The names of Karl Barth and of Billy Graham ought not, perhaps, to be mentioned in the same sentence, unless one is prepared to stay for the afternoon.
Their gifts and callings are diverse—the one a skilled theologian, the other a skilled evangelist. Their influence is equally dissimilar, that of the one mainly academic, and of the other mainly popular. Barth is today doubtless at the very apex of his career, while Graham’s star very probably is still rising.
Nonetheless, both names are indelibly inscribed upon the role of distinguished Christian leaders in the twentieth century. In some respects, moreover, their ministries reflect superficial points of contact. Barth has had an impact upon theological thought throughout much of the Western world through the translation of his writings; Graham has had an evangelistic access to the Orient as well as to the Continent through the translation of his preaching. Even to contrast their ministries in terms of the technical versus the simple is to exaggerate their basic differences. Barth’s influence has extended beyond the classroom to the pew, and Graham’s call to decision among university students has been as effective as among the less sophisticated. Barth has delivered a series of Gifford Lectures; Graham has fulfilled a week’s preaching mission at Cambridge. And what theologian today does not covet a broad ministry to the market place? Is not the New Testament ideal (we do not imply the flawlessness of Barth’s theology nor of Graham’s evangelism) the theologian-evangelist, whom the apostle Paul supremely exemplifies?
However varied their talents and influences, both Barth and Graham have come to symbolize a religious springtime after the ...1