From New York to New York

The Cleveland Plain Dealer for June 26, 2005 carried a three-column picture of Evangelist Billy Graham preaching at what we assume will be his final crusade in New York City. His appearance in the picture, and the list of ailments given in the paper, bear out that probability. As I looked at that picture and read about its setting I thought that his ministry was truly a story from New York to New York in forty-eight years. The world in general, and new evangelicals in particular, would consider that course as a triumphal
march through the world’s major cities. To the fundamentalist that march has been a tragedy in modern church history.

Why could fundamentalists not join the cry of adulation for such a long ministry? The answer is a biblical one. II Corinthians 6:14-7:1 is the locus classicus of God’s instruction on the subject of Christians joining together in the Lord’s work. Verse 14 states: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with
unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

The passage reinforces its point with a series of rhetorical questions and then gives a clear command in verse 17: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you…”

The Yoke
A yoke was the farmer’s implement to join two animals together for work. The work described in the passage is spiritual work. The unequal yoke in the passage would be the joining of the Christian Corinthians with their heathen neighbors. The key truth thus expressed in the passage is that the Lord’s people, in all of their spiritual ministries, should only be yoked with those they match. They should never be yoked to the world to accomplish the Lord’s work. That simple truth has always identified the problem facing the Lord’s people when describing Billy Graham’s evangelistic endeavors.

In his early days Billy Graham recognized that biblical truth. In Pilot, the magazine of Northwestern Schools, for April 1951 Graham apologized for an advertisement which had appeared in the magazine for a book by modernist, Harry Emerson Fosdick. He wrote: “We do not condone nor have fellowship with any form of modernism.” In a letter to Dr. John R. Rice, dated May 10, 1952, Dr. Graham said: “Contrary to any rumors that are constantly floating about, we have never had a modernist on our Executive Committee, and we have never been sponsored by the Council of Churches in any city, except Shreveport and Greensboro, both small towns where the majority of the ministers are evangelical.” In a letter to Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., June 3, 1952, Graham said: “My entire desire is to remain in the center of the will of God, and to go day by day as He directs and leads. The modernists do not support us anywhere. We have never been sponsored by the Council of Churches in any cities except Greensboro and Shreveport.” I doubt if Greensboro and Shreveport were as Simon pure as Graham felt; however, these
quotations indicate that, in 1952, Graham understood and believed the truth of separation as expressed in II Corinthians 6.

Between 1952 and 1957 an effort was made by a group of Bible-believing men to bring Billy Graham to New York for a crusade. The invitation was turned down on the basis that the sponsorship was too narrow. Get that, sponsorship by a group of the most prominent Bible-believers in New York was “too narrow.”

A Decisive Declaration
Then came New York, 1957. It was obvious that there had been secret counsels and a change of direction. Billy Graham stepped out of the closet the two steps he had promised Dr. Rice and Dr. Jones he would not take. He accepted the sponsorship of the Protestant Council of New York. This was not Shreveport or Greensboro. This was blatant, modernistic, New York. There were no “ifs,” “ands,” nor, “buts” about it. To declare himself further he placed on the crusade committee Rev. Henry Pitney Van Dusen. In 2005 that name may not shock you at all. In 1957 that name was well known in religious circles as one of the outstanding unbelievers of the day. He was President of Union Theological Seminary, the most liberal seminary in the United States (perhaps the world). His name was a cause celebre in the Presbyterian Church. He had been ordained over the protests of many because he denied the virgin birth of Christ. His ordination was saved by another blasphemous unbeliever, Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin. No, Dr. Graham did not happen to make a bad choice. It was a clear declaration to Dr. Rice and Dr. Jones that he was no longer in the fundamentalist camp. The serious thing was, not that it was contrary to those
good men, but that it was contrary to the Word of God.

From New York to New York! It is no longer 1957. It is now 2005. Billy Graham returns to New York City for his final crusade. He is a much older man. As he has traveled around the world and consulted with many Christian people in the forty-eight years between has he learned the lesson of the tragic disobedience of 1957?

