Billy Graham's influence in the religious world is the cumulative result of his national and international evangelistic crusades coupled with his extensive radio, T.V. and publishing ministry extending over a period of some 35 years. He is the undisputed leader of the world-wide evangelical movement.
On the other hand, Pope John Paul II's influence has been of much shorter duration (he became pope in 1978). However, as head of the Roman Catholic Church, he attained immediate status and influence with the millions of Roman Catholics. And, since assuming his high office, he has become "the most traveled pope" in the history of his church. These travels, widely covered by the news media (radio, TV, newspapers and magazines) have given John Paul II an unprecedented opportunity to influence millions of noncatholics, most of whom have been very favorably impressed by his humble demeanor, gracious manner and personal warmth.
The purpose of this article is not to demean, belittle or criticize either Billy Graham or Pope John Paul II personally. But, because of the tremendous influence which both men exercise, it becomes absolutely essential to scripturally analyze and evaluate what these two world religious leaders are saying and doing. Should true Bible believers follow the leadership of either Dr. Graham or Pope John Paul II? The correct answer to this question is of utmost importance!
There can be no question about the Pope's personal magnetism. When he visited the USA in 1979, he received the broadest press coverage of any news event since President Kennedy's assassination in 1963.
TIME MAGAZINE said, "Americans of all beliefs and backgrounds teetered oh tip toe to get a glimpse of him and roar their approval." NEWSWEEK added: "By his mere physical presence, he seemed sometimes to have mesmerized the nation." TIME concluded that the Pope "has been received herewith more applause than any other religious or secular leader in the world," and went on to say, "HE WAS A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, ALL SITUATIONS, ALL FAITHS, A BEGUILING, MODEST, SUPERSTAR OF THE CHURCH."
Indeed, Pope John Paul II has great "charisma." His personal charm, his friendly smile, his apparently humble spirit and his ability to say the right things at the right time to the right people all combined to make such a favorable impression on most Americans that he could have said almost anything and gotten away with it!
Of course, it is true that Pope John Paul II has made some statements and taken some positions with which true Bible believers heartily agree. His statements against abortion, divorce, euthanasia and homosexuality are certainly commendable. On the other hand, his strong position against capital punishment and his duplicity in regard to the menace of communism are deplorable.
Nevertheless, the basic question - the question which is of supreme importance to every believer is this: "Does Pope John Paul II - does the Roman Catholic Church - teach and preach the one true gospel of salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross and His bodily resurrection?"
Many Christians mistakenly believe that the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican Council II has completely changed and must now be considered a truly "Christian" church. The facts prove that such is not the case. The changes since Vatican II and under the leadership of Pope John Paul II have been largely "cosmetic" -changes in "attitude" rather than basic doctrines. The evidence to support such a conclusion is voluminous! Although Protestants are now called "separated brethren" or even "brothers in Christ" rather than "heretics", the gospel of Roman Catholicism is still a false gospel based on works, sacraments, confession, mass, penance, prayers, medals, relics, shrines, indulgences, purgatory and the mediatorial ministry of the Church, the Priesthood, Mary and the Saints.
During the Pope's visit to America, he said to the throng in Chicago, "By the Sacrament of Baptism we have been truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ." While celebrating the Mass on the Washington Mall, he prayed, "Through the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary, whose feast we celebrate today, may we come one day to the fullness of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen."
This is not the one true gospel. It is a false gospel upon which God has pronounced a curse. (Galatians 1:6-9.) No amount of personal charm should be permitted to obscure the fact that the Pope and the Church which he heads preaches a false gospel which must be rejected and repudiated by all who will obey the Bible.
By contrast, Dr. Billy Graham has endeared himself to millions around the world for more than three decades. He, too, has great personal "charisma." I have never met or listened to a more likable person. Many have come to know Jesus Christ as Saviour through his world-wide ministry and we rejoice in this. At the beginning of his evangelistic crusades, he identified with and was supported by many fundamentalists. His simple gospel message; his repeated references to "The Bible Says"; his use of the old gospel hymns and his giving of a personal invitation to receive Christ as Saviour, found a warm response in the hearts of all who love Christ and desire to make Him known.
Graham began his evangelistic ministry in 1947 but it was during his first crusade in Los Angeles in 1949 that he received nationwide publicity through the Hearst newspapers. Requests for Graham to conduct crusades in other major cities came quickly as reports of Graham's successful crusade in Los Angeles received nationwide publicity. A question soon developed over local sponsorship of Graham's crusades. At first, Graham said he would never permit theological liberals to be on his local sponsoring committees. But, as the crusades grew in size and more and more churches became involved, Dr. Graham completely reversed his position. Now, Billy Graham will not hold a crusade in any city which cannot assure him of wide denominational support. This means that theological liberals do serve on local crusade sponsoring committees and crusade "converts" are referred to liberal churches.
