What Billy Understood

This summer, I read a fascinating work called The Preacher and the Presidents. The book explores the ministry of Billy Graham through the lens of his relationship with at least nine US presidents.

Early in the book, the authors (Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy) recount a conversation between Graham and his Canadian colleague, Charles Templeton. Both men served as evangelists with Youth for Christ; both were engaging young preachers.

Tensions arose when Templeton began doubting the veracity of the Bible they preached. Influenced by critical scholarship, he began to doubt the reliability of Scripture. When the two men met, Templeton challenged Graham’s convictions. “Billy,” Templeton said, “it’s not possible any longer to believe the biblical account of creation. The world wasn’t created; it has evolved over millions of years.”

Billy replied, “I don’t accept that and there are reputable scholars who don’t.”

Then Graham took a different tact.  He told Templeton what he had seen happen as he preached God’s Word at youth rallies. “When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as God’s Word, I have power.” Graham continued, “When I stand before the people and say ‘God Says’ or ‘The Bible says’, the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results.  People respond.  Wiser men and you and I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. . . . I’ve decided once and for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s Word.”

There is a legitimate place for exploring the reasons we can have confidence in the Bible as God’s inspired, inerrant Word. Still, Billy was on to something important. This side of heaven, we will never have all our questions answered about faith or the Bible.

But like Billy Graham, we can have confidence in the Bible as the Word of God that changes hearts and lives.

Those of us who preach and teach the Bible can know that as we faithfully proclaim it, God’s Spirit will use God’s Word to work powerfully and eternally in the hearts and lives of others. I’ve seen that happen many times over the years!

This afternoon (Sept 8th) at Heritage, I begin training another group of young preachers in a Homiletics Course. Would you pray that God would use me to help equip a new generation of preachers to proclaim the Bible with confidence and competence.

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