# What Do Billy Graham, Dwight L. Moody, and Jonathan Edwards Have in Common with Paul Young
By Dr. James De Young
The first three names above are probably known to most Americans—Billy Graham in particular, who just celebrated his 98th birthday. These are special names in the history of American evangelism. During the last half of the 20th century Billy Graham spoke to millions of people worldwide. His crusades emphasized the singing of great hymns by large choirs; and George Beverly Shea became a household name. Billy Graham focused especially on the powerful preaching of the Bible about salvation. Billy’s words, “The Bible says,” still echo in our ears. Billy focused on the death of Jesus Christ as the one who suffered God’s judgment and provided forgiveness for sins. Billy invited people to believe in Christ and become Christians, and they responded in great numbers. His son, Franklin Graham, directs Samaritan’s Purse that gives out millions of Christmas presents to children all over the world under “Operation Christmas Child.” The total impact of Billy Graham for good on America and beyond is probably beyond calculation.
All Christians everywhere celebrate what God did through Billy Graham.
In an earlier century, from the 1870’s to 1899, God raised up Dwight L. Moody to be an evangelist to millions. A former shoe salesman, Moody preached to millions here and in Great Britain. It was also a time for the revival of Christian hymnody under musicians such as Franny Crosby and Ira Sankey. Moody’s campaigns were the impetus for the ongoing training of lay people in Bible institutes, with Moody himself founding what later became the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago—still a vibrant college level institute and graduate school. The impact of the institute on world missions outreach is probably immeasurable.
All Christians everywhere deeply appreciate what the Lord did through D. L. Moody.
In an earlier century yet, in the mid 1700’s, America was greatly corrupted. Morality was at an all-time low; Christian practice was in great decline. But then God raised up Jonathan Edwards. His famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” helped spark the Great Awakening in New England and beyond. George Whitefield from England, John and Charles Wesley, and others brought spiritual renewal to great multitudes throughout the American colonies. About one out of every six people became a Christian during the first Great Awakening and during the Second that followed. Even atheist historians acknowledge that these spiritual awakenings helped anchor the American Revolution to a strong base of morality.
All American Christians are thankful for the spiritual revolution that accompanied our political revolution.
What about Paul Young? Who is he? Why have I brought him into this discussion?
Wm. P. Young has written three novels, the most famous being The Shack and the movie based on it. Normally such fictional writing would have little impact on the American church and culture. But these are not “normal” times. The Shack has sold over 20 million copies in the last ten years, and the film is increasing sales again. The Christian public thirsts for the emotional high that Young’s writings give.
But rather than every Christian giving thanks to God for this success there is growing concern and even anger at the theology, the false teaching, that Young is propagating.
Rather than increasing the growth of the Christian church, Young is out to destroy it. About fifteen years ago Young converted to universal reconciliation (UR). Soon after, in 2004, he wrote 103 pages to say he was rejecting his “evangelical paradigm” (his words) and embracing the beliefs of UR. Then in 2007 he wrote The Shack which subtly propagates his universalism. He repeated his assault on Christianity in his other novels, Crossroads (2012) and Eve (2015). The latter reveals Young’s disdain for Christian faith by rewriting the creation account of Genesis 1-3. It makes Adam the cause for the “fall” of both Eve and the serpent! Adam and Eve are birthed as infants and both suck at the breasts of “Eternal Man.” Ugh!
What do universalists believe? Why is this such a serious matter? UR asserts that God’s primary attribute is love which limits his other attributes of justice and holiness. God created everyone to be in him; thus everyone is fully his child. No one needs to repent and believe the gospel to be saved because everyone is already saved. Therefore God cannot judge anyone since they already belong to him. Sin and hell do not separate anyone from God. Any who go to hell because of unbelief will be chastised by the purifying fire to repent and will exit hell for heaven, and hell ceases to exist. Even the Devil and his angels will go to heaven. The cross was not God’s plan; indeed, the cross was unnecessary.
How long has universalism been around? UR goes back to the third century of the church when a few leaders began teaching it. Church councils declared it heretical in the 5th and 6th centuries. In early America it grew quickly and opposed the Great Awakening and the evangelical gospel. Christians like Isaac Backus began exposing it in the late 1700’s and after a hundred years it began to subside. Now it is resurging again under Young and other universalists.
Why have I brought up this discussion involving Billy Graham, Dwight Moody, Jonathan Edwards, and Paul Young? Because Paul Young seeks to destroy all that these three great evangelists believed and preached and their influence on American life. He rejects their preaching that God judges sin, that God provided the death of Christ as the good news of forgiveness, that people who repent from sin and believe on Christ become children of God bound for heaven. In 2004 Young wrote that those who preach eternal judgment make Jesus “a million times more vicious and vindictive” than Pharaoh, Nero and Hitler put together (p. 22). Young says Jesus never made an eternal payment to atone for sins. “Calvary was nothing but a farce, a burlesque, a travesty, and a sham. Then Jesus died a failure and in vain, and never redeemed anyone from anything. If eternal torment were the penalty for sin, then Jesus is not the Savior of men, for He failed to take our place, and pay our debt, by being eternally tormented. And if He is not the Savior of men, then He is not even a good man, but a liar, and therefore a rogue and a deceiving rascal. Salvation is a mere myth, and the Bible’s the world’s most abominable maze of evil imaginings” (p. 29).
In his latest book, Lies We Believe about God, Young boldly identifies himself as a universalist. The “We” in the book title includes the three great evangelists! The “lies” are Christian beliefs derived from the Bible.
Why would Young be so bold? Recently Young declared (see Religious News Service, Mar 3, 2017) that the evangelical church is crumbling, that he is part of a new reformation under the Holy Spirit.
Church history has validated the ministry of the three great evangelists. Yet Young would turn this all around and assert that he is right and they were wrong, that the church has been wrong for 2000 years.
How shall we assess the three great evangelists? For those who love Jesus Christ and the Bible the answer is clear. We stand with them and against UR. We identify UR as a great heresy. We declare that universalism destroys Christian faith, that those who proclaim it are deceiving the Christian church under the influence of Satan himself, that it is not the work of the Holy Spirit.
What do the three evangelists have in common with Paul Young? Absolutely nothing! They were faithful to the Bible, Young is not. They ministered under the Holy Spirit; Young does not.