Billy Graham Channels Jonathan Edwards

John Fea, Billy Graham’s Rendition of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale has a fascinating on-line exhibit on Billy Graham’s preaching of Edwards’s famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Graham preached the sermon during his 1949 Los Angeles Crusade, the same crusade that made the evangelist a national figure when William Randolph Hearst urged his newspaper editors to “puff Graham.”

The exhibit includes several audio excerpts from the Graham’s version of the sermon, a video analysis of the sermon by Ken Minkema and Harry Stout, a transcript of Graham’s version, and an excellent paper on the 1949 crusade by Andrew Finstuen, one of Valparaiso University’s current Lilly Fellows in Arts and Humanities. Minkema’s comparison between the way Edwards and Graham preached the sermon is particularly interesting. Both he and Stout also make some astute observations as to why this sermon by one of the founders of American evangelicalism would probably not work very well among today’s evangelicals.


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