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The Tragedy of Compromise

by Ernest Pickering

Broadening the Sawdust Trail


Holding Hands with the Pope

Graham's close relationship with the Roman Catholic Church has indeed been a puzzle to many. The Roman Church teaches salvation by baptism, the necessity of good works to earn heaven, the repetition of Christ's sacrifice upon the altars of the church, the impossibility of knowing that one is going to heaven, the necessity of venerating the virgin Mary, and countless other heresies. In spite of this, Graham, when ministering in Poland, preached in Roman Catholic churches and was received warmly by their leaders. One Roman Catholic leader hailed Graham as typical of evangelicals with whom the Catholic church can have "fruitful dialogue."40 The executive vice president of Belmont Abbey College, a Roman Catholic school that bestowed an honorary doctorate upon Billy Graham, gave his opinion of the evangelist's ministry: "Knowing the tremendous influence of Billy Graham among Protestants, and now the realization and acknowledgment among Catholics of his devout and sincere appeal to the teachings of Christ which he alone preaches, I would state that he could bring Catholics and Protestants together in a healthy ecumenical spirit . . . . Billy Graham is preaching a moral and evangelical theology most acceptable to Catholics."41

One would think that an evangelist, one specializing in the "evangel," the gospel, would call men away from worthless idols and systems of error into the light of New Testament truth. An evangelist is to point lost and groping men to the clear way of salvation. This way of salvation is not found within the Roman Catholic Church. Yet the evangelist continues to populate Catholic churches with his converts.

A confused Romanist [in the 1960s] wrote to Dr. Graham expressing his concern over the fact that "many of the old confidences are being shaken," and he asked the evangelist: "Where will it all stop?" Dr. Graham replied to him through the "Billy Graham Answers" column of the Chattanooga Free Press, and said, "Your church is going through turbulence which both lay and clergy forces are bringing about . . . .

"Practices of worship may change, but the sincerity of our devotion need not be altered . . . .

"Above all donít pull out of the church! Stay in, stay close to the Lord, and use these experiences as an opportunity to help your church be what God intends and what the world needs."42

Upon what scriptural ground can a gospel evangelist tell a believer in Christ to remain in an apostate church that denies the very truths he is trying to preach? How tragic! How heart-rending that a man who should know better would give such advice as this! "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter" (Isa. 5:20). If one who is seeking to lead men and women into the light cannot distinguish the light from the darkness, how confused his leadership will be!

Hear the testimony of one who took the advice of the evangelist to his own spiritual detriment. He was saved in the Graham crusade in New York City. He told the counselor who dealt with him that he belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. Only fourteen years old at the time, he listened intently to Dr. Graham as he gave instructions to those who had come forward at the conclusion of the service. They were told to go back to the church from which they had come. "Since Billy Graham sent me to the Catholic Church I was under the impression that this was the right church . . . . What did I gain from the Billy Graham Crusade? I gained about one year and a half in darkness and ignorance of the Bible because Billy Graham sent me to the Catholic Church."43

Opening Arms to the Liberals

The policy of referring converts to liberal churches was defended by W. R. White who was then President of Baylor University in Texas. He declared it to be a healthy practice because "new converts with a genuine experience of grace are planted in those liberal churches as a New Testament witness . . . . Furthermore, Christ, Paul, and all the great evangelists followed a similar pattern."44 To read such a false statement as this from a Christian leader is breathtaking. How could a Baptist preacher, professing to believe in the Baptist distinctive of regenerate church membership, ever for one moment defend the practice of sending converts to churches that do not practice regenerate church membership? One does not join a church in order to evangelize its members. One joins a church in order to worship God with other true believers, to be taught the correct doctrines of Scripture, and then to go forth to evangelize the lost.

Time has taken its toll. In the early days of Graham's compromises, there was considerable opposition among fundamentalists and even those who had been his closest friends. Now, however, vocal and public opposition to him has decreased to a mere murmur. Even those who state that they do not agree with him nevertheless tend to keep silent on the issue for fear of disturbing their congregations or being thought of as "fighting fundamentalists." "They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace" (Jer. 6:14). But peace cannot be purchased at the price of the compromise of truth. It is too high a price to pay.

The question naturally arises: "If Graham is not a liberal himself, why do liberals support his crusades?" One obvious reason is the fact that Graham does not denounce liberalism as most of the old-time evangelists did. He steadfastly refuses to expose the errors of the apostates but rather applauds them and honors them as worthy spiritual guides. Possibly one of the most succinct answers to our question was given by a leading British liberal, Leslie Weatherhead, who was at the time pastor of City Temple in London, England.

I do not personally agree with some of Billy Graham's theology . . . but I certainly accept the value of Billy Graham's witness and I note two things about him. He does not thrust his theological views on another person, and secondly, though in all denominations Ministers have published criticisms of him, he has never once, to my knowledge, lifted his voice or pen to tell us that in his nostrils our theology stinks . . . . I should have thought that any Minister who preaches to small congregations might rejoice that Billy Graham is helping to fill our churches for us. We can teach people theology when we have got somebody to teach.45

In essence he is saying, "Billy Graham can get people into my church with his evangelical theology, and then I will proceed to teach them my liberal theology." A great tradeoff, is it not? Liberal theology is so bereft of power it cannot fill churches; so it will feed off the evangelical theology that does fill churches.

This same spirit of compromise initiated and promoted by Billy Graham now is pervasive among evangelical churches everywhere. Do whatever you must do to get crowds, to fill the churches. It is religious pragmatism run amuck. It is the "theology of the convenient."

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:

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