Review of Billy Graham: An Ordinary Man and His Extraordinary God

Billy Graham: An Ordinary Man and His Extraordinary God

Review by Stan Guthrie

With all the books out there about Billy Graham, do we really need another? Lon Allison, former executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, says Graham’s recent death provides a fresh opportunity to look at the man and his message. The result is Billy Graham: An Ordinary Man and His Extraordinary God (Paraclete Press, 2018).

Allison has written this attractive hardcover volume for “a generation that has never heard of Billy Graham.” So he has kept the writing informal and pastoral, with frequent asides to explain key points to the uninitiated about the man and his evangelical theology.

The approach is thematic, rather than strictly chronological, with chapters on the beginning and growth of Graham’s career, key spiritual influences, his underappreciated role in civil rights, mistakes made (particularly his unseemly cozying up to Richard Nixon), and his conflicted but loving approach to his family.

Graham’s humility shines through on nearly every page. When Allison was about to be named as head of the BGC, he was whisked up to Ottawa, where Graham was holding a crusade, to meet the evangelist. In the bowels of the stadium, as thousands streamed in above them, a nervous Allison spoke with the aging legend. The two men talked about family. Graham asked Allison about his plans for “the Wheaton Center” (never calling it “the Billy Graham Center”).

Then Graham learned that Allison had earned his doctorate from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary—an institution that Graham had helped found—on the subject of evangelistic preaching in the 21st century. The great evangelist put his hand on Allison’s shoulder and asked in utter sincerity, “Do you think you could teach me some things about preaching the gospel better?”

Allison, who is an accomplished evangelist himself, departs from previous treatments of Billy Graham by repeatedly highlighting the gospel that he preached, following the evangelist’s desire that people focus not on him but on the God who had saved him.

In describing “an ordinary man and his extraordinary God,” Allison has succeeded admirably.

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for BreakPoint.org. He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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