By: David Cloud
By: David Cloud
Some of my readers have asked if I have personally warned Billy Graham about his disobedience. The answer is no, I have not. I have no means of doing so. All of Graham’s correspondence is filtered through his massive organization. I do not have the ear of Billy Graham. I don’t need to warn Graham, though. This has been done repeatedly by men who have had the opportunity to do so. We need to state emphatically that Dr. Billy Graham has been warned many times for his disobedience to God’s Word. In the early days of his compromise, Graham was warned repeatedly by prominent Christian leaders such as Bob Jones, Sr., John R. Rice, Robert Shuler (Not to be confused with “positive thinking” preacher Robert H.Schuller), G. Archer Weniger, James Bennet, Carl McIntire, Bryce Augsburger, Charles Woodbridge, and Robert Ketcham.
IT MUST BE REMEMBERED THAT BILLY GRAHAM IDENTIFIED HIMSELF AS A FUNDAMENTALIST WHEN HE BEGAN PREACHING. He attended the fundamentalist Bob Jones College (later named Bob Jones University) and counted himself one of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.’s preacher boys. Graham associate Cliff Barrows was a Bob Jones graduate. Graham interviewed Dr. Bob Jones, Jr., on his Hour of Decision radio broadcast in December 1951, and concluded by saying:
“It’s wonderful in these days of secular and materialistic education to see a great University that stands for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not only old-fashioned Americanism that we so desperately need today, but is injecting into our society your men and women that take their stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (Billy Graham, radio broadcast, Bob Jones University, Dec. 1951).
Graham, who has been called “Mr. Facing Two Ways,” was already moving in a completely different direction from Bob Jones even as he was uttering this effusive praise. Graham was also on the Cooperating Board of John Rice’s The Sword of the Lord. From December 1947 to 1952, Graham was also president of Northwestern Schools (founded by famous Fundamentalist leader William Bell Riley) and was editor of that school’s Fundamentalist publication, The Pilot, the masthead of which boldly proclaimed a “militant stand against Modernism in every form.” During his early years, Graham was awarded honorary doctorates from Northwestern and Bob Jones.
Consider some of the men who personally pleaded with Graham to turn from his unscriptural path:
JAMES BENNET was a prominent New York attorney and Bible teacher who knew Graham from the time he graduated from Wheaton. He encouraged Graham during the early years of his ministry, but when Graham began openly yoking together with Modernists and Catholics, Bennet attempted to turn him from this error. He met with Graham in New York City before the 1954 crusade and pleaded with him not to proceed with his ecumenical plans. When Graham refused to obey the Word of God, Bennet resigned from the campaign invitation committee and wrote a public warning about the direction Graham was pursuing (James E. Bennet, The Billy Graham New York Crusade: Why I Cannot Support It, A Ministry of Disobedience, Collingswood, NJ: Christian Beacon Press, May-September 1957).
Thus James Bennet lovingly warned Billy Graham.
DR. JOHN R. RICE, editor of the influential Sword of the Lord weekly Fundamental Baptist paper, also supported Graham during his early years. In fact, Graham was on the Cooperating Board of the Sword. Dr. Rice was a very loving and gracious Christian gentleman, and he pleaded with the young Billy Graham to turn from his ecumenical adventures. In her biography of John Rice, Viola Walden, who was Rice’s faithful secretary for 46 years, testified that Dr. Rice greatly loved Graham and repeatedly tried to reason with him (Walden, John R. Rice, pp. 164-167). Graham and Rice met in Scotland in 1955, and Graham assured the elder evangelist:
“I have promised God I will never have on my committee working in an active way in any of my campaigns men who do not believe in the virgin birth of Christ, who do not believe in the blood atonement of Jesus Christ, who do not believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible–these men will never be on my committee. I have promised God” (Graham, cited by Pastor Roland Rasmussen, Reasons Why I Cannot Support Billy Graham, chapel message delivered at Bob Jones University, Feb. 15, 1966).
