In an interview with McCall’s magazine, January 1978, entitled “I Can’t Play God Any More,” evangelist Billy Graham said: “I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost — were going to hell — if they did not have the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that. … I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God—through nature, for instance—and plenty of other opportunities, therefore, of saying ‘yes’ to God.” Though Graham later tried to stem the controversy brought about by his comments, he continued to allow for the possibility that the unsaved in other religions might not go to hell if they respond to natural light. In 1985, Los Angeles reporter David Colker asked Graham: “What about people of other faiths who live good lives but don’t profess a belief in Christ?” Graham replied, “I’m going to leave that to the Lord. He’ll decide that” (Los Angeles Herald Examiner, July 22, 1985). Some years later, during an interview with Robert Schuller (Source: 5/31/98 television interview with Robert Schuller, as reported in the May-June 1997, Foundation magazine) he confirmed that to him a man can be saved apart from the name of Christ. Here is part of that interview.
SCHULLER: Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?
GRAHAM: Well, Christianity and being a true believer—you know, I think there’s the Body of Christ. This comes from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ. And I don’t think that we’re going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. I think James answered that—the Apostle James in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for His name. And that’s what God is doing today, He’s calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.
SCHULLER: Well, what I hear you saying, that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they’ve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’re saying?
GRAHAM: Yes, it is, because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations, that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, and never heard of Jesus, but they’ve believed in their hearts that there was a God, and they’ve tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.
SCHULLER: [R.S. trips over his tongue for a moment, his face beaming, then says] This is fantastic! I’m so thrilled to hear you say that! There’s a wideness in God’s mercy!
GRAHAM: There is. There definitely is.
What Billy Graham stated agrees with the Roman Catholic teaching about salvation for the Roman Catholic Catechism affirms: ‘Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation’ (para. 847)
In this video you can see Billy Graham saying part of the words trascripted above that he said during the interview with Robert Schuller:
In order to be saved it is absolutely necessary to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that is to say, to believe that He died on the cross for our sins and rose again for our justification. The Holy Scripture says that “the just shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38 – NKJV) and it says also: “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:6-13). Therefore, how can a man call upon the name of Christ if he has not believed in Him? And how can a man believe on Jesus Christ if he has not heard of Jesus Christ? He can’t, because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (cf. Romans 10:17).
How can Billy Graham affirm then that some are members of the Body of Christ even though they don’t know the name of Jesus, when the Scripture teaches very clearly that one becomes a member of the Body of Christ only by faith in Jesus Christ? His words reveal a terrible lack of knowledge of the Holy Scripture.
Therefore, if a man has not believed in the Lord Jesus and dies he has no possibility of being saved, he will by no means enter the Kingdom of God. To affirm that such a man will be saved by God even though he did not believe in Jesus Christ, is tantamount to affirming that besides faith in Christ there is another way of salvation. Far be it from us to affirm such a thing. Jesus Christ is the way, the life, and the truth, and no one comes to God the Father except through Him (cf. John 14:6). It is only through Jesus Christ that a man can know God, therefore unless one knows Jesus Christ he cannot know God, for Jesus said: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:27); unless one follows Jesus Christ he will remain in darkness and on the way which leads to destruction. Did Jesus not say that He is the light of the world and he who follows Him shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life (cf. John 8:12)? Therefore if one is not a follower of Jesus he is in darkness. It is impossible for a man to have the light of life if he doesn’t follow Jesus Christ; just as it is impossible for a man to know God if he doesn’t know Jesus Christ.
In the light of what the Scripture teaches, therefore, it is impossible for a man who is far from God, no matter where he lives, to know God without knowing Jesus; a man may even believe that God exists because His works bear witness of His eternal power and Godhead, but if he does not know Jesus Christ he does not know God. The same thing must be said about Jesus Christ: one may even believe that a man called Jesus of Nazareth lived in the land of Israel about two thousand years ago, but if he has not repented of his sins and believed in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and in His resurrection, he does not know Jesus Christ and thus is not saved. I know many people who believe that Jesus Christ lived on the earth, but they are lost because they refuse to believe His words. Therefore, one may even believe that God exists but if he does not know and believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, he can’t be saved from his sins and from eternal destruction. In other words, if he doesn’t believe the Gospel of the grace of God, he will be condemned, for Jesus said: “He who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16 – NKJV), and John wrote that “the unbelieving …. shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8 – NKJV). Therefore, let us preach the Gospel of God to all those who have not yet heard it so that they may believe in it and be saved from their sins and from eternal destruction. Only one message can save people from their sins and from everlasting destruction, and that message is the Gospel; only one faith can save people from their sins and from everlasting destruction, and that faith is the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let no one deceive you with empty words.
Beware of Billy Graham and all those who teach that a man can be saved without believing in Jesus Christ, for they want to deceive you.