Billy Graham’s Ministry of Error


It is the contention of the Fundamentalists that Billy Graham preaches the Gospel. “I think we must agree that Billy Graham preaches the simple Gospel of salvation.”1 However, although it is admitted that “he preaches the true Gospel,” yet he does not identify and denounce “those who preach a false gospel,” so that he “fails to get across the fact that the gospel which he preaches is the only true gospel.”2 In these words this writer regards Graham as a preacher of the gospel, but as one practicing unscriptural methods. Others agree with this critique, expressing that his method is not to be condoned “simply because the gospel is proclaimed and saving fruits accrue therefrom.” These words appear in a pamphlet where Graham is not specifically mentioned, but where the reference more than likely includes him.3 Further testimony along this line we find in this: “The statement is usually made that ‘Billy preaches the Gospel.’ And it is admitted that he can and does preach the Gospel, for he certainly knows what the Gospel is.” But Fundamentalists “wonder whether he believes it himself” since he employs “liberalistic methods.”4 Then again, we read, “Let it be clearly understood that Dr. Graham in his campaigns preaches the Gospel. So far as I know his preaching does not partake of modernism…”5 Once again: “People continually say that Billy preaches the Gospel. As I have stated, it is plain that he does not preach the whole Gospel—or anywhere near the whole Gospel.”6 Graham has not yet abandoned the gospel, but it is felt that he has “abandoned, completely abandoned the distinctive, glorious, intolerant position of the everlasting Gospel…”7 (ital., RCH), whatever that is supposed to mean! How is it possible to abandon the position of the gospel, yet not abandon the gospel? The position of the gospel is a firm, eternal stand on the truth of God’s Word. Then, if that is the position of the gospel, doesn’t a man abandoning that position abandon his stand on the Word of God? And if he does that, doesn’t he abandon the gospel? Another eminent critic of Graham confirms this, saying, “God’s people are waking up to the fact that Billy Graham has abandoned the historic Protestant position.”8 His evangelism “is not the evangelism of the New Testament.”9 Some will go further, not only lamenting the fact that Graham cooperates with modernists, but it is implied that he is for doing so no true believer. “True believers will never join hands with the modernists of the twentieth century to do the work of God or to confuse the church of Jesus Christ.”10 Now when you sum up these appraisals, you will probably come up with something like this: 1. Billy preaches the gospel. 2. Billy is no believer. 3. Therefore, Billy is a Balaam.
The latter, you remember, was a false prophet who was compromised by the enemies of Israel, but who nevertheless, as far as the record goes, preached nothing but the truth. Man is not sufficient of himself to even think anything of himself (2 Cor. 3:5), nor has he any power of himself to speak anything. The preparation of his heart and the answer of his tongue is from God’s sovereign providential control and direction (Num. 22:38; Prov. 16:1). Then, it is possible that in the sovereignty of God, a false prophet preach the truth. Judas was such a false prophet (Mk. 3:14, 19; 6:7, 12, 30). So were Caiaphas (Jn. 11:49-52) and Saul (I Sam. 10:10). But there are other false prophets who are not Balaams, but Baalites. They speak nothing but lies, (I Kings 22:6, 23). In the providential execution of God’s counsel, Judas preached the gospel. In the providential control of God, Zedekiah of Chenaanah, an equally false prophet, did not. The false prophets were deceivers and deceived and as such were ordained in the counsel of God and moved at His sovereign disposal to do His will (Job 12:16). Furthermore, it was the Lord who put a lying spirit in their mouths and so deceived them and their dupes in order to reveal the destructive, punitive power of His wrath (Ezek. 14:9). The will of God is the cause of it all (Lam. 3:37). But if it be asked, How shall we distinguish a false prophet from a true prophet? Scripture has the answer. Read Deut. 13:1-5 and Matt. 7:15-20. The false prophet, even when he speaks the truth, aims to turn you away from the Lord. He leads away from the narrow gate. We are, however, more concerned with the question, How may we know whether the gospel is being preached by a false prophet? Time will tell. Perhaps the company he keeps will be an indicator. Balaam had too close an association with the big-wigs of Moab. Judas eventually changed sides and stood with the enemies of Jesus (Jn. 18:5). Caiaphas always was allied with the enemy. Time will tell!

It is of interest to read that a prophet states, “I am convinced that there is a great hunger of mind and thirst of soul on the part of the average man for peace with God.”11 Now “the average man,” “the man in the street” is that modern Pelagian who does not deny the existence of God, but presumes to live without God. He is the natural man and such a man receives nothing of the things of God, he does not understand them (Rom. 3:11), nor can he understand them (I Cor. 2:14). Hunger and thirst for anything spiritual is the mark, not of the average (natural) man, but of the child of God (Mt. 5:6). The mere man in the street, the unregenerate, is wicked. He does not hunger for peace with God. Indeed, “there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isa. 57:21; 48:22). Of him the Lord asks, “What hast thou to do with peace?” (II K. 9:19). Desire for peace with God is the mark of a Christian, not of the unconverted. “To be spiritually minded is peace” (Ro. 8:6), but they have only a carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God, nor can be. “The way of peace have they not known” (3:17), nor have they ever sought it (3:11).

Then the prophet claims, “I have tried to avoid those controversial subjects that have so often divided great segments of the Christian church from each other.” Then he adds, “but, on the other hand, I have not bargained, parleyed or compromised my concept of the Christian faith.”12 This stand will not measure up to that of another, truly great prophet of unimpeachable integrity, Dr. J. Gresham Machen, who said, “The type of religion which…shrinks from controversial matters will never stand amid the shocks of life…The really important things are things about which men will fight.”13 To boast, “I have not compromised my concept of the Christian faith” is to say nothing. For it is not the same as saying, I have not compromised the Christian faith. The Christian faith and a man’s concept of that faith are by no means necessarily identical. We may agree with Graham that he has not compromised his concept of the faith. But he does not claim that he has not compromised the Christian faith. Of late, he would have quite a time sustaining such a claim. The whole world is asking, with whom has he not compromised?

