Discernment lesson: the curse of popularity, Beth Moore, and Billy Graham

Did you know that the Lord curses religious popularity? He does. It is in Luke 6, where Jesus pronounces blessings and woes upon various groups of people. One of them that He pronounces woe upon are popular people and He urges the audience to remember the false prophets of old. Jesus says, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets." (Luke 6:26). Woe is the strongest possible curse. In the Greek, it is a grief or a cursed denunciation upon a person. Coming from the King of the Universe, the curse of popularity bears paying attention to.

Now, on earth, people seek popularity. There is nothing wrong with being a popular person in your job or in your class or in your family. It means you're likable. But used in a religious context, if you are a popular teacher or pastor, watch out!

Barnes Notes explains of the verse: "When all men shall speak well of you - When they shall praise or applaud you. The people of the world will not praise or applaud "my" doctrine; they are "opposed" to it, and therefore, if they speak well of "you" and of "your teachings," it is proof that you do not teach the true doctrine."

Still not convinced? Jesus said in John 15:19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."

Matthew Henry commentary explains of the Luke popularity verse: "Woe unto you; that is, it would be a bad sign that you were not faithful to your trust, and to the souls of men, if you preached so as that nobody would be disgusted; for your business is to tell people of their faults, and, if you do that as you ought, you will get that ill will which never speaks well."

Popularity is no guarantee of truth. In one of the Beth Moore exposés I had written, I noted in the comments section, "As to the wide acceptance of teachers, and authors, and others by the majority of mainstream Christianity today, well the first red flag to me is when the world begins to embrace a popular Christian. This is in opposition to what Jesus teaches in John 15:18-19. I'm always skeptical of wildly popular Christian personalities. Being wildly popular these days is almost a sign that falsity exists. People do not stand for sound doctrine, period. "The time will come when they [the people in the church] will not endure [tolerate] sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). If there is a wildly popular, lucrative book, DVD, and speaking tour, sellout crowds, AND it is based on strict truth and nothing but the truth, show it to me and then knock me over with a feather."

Pastor-teacher John MacArthur explains of the Luke verse, "And then the fourth is the curse of popularity. In verse 26, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets." And Scripture is pretty clear what happens to false prophets, and those who join with them and affirm them. Oh, you want everybody to speak well of you, huh? You...you've designed a religion that causes people to speak well of you. That's a sign of being cursed. When everybody likes your approach to religion, you're in serious trouble. When you can invent a kind of religion that offends nobody, that's a serious indicator you're not in the Kingdom."

In late 2010, Christianity Today published a lengthy article about bible teacher Beth Moore. They opened the article saying, "Homespun, savvy, and with a relentless focus on Jesus, Beth Moore has become the most popular Bible teacher in America."

Uh-oh. If I was the most popular bible teacher in America I'd want to get a spiritual check-up, pronto.

Let's take a look at a reverse example of popular bible teachers, Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived a righteous life yet he was hated by all for proclaiming the Truth.

"Alas, my mother, that you gave me birth, a man with whom the whole land strives and contends! I have neither lent nor borrowed, yet everyone curses me." (Jeremiah 15:10).

The more the Word is preached truthfully, the more it will be hated.  The more the Word is preached untruthfully, the more it will be loved. Preaching the true message does not attract believers, it convicts them. It rebukes them. It provokes them.Why? "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

That Beth Moore is SO popular is an indicator from the Lord's own word that there is not truth being proclaimed. That's Beth Moore, now on to Billy Graham.

Here is a link to the transcript from the 1997 interview with Robert Schuller with Billy Graham on his view of wider mercy. The Wider Mercy view is the idea that man in his depraved state can find God, do God's will, live a righteous life to please God and then go to heaven when he dies. It is a view in which the Lord is going to include everybody in heaven, no matter if they have called on the name of Jesus to be saved or not. Billy Graham believes in the wider mercy view. I wrote about it three weeks ago, here.

It is a view he has held since at least 1997 and likely since 1960 when Graham wrote about it in his Decisions Magazine. Billy Graham believes that a person never calling on the Lord Jesus Christ and outside the body of Christ will go to heaven because he lived a good life?? That is not what the bible says.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Just in case we think, oh, that must be a fluke, Billy Graham doesn't really believe that people of other faiths will inherit salvation? Right? Right? Well in 2005 he said the same thing on Larry King. It is by faith in Jesus alone that we are saved. "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." Romans 10:9

Failure to speak of the wrath is to fail to alert people what they are being saved FROM:
"Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." (Romans 5:9)

It is sad that the "greatest evangelist of our time" Mr Graham believes the opposite of the Gospel, believes a different gospel, and thus it means he is false and should not be listened to. But it explains why he is so popular, beloved and famous. Here is a headline from an article from two days ago when Mr Graham turned 93: "Billy Graham, America's most famous preacher, turns 93". Wikipedia states, "Graham's visibility and popularity extended into the secular world. He created his own pavilion for the 1964 New York World's Fair. He appeared as a guest on a 1969 Woody Allen television special, where he joined the comedian in a witty exchange on theological matters. During the Cold War, Graham became the first evangelist of note to speak behind the Iron Curtain, addressing large crowds in countries throughout Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union..."

