Is Billy Graham A Closet Universalist?
By Gary Amirault
The reader would be surprised to discover how many Christian leaders abandon their faith in what they once believed as young zealot Christians. It is much like war - young men who think they will never die are quick to sign up for a war dreaming of the great glory they might receive from it. But the grandfathers, those who have seen the ravages of war -- they know that the promised glory coming from killing other men, women and children is not all it is cracked up to be by the propagandists. The closer one gets to the grave, the less judgmental one often becomes and the more one is willing one to extend mercy rather than judgment. So too, with many "men of the cloth."
William Barclay, the famed "Prince of Expositors" nearly the end of his life came to the conclusion that in the end all mankind would be saved. He came to deny what he had taught his entire life - that many would find themselves in eternal torments in a place called Hell. Near the end of his life, William Barclay, famous for many writings, but especially for his Commentary, believed in Universal Salvation. In his autobiography, he states,
"But in one thing, I would go beyond strict orthodoxy - I am a convinced universalist. I believe that in the end all men will be gathered into the love of God." (William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography," William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., copyright 1975, p. 65)
There is another famous evangelical who seems to have made a major turn recently from his Christian beliefs as a young evangelist - Billy Graham. While Billy Graham's recent statements are not as plainly stated as William Barclay's, Billy certainly has changed dramatically from his early Hell-fire and Brimstone messages. The following is a quote from an interview with Billy Graham by Jon Meacham of Newsweek Magazine, August 14, 2006:
In Graham's view, the core message of the Gospel, and the love of God "for all people" should take priority... But more recent years have given him something he had little of in his decades of global evangelism: time to think both more deeply and more broadly... He refuses to be judgmental, thinks God's ways and means are veiled from human eyes and wrapped in mystery. "There are many things that I don't understand," he says. He does not believe that Christians need to take every verse of the Bible literally; "sincere Christians," he says, "can disagree about the details of Scripture and theology-absolutely"..he is arguing that the Bible is open to interpretation, and fair-minded Christians may disagree or come to different conclusions about specific points. Like Saint Paul, he believes human beings on this side of paradise can grasp only so much. "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror," Paul wrote, "then we shall see face to face." "As time went on, I began to realize the love of God for everybody, all over the world," he says. "And in his death on the cross, some mysterious thing happened between God and the Son that we don't understand. But there he was, alone, taking on the sins of the world... I spend more time on the love of God than I used to." When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: "Those are decisions only the Lord will make. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have." Meacham, Jon. Newsweek Magazine . 14 August 2006. Excerpt from interview with Billy Graham. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14204483/ .
Billy Graham's comments may have left a little wiggle room for a few who still might find themselves in everlasting flames, but it seems he has certainly immensely enlarged the gates to heaven from what he believed as a young evangelist. It would bring me great joy, if Billy Graham came completely out of the closet and affirmed Paul, the apostle's bold declaration:
"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we truth in the Living God, who is the Savior of all mankind, especially those who believe. These things command and teach." 1 Timothy 4:9-11
Now that's bold and plain. As plain as Jesus' words when He said,
"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (drag in the Greek) all mankind unto My self. This He spoke concerning what manner of death He should die. John 12:32
May more Church leaders put down the lies they believed when young and grow in the grace William Barclay and Billy Graham seemed to find in their wiser days. It would surely make this world a more peaceful place in which to live.