Conservative Christians have long lamented Billy Graham’s ecumenicism. Since the early days of his ministry, Graham has worked hand-in-hand with Catholic Churches and has often expressed his belief that Catholics who are faithful to Roman Catholic teachings are saved. While I certainly believe that Catholics can be saved, those who believe the Church’s doctrine on salvation must be excluded because the doctrine denies that salvation is by faith alone. It is a simple but effective argument that cannot be denied without seriously twisting the words of Scripture, for the Catholic doctrine stands in direct opposition to the truth.
I do not doubt that Graham has impacted many lives and has been used by God to draw many to Himself. However, many of his beliefs stand opposed to Scripture, and we can see evidence of that in his ecumenical beliefs. Unfortunately there is such reverence for Graham within the evangelical churches that to speak of any of his theological problems, even those that are most obvious and most opposed to Scripture, is akin to speaking out against God Himself.
From November 18 – 21 Graham will be holding a crusade at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. Cardinal Roger Mahony has sent a letter to the priests under his oversight asking them to encourage their parishoners to attend this crusade. He indicates that in many other locations Catholics have attended these crusades, have responded to Graham’s message and came forward for Christ.
If we were to stop there, there would be reason for rejoicing. It is wonderful to hear of Catholics who respond to the truth of the Gospel and become believers. It is awesome to hear of God’s work in former Catholics. Indeed some of my closest friends have come from a Catholic background.
Unfortunately, though, the letter does not end there. The Cardinal goes on to explain that in keeping with Graham’s policy regarding Roman Catholics, there will be no proselytizing of Catholics, and anyone who identifies himself as such will be referred back to the church for reintegration into the life of the Catholic faith. The letter provides contact information for those who have been appointed to coordinate the reintegration of any who respond during the crusade.
The letter concludes with a statement that is inherently contradictory. “Dr Graham preaches the Gospel with great eloquence and with a true ecumenical spirit, and I encourage your parish to pray for the success of his efforts in our community.” The contradiction in this statement is that it is impossible to preach the Gospel with an ecumenical spirit. The Gospel allows no room for ecumenicism. The true Gospel is divisive in that we cannot downplay any part. We cannot preach the Gospel, all the while pretending that men can be saved by faith alone or by faith and works.
I invite you to heed the Cardinal’s call to pray for the success of the crusade in Los Angeles. However, I encourage you to pray that God will save people despite the faulty message Graham will present, if indeed he will preach a gospel that appeals to both Protestants and Catholics. Pray that He will send wise and discerning Christians to shepherd any He might choose to save at that Crusade. And pray that Graham will use the incredible opportunities God gives him to share the Gospel rather than squandering those opportunities with preaching a faulty message and handing over some of those who respond to a church that will surely lead them astray. When I read the parable of the talents and think of the opportunities God has given Graham, I tremble on his behalf when I think of how he must be squandering them.
If you would like to read the full text of the Cardinal’s message, you can do so here.