Listen to evangelist Billy Graham preach the “good news” from John 3:16.
This message was given in New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1957.
This message was delivered in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1973. Regrettably the full message has been taken off the web for copyright reasons.
Listen to or watch Dr. William Lane Craig speak on the doctrines of regeneration, or being “born again” (John 3:3), and salvation. In this lesson he offers the message of “good news” to all and leads listeners in a prayer to receive God’s gracious gift of salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
What is the message of good news? It has to do with the all-sufficient and completed work that God has accomplished in Christ to remedy the problem of our sin. The good news begins with the bad news that we all are sinners. The Bible says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The myriad of evils and problems we observe happening all around us confirm that humanity has an internal problem that you nor I as individuals, nor mankind as a whole, can solve. If we are honest, we all must admit that in thought, word and deed we have acted contrary to what is morally right and good. We have broken God’s laws and commandments. Scripture overwhelmingly testifies to this problem of sin, and experiential reality bears it out as an obvious and undeniable truth. This sin, which affects our very nature, not only separates us from ourselves and others, but also from a holy and righteous God. Its primary characteristic is self-centered pride. Its grandest delusion is to believe that there is no God, and if their is, we have no need of Him. God has made himself known in nature, conscience and ultimately in Jesus Christ. Yet we disregard this revelation given for our benefit. God’s eternal power and divine nature can be clearly seen in the things he has made, and his specific will and ways are revealed to us in the Bible (Romans 1:19-20). We have all turned to our own ways and ignored God our Creator (Isaiah 53:6). Sin and evil are antithetical to God’s very nature as perfectly holy, righteous and just. Therefore sin requires judgment and punishment. If sin is not dealt with it will result in eternal separation from God.
So, there is the fact of sin, and that we are helpless and hopeless in this condition. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot earn God’s favor or our salvation through our good deeds. We need a way out from under God’s righteous judgment. We need a way of salvation.
Now, the good news is that God himself has provided that way of salvation. What we could not do, God, out of his grace and mercy, did for us. The good news is that the love of God is so great for you, me and everyone in the world that He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, to take upon himself through his death on the cross, all our sins for which we would otherwise have been judged and condemned by God. The Bible says,
“…God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8).
God became man in Jesus. He was born of a virgin. As the Son of God he was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). The life, death and resurrection of Jesus restores our relationship to our Creator God and provides salvation for all of us. In the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, God affirms that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah sent from the Father and vindicates all that Jesus taught and claimed to be as the savior of the world.
Now, what makes the gospel message “good news” is not only that God has provided salvation, but that you can be assured that this salvation applies to you personally and individually. In other words, it is true that God loves you and Jesus died for you and therefore you too can be saved. The Bible says,
“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9, 10).
The salvation God provided, he provided for you. The children’s song “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” contains two profound theological truths. They are, that Jesus (God) loves you, and you can know that because the Bible tells you so. You can be assured that it is God’s will that you be saved. The Bible says,
“…God our Savior,…wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…” (1 Timothy 2:4-6)
There is no limitation as to who can be saved (Isaiah 45:22; John 3:16-17, 20:30-31) . In the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross, God has decisively and completely made atonement for the sins – past, present and future – of every individual. God has reconciled us to himself through Christ’s death on the cross (1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2). This means that anyone can be saved. This is the message of good news. The apostle Paul writes,
“Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Since salvation is for all individuals, it is accessible to all individuals. How can you receive this salvation? God offers it to everyone as a free gift to be received by faith (Romans 5:2). The Bible says,
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:21-26)
The nature of faith allows for every individual to respond in humble trust in Christ’s work on their behalf, not in their own works or merits. God declares the sinner justified or righteous when they believe. Their sins are forgiven. The Bibles says,
“For we conclude that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28).
Faith is a disposition of humility that admits that you need salvation and that you cannot accomplish or earn it on your own (Galatians 2:16). It is complete trust in the work of another – Jesus Christ – on your behalf. God offers salvation to all, and faith is the condition upon which it is received (Galatians 3:8). Out of his love and grace, God has already accomplished salvation in Christ for all sinners and designed it to be received by faith that it might be appropriated by all. What we must do is simply believe. This faith is not to be considered “a work” meriting salvation. Faith is humbly agreeing with all that God has revealed about our human predicament in sin and the way of salvation in Christ. God has made salvation to be on the basis of simple faith so that it would be available to all. Social, economic, racial or any other factors, such as the good works we may have performed in the name of religion or otherwise, have no weight in the matter of salvation. We cannot be saved by our good deeds. God and God alone has the prerogative to decide how we are to be saved. It was a sovereign divine decision that salvation would be found only in Christ, the chosen one, and be received by faith. God grants salvation to those who humbly, willingly and freely repent and believe. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Neither is faith a mindless leap in the dark. Faith is trusting in what we have good reason to believe is true. Faith, reason and truth go hand in hand.
