Many people have come out after Billy Graham’s death and called him a fraud, phony, heretic, and some have said that he is going to hell. When I posted a tribute to Billy Graham, a few people told me that Billy Graham wasn’t really a Christian. I did a little bit of digging, and I found the claims in question to be false. Graham was certainly a believer. He exhibited the fruits of the spirit and he preached justification by faith alone repeatedly on his ‘crusades.’
Evidence of Billy Graham’s Salvation
The first piece of evidence that I will offer is from his organization’s Statement of Faith:
“We believe that all men everywhere are lost and face the judgment of God, that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, and that for the salvation of lost and sinful man, repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ results in regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore we believe that God will reward the righteous with eternal life in heaven, and that He will banish the unrighteous to everlasting punishment in hell. Luke 24:46-47; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 3:23; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11; Ephesians 1:7 and 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7.”
The second piece of evidence I will offer is his final column, the portion of the column that mentioned justification is in bold:
Q: Mr. Graham, how would you like to be remembered? — D.F.
A: I hope I will be remembered as someone who was faithful — faithful to God, faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and faithful to the calling God gave me not only as an evangelist, but as a husband, father and friend.
I’m sure I’ve failed in many ways, but I take comfort in Christ’s promise of forgiveness, and I take comfort also in God’s ability to take even our most imperfect efforts and use them for His glory.
By the time you read this, I will be in heaven, and as I write this I’m looking forward with great anticipation to the day when I will be in God’s presence forever.
I’m convinced that heaven is far more glorious than anything we can possibly imagine right now, and I look forward not only to its wonder and peace, but also to the joy of being reunited with those who have gone there before me, especially my dear wife, Ruth. The Bible says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
But I won’t been heaven because I’ve preached to large crowds or because I’ve tried to live a good life. I’ll be in heaven for one reason: Many years ago I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to make our forgiveness possible and rose again from the dead to give us eternal life. Do you know you will go to heaven when you die? You can, by committing your life to Jesus Christ today.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Everyone wants their words to be interpreted generously. I do not understand why so many Christians are willing to judge someone’s salvation by a couple of quotes. When people speak off the cuff, they will sometimes say things that are wrong or poorly worded. Here are two examples from Billy Graham:
“I think everybody that that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ. And that’s what God is doing today. He’s calling people for ‘eh, out of the the world for his name whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world uh they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but uh they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light that they have. And I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” 1
Obviously, there are some errors in this quote, but I am more concerned with addressing Graham’s salvation. Typically, the last statement is what is questioned. Clearly, Graham did not give a lot of detail concerning why he said this. Given all of the things he has said in the past (that were correct) on the issue of salvation, should we really be prepared to say that he is condemned before God? Graham never denied that Yeshua is the only way to heaven in the aforementioned quote. He was instead acknowledging that he believes that people find out about God in different ways. Just because he believes that people may find out about Yeshua (without knowing the name “Jesus”) doesn’t mean that they are not justified by faith alone. Indeed, the only requirements for salvation in the Bible is to believe in Messiah Yeshua died for our sins and rose again for three days. With this conversion to Christianity, the Christian responds by doing his best to keep God’s law. What Graham said was not very well put, but it is clear he wasn’t affirming justification apart from faith in Messiah Yeshua.
Here is another quote:
“I used to play God, but I can’t do that anymore. I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost – were going to hell – if they did not have the gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that. I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God – through nature, for instance – and plenty of other opportunities, therefore, of saying “yes” to God. “
This is pretty easy to dismiss. Look at the last part of the quote concerning saying “yes” to God. Given what Graham has repeatedly taught in his many years of ministry, he means repenting and trusting in God for salvation. As for his comments on the pagans, he was referring to how he thought they would never find out about God unless someone preached the Gospel to them, but as he said in his previous quote, he believes that God can reveal himself in different ways. How God reveals himself has nothing to do with justification. Those are two separate issues.
We must be very careful about judging people’s lives on only a few words. When something someone says seems off, we should stop and interpret what they say in light of what has already been said before. Unless, of course, they outright state they changed their mind. We, as Christians, scold unbelievers for so quickly assuming that a verse in the Bible contradicts another without investigating to make sure they didn’t misinterpret the two verses that allegedly contradict one another. What those who are saying these horrible things about Graham involves using the same flawed logic as the atheist that claims the Bible contradicts itself.
Graham wasn’t perfect, and he has said some things that were plain wrong. But how much clearer can it be that he taught justification through faith alone? It is clear that Graham was a servant of Messiah Yeshua, and God did great things through him. We should put down the pitchfork and torches and be grateful that God has used Graham in such a mighty way.