Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Prophet with Honor

A Book Review
Title: A Prophet with Honor
Subtitle: The Billy Graham Story (Updated Edition)
Author: William Martin

I don't feel like writing a full blown book review, so this will be just a very brief mini-review. I will give a few of my impressions.

On the plus side, I do recommend A Prophet with Honor, updated edition. William Martin has done a huge amount of work researching the life of the world famous evangelist Billy Graham, as the reader can see by looking at the voluminous amount of footnotes that William Martin has appended at the end of his book. Anyone doing serious research about Billy Graham would find this biography invaluable. The book covered a huge amount of territory: everything from Billy Graham's early life, his family, and ministry; the growth of his evangelical association; and his various exploits across the United States and the world, all the way up to shortly before Billy Graham passed away in February of 2018.

On the other hand, a perceptive reader will have no problem discerning those places in the text where William Martin engaged in editorializing about the events of Billy Graham's life. Any good biographer does a certain amount of "interpretation" when elucidating the life of his subject. And I think it would be pretty clear to the reader, among other things, that William Martin himself does not subscribe to most of the evangelical beliefs that Billy Graham held. However, I don't recollect anywhere in the book where William Martin engaged in heavy-handed derision or outright ridicule. Instead, I would describe the general tone of his editorializing as mildly ironic, as if he were speaking with a saucy little smile on his face, combined with a knowing wink of the eye. Overall, I would say that William Martin regarded Billy Graham as a very sincere man, but naive and intellectually unsophisticated. I could give dozens of examples of this, but for sake of brevity, I will just give one from page 481 in which William Martin compared Billy Graham with Ronald Reagan:
Both reached the pinnacle of their professions by dint of a gift for articulating, in terms easily grasped by masses of people, a large but essentially simple vision. Neither demonstrated any notable talent for critical analysis or practical detail. They understood intuitively how to inspire and how to lead, and how to assemble teams to implement their visions. They trusted fully in a small number of firmly held principles, and as long their friends and associates pledged allegiance to those principles, they assumed they had no reason to be wary of anything else those friends or associates might believe or do. And when that assumption proved faulty and expectations went awry, they possessed a remarkable ability to dismiss the troublesome evidence as a blip, a momentary aberration — certainly not a fundamental weakness in their vision or judgment.
In other words, to put it more bluntly, Ronald Reagan and Billy Graham were simpletons, who lacked the kind of worldly sophistication and Progressive outlook that William Martin would applaud.

Yet, somehow, Ronald Reagan and Billy Graham managed to accomplish a lot.

The only places that I recollect when William Martin was a little more steamy were those where he dealt with Billy Graham's friendship with Richard Nixon. And what other dead horses beside Richard Nixon are there that enlightened and Progressive-minded individuals, such as William Martin, never cease beating, and beating, even though this dead horse had long ago decayed into a pulpy, maggot-eaten carcass? In William Martin's view, Billy Graham's greatest peccadillo was his having been friendly with Richard Nixon. And as every self-respecting Progressive knows, we must never stop hating on the nefarious Richard Nixon.

Be that as it may, I still recommend William Martin's biography of Billy Graham. I did note various places in the book where typos occurred. I would award William Martin's book three stars out of five, an average book.