I began with a reference to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, for June 26, 2005. Let me quote the opening paragraphs of that article:

“As his final American revival meeting continued Saturday, a fragile Billy Graham was met on stage by former President Clinton, who honored the evangelist, calling him ‘a man I love.’

Clinton spoke briefly before Graham’s sermon and recalled how the man known as America’s pastor had refused to preach before a segregated audience in Arkansas decades ago when that state was in a bitter fight over school desegregation.

‘I was just a little boy and I’ll never forget it,’ said Clinton, who was joined by his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York. ‘I’ve loved him ever since. God bless you, friend.’

Graham called the Clintons ‘wonderful friends’ and ‘a great couple,’ quipping that the former president should become an evangelist and allow ‘his wife to run the country.’”

The Poster Boy for Immorality
How did that all happen? Even ex-presidents don’t just to show up to speak on the platform of a Graham Crusade. No, that decision was made by Dr. Graham and the crusade committee. Clinton was not unexpected. It had apparently been decided that his appearance would be good publicity for the Crusade. I am not going to flesh out the charge, but all Americans know that President Clinton was our most openly immoral President. He was a veritable poster boy for immorality.

On the other hand, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest force the world knows for producing morality. God is holy. Salvation through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, changes immoral men to be moral men who desire to be holy because God is holy. How could a crusade, supposedly preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ which produces holiness, use as its advertising a poster boy for immorality?

“Wonderful Friends”
Graham called the Clintons, “wonderful friends.” Do you suppose that John the Baptist would have referred to Herod Agrippa and Herodias, in one of his services, as “wonderful friends?” The other designation as, “a great couple,” is almost more than man can stand. If there is one thing the Clintons have had trouble doing it is being “a great couple.” I hope the last few words about Bill Clinton becoming an evangelist and his wife running the country were spoken in jest. But, knowing the conduct of Billy Graham between 1957 and 2005 I am not sure. (If you want to challenge your mind, try to figure which of those outcomes would be the worse.)

But What About the Results?
From New York to New York! Many people who read my words may say, “But, Pastor, think about the thousands of souls who have walked the aisles and been born again in those years. Graham’s policies have worked.” In evaluating the results of those forty-eight years let me say three things.

First, God has never called us to judge obedience by results. Christianity is not pragmatic. It is authoritarian, with God as the authority. God did not command us to cooperate with apostasy and then evaluate the results. Rather, God simply commanded, “Come ye out from among them and be ye separate.”

Second, if we are to evaluate results we must take all the results into consider-ation. When men breech the principle of separation the line between belief and unbelief is obscured. Attorney James Bennet, a contemporary and witness to the 1957 crusade, observed that before the 1957 Graham Crusade, the religious people of New York clearly knew which churches were fundamental and which were not. After the crusade, that line was erased. Erasing that line was not good, but evil.

Starving a Second Time
Another result of ecumenical evangelism has been that hungry-hearted souls have been turned back into modernistic churches. Because their unbelieving church cooperated with the Crusade, it was recognized as a true church and now bears the imprimatur of the Bible-preaching evangelist. They were starving in modernism before and have now been steered back to starve some more.

Another tragedy is that spiritual babes were left on the doorsteps of unbelieving churches. Do you believe in abandoning babies on doorsteps? Then how can you swallow abandoning babes in Christ who have answered a Gospel invitation, on the doorstep of an apostate Protestant or blind Catholic church?

The third observation is that results do not mean that something is the will of God. In Numbers 20, when Moses attempted to get water from the rock, he disobeyed the Lord by angrily smiting it with some biting words for the Israelites. Moses had good results. The rock split and water gushed out for the thirsty horde. But, for that disobedience, God refused to allow Moses to enter the promised land.

Triumph or Tragedy?
From New York to New York! When measured by the world’s applause, it has been a triumph. When measured by God’s commands, it has been a tragedy. The examples show the march from apostasy to immorality. God will make plain His evaluation in His own time. I do know this. God’s work done in God’s way produces only good results. God’s work done in man’s way produces the confusion of good and bad results. We are observing that confusion.

June/July 2005

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