Wow, a preacher so popular he is confidante to presidents, his fame extends into the secular world, his religious influence penetrates the communist/atheist iron curtain. Really? Not wow, but "Woe!"

It is sad to discover that a favored person whom we study under, read books by, or take courses of, is false. But they are out there, many, and more often that not, a famous person WILL be false- Luke 6:26 says so. The more popular someone is the more likely it is that they will be preaching a false Gospel. It is WOE to be universally liked!

Secular popularity of "Christian evangelicals" and teachers, should make us skeptical, yet Rev. Graham and other popular teachers such as Beth Moore are universally liked. How can this be so, when Jesus said that if they hated Him they will hate them also? In Billy Graham's case, now we know why he is universally liked. He brings a different Gospel.

It's crushing to know that Graham and Moore, and Osteen and Meyer, and so many other popular ones have woe unto them, when all men shall speak well of them. People who love sin hate the messenger who exposes it. If you are not hated, you are not exposing sin. In journalism they say "If you're not drawing flak, you're not over the target." Are you over the target? If you are, there will be turbulence, turmoil, and plenty of shots at you. Billy Graham and Beth Moore are sadly not over the target. But as long as they draw breath we can pray for them that they should see the light, even after so long a time. THAT is the truth of God's mercy!


  1. Very well stated Elizabeth! I wish more people could see the truth of what you said. I go to a conservative church in a fairly conservative area and it constantly amazes me how many people even here follow these false prophets. There is so little discernment any more. Keep up the good work and God bless.

  2. Billy Graham is a 33rd degree mason anyway - who'd take him seriously to begin with?

  3. Great read, Elizabeth! Sad truths, but great read. I thought of several pastors and authors while reading this post, who I've thought of in regards to the popularity thing in the past, too. All are in my prayers.

    I wonder how this world would react to the preaching and teaching of Charles Spurgeon or Thomas Brooks or John Bunyan or any of the other Bible teachers of old? I doubt they'd feel too comfortable under their Biblical preaching, feeling the correction and admonishment.

    Emily, www.extendingeagerhands.blogspot.com

  4. I kinda understand where Billy Graham is coming from. I do not doubt that he is a christian and that he has brought millions of souls to our Lord. I also don't doubt my own salvation. I know from the moment I asked for His forgiveness and asked Him to be my God and Savior that I was saved forever. Nothing can take that away from me. Hell is a difficult subject for me to talk about. When I witness to people, I simply focus on God's love and grace and when they ask me what will happen to people of other faiths, I also say the same: it is all in God's hands.

  5. I've heard his older sermons many times and they were in line with scripture and extremely convicting, I really do believe The Holy Spirit was working through him but who knows...I have never ever heard him mention in his sermons what he mentions here....I don't understand how he could misunderstand a core component about salvation....

    His son does not seem to be uncompromising and he's been featured in the media largely because of his last name and he's stood strong on the word.

  6. Anonymous, I understand wanting to extend the benefit of the doubt to Graham and kinda understanding where he is coming from. But my response is as much to you as to him. Jesus said to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The essentials of the Gospel message are what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”. I understand not wanting to leap in to the hell part while witnessing. But if someone asks, to say that 'it is all in God;'s hands' is a denial of part of the truth of the message. It is all in God's hands and one of the things He will do is send unbelievers to hell. If hell is not mentioned in your answer, then there is no urgency for people to understand their peril and also to understand all the information they need to make a decision. Besides, it is disingenuous, because you know the answer. Do not be ashamed of any part of the Gospel. God is Holy and His holiness is part of the nature and character of who He is. He is not ONLY love, He is holiness itself and cannot be near to sin. Tell people that. If it is a difficult subject for you to talk about, think about how difficult it is for people who will be experiencing it!

  7. Anonymous of 2:47, I've heard many of his older sermons too. I enjoyed the classic Crusade sermons from the 1940s and 1950s and onward. However what I learned of what happens after the invitation is given convinced me that Graham is false. Though he began his ministry as a fundamentalist he soon turned to ecumenism. Graham decided early on to include Catholics in his Crusades to the extent that he has priests at the invitation and any person identifying themselves as a Catholic was sent to a priest. If there were not enough priests present but said they were on the decision card (or said that a Catholic denomination brought them) they were called by a representative of the Catholic church afterwards. I read one newspaper archive clip where the Crusade said they were proud to turn over 3500 decision cards to the Catholics.

    In another, that he was proud to work with Catholics. "On September 6, 1952, reporter William McElwain, writing for the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, remarked on Graham’s ecumenical activities with Rome:" Graham stressed that his crusade in Pittsburgh would be interdenominational. He said that he hopes to hear Bishop Fulton J. Sheen at one of the Masses at St. Paul’s Cathedral tomorrow. Graham said, ‘Many of the people who have reached a decision for Christ at our meetings have joined the Catholic church and we have received commendations from Catholic publications for the revived interest in their church following one of our campaigns. This happened both in Boston and Washington. After all, one of our prime purposes is to help the churches in a community.’"


