It would be easy for me to say something positive about Billy Graham. He had a role in my wife’s salvation, and I have personally had positive and sympathetic human feelings toward the man throughout my life. Born in 1949 and growing up Southern Baptist, I heard Billy Graham on radio and television and thought nothing but positive thoughts toward him. I am a Southern boy with strong ties to North Carolina. Even after I was saved at age 23 and learned of his compromise (and I am very thankful for the voices that exposed these things in those days), I have continued to have kind human feelings toward the man. I often prayed that he would repent of his compromise. The same is true of my feelings toward Franklin Graham. These are likable people. They preach the gospel. They rub shoulders with the great and mighty of this world and have opportunities most Christians do not have. You pray for them; you want the best for them. I met Franklin Graham briefly at a church in Nepal in 1979 or 1980 when he was there representing Samaritan Ministries. He is more outspoken than his father, more willing to enter into controversial waters, and I was hoping that he would change directions of the Graham evangelistic organization some and recognize ecumenism for the unscriptural thing that it is. So I was very sad when he came out publicly with 100% support for his dad’s ecumenism.
Sympathetic feelings aside, as for my approach to Billy Graham, I believe that he did such great harm to the cause of Jesus Christ and God’s Word that any good he did was far, far overwhelmed. As always, the compromise began as a little leaven, but as God's Word plainly warns, the little leaven eventually leavened the whole so that nothing pure was left (1 Corinthians 15:33). Even the unprecedented gospel preaching that Graham accomplished was corrupted terribly by the fact that he never reproved false gospels, the result of which was that his gospel message was not clear in the minds of the listeners. The effect was confusion. The fruit was corrupted. Anyone could read his own error into Graham’s preaching. A Roman Catholic, for example, could read the sacramental gospel into Graham’s preaching and respond by striving to be a better Catholic by “receiving Jesus” more earnestly in the mass, etc. According to many studies, this is exactly what multitudes of Catholics did, and we cited these studies extensively in the free eBook Billy Graham and Rome.
For example, the Graham organization and the co-operating churches of the San Francisco Crusade of 1958 appointed Dr. Charles Farrah to create a follow-up report on the converts. His findings were announced on December 16. “... of the roughly 1,300 Catholics who came forward, PRACTICALLY ALL REMAINED CATHOLIC, CONTINUED TO PRAY TO MARY, GO TO MASS, AND CONFESS TO A PRIEST” (Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California, Wed., Dec. 17, 1958).
Therefore, the same compromise that made it possible for Billy Graham to preach to “more people than any other man in history” corrupted that opportunity terribly. Elsewhere I have explained how that in the case of my wife, she almost ended up in a liberal church where she would not have been dealt with properly about salvation, and that is because of Graham’s advice to “go to the church of your choice.” So while some were doubtless saved by his ministry, and of course any saved person would be thankful for that part, but far more were lost because of it.
The preaching of the prophets, of John the Baptist, of Jesus Christ, and of the apostles, greatly offended a lot of people. Biblical preaching is a two-edged sword that saves those who repent and believe and tends to offend those who reject it. That wasn’t generally true of Billy Graham. He removed one edge entirely from God’s two-edged Sword (the edge of rebuke of error) and dulled the other one. As a consequence, he could preach to and rub shoulders with and have close association with the most wicked, heretical people, and generally they were not offended at him. Doors were not closed to him.
I cannot, therefore, accept that Billy Graham was a biblical preacher and I refuse to treat him as such.
As to the question of whether Billy Graham is even in heaven, only God knows, but are the following things the signs of a saved man?
- Turning over untold thousands of one’s converts to wolves. He described his working principle as follows: “My responsibility is to preach the gospel to everyone and let them choose their own church, whether it is Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox or whatever it is" (Billy Graham interview with Patricia Rice, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct. 10, 1999). It is a matter of record that he turned countless thousands of “decision cards” over to Catholic and liberal Protestant churches.