Since it is God himself who offers to everyone this free gift of salvation, and God cannot lie, it is a true and sincere offer that applies to each and every sinner. Furthermore, the Spirit of God is always present when this “good news” is spoken. By virtue of the content of the message the Spirit is at work in the hearts and minds of the hearers for the purpose of enabling them to respond in faith. God desires the salvation of all individuals. Their is no hindrance to belief except the person’s own willful resistance to the Spirit and rejection of the message in unbelief (John 8:24; Luke 7:30, 22:67-68; Acts 7:51, 13:46, 18:6, 28:23-28). Again, God “wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He is “not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Moreover, in the New Testament, the terms assigned to Israel in the Old Testament are now associated with those who believe; terms like “elect” or “chosen.” Believers are now viewed in light of the meaning and implications of these terms as they applied to Israel as God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. Believers in Christ are also considered by God to be among “the elect” or “the chosen people of God.” As to salvation, both Jew and Gentile are now on equal footing. For the Jews, this was a radical shift in thinking with profound implications (see Romans 9-11). In the decision and act of faith, there is no special privilege or merit to claim, for faith as the way of salvation removes all boasting in merit or special privilege. That is the nature of faith and therefore that is what God desires. It is a laying down of all pride and self-righteousness. Moreover, Paul always contrasts faith with works, showing us that the decision of faith is not to be considered “a work” or “contribution” to one’s salvation.
Given that we are made in God’s image, we have both reason and will. God wants a reciprocal response of love that genuinely comes from us as human persons made in his image. Therefore, his love and grace can either be accepted or rejected. God sends no one to hell. Those who stubbornly reject God’s offer of salvation send themselves there. God is a God of love, grace, life and salvation. The Bible says,
“For God so loved the world that the gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).
This is the “good news.” God loves you! In light of God’s great love and grace demonstrated in Christ’s death on your behalf, why would you choose to reject that love and saving grace? He bids you come to him and find rest for your soul. Receive by faith the gift of salvation and the eternal life he offers you today. God loves you and sent Jesus to be your Lord and Savior. This is truly good news!
For more sermons by Billy Graham click here.
For more excellent biblical instruction in Christian doctrine, theology and the Christian life see Dr. William Lane Craig’s Defenders Class lectures here.
2 thoughts on “The Good News”
I have just read your response about Voddie Baucham’s sermon “The True Gospel” and I agree with you completely. The true Gospel was well presented by you and thank you for your defense of it.
I have this question for you that has been a thorn in my flesh for a while, and I can’t find anyone to give me an honest answer. This is about Billy Graham. I don’t understand how one can preach a true Gospel and yet deny our Savior at the same time. I have seen and heard Billy say that those that haven’t even heard of Christ or haven’t even accepted Him as Lord and Savior will be with us in heaven.Even all the other religions will be accepted too.He is a Universalist. They deny our Lord. You can find this on youtube. I was married to a 32 degree mason and all the degrees and pledges you have to make to that system in very antichrist. Billy Graham was a 33rd degree mason, the highest rank, and when you reach that position you are worshiping lucifer.The world loved Billy Graham and Christ said if you were truly His the world would hate you as it did Him. How can you talk about Voddie Baucham and his supposed Gospel when Graham was truly a deceiver? There are many other things about Graham, if anyone was every saved at his crusades, it was inspite of him.He was ecumenical. Jesus is the only way.
Please and don’t think I’am being mean spirited to Graham, it’s just that I love the truth above any man, I don’t care how popular in the christian world. Look forward for your reply.
Thanks so much for reading on my website and for your comments.
