Billy Graham has long been heralded as Evangelicalism’s greatest preacher in modern history and is nearly canonized as a saint by Evangelicals of all types. Yet, despite his popularity, charity, and seemingly moral character, his theology was grossly unbiblical reaching the point of rank heresy at times. This is why Billy Graham makes #28 in our False Teacher of the Day series.
Billy Graham no doubt had some great moments of preaching throughout his career and his crusades garnered, at times, hundreds of thousands of people. Many true believers owe their conversion to Graham’s preaching. Of course, it would better be said that they owe their conversion to God who, despite Graham’s serious errors, used Graham’s preaching to convert them. There is no doubt about that–at times, he did appear to faithfully preach Christ and Him crucified.
But it’s those other times–when he actually denied Christ and the resurrection–that places Graham into the camp of false teacher.
Billy Graham was undoubtedly an ecumenicalist as he praised the pope as his “brother” and treated Roman Catholicism as a valid expression of the Christian faith.
“I think he’s with the Lord, because he believed,” Graham said of the pope. “He believed in the Cross. That was his focus throughout his ministry, the Cross, no matter if you were talking to him from a personal issue or an ethical problem, he felt that there was the answer to all of our problems, the cross, and the resurrection. And he was a strong believer.”
In the video below, Graham takes a similar approach to sound doctrine and says that you can also deny essential doctrines like the virgin birth and the resurrection and yet, somehow, in opposition to Jesus’ own words, can still be “true believers.”
“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.” –1 John 2:22
To make matters worse, Billy Graham not only affirmed Roman Catholics as valid Christian brothers and sisters and denied the importance of the resurrection and virgin birth, but during an interview with the Universalist, Robert Schuller, Graham denies the exclusivity of Christ and even states that those who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ can be saved as long as they are turning to “only light that they have.” In other words, you can worship a false god and still be saved, according to Graham.
Despite Graham’s good moments in his career, it is pertinent that he not be held up as a faithful minister of God’s word. He was not. The Scriptures teach that even the worst haters of God masquerade as faithful ministers, but are still ravenous wolves (2 Corinthians 11:14). We can’t know for sure what Graham’s true intentions were when he denied certain essential doctrines of the faith, but we certainly know that the enemy used Graham’s reputation as an “angel of light” to spread false doctrine and heresy–and still does to this day.