This article originally appeared in the November 18, 1988 issue of Christianity Today.
Not much in Billy Graham's theological outlook is conspicuously "new," and Graham himself would doubtless be gratified that it is not. When modernist and humanist critics accused him of turning back the clock of theological progress by a generation, he offered to escort them back 19 centuries to Jesus and the apostles.
Graham is not simply an evangelist, but is expressly an evangelical evangelist, and that implies at once an irreducible theological content and commitment to a complex of Bible doctrines. He has never vacillated on the fundamentals that evangelical orthodoxy championed against theological liberalism.
Graham did not shape recent evangelical doctrine as much as he proclaimed it. He was a student at Wheaton College when the National Association of Evangelicals arose in 1942 with its definitive theological affirmations. He pursued no formal theological studies beyond the A.B. degree, a circumstance that some critics of seminary trends—rightly or wrongly—consider a blessing that may have preserved his evangelistic zeal. From 1947 to 1952 he served as president of Northwestern College in Minneapolis, where, in 1951, he graciously invited me to give the W. B. Riley Memorial Lectures to a student body more alert to evangelism than to theology.
Graham's weekly "Hour of Decision" radio program, inaugurated in 1950, featured powerful sermonic evangelism more than structured theological exposition. And to this day his monthly sermon in Decision magazine is oriented more to a popular mass-media audience than to cognitively oriented theologians. Yet almost from the beginning of his nationwide evangelistic campaigns in 1949, many ...