Was the Reformation a mistake?
Today many people in Evangelical and Reformed churches think the Reformation was a mistake. They claim that the Protestant Reformers risked their lives over issues that didn't really matter. This is not a new problem. Support for such sentiments has been growing for the last 150 years. But this thinking now so dominates the church that many observers say we have entered the post-Protestant era.
In a series of articles beginning today, we are going to address this question, and a number of related ones. Was the Reformation a mistake? Who says this? What was the Reformation really? What happens when Reformational thinking is lost? What is at stake? What are the key elements of Reformational thinking? Can there be a restoration of Reformational thinking today? How can it come about?
So we begin today with these questions: What are the main objections to looking back at the Reformation as a model for the church today? What are wrong ways, and the right way, to look at it?
To answer these questions, we quote an address given by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 1960, at a meeting commemorating the Reformation in Scotland.1 What he said then is just as relevant today.
Two Objections: The Past Has Nothing to Teach Us; The Reformation Was a Tragedy
Dr. Lloyd-Jones began by asking:
Why...should we consider the Reformation...at all at a time like this, with the world as it is and with the multiplicity of problems that are pressing in upon us on all sides? Why turn back and consider what happened four hundred [now nearly five hundred] years ago?
...[T]here are two main objections to doing this. The first is a general objection to looking back, a feeling that the past has nothing to teach us. For, after all, we are the people of the twentieth century, the people who have split the atom, who are encompassing all knowledge and have advanced to such giddy heights as our forefathers could not even have imagined. Why then should we, of all people, look back, and especially look back four hundred years? The whole climate of opinion today, and indeed during the last hundred years, has been governed by the evolutionary theory and hypothesis, which holds that man advances from age to age and that the present is always better than the past; this whole climate of thought is inimical to the idea of looking back and learning from previous history. That is one objection.
The other objection is that we should not hold a meeting like this because the Reformation was a tragedy. Now this is a view which is gaining currency very rapidly at present. We are told that what we should be considering today is unity, and that if we spend our time considering the disruption and division in the church which took place four hundred years ago, we are doing something sinful. There is, alas, an increasing body of opinion in Protestant circles which is saying, openly and unashamedly, that the Protestant Reformation was a tragedy and that it is our business to forget it as soon as we can and to do everything possible to heal the breach, so that we shall be one again with the Church of Rome, and there shall be one great world church.
Right and Wrong Ways to Approach the Reformation
Dr. Lloyd Jones went on to speak of "wrong and false ways" of viewing the Reformation:
Those are the two commonest objections, as l see the situation, which are brought against what we are engaged in doing this evening. Why then are we doing it? How do we justify a gathering such as this, and the other gatherings that are to follow? Well, let me say quite frankly that there are wrong and false ways of doing what we are doing here tonight. There are people who are interested in the past merely in an antiquarian sense; history happens to be their great interest in life. They like delving into the past and reading about the past, not that they are interested in it in any kind of active philosophic or religious sense; they just like burrowing in ancient history. There are people who do this in other realms; some like collecting old furniture, and the glory of anything to them is that it is old. They are not interested in a chair from the standpoint of something to sit upon; what they are interested in is the age of the chair. Now that is antiquarianism, and it is possible for us, of course, to be governed by a purely antiquarian or historical motive. But there is no value in that; the times in which we are living are too urgent and too desperate for us to indulge a mere antiquarian spirit.
Now the last time I stood at this desk, I said that I could not speak without having a [Scripture] text. Well, l am still the same. And it seemed to me that there were two texts which would not be inappropriate for this meeting, and for our consideration this evening. There is a right way and a wrong way of viewing a great event like the Reformation and the great men who took part in it. The first, the right way, we are told of in the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 13, verses 7 and 8: 'Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [or, the outcome of, their lives and of] their conversation [or conduct]. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.' That is the right way to do it; we look at these men in order that we may learn from them, and imitate and emulate their example.
But there is a wrong way of doing this, and we find it in Matthew, chapter 23, verses 29-33. These are terrible and terrifying words: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?'
Now those are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ and He was addressing His own generation, His own contemporaries. He said, in effect, You are paying great tribute to the memory of the prophets; you are looking after and garnishing their sepulchres and you are saying what great men they were - How noble, how wonderful, we must keep their memory alive - and you say what a terrible thing it was that your forefathers should have put these men to death. If you had been alive then, you maintain, you would not have joined them in those wicked deeds; you would have listened to the prophets, you would have followed them. You hypocrites, says our Lord, you would have done nothing of the sort.