As it became obvious that Graham was not following his own counsel but was pursuing the ecumenical course, Rice met with him again and urged him to obey the Bible: “I visited Dr. Graham in his own home in Montreat, North Carolina, by his invitation, and we talked earnestly on such matters” (John Rice, Sword of the Lord, June 20, 1958).
Graham, of course, did not listen, and John Rice publicly disassociated himself and the Sword from the young evangelist in 1957. Viola Walden notes that far from having a mean attitude toward Graham, Dr. Rice “prayed regularly [for Graham] even long after denouncing his compromise” and “rejoiced over the many saved in Dr. Graham’s crusades” (pp. 166,167).
Thus Dr. John Rice lovingly warned Billy Graham.
DR. BOB JONES, SR., first met Billy Graham when the elder evangelist came to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a gospel meeting during Graham’s senior year in high school. Billy’s father, Frank, was impressed with Jones and wanted his son to attend Bob Jones College in Tennessee. (The school moved to Greensville, South Carolina, in 1946, and the name was changed to Bob Jones University). Billy did attend Bob Jones the fall after he graduated from high school (1936), but he did not fit in well with the strict atmosphere of discipline and he soon moved on to the Florida Bible Institute and then to Wheaton in 1940 (from whence he graduated–with a degree in anthropology!). Dr. Bob Jones supported Graham during his early years, and Graham even wrote to Jones to say that he got his evangelistic burden at Bob Jones College and he wanted to be called one of Dr. Jones’s “preacher boys” (Bob Jones, Sr., letter to a supporter, March 6, 1957). As Graham began to launch out on his career of yoking together with false teachers, Dr. Jones corresponded with him and reproved him for his compromise. At first, Graham claimed that he had no intention of working with Modernists or Catholics. On June 3, 1952, Graham told Jones, “The modernists do not support us anywhere.” It was not long, though, before Graham openly practiced what he privately denied. His 1957 New York Crusade included 120 Modernists on the committee.
Thus Dr. Bob Jones lovingly warned Billy Graham.
DR. CHARLES WOODBRIDGE was another prominent Christian leader who attempted to correct Billy Graham. Woodbridge had been a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and a member of the National Association of Evangelicals, before he rejected the New Evangelicalism that was taking over in that day and separated himself from this false philosophy. Woodbridge was a highly educated Presbyterian, with an MA from Princeton, a Ph.D. from Duke, and further studies at Berlin and Marburg Universities in Germany and the Sorbonne in Paris. In his classic book The New Evangelicalism, Woodbridge relates a visit that Graham made to his home in 1958:
“Dr. Graham came to my home in Altadena, California, in 1958 to chat with me about these things. We talked for two hours. I pointed out to him Romans 16:17. I did my best to persuade him to come out from among unbelievers, so far as the conduct of his campaigns was concerned. But to no avail” (Woodbridge, The New Evangelicalism, 1970, p. 44).
Thus Dr. Woodbridge lovingly warned Billy Graham.
JACK WYRTZEN, founder of Word of Life, also warned Graham. The following testimony is from a pastor who witnessed one of the meetings in which Fundamentalist leaders tried to correct Billy Graham:
“In 1957, I sat in a meeting where Jack Wyrtzen and Dr. Woodbridge spoke face to face with Billy Graham about his compromise and the direction he was heading away from Fundamentalism. Billy Graham was at Word of Life Inn for two days of meetings near Schroon Lake, New York. That fall was the ‘great New York Crusade.’ It was following that meeting that both Dr. Woodbridge and Jack Wyrtzen stopped all support and fellowship with Billy Graham. Dr. Wyrtzen spoke to the staff of WOL regarding his reasons for pulling away from Graham. I was a young Christian at the time (saved at Word of Life on June 24, 1956, at 19 years of age.) It was the next year that Dr. Woodbridge broke fellowship with Dr. Graham for the same reasons” (E-mail dated Feb. 27, 1999, from Pastor Bob Welch, D.Min, Collegegate Baptist Church, Anchorage, Alaska).
Thus Jack Wyrtzen lovingly warned Billy Graham.
