Vice President Pence and the Billy Graham rule...

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A FB friend just asked my thoughts on the thrashing Vice President Michael Pence has been receiving for observing "the Billy Graham rule" in his relations with women other than his wife. What is the rule? I mention it in this Baylyblog post from January 20, 2005. First the post, then some comments on the present controversy...

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(January 20, 2005) Certain books have had an impact on my life equivalent to the plate tectonic shift that gave birth to December's tsunami. Two such books were the first and
second volumes of the two-volume biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Iain Murray.

Having grown up among Evangelicalism's founders and leaders in Wheaton, Illinois, when I read the account of the London controversy between Lloyd-Jones and Billy Graham in which Lloyd-Jones declined to take any prominent part in Graham's London crusade because of the very public compromises with liberalism Graham was accustomed to make, a new understanding of my heritage and its sins washed over me.

Suddenly I understood my fathers and their friends in a way I'd never understood them before, and I began the very slow process of repenting of such compromises in my own life.

When I read Jesus condemning the scribes and Pharisees, confronting them publicly saying, "You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition" (Matthew 15:6), I knew that my Evangelical tradition also had to be repented of. Still, much of that tradition I continue to cling to because it represents a truly biblical and Christ-honoring faith. And one aspect of Evangelicalism's traditions that are biblical traditions is the concern for holiness that used to be central to this community.

So then, to return to Billy Graham, Evangelicalism's patron saint, and to say something good about him, here's the one Graham quote I've used regularly in my ministry. I honor the man for these commitments related to the fairer sex and have followed them myself from the beginning of Mary Lee's and my marriage.

And by the way, this article appeared in Christianity Today about the time I stopped looking at the magazine—hence the age of this quote:

Interviewer: What safeguards have you taken over the years to protect yourself and maintain personal spiritual purity?

Billy Graham: I decided there were three areas that Satan could attack in—pride, morals, and finances. Over the years I tried to set up safeguards against the dangers of each...

Concerning morals: I'm sure I've been tempted, especially in my younger years. But there has never been anything close to an incident. I took precautions. From the earliest days I've never had a meal alone with a woman other than Ruth, not even in a restaurant. I've never ridden in an automobile alone with a woman. Those kinds of precautions can lead to some misunderstandings. There was a time when Ruth thought I was too cold to women. But I always had this in the back of my mind. There is always the chance of misunderstanding.

(Billy Graham as quoted in an interview published in Christianity Today, Vol. 32, No. 17, Nov. 18, 1988, pp.21-23.)

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So now, watching the media slam Vice President Pence for observing the same rule and accusing him of viewing every woman as a "temptress," we must ask ourselves if we live in a different time when such rules are unrealistic or unneeded?

No. Adultery is everywhere and these rules are merely basic protections for keeping our vows and the marriage bed pure. Years before I read this interview with Billy Graham, Dad had told me never to be alone with a woman in a car unless the woman was my wife, Mary Lee. He also told me never to counsel a woman alone in my office without having another woman in the office with us. This has always been my practice and the practice of the pastors of our churches.

Only idiots think they can become emotionally intimate with someone other than their husband or wife without risking committing adultery. And in our day, this is not just true of opposite-sex friendships, but also same-sex friendships. Does this mean men today should not travel alone in car with a boy or another man; that women should not dine out alone with another woman?

Yes, in many cases it does. In fact, just earlier today I explained to a man that he should observe the same rule with men that I observe with women. Hey, guess what? We live in a gay/lesbian/bi/queer/trans world? Have you really not noticed? Do you really think these sins and temptations are just outside the church? Seriously?

Given the nature of their temptations (and it's the job of the pastors and older women of the church to know the temptations of their sheep), some women need to be on guard against committing sexual sin with another woman. In the same way, some men, given the nature of their temptations, need to be on guard against committing sexual sin with younger men. In fact, in a number of these cases, men and women who have homosexual temptations need to be on guard against committing sexual sin with both sexes because the truth is that most men and women who have homosexual temptations also have heterosexual temptations. It was that way in the ancient world and it is that way today. Just look at the statistics. Count up the number of married men and women you know of in the church who have left their spouse and children for a gay or lesbian lover.

Christians should look our temptations square in the face and take whatever steps are needed to protect ourselves from sexual sin regardless of the hoots and catcalls of the godless who want us to join them in their orgy of sexual sin.

It's hard work fleeing sexual sin, but what a precious fruit purity bears in our churches, homes, marriages, and souls!

Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!