Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Review: Billy

I recently took advantage of an offer made by Michael Hyatt, President of Thomas Nelson Company. The company would send me a free copy of one of their books if I’d post a review—good, bad, or indifferent—on my blog and on Amazon. At first glance, none of the books on the list appealed to me. Then I saw Billy. This book purported to be “The untold story of a young Bill Graham and the test of faith that almost changed everything.” Sounded interesting. I requested it and have just finished reading it.

The book uses a clever device to carry along the story. It’s told as a series of revelations made in an interview by a television reporter with evangelist-turned-atheist Charles Templeton, once a close friend of Graham’s. I was fascinated as I learned about Billy Graham’s early years. For instance, I had no idea he once sold Fuller Brushes, or that he was the youngest college president in the US (although the college was small and struggling). I had forgotten that his wife, Ruth, was the daughter of missionary parents and had no plans to ever marry.

The “crisis of faith” is the turning point of the book. Graham’s close friend, a man with whom he’d shared the platform at Youth For Christ rallies, decided that he could no longer believe the Bible was God’s Word. Not only that, Templeton seemed to delight in making fun of his friend’s continuing faith.

It’s probably a reflection of my own preferences as a writer, but I didn’t care for the way the authors handled the scene where Graham wrestles with his own doubts. The section, which continues for eight pages, begins this way: “Had Billy been able to see beyond the thin veil that separates this world from the spirit world, he would no doubt have been surprised and possibly terrified at the spiritual battle being waged in the heavenlies all around him. Lucifer, also known as the accuser of the brethren, the longstanding enemy of Yahweh, and now the personal enemy of Billy’s soul, was bidding high for him that night, commanding his minions to do everything within their power—which allowed for significant oppression—to divert Billy Graham from the destiny God had planned for him.”

This book shows Billy Graham to be a humble man, used by God to communicate the Good News of salvation to multiple thousands, yet always aware that he was just the messenger, not the Message. In my opinion, if you like reading biography, this one--with the exception of the section I've already mentioned--is well-written and worth a read.


Anonymous said...

I can't help but wonder why you didn't like this reference to spiritual warfare, Doc. Is it the subject or the writing itself?

Deb said...

"Bidding high for Billy's soul"? Ewww. That would be almost enough to make me wallbang the book, to say nothing of unsound thinking.

I remember hearing Billy Graham quoted as saying he never argued theology with anyone, because he was not and had never been a theologian. His doctrine, however, has always been sound: "Christ, and Him crucified" -- that's more than enough.

Nicole said...

I can't help but wonder why you didn't like this reference to spiritual warfare, Doc. Is it the subject or the writing itself?