When Billy Graham began his ministry, he had no hesitancy in identifying Communism, Catholicism and Ecumenism as enemies of the gospel - and he warned about them. But, with the passage of time, he has completely reversed his position and attitude toward all three. Early in his ministry, when asked what he thought the World Council of Churches would do at its forthcoming meeting, Graham replied tersely, "Elect the antichrist as president." But, by the time of the Lausanne Conference on Evangelism in 1974, when Graham was asked at a press conference about his relationships with the WCC, he replied, "As far as I know, we have nothing but the warmest relationships with the World Council of Churches." And, in 1 983, Dr. Graham sent a cablegram to WCC General Secretary, Dr. Philip Potter, expressing regret that he could not accept an invitation to speak at the WCC Sixth Assembly in Vancouver, B.C. because of schedule conflicts. Dr. Graham's cordial attitude toward the iniquitous National Council of Churches in the USA is also well known and includes his participation as a speaker at one of their General Assemblies.
The drastic changes in Dr. Graham's attitude toward Communism are also a matter of public record and should be of great concern, not only to every true believer but to everyone who values freedom and recognizes the continuing threat posed by the worldwide Communist conspiracy.
Early in his ministry, Dr. Graham said, "Today, Communism is the medium through which he [Satan] operates to dupe, deceive and delude that large segment of society which has chosen to believe a lie. ...Today, millions are embracing the false religion of Communism." Graham called the Communists, "The disciples of Lucifer, that in 30 years have slaughtered millions of innocent persons." At that time, Graham had his facts about Communism straight.
But in 1977, following a five day visit to Communist Hungary, Dr. Graham said he "regretted his former tendency to equate Christianity with the American Way of Life and Communism with the work of the Devil." Since that time, Graham has repeatedly made statements favorable to Communism - statements which the Reds have been quick to use in their worldwide propaganda programs. Of course, Graham's participation as a speaker at the Communist-sponsored, Communist-financed World Peace Conference held in Moscow in May, 1982, represented a crowning climax to the Communist efforts to use Graham's world-wide reputation as the top leader of Evangelicalism to provide a "cover-up" for the continuing Communist use and abuse of religion behind the Iron Curtain. Billy Graham's statement, made following his visit to Moscow, was, "I saw no evidence of religious repression in Russia." This statement, used by Communists around the world to disarm their critics, is one of Graham's greatest contributions to the Communist cause to date. And, Graham's new, changed attitude toward Communism as an "evangelical" deprives true believers of a most necessary voice of warning about this anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-Bible, anti-Church, anti-Christian system which has sworn to enslave the world.
But it is the complete "about-face" in Billy Graham's attitude toward Roman Catholicism that presents the greatest and most deceptive danger to the cause of Christ and the preaching of the one, true Gospel, After all, Communism is admittedly atheistic and Ecumenism is broad enough to include those who deny the very basic doctrines of the Christian faith. But Catholicism claims the title of "Christian" because it professes to believe in and teach such basic scriptural doctrines as the Deity and Virgin Birth of Christ; His death on the cross for our sins; and His bodily resurrection. Yet, the history of Roman Catholicism and its present teachings clearly prove that their "gospel" is "another gospel" a false gospel which has blinded the minds and hearts of millions of people and still holds them in the chains of spiritual darkness.
The change in Billy Graham's attitude toward Roman Catholicism was gradual but continually escalating. At first, Catholics were warned by their leaders not to attend the Graham crusades, but, as Graham's attitude toward Catholicism softened, Catholic opposition to his crusades diminished. It wasn't long before some Catholic leaders spoke approvingly of the Graham crusades, especially when he began referring Catholic "converts" back to their own churches for follow-up.
In 1972, Dr. Graham received the Catholic International Franciscan Award for "his contribution to true ecumenism" and his "sincere and authentic evangelism." In that same year, the official Vatican view of Graham's ministry was set forth in the following words of Rev. Charles W. Dullea, Superior of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome: "Because he [Graham] is preaching basic Christianity, he does not enter into matters which today divide Christians. He does not touch on Sacraments or Church in any detail. This is, for us Catholics, a loss. But from another point of view it is a gain. For he is preaching basic Christianity, not Protestantism per se.
True, he implicitly assumes certain Protestant positions in his own preaching, assuming for example the 'Bible as the sole rule of faith' and ‘private interpretation of Scripture' but these assumptions are not obtrusive and in fact influence the main thrust of his sermons little, if at all. The Catholic will hear no slighting of his Church's teaching authority, nor of Papal or Episcopal prerogatives, no word against the mass or sacraments or Catholic practices. Graham has no time for that; he is preaching only Christ and a personal commitment to Him. The Catholic, in my opinion will hear little, if anything, he cannot agree with. Perhaps occasionally a too literal interpretation of Scripture will be heard or a too rigorous stricture on gambling or drinking or smoking, but nothing against his faith."