How, then, does He prove it? Well, He does it in this way. He tests their sincerity by discovering what their attitude is at the present to the successors to the prophets. What is their reaction to the people who are still preaching the same message as the prophets? He says, You say that you are admirers of the prophets and yet you are persecuting and trying to compass the death of a man like myself who is the modern representative of the same message, and the same school of prophecy. Ah, says our Lord, it is one thing to look back and to praise famous men, but that can be sheer hypocrisy. The test of our sincerity this evening is this: What do we feel about, and how are we treating, the men who, today, are preaching the same message as was preached by John Knox and his fellow reformers?
And as we continue this series, by God's grace we shall endeavor to look at the Reformation in the right way stated by Dr. Lloyd-Jones. The Protestant Reformers were fallible men, but they were men of God, and we can and must learn much from them. We ignore or deride them at our peril. In our next article, we shall turn our attention to men of the present day, and from the past 150 years of church history, who do just that - they say the Reformation was all a mistake.
Who Apologized for the Reformation in the 20th Century?
Today we examine the anti-Reformation legacy of the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church and beyond during the 20th and early 21st centuries. Its sad contributions to the decline of Protestantism include the reintroduction of Romish vestments; formation of the World Council of Churches; reinvigoration of canon law; increasing deference to the Pope; subversion of Bible societies worldwide; dynamic-equivalence Bible "translation"; and, promotion of the veneration of Mary among Evangelicals.
In our last article we discussed the development and influence of the Oxford Movement in the 19th century, its view that the Reformation was a tragedy, and its call for reconciliation with Rome. The Anglo-Catholic faction within the Anglican church increased its influence during the 20th century. One of the principal ways this influence spread was through the men who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the official head of the Church of England under the authority of the British monarch, and also the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
In today's article we'll examine the work of un-doing the Reformation that has been led by successive archbishops of Canterbury. The influence of their efforts extends well beyond the Church of England itself.
Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1928 to 1942, was a liberal of the Anglo-Catholic faction who encouraged Catholic trends within the church, and succeeded in having them accepted as a normal part of church doctrine and practice. He was the first Archbishop of Canterbury since before the Reformation to wear the mitre, which is a symbol of the doctrine of apostolic succession.
William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942 to 1944, was an ecumenicist who held to the Oxford Movement's "branch theory" of the church which stated that the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion are three principal branches of the "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church," and that the three should be reunited. During the 1930s Temple was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the founding of the World Council of Churches, in which he hoped the Roman Catholic church would be a member. (The Vatican did not become an official member of the WCC, but does nominate twelve full members of the WCC's governing Faith and Order Commission.)
Temple's successor Geoffrey Fisher, head of the Anglican church from 1945 to 1961, was also a committed Anglo-Catholic. Fisher greatly advanced and expanded Temple's efforts at reconciliation with Rome. Fisher's other major contribution to the un-doing of the Reformation was his effort to update and reinvigorate the use of canon law within the Anglican church. Canon law has its basis in the doctrine that the Roman papacy (and in England after the 1500s, the Archbishop of Canterbury) in his person possesses the totality of legislative, executive, and judicial power - not only in matters of doctrine and morals, but in civil matters as well.
Michael Ramsay, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 to 1974, was strongly influenced during his formative years by Edwyn Hoskins, who had been a disciple of the Oxford Movement. In 1966 Ramsay repudiated the Reformation by meeting with Pope Paul VI in Rome. This was the first time a pope of Rome had received an Archbishop of Canterbury in his official capacity since before the Reformation. Paul VI told Ramsay that "by entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." The pope presented Ramsay with a bishop's ring - a symbol of papal authority and of the doctrine of apostolic succession.
Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1974 to 1980, helped un-do the Reformation through his influence on Bible societies worldwide. From 1957 to 1976 Coggan was president of the United Bible Societies, comprising 17 national Bible societies including the British, American, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, German, and Russian. The Bible societies had long been viewed as enemies by the Vatican. "Pests of this sort must be destroyed by all means," said Pope Pius IX in his 1866 encyclical Quanta Cura. In 1897, Pope Leo XIII, in the Apostolic Constitution Officiorum ac Munerum, said that any Bible published in the "vernacular" (common language of the people) was "strictly forbidden."
