Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and was a friend and colleague of Rev. Dr. Billy Graham. Dr. Mohler joined me to discuss Dr. Graham:
HH: Sad news this morning. Dr. Bill Graham has died. I am reminded of this quote. “Some day, you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment, I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old, clay tenement into a house that is immortal.” – D.L. Moody. I am joined by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., one of America’s most influential evangelicals. He is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes a popular blog and a regular commentary at www.albertmohler.com. He hosts two programs, The Briefing and Thinking in Public. His books are amazing. He’s a longtime friend of mine. He has a brand new book out, The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down, which we’ll be talking about tomorrow in a previously scheduled interview. But I called him this morning, because he was a friend and a colleague and a student of Dr. Graham’s. Dr. Mohler, thanks for being with us on such short notice this morning.
AM: Hugh, it’s an honor to be with you, and what a momentous and memorable day.
HH: Tell us a little bit, and assume for a moment there are people in America who just have no idea Billy Graham’s life and legacy. Explain that to them.
AM: You know, he was the most monumental preacher of the 20th Century, which is an amazing statement in itself. He pioneered the mass evangelism of the 20th Century, the crusades. He became an iconic figure necessary to American society as a preacher to presidents, and a man who was involved in the lives of millions and millions of people around the world, and a man who at the same time preached the message of Jesus Christ into the courts and offices of kings and presidents all over the world.
HH: I mentioned to Stephanie Ruhle in the last segment, I only heard him preach twice – at the funeral of Mrs. Nixon, which was very small, and at the funeral of President Nixon, which was very large. It was the same message – accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.
HH: I guess he was pretty blunt whenever he was given a podium.
AM: You know, there was one place that Billy Graham was going to go, and that was right to the Gospel, to talk about our need, because of our sin, a need that we could never fulfill, but that God had done for us in Christ. He would call persons, sinners, to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. And he would assure them of the salvation that God would give them if they did believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent. And he had the most incredible magnetism in his preaching, Hugh, as you well know. He had a way of making the most profound things so very clear and simple. And you know, when you think about a minister like Billy Graham from the back woods of North Carolina, the fact that God raised him up to preach to millions and millions of people, more human beings during his lifetime than any preacher had ever preached to before, it’s an amazing story. He was an amazing individual.
HH: Two coincidences. This past weekend, I heard Mark Roberts preach, and he referred to the fact, Dr. Mark Roberts has been a guest on my show many times, that he accepted Christ at a Billy Graham Los Angeles crusade many, many years ago, 50 years ago. And I also sat next to Greg Laurie last week at a movie screening for the 15:17 to Paris. And I asked Greg who’s in line to fill the shoes of Graham, and then people like you, and he said really, not many people. Is what Billy Graham did unique to the time in which he did it, because there was one set of television stations and he could command the audience?
AM: He was a singular individual. And you’re exactly right. The timing had a great deal to do with it. But he saw the opportunity in an urbanized world, and in a very urbanized America to speak to big crowds in those cities, as you well know, Los Angeles being the most famous of the first. And yet, he also understood the intimacy of media and the power of using radio, television, film. No Christian so dominated the use of those media during the 20th Century than did he. And you’re right. Now, there are so many different platforms for preachers to use, to get out the Gospel, but I would say this. He was a singular individual just like you point to, you mentioned D.L. Moody when you began introducing our conversation. You can never say there will not be someone else whom God will use like that.
HH: The world probably knows, Dr. Graham was converted during a meeting conducted by Dr. Mordecai Ham in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1934. Here it is, his work is done in 2018. That’s a long haul, Albert Mohler. That’s just incredible.
AM: It is. I mean, you’re talking about a man whose public ministry began before the Second World War, although it exploded later, and continued all the way through just even in the last several years. And of course the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association still remains very active, although he has not been so much in recent years. And the Lord gave him an incredibly long life, 99 years. And so you know, he spoke at my inauguration, was a very dear friend. I chaired one of his evangelistic crusades. And when I came along, everything was already, when they were saying this was going to be his last, this is going to be his last, and until today, nothing was really his last, because he kept going.
HH: He spoke at your inauguration? That is quite a signal honor.
AM: He did.
HH: Do you remember the message?
