This writer has been informed that quite recently the students of a local Christian High School supported by parents of Reformed, Christian Reformed, and Protestant Reformed homes were urged to watch Billy Graham on television. This in itself is not so serious but it makes a great deal of difference, it seems to me, why these students were urged to watch Billy Graham in his Crusade for Christ in the Great Los Angeles area. If those who urged were interested that students view the Crusade in order that they might see and hear how these Crusaders have strayed from the Gospel mandate and to observe what error they are to flee, then they are to be commended. If the intention was a propaganda stint or an endorse-Billy-Graham campaign, I suggest that our Reformed leaders of covenant youth have strayed far to left from the path blazed by the Reformation fathers.
Billy Graham is a follower of the famed Billy Sunday. Billy was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1918 and his official name is William Franklin Graham, Jr. His family were members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. This church had its origin in Scotland in 1733. The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia describes this church as follows:
This church stands for the whole body of truth held by most branches of the Presbyterian Church: for the acceptance of and adherence to the Westminster standards, for the Calvinistic system of theology, for the fundamental principles of this theology, beginning with the sovereignty of God and embracing the remaining four points logically springing therefrom unto the assured salvation of the elect, for the government of the Church by pastors and elders having authority to act for Jesus Christ, the King and head of the Church, for plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, and for the sole, supreme, and infallible authority of the Bible for all rules of conduct and duty. It confines itself to the exclusive use of the inspired songs of the Bible in God’s worship, the Book of Psalms having been set to music, the last being the distinctive difference between Associate Reformed Presbyterians and the Presbyterian Church South.
I do not know whether this church still exists but it is evident that the background of the Graham family is rooted in a staunch Calvinistic church.
Billy Graham sold brushes in the summer of 1935 for the Fuller Brush Company. He is reported to have sold more brushes in three months than any other salesman in North Carolina. After his graduation from high school Billy Graham played semi¬professional baseball for $10.00 a game.
Following the wishes of his parents he entered Bob Jones College, now Bob Jones University. He left Bob Jones after a few months, however, intent on being a baseball player; but his parents sent him to Temple Terrace Independent Bible School in Tampa, Florida. He was ordained a Baptist minister and graduated from the Bible Institute in June of 1940. In the fall of 1940 he entered Wheaton College as a sophomore majoring in anthropology. Upon graduation from Wheaton Billy married Ruth Me Crox Bell, daughter of Dr. L. Nelson Bell, a returned Presbyterian medical missionary, current managing editor of Christianity Today. (Christianity Today is a product of the neo-evangelical movement in the church world today. The neo-evangelicals are closely associated with the National Council of Churches.)
In 1945 after several years in a church in Western Springs, Illinois, Billy Graham was invited by Torrey Johnson to assist in the organization of Youth for Christ at Winona Lake, Indiana. In his early contacts he met Cliff Barrows who with George Beaverly Shea would become the heart and core of his “evangelistic” team.
Between 1947 and 1949 Billy Graham held two or three week revivals in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Des Moines, Iowa; Modesto, California; and other U. S. cities. In the fall of 1949 he made the headlines when the “Christ for Greater Los Angeles” committee invited him to conduct a revival in this huge metropolis. William Randolph Hearst ordered a “Puff Graham” campaign so that this chain of papers gave wide newspaper coverage to Graham. Associated Press gave wide coverage to his movement; Time Magazine wrote it up and compared his popularity to that of Billy Sunday. The Crusade in Los Angeles was extended to the 8th week. Graham is reported to have tried to convert Mickey Cohen. All the news media caught the sensation of this movement and blew it up into glaring headlines.
The next important move was the transformation of his company into a nationwide enterprise. In Portland, Oregon, he did three things.
1. He established a nationwide broadcast called “The Hour of Decision.”
2. He formed the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
3. He entered the motion picture business by filming the Portland Crusade.
Now in 1963 he has conducted more than 50 crusades. He has returned to Los Angeles where he conducted his first most successful crusade.
One of the most controversial crusades was the New York Crusade of 1957. It is at this time that he is reported to have capitulated most evidently to the liberal, modernistic movement in the American Church world and by virtue of this fact forsook the fundamentalist position from which he had previously operated.
In a small pamphlet entitled “Billy Graham, A Critique, Rev. Robert Dunzweiler, Professor of Systematic Theology of the Faith Theological Seminary, sets forth an appraisal of the Billy Graham success. I quote: “First of all, I think we must agree that Billy Graham preaches the simple Gospel of Salvation. There may be some disagreement concerning how broadly and how distinctly he preaches certain aspects of the Word of God, but certainly I think that most would agree that he does preach the simple Gospel — that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
I take issue with the writer of the above quotation at this juncture when states very mildly that Billy Graham preaches “the simple Gospel of salvation.” The writer modifies this statement by stating that “there may be some disagreement concerning how broadly and how distinctly he preaches certain aspects of the Word of God,” but the question still remains: Does he preach the truth of the Word of God in all its purity, the truth of the Reformation? Does Billy Graham preach the Gospel or does he preach another Gospel which Paul boldly states is not the Gospel. In Galatians 1:8 Paul through the Holy Spirit declares: “… 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.”
Does Billy Graham preach the Gospel in its simple, undiluted, unpolluted form? Does he preach that Jesus actually and fully saves? Don’t you hear him pleading that men will turn and open the doors of their hearts and let the Savior come in? Is this the Christ of the Scriptures? Is this the Gospel story?
Doesn’t he say that salvation is possible for all men? Doesn’t he hawk a Christ that is willing to save all men but there are always those who refuse to be saved; but this is against the wishes of the Savior?
This is the lie of Arminianism and is insipid modernism. That is why he can so easily fly into the camp of the modernist. But let’s permit Billy Graham himself to speak. He said:
“I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody, to preach the Gospel of Christ, if there are no strings attached to my message.”
Or he can say: “The old terms fundamentalism and liberalism are now passe.”
Is this the language of the defender of the faith, one who walks in the steps of the Reformers?