It was with great pleasure, tinged with more than a little trepidation, that I accepted the invitation to be your Chairman today. Trepidation because of my sense of inadequacy for the task; and pleasure because of my high regard for the work of the Templeton Foundation responsible as it is for this unique annual award, in the official language, for progress in religion.
Now in its tenth year, the award has demonstrated not only the importance of the religious dimension in all our lives, but also the immense diversity of religious experience. The diverse callings and backgrounds of previous recipients of the award is testimony to this: and to John Templeton’s original intention that the judges, in recognizing spiritual progress, should not be confined by any boundaries.
In 1973 one of my distinguished predecessors in this role; and the presenter of today’s prize, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, made the comment: ‘At first sight the idea that a prize may be able to do something for religion is faintly absurd’. He went on to refute this view; and he was certainly right. For today, nearly a decade later, we can be in no doubt of the importance in spiritual terms of this event.
Mr. Templeton, you yourself said in 1973 that the qualities sought in awarding the prize were originality, inspiration, creativity, innovation and effectiveness. You added that such a contribution may involve study, or life, or the inspiration of a new movement in religion.
I hope that this year’s recipient of the Templeton Award, Dr. Billy Graham, will forgive me if I begin by saying — and I shall not end as I begin — that some people have been asking just how he measures up to these exciting criteria. This year, in other words, the choice of the international panel of distinguished figures has gone beyond inspiration and originality — and ventured into the field of controversy. Billy Graham, the critics might say, is no doubt one of the foremost religious communicators of our time — indeed perhaps of all time. But has he not used his talents in a fashion that is — well, not to put too fine a point on it — too ostentatious, too populist for a man of God? And is he not sometimes found lurking on the uneasy frontier between religion and politics?
I confess at once that, speaking personally, I can think of sins more heinous for a preacher than awareness of political issues, and popularisation of the word of God. If it be a sin, then let me compound that offence, by placing myself, for a few minutes, on that same uneasy frontier between politics and religion.
One of the important lessons which the great religious leaders and evangelists can teach us, by their faith and by their example, is God’s claim to the central role in our lives; that He is not containable in a separate compartment for Sunday worship, but claims sovereignty over the life of man in all its aspects.
How far should that sovereignty extend into the realm of politics and to Government? It is perhaps the central paradox of Christianity that our Lord, who in his life on earth so studiously avoided any kind of political role or allegiance, should nevertheless have had so profound an impact, throughout nearly 2,000 years, on politics in almost every corner of the world.
The idea at the root both of the Christian religion and of the democratic state is the concept of personal moral responsibility. We can deduce from the teachings of the Bible principles of public as well as of private morality. But in the last resort all these principles refer back to the individual in his relationship to others. This is nowhere more starkly shown than in St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans. The apostle expounds (in chapters 12 and 13) the absolute duty of the individual, in his personal relationship, not to take vengeance for evil done to him; and the absolute duty of‘governing authorities’, divinely instituted, to take such ‘vengeance’ against evil. It is within this framework, and in this spirit, that society is to be protected — war is to be waged if must be — against crime and aggression alike.
The late Archbishop William Temple developed the same idea in slightly different fashion, when he put his finger on the prime reason for human conflict and offered the Christian answer.
‘There is’, he said, ‘no Christian solution to the problems presented by human self-will; but there is a Christian cure for the self-will, and if that is effective, the problem is not solved but abolished’. Thus when a man wanted Jesus to divide an inheritance, that is to arbitrate between two self-centred claims, he refused to accept that role. He did not settle the dispute; but he would tell them how to avoid having a dispute — ‘Take heed’, said Jesus’ ‘and keep yourselves from all covetousness’ (St Luke 12: 13 to 16). For, of course, if there had been no covetousness there would have been no dispute to settle.
Politics is, in practice, a world of conflicting, often self-centred claims; and solutions are often a compromise between them. What then is the role for Christianity here? Again Archbishop Temple gave part of the answer, in his book Christianity and the Social Order, when he said: ‘The art of Government is the art of so ordering life that self-interest prompts what justice demands. The object of the law is not to imprison thieves, but to make men reflect that even if they are not honest it is still prudent to behave honestly’. But at the heart of the law is a basic sense of morality — and this is crucially important. We are each responsible for our actions and for their consequences. We cannot shuffle off our moral duties onto the community or the State. Neither theft nor murder nor any other crime can be justified because it is political. That is a view abhorrent to Christians. The ends do not and cannot justify the means.
There is thus a firm moral foundation to our political philosophy, based, as it is, squarely on the traditions of liberal democracy. In time of trouble, such as we face today, it is all the more important to take our stand on these principles. We seek, in general terms, to promote the wellbeing of the family of nations, of our own nation and of the family within the nation. To help in this task within our own frontiers, we find in Christianity an ethic in which the profit motive and the creation of wealth are seen as legitimate to success — indeed to survival — as a nation.
Some Christians have taken the phrase ‘man cannot live by bread alone’ as if it almost implies that the baking of bread is not important. That sentiment is more easily espoused in the comfort of the gin-and-Jaguar belt than amongst the tenements of the Gorbals or on the banks of the Ganges. I prefer to think of the lesson in Christ’s parable of the talents. For the best way to create a better society in which the poor, the needy and the sick can be taken care of is to provide a society in which creators of wealth can prosper. The Good Samaritan had a kind heart; but he also had twopence in his pocket.