First, let me say that I affirm your love for the truth and dedication to searching out and believing only what is true. God is a God of truth and the gospel that is truly “good news” is central to the Christian faith. Indeed, the purpose of my website is to present the truth of the gospel as found in Scripture. So just to be clear, it is in reference to the gospel message that Billy Graham proclaimed that I affirm and incorporate his preaching on my website. I do not stress his person or his views on other theological topics. He himself has said he would have liked to study the Bible more. But you also recognize that he preached “a true Gospel.” I do also believe, as far as I know, that his ministry was one of honesty, integrity and faithfulness to the Scripture. This is where we seem to disagree. In contrast, you seem to have accepted certain ideas that you have heard on YouTube and have concluded that Billy Graham was a Universalist, was “deny[ing] our Savior,” was a “32 degree mason” and therefore “worshipping lucifer” and “truly a deceiver.” My first thought in reading your comments was “I wonder from what sources you are getting your information?” It seems to me that it comes from a certain “fundamentalist-type” movement that is not very careful with how they glean, interpret and use the information they gather, especially how they use Bible verses. And it also seems that there is a strict disassociation with those who don’t adhere to their beliefs. At least that is the impression I get. But I am willing to learn more or be corrected if I am wrong.
One error I see such groups making is taking information out of its context – both its literary context and historical context. Another error is they embellish Billy Graham’s faults and fail to consider their critiques of him within the whole scope of his life and ministry. You yourself seem surprised that a man can be both a messenger of the true Gospel and yet, as you believe, denying the Savior and worshiping Lucifer. But you should ask yourself how this can be. You should be troubled by such diametrically opposed conclusions. I suggest that this should tell you that one or the other of your beliefs about Billy Graham are just wrong. Either he is all the things you have asserted above, or those things are false and he is for the most part, a man used mightily by God for Christ and his Kingdom. How can he be both? In other words, does good, solid research bear out that he is a Universalist and therefore “deny[ing] our Savior,” was a “32 degree mason” and therefore “worshipping lucifer” and “truly a deceiver?” I don’t think so.
This is not to discount certain things he may have said and mistakes he has made, which he himself readily admitted. I think some of the things he has said in interviews raised my eyebrows and left me asking “What did he mean by that?” or saying to myself “That was not the best way of answering that question.” And he did interact with so many different types of people and personalities that at times his magnanimity resulted in walking on a theological edge at times. (e.g., the Robert Schuller interview) Certainly he was an imperfect person, as we all are. But what I am saying is that from what I know of Billy Graham from listening to his sermons and from other reputable sources, his imperfections do not rise to the level of the things that you assert about him. Therefore I have to question your sources. And from what I have seen and read from those who level such criticisms and draw such extreme conclusions, I do not find them at all persuasive. I think an honest look at his life and ministry without the distorting affects I have mentioned above will bear that out.
So I have to caution you – be careful of the sources from which you get your information about Billy Graham. Ask yourself, are they reputable, scholarly sources that care about context; not only literary context but also historical context. They should be sources that have studied his life and ministry in detail and do not merely come to superficial or exaggerated conclusions about him on the basis of one or two short clips of what he has said in one context or another. Check with sources that are noted for their own integrity and therefore have nothing to hide. For instance, you might check your YouTube or other sources against the most authoritative and comprehensive biography on Billy Graham, that is, the third edition of William Martin’s “A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story” published by Zondervan. Also, you might contact the Billy Graham archives at the Billy Graham Center on the campus of Wheaton College in Wheaton IL, and ask them some questions about the issues that trouble you about Billy Graham’s beliefs and life. Furthermore, carefully consider whether or not there is another way of looking at the critiques leveled against Graham by your sources. For instance, one source I listened to critiqued Graham for believing that the Bible has figurative language in it. I don’t know that any informed Christian or reputable evangelical scholar would object to that. But a group who unwaveringly holds to the idea that everything in the Bible has to be taken literally, fails to discern that the Bible contains different literary genres and the definition of the word “literal” is genre specific. For instance, a Newsweek article cited in a YouTube video that criticized Billy Graham on several issues noted that,
“He is an evangelist still unequivocally committed to the Gospel, but increasingly thinks God’s ways and means are veiled from human eyes and wrapped in mystery. “There are many things that I don’t understand,” he says. He does not believe that Christians need to take every verse of the Bible literally; “sincere Christians,” he says, “can disagree about the details of Scripture and theology–absolutely.” – Newsweek, August 14, 2006, “Pilgrim’s Progress”