But today, through the influence of men like Donald Coggan, those dangerous "pests" have become the friends and allies of Rome, publishing ecumenical Bibles that carry the imprimatur, the official stamp of acceptance, of the Roman Catholic Church. These Bibles are produced using the "dynamic equivalence" method of translation rather than the formal equivalence method (direct translation) in order to mask theological differences between Rome and Protestantism. Today, sixty percent of the employees of the American Bible Society, including members of its board of directors, are Roman Catholic.
Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1980 to 1991, built on the anti-Reformation legacy of his predecessors to seek open reconciliation with Rome. Runcie knelt in prayer with Pope John Paul II at Canterbury Cathedral in 1982. In 1989, Runcie proposed that the Roman Pope assume an official position of headship over the Church of England, but this proposal was rejected by the Vatican because it was phrased in such a way as to limit the pope's authority over English church affairs. As has always been the case in ecumenical negotiations, Rome's claims of absolute authority are non-negotiables. Rather than protesting John Paul II's position, Runcie sent his emissaries to the Vatican "back to the drawing board" to try to find a way to meet Rome's demands.
George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, had previously served Donald Coggan as representative of the Church of England at the 1976 meeting of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome. One of the principal activities of this organization is to un-do the Reformation by developing and promoting the use of ecumenical, dynamic-equivalence versions of the Bible.
Rowan Williams, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, was the first to attend the funeral of a Roman pope since before the Reformation, when he accepted the Vatican's invitation to attend John Paul II's funeral in 2005. Williams has promoted efforts to reintroduce the veneration of Mary through the work of the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and the International Anglican - Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM). Both Rome and Canterbury vigorously avoid the term "worship," but it is a distinction without a difference. Their 2004 joint statement on the work of reintroducing Mariolatry into the Church of England states that it is an effort to reintroduce "the common tradition which predates the Reformation."
In November 2006, Williams and Pope Benedict XVI issued a Common Declaration which said in part:
Forty years ago, our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, met together in this city sanctified by the ministry and the blood of the Apostles Peter and Paul. They began a new journey of reconciliation based on the Gospels and the ancient common traditions. Centuries of estrangement between Anglicans and Catholics were replaced by a new desire for partnership and co-operation, as the real but incomplete communion we share was rediscovered and affirmed. Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey undertook at that time to establish a dialogue in which matters which had been divisive in the past might be addressed from a fresh perspective with truth and love.
Since that meeting, the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have entered into a process of fruitful dialogue, which has been marked by the discovery of significant elements of shared faith and a desire to give expression, through joint prayer, witness and service, to that which we hold in common. Over thirty-five years, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) has produced a number of important documents which seek to articulate the faith we share. In the ten years since the most recent Common Declaration was signed by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the second phase of ARCIC has completed its mandate, with the publication of the documents "The Gift of Authority" (1999) and "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ" (2005)...
In this fraternal visit, we celebrate the good which has come from these four decades of dialogue....
As Christian leaders facing the challenges of the new millennium, we affirm again our public commitment to the revelation of divine life uniquely set forth by God in the divinity and humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that it is through Christ and the means of salvation found in him that healing and reconciliation are offered to us and to the world.
There are many areas of witness and service in which we can stand together, and which indeed call for closer co-operation between us... We also commit ourselves to inter-religious dialogue through which we can jointly reach out to our non-Christian brothers and sisters.
Mindful of our forty years of dialogue, and of the witness of the holy men and women common to our traditions, including Mary the TheotÃ??Ã?Â³kos [the Greek term for "mother of God"], Saints Peter and Paul, Benedict, Gregory the Great, and Augustine of Canterbury, we pledge ourselves to more fervent prayer and a more dedicated endeavor to welcome and live by that truth into which the Spirit of the Lord wishes to lead his disciples (cf. Jn 16:13). Confident of the apostolic hope "that he who has begun this good work in you will bring it to completion" (cf. Phil 1:6), we believe that if we can together be God's instruments in calling all Christians to a deeper obedience to our Lord, we will also draw closer to each other, finding in his will the fullness of unity and common life to which he invites us.
Truly, the spirit of the men known as the Oxford Martyrs - Anglican bishops Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cramner, who were all burned at the stake for their opposition to the papacy and all for which it stood - has fully surrendered to the spirit of the Oxford Movement in the Anglican church.