By 1983, Billy Graham was not merely referring crusade decision cards to Roman Catholic churches but in the Orlando, Florida Crusade, 150 Catholic lay people from that area were trained to assist in the follow-up of Catholics who made "decisions." THE FLORIDA CATHOLIC, published in Orlando, Florida, revealed this information, stating that the Catholic lay people had been specially trained by a member of the Graham Team, Mr. Rick Marshall, who explained the format of a special Graham Bible Study booklet which he encouraged them to use in their follow-up. Mr. Marshall was quoted as saying, "The study was presented topically, not doctrinally and therefore would not conflict with the theology of a given church." It was later reported that 650 Catholics made "decisions" at this crusade. The time may not be too far distant when the Graham Crusades will have full Roman Catholic participation at every level.
Billy Graham, who has often been called the world's greatest evangelist, must now also be recognized as one of the world's greatest compromisers. By his own example and words he is leading millions to believe that three of Christianity's greatest enemies - Communism, Catholicism and Ecumenism are not really enemies at all, but friends. In recent years, Graham's public statements regarding all three of these enemies of the Gospel have been used to improve their images as "angels of light" instead of revealing their true identity as the "messengers of Satan."
In September, 1984, Pope John Paul II will be traveling to Vancouver, B.C. as part of a planned visit to major Canadian cities. In October, a Billy Graham Crusade is scheduled for the same city. The Pope's visit will be the biggest event of the year for Vancouver with over 250,000 expected to participate in a huge outdoor mass and additional thousands expected to see the Pope as he travels throughout the area in his bullet-proof "popemobile." Roman Catholic Archbishop James Carney has announced that during his visit the Pope will appeal for "ecumenism and church unity" and predicts that "the common desire for unity will be reflected in the presence of leaders of other churches at the events."
When Billy Graham arrives in Vancouver for his crusade, the crowds will be much smaller but will involve dozens of churches and pastors and hundreds of professed Christians from a great variety of churches. Will any of these dare to warn about the dangers of Catholicism and Ecumenism? The answer to that question is an obvious "no" since Billy Graham is one of Pope John Paul II's greatest admirers and boosters. When Graham comes to Vancouver so soon after the Pope's visit, he would have an ideal opportunity to warn God's people about the false doctrines of Romanism. Instead, unless he completely reverses his present position, he may be expected to praise the Pope once again as he has in the past, giving the impression that there is not really too much difference in their theological positions.
Shortly before Pope John Paul II's visit to the United States in 1979, Dr. Graham said that the Pope's coming "could start a new wave of spiritual revival in our nation which we desperately need. In the short time he has been pope, John Paul II has become the moral leader of the world. My prayers and the prayers of countless other Protestants will be with him as he makes his journey. His uncompromising moral stand and his warm human personality have won the admiration of many from different religious backgrounds and his visit will be of great significance for all Americans as well as the world." If the Pope preaches a false gospel (and he does), how could be possibly start a "genuine spiritual revival?"
Following Pope John Paul II's visit, Graham praised the Pope as a "statesman, a pastor and an evangelist." Graham said that the Pope was "pointing people to Christ," and he called John Paul II "the greatest religious leader of the modern world." Graham gave not one word of warning about the false gospel Roman Catholicism and the Pope preach - not one warning about the continuing efforts of Romanism toward spiritual and political control of the world!
These and many other statements made by Billy Graham concerning the Pope and Roman Catholicism indicate that Graham is deceived and, in turn, is deceiving others. Those who have been truly saved and delivered from the bondage of Roman Catholicism will attest to that!
In July and August,1983, the World Council of Churches held its 6th Assembly in Vancouver, B.C., where it once again demonstrated conclusively that it is a tool of Satan rather than a testimony for Christ. At Vancouver, the WCC program clearly revealed that it's perimeters are so broad that even raw, heathen worship is not only tolerated but welcomed and featured. Yet, both Billy Graham and Pope John Paul II sent warm personal commendations and greetings to the WCC. And now, with the scheduled coming of both Graham and the Pope to the very same city, who could fail to see that unscriptural bridges of fellowship are being encouraged between Roman Catholicism, Ecumenism and Evangelicalism? Who can fail to see that Billy Graham's changed, compromised position is serving as a catalyst in the formation of the one-world, Harlot Church described in the Book of Revelation?
It is not an easy or pleasant task to take a public stand against the positions held by the world's two best known and loved religious leaders, Dr. Billy Graham and Pope John Paul II. But, if we are to be true to God's Word, the Bible, we dare not remain silent when they say and do that which is absolutely contrary to the Scriptures.
The Bible commands believers to "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them." Ephesians 5:1 1. Billy Graham insists on having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Catholicism, Communism, Ecumenism) and will not reprove them. Thus, Billy Graham is disobeying the Word of God and those who follow his leadership are likewise disobedient.
Pope John Paul II is preaching a false gospel. He is not "abiding in the doctrine of Christ." Those who bid him "God speed" as Billy Graham and many other evangelical and Charismatic leaders do, are disobeying the Word of God. 2 John 9-1 1.
Fellow-believer, what will you do? Will you follow Billy Graham, the Pope, or the Bible? May God help us to say with the apostles of old, "We ought to obey God rather than men!"