The YouTube video used this article and its particular statements to portray Billy Graham in a negative light on the matter of the inspiration of Scripture and taking the Scriptures literally. But surely, his statements here are not problematic. First, I think we all would admit that there are many things about the Christian faith and in Scripture that we do not understand. Secondly, to report that Billy does not believe that Christians need to take every verse of the Bible literally would be a statement that needs further clarification, for when it comes down to it, what is considered “literal” is genre dependent. What is considered “literal” in the poetry of the psalms, for instance, is not the same as what “literal” means in Paul’s letter to the Galatians or the historical narrative of 1 Chronicles. Do you really think that trees have hands that clap? (See Isaiah 55:12) What would it mean to take the apocalyptic genre of the book of Revelation “literally?” The point is that those who produce such videos may lack sufficient knowledge and appreciation of key interpretive principles. To ignore these principles will lead to erroneous thinking and false conclusions about how we read and interpret Scripture – literally, figuratively, metaphorically, etc. If the interpretive misconceptions of such groups are imposed upon a person like Billy Graham by virtue of him commenting that there is no need to take every verse in the Bible literally, then, being strict literalists, they are compelled to see him as straying from the true faith as they define it. Moreover, there is nothing problematic with Billy Graham stating that sincere Christians certainly do disagree about certain details of Scripture and theology. They “can disagree about the details of Scripture and theology – absolutely.” That’s just a fact. But interpretive misconceptions would even blind the staunch critic to what this article did affirm, that “He is an evangelist still unequivocally committed to the Gospel…” That is something you too affirm, although incoherently with the other things you believe about Dr. Graham, especially that he is a mason of the highest rank and therefore a worshiper of Lucifer.
My point is that the fact that Billy Graham’s beliefs don’t measure up exactly with those of certain fundamentalist groups may reflect upon the way those groups process information and interpret Scripture which leads to errors in their thinking and beliefs rather than any substantial errors in the statements and beliefs of Billy Graham. You can be pretty sure that if you are getting all your information only from YouTube videos composed of snippets made by certain isolated and insulated groups, then you are not getting good, credible information; or at least all the information you need to form true conclusions. This is just the way things are in our “electronic age” where anyone and everyone may produce a video, post and tweet, etc. without accountability.
This takes me to your search for someone to give you “an honest answer” about the issues you raised about Billy Graham. It seems to me that you have already made up your mind about Billy Graham and by “honest answer” you either want someone to confirm your beliefs about him or perhaps you are really seeking another way of looking at the life and ministry of Billy Graham. If it is the later, I might be able to help a bit.
First, you raise the interesting question of whether people throughout the world who have never heard of Jesus or the gospel can be saved. You also seem to conclude that if a Christian does believe that someone who has not heard of Jesus or the gospel message can be saved, then they must be a Universalist. Let me first say that I have not studied this question in any depth, especially with respect to what view Billy Graham might have held on this matter. So I cannot speak to what his view was on this question. But I can offer you some thoughts of my own and only suggest that from what I have read and heard Dr. Graham say that he may have thought similarly.
Passages like Romans 1:19-20; 2:14-16 and Acts 17:26-30 speak of God’s general revelation of himself to all people through what he has created and through their consciences. Nature reveals certain attributes of God because as Creator his divine “fingerprints” are all over it. And with respect to the Gentiles (non-Jews who did not have the law) Paul states that “the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness…“ (Rom. 2:15). Given the fact of this general revelation, that is, that all people have a knowledge of the existence of God along with his eternal power and divine nature, there may be many who respond positively to it although they have never heard of Jesus or the gospel message. They may act according to their consciences thus doing what the law requires and also seek more truth about this one and only God and not suppress this knowledge like others do. So, in contrast to those who suppress this knowledge, there may be some that respond positively to God – which seems to be a kind of response of faith. Perhaps this response of believing and searching for the one true God is the kind of response God honors, even to the point of bestowing upon them the salvation that Christ accomplished on their behalf. Some might even say God, using his middle knowledge, would know certain people would positively respond if the gospel were to come to them and therefore God does grant those people saving faith. Although they will never hear of Jesus or the gospel, it is on the basis of the light God has given them upon which he deals with them.