AM: Yes. You know, he preached on the Gospel from Romans 1, and I’m not ashamed of the Gospel. And he, look, I owe him a great deal. He put himself on the line for the mission I had been assigned here, and came alongside me in a way that I’ll never be able to repay.
HH: Now there will be a lot of stories. And so I want to confront this in the course of talking with you, and we’ll post this at Hughhewitt.com. Evangelist Billy Graham has often said, according to I’m reading, to the Southern California file, that he knows he was helped by Randolph Hearst, who sent the telegram Puff Graham in his 1949 Los Angeles crusade. He was actually, I think, kind of proud of that, Al Mohler, that Puff Graham got him started.
AM: Well, you know, in the providence of God, it was, he was a man who had no concern for the Gospel when William Randolph Hearst, who understood that whatever Billy Graham was, he was a new thing and wanted to give him attention. And so I think Billy Graham was just humbled to be used of the Lord in that way, and he knew they were instruments, including Hearst. But at the end of the day, people, far more people remember Graham than Hearst, because of his message.
AM: It’s because of the message of the Gospel.
HH: Oh, it changes lives. Louis Zamperini also accepted Christ at a Billy Graham crusade.
HH: It might have been the same one. There are so, I mean, there will be millions of people. It will be interesting to see how television covers this, Al Mohler. They can cover it as an artifact of a time that is gone, or of a living, breathing orchestra of witnesses. What do you think they’ll do?
AM: Well, if Billy Graham were answering this question, just to make your point, he would answer it with the Gospel and then find a way to also answer your question.
AM: The point is Billy Graham would say whatever you ask me, I’m going to talk about the Gospel, and that’s just what he did. And the singularity of his message was what was so important.
HH: One last question. He is in The Queen, the massively popular Netflix series about Queen Elizabeth, because he went to London, he had a crusade, and she invited him not once but twice to Buckingham Palace. That was not unusual for him. He would go when anyone invited him high or low.
AM: Right, but what a shocking thing it was to the British royal family that the Queen invited Billy Graham to come. You know, she’s surrounded by court preachers who are, you know, she’s after all herself by constitution the head of the Church of England. But she had this American preacher, this evangelist, there to visit with her. And you’re right that Billy Graham could talk to the Queen of England or to someone that he met at a crusade who came forward with the same intimacy, the same care, the same concern, because for him, it really was all about the Gospel. He wanted all persons to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to believe, and to be saved.
HH: Let me ask you one more thing, Al, and I don’t want to take too much time of Dr. Albert Mohler’s morning. He’ll be in much demand today. Henrietta Mears founded Forest Home, and for the Presbyterians at Hollywood. And Billy Graham went there, and there’s a memorial up there that says he knelt down and said I want this place to be where I finally get rid of doubt. What was that all about?
AM: Well, at different points in his life, you mentioned exactly that his conversion came hearing the preaching of Mordecai Ham, fascinating name, one of those old, you know, evangelists who was a big evangelist until Billy Graham actually came along, had a ministry, but nothing like what Billy Graham’s became. And he learned from people all along. And as a young man, as a young Christian, he had doubts. He took a famous walk into the woods where he settled those doubts just saying that the Lord had just confirmed in his heart the truths of the Gospel and the truths of His Word. And there were people like Henrietta Mears, who had a big ministry teaching the Bible and there at the church in Pasadena and elsewhere, and she had an impact of Graham. She clearly encouraged him. She wasn’t a preacher, but she deeply cared about how the Bible was taught in churches.
HH: It’s called the tree stump prayer, and there was a place at Forest Home where he knelt down and said remove doubt. And so he, I don’t know if doubt was removed, but he acted as though it was.
AM: Well, he, and you know, I talked to him about that personally, because I found that so, so interesting, because every single one of us has had some kind of moment like that as a Christian. And he said he didn’t just dismiss all of those intellectual questions, but he realized there were no better answers to those questions than what came in the Gospel and in the Scriptures.
HH: It is, it’s an amazing life. I know you will be busy today, Al Mohler. If people know what they’re doing, they will put a phone call into Dr. Albert Mohler at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and I will talk to you again tomorrow about The Prayer That Turns the World. Thank you so much for breaking your morning schedule and joining us to remember Dr. Graham.
AM: Thank you, Hugh. It’s been an honor.
End of interview.