In our next article we shall examine the influences of "the Reformation was a mistake" thinking on 20th-century Evangelicals in the United States.
Until the late 1940s, the Protestant return to Rome made its greatest progress among open liberals. But in the mid-20th century an even more dangerous shift began. Men who had been considered conservative Evangelicals - even fundamentalists - began to abandon the Reformation and openly embrace Rome. The most prominent of these was Billy Graham.
In previous articles in this series, we have briefly examined the anti-Reformation legacy of men and churches who would be universally viewed as liberal. The influences of the Oxford Movement in England gave rise to the Catholicization of the Anglican church around the world during the past 150 years. This, along with other ecumenical developments in Europe and America during the subsequent 100 years, led to the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948. The WCC was the major vehicle for the development of what are today cordial relations between the Vatican and mainline churches worldwide.
The WCC, through its Faith and Order Commission which includes representatives of the Vatican, has been hugely successful in deconstructing the Reformation in nominally Protestant churches. It has facilitated growing (and un-Biblical) ecumenical agreement on such matters as the meaning of baptism and the eucharist, the purpose of the visible church, and inclusivistic methods of translating and interpreting the Bible. The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a worldwide effort begun by the Vatican in 1908, became a joint Vatican/mainline-church effort with the founding of the WCC forty years later.
A Far More Dangerous Development
But from the late 1940s onward, the movement toward the un-doing of the Reformation took a far more disturbing and dangerous turn. Men and churches who had been considered conservative and Evangelical - in some cases even fundamentalist - began to abandon the Reformation and compromise with Rome.
Easily the most visible of these men was Billy Graham. When Graham first came to prominence through his 1949 Los Angeles crusade, he named Roman Catholicism (along with Islam) as one of the greatest threats to Biblical Christianity and the preaching of the Gospel. But by the late 1950s Graham had become the friend of leading Roman Catholic clerics. He was including Roman Catholics as counselors of the people who came forward in his crusades who identified themselves as Catholics. He was referring the thousands of Catholics who came forward in his meetings back to the Roman Catholic church for followup.
From the 1970s onward Billy Graham become increasingly open in his embrace of Roman Catholicism as a supposedly legitimate branch of Christianity, and of cardinals and popes as legitimate voices and exemplars of Christian faith. He visited popes at the Vatican, and invited Catholic officials (including cardinals and bishops) to appear on the platform during his crusades. Graham's romance with Rome reached what was perhaps its high point when he accepted an invitation to preach alongside Pope John Paul II in South Carolina during his 1987 visit to the United States. However, Graham later had to back out because of an unexpected invitation to go to Communist China.
Some Evangelicals who have been disturbed by Billy Graham's position on Catholicism have held the hope that his son and successor Franklin is of a different mind. But recent events have shown that he is not. Like his father during the early years of his ministry, Franklin Graham has spoken out strongly against Islam. But he has maintained a cooperative, non-proselytizing posture toward the Roman Catholic church. Franklin Graham continues to cultivate Catholic participation in what are no longer called evangelistic crusades - in deference to mainline churchmen, liberal media types, and even Catholics who are offended by the term - but are now called "festivals".
In our next article in this series, we'll examine Billy and Franklin Graham's warm relations with Rome in more detail. Some Evangelicals have held out the hope that Franklin Graham holds a different attitude toward Rome and the Reformation. But as we shall see in a subsequent article, "the apple has not fallen far from the tree."
Who Is The Man Most Responsible for Evangelicalism's Movement Toward Rome?
The clear winner of this dubious distinction is Billy Graham, who in a 1999 Gallup poll was named one of the ten most admired people of the 20th century.
As we noted in our last article, Billy Graham seemed to begin well, stating in the early days of his ministry that communism, Roman Catholicism, and Islam were the three greatest threats to the preaching of the Gospel. But, as we also noted, within a few short years he became a deconstructionist of the Reformation.
Here we give a brief, but far from comprehensive, chronology of Billy Graham's personal movement toward Rome, an example which many Evangelicals have gladly emulated.
In the early 1950s, Graham began to develop solid and enduring friendships with Roman Catholic prelates such as Fulton J. Sheen, archbishop (and later cardinal) of New York, and Richard Cushing, archbishop (also later cardinal) of Boston. As we shall see, these friendships with the enemies of Scripture and the Reformation would expand and deepen over the course of Graham's life.