The alternative to the liberal democracy is the much less liberal — in the literal sense of the word — vision of a society where the means of ownership and production — and indeed of communications as well — are controlled by the State, and where most emphasis is placed upon the equal, or near equal, division of resources that are never sufficient. This emphasis on equality was sharply criticized by the Czech leader, Dubcek, in words that are still all too relevant in much of Eastern Europe today.
‘The worship of equality,’ said Dubcek, ‘has developed in an unprecedented manner. This fact has become one of the most important obstacles to better economic development, to higher living standards. The negative aspects of equality are that lazy people, passive individuals and irresponsible employers profit at the expense of dedicated and diligent employees; unskilled workers profit at the expense of the skilled; those who are backward from the point of view of technology profit at the expense of those with initiative and talent.’
The result has been an increasingly under-achieving and run-down society, wherever these principles have been applied. How much better to follow Archbishop Temple’s advice, that we should try to harness rational self-interest in the pursuit of justice and prosperity — and to fashion our economic and political institutions in a way that will make that possible.
For there are other economic issues which have a moral dimension: for example, the battle against inflation. The effects of the steady erosion of the value of money may seem relatively painless in the short term. Yet it has a morally debilitating influence. Inflation reduces the value of thrift and encourages debt, artificially increases the tensions of the market places, and so diminishes the prospect of secure employment. The maintenance of a sound currency has characterized all well-governed communities throughout industry. A society whose currency keeps its value is likely also to have standards that are upheld and values that endure.
Unemployment, of course, is a moral problem as well. The opportunity to work enables the individual to fulfill his value; and indeed to live out the parable of the talents. It is essential to the self respect and dignity of the individual that he or she should be able to contribute to the support of himself, his family and his neighbour.
Nobody would question the desirability of full employment, or the morality of that objective. On the contrary. But to suggest that it can be achieved simply by printing more money is mistaken in more than purely economic terms; for it implies the availability of an easy solution, which simply does not exist.
Thus far, I realize, I have been expressing views from which some Christians may dissent. But there is one issue on which there can be no difference between us. In a Christian society there can be no question of allowing discrimination between the citizens within it whether on grounds of race, creed or sex. From the firm stand which he took in Durban back in 1973, when he refused to allow apartheid to influence his campaign, I know that Billy Graham would entirely agree. A society which discriminates against those who are thought to be weaker or inferior or in some respect different is incompatible with the Christian belief in the Fatherhood of God, and so in the Brotherhood of Man. Discrimination on such grounds is an afront to Man and an afront to God. It devalues the person who suffers discrimination and the person who inflicts it. A society which allowed systematic discrimination on one ground, such as race, will soon start practising it on other grounds — such as politics or religion. Justice here as in so many other ways is indivisible.
This is only one of the causes in support of which Billy Graham’s message has always been clear. But how should I pay tribute to his most notable achievement — his role as evangelist?
He has preached the Christian message directly to more millions than anyone in history. His books, his radio and television messages and campaigns, and above all his crusades in 50 countries in every continent have reached people in all walks of life. Through the force of his inspired and inspiring personality, millions have made a commitment to Christ and been brought to a new personal faith and understanding of God. He has given the Church, in its broadest sense, new hope and vitality — as well as new members. He has been a much needed antidote to the hardening of the arteries, that can affect all institutions. And he has shown, as have the great evangelical leaders in the past, the continual need for renewal and regeneration in man’s understanding of God.
Yet, as I have already suggested, he has sometimes attracted criticism because of his willingness, as the saying goes, to exploit modern mass communication techniques. Note the word ‘exploit’ — so often used in contexts of this kind to imply criticism. But what kind of criticism is this? How often have we heard the opposite view expressed, of politicians as well as churchmen, that their message may be fine, but they are failing to communicate it? Does anyone believe that any of the great leaders of the past, from Pericles to St. Paul, would have spurned the technical resources of radio and television? I do not doubt that, like Billy Graham, they would have sought to exploit the media to the full.
Billy Graham was largely responsible for the fourth great evangelical revival in America which began in Los Angeles in 1949. At that time, as the flush of victory in the Second World War was being chilled by the onset of the cold war, many in America were hoping and praying for such a revival. Billy Graham said then: ‘We need a revival. I think we are living at a time in world history when God is going to give us a desperate choice, a choice of either revival or judgement’.
He made several visits to this country — the first with the Forces Gospel Song Team, and later with the Youth for Christ Movement. His 12-week crusade in 1954 at the Harringay Arena, and in the following year in Kelvin Hall, Glasgow, were enormously successful and made many converts. During the Kelvin Hall crusade, radio relays were received in 2,000 or more centres throughout Britain. He followed this up with further crusades in London (1955 and 1966–7), Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast (1961) and then in 1970 in Dortmund, Germany. His two-week German crusade was carried by closed circuit television to 35 other European towns and cities.
And he has visited and preached, with great effect, in several countries behind the Iron Curtain. Only this month he has carried the Word of God to the heart of the world’s first officially atheist state, the Soviet Union.
And it is with the Bible that he has armed himself above all else. His characteristic refrain, ‘The Bible says . . .’ exposes both the foundation of his preaching and the explanation for his extraordinary combination of humility and authority.
But to those two essential attributes he has added a third dimension. By harnessing the modern technology of communications in the service of religion — beginning first with the humble radio and now using satellite transmission to spread the gospel — Billy Graham has brought a clear and unmistakable faith to millions. He has literally changed their lives.
I offer you my personal congratulations, those of the hundreds gathered here today — and the gratitude of the millions outside, who have heard you preach God’s word, and who but for you, would never have heard it.