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|“The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep SILENCE before him.”|
Billy Graham who died on 21 February 2018 is hailed by many as a “great Christian leader”. The Straits Times on February 23 featured two articles on Billy Graham; one of which was Joe Scarborough’s with this headline, “Today’s evangelicals could learn a lot from Billy Graham”. Scarborough was full of praise for Graham. However, Graham has been criticised for certain unbiblical practices. Scarborough charges Graham’s critics for “a lack of grace” for pointing out his errors. But what does the Bible say about righting wrongs and correcting errors? Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” We judge righteous judgement when we judge on the basis of God’s Law and Truth (John 7:24). Also, love “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6).
Scarborough went on to lament the moral decline of evangelical leaders today. He says, “Dr Graham’s death leaves a void in a movement already shaken by the moral decline of its most prominent leaders. One can only hope that the great preacher’s passing will cause some in that community of faith to re-examine their priorities. Taking a closer look at Billy Graham’s example would be a good place to start.” He is right. Sexual scandals abound not only in the political and entertainment world, but also in the religious world. There is a moral decline today not only in Catholic but also in evangelical leadership.
The moral decline in evangelicalism is really due to the abandoning of the doctrines of Biblical Separation and Biblical Inerrancy. This decline began in the mid-1900s, and Scarborough should know that Billy Graham had a part in it. Prof George Marsden of Notre Dame University provides an excellent historical account of this downslide in his book Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987). Read also Dr Harold Lindsell’s The Battle for the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976) which is an inside story of the tragedy that happened in Fuller and the apostasy that followed.
Is Billy Graham a good example of a great Christian leader? Many like Scarborough think so. But what does Jesus think? Jesus tells us what He thinks in Matthew 5:18–19, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:18–19). The greatness of a man is thus not measured by numbers, titles, awards, honours, or accolades by earthly presidents or prime ministers, or by kings and queens. It is rather measured by how faithful a man is to God and Christ and how obedient he is to the Holy Scriptures.
Billy Graham is lauded by many and may be great in the eyes of the world, but let me share with you one that is truly great in the sight of God, one who truly loved the Lord and suffered greatly for His sake. This humble and courageous Christian leader is none other than the late Wang Ming Tao of China.
Wang Ming Tao (1900–1991) was one of China’s greatest saints. During the early years of his ministry at the Christian Tabernacle, Wang Ming Tao was already extremely unhappy over the spiritual state of the Chinese churches. He said, “I became … aware of the darkness and corruption in the churches. I felt strongly that the church needed a revolution and that the mission to bring about a revolution was entrusted to me.” Wang Ming Tao, thus, spared no effort and minced no words in denouncing the hypocrisy of many so-called pastors “who simply regarded preaching as a means of earning a living. He labelled them as ‘regard-piety-as-the-path-to-profit’ preachers”. He further said, “To talk to people like this about reforming the church was like ‘asking a tiger for his skin’.” Many an unconverted pastor filled the pulpit. They ruined the faith of the people by teaching heresies. His ministry of warning was met with much opposition. He was extremely disliked by these false pastors. But Wang Ming Tao rather pleased God than man. He said, “I prefer to be attacked by men than to call forth the wrath of God.”
Wang Ming Tao took an uncompromising stand when he refused to join the churches who sought Japanese help when the British and American missionary societies withdrew their support during World War II. He said, “By seeking help from the Japanese, the churches gave the Japanese an opportunity to use them. They (the leaders of the churches) should have looked only to God and not seek help from the Japanese.”
More importantly, “God had forbidden me to be yoked together with unbelievers. Many of the members of those churches had not yet truly repented and believed; moreover there were even pastors who had never repented and believed. God would not allow me to be yoked together with them.”
Neither would Wang Ming Tao link himself with the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement” spearheaded by the Chinese Communists. He said, “I have strongly maintained that the church could not allow its activities to merge with worldly customs and that God’s workers cannot cooperate with false prophets and false teachers. I have always maintained that churches which stand for the truth ... cannot be affiliated with associations or groups that do not believe these truths.” For refusing to sign the communist Manifesto which contained a clause demanding that the church give unquestioning loyalty to the government, and render absolute obedience to the communist party, he was persecuted and sent to prison for 23 years.
He remained strong in spirit though weak in body during his final years. He did not budge an inch in his conviction that the church must remain separate from all forms of unbelief and apostasy. One evidence of his separatist stand was his refusal to entertain Billy Graham when he was in China. Graham’s visit to China was hosted by the communist-controlled China Christian Council (CCC). The American evangelist’s visit to Wang Ming Tao, according to analysts, “made the evangelist acceptable in the eyes of many house-church leaders and could cast the evangelist as a bridge-builder between the CCC and the independents” (“Billy Graham in China: Building Bridges,” Christianity Today [June 17, 1988], 52).
What has Wang Ming Tao to say to this? How did he regard Graham’s visit? Did he compromise? The Rev Pang Kok Hiong who visited Wang Ming Tao and his wife in Shanghai in December 1988 asked him concerning Graham’s visit. The following is a translation of the interview:
Rev Pang: Recently, Billy Graham visited you. Did you invite him to come?
Pastor Wang: He wanted to see me, but I did not want to see him.
Rev Pang: Why?
Pastor Wang: Because if he comes, he would probably come as a guest of the “Three-Self” churches. That is why I was not willing to have any discussion with him. But one day, he came himself.
Rev Pang: You did not invite him to come?
Pastor Wang: I said I did not want him to come. This is because even if I did agree to see him, it would be very difficult to talk. He was invited by the “Three-Self” churches; that is why the situation was very difficult. But one day, he suddenly came with an interpreter.
Rev Pang: So, you do not support them?
Mrs Wang: That’s right. Because of their visit, we were put into a very difficult position. At that time, we not only told them once or twice but three times not to come because ... those pastors, those who are close to him, are those who have betrayed the Lord.
Before Billy Graham left, Wang Ming Tao admonished him with this verse from Revelation 2:10, “be thou faithful unto death.”
Clearly, Wang Ming Tao wanted no part in Billy Graham’s compromise with those who had betrayed the Lord. 2 Corinthians 6:14, 17, 18 commands, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? … Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Leslie Lyall in his book Three of China’s Mighty Men (Singapore: Agape Books, 1974) remarked that Wang Ming Tao spared no effort in warning Christians against the dangers of theological modernism in every form. Wang Ming Tao was a true Christian and defender of the faith right till the very end. He was indeed “faithful unto death” (Rev 2:10).
Read Wang Ming Tao’s autobiography, A Stone Made Smooth, trans. Arthur Reynolds (Hants: Mayflower Christian Books, 1991). JK
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