Saturday, November 7, 2015

Did Billy Graham Write His Latest Book?

Probably not.

This is the argument of Elesha Coffman in a recent article at Religion Dispatches.  Coffman suggests that Graham's latest book Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and the Life Beyond, is an example of pseudepigrapha.

Here is a taste of her essay:

Graham byline is not definitive proof of authorship. Many, many texts that have appeared over the years with that byline were not written solely, or even primarily, by him. The “My Answer” syndicated newspaper column, for example, for years featured Graham’s name and picture, but it was written by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association staff. About once a year, the column acknowledged that Graham approved rather than wrote the answers, and even this statement didn’t mean that he had personally approved every word of every column. Graham was far too busy during his public ministry to write as often for publication as his bylines would indicate.
Working with other writers to produce a text is one thing; not working with them is something else. There are medical reasons to believe that Graham did not take an active role in the writing ofWhere I Am. Graham was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the early 1990s, a diagnosis that was later revised, according to some sources, to hydrocephalus. Both conditions cause memory loss. When Newsweek editor Jon Meacham spent time with Graham in 2006, the evangelist was unable to recite from memory Psalm 23, one of the most familiar passages in the Bible.
It’s odd, then, that Where I Am is organized as a walk through the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, with scores of other biblical texts incorporated into the chapters. There are more, and obscurer, Bible passages cited in this book than in the sermons that allegedly supplied its substance. Graham lamented to Meacham that he didn’t know as many biblical texts as some of his friends. The reader of Where I Am is asked to believe that Graham has a better command of the Bible now than he did 10 years ago.
Graham also suffers from diminished eyesight. His longtime public relations manager A. Larry Rosswrote in 2013 that, several years earlier, Graham had printed a Bible verse in bolded, 72-point type in order to be able to read it. Yet the introduction (not Franklin’s foreword) to Where I Am makes multiple references to bloggers getting the theology of heaven and hell wrong. A man who can barely make out a banner headline almost certainly does not follow blogs.
Claims of Graham’s authorship of Where I Am are already shaky, then, before one even considers the book’s content. Graham biographer (and, full disclosure, this author’s graduate advisor) Grant Wacker deems the book’s emphasis on hell entirely out of step with Graham’s mature theology. “Over the course of Graham’s career, he talked less and less about hell until the end (of his career), when he barely mentioned it,” Wacker told the Charlotte Observer. Indeed, a Google search on “Billy Graham” and “hell” yields few results that are not related to the recent book. Several articles that do turn up criticize the evangelist for soft-pedaling the idea. For example, The Baptist Pillar(“Canada’s Only TRUE Baptist Paper”) once stated that “Billy Graham has declared his allegiance with the blasphemous apostasy of our day” by preaching that hell might be more metaphorical than actual.
Read the entire piece here.