What was it like to be raised by the twentieth century's most notable evangelist? The Reverend Franklin Graham addresses this in a new book, titled Through My Father's Eyes.
Scheduled for release on Tuesday by Thomas Nelson, Inc., the book is over a decade in the making and centers on the lessons Graham learned from his father, Billy Graham.
"For pastors and for any Christian who reads this book, I want this book to strengthen them spiritually. The lessons that I've learned when watching my father are lessons they can use in their own life," Franklin Graham told The Christian Post.
Graham talked with CP the day before the release of Through My Father's Eyes. Besides the book, he spoke about preaching about hell, controversies over the word "evangelical," and his involvement in politics.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
CP: Why did you decide to write this book?
Graham: Well, the book has been worked on for the last 12 years. Sam Moore (former CEO and President of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc.), said, "Franklin you need to write about the lessons you learned from your father because nobody will have the perspective of living in his home and working with him because you took over the organization 20 years ago." He said, "You have a perspective nobody else has. You ought to write it down."
I was talking to him about a year later, "Franklin, have you started the book?" "No, Sam, I haven't done that yet." So I finally just decided I am going to do it. So for the last 12 years we've worked on it.
So this isn't something we just put together here hastily; it's something we've worked on for a long time.
CP: In the Forward, your father wrote: "Franklin is now carrying on much of my own vision while expanding it to include what the Lord has put on his heart." What parts of your ministry do you believe your father was referring to when he spoke of "expanding it to include what the Lord has put on his heart"?
Graham: After 9/11, (in New York City) there were not enough pastors or chaplains or priests or rabbis to deal with the grief that was taking place in the city. And we started recruiting pastors to come up here and go to the hospitals and go to places where people were congregating.
People were still looking for loved ones. People were hoping that they still had a loved one buried in the rubble that would be pulled out alive. And so, a lot of people were congregating down in the vicinity of the Twin Towers.
As a result of that, we started a division within the organization where we started training chaplains.
We realized if you don't have credentials, you can't have access like to "the Pile" here in New York. And so, how do you get credentials? We realized you have to have training, you have to be recognized by Homeland Security, and FEMA, people like that.
So we started the process and we today have over 2,000 chaplains that are trained, that are credentialed, so if there's a shooting like in California, like at Roseburg, or San Bernardino, we have chaplains on the site in less than an hour, because we have chaplains all over the country.
And they can respond to a crisis and begin to assist in aiding and giving comfort and so I think that's probably one of the things he was talking about.
CP: In the book about your father, you also included a chapter centered on your mother. How important was it for you to include that chapter?
Graham: [Billy Graham's] ministry probably would not have had the reach if it hadn't been for my mother.
When my father married my mother, he had never traveled outside the United States. His farthest journey had been from Charlotte to Chicago. And my mother was born in China, she had seen Asia, she had traveled back and forth with her parents. She had seen the Japanese invasion of China, she saw people bayoneted and shot.
My mother had a view of the world that my father did not have. And she was a great encouragement to him to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And she stayed behind to help raise those children while my father was away.
You cannot talk about my father without including my mother because so much of what he saw, in those early years, was through the eyes of my mother.
CP: You mentioned your father's denunciation of universal salvation and how he stressed the importance of preaching on Hell. Many American pastors are hesitant to preach on the topic. What advice do you give a pastor who is hesitant to preach on Hell?
Graham: You have to preach the whole Word of God. And Jesus taught about Hell.
There are consequences to sin. And the Bible says we've all sinned and we've come short of God's standard. And the penalty of sin is death. And that's why when my father would preach, he would invite people to come to make a decision for Christ, he would invite forward, and they came by the thousands every time he preached. To confess their sins and to repent and to put their faith and trust in Christ.
The consequence of sin is Hell, but the gift God is offering us is salvation and forgiveness. He is offering us Heaven and eternal life, but it's only through Christ.
Jesus is the only one in history to take the debt of sin. Muhammad didn't do it. Buddha didn't do it. No one person in all of history has claimed to take the sins of the world except one person and that is Jesus Christ.
I think it's important that we as evangelicals we keep that focus on the scriptures, on the authority of the Bible, that is the Word of God and every word is true. Every word is to be used.
We shouldn't shy away from any section of the Scripture, but preach the whole Word of God.