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The Tragedy of Compromise

by Ernest Pickering

Broadening the Sawdust Trail

The Disease Spreads Overseas

Attention has already been drawn to the International Congress on World Evangelization held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974. Roman Catholic participants were prominent, including Benjamin Tonna, the Coordinator of Evangelism for the Vatican. The Lausanne Covenant which emerged from that gathering was doctrinally weak; part of the reason is that the Congress thought matters such as baptismal regeneration and speaking in tongues too controversial to address.

The crusade in Manila, Philippines, in 1977 was sponsored in part by the National Council of Churches of the Philippines. Graham also commented that "we have received marvelous support from the Catholic Church."21 In that same year Graham held a crusade in Budapest, Hungary, a Communist country, where Graham lauded the religious freedom he found. No word was spoken of the believers who were suffering under the iron fist of communism. The leaders of the campaign were compromising ecumenicalists who worked hand-in-glove with the Communist regime. At least one was a member of the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches.

Graham has helped to give credibility to the growing charismatic movement worldwide. In one interview he was asked to evaluate the charismatic movement. He declared that "it has made a great impact on virtually all denominations. It also has brought together in a new way many Christians from various backgrounds and persuasions . . . . By and large, it has been a positive force in the lives of many people."22

The year 1984 saw the Graham team in Great Britain in an effort called "Mission England." This campaign contained the usual mishmash of assorted religious figures. Bishop Hugh Montefiore, bishop of Birmingham, supported the Graham crusade, writing and speaking glowingly of its leader. This is none other than the same bishop who the year previous had expressed the view that persons could be saved apart from Christianity. He also declared that Jews could be saved without Christ and would not go to hell.23 A goodly number of the supporters were connected with the Church of England, which believes, among other things, in the baptismal regeneration of infants. Liberal religious leaders such as Archbishop Robert Runcie and Bishop John Baker commended the evangelist and his work. Yes, large numbers "came forward," but to what did they come? Maurice Rowlandson, who had worked with Graham many times in England, offered this insight: "You might be surprised to see the lightheartedness of those who walk forward. They have no background; they know virtually nothing about the gospel. In fact, some of them simply want to touch the football turf."24

In 1985 Billy returned again to the scene of his early evangelistic ministry—Los Angeles. His crusade there was sponsored by more than two thousand churches. Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame was one. Charles Swindoll of the First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton was another.

The compromising method of evangelism espoused by Billy Graham has been spread to the ends of the earth through various conferences which have been sponsored in whole or in part by the Graham organization. For instance, in July 1986, eight thousand evangelists and Christian workers met in Amsterdam in what was billed as the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists. Many of the participants came at the expense of the Graham organization. Most of the denominations were represented including Roman Catholics and members of the Orthodox churches. "At a news conference, Graham said that despite disagreements about methods or aspects of the message, evangelism is about the only word we can unite on. Agreeing on the need to spread the gospel, he said, means an 'ecumenicity' that you cannot get under any other umbrella. He also recalled his own attendance at most assemblies of the World Council of Churches, and estimated that a 'majority' of participants have come from WCC denominations."25

There is a great fallacy here. The promotion of evangelism does not give one the right to disobey the clear commands of Scripture. "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph. 5:11). We are commanded to "turn away" from those who propagate false doctrine (II Tim. 3:5). Many of the leaders and participants in Billy Graham crusades are producing "works of darkness." They are "false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ" (II Cor. 11:13). They are to be rebuked and shunned, not lauded and embraced.

