Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 06 May |
Saint of the Day: St. François Montmorency de Laval
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Remembering Billy Graham’s surprising TED Talk

AP Photo/Bill Haber

Matthew Becklo - published on 02/27/15

Evangelical icon pointed the way with faith and reason

While surfing through some TED Talks on Netflix the other day, I heard some fascinating speeches: from MIT’s Sherry Turkle on how our social media devices are leaving us “alone, together”; from Berkeley philosopher John Searle on how his “biological naturalism” dissolves the mind-body problem; and from UCLA’s Gregory Stock on why humanity, in order to continue evolving, needs to overcome bioethical scruples and better integrate and implement technology into our organic life – in short, “upgrade.”

Smack dab in the middle of all these fascinating talks on science, technology, and philosophy from Silicon valley and professors across the country, one name jumped out at me: evangelical icon Billy Graham.

“One of these things is not like the others.”

My first feeling was resentment. Of course. Why should it be someone like or making the case for the Christian faith in Silicon Valley? That would smudge up the razor sharp “divide” between matters of reason and matters of faith so carefully drawn down the heart of the secular age. Better to send in the clown – a TV preacher – to emote, speculate, and thump his Bible, flattening religious language through overuse and cordoning it off through fideism. Let him wave his arms and tell us to repent and believe, and then we can all get back to the interesting stuff in the lab.

Whether that was the intent, or whether the TED conference was genuinely interested  in hearing Billy Graham speak on technological innovation, I can’t say. Graham himself expresses surprise in the first few minutes at having been invited at all. “As a clergyman, you can imagine how out of place I feel,” he says. “I feel like a fish out of water. Or maybe an owl out of the air…some of you may be wondering why they have a speaker from the field of religion. Richard [Wurman] can answer that, because he made that decision.”

Therein begins an altogether surprising talk, one that gave me a newfound respect for the man. The depth of what he says is surprising; but the candor and care with which he says it, even more so. Age and illness clearly had slowed him down considerably and his softspoken demeanor stands in sharp contrast to fiery black and white broadcasts from the 50s. He’s funny, relatable, and self-deprecating, but never without gravitas.

The talk was filmed almost 20 years ago. At 96, Graham is still preaching. We can see why. It’s not just because he’s a man of deep-seated faith, though he is that. It’s also because he’s a man of reason. He knows what he believes and why. He doesn’t just enjoin us to believe by appealing to the emotions; he quotes from Pascal, Solzhenitsyn, and other great thinkers, appealing to the mind. He looks to history, science, and other fields of human knowledge, seeing in them diverse pointers to the mystery of revelation. And as a farm boy from North Carolina, none of it was handed to him as a matter of course; it was just faith seeking understanding.

Graham does what probably many in the audience were not expecting him to do: he makes a compelling case for a reasonable faith that has everything to do with technology – especially its limitations. “David found that there were many problems that technology could not solve,” Graham declares. “There were many problems still left. And they’re still with us. And you haven’t solved them…the problem is within us, within our hearts and our souls. Our problem is that we are separated from our Creator, which we call God.”

Watch the entire talk below:


BILLY GRAHAM

Read more:
Billy Graham is dead at 99

Tags:
Faith
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
2
I.Media for Aleteia
These 30 shrines will lead the Rosary Relay for end of the pandem...
3
MOTHER MARY
Cerith Gardiner
7 Ways to strengthen your relationship with the Virgin Mary
4
SAINT JOSEPH
Philip Kosloski
How to pray the Chaplet of St. Joseph
5
THE CHOSEN
Matthew Becklo
Yes, ‘The Chosen’ is that good—and just keeps getting...
6
SAINT Januarius
J-P Mauro
Watch the blood of St. Januarius liquefy in May 2021
7
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.