This article originally appeared in the August 11, 1997 issue of Christianity Today.
Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham
by Billy Graham
HarperOne, April 1997
800 pp. $14.99
Billy: A Personal Look at the World's Best-Loved Evangelist
by Sherwood Eliot Wirt
Crossway Books, March 1997
217 pp. $13.25
Well," said the best-selling author on the other end of the line, "They're calling it 'the book of the century.' " Unlike the news-magazines, talk-show hosts, and, it would seem, most other Americans, I hadn't yet seen Billy's autobiography, and my friend was trying to sum up the matter for me. Book of the century? I mused. A few decades early for such a judgment,isn't it? I had known Billy Graham from his youth and had no doubt he was the man of the century for evangelicals, probably for Protestants,perhaps for Christendom; but book of the century? Then I read it.
While it is not the literary masterpiece of the century—though in general it's well written—I read the book with a sense of awe, as if standing in the presence of a person who, without trying, towers over the century. Who else could give us a view of our presidency from inside the White House,uninterrupted for more than a half-century? And never once was he even tempted to seek residence in that house, though often urged to do so. No one in church history could compare to Billy Graham in the numbers of people personally introduced to Jesus. And the understated report of it here is stunning. To this day, I weep whenever I watch those final moments of the TV specials,multitudes streaming down from the stands, not to Billy, but to Jesus. Yet,in this book, the magnitude of that phenomenon overwhelmed me.
Just As I Am is not just a chronology of crusades ...1
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