Skirting the Issues in Russia

Prior to the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, Billy Graham spoke in that country on several occasions. His actions and words displayed an alarming lack of understanding for the true situation in that land. As an example, in his 1982 visit Graham warmly embraced Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk, head of the international department of the state-controlled Russian Orthodox church. Remember that such persons were in power by the permission of Communist authorities and were obligated to cooperate fully with their atheistic leaders. While he was preaching in the Moscow Baptist Church, a young woman unfurled a banner which read, "We have more than 150 prisoners for the work of the gospel." Graham ignored it. When asked about it later he said that even in the United States people are arrested for causing disturbances. Commenting further, he declared, "There are many differences in religion here and in the way it is practiced in the United States. But that does not mean there is no religious freedom in the Soviet Union."26 At the moment he was speaking those words, hundreds of courageous Christians were in Soviet concentration camps because of their loyalty to Jesus Christ and the gospel. This writer has fellowshipped with many of them since the fall of communism. What a blow it was to them to hear reports that the world's leading evangelist declared that there was religious freedom in Russia! We must give Time magazine, no bastion of fundamentalism, credit for its insightful remarks:

Yet, throughout the week, Graham seemed oblivious to the precarious role of religion in a country that endorses scientific atheism and outlaws public evangelism. It is a country where only the officially-sanctioned Russian Orthodox church is permitted to exist in relative peace, where Protestant groups are tolerated only if they accept government restrictions and are harassed if they do not. The Baptists who heard Graham's gospel can hold worship services, but they cannot preach the Word of God in public or bring up their children with religious instruction.27

The Baptists here described, by the way, were of the "registered churches," those who had agreed to obey the demands of their Communist overlords. They were restricted, but their more courageous brethren, the "unregistered churches," were even more restricted. They were not allowed to own church buildings, had to meet in secret places, and were stripped of their finest leaders, who were packed off to concentration camps.

As a supposedly mature Christian leader, Graham should have demonstrated far more discernment and courage than was evident. Again, for the sake of so-called open doors, he compromised. M. Stanton Evans was correct when he stated that "Graham's trip was a mindless, stunning propaganda triumph for the Soviets."28

A few years later the evangelist was invited to take part in marking a thousand years of "Christianity" in the Soviet Union (assuming one can call the formalistic, liturgical Orthodox church a part of Christianity). The Russian church traces its roots back to 988 when Prince Vladmir had the people of Kievan Rus (later called Russia) baptized in the Dnieper River near Kiev. Graham's participation included preaching in Orthodox cathedrals. Of course he said nothing to contradict the false teaching of that ancient church. He declared rather, "I am deeply honored to join with you at this historic and joyous occasion commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the baptism of Russia, occasioned by the baptism of Kievan Prince Vladmir." He also remarked, "This occasion of the millennium of the baptism of Russia reminds all of us who are believers in Christ that the things which unite us are far more important than the things which tend to isolate us."29

It was an improbable scenario: an American clergyman preaching an evangelistic sermon in the Soviet Union amid the trappings of a staid Russian Orthodox Cathedral, a bearded prelate in golden robes and mitre standing approvingly at his side; and Soviet government officials, and liberal Protestant leaders of the World Council of Churches sprinkled among the thousands fortunate enough to be shoehorned inside. It happened during last month's millennial celebration of the Russian Orthodox Church . . . . The event, featuring evangelist Billy Graham at Saint Vladmir Cathedral in Kiev, capsulized some of the dramatic changes apparently taking place . . . in the church.30

Not one word of denunciation for the apostate practices of the host church! No Jeremiah-like rebukes of the obvious departure from the Word of God. No courageous exposure of the "scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites," such as came from the lips of our Lord (e.g., Matt. 23:13-14). There were "positive" statements, innocuous utterances that would soothe and not convict.

When asked what kind of religious freedoms the Soviet citizens had, Graham replied, "Some groups get extremely fanatical and they do things they think are right when actually they are breaking Soviet law and they get into trouble. But you can go to church. They're building seven new Baptist churches in Moscow."31 What Graham failed to say was that these churches were being built only by those compromising Baptists who succumbed to Communist pressure and cooperated with the pagan government. Baptists who refused to compromise their convictions were mercilessly hounded, imprisoned, and killed. When the early apostles were threatened by religious and political authorities and told that they could not preach the gospel, they replied, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). There is a higher law than Soviet law (or that of any other government). It is the law of God, and it is to that law we must adhere even when to do so brings us in conflict with governmental authorities.


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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