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Billy Graham – on faith and the future of Christianity

February 1998

​Following the publication of Billy Graham’s autobiography, American ‘televangelist’ Robert Schuller interviewed Dr Graham on his ‘Hour of Power’ television show in May 1997. We reproduce below extracts from a verbatim transcript of that interview, in which Billy Graham answers questions on the subjects of faith and his message for today. We have made minimal comment and leave readers to draw their own conclusions. We have, however, interspersed quotations from Scripture which, we believe, demonstrate the unbiblical nature of Billy Graham’s views.

SCHULLER I have never been more proud of any guest I’ve had in the twenty-seven years of this television programme than I am to welcome as my guest this morning the man who will be remembered as the single most spiritual impacting force of the twentieth century. His name is Billy Graham. I first met Billy Graham nearly fifty years ago. I was a student at Hope College in Hollow, Michigan, a Christian college, and we invited a young minister who was about twenty-seven years old to come from his little church in Chicago and preach to us for three days and his name was Billy Graham, and he did something that I’d never heard before in my life. I grew up in a mainline Protestant church called the Reformed Church of America and we never had what the Baptists had, that’s altar calls at the end of the service, so it was a new experience for me and the rest of my life I want to lead people to a personal commitment accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord, their Saviour, their best friend and I learned that from experience. Billy, that was fifty years ago.

GRAHAM My, well I’m honoured to have been the spokesman for the Lord on that moment and Bob, God has honoured and used you in the most remarkable way to reach people that none of us could ever reach and we thank God for you.

SCHULLER Well, Billy, I remember being with you at the Lausanne Congress and then the congress of evangelism in Patiya [?] and again at Amsterdam and your face and voice is familiar to people in the cathedral. You’ve been here before but today I’m having you because I want all the people who watch the ‘Hour of Power’ to go to their bookstore and buy the book. It’s called Just as I am, The autobiography of Billy Graham. I have it, I have read most of it and it is a phenomenal story. If you don’t believe in God, read the book of Billy Graham and you can’t explain that kind of a life and a ministry without a sovereign God that was working in your life all those years.

SCRIPTURE ‘When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). ‘God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6:14).

SCHULLER Billy, I know the answer to the next question but a lot of people don’t, so I’m going to ask it. In all of your travels, in all of your encounters, all the challenges you’ve faced, how could you believe in Jesus Christ? How do you know he wasn’t a myth and do you believe in miracles and how can you believe in miracles? How have you handled all of the intelligent questions that sincere doubters have thrown at you and at me and we who try to promote the faith? How do you keep your faith?

GRAHAM Well, you know, faith is an extremely important word and there are many different definitions of faith. But I think that one of the things that I remember when I went to Bible school. There was an illustration that someone told, that I remembered, about the little boy that was out flying his kite and he had gotten the kite out of sight into a cloud, and someone came by and said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m flying a kite.’ ‘Well,’ they said, ‘we can’t see it.’ He said, ‘But I can feel the tug on the string; I know it’s up there.’ And I feel the tug in my heart and so I’ve gone by faith believing that God has done things and is doing things that I cannot explain. There are many things in the Bible I don’t understand … and there are many questions I would like to ask the Lord when I first see him.

SCRIPTURE ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen … By faith we understand …’ (Hebrews 11:1-3).

COMMENT We have no quarrel with the illustration, since faith is indeed ‘the evidence of things not seen’, but faith is also ‘the substance of things hoped for’. Biblical faith is not a feeling, ‘a tug in the heart’, but the faculty of spiritual discernment, the gift of God imparted by the Holy Spirit, by which we ‘know the things that are freely given to us by God’ (read 1 Corinthians 2:12-16).

SCHULLER Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?

GRAHAM Well, Christianity and being a true believer; you know I think there’s the body of Christ which comes from all the Christian groups around the world or outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ. And I don’t think that we’re going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. I think James answered that, the apostle James in the First Council in Jerusalem, when he said that God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for his name, and that’s what God is doing today. He’s calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world. They are members of the body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their heart that they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light that they have and I think that they are saved and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.

SCRIPTURE ‘The church … is his body’ (Ephesians 1:22-23). ‘There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (Ephesians 4:4-5).

COMMENT The body of Christ consists only of those who have been wrought upon by the Holy Spirit in regeneration, and have professed faith in Jesus Christ. Concerning Graham’s ‘universalist’ tendencies, see the further Scripture and comment below.

SCHULLER What I hear you saying [is] that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into a human heart and soul and life even if they’ve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’re saying?

GRAHAM Yes it is because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts of the world, in travel situations that they had never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible and never heard of Jesus, but they believed in their heart that there was a God and they tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.

SCHULLER This is fantastic, I’m so thrilled to hear you say that. There is a wideness in God’s mercy.

GRAHAM There is, there definitely is.

SCRIPTURE ‘There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Timothy 2:5). ‘Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). ‘If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved … How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?’ (Romans 10:9-14).

COMMENT Billy Graham’s ‘pagan saint’ idea makes nonsense of Paul’s argument in Romans, since it claims that salvation requires men neither to believe on Christ nor to believe that God raised him from the dead. Paul’s rhetorical question, ‘How shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard?’ is also misconceived since, if Graham is right, it is unnecessary for men to hear about Christ.

SCHULLER Billy, if you look into the future what challenges would you throw out to Christians or to pastors, thousands of pastors and hundreds of rabbis and they tell me over a million Muslims a week watch this programme. What challenge would you have to these listeners. This is your platform, you started the ‘Hour of Power’, you got me into this, now have the last word. Give them a message, right from your heart.

GRAHAM Well, the message is that God loves you whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your religious background, God loves you. He wants to come into your heart and change the direction of your life and give you a peace and a joy that you’ve never had before. And he will do that today if you will make that commitment to him.

SCRIPTURE ‘We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

COMMENT Invited to offer a specific message, which will be the ‘last word’ to millions of listeners from all backgrounds, Billy Graham does not mention Jesus Christ or the uniqueness of the gospel of Christ. He seems content to take the ‘lowest common denominator’ approach to religion and assert merely that God loves everyone. The Scriptures teach that those who do not believe in Christ are lost and under ‘the wrath of God’ (John 3:36).

SCHULLER Billy, my mentor was Norman Vincent Peel and a great teacher to me was a man named Archbishop Fulton Sheen [Roman Catholic], very dear friends, and we have a school of preaching here on the Crystal Cathedral campus. It’s called the [name unclear] School of Communications, and we are trying to teach young people how to communicate with their heart, their face, their eyes, their voice, their mind. You knew Fulton Sheen, you knew Norman Peel. Your comments on both of these men?

GRAHAM I think that the primary way of communicating is to live the life, let people see that you are living what you proclaim and I think both of them lived it and I knew both of them, as you did, and loved them both. And I have in my book a story of how Fulton Sheen came to my apartment on a train once and we had two or three hours together and when I went to his funeral they took me right up to the place of burial and I felt I had lost a very dear friend. And since that time the whole relationship between me and my work, and you and your work, and the Roman Catholic Church has changed. They open their arms and welcome us and we have the support of the Catholic Church almost everywhere we go and I think that we must come to the place where we keep our eyes on Jesus Christ and not on what denomination or what church or what group we belong to.

SCRIPTURE ‘I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes’ (Romans 10:2-4).

COMMENT The above Scripture was written of the Jews, but is applicable to Roman Catholicism and all other ‘works’ religions.