A Modern Day Daniel In the Lion's Den
[read in Lamplighter (pdf)]
In 1991 an outstanding academic biography of Billy Graham was published. It was titled, A Prophet With Honor.1 The author, Dr. William Martin, was at that time a professor at Rice University where he specialized in the sociology of religion.
I knew Dr. Martin personally since we had been students together at Harvard University in the early 1960s. As soon as the book was published, I called him and asked, "Why in the world did you title the book, A Prophet With Honor? You know as well as I do that Billy Graham was anything but a prophet!"
Dr. Martin laughed and responded, "Yes, Dave, I realize that, but in like manner, you know as well as I do that publishers demand absolute control over a book's cover and its title." He went on to explain that he had engaged in a wrestling match with the publisher over the title, but had lost.
A Difference in Styles and Callings
Billy Graham was a very gifted and effective evangelist, but he certainly was no prophet. He sought the favor of politicians, he feared offending anyone, and he had "an obsessive need for approval."2 His son, Franklin, has summed it up this way: "Daddy hates to say no. I can say no."3
In stark contrast, Franklin could care less about currying the favor of politicians, he refuses to tip-toe through the tulips with regard to controversial issues, and he seeks no one's approval except the Lord's. "I've never really been one to try to be politically correct," Franklin has stated. "I just feel truth is truth, and sometimes I probably offend some people."4
Well, as we shall see, there is no "probably" about it. Franklin drives his critics crazy with his refusal to compromise on the issues, and as a result, he is the focus of unrelenting attacks. Take, for example the headline of a Huffington Post article dated March 6, 2015: "Franklin Graham is Still the Worst Thing to Happen to God in a While."5 The author of the article proclaimed, "God has a tough time living down Franklin Graham's narrow bigotry."6
Franklin is not a chip off the old block. His focus and style are radically different from his father's. Franklin has commented about their differences several times in public. He has pointed out that he has received criticism from both Christian leaders and staff members that could be summed up with the words, "Your father would never have said that or taken that position in public."7
Franklin normally responds to such observations by pointing out that his father ministered in a Christian nation whereas he is ministering in the midst of a nation that is jettisoning its Christian heritage.8
That observation is legitimate, but it does not explain the major differences in their ministries. Those differences are rooted in their gifting by the Holy Spirit. Billy was gifted as an evangelist, and he used that gift mightily to proclaim the Gospel to more people than any other evangelist who has ever lived. Franklin, on the other hand, has been gifted prophetically, and he is thus more concerned with speaking out against the evils of society and calling people to repentance.
The spiritual gift of prophecy can be manifested in three ways:
- Supernatural knowledge of the future.
- The ability to understand and teach Bible prophecy.
- The ability and compulsion to apply the Scriptures to contemporary national and international issues.
Franklin Graham excels in the third category, and like his father who preached the Gospel boldly and without compromise, Franklin speaks out fearlessly on all the social and moral issues of our time.
An American Prophet
In the process, he has emerged as one of America's most significant prophetic voices, calling this nation to repentance and warning of God's judgment if we fail to repent.
In sermon after sermon, Franklin has made it clear that he believes America is a nation in revolt against the very One who has blessed it so abundantly. As evidence of the rebellion, he has pointed to the sexual revolution of the 1960s which he says, "left behind a shattered moral landscape that has undermined the fabric and foundation of our nation."9 He argues that the so-called "freedoms" promised by the sexual revolution have resulted instead in "increasing slavery and captivity to sin."10
While commenting on the demands of the LGBT advocacy groups, Franklin presented a sweeping summary of the cultural war that is being waged in America today:11
This is a full-scale assault against Christianity and the followers of Christ. When prayer is banned from the public square; when our President fails to defend biblically defined marriage, and he openly and zealously advocates for gay rights; when legislators rush to overrule existing laws to promote gay marriage; when schools and courts consistently suppress religious freedoms; we know we are locked in a war against the Christian faith, not culture. The architect behind this offensive is none other than Satan himself. The Scripture says that the devil, our archenemy is bent on as much destruction as possible.
