Billy Graham: 1918–2018
In January last year, I was honored to speak in Peniel Baptist Church in Palatka, Florida, USA. Adjacent to the current church building stands the historic, original and typical small white ‘Americana’ chapel. As I was given a tour of this old church building, the historic plaque standing outside was explained to me. During his seminary training, Billy Graham gave his first sermon here and was ordained in that building.
On the 21st of February, 2018, Billy Graham passed away at the age of 99. “The Evangelist to the World” spoke to over 215 million people that attended his more than 400 “Crusades” in more than 185 countries and territories, reaching millions more through TV, video, film, the internet and 34 books. He also gave personal counsel to numerous U.S. Presidents and leaders around the world. It would not be a far reach to say he was the most influential preacher of the 20th century.
In the 1940’s, Billy Graham was also a friend to Charles Templeton, a fellow evangelist considered at the time to be more prominent. Like Billy, Charles repeatedly preached to tens of thousands, but inside, a growing doubt about the historical account of the Bible was taking a toll. Charles pleaded to his friend:
“But, Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world wasn’t created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s demonstrable fact.”1
Templeton cited the alleged millions of years in the geologic column and ‘survival of the fittest’ as specific reasons for his apostasy. Yet the Bible’s account of the global catastrophic flood better explains the massive sedimentary layers and the fossil evidence of the creatures that succumbed to this monumental deluge. Without hearing an effective defense for the historical account of the Bible, Charles Templeton eventually rejected the Christian faith he had once boldly preached. Before his death in 2001, he recorded the reasons he rejected the Bible, and God, in his book Farewell to God. You can read more about the profound story of Charles Templeton.
One undeniable legacy of Billy Graham’s ministry is the many millions of people who heard the message of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ at his crusades. He had a passion for spreading the Gospel to as many people as possible. But today, many Christians do not regularly share their faith. We can learn from Billy Graham’s life in this regard. And as we have discovered in our ministry to churches around the world, when people understand the Bible is reliable from the very first verse, they feel more confident in sharing their faith.
Billy Graham’s historic influence in bringing Christianity into the spotlight is undeniable. With the passing of Reverend Graham, we encourage every believer to build on that legacy. Get equipped with the answers to the foundational questions that those, like Charles, are asking, and confidently ‘preach’ the Gospel to our family and friends.
To find those answers, go to CREATION.com.
References and notes
- Templeton, C., Farewell to God, McClelland & Stewart, Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, p. 7, 1996 Return to text.