Associated Press called him, “An American Icon” and on and on the praise went leading up to the crusade.
But many evangelical Christians watching Graham’s New York crusade on television gave a collective gasp Saturday night (June 25) when 86-year-old Billy Graham brought former President Bill Clinton to the platform where Clinton informed the audience, “I love this man”. Graham took the opportunity to announce that he was a lifelong Democrat and then gave a veiled endorsement to Hillary Clinton in the audience. It was a sad moment in the long ministry of Dr. Billy Graham. The question that should haunt all of us who say we follow Christ is this: How could a man who has spent his life traveling the globe to bring the message of Jesus stoop so low? This was Bill Clinton, the same President who vetoed bills five times that would have banned the butchery of partial birth abortion. Does Billy Graham even grasp the magnitude of the slaughter that has taken place in this land for the last 32 years, a slaughter justified and defended by Bill Clinton and his wife and their Democratic Party? This was Bill Clinton, the man whose lust converted the Oval Office into a cheap brothel and who desecrated the Office of the President by his lies and his treachery? Yet this is the man Dr. Graham chose to bring to the platform to close out his storied ministry career.
It is not just Billy Graham’s unconditional statement of support for the party of abortion and gay rights that should be cause for weeping. It is his denial of the true Gospel that should break our hearts. It was May 31, 1997 that Graham appeared on the Hour of Power with Robert Schuller and the following exchange took place. This is an exact transcript.
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.”
“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.”
These remarks by Graham illustrate how tragically far he has come from the faithful message of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone. If what Dr. Graham said is true, than foreign missionaries who have sacrificed their lives to share the name and message of Christ with the “lost” could have saved themselves a great deal of trouble. If God sovereignly calls people out for salvation outside of His own Son, it makes a mockery of Christ’s suffering and sacrificial, substitutionary atonement for our sins. Further, it renders absurd God’s Word itself which clearly teaches salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. (2 Peter 2:20-21, John 10:7-9, John 14:6)
On Sunday night following the New York Crusade, Graham appeared on Larry King where he announced that in his “early” years he preached Hell and damnation. Now, he said, he prefers to preach on love. Has Hell ceased to exist because Billy Graham prefers to talk about love? Are the words of Christ recorded in Scripture that warn repeatedly about Hell and the Lake of Fire to be downplayed because the man called “America’s Pastor” has changed his ministry philosophy? Should people stake their eternal destiny on some undocumented act of God that will allow them to enter heaven as a Muslim or a Buddhist because Billy Graham says so on the Hour of Power?
The sad fall from truth by Dr. Billy Graham is a sober warning to all of us. God’s Word instructs us to be Bereans. Like those early Christians, we are to search the Scriptures and we are to compare all that we hear with the unchanging, inspired Word of God. Following after a man, no matter how much good he has done at some point in his ministerial career, is risky business. The Apostle Paul warned repeatedly in the Epistles about those who would change and subvert the true Gospel. He said,
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:8-10) KJV
God’s Word is plain. You cannot have the accolades of a sinful world and the approval of Jesus Christ. You cannot sup in the halls of power by toning down your Gospel message and expect to be found faithful. Dr. Graham has sadly chosen a path that deviates from the narrow one laid down by Christ himself. We would do well to learn from his example.
Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ‘twixt that darkness and that light.
Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.
By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
James Russell Lowell