The gospel was prostituted this week, and I don’t mean by Joel Osteen, some overly pragmatic megachurch pastor, or some other prosperity gospel huckster. The gospel was prostituted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).
Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for President, visited Billy Graham and his son Franklin, who heads up the BGEA, at Graham’s Montreat home last week while the former Massachusetts Governor was campaigning in the swing state of North Carolina. At the meeting, Graham told Romney that he would do anything he could to help support his election.
That apparently includes removing an article from its web site that lists Mormonism, Romney’s religion, as a cult. The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that the BGEA said the article was removed “because [they] do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”
That’s all well and good, not wanting to politicize something, but then I have to ask the BGEA why the Grahams would put themselves in that position by hosting the Republican nominee for President in the first place, then saying they’d support his election. The Grahams, if anyone, have taken the lead in politicizing their ministry. Of course, this is not a new thing. One of the things Billy Graham is most famous for during his ministry was being a counselor of sorts, or at least having an audience with, almost every President of the United States since the 1950s.
The fact of the matter is that even though this removed article wasn’t just about Mormonism, but also including references to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spiritists, Scientologists, and others, what prompted this removal was the Grahams following through on doing what they could to get Mitt Romney elected. Quite simply, they compromised the gospel for the sake of the Republican Party.
Bart Barber, a pastor in Farmersville, TX, who I have been Facebook friends with for a few years and follow on Twitter, wrote a blog post this evening in which he passionately said he is considering writing in Mike Huckabee because he doesn’t want Romney to get any evangelical votes because of what the Grahams have done, but would rather see them lose votes because of it. I certainly understand his convictions and am sympathetic to them, but do not think that withholding a vote from Romney and perhaps making it easier for the President to be re-elected is the best way to protest this gross distortion of the gospel.
Barber’s anger at the BGEA is not misplaced, though, nor is it wrong. If we are truly serious about the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ… if we are serious about the fact that the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament are the inspired, inerrant, infallible, and sufficient word of God… and if we are serious about the fact that Jesus Christ, as He is revealed in the Bible, is the only way to the Father, then we must rise up and say loud enough for people to hear that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (specifically father and son) is wrong, should be ashamed of themselves, and repent.
And Southern Baptists should respond even further. The sad reality is this incident merely follows up on at least two decades of public statements by the elder Graham which have compromised the gospel of Jesus Christ. This web site incident is nothing new. Yet, just six years ago a statue of Billy Graham was erected in front of the Lifeway headquarters in Nashville, TN, recognizing the accomplishments of his ministry. I’m sorry to say, but that ministry has been tarnished and this is but the most recent example. Southern Baptists should be better than letting a statue of Graham stand, essentially representing what is supposed to be the best of who they are, when Graham is capitulating gospel truth for politics.
Ronald Reagan is famous for addressing Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbechav in 1987 from Berlin and saying, “Tear down this wall!” The power of that statement resonated so much that a little over two years later the wall was torn down by the Germans themselves.
Southern Baptists would do well to tear down that statue and make the statement that getting a President out of office, no matter how awful he’s proven to be and would probably be again, is paltry when you compare it to how important it is to proclaim the truth of God’s word.
Furthermore, I graduated from Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and part of that seminary is the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. What are we saying as Southern Baptists, and what is SBTS saying, when we are naming our Missions and Evangelism school after a man who thinks the Republican winning on November 6 is more important than maintaining the truth about Mormonism? What kind of missions and evangelism is that? I call upon the trustees of SBTS to move immediately to remove Graham’s name from this School.
Statements matter, and what statement is more important than showing we really do believe the glory of God as revealed in the gospel is the most important message we can send? While The Huffington Post reports the BGEA is putting out political ads encouraging voters to support candidates with “biblical values,” Southern Baptists should make some statements of their own.
Tear down that statue! Take his name off that school! Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father and Mormonism is a false gospel, a cult, and a pack of lies from Satan. Go ahead and vote Romney, but don’t obscure the glory of God for the sake of an election.
Updated (2012 Oct 19 – 11:40am): Another thought here. Shouldn’t the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association go ahead and take the word “Evangelistic” out of its name? After all, shouldn’t the first priority of any evangelical entity be the propogation of truth, the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and thus, the refutation of everything which would contradict that truth (Tit 1:9). If they don’t want to take part in a theological debate because of politics, are they not elevating politics above theology, and thus subjugating the glory of the cross? The evangelist doesn’t engage in theological debate for the sake of theological debate, but he doesn’t shy away from it either. The true evangelist would seek to engage the culture in the context of this politically hot season to engage people on a theological basis.