Bemoaning the tidal wave of immorality that has swept across our nation since the 1960s, Franklin writes, "There is virtually no place where its corrosive influence is not felt... Today, what our society seems to value most is the freedom to do whatever makes us feel good."12 He then observed that anyone who would try to stop Americans from doing destructive things to themselves "is mocked and vilified."13
To summarize the moral decay of our nation, Franklin presents the following observation: "The moral compass that once guided our nation's people has been ridiculed and rejected, making sin the national sport and pastime."14
The Sources of Our Problems
Franklin puts much of the blame for America's wretched spiritual condition on "sinful entertainment" that "deposits rubbish in the mind, giving Satan a foothold in our lives."15 Referring to Hollywood as "Follywood," he laments the fact that "we are willing to spend our hard-earned money on... films that instill in us the opposite of what the Bible commands."16
And with regard to television, Franklin asks, "Why do we welcome into our homes the flaunting of sin that glorifies the flesh and curses the Name of Jesus, while on Sundays we glorify Him at church?"17 Franklin has stated that when he was a boy, the most risque thing he remembers seeing on TV was Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke.18 But in contrast, "Now even watching the advertisements on television or viewing the trailers for movies is enough to make you blush."19
Franklin reserves his most stinging rebuke for what he considers to be the fundamental source of our national spiritual morass — namely, silent pulpits. In May of 2014 he delivered a powerful condemnation of Evangelical pastors and challenged them to rise up and start speaking out in behalf of righteousness.20
The occasion was a banquet in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the Family Research Council at which Franklin was given the "Watchman on the Wall Award." He began his remarks by reading Revelation 21:8 where there is a list of eight groups of people who will be consigned to Hell. He pointed out that the very first group mentioned was the "cowardly," and he then launched into a no-holds-barred condemnation of preachers for their cowardice in failing to speak out about the sins of America.21 He chastised them for evading moral issues for fear of offending someone:22
Christians cannot ignore parts of God's Word because they are unpopular or cause division. Our commission is to proclaim Christ and all He stands for. This is what the church's presence in the world is all about. We cannot sincerely proclaim the truth of God's love while ignoring what He hates, and God hates sin.
He proceeded to point out that just as our nation has drifted from the strict interpretation of the Constitution, so also has the church seriously drifted from taking God at His Word.23 He added, "It is cowardice to excuse sin by claiming [as do many preachers] we have no right to judge what God has already judged." He referred his audience to the words of Isaiah 51:7,13 which reads: "Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, you people in whose heart is My law: Do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their insults... You have feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor."
He concluded his remarks with this challenge:24
Let's overcome cowardice with courage. Let's be fearless ambassadors of Christ and stand strong for the glory of God our Savior, pulling others from the fire of eternal judgement (Jude 23).
Standing for Righteousness
Franklin is not calling the pastors and evangelists of this nation to do something he is not willing to do himself. He has, in fact, become the model of a prophetic voice speaking out boldly against the sins of our nation. In the process he has taken the bull by the horns on many occasions. Consider his comments on the following social and moral issues:
Abortion — "There is no place for compromise on straightforward issues such as abortion... God has given us clear biblical direction that we must follow and obey... As a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, I believe this is a nonnegotiable issue. Abortion is wrong. It is the murder of unborn children, and no law of the land and no party platform can ever legitimize it."25
Gun Control — "The gun control proposals now circulating in Washington and in many state capitals don't address a more important issue — the constant strain of violence put forth by the entertainment industry [in movies, music and video games]. But the problem — the real crux of the issue — lies not in the instruments of violence used... The root of violence is in the evil and depraved heart of man."26
Islam — "Islam is a religion of hatred. It's a religion of war."27 "For Muslims, peace comes only through supmission to Islam. When they speak of peace, they mean supmission to their religion... Worldwide, tens of thousands of men, women and children have been slaughtered in the name of Allah, under the bloody flag of Islam."28
ISIS — "The evil of ISIS really shouldn't shock us — it is fully in keeping with their ultimate agenda of hastening a final apocalypse... One thing is for sure — one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."29
Hinduism — "No elephant with 100 arms can do anything for me. None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation."30
Same-Sex Marriage — "True followers of Jesus Christ... cannot endorse same-sex marriage, regardless of what our President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the media or the latest Gallup poll says about the matter... This moral issue has been settled by God Himself and is not supject to man-made revisions or modifications. In the end, I would rather be on the wrong side of public opinion than on the wrong side of Almighty God who established the standard of living for the world He created."31