- Personally welcoming deluded Catholic pilgrims to a major Mary shrine, smilingly, with no hint of warning
- Blessing Pope John Paul II, a great Mary venerator, and calling him a great evangelist
- Saying that Pope John Paul II, who trusted in Mary as “co-redemptress,” went to heaven
- Praising Fulton Sheen, another great Mary venerator
- Saying that he had wonderful fellowship with Mormonism and Catholicism
- Saying that there is salvation in other religions; saying in specific that there are Buddhists and Muslims and “unbelievers" that are in heaven though “they may not even know the name of Jesus” (Graham interview with Robert Schuller, May 31, 1997)
- Saying that a miracle can happen in infant baptism so that “baptismal regeneration” happens (Graham interview, Lutheran Standard, Oct. 10, 1961)
- Denying that hell is eternal fiery torment
- Praising modernists who denied Christ’s virgin birth, miracles, and bodily resurrection
- Saying the virgin birth is not an essential doctrine
- Saying that Adam could have been a God-touched ape-man
- Refusing to defend the Bible as “inerrant”
- Stating that he didn’t need to preach the blood of Christ because “this is the duty and prerogative of the pastors”
- Recommending and distributing his own edition of the Today’s English Version which largely removes Christ’s blood atonement and corrupts every major passage on the Deity of Jesus Christ
- Agreeing with Robert Schuller that born again is “a decision to stop carrying your own luggage”
- Stating that he was an “ecumenical being” to whom theological differences “mean nothing to me anymore”
These are indisputable facts which we have carefully documented in the book Billy Graham’s Sad Disobedience. The March 2018 edition is available for free viewing and download at www.wayoflife.org.
P.S. I wrote to several men for whom I have a high regard and asked them, “Do you believe I am wrong in not focusing some on Billy Graham’s ‘positive fruit’?”
Two men replied that they thought I could have mentioned the fact that many were saved through Graham’s ministry, though they were strongly supportive of my warnings.
Following are the other responses:
Of course you weren’t wrong! People are fawning over him, forgetting his radical compromise and outright heresy regarding the Pope, the R.C.C., ecumenical disobedience. Not at all my brother! Appreciate your love for the Truth!!! Press on!!!
Regarding Billy Graham, it shouldn’t surprise me that people are critical about calling out his ecumenism. It seems like the entire world has become soft with the IFB churches leading the way. Not many have the stomach for the stands that once identified us as Fundamentalists.
It seems absurd that we should praise Billy because of 'a little ointment in the flies.' I heard someone praising him for not having a public scandal in his marriage as many public figures do. What Billy did destroyed many lives, proving himself to be wolf. Coddling up to wolves never saved the flock.
Our position is being called ‘fringe,' and we are not as strong as those who stood before our time. That crowd needs to vilify our stand to justify their compromise. Instead, it is they who are identifying themselves as neo’s in disguise as Fundamental. Disregard them! Your work is helping to secure those who remain who might be ready to die; the soft ones are those who have a name that are alive but are dead already.
The immediate thing that came to my mind as I read your question is, 'Why would you, when God Himself says He’s not going to?’ Ezekiel 18:21-24 '21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? 24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.’ I used this in my message this morning, stating that 'In verse 24 of Ezekiel 18, we are presented with God’s opinion about a Christian who starts off well, but who then, because of various reasons, turns from his first profession of faithfulness to the Lord and His Word, and begins doing things that are contrary to what he professes with his mouth. He ceases from doing good, and begins promoting things that are evil. According to my understanding of God’s Word, whatever good Billy Graham might have done in the beginning, God is not going to mention. Why should you? Probably be wiser to go along with God, and what He says in His Word, rather than go along with the opinions of man.
Considering Graham was an ecumenical from his college days to his dying days, absolutely not. He may have been saved but his entire ministry was done in disobedience and disloyalty to God. Why would we warn men of his apostasy in life and then acclaim him in death? That is confusion! Ecumenism used to mean antichrist and apostasy to Bible believers but now it means a great spiritual legacy? No, it’s a legacy of disloyalty to Christ and His Word! Graham never repented of it and thus never was restored to a Biblical ministry. Unrepentant disobedient brothers are to be marked and avoided not memorialized and acclaimed according to Paul (Romans 16:17). I believe that like any other disobedient Christian preacher, the Judgment Seat of Christ was almost all wood hay and stubble for him. Either Bible truth applies to Graham as well as each of us or it applies to no one. Catholics and Mormons may sing his praises but God is no respecter of persons. Graham’s compromise may be as dangerous to the Lords churches in his death as in his life because suddenly it's okay to speak well of an apostate.
'Positive Fruit' never hurts but it won't change a thing for those who think you are too critical. You can say ten positives but give one warning and or one ‘critical' comment and you are branded a hater. There is enough ‘Positive' out there already. I hear a positive Graham comment at church (mostly from my SS 'teacher') almost every Sunday. I know the staff deems him a New Evangelical but they simply WILL NOT give a warning nor will they instruct nor take charge of the situation (of the comments.) People are ignorant. So I say.... continue on your course. We all need to hear it.”
