ACCC's Statement on the Death of Billy Graham

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TylerR's picture

Editor

Do the men at the ACCC have no decency? 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I just emailed this to the ACCC via the "Contact" option from their website:

Your statement on Billy Graham was ill-timed. Your position on him is well-known. Your decision to use this time to re-hash all your differences with his theological position on separation, and your philosophical differences with his methods of evangelism, are in very poor taste.  Please look to the FBFI's recent statement on Graham as an example of how to do this in a classy way. Your statement is cheap, trite, angry, and unworthy of your organization. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jim's picture

On the other hand - it's timely and on the mark.

Carpe diem

Observation: Since this site is largely a young-person's site, few were alive in 1957 when:

During the 1950s, as Graham’s appeal grew, he moved toward the strategic decision to make his crusades’ organization teams more diverse ecclesiastically

 

AndyE's picture

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.

Larry's picture

Moderator

It seems to me that with all the renewed focus and praise of Graham it may be a good time to remind people that not all was well. Delaying that to a later time when the attention has passed may be to miss the opportunity all together. As you say, their position was well known (at least to people familiar with the ACCC). 

Graham was not some "hidden in a bushel" guy. He was well known, though uncritically accepted by many.

As Jim pointed out, there are a lot of people who have no idea of the issues with Graham over the years. The recent tributes by people who should know better are evidence that now is a good time to remind people that there were serious compromises and it doesn't take the ACCC position to draw that line. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Wally was quite right, in the other thread, to call for a balanced, objective biography of Graham in the years ahead. We don't want to engage in hagiography (for that, see the romanticized biographies about Robert E. Lee [e.g. Douglas S. Freeman]). On the other hand, we fundamentalists shouldn't be partisan hacks who fire off one more round while the victim lies dead, still warm.

I don't disagree with the substance of the piece; I largely share the concerns about philosophy. I do disagree with the timing. This is classless, and terribly ungracious conduct. The FBFI did a wonderful job with its statement. The ACCC did not.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Steve Davis's picture

I agree with Tyler. That happens occasionally. There may be a time to remind everyone about the compromises. Oh, wait, that has been done for many decades. So some may not be aware. I'm not sure they will be helped by reminders at his death. I just listened to BG who was given two minutes to speak to millions on a major television station in France decades ago. The translation and the gospel were clear. So I'll remember that today and rejoice. 

DLCreed's picture

Upon reading this thread and the other one that announced his death and from the top, became yet another thread of why Billy Graham was "wrong" or "apostate" or whatever, I had several miscellaneous thoughts...

1. This....the constant diatribe regarding extent of separation and the need to use every occasion to announce distance and why....was one of the primary reasons I left the so-called "fundamentalist movement".  I remain a theological fundamentalist, but want no part of the "movement" or its records, institutions and particularly, it's attitude.

2. I have personally met hundreds...at LEAST hundreds...of people who traced their spiritual heritage back to a book, message or crusade from Billy Graham.  With great emotion and personal detail, they describe the moment of their conversion.  Conversely, I have never, not a single time, met a single confused evangelical, Christ-denier, ex-fundamentalist or simple non-believer who has said to me, "I'm where I am today because I went to a Billy Graham crusade or heard him say "xyz" and became so confused I wandered off to my new direction."

3. I live in Billy Graham's hometown.  I have heard the Gospel shared via personal testimony by local media celebrities, politicians, business icons, common citizens and strangers more this one week than all the other years of my life combined.  This week may have been his greatest "crusade" ever in my region.  I heard our former mayor and governor weep live on the radio recounting his testimony and the impact Billy Graham had on him during his public life.

4. I personally have a hard time distinguishing much difference in the tone or tactics of Fred Phelps and his followers using funerals to promote their message and that of those who would use the occasion of Graham's death to once more rant about the differences with him already well known to anyone who actually cares.  It is graceless, unkind and unseemly.

5. I grew up completely enveloped in the fundamentalist culture and mindset that saw Billy Graham, as Bob Jones, Jr., who once said Graham was "doing more harm to the cause of Jesus Christ than any living man," according to the archives of The Greenville News and Time magazine.  As a little boy, I saw my dad with Bible in hand sitting in our living room hanging on every word he preached on TV only to see him refuse to watch him ever again after hearing a fundamentalist firebrand attack him.  My dad was NOT a better man for not listening to Billy Graham -- he was a better man, because he HAD listened to him and the attitude that drove him away from him harmed him spiritually.

6. I love the study of theology and philosophy and orthodoxy and orthopraxy.  I've heard many of the arguments and I don't disagree with some of the finer points.  But those conversations are best held in different forums and at different times than across the internet during the week of a man's death and before his body is in the ground. 

7. If one must play with Billy Graham's memories by using the ol'.... "I have great appreciation for .........., BUT...." routine, then it really needs to be done for every single person who has ever declared the Word of God from a pulpit.  I look back on 30+ years of ministry and truly wished I had made some better choices and said things differently.  I'm also fully aware that as I age, articulating my beliefs and positions will become increasingly difficult and that I have or will undoubtably say things that don't always reflect what I truly believe.  Add to that my own ego, desire to be liked and frequent need to think on my feet and I'm sure there will be many MORE times in my life when I will look back and wish I had said things more wisely and perhaps not rationalized the way that I did when making some decisions that I thought, in the moment, would have more noble outcomes.

8. I am deeply grieved, that I have seen more restraint on my social media outlets, from my atheist, homosexual and agnostic friends as the conversation has focused on Billy Graham than I have by many of my fundamentalist friends -- even on this board.  Sometimes waiting and sometimes saying nothing is the best option.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Amen, brother.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ron Bean's picture

"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

This rule is sometimes reversed by the admirerers of those gone on, both fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists.
 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

As the dad of one (soon to be two) young ladies who are (will be) attending college in a town without a good fundamental church, I've taken a look at a number of church statements of faith, and the claim that Graham left evangelicalism "bereft of any unyielding theological moorings" is absurd.  Pretty much every church we looked at had a statement of faith they stand by, and hence to claim that evangelicalism has no moorings simply has no basis.  Really, if you look at the trajectory of churches since Graham started his ministry, you're going to see more firmly held theological moorings.  The Southern Baptists have (mostly) repented of theological liberalism/modernism.  The "death warmed over" Southern Presbyterians have largely been supplanted by the PCA, and new affirmations of Reformed theology are influential enough to get routine mockings in the Babylon Bee.  Here in Minnesota, Lutherans are no longer the biggest group--it's evangelicals.

All of this is good stuff.  Although it's not quite, theologically speaking, where I am, it's a huge shift away from the theological liberalism that ruled the roost in the first half of the 20th century.  Even those remaining in mainline churches are increasingly using books from evangelical publishing houses--because there are only so many ways one can say "I don't believe that" before people say "hey, I've read this before, let's go elsewhere for good books about God".   Catholic churches are now using the Alpha Course and teaching their members Scripture in an intensive manner for really the first time since the Dark Ages.

And with all that happening, the ACCC thinks their biggest purpose is to (rhetorically) throw spit-wads at a man who just died.  Absurd.  Get in the game, ACCC!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

AndyE wrote:

<Tyler's comment snipped>

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.

It is an example, not a command, but witness how David mourned Saul and Abner.  Neither was particularly Godly, as far as I can tell, but David praises them.  Also, you've got several passages where it's noted how important it is to get a good burial, and notice that when Saul's mutilated body is hanging on the wall, men of Gibeah risk their lives to give Saul a decent burial.  It is then a shocking curse when one's body is left to the buzzards and such as well.  And of course, remember Joseph of Arimathea?

Command?  Not quite, but I think we ignore the implications of this narrative at our own risk. We might infer that when a man is beyond the possibility of repentance, we lay off for a while.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

Amen to DLCreed's post.  Agree with others here that the ACCC's statement is terrible and terribly timed, and although I do not agree with the FBFI on many things, their statement was terrific and worthy of contemplation.

4. I personally have a hard time distinguishing much difference in the tone or tactics of Fred Phelps and his followers using funerals to promote their message and that of those who would use the occasion of Graham's death to once more rant about the differences with him already well known to anyone who actually cares.  It is graceless, unkind and unseemly.

It seems to me, as a partial response to an earlier post about dealing with the timeliness of addressing Graham's issues, that the principles in Matthew 5:43-48 ought to apply:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Christ's command is to love our enemies.  Graham isn't an enemy, no matter how problematic some of his statements may be, and it is not loving to attack a man over theological issues literally two (!!) days after his passing.  If I were Boz Tchividjian, Franklin Graham, or someone else in his family and I read this statement by the ACCC, I'd be livid. At least have the decency to let Graham's body be interred before releasing statements trumpeting his flaws in a press release / blog post, for goodness sake.

Here's another passage that might apply as well, from Mark 12:30-31:

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Maybe the wisdom of Solomon is the main guiding principle here (from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8):

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Barry L.'s picture

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints"  -  If the Lord feels that way about BG's homecoming, I will as well.

G. N. Barkman's picture

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

Lee's picture

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.      

  

Lee

TimNT's picture

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.  

TylerR's picture

Editor

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 an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

J Ng's picture

AndyE wrote:

 

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 ...

David R. Brumbelow's picture

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."

http://www.bpnews.net/50405/billy-grahams-impact-praised-by-baptist-leaders

David R. Brumbelow

Larry's picture

Moderator

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.

TimNT's picture

Well said Larry. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Thanks, Larry.  Your analysis is spot on.

G. N. Barkman