WASHINGTON (RNS)—Ecumenist, prophet, peacemaker. Friend of presidents and queens. Evangelical powerbroker who was sometimes too closely tied to politicians. Each description applies to Billy Graham.
An official 1991 biography by William Martin called America’s foremost evangelist a Prophet With Honor. The editors of a new book largely agree, but not without casting a more critical eye on Graham’s remarkable career.
There are many reasons to appreciate Graham, say the authors of The Legacy of Billy Graham without granting him iconic status.
The Problem with Evangelical Theology by Ben Witherington III (Baylor University Press)
Ben Witherington, professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, contends that evangelicals are, in general, biblically illiterate and tend to embrace theology that would be unknown to the early church fathers prior to St. Augustine. Instead, they often cling to their respective denominational doctrines without thoroughly examining the scriptural texts, often unwilling to do the hard work of learning the original languages and deeply studying the contexts of the writings.