But let’s be clear here. Of course no one can be saved apart from the work of Christ. The salvation God planned and accomplished in Jesus is the only way a person can be saved. But the question remains whether they have to hear of this good news to be saved. After all, Christ did die for these “unreached” people too. So why would God leave them without any hope? And on the basis of the passages cited above, why would we have to conclude that all those who have not heard the gospel cannot be saved? If you have come to that conclusion, then on what basis would you say that there can be no exception to “the rule” that a person must hear of Jesus and the gospel to be saved?
Some Christians might argue that God will always send those people that are seeking him someone to preach or teach them the gospel – perhaps an evangelist, like Billy Graham, or other witnesses. Some say that God will even give them a vision of Jesus which allows them enough revelation so that they may believe in him. But aside from these, we are asking what is the eternal destiny of one who never hears of Jesus or the gospel. Must we say unequivocally that they cannot be saved? Well, the view I have explained above suggests that for those who have properly responded in faith, love and worship of God on the basis of his general revelation and their consciences, God can perhaps apply to them the death Christ died on their behalf, thereby bestowing upon them salvation. Given a person’s acknowledgement and search of the one and only true God, it is possible that God may therefore respond with saving grace (Heb. 11:1-3, 6?).
So that is one way of thinking about your first point. I am not saying that it is correct, but I am suggesting there may be some biblical support for it. You asked for someone to give you an “honest answer” on this subject. My “honest answer” would be that if Dr. Graham believed this, and I am not saying he did, but if he did, it does not follow that he would also be “deny[ing] our Savior at the same time.” Why would a person be denying the Savior to believe that the Bible may teach the possibility that God deals with each individual on the basis of what they do with the light that God has given to them in creation and conscience? Why would it be denying the Savior when Dr. Graham would still maintain that the cross of Christ is the only means by which salvation has been accomplished for all persons and the only means by which anyone can be saved, even the many who never hear this “good news?” It is still “good news” on their behalf. The death of Christ still applies to them. And even though they cannot make the kind of decision those who are privileged to hear the gospel have the responsibility to make, the point is that God may deal with those who have never heard the gospel on the basis of his general revelation and the conscience he bestowed upon them. They too have a privilege and responsibility to use the revelation God has given them. Again, we need to be clear here. I am not saying that God can save a person on any other basis other than the work of Christ on the cross. Salvation is only found in Christ, and this view maintains that that salvation may be applied to a person who has never heard of Jesus or that good news. And to be even more clear. I think you can see that it does not follow from this view that all people will be saved.
Now this leads to another of your assertions, that is, that Dr. Graham believed “all other religions will be accepted to.” Again, if the position I laid out above is a viable biblical option, it does not follow that the person who believes someone can be saved on the basis of their response to general revelation also believes that all religions are acceptable to God and lead to salvation. We’ve just established that salvation is only found in the cross of Christ. But it does seem possible that someone who was raised in and is practicing another religion may realize on the basis of the general revelation God has given to them that they need to respond to that revelation and begin to seek and worship the only true and living God. Now, if they never hear the name of Jesus we would have a circumstance in which someone in another religion is responding positively to God’s revelation in nature and conscience. And if they do, I suspect that sooner or later they will find themselves at odds with their present religion and leave it in a further pursuit of the truth of Christianity. But suppose it is later and not sooner. We may have a person in another religion, whose heart God alone knows, and God may grant that the saving work of Christ on their behalf be applied to them, not because of their religion, but in spite of it. But this kind of circumstance, which is obviously beyond our knowing because only God knows the heart, is complex and speculative. But my point is that such a situation is definitely not Universalism. It is merely one way of attempting to understand how God might deal with those in other religions who do not know of Jesus and have not heard the gospel message and never will. And once again, I am only speculating as to how Dr. Graham may have thought about this issue you raised, but if he did think this way he wouldn’t deserve to be called a Universalist.
