Billy Graham (Still) Believes the Bible

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I know I am not the only one who was thrilled to see Newsweek magazine devote a cover story titled “A Pilgrim’s Progress” to evangelist Billy Graham in its August 14th issue. After a lifetime of preaching the gospel, Graham has shown grace, grit, and faithfulness in the pulpit and in his personal life. I also know that I am not the only one who was saddened to read Newsweek editor Jon Meacham reporting in the article that Graham allegedly had moved away from his commitments to biblical inerrancy and to the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation.

In the September 4 edition of Newsweek, Billy Graham speaks for himself in a letter to the editor. Graciously, Graham commends Meacham for seeking to “understand how my thinking on certain issues has changed over the years.” Still, Graham says, more clarity is needed.

In the letter, Graham says directly: “As I grow older, my confidence in the inspiration and authority of the Bible has grown even stronger. So has my conviction that only Christ can give us lasting hope, hope for this life and hope for the life to come. As the Bible says in John 3:16, ‘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.'”

Graham doesn’t go into detail here, refuting every possible implication of the Meacham article. But he affirms that he still holds to the same things he’s always believed about the Bible and the gospel. He built a life and a ministry affirming the total truthfulness of the Bible and the absolute necessity of faith in Christ for salvation. That’s why every sermon resounds with the words “the Bible says” and why every message ends with an invitation for all people everywhere to believe.

Graham famously experienced a crisis of faith early in his ministry. As he recounts it, he laid his life before God and committed to trust God that the Bible is the very Word of God. It seems from this letter to the editor that Graham wants the world to know that he’s still there.

That’s something for all of us to ponder and to take to heart. It is always easy to think that “growth” in ministry or in life means “growth” to the left. And yet, as Graham reminds us here, a faithful pilgrim’s progress in ministry returns right back to where it started: “Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me and that thou bid’st me come to thee/ O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

Only when we see how lost we are, we can find our way again. Only when we bury what’s dead can we experience life again. Only when we lose our religion can we be amazed by grace again.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Editor in Chief of Christianity Today and is the author of the forthcoming book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America (Penguin Random House).