During the same period Graham began developing similarly warm relationships with men of the World Council of Churches and its American counterpart, the National Council of Churches. Graham began conducting city-wide evangelistic campaigns with the endorsement and participation of WCC/NCC men. A few Evangelicals began to see the dangers of Graham's ecumenical approach and stopped participating in his crusades. But most Evangelicals spiritually "held their noses" and joined forces with men and churches they knew were openly opposed to the fundamentals of the faith, for the supposed "greater good" of "mass evangelism". But people from liberal churches who "came forward for Christ" during these and all later crusades were not being truly evangelized. At the end of these crusades they were sent back to their liberal, Gospel-denying WCC/NCC churches for followup.
1955 marked Billy Graham's founding of Christianity Today, which would initially promote itself as a magazine "to present the Evangelical viewpoint to theologically liberal Protestant pastors" and even today calls itself "a magazine of Evangelical conviction." But starting in the 1960s Christianity Today became a major voice for the deconstruction of the Reformation, promoting Evangelical-Catholic cooperation and encouraging moves toward re-union with Rome.
By the late 1950s, Billy Graham was actively recruiting Roman Catholic priests, nuns, and lay brothers to serve as counselors of people who came forward during crusades who identified themselves as Catholics. In later years, on at least one occasion (a Denver crusade) a Roman Catholic priest would serve as the supervisor of all of the counselors at a Graham crusade.
In 1961 Billy Graham assented to the Catholic doctrine of salvation through infant baptism: "I have some difficulty in accepting the indiscriminate baptism of infants without a careful regard as to whether the parents have any intention of fulfilling the promise they make. But I do believe that something happens at the baptism of an infant, particularly if the parents are Christians and teach their children Christian truths from childhood. We cannot fully understand the miracles of God, but I believe that a miracle can happen in these children so that they are regenerated, that is, made Christian, through infant baptism. If you want to call that baptismal regeneration, that's all right with me." (From an interview with Wilfred Bockelman, in The Lutheran Standard, the magazine of the American Lutheran Church, October 10, 1961.)
In 1962, Graham had the Roman Catholic bishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil, stand beside him during the invitation at his crusade in that city, and bless those who came forward. Thoroughly twisting the word "reformation", Graham said that this represented "something tremendous, an awakening of reform and revival within Christianity" (New York Times, November 9, 1963).
By the mid-1960s Billy Graham was openly saying, in Christianity Today, in his crusades, and in media interviews, that Evangelical-Catholic cooperation in "evangelism" was a positive development and must be encouraged.
In 1967, climaxing a week-long program of its Institute for Ecumenical Dialogue, Roman Catholic Belmont Abbey College awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Billy Graham. Graham noted the significance of the occasion as "a time when Protestants and Catholics could meet together and greet each other as brothers, whereas ten years ago they could not." He closed his remarks by saying that "the way of salvation has not changed . . . The gospel that built this school and the gospel that brings me here tonight is still the way to salvation." ("Belmont Abbey Confers Honorary Degree," The Gastonia Gazette, Gastonia, North Carolina, November 22, 1967).
In 1977 Graham conducted a five-day crusade at Notre Dame University. According to eyewitness reports, his appeal to his audience of Catholic students to "come forward for Christ" was couched in these words: "Many of you want to come tonight to reconfirm your confirmation. You want to reconfirm the decision that you made when you joined the Church."
In 1979 Graham conducted a crusade in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where the names and telephone numbers of over 3,500 people who came forward were turned over to the Roman Catholic archdiocese for followup. A year before the crusade, Graham had sent members of his team to Milwaukee to conduct a seminar in which Roman Catholics were trained in how to do followup with people who would come forward during the crusade. The post-crusade "followup" consisted of inviting all 3,500 Catholics who came forward to a mass where they were reminded that their "commitment to Christ" must be nurtured within the sacramentalist framework of the Roman Catholic church.
In 1981, Billy Graham met with the pope for the first time, which led to a succession of papal audiences during the next twenty years.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Graham continued to develop strong personal and organizational relationships with Roman Catholic cardinals and bishops around the world, always involving the local Catholic establishment in his city-wide crusades.
In January 1997, Larry King interviewed Billy Graham on his CNN program, and asked the question, "You're comfortable with the Vatican?" Graham responded, "I am very comfortable with the Vatican. I have been to see the Pope several times." King then asked, "You like this Pope?" and Graham responded, "I like him very much. . . . He and I agree on almost everything."
