Billy Graham, C. S. Lewis & Pope John Paul II
Little if anything more needs to be said today about Billy Graham, laid to rest today at his home in North Carolina, other than to repeat what he wanted the world to hear: Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. In Him is the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
To the extent this was Graham's message, indeed, to that extent he stands in glorious apostolic company, including many in the last century, who have, like Andrew the Apostle, told others to "Come and see." Graham was a fisher of men, and he caught many in the Lord's net. He had been captivated by Christ, the lover of mankind. His preaching transcended denominational labels.
Family members have told me about one of his crusades in Detroit sometime the 1950s, where my father "went forward—and where they also saw in the audience Catholic school children with their teachers, Catholic nuns, who had brought them to hear the good words of this Southern Baptist preacher.
A few weeks ago I read a post by Robert George, quoting the singer and songwriter Bob Dylan:
When I was growing up, Billy Graham was very popular. He was the greatest preacher and evangelist of my time—that guy could save souls and did. I went to two or three of his rallies in the '50s or '60s. This guy was like rock 'n' roll personified—volatile, explosive. He had the hair, the tone, the elocution—when he spoke, he brought the storm down. Clouds parted. Souls got saved, sometimes 30- or 40,000 of them. If you ever went to a Billy Graham rally back then, you were changed forever. There's never been a preacher like him.
While on a mission in England, Graham met with the Anglican C. S. Lewis. Lewis, who later said:
I had the pleasure of meeting Billy Graham once. We had dinner together during his visit to Cambridge University in 1955, while he was conducting a mission to students. I thought he was a very modest and a very sensible man, and I liked him very much indeed.
Graham later admitted,
I was afraid I would be intimidated by Lewis, but I was relieved to find that he immediately put me at ease. I found him to be not only intelligent and witty but also gentle and gracious. He seemed genuinely interested in our meetings.
I am sure some of us wish we could have been there! Lewis himself had his own evangelical reach, in a different style and medium—Narnia, Mere Christianity—which brought many into the nets, such as Chuck Colson.
Then there was Graham and John Paul II. When the Pope died in April 2005: Dr. Graham told Larry King he had the privilege of seeing the Pope on several occasions at the Vatican.
And tonight, I have a very strange feeling of loss. I almost feel as though one of my family members has gone. I loved him very much and had the opportunity of discussing so many things with him. And we wrote each other several times during the years," Dr. Graham said.
Larry King asked Dr. Graham: "Did he actually say to you once, 'We are brothers'"?
Graham: That's correct. He certainly did. He held my hand the first time that I met him about 1981—he'd just been Pope for two years when I saw him first. Because when he was elevated to the papacy, I was preaching in his cathedral in Krakow that very day. And we had thousands of people in the streets. And watching the television today of Krakow has brought back many memories.
King: You said that he was an Evangelist.
Graham: He was, indeed. He traveled throughout the world to bring his Christian message to the world.
King: There is no question in your mind that he is with God now?
Graham: Oh, no. There may be a question about my own, but I don't think Cardinal Wojtyla, or the Pope—I think he's with the Lord, because he believed. He believed in the Cross. That was his focus throughout his ministry, the Cross, no matter if you were talking to him [about a] personal issue or an ethical problem, he felt that there was the answer to all of our problems: the Cross and the Resurrection. And he was a strong believer.
Inspired by the evangelical witness of Graham, I close with words from a Catholic priest, Don Giovanni Calabria, whom I think Graham would have appreciated. This was written in 1949, just two years after Graham's first crusade, to C. S. Lewis, his "dearest brother".
Then, let us work—with generous heart and with an intrepid faith for the spread of God's Kingdom—to clasp our brothers together in the unity of faith and love, striving as strenuously as possible to bring it about that Christ's love may conquer, reign, and rule in the whole world. Without Him, we can do nothing: but "we can do all things in Him who strengthens" us.
Billy Graham the Evangelist, Memory Eternal!
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James
James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.