Book Review - Billy: The Untold Story of a Young Billy Graham and the Test of Faith that Almost Changed Everything
I recently was sent a manuscript for the book Billy: The Untold Story of a Young Billy Graham and the Test of Faith that Almost Changed Everything by Bill McKay and Ken Abraham. I've read and reviewed other books about Billy Graham, but not any that restricted itself to the beginning stages of his ministry told in narrative form. This book is meant to coincide with a soon-to-be-released movie titled "Billy: The Early Years." In the book, the authors tell the story of Billy Graham's ministry through the eyes of his one-time partner, Charles Templeton. The scene is a hospital, where Templeton is living out his last days with Alzheimer's. An aging reporter, eager to revive her flagging career, has been told to interview Templeton in order to get some dirt on Graham... be it scandals, hypocrisy, or whatever. She sets up in the hospital room with a camera crew and starts the interview, trying to get Templeton to turn on his former colleague. But much to her dismay and amazement, Templeton's cynicism over what Graham believes and preaches is not enough to overcome the fact that he can find no fault in Graham. He knows that however much he belittles the beliefs he used to share, he can't deny that Graham has accomplished far more that should have been humanly possible given his background and skills.
The flow of the story starts back in Graham's teen years, before he became a Christian. After going forward at a tent-style revival, he decides that he wants to attend a bible college and move into some sort of ministry work. Much to his shock and surprise, he's asked to speak in front of a church. Terrified, he covers the breath of his Bible knowledge in rapid-fire fashion... taking an entire seven minutes. But there's something there, and he's asked to speak in more locations, eventually leading to a full-time pastor position. Along the way, he meets and marries his wife Ruth, who gives up her dream of becoming a missionary to Tibet to support Graham in his ministry. As his preaching and evangelism starts to pick up speed, he's eventually teamed with Charles Templeton, an extremely popular and well-known evangelist at the time. They seem to make a good team, but Templeton's life is getting much darker...
Templeton is starting to question his faith, and it comes to a head at the end of World War II. He sees a newsreel showing Holocaust survivors, and decides he can't believe in a loving God any more. Graham is crushed by his decision to leave the ministry and study at Princeton. This turning away by Templeton starts Graham down the path of questioning his own commitment. The story moves to a moment in time where Graham struggles with his fears and doubts by himself out in the woods at a conference. The ultimate outcome of that war would end up changing the face of world evangelism as we know it.
Unlike some of the other books on Graham that attempts to analyze all his works and actions, this is a more story-driven treatment of his early life. I'm sure that once the movie is released, I'll find that this book follows very closely to the timing and direction of the film. Still, it's an inspirational look at someone who has committed everything to what he believes. It also shows that particular moments in time can have ramifications *far* beyond what one might expect at the moment.