In his 1997 autobiography Just As I Am, Graham stated that his goal was not to lead people out of Roman Catholicism: "My goal, I always made clear, was not to preach against Catholic beliefs or to proselytize people who were already committed to Christ within the Catholic Church" (page 357).
In late 2004, Graham personally participated in a crusade for one of the last times, in Los Angeles. Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles sent a letter to the priests of his large archdiocese that said:
The Billy Graham Crusade will be held at the Rose Bowl from November 18 through 21, 2004, and we have been invited to be associated with it. Because Catholics realize that doctrinal divisions continue to separate us from other Christians, you may be asked by your parishioners if they can attend the Crusade. You can respond positively to such questions... [W]e can certainly support Dr. Graham's core message of the need for conversion of life and the establishment of a personal relationship with Jesus.
When the Crusade was held in other locations, many Catholics responded to Dr. Graham's message and came forward for Christ. Crusade officials expect the same for the Los Angeles area. These officials have assured me that, in keeping with Dr. Graham's belief and policy, there will be no proselytizing, and that anyone identifying him or herself as a Catholic will be referred to us for reintegration into the life of the Catholic church. We must be ready to welcome them...
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.
In 2006, Billy Graham preached publicly for the last time at a "festival" (the word "crusade" was no longer used) in Baltimore. Afterward, the Catholic Review proclaimed the "festival" a triumph for Roman Catholicism:
The Festival was a success! In July 2006, thousands of people came and heard the Gospel preached at Camden Yards - and many made a new or a renewed commitment to follow Jesus. Cardinal Keeler, the Archbishop of Baltimore, and the Archdiocesan Festival Team wholeheartedly welcome this commitment many have made to follow Jesus.
In order to follow Jesus we need to live in a personal relationship with Him and His bride, the Church. In hopes of connecting Festival attendees with faithful Catholics around the Baltimore area, the Archdiocesan Festival Team sponsored The Names of Jesus Bible study and The One Thing: A Celebration of New Beginnings [a program to integrate new converts into the Catholic church].
Although most Evangelicals wish to remain in denial about it, the facts are clear: Billy Graham preaches "another gospel, which is not another" and has refused to come out and be separate from spiritual uncleanness. He clearly believes the Reformation was a mistake.
Unlike today's Evangelicals, the Apostle Paul would pull no punches. Were he on the scene, doubtless Paul would write the same things to Billy Graham that he wrote to the Galatians concerning their deconstruction of the Gospel:
I marvel that you are turning away...from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another... [You] pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel...than what we have preached...let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-8).
And Paul would likewise take to task Evangelicals who claim to truly believe in Christ but support Graham and his organization despite their cooperation with and facilitation of apostates:
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
What of Billy Graham's elder son? Franklin Graham began conducting crusades (now called "festivals") for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1989. He became CEO of the organization and its principal speaker in 2000. Contrary to the unfounded hopes of some Evangelicals, Franklin Graham marches shoulder-to-shoulder with his father on the path to Rome.
In over 80 combined years of ministry, Billy and Franklin Graham have presented a false, ecumenical way into the kingdom of God. Rather than calling the lost to the faith of the Reformation they have urged millions to "come forward" to be part of a church that says that anyone who preaches justification by faith alone, assurance of salvation, or the authority of Scripture alone, is anathema - cursed of God.
As we mentioned in our last article, Franklin Graham began conducting crusades, now called "festivals", for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1989. He became CEO of the organization and its principal speaker in 2000. Today the Billy Graham organization has net assets of over $300 million, and a reputation of respect that father and son have cultivated among theological liberals, Evangelicals, and Roman Catholics alike. Franklin Graham continues his father's long-time policy of using the organization's huge financial assets and massive public goodwill to advance the ecumenical march toward Rome.
Here is a chronology of some of Franklin Graham's cooperation and compromise with Roman Catholicism over the past twenty-plus years.
In 1998, Franklin Graham conducted a crusade in Adelaide, Australia. Archbishop Leonard Faulkner of the diocese of Adelaide was present at the media kick-off event for the crusade in late 1997, and voiced the church's support. Forty-nine Roman Catholic churches were actively involved in the crusade.