DR. ROBERT KETCHAM was the leader of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches in 1950 when he saw some news clippings stating that Graham was working with Jews and Catholics in his meetings and was turning decision cards over to Catholic parishes. Ketcham wrote immediately to Graham and asked if the reports were true. The reply from Graham’s executive secretary, Jerry Bevan, included the following:
‘For example, you asked if Billy Graham had invited Roman Catholics and Jews to cooperate in the evangelistic meetings. SUCH A THOUGHT, EVEN IF THE REPORTER DID SUGGEST IT AS HAVING COME FROM MR. GRAHAM, SEEMS RIDICULOUS TO ME. SURELY YOU MUST KNOW THAT IT IS NOT TRUE. … FURTHER, THAT YOU SHOULD GIVE ANY CREDENCE TO THE IDEA THAT MR. GRAHAM WOULD EVER TURN OVER ANY DECISION CARDS TO THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH SEEMS INCONCEIVABLE’ (John Ashbrook, New Neutralism II).
It was not long until Bevan’s reply was proven a deception. Graham was intent upon working with Modernistic and Catholic and Jewish leaders, and he was intending to turn decision cards over to the same. The point here, though, is that Dr. Ketcham approached Billy Graham directly about this matter.
Another Christian leader who warned Graham was the late WILSON EWIN, longtime missionary to Roman Catholic-dominated Quebec. Graham cannot say that Ewin did not understand Roman Catholicism or Catholic evangelism. Unlike Graham, who travels from place to place and preaches largely in formal, organized settings, then returns to the seclusion of his hotel suite, Ewin lived among Roman Catholics and worked with them as a pastor and evangelist day by day, month by month, decade after decade. He dedicated his book You Can Lead Roman Catholics to Christ to “the salvation of dear Roman Catholics whom I love and for whom our Saviour died and shed His Blood.”
“For twenty years, I have watched the crusades and ministry of Dr. Billy Graham. In fact, Ruth [Ewin’s wife] and I sang in the choir and were counselors in one of the Graham crusades. Many letters were written to Billy expressing grave concern about his illicit affair with the Roman Catholic system. I even visited his evangelistic headquarters in Minneapolis to alert the Graham Organization about its overt compromise with Roman Catholicism. Graham has indeed allowed the truth to fall into the street through his ecumenical ministry” (Wilson Ewin, prayer letter announcing his book The Assimilation of Evangelist Billy Graham into the Roman Catholic Church, January 1993).
Thus Wilson Ewin lovingly warned Billy Graham.
These are only a few of the men who attempted to reprove Graham for his error. Graham mentions these warnings in his biography.
“Much more painful to me, however, was the opposition from some of the leading fundamentalists. Most of them I knew personally, and even if I did not agree with them on every detail, I greatly admired them and respected their commitment to Christ. Many also had been among our strongest supporters in the early years of our public ministry. Their criticisms hurt immensely, nor could I shrug them off as the objections of people who rejected the basic tenets of the Christian faith or who opposed evangelism of any type” (Graham, Just As I Am, p. 302).
Graham also calls the criticism “harsh” and claims that the men who criticised him demonstrated “a lack of love,” but the disobedient always say that no matter how tender and loving the rebukes are. They always confuse correction with persecution. It is human nature to do that, and it raises a smokescreen to hide the real issues.
Reproof is never an easy thing to receive, and it always seems to be unloving to those who refuse to accept it. Further, one can always find some fault in the reprover, because he or she is also a sinner. Proverbs teaches that one’s attitude toward biblical reproof exposes the condition of the heart.
“He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth” (Prov. 10:17).
“The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getting understanding” (Prov. 16:32).
Billy Graham does not have a proper attitude toward biblical reproof. He has refused to turn from the path of disobedience, and he slanders those who have loved him and God’s Word enough to attempt to correct him.
Billy Graham was warned. He has had many opportunities to repent. Sadly, he has clung steadfastly to the course of disobedience to God’s Word, and no other man in this generation is more responsible than Billy Graham for breaking down the walls between truth and error.