    January 1978, issue of McCall’s magazine contained an interview with Graham by James Michael Beam. Graham admitted his change in thinking from his early days as a Southern Baptist:

    January 1978 McCall's interview, Graham said, “I am far more tolerant of other kinds of Christians than I once was. My contact with Catholic, Lutheran and other leaders—people far removed from my own Southern Baptist tradition—has helped me, hopefully, to move in the right direction. I’ve found that my beliefs are essentially the same as those of orthodox Roman Catholics, for instance. They believe in the Virgin Birth, and so do I. They believe in the Resurrection of Jesus and the coming judgment of God, and so do I. We only differ on some matters of later church tradition.”

    He may not have been preaching wider mercy, but he was practicing it.

  8. Thank you for writing this eye opening blog. Being a fairly new believer, I constantly hear about Billy Graham being the quintessential American Christian authority, but I've never personally looked into his background. Yet, I have felt the same way about Osteen and Meyer as you feel about Moore and Graham.

    It's sad that such gifted individuals can be lured away from the truth, but we should take it as a warning to ourselves that if "renowned" biblical teachers can be mislead...then so can we. Be on guard!

  9. Yes, Lydia! It's a cautionary tale to all of us...

    This is a small deal comparitvely, but after my Halloween posts/podcasts and posting my testimony per someone's request on their site, my Twitter following exploded-- from not quite 200 to something in the 600s. And still growing. Rather than gratifying in any way, it has been eye-opening and humbling.... I've found myself having to stand firm more than ever, speak against falsehoods in some cases, because some of the new followers are being led astray by false teachings, by sinful practices, etc. I remember that popularity is not necessarily good, that a growing Twitter following is a greater responsibility to speaking the truth. (I've lost followers since speaking out against some of the falsehoods; I hope that those who stopped will take what I said to heart)

    A friend of mine said, when I mentioned to him how it's a little discouraging to see all these new followers being ensnared by bad beliefs, that at least now I have a God-given audience, and can proclaim His truth to more people.

    Emily, www.extendingeagerhands.blogspot.com

  10. Hi Lydia and Emily,

    Thanks for commenting. I find it sad too that so many people start out strong and then fade away on their core doctrines. Emily I like your phrase "ensnared by false beliefs" and Lydia, yours of "gifted individuals lured away from the truth." It IS a cautionary tale for all of us,including me. I work really hard at petitioning the Spirit to keep me in His will, His statues and His truth. DAILY. It starts slowly but once ensnared in the trajectory is sure unless one repents.

  11. Actually I just now turned to 2 Cor 4:2 in order to study something else and the verse says "but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."

    I looked up the word 'adulterating' and it is
    dolountes- and it means "ensnare".

    Clarke's Commentary explains the word thus- "not explaining away their force so as to palliate or excuse sin" - and that is exactly what Beth Moore does. Sorry to bring her into it again. It's been four months but not a day goes by when my feelings of grief over her deception don't grow and my fear for Christian women under her spell doesn't rise.

  12. I am not enamored with Beth Moore. She grates on my nerves. I find her teaching pop psychology. However, while she is popular, she is also hated in certain circles. I don't think your article is definitively accurate to its topic because of this contradiction. I do understand from reading your other writings what you're getting at, but we need to be careful that we -- like she -- don't needlessly expend our energy on slim topics. (If every conversation is pitched loudly, people stop listening.)

    Just be a little choosier; otherwise, it may seem to be personal and that does not profit.

    1. I do not consider the most popular Christian teacher of millions who is teaching false doctrine to them all a "slim topic."

    2. This is why I go on about doctrine: it is one sign of legitimate faith.

      "Why is orthodox doctrine a sign of legitimate faith for the believer? Because all doctrinal error is sin (1 Timothy 4), because we must know the truth in order to discern the spirit of error (1 John 4:6) and because doctrine can save and doctrine can damn (Jude 20-23). Furthermore, ignorance of doctrine is no excuse for wrong theology or wrong practice. Leviticus 4 indicates that sins done in ignorance still required atonement and according to Christ’s words in Luke 12:48, a person who is ignorant of the truth will receive a less severe punishment – but he will still be punished. In other words, ignorance might reduce your sentence, but you are still going to jail. Paul bemoaned the theological ignorance of his Jewish brethren in Romans 10:2 because they “had zeal” for God, but that zeal was not according to knowledge and he knew that if their knowledge did not change, they would go to hell."

      More here, from 10 evidences of genuine faith

  13. Amen, Elizabeth! Doctrine ** defines ** what it is that we believe. And it's the false teachers who bring division into the Church body, not the watchmen who point the saints to God's eternal Truth ~~ the Bible. Thanks all ye faithful watchmen!! You've alerted me to SO much, & taught me how to exercise more discernment. May God Bless & protect you always. ~ Brenda


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