In a 1999 newspaper interview, Franklin Graham said that his father's decision early in his ministry to cultivate broad ecumenical participation in his crusades, including the Roman Catholic church, was "the best thing he ever did." He went on to say, "In the early years, up in Boston, the Catholic church got behind my father's crusade. That was a first. It took back many Protestants. They didn't know how to handle it. But it set the example. 'If Billy Graham is willing to work with everybody, then maybe we should too' " (The Indianapolis Star, June 3, 1999).
In April 2000, the vice-chairman of the Franklin Graham Festival in Lubbock, Texas was Paul Key, evangelism director for the Catholic Diocese of Lubbock. Key had been an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA) but converted to Roman Catholicism and has now been ordained a priest of Rome. Key was ordained a priest despite the fact that he is married and has two children. The Vatican will break its rules if a prominent "Protestant" will come "home to Rome." Paul Key is the author of a book titled 95 Reasons for Becoming or Remaining a Roman Catholic, which has been touted as a Catholic answer to Martin Luther's 95 Theses.
In June 2002, Franklin Graham conducted a "festival" in Cincinnati, Ohio in which five Roman Catholic parishes of that city actively participated. In preparation for the crusade, these parishes conducted week-long training programs to prepare Catholic counselors to deal with those who came forward in response to Graham's invitations. As reported in The Catholic Telegraph, invitations were sent out to 9,000 Catholics to request their participation in the training program, and hundreds responded. Catholic priest Charles Bowes told his parish that the Graham mission was a "golden opportunity to evangelize Catholics and to help our parish." (The Catholic Telegraph, May 10, 2002).
In 2004, Roman Catholics participated in a "festival" conducted by Franklin Graham in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In 2005, Roman Catholics participated in another Franklin Graham "festival" in Corpus Christi, Texas.
In an April 2, 2005 interview with Katie Couric on NBC's Today show, Franklin Graham praised the late Pope John Paul II and said that they preached the same gospel: "We disagree on a lot of doctrinal issues and I guess those disagreements will always be there. At the same time we did agree on the fundamentals that Jesus Christ is the son of the living God who came to this earth to die for our sins and when he died on that cross and shed his blood he took the sins of the world with him on the cross; and if we confess our sins and repent and by faith receive Christ into our hearts God will forgive us and cleanse us. These are fundamentals of the faith we agreed on and support and we appreciate this man and the stand he has taken on so many of these moral issues." Such a statement exhibits the kind of un-careful presentation of the "gospel" that has become commonplace among Evangelicals.
Also in 2005, Franklin Graham attended the enthronement of Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. (His father was too ill to attend.) Franklin's preacher sister Anne Graham Lotz represented the organization at Pope John Paul II's funeral.
In 2006, as mentioned in our last article, many Roman Catholics were trained as counselors for the "festival" conducted by Franklin Graham at the Camden Yards stadium in Baltimore. (This was also the last occasion where Billy Graham preached publicly.) Catholic priest Erik Arnold of the Church of the Crucifixion in Glen Burnie, Maryland, led the team of 225 Catholic counselors who participated in the crusade. He said, "It was a great opportunity for the Christian churches to show their unity in leading people to Christ" ("Catholic Counselors Attend Billy Graham Festival," The Catholic Review, July 12, 2006). As we mentioned in our last article, the followup consisted of involving the people who came forward in a new-converts program conducted by the Catholic church.
Also in 2006, Roman Catholics participated in a "festival" conducted by Franklin Graham in Winnipeg, Canada. Each diocese in central Canada was represented on the festival executive committee. Catholic bishops were assured that, "Following in the footsteps of his father, Franklin Graham will present basic Christianity. The Catholic will hear no slighting of the Church's teaching on Mary or authority, nor of papal or Episcopal prerogative; no word against the Mass/Divine Liturgy or sacraments, nor of Catholic practices or customs" ("Central Canada 2006 Franklin Graham Festival Background and Pastoral Notes for Catholic Clergy and Workers," by Luis Melo, Director of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs, Archdiocese of Saint Boniface).
In the summer of 2009, Franklin Graham is conducting what the Graham organization is calling the "Rock the River Tour" of "Franklin Graham Festivals" in cities along the Mississippi River, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana all the way to Minneapolis, Minnesota. According to the GrahamFestivals.org website,
The Lord Jesus Christ is calling all of us to rescue the lost youth of America. This is not just the responsibility of Youth Pastors or Youth Leaders, but the entire church. The reality is that 75 percent of those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior do so by the time they are 18. We should not neglect anyone of any age, but if we want to rescue people for Christ and build Christ's church for the next generation, we must reach out to youth or chances are they will never be reached.
