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The Tragedy of Compromise

by Ernest Pickering

Broadening the Sawdust Trail

The participation of outright liberals in a great campaign such as this was a first in American evangelism. They were prominent on the platform and many of them offered prayer at different sessions of the crusade. Their churches received hundreds of decision cards. Marble Collegiate Church, pastored by Norman Vincent Peale, whom few would claim to be a fundamentalist or Bible-preaching minister, received the most decision cards of any New York church.12

Bad Winds by the Golden Gate

The next crusade in San Francisco continued the trend established in New York. Members of the General Crusade Committee were such persons as Lowell Berry, a member of the trustee board of Pacific School of Religion, where at that time a practicing Jew was a member of the faculty; Fred Parr, a member of the board of the same institution; and Mrs. William Lister Rogers, originator of the infamous "Festival of Faith" held in the Cow Palace in 1955 with participants from six faiths—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Confucian. At the opening banquet for the crusade, Graham was introduced by Sandford Fleming, former president of the Northern California Council of Churches, and for years president of the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, an institution famous for its opposition to biblical truth.

A Continuing Downward Spiral

In 1961 Graham offered his opinion on the subject of infant baptism. In a Lutheran publication the following comments from Graham appeared: "I still have some personal problems in this matter of infant baptism, but, all of my children, with the exception of the youngest, were baptized as infants . . . I do believe that something happens at the baptism of an infant. We cannot fully understand the mysteries of God, but I believe a miracle can happen in these children so that they are regenerated, that is, made Christian, through infant baptism."13

At the tenth annual convention of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship in Seattle in 1962, Graham was a featured speaker. He has continued to widen his fellowship with Pentecostals and Charismatics through the years. In that same year he held an ecumenical crusade in Chicago. Strong Bible-believing pastors and churches in that area opposed the crusade, but Graham went ahead full steam. Among the leaders were Charles Crowe, pastor of First Methodist Church of Wilmette, a liberal; August Hintz, a liberal Baptist and pastor of the North Shore Baptist Church; and H. S. Chandler, executive vice president of the Church Federation of Greater Chicago. Alan Redpath, then pastor of the Moody Church, addressed the pastor's breakfast and supported the crusade.

The left-wing liberal Methodist bishop, Gerald Kennedy, was chairman of Graham's Los Angeles crusade in 1963. This is the Kennedy who wrote, "I believe the testimony of the New Testament, taken as a whole, is against the doctrine of the deity of Jesus although I think it bears overwhelming witness to the divinity of Jesus."14 Such a man hardly seems qualified to be involved in an evangelistic campaign.

In that same year Graham, in his crusade in Uruguay, featured the pastor of the First Methodist Church of Montevideo as the vice president of the campaign. This man had openly espoused evolutionary views and was reported as saying that the god of the Buddhists was the same as our God, though we approach Him differently.15

As he moved along in his ecumenical pathway, Graham moved closer and closer to both the National Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. He was the featured speaker at the National Council meeting in Miami, Florida, December 4-9, 1966. In his remarks he stated, "I am honored and privileged to be here to participate with you...in finding answers to some of the great problems that are faced in the field of evangelism today."16 Just what great insights into evangelistic strategy would be provided by men who themselves were not even born again is truly an unsolved mystery. It was only a couple of years later that Graham was honored with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina, a Roman Catholic school. The evangelist had found bedfellows in the camps of both liberal Protestantism and apostate Roman Catholicism.

The United States Congress on Evangelism met in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the site of Graham's headquarters, September 8-13, 1969. Ninety-two denominations were represented. Two Roman Catholics appeared on the program. Ralph Abernathy, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Leighton Ford, noted evangelist, both talked about the need for Christians to be "revolutionaries." The music of the conference featured folk singers and "Christian rock" groups. Pat Boone and the Spurrlows sang as well. Abernathy challenged his hearers to be evangelists, to eradicate war, racism, and poverty. He called upon his hearers to urge the president to "put an end to this senseless Vietnam war; to call for admission of Red China into the United Nations;…to demand a more equal distribution of the wealth in a society where 90 percent of the wealth is controlled by 10 percent of the nation."17 What an evangelistic message this is! But Abernathy was not done. He declared, "We are all sons and daughters of the most high Lord—we are all brothers . . . . Take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the alleys and byways. Tell all of God's children, 'You are somebody; you are all worth something; you are God's children.'"18 If everyone is already a child of God, why have a Congress on Evangelism?

The New York Times applauded the new spirit of openness among fundamentalists who were now emerging from the isolation of many years. "Conservative leaders said that this emergence from the isolation of the past has been spurred by the success of Dr. Graham . . . . It is a 'new evangelical ecumenism.'"19

A considerable emphasis upon the Christian's obligation to be involved in social action was evident in the Minneapolis gathering. Harold Ockenga addressed the Congress and observed, "I think we evangelicals for a period, in a reaction against the social gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch, etc., reacted a little bit too far to the right of this and made ours a circle which was self-containing. And that struggle has lasted for several decades. But some time ago, there was an enunciation of what was called the New Evangelicalism."20 He went on to state that the New Evangelicalism restored balance to the message of the church, combining the note of personal salvation with the responsibility of social action. As is true with most of the persons who advance such contentions, he gave no scriptural authority for them. Where in the New Testament is there a command to the organized churches of Christ to engage in social reform? We fail to find any such command. It is an invention of the human mind rather than a declaration of the Almighty God.


The Tradedy of Compromise. ByErnest Pickering. ©1994. BJU Press. Reproduction prohibited. This work is available for purchase at the Bob Jones University Campus Store (phone: 1-800-252-1927; web address: www.bju.edu/store.)

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