Tragedy of Compromise
the Sawdust Trail
Principles Versus Ecumenical Evangelism
are several principles of Scripture which serve to sit in
judgment on the operational philosophy of ecumenical evangelism.
We are not to fellowship with liberals in order to win them
with liberals is meant a cooperation with them in a religious
context for the purposes of achieving spiritual results.
"Put your warm arm of love around the liberal and perhaps
he will change." This is the approach of many. It is
not, however, the approach of God. God is first and foremost
concerned about the purity of the church. His holiness and
the holiness of His people must be preserved at all costs.
God is more concerned about holiness than He is about results.
God is not interested in successful evangelism which jeopardizes
the holy character of the church. "Be ye holy; for
I am holy" (I Pet. 1:16). Holiness involves separation
from all that is evil. Religious liberalism is evil; therefore,
holiness involves separation from it. After describing the
awful moral and spiritual degeneration of the last days,
especially noting the popularity of hypocritical religion,
Paul instructs the believer to "turn away" from
such (II Tim. 3:5). The Graham philosophy denies that we
should "turn away" (refuse them fellowship) but
offers a "better" plan—join with them in religious
Graham philosophy on this point was set many years ago when
he wrote a definitive article entitled "Fellowship
and Separation." He said, "There can be no escaping
the conclusion that the main stress of the New Testament
is upon fellowship rather than upon separation. The call
is not so much to come out as to come together."46
us analyze this succinct statement of Graham's approach
to this critical matter. It is true that the New Testament
has a great deal to say about fellowship. But it is fellowship
among born-again believers, not fellowship among believers
and unbelievers. Many of the religious leaders with whom
Graham fellowships are rank unbelievers. They reject many
of the cardinal doctrines of the Bible. Despite their claims
to be Christians, they are not Christians in the biblical
sense of that term. But Graham persists in perpetuating
the myth that they are Christians who simply have different
views on some matters. It is also true that the New Testament
teaches both fellowship and separation. The total number
of verses on fellowship may be greater in number (I have
not counted them) because the epistles of the New Testament
were written to be used in the assemblies of God's people
where that emphasis is needed. There is no lack of clear
teaching, however, on the subject of separation from that
which is evil. God, as always, has the proper balance in
We are not to honor false prophets as true Christian leaders.
have already been given of Graham's accolades for apostate
church leaders. Graham was an honored guest at the installation
of James Albert Pike as the Bishop Coadjutor of California
for the Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. Pike was
an unbeliever of the first magnitude, an open opponent of
precious biblical truths. When Billy first began to push
his ecumenical agenda in the 1957 New York crusade, he wrote
a letter in which he denied the truth of the criticisms
that were being leveled at the crusade, and said, "The
sponsoring committee are godly men who are seeking to reach
New York's vast population with the testimony of the risen
What kind of men were these "godly men" who served?
One of them was James Sutherland Bonnell, a leading liberal.
Attorney James Bennett, who courageously opposed Graham's
New York crusade and lost many friends because of his stand,
add more to the confusion, a friend of mine, who telephoned
the New York headquarters of the Billy Graham Crusade,
was told that they did not classify Dr. John Sutherland
Bonnell as a modernist. My friend was surprised because
he knew personally that Dr. Bonnell had refused in 1951
to sign a fundamental statement of faith submitted to
him by the Billy Graham organization in existence at
that time, and on March 23, 1954, he wrote an article
published in Look magazine, implying very plainly
that he did not believe several of the fundamental Gospel
doctrines, including the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus.48
can men promote the "testimony of a risen Christ"
when they do not even believe in a "risen Christ"?
did Paul handle false prophets who denied the faith? He
warned against those who "resist the truth," and
called them "men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning
the faith" (II Tim. 3:8). Never would Paul have considered
placing such men in positions of leadership in an evangelistic
campaign. They themselves needed to be evangelized and should
not be in charge of evangelizing others. They are lost souls
in desperate need of a Savior. Nor was the Old Testament
prophet Jeremiah flattering to the false prophets of the
day: "Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter
the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord . . . . I will visit upon
you the evil of your doings" (Jer. 23:1-2). Billy Graham
does not make pronouncements like that. For this reason
he is popular among the false prophets of the day.
We are not to disobey the Scriptures in order to win souls
modern evangelism seems based upon the premise that God
needs all the help He can get in getting people saved; so
if we must "fudge" a bit regarding scriptural
principles, we are certainly justified in doing so. The
end (the salvation of souls) justifies the means (cooperating
with unbelievers). Where in Scripture is this principle
years ago when a distinguished pastor, William Ashbrook,
and I were called to the West Coast to address gatherings
of pastors on the issue of Billy Graham's ecumenical crusades.
My friend arose to give his message. His first words were:
"The primary business of a Christian is not to win
souls." There were gasps and grunts. He waited a few
moments before uttering his second sentence. "The primary
business of a Christian is to do the will of God."
This is true. We are not saying, of course, that Christians
ought not to win souls. They must do it, however, within
the context of scriptural principles. When Peter and his
friends had toiled all the night and failed to catch any
fish, the Master Fisherman took charge. Peter, no slouch
as a fisherman himself, recognized that a Greater was in
the boat, and said, "Master . . . . at thy word I will let
down the net" (Luke 5:5). In other words, "In
accordance with your will, I will do my fishing." Many
fish were caught, and Christ informed them that in the future
they would "catch men" and not fish. To catch
men requires as much obedience to the Word of Christ as
did the task of catching fish. We must do our spiritual
fishing in obedience to the revealed principles of Christ.
Here is where ecumenical evangelism fails.
learned a hard lesson: You cannot substitute a good thing
for the best thing—total obedience to God. The first king
of Israel was specifically commanded by God to smite the
Amalekites, the heathen enemies of God and His people, and
to destroy them and all that they had (I Sam. 15:2-3). Ignoring
that command and taking matters into his own hands, Saul
spared a portion of the flocks and herds of the Amalekites.
When Samuel the prophet reappeared, he enquired whether
Saul had completely obeyed the Lord. He discovered that
he had not. Saul, however, had a ready defense of his disobedience.
He had disobeyed God's instructions about the animals of
Amalek so that he could obey God's instructions about the
required sacrifices. The animals he had spared were to be
used as sacrifices to God. At that point Samuel uttered
a monumental statement: "Hath the Lord as great delight
in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice
of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and
to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the
sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry"
(I Sam. 15:22-23).
Graham and his followers have justified their disobedience
to God's prohibitions of cooperation with the apostates
with the plea that they are winning souls to Christ and
that this overshadows all other considerations. This line
of reasoning, however, is obviously contrary to the principle
given by Samuel. Sacrifices were good, proper, and scriptural
when practiced in accordance with the will of God. When
practiced apart from the will of God, they were not acceptable.
So it is with evangelism. Evangelism is commanded in Scripture,
but so is obedience to God. We cannot evangelize while disobeying
The Tradedy of Compromise. ByErnest Pickering. ©1994. BJU Press.
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