Homosexuality — "The church is on dangerous ground when it departs from the teaching of Christ and attempts to redefine His commands and compromise His truth. There are many things in Scripture that Christians disagree on, but the Bible is crystal clear about the sanctity of life and marriage. It is also clear that homosexuality is spelled out as sin — there are not ifs, ands or buts."32
Transgender Restrooms — "[The idea] is not only ridiculous, it's unsafe. Common sense tells us that this would open the door, literally, to all sorts of serious concerns, including giving sexual predators access to children. It violates every sense of privacy and decency for people of both sexes, adults and children."33
Secularism — "When the Berlin Wall came down, everybody said we had won... [but then] Secularism came. And Secularism and Communism are the same thing. They're godless. They're anti-Christ."34
Christian Persecution — "Even in America there has recently grown an ugly, anti-Christian bias and intolerance that is changing our nation from the inside out, opening doors for all kinds of discrimination and loss of religious freedom that we hear about daily in the news."35
Government — "We're living now in a time where we see the spirit of Antichrist is at the government level."36 "I have no confidence that any politician or any party is going to turn this country around. The only hope for this country is for men and women of God to take a stand."37
Fear — "Are we going to be cowards because we're afraid? Could we get our heads chopped off? We could, maybe one day. So what? Chop it off!"38
Taking on the President
On several occasions, Franklin has boldly stood up to President Obama in public. In May of 2012 when Obama endorsed same-sex marriage, Graham denounced the President by declaring he had "shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage."39
At the Presidential Prayer Breakfast in February of this year, President Obama came across as defending Islamic acts of barbarity when he made the following observation: "Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ."40 Franklin's response was swift and powerful:41
Mr. President, many people in history have used the name of Jesus Christ to accomplish evil things for their own desires. But Jesus taught peace, love and forgiveness. He came to give His life for the sins of mankind, not to take life. Muhammad, on the contrary, was a warrior and killed many innocent people. True followers of Christ emulate Christ — true followers of Muhammad emulate Muhammad.
Calling the Nation to Repentance
Franklin has just announced that he plans to take his message of repentance to the entire nation during 2016 by holding prayer rallies in every state in the union before the presidential election in November. He is calling it The Decision America Tour.42
He says he plans to challenge Americans to:43
- Pray earnestly for the nation.
- Live out their faith boldly.
- Take a stand for righteousness.
- Run for public office.
- Get out to vote.
- Be salt and light for the nation.
Here's how Franklin has summed up the overall purpose of the rallies:44
The only hope for this country is Almighty God and His Son. We can't sit idly by any longer. LGBT activists, abortion rights advocates, aggressive atheist groups, and others who ignore God's Word are trying to shove their agenda down our throats. We need to take every opportunity to speak up for biblical standards and let our lights shine. We need to work to preserve our religious freedoms so that we can continue to proclaim the Gospel freely. If we as Christians stand together and let our voice be heard, I believe God can use us to make a difference. I hope you will start praying with us now.
We need to praise God for this courageous Christian leader. We need to pray for his safety, and we need to pray for the success of his national tour next year. I would urge all of you to get involved in the prayer rally that is scheduled for your state. You can sign up for updates regarding the rally in your state at http://billygraham.org/decision-america-tour.
In the meantime, each of us who profess to be Christians need to be willing to stand up and be counted in behalf of Jesus and God's Word.
1) William Martin, A Prophet With Honor (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1991).
2) Michael D'Antonio, "Playing it Safe in the Pulpit" (a review of A Prophet With Honor), http://articles.latimes.com/199-11-10/books/bk-2227_1_billy-graham-s-success.
3) Tim Graham, "Newsweek Slams 'Theological Bully' Franklin Graham, Tilting His Politics 'Hard to the Right,'" http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tim-graham/2011/05/17/newsweek-slamstheological-bully-franklin-graham-tilting-his-politics-ha#sthash.ixG2YCNl.dpuf.
4) John Westen, "Billy Graham's Son Franklin: Gay lifestyle is 'a sin' and 'I want to warn people,'" www.lifesitenews.com/news/billy-grahams-son-franklin-homosexuality-is-a-sin- andi-want-to-warn-people, page 2.
5) Derek Penwell, "Franklin Graham is Still the Worst Thing to Happen to God in a While," The Huffington Post, 03/05/2015, www.huffingtonpost.com/derek-penwell/franklin-graham-obama_ b_6809080.html.
6) Ibid., page 2.
7) Michael W. Chapman, "Rev. Graham: Secularists Are 'Anti-Christ' and 'They've Taken Control of Washington," CNSNews, January 30, 2015, http://cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/rev-graham-secularists-are-anti-christ-and-they-ve-taken-control-washington.
9) Franklin Graham, "Franklin Graham Points to Jezebel Scriptures to Describe America," CharismaNews, 02/12/2015, http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/48265-franklin-grahampoints-to-jezebel-scriptures-to-describe-america.
