Tragedy of Compromise
the Sawdust Trail .
compromises of Billy Graham have had a widespread and devastating
impact. His fingerprints are very evident upon the New Evangelical
movement. The principles he has espoused throughout most
of his ministry are now accepted by large numbers of evangelicals.
The Broad Way
spirit of openness and broadness now seen in so much of
evangelicalism was initially fostered by Graham. It was
he who began reaching out to the liberals years ago when
many Bible-believers opposed it. In explaining his broader
position, he seems to suggest that he is exempt from the
biblical standards which others follow. "My position
as a 'proclaimer of the gospel' is entirely different than
if I were the president of a Bible school or the pastor
of a church or a professor of theology. While holding a
firm theological position, yet in the proclamation of the
gospel there is flexibility of fellowship."32
But does God allow a wider scope of fellowship for an evangelist
than he does for other believers? Where is this principle
found in Scripture? Can he fellowship with the National
Council of Churches crowd while faithful pastors, seeking
to maintain the purity of their churches, refuse to do so?
Does God have a double standard?
we have seen that this evangelist is loathe to condemn false
religious systems and their teachers. Never does he expose
the apostasy of such groups as the National and World Council
of Churches. Scripture, however, exhorts faithful ministers
of God to openly combat teachers of error, and to "rebuke
them sharply" (Titus 1:13). Paul was bold to identify
by name Hymenaeus and Alexander, who had made shipwreck
of the faith (I Tim. 1:20). Even the "apostle of love,"
John, identified the proud braggart, Diotrophes, and condemned
his actions (III John 9). There is no special virtue in
just being "positive." There are negative aspects
of truth as well, and these must also be presented.
the efforts of Billy Graham, many feel that religious liberalism
is no longer the monstrous foe that our forefathers thought
it to be. The early fundamentalists waged battle against
modernism (liberalism) and gave no quarter. Today we are
told that these liberals really are not so bad. From where
did this idea arise among those who claim to follow the
Bible? It arose from Billy Graham's crusades, where liberals
and fundamentalists mixed readily. "The professing
Church can no longer be divided into two camps: modernism . . . and
fundamentalism . . . . For the gigantic evangelistic impact spearheaded
by Billy Graham has broken this division down, and has engendered
Younger pastors and Christian leaders, holding Graham up
as a model, have little fear to broaden their fellowship.
David Fisher, pastor of the Crystal Free Church in a suburb
of Minneapolis, said, "We’re living out the dream of
Billy Graham, and others who modeled the kind of thing we
do. They lowered the barriers and reached out."34
The same article declares, "In many ways the changing
mood is a tribute to the ecumenical efforts of evangelist
Billy Graham, who decided more than 30 years ago never to
do a crusade in a city without agreement of the local clergy."35
a doubt Graham has done much to build the ecumenical church
and to give it prestige.
often-cited example of effective "local ecumenism"
is the crusade-style ministry of Billy Graham. Since
the 1950s, the Baptist evangelist's frequent crusades
have brought together local clergy from various denominations—some
with little experience or interest in traditional ecumenism—who
begin working weeks in advance to promote the event.
Though Graham may not intend to be, observes Richard
Mouw, provost at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena,
California, he is "probably the most important
ecumenical figure alive."36
Ward Ayer, famous radio preacher and longtime pastor of
the large Calvary Baptist Church of New York City, long
ago observed that Graham's ecumenical evangelism was aiding
the ecumenical movement.
is sad to see many of our brilliant minds so deeply
deceived by the enemy. Liberalism has changed its nomenclature
but not its nature, and some of our enthusiastic and
blithesome theologians feel they can bridge the chasm
between redemptive Christianity and non-redemptive religion
by friendly and amiable cooperation. But the chasm is
unbridgeable—it is a "great gulf fixed." The
flimsy structure this group is building will prove a
trap for millions who attempt the crossing; for on one
side is the Church, the Bride of Christ, and on the
other, the "Coming Great Church" of your editorial,
which . . . in reality is the harlot church, and these two
can never be joined.37
for William Ward Ayer! Would there were more courageous
servants like him today.
aside "peripheral" doctrinal differences—this
is the message sent by Graham to impressionable young leaders
of the church. For this reason he tries to walk the middle
line on difficult and disputed doctrines. Even his friend,
Carl Henry, observed, "His books tend to gloss over
doctrinal divisions within evangelical circles."38
The truth is, Billy Graham wants everyone for his friend.
He does not wish to offend the liberal, the charismatic,
or the Catholic. He wants to be on all sides of a question
at the same time. But the prophet of God cannot take such
a stance. When God gave Jeremiah his commission, He told
him he was to "root out, and to pull down, and to destroy,
and to throw down, to build, and to plant" (Jer. 1:10).
Here were four negatives and two positives. Error must be
demolished and thorn-covered ground cleared before progress
can be made on a building of truth. Destruction of the wrong
must precede the erection of the right. One cannot say,
as Graham did, when asked for his appraisal of the charismatic
movement, "I think the charismatic movement has been
used of God in many areas of the world, for example, Sweden.39
How can one say that a movement which is theologically in
error is being greatly used of God? Does God employ erroneous
theology to achieve His purposes?
The Tradedy of Compromise. ByErnest Pickering. ©1994. BJU Press.
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