Excerpted from "The Evangelist," by Lewis A. Drummond, 2001, Word Publishing, Nashville, TN. All rights reserved.

God's Revelation
Every Christian, to some degree, is faced with the same question with which Luther wrestled: Can the Bible be trusted as the foundation for all faith and knowledge? It is certainly a question Billy Graham has had to grapple with. Indeed, his particular approach to understanding the nature and authority of the Bible did not come easily.

Although he had been reared in a Christian home where the Bible was regularly read, Graham encountered several struggles in his Christian walk, none greater than the questions as to whether the Bible could be trusted in its entirety. The evangelist's struggle was brought to head in an encounter, mentioned earlier in the book, with Charles Templeton concerning higher critical methods of Bible interpretation. The question became whether by faith to take the Bible at face value as the Word of God, or whether to probe deeper into theology looking for rational answers and definitive proofs.

The encounter took place in 1949, and Billy Graham recalls it was "a crucial moment in my ministry." Graham's old friend Steven Olford states that it was in this experience that was born Billy's most famous phrase, "the Bible says..." But several steps led to this critical moment.

Graham's first major step came when he realized that aspects of the Scriptures would never be reconciled on a purely rational level. He says, "As a Christian, I am under no obligation to attempt to reconcile the Bible teachings with modern philosophy. Biblical truth does not parallel human opinion of any generation; it usually opposes it." Those who declare the Bible to be riddled with contradictions and myths project the implication that the gospel of Jesus Christ is anti-intellectual.

Billy Graham rejects this position. In this regard he says, "It's a strange thing about this book (the Bible). There are many things in it I don't understand and can't explain. Some of the questions I have asked about it I am sure will never be answered this side of Heaven." His argument sets forth the idea that Scripture transcends mere human intellectualism. As a result, one must rest in faith in a God that exists above finite human reason. As the same time, Graham points out that "skeptics have attacked the Bible and retreated in confusion. Agnostics have scoffed at its teachings but are unable to produce an intellectually honest refutation. Atheists have denied its validity, but must surrender to its historical accuracy and archeological information." There are reasons to believe. There are principles and precepts of apologetics that can be employed to convince the open-minded. In the case of the debate between science and religion, Graham declares, "There is never any conflict between true science and Christian faith."

Yet he simultaneously sees the Bible as "a book of faith, not necessarily of science." He stresses, "The Bible is a book of redemption." And science, as all acknowledge, is not a book of religion. Billy Graham contends, "The fact of the matter is: science and faith complement each other." The Bible believer cannot be charged with naïve anti-intellectualism, even though faith plays a vital role in the acceptance of biblical claims.

The evangelist's views can be summarized as follows: The Bible is totally inspired by the Spirit of God. Yet, one should not attempt to define the methodology by which God inspired the human writers. God brought the Bible together so that, in the form in which we have it today, it can be properly called the composition of God. Divine inspiration serves as the foundation for the validity and the authority of the Bible.

Therefore, being God's word, the Bible is always relevant to the human situation. The Scriptures not only spoke to the Jews of old, and the first-century church, they are alive and have been relevant to every succeeding generation. Billy Graham believes this stands true because the Bible points the way to the answer to humanity's deepest needs and presents the solution in Jesus Christ.

As a result of this belief, Graham has not only built his ministry on the Scriptures, he has also contributed to the body of Christ by helping so many Christians gain a new confidence in the Bible.

A Confident Conclusion
Billy Graham must be seen as a "revelationist" rather than a pure rationalist. For him, if God's revelation as we have it in the pages of the Bible conflicts with rational reason, he opts for revelation. As Martin Luther has said, "We must consider the Word alone and judge according to it." While Graham fully agrees with this stand, he nonetheless maintains an appreciation for research. He has said, "Every scientific fact that man has so far discovered adds luster and testimony to the value and integrity of the Bible."

Not only does the evangelist agree with Luther, but also with John Calvin. Calvin said, "Those who penned the Bible 'were sure and genuine scribes of the Holy Spirit,' and their writings are considered to be oracles of God. We, therefore, teach that faithful ministers are now not permitted to coin any new doctrine, but they are simply to cleave to the doctrine to which God has subjected all men without exception."

Graham is emphatic that the Bible must be understood, assimilated, and lived out. He takes the Bible by simple faith, and argues that by faith alone we can grasp God's truth. "The Bible says!" is his clarion call. Indeed, for Billy Graham, the Bible serves as the essential foundational core in all his preaching. No instrument in the evangelist's ministry has played a more central role than the Word of God. As John Scott says of Graham, "He's a man of the Bible."

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad