Billy Graham, Author or Not?

Tim Funk:

At nearly 97 years old, Billy Graham has a new book out.

The cover of “Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity and Our Life Beyond” features the face of Graham in his grandfatherly years, when the Charlotte-born evangelist appeared to mellow, emphasize God’s love and even offer what some interpreted as an inclusive vision of the afterlife.

But on many of the 259 pages of Graham’s 33rd book, the words about heaven and especially hell echo his hard-line sermons from the 1950s, when he stressed God’s judgment, man’s sin and the lies of the devil.

One Billy Graham scholar said the book reads like it was written not by Graham but by his son, Franklin, an evangelist who has a combative style.

But Franklin Graham, in an interview with the Observer, said his father is the author: “It’s all him. Nothing in the book was written that’s not in his words.”

In “Where I Am,” heaven is reserved for Christians who commit their lives to Jesus and hell is real and delivers fiery punishment or worse.

“Hell is a place of sorrow and unrest, a place of wailing and a furnace of fire,” the book says. “And it is where many will spend eternity. If you accept any part of the Bible, you are forced to accept the reality of hell, the place for punishment for those who reject Christ.” …

Graham’s son said he didn’t write any of the book – “I don’t have time for it” – and that his role in the project “was to encourage Daddy to do it ’cause it was on his heart.”

But some Billy Graham scholars say the book echoes the stands and style of Franklin Graham rather than his famous father.

“It (is) clearly, indisputably Franklin,” said Grant Wacker, a professor emeritus at Duke Divinity School who authored “America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation,” a well-reviewed study/biography released last year. “Over the course of (Billy) Graham’s career, he talked less and less about hell until the end (of his career), when he barely mentioned it.”

The reason? “He wanted to bring people to Christ, not scare them away,” said Wacker, who added that Graham had stopped talking about a literal hell of fire and referred to it as a state of being separated from God.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.