More precisely, if Dr. Graham believed salvation is found only in Christ, and if Dr. Graham believed what Jesus claimed about himself, that “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6) – and I am certainly sure he believed both – then Billy Graham is no Universalist. A Universalist thinks that “all roads lead to God” or that one religion is as legitimate with regard to “salvation” as another. Of course this is not true. Contradictory religious belief systems cannot both be true. So what I am saying is that the charge that Dr. Graham is a Universalist cannot rest on whether he believes someone who never heard the gospel can still be saved. Universalism doesn’t follow from that given the above explanation. Furthermore, the charge of Universalism is something I don’t know to be true about him and I have never heard anything that would make me think it is true about him – not from Dr. Graham himself or in his writings or those responsible, scholarly biographies written about him (although I admit that I want and need to read more about Billy’s life and ministry). But from what I do know of Billy Graham, his ministry and what has been written about him by reputable scholars, I find the assertion that he was a Universalist implausible. From what I do know, I think Dr. Graham would say Christ is the only way to God, and there is only one true and living God who exists in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The only God that exists is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and salvation is found only in Christ. You are correct that all other religions, to the degree that they depart from the full teaching of Scripture, are false religions. Christianity does make exclusive truth claims. Yes, Jesus is the only way of salvation. But as far as I know Billy Graham would unequivocally affirm that biblical, doctrinal statement.
The article I cited above made a point of how growing older allowed Billy to change his thinking in both its depth and scope. As he aged he gained an appreciation for the complexity of certain issues which also affected how he interacted with others with which he may have disagreed.
“…more recent years have given him something he had little of in his decades of global evangelism: time to think both more deeply and more broadly. As he has grown older, Graham has come to an appreciation of complexity and a gentleness of spirit that sets him apart from many other high-profile figures in America’s popular religious milieu–including, judging from their public remarks, his own son Franklin Graham, and men such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.”
Even though he disagreed with people on one or more issues, he was able to hold to the strength of his convictions while he also had the gift of being magnanimous. I think this magnanimity is at the core of the “ecumenical” criticism leveled against him. He was not “ecumenical” in the sense of embracing all forms of Christian religion (i.e., Roman Catholicism), let alone all religions (i.e., Universalism). He was ecumenical in the Pauline sense of 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and even in the Jesus sense of willing to step beyond the legalistic, man-made, superficial boundaries set by judgmental religious leaders. Graham had a willingness to engage people from all walks of life in order to influence them in the truth of the gospel. As far as I can tell he did this without compromising his own evangelical Christian convictions.
In addition, the Newsweek article employed in the YouTube video criticizing Billy Graham also noted that,
“Graham has always been torn between absolutism and moderation. Born four days before the Armistice in 1918 and raised by Presbyterian parents on a 300-acre dairy farm near Charlotte, N.C., he left home for Bob Jones’s fundamentalist college in the fall of 1936, but soon dropped out, moving on to a Florida Bible college and ultimately to Wheaton in Illinois. Ordained as a Baptist preacher in 1939, he preached a conservative but not fundamentalist brand of Christianity…”
Note the hints at Graham’s historical context. He experienced a personal and religious struggle between “absolutism and moderation.” Also, he grew out of a “fundamentalist brand of Christianity” while remaining a “conservative” regarding his Christian beliefs. In the last century there was a division in Christianity between those who called themselves Evangelicals and those who were Fundamentalists. I cannot discuss the distinctions here except to say that Billy Graham identified more with the Evangelicals. Thus, he expected those who still embraced a more “fundamentalist brand of Christianity” to be critical of him. It remains the same today.
The article then records Graham saying the following which was picked up by the producers of the video as a criticism regarding his view of Scripture.
“I’m not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord,” Graham says. “This is a little difference in my thinking through the years.” He has, then, moved from seeing every word of Scripture as literally accurate to believing that parts of the Bible are figurative…”
The fundamentalist may read these excerpts as proof that Dr. Graham abandoned an orthodox view of Scripture. As I read them I would need more information before making a critical judgment about his view of Scripture. He says, “I’m not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord.” What does he mean? Could he be referring to the “dictation” theory of inspiration – that everything in Scripture was literally dictated by God to its author’s without their own personalities and thought processes playing a role in what was written? And if this statement is related to the following one about him moving from “seeing every word of Scripture as literally accurate to believing that parts of the Bible are figurative…” I would want to know more about the phrase “seeing every word of Scripture as literally accurate.” But I see no problem with him “believing that parts of the Bible are figurative” because nothing is more obvious than that! Yes, the statement, “I’m not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord” is troubling on the face of it. But I would want to know precisely what he meant by that because if I jump to the conclusion that he didn’t believe the whole Bible is God’s divine word that would conflict with his stated conviction from the beginning of his ministry that it is God’s Word. On this subject of Scripture, the article continues to relay the following account.
“Troubled, Graham wandered into the woods one night, put his Bible on a stump and said, “Lord, I don’t understand all that is in this book, I can’t explain it all, but I accept it by faith as your divine word.”