Now there is clear evidence that Graham compromises and corrupts the gospel and does so with his own concept and philosophy. For example, he says man has a “depraved and sinful nature” (p. 20), but is not totally depraved, since man can “turn to Him and accept the blessing of safety and peace…” (22). Graham informs us that he is eternally indebted to his mother for teaching him the Westminster catechism. But certainly he has departed from the truth embraced there, namely, that man suffers “the corruption of his whole nature” and is “utterly indisposed, disabled and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good and wholly inclined to all evil and that continually.”14 This is the pure, uncompromised uncorrupted truth. The same cannot be said for the concepts of Graham.

What is his concept of such a fundamental as faith? He conceives of faith as originating with man, as depending upon man to produce it, exercise it and maintain it. Man comes to faith because he chooses faith (p. 123). He assumes that man has faith; it is something inherent in the natural man, but he does not know where to put it. To “the man in the street” he says, “all your life you have been…waiting for someone to explain God to you before you can put your faith in Him…” (p. 34). Do men, or some lost men, wait all their lives to have God explained to them? As though that were the one great longing of their lives? Scripture is abundantly plain on who really wait for God. The natural man soon forgets His works and waits not for His counsel (Ps. 106:13)! But it is insisted that the natural man has “that intellectual faith, that historical faith” and that if he will only put it in the right object, Christ, and with that kind of faith desire His salvation, then “upon the authority of God’s Word you become a child of God” (p. 148). The greatest thing you “can do to please God is to believe Him” (p. 127). This is something you, the man in the street, the natural, unregenerate man, have the ability to do. “We do not know Christ through the five physical senses, but we know Him through the sixth sense that God has given every man—which is the ability to believe” (ital., RCH, p. 146). Faith, then, to Graham, is a native something, latent in man and not, as Scripture has it, an exotic something, which he cannot have, “except it be given him from heaven” (Jn. 3:27). Man must also be basically good-hearted, for if he only had someone to explain God to him, he would put this “build-it-yourself” faith in God! But Scripture reminds, “All men have not faith” (II Thess. 3:2). Men do not have the power at all to believe, except it be given them from above (cf. Jn. 19:11 with Phil. 1:29). It is plain from Paul’s word to the Philippians and to the Thessalonians that God does not give this grace to all men. “For unto you (according to the context: you “in Christ,” in you whom He has begun a good work), unto you it is given to believe on Him. Yes, faith is a GIFT of God, not a gift like the stalks of grain left behind in Boaz’s field, which one must pick and choose for himself, but a gift like the manna, sovereignly and freely bestowed from heaven, not upon all, but upon whomsoever He will (Rom. 9:18).

It is evident that Graham thinks of faith first in the ordo salutis. He puts man and an act of man first in the scheme of salvation. “If we actually believe, then we will live” (p. 146), that is, “at that precise moment the Holy Spirit performs the miracle of the new birth” (p. 108). This is the erroneous teaching that faith precedes regeneration, whereas Scripture teaches that as many as believe (present tense) were born (past, passive) of God, i.e., sometime prior to their believing on and receiving of Christ (Jn. 1:12, 13). So being born again, born from above, born of the Spirit must be prior to, because necessary to, believing (3:3, 5, 6, 12). Further, he that believes (pres.) has passed (pf.) out of death into life (5:24). What Jesus said there is not that he who believes thus passes into life; that one must believe to get to life, but that the believing is the effect of having passed out of death into life. The spiritually dead do not believe (5:38), will not believe (Lk. 22:67), and cannot believe (Jn. 12:39). Therefore, the dead must be made alive and be born again of (out of, signifying origin) incorruptible seed, by through, signifying mode) the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever (I Pet. 1:23). What is meant here is not that faith and the ingrafted Word are first before the new birth, but that the new birth is first before either. It is the new creature which believes (II Cor. 5:17), and not the natural man in order to become a new creature. Faith comes out of grace, not out of nature (Acts 18:27).

When, then, we have a divine work like “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” we do not have a helpless invitation, but a word with effectual power, like “Let there be light!” or “Lazarus, come forth!” When God speaks this word in the heart (not merely in the ears) the result intended follows and another elect sinner believes to the saving of the soul (Acts 16:31: Heb. 10:39). This is solid Scripture. Grahamism is poison.

1Rev. Robt. Dunzweiler in “Billy Graham—A Critique”. Faith Theol. Sem., P.O. Box 7174, Elkins Park, Phila. 17, Pa., 10c, (p. 15)
2ibid., p. 37.
3”Cooperation in Evangelism,” by John Murray, Bible Truth Depot, Swengel, Pa., (p. 24).
4”A Ministry of Disobedience,” Christian Beacon Press. Collingwood, N. J. 35c, (p. 20).
5ibid., pp. 29, 37.
6ibid., p. 68.
7ibid., p. 38.
8ibid., C. McIntire. (p. 53).
9ibid., p. 54.
10ibid., p. 40.
11”Peace with God” by Billy Graham. Doubleday, Garden City, N. Y. 1953.
12ibid., (preface).
13”Christianity and Liberalism” J. Gresham Machen, Macmillan, 1923, p. 1, 2.
14Westminster L. C., A. 25, S. C., A. 18