No I do not believe you are wrong in not focusing on Graham's ‘positive fruit.’ I wanted to after he died, because I was saved in Graham's 1955 Crusade in Toronto; however, I felt it would do more harm than good. I feel the same way about some positive things I learned while involved in the Hyles situation: however, in my opinion to write anything positive about either of these men would cause confusion. Keep on keeping on!!!
No. Ridiculous. I don't know anyone who has done more harm to Bible doctrine in our world than he has. Does he have positive fruit? I'm asking honestly not sarcastically. And I'm speaking as someone whose entire extended family and most friends, to the extent they claim the Lord Jesus at all, are fans of his. I don't see anything positive in any of them that's attributable to him. That's not true of most evangelicals. Wiersbe has some good tools that are helpful. So do most evangelicals. I don't see anything of value from Graham.
I was thinking about that when I was writing down my own thoughts about Graham. I argued with myself along these lines:
- There are plenty of other people to praise him who never mention anything negative.
- When the Bible mentions people who committed great crimes, it doesn’t tell us their offsetting characteristics or contributions. In most cases, anyway.
- When we put someone on trial, we focus only on the wrong they did.
- When you are dealing with something this serious, we don’t have the right to make up our own rules, like he did.
On the other hand, I don’t think you would be wrong to mention the fact that there are probably many people who truly came to know the Lord because of him. Paul did say: 'What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.’ …
I always come back to the word you taught me in association with him: Confusion. It’s confusion because there is good mixed with the bad.
I returned home today for lunch and found that Graham's funeral was being televised. The array of attendees was impressive. There were pastors, preachers, priests, politicians and others. President Trump, VP Pence and their wives were in attendance, along with a host of other dignitaries. FoxNews reported there were over 500 nationalities represented. Various testimonies were given, which were inspiring and moving. Those who prayed, spoke of the saving work of Christ on the cross. Then, Franklin Graham delivered his message. He gave some introductory remarks of memories with his dad and then said, 'If my father could speak to you,' as a segue into presenting the unadulterated gospel. He proceeded to affirm the biblical truth that all are born sinners, and that Jesus' death, burial and resurrection provided the only way by which man can be saved and enter Heaven. He invited people to trust in Jesus Christ as the only Savior. The biblical gospel was presented without compromise or equivocation.
I told my wife that for a funeral, and the clear presentation of the gospel, to be aired on mainstream media outlets was a miracle in our day. Untold thousands heard the gospel.
[But] Can we truly say it was the gospel that was being preached to that crowd if it did not include what the gospel is not? There would be tremendous confusion in that audience about what the word gospel even means. What the word ‘sin’ means. When the crowd came to John the Baptist, he told them to repent. Then he told them exactly what that meant, case by case. He gave specifics. What kind of specifics would that audience need to understand the depth of their sin and their true need for a savior?
I don’t know. Maybe what Franklin Graham did at the funeral was effective for some. Who knows?
One way to measure it would be how offended they were when it was over. I would guess that 3 or 4 visitors a year get up and walk out of our services after our pastor starts preaching.
Anyway, I know there are always those who are going to criticize you for not saying something good about the man. It doesn’t offend me, though.
Sharing Policy: Much of our material is available for free, such as the hundreds of articles at the Way of Life web site. Other items we sell to help fund our expensive literature and foreign church planting ministries. Way of Life's content falls into two categories: sharable and non-sharable. Things that we encourage you to share include the audio sermons, O Timothy magazine, FBIS articles, and the free eVideos and free eBooks. You are welcome to make copies of these at your own expense and share them with friends and family. You may also post parts of reports and/or entire reports to websites, blogs, etc as long as you give proper credit (citation). A link to the original report is very much appreciated as the reports are frequently updated and/or expanded. Things we do not want copied and distributed are "Store" items like the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library, print editions of our books, electronic editions of the books that we sell, the videos that we sell, etc. The items have taken years to produce at enormous expense in time and money, and we use the income from sales to help fund the ministry. We trust that your Christian honesty will preserve the integrity of this policy. "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward" (1 Timothy 5:18). Questions? email@example.com
Goal:Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc., the Fundamental Baptist Information Service is an e-mail posting for Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. Our primary goal with the FBIS is to provide material to assist preachers in the edification and protection of the churches.
Offering: We take up a quarterly offering to fund this ministry, and those who use the materials are expected to participate (Galatians 6:6) if they can. We do not solicit funds from those who do not agree with our preaching and who are not helped by these publications. We seek offerings only from those who are helped. OFFERINGS can be mailed or made online with with Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or Paypal. For information see: www.wayoflife.org/about/makeanoffering.html.
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials