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Sunday, November 12, 2023

Billy Graham Embraced the Call to be a Christian


Ruth and Billy Graham

"I believe that Billy Graham had a profound impact on the world because he first embraced the call, not of being an evangelist, but being a Christian." - Curtis Hunnicutt

The Rev. Dr. Billy Graham was a bold proclaimer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This was his first priority and it often put him at odds with both liberals and conservatives. Billy Graham's irenic approach was not fully appreciated in the polemic of the mid-20th century. 

Writing for the Britannica, Randall Balmer explains, "In New York City in 1954, he was received warmly by students at Union Theological Seminary, a bastion of liberal Protestantism; nevertheless, the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, a professor at Union and one of the leading Protestant thinkers of the 20th century, had little patience for Graham’s simplistic preaching. On the other end of the theological spectrum, fundamentalists such as Bob Jones, Jr., Carl McIntire, and Jack Wyrtzen never forgave Graham for cooperating with the Ministerial Alliance, which included mainline Protestant clergy, in the planning and execution of Graham’s storied 16-week crusade at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1957. Such cooperation, however, was part of Graham’s deliberate strategy to distance himself from the starchy conservatism and separatism of American fundamentalists. His entire career, in fact, was marked by an irenic spirit."

I believe this was part of the secret to Graham's expansive influence. Perhaps the greater part was his insistence that the Word preached has the power to save sinners, to make disciples, and to bring change even to the troubled world. He once said, "When the Gospel of Jesus Christ is presented with authority - quoting from the very word of God - He takes that message and drives it supernaturally into the human heart."

Related reading: Billy Graham on Discipleship, Be Salt, Light Where You Are

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