Rock the River is a massive rescue effort for youth. The entire church needs to be totally committed to reach this age group while they are still reachable. The last census revealed there are 72 million people in America under the age of 18. Many do not know Christ. God has placed a burden on the heart of Franklin Graham to bring the message of hope in a relationship with Christ to youth who live in proximity to the Mississippi River.
The format for Rock the River will be [rock] music, the language of youth, and a relevant message. Some of the hottest Christian bands will share the stage with Franklin to give Christians the opportunity to invite their friends to a quality concert. The Good News of the Gospel will be preached and an opportunity to respond will be given. Excellent training preparation and follow-up will be the standard, as with all Billy Graham outreaches.
A number of years ago the Lord laid on Billy Graham's heart a verse that each of us needs to take for ourselves. Psalm 78:4 declares: "We will not hide these truths from our children, but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord." The future of our nation, our churches, and our young people can be changed if we all join together in sharing the Gospel.
And who will "join together in sharing" what is falsely called "the Gospel"? In an April 23, 2009 article in The Catholic Spirit, official newspaper of the archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt wrote: "I have been contacted by representatives of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, who inform me that they are sponsoring four events this summer in cities along the Mississippi River, called Rock the River Tour."
Nienstadt appealed to Roman Catholics to volunteer "to counsel the youth who will be present toward a deeper conversion of faith." And, he added, Catholics can participate freely because "I have been assured that there will be no attempt to proselytize young people into an evangelical church. Each person will be encouraged to make contact with his or her church affiliation, whether current or lapsed. . . . They state they are not coming to take from our religious communities, but to invest in our youth."
What Catholics Mean by "Evangelism"
In evaluating Billy and Franklin Graham's compromise and cooperation with Rome, it is important for Scripture-driven Christians to understand that the Graham organization deliberately defines "evangelism" in a sense that is broad enough to bring mainline liberals, undiscerning Evangelicals, and the ever-opportunistic Roman Catholic church under its tent.
But when Roman Catholic leaders speak of "evangelism" they mean something very specific (and completely un-Biblical), and the Graham organization's approach facilitates Rome's agenda. For the Roman Catholic church, "evangelism" means bringing people - non-Catholics as well as Catholics who have lapsed in their participation in the church - "home to Rome."
Roman Catholic teaching is that Catholics who "go forward for Christ" at a Graham meeting already have Christ through their baptism as infants. What is now needed is to bring them into a more active relationship with the sacramental system, through which the Catholic Church claims to have the sole authority to dispense the grace of God. When Catholics hear the term "receive Christ" they do not think in terms of the once-for-all act spoken of in passages such as John 1:12 and Acts 16:31. For a Catholic, "receiving Christ" is something that is done continually through the sacrament of the mass, because (as Rome teaches it) no one can ever be assured of eternal life, and must continually depend on the Roman church for ultimate deliverance from Hell.
Likewise, the Roman Catholic church says that the evangelism of a non-Catholic must begin with bringing that person to the point where he will receive Roman Catholic baptism and begin participating in the Catholic sacrificial system.
Curtis Kneblik, director of evangelism for the archdiocese of Dayton, Ohio, stated the Catholic position on "going forward for Christ" in a Graham meeting. He said it is the same thing that takes place in the Roman Catholic church at every Mass: "We have an altar call every Sunday. Christ is truly present [in the Mass]. We have to stand up and walk toward Him like they did on that field" in the 2002 Franklin Graham Festival in Cincinnati (The Catholic Telegraph, July 12, 2002).
Leading Millions to Hell
Throughout over eighty combined years of ministry, Billy and Franklin Graham have presented a false, broad, ecumenical way into the kingdom of God. Rather than calling the lost to the faith of the Reformation - salvation by grace alone, through justification by faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone - they have urged millions of Catholics and non-Catholics to "come forward" to be integrated/re-integrated into the Roman Catholic system - a system which says that anyone who preaches justification by faith alone, assurance of salvation, or the authority of Scripture alone, is anathema, cursed of God.
Authentic Christianity in Contrast
Jesus warned against Graham-style ecumenism: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and narrow is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).
The Apostle John told Christians what their attitude must be toward men who compromise and cooperate with those who preach a false Christ: "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 John 9-11).