There is also an important historical and personal context here which I cannot get into, but from the very beginning of his ministry Graham believed Scripture to be God’s “divine word.” The point is that the doctrines of revelation, inspiration and inerrancy are complex issues. And I would caution everyone against superficial readings, quoting verses out of context and careless handling of bits and pieces of information in the hands of those who just think from within a more fundamentalist context about their Christianity and Christian doctrines, or possibly want to discredit a person for whatever reasons rather than present a full and fair account.
Many times people who do interviews for magazines and newspapers read them afterwards and report that their statements have been taken out of context or they were not properly represented. They can even be edited into saying things very different than what the person who was interviewed actually said or meant to say. Then there are those who just want to be sensational or propagate “conspiracy theories” about almost anything or anybody. There has always been an appetite for such things and there always will be.
This brings me to your second assertion that Billy Graham was a “33rd degree mason.” Again, this raised a serious concern and question in my mind about what source or sources you are getting your information from about Billy Graham. Are they even talking about the same person? You wrote, “Billy Graham was a 33rd degree mason, the highest rank, and when you reach that position you are worshiping lucifer.” I don’t know where you are getting this information from and why you are believing it. All I would say in response is that Billy Graham’s whole life, message and ministry is in direct contradiction to this suggestion that he was ultimately “worshipping Lucifer.” Do you think those closest to him – Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea – knew about Graham’s worship of Satan and said nothing? Perhaps they too were masons? I ask this in all seriousness so you can see how out of character and ludicrous this assertion is from what we know of the lives and message of Graham and his team.
Lastly, your allusion to John 15:18-20 and use of that passage to reason that if the world loved Billy Graham then he must be “a deceiver” is a poor application of Jesus’s words. First, we might ask what is meant by “world?” Also, we might ask whether “the world” really “loved” Billy Graham. Or, if they did, perhaps in the historical context in which Graham lived and ministered people were more receptive to hearing the Bible preached and the gospel proclaimed. Perhaps people all over the world were hungry for the “good news” of the gospel. In America, at least, in those days there was still an acceptance of Christianity and its truths unlike today’s mounting hatred for Christ and believers. Christians invited to his crusades the unsaved who were willing to come because they lived in a time when Christianity was still acceptable and influential in the social and cultural life of America. And then again, perhaps it was God’s plan for Billy to preach throughout the world and therefore God gave Billy favor in the eyes of “the world” so that the gospel would go throughout the world and people would hear and be saved. I believe this last scenario certainly fits the historical facts. My point is that your logic that since “the world” loved Billy Graham, and therefore on the basis of Jesus words to his disciples about “the world” hating them you conclude that Billy Graham must be “a deceiver,” seems to me very specious, and in my opinion a misapplication of that biblical passage.
I understand why many Christians have critiqued Billy Graham for some of the things he has said and done. But again, he is a man of a particular time and should be evaluated in his context and his faults not unnecessarily blown out of proportion given all that God has accomplished in and through Billy’s life. This is not to discount some of Billy Graham’s statements that were not as clear or as uncompromising as we would have liked them to be. But as I see it, a man should be judged on the totality of his life, and that totality should also take precedence over incidental disagreements and certainly refute and defeat assertions that do not fit at all into the picture of that man’s complete life story.
In whatever topic or person you are investigating, I caution you to evaluate your sources more carefully and not believe everything you hear and see, especially on the internet. Balance what you are told with credible, scholarly sources. Take a step back and honestly assess whether your critiques are legitimate, coherent and consistent with other credible, scholarly sources about Billy’s like and ministry. Perhaps you will being to see that these extreme allegations are built on very little evidence, lack substance and even in the end cannot be verified and are therefore are not likely to be true. Look at the big picture and see if these allegations and assertions are plausible in light of the whole scope of his life, character and ministry.
Finally, the article also described Billy Graham as follows.
“One of the most formidable figures in the 2,000-year story of Christian evangelism, he is the first to tell you he is far from perfect.”
Thanks for reading this long response Brenda. I do not take you as being “mean-spirited” to Billy Graham. Indeed, I think I can detect the Christian fundamentalist context you are coming from and therefore, although I don’t share your perspectives, I can understand your concerns and conclusions about Dr. Graham.
I hope this helps.