11) GLAAD, "Franklin Graham," www.glaad.org/cap/franklin-graham.
12) Franklin Graham, "Franklin Graham Points to Jezebel Scriptures..." page 2.
14) Franklin Graham, "Hollywood: Entertaining Ourselves to Death," AFAJournal, September 2014, page 17.
16) Ibid., page 16.
20) Franklin Graham, "Cowards or Overcomers: Standing Strong," Decision magazine, July/August 2014, pages 4-6.
21) Ibid., page 4.
23) Ibid., page 6.
25) Katherine Weber. "Franklin Graham: There is 'No Compromise' on Abortion, Gay Marriage," The Christian Post, 05/18/2012, www.christianpost.com/news/franklin-graham-there-is-nocompromise-on-abortion-gay-marriage-75146.
26) Franklin Graham, "Only One Solution to End Violence," Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 02/04/2013, http://billygraham.org/story/only-one-solution-to-end-violence.
27) Brian Montopoli, "Does America Hate Islam?" CBS News, 08/19/2010, www.cbsnews.com/news/does-america-hate-islam.
28) Jennifer Leclaire, "Urgent Call for Intercession Over Franklin Graham," CharismaNews, www.charismanews.com/opinion/watchman-on-the-wall/48410-urgent-call-for-intercession-overfranklin-graham.
29) Carrie Dedrick, "Franklin Graham: Muslims Who Kill Christians Are Emulating Muhammed," ChristianHeadlines, 03/13/2015, www.charismanews.com/opinion/watchman-on-the-wall/48410-urgent-call-for-intercession-over-franklin-graham.
30) Cathy Lynn Grossman, "Franklin Graham wants Obama to step in on Prayer Day slight," USA Today, 05/04/2010, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-05-05-graham05_ST_N.htm.
31) Michael W. Chapman, "Graham: 'True Followers of Jesus... Cannot Endorse Same-Sex Marriage,'" CNSNews, 05/16/2014, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-05-05-graham05_ST_N.htm, page 1.
32) Ibid., page 3.
33) Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, "Franklin Graham Speaks Bluntly About Transgender Bathrooms," CharismaNews, 02/20/2015, www.charismanews.com/opinion/48402-franklingraham-speaks-bluntly-about-transgender-bathrooms.
34) Kristy Etheridge, "Franklin Graham: 'I'm not going to run,'" Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 01/28/2015, http://billygraham.org/story/franklin-graham-im-not-going-to-run.
35) Carrie Dedrick, "Franklin Graham Delivers Easter Message with Warning of 'Anti-Christian Bias,'" ChristianHeadlines, 04/06/2015, http://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/franklin-graham-delivers-easter-message-with-warning-of-anti-christian-bias.html.
36) Elwood McQuaid, "Is America a Christian Nation?" Israel My Glory magazine, March/April 2015, page 6.
37) Bible Prophecy Blog, "Rev. Graham: Christians Need to Get Involved in Politics," 01/31/2015, www.bibleprophecyblog.com/2015/01/rev-graham-christians-need-to-get.html.
38) Michael Gryboski, "Franklin Graham Calls on Pastors to Speak Out on Abortion, Homosexuality; Says 'God Hates Cowards,'" 05/22/2014, http://www.christianpost.com/news/franklingraham-calls-on-pastors-to-speak-out-on-abortion-homosexuality-says-god-hates-cowards-120265.
39) Andra Varin, "Franklin Graham: Obama Has 'Shaken His Fist' at God," Newsmax, 05/10/2012, www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/franklin-graham-obama-gay/2012/05/10/id/438661.
40) Alexandra Jaffe, "Obama takes fire for Crusades comparison," CNN, 02/07/2015, www.cnn.com/2015/02/06/politics/obama-isis-crusades-comparison, page 3.
41) Jessilyn Justice, "Franklin graham Rebukes Obama," CharismaNews, 02/09/2015, www.charismanews.com/us/48219-franklin-graham-rebukes-obama.
42) Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, "Franklin Graham Launching 50-State Decision America Tour in 2016," 04/15/2015, http://billygraham.org/story/franklin-graham-launching-50-city-tour-in-2016.
44) Kyle Mantyla, "Franklin Graham To Save America With Right-Wing 'Prayer Rallies' In All 50 States Before 2016 Election," Right Wing Watch, 05/12/2015, www.rightwingwatch.org/content/franklin-graham-save-america-right-wing-prayer-rallies-all-50-states-2016-election.