A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story,by William Martin (William Morrow, 735 pp.; $25.00, hardcover). Reviewed by John G. Stackhouse, Jr., who teaches modern Christianity in the Department of Religion of the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.

A life of Billy Graham, to be properly matched to its subject, would have to be large. After all, Graham has commanded public attention in America for more than 40 years. He has toured five continents, speaking in huge churches and stadiums to record audiences. He penetrated the Iron Curtain before it was torn in the late 1980s, thus adding the Second World to his itinerary, which had included most of the First and Third Worlds already. And, through his adroit use of the most modern communication technology, he has multiplied his audience into the hundreds of millions, easily making him the most famous speaker in history.

William Martin, professor of sociology at Houston’s Rice University, has written a biography on this appropriately large scale. With more than 600 pages of text and almost 100 pages of notes, approaching 400,000 words in all, this survey of Graham’s life is as big as it has to be.

Not a page is badly spent. One of the most noteworthy features of this biography is its location of Graham in the history of American revivalism. It starts with a brief but useful survey of Graham’s predecessors, and it sustains this comparison at key junctures throughout the story that follows.

American Symbol

Each phase of Graham’s life receives attention, from his early formation in the hills of North Carolina, to his education in Tennessee, Florida, and Illinois, to his early career with Youth for Christ, to his ever-expanding independent career in the decades that followed. ...

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