ACCC's Statement on the Death of Billy Graham

Clearly Billy Graham had a great gospel influence. For this I am truly grateful. Just as clearly, he did some serious damage to the gospel with his ecumenical compromises. Are we only allowed to say one, and not the other? We are not talking about personal, private lapses of judgment. We are talking about carefully considered decisions that had far-reaching public consequences. Billy Graham gave endorsement and honor to the ones the Bible calls false teachers and antichrists.

Some of you are grieved that anyone would mention Graham’s lapses at the time of his death. I am grieved that a Bible believing Christian would be offended by someone pointing out the dangerous errors of a highly influential man. Were many converted to Christ under Graham’s ministry? Of course. We have some in our church. How could I not rejoice? Were many led astray by his un-biblical ecumenism? Yes, and that needs to be mentioned as well.

I am surprised that simply stating the serious disobedience of an international Christian leader would be considered offensive by anyone who considers himself a Fundamentalist. To do so is not, in my opinion, to stray from the original purpose of the Fundamentalist movement. It is the very heart of Fundamentalism, which is to publicly defend the fundamentals of the faith. Billy Graham failed to do so by his public endorsements of leading apostates. Can we only give him praise, and not couple this with Biblical warnings? That sounds more like the New Evangelical approach than Fundamentalism to me.

G. N. Barkman

Sing his praises now; ignore the warts until later? Point out all the issues now; low ball his accomplishments? Everybody has a different point of view. What should be said and when should it be said?

Scripture is your friend. In recording the history of peoples lives Scripture is not hesitant to accentuate the positive and the negative, almost in the same breath. II Kings 14:3-4 is a good example: “…And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places.” This inspired statement about Amaziah could almost describe Graham’s life.

Did he preach a good Gospel? Absolutely! I doubt many of us on this forum don’t have someone in our personal sphere whose salvation experience does not wind through a Billy Graham event at some point. Praise God for his faithfulness with the Gospel message.

Did he influence Christ’s church to include idolatry into its midst? Absolutely! Particularly Romanist idolatry, but also a good chunk of Universalist idolatry as was so aptly pointed out earlier. Should this be whitewashed? Christ evidently didn’t think so as evidenced by His message to the Church at Thyatira—“…unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write…I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols (Rev. 2:18 FF).”

Did he control his zipper and keep his hand out of the cookie jar in an era that was known for immorality and financial chicanery? Absolutely! And that is beyond commendable.

Does that determine him to be “…a man after God’s own heart…” in a similar manner to David? Hardly! We all know David had his zipper issues, but was still considered the human epitome of being “after God’s own heart” (most likely because of his abhorrence of all forms of idolatry).

Point being Scripture doesn’t seem hesitant to commend and hold accountable in practically the same breath. I fail to see what all the fuss is about in simply following Scripture precedent by referencing that which was “right in the sight of the LORD about one of our national heroes while also reminding ourselves and subsequent generations of their biblical failings that have and will continue to have untold negative impact on the cause of Christ for decades to come. Our culture likes warm and fuzzy feelings; Scripture is more about grace and truth. I think that by carefully observing Scripture we can balance grace and truth even in the grieving process for a highly regarded, influential man such as Billy Graham.


Well said. When we examine our own lives we can see the same. I do think it is some what ironic that those who criticized the ACCC for their criticism of Dr. Graham’s ministry use much worse language and mean spirited tone than the ACCC article did.

The ACCC has yet to respond to my email. The FBFI and RBP put out classy, gracious statements.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.


TylerR wrote:

Do the men at the ACCC have no decency?

It has been assumed by many here and elsewhere that it is inappropriate at this time to discuss or mention any negative aspects of a man’s legacy so soon after he has died. Is there a Biblical principle that teaches this? I’m honestly wondering about this.

Would 2 Tim. 4 work?

1I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3For the time is coming …

Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and former president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:

“I grew up in a home with a Christian father because of Billy Graham. Dr. Graham came to Houston’s Rice Stadium for a crusade in the early 1950s. Some of the men from the local Baptist church in our neighborhood invited my father to go with them to hear Billy Graham.

It was there that my father accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior and became a faithful deacon and Christian father for the rest of his life. Similar stories have been repeated literally hundreds of thousands of times across the globe. I am eternally grateful that God sent Billy Graham to us and that he answered God’s call and became the greatest messenger for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ since the Apostles.”

David R. Brumbelow

A quick follow up, remember that my comment was not to defend or approve of the ACCC or anyone else’s comments. It was simply to present a brief reason why this might be a good time to revisit the history given the comments of the present which are almost unanimous in their praise. While people are thinking about Graham in a way in which they won’t be in a month or a year, it may be good to remind them that there is another side of the story that was not a minor disagreement about some secondary or tertiary point of theology. The issue at hand was at the core of Christianity.

Having said that, I think some of the comments here (and elsewhere) indicate yet another good reason why this may be a good time to remind people of the full story of Graham. There is such a sentimental feeling about Graham and the good things that may have happened through his crusades that we tempted to overlook the fact that he compromised, and in some ways, denied the gospel. There is no debate that he compromised the gospel in his comments about the RCC or the infamous comments with Schuller. That set the stage for a rapprochement with Catholicism that was not just unwise and confusing; it was sinful. That is not some minor thing for which “somebody I know got saved” is a mitigating factor. Even if hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions got saved, that does not mitigate the problem (though there is evidence that the fruit of Graham’s ministry was not nearly so great as many believe).

The inability or perhaps unwillingness to see a distinction between someone like Phelps and those who state this week that Graham was in serious theological compromise is a mindboggling one, such that one wonders if such a comment is merely hyperbole. That is not the result of careful thinking and analysis. How is it that someone who protests at military funerals over something completed unrelated to them are the same as those who remind people of a well-known and undisputed history that is directly connected to the person in the news? There seems no rational way to arrive at that conclusion. Where in the world does that come from if not from a sentimentalism about Graham and/or a desire to attack fundamentalists?

I have no connection to the ACCC. I have no desire to defend them or their tone. I wouldn’t have written that article, particularly not this week. But to say that it is wholly inappropriate to point these things out has no merit that I can see and no one has even attempted to justify it that I can recall.

Even the broadbrush attempt at “If we do it for one we have to do it for all” kind of argument falls short. We don’t need to do it for all. But we should do it for all who sinned as egregriously as Graham did. It was done for Jack Hyles. It was done at Falwell’s death. It was done at the Pope’s death (each of them in recent memory). It was done at Bob Jones Jr.’s death. It is common.

I have no strong opinion on whether these comments should be made at this time or not. I don’t care one way or the other. But there is an argument for why this is an appropriate time to do it, and there is a problem of sentimentality that causes some to object to it.

Well said Larry.

Thanks, Larry. Your analysis is spot on.

G. N. Barkman