WHEATON, IL — Last Thursday morning I headed out from downtown Chicago. About 30 miles West sits an old but beautiful college town made famous for Wheaton College. Before crossing the busy train tracks to the South (to meet with Justin Taylor), my first goal was to browse two local campus museums. On the NW corner of campus sits the Wade Center, and to the SW sits the Billy Graham Center.
Marion E. Wade Center
I am told the Wade Center houses personal libraries and manuscripts from several authors, including C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The center does feature a main room of various treasures including the wood desks of Lewis and Tolkien. Tolkien’s desk is very tiny and modest. Lewis’ is a bit larger, but also very plain. Perhaps most popular, the Center features Lewis’ childhood wardrobe thought to be the inspiration behind the magical doorway into Narnia. Lewis’ grandfather handcrafted the elegantly chiseled wardrobe.
I was warned by a sign on the wall that photographs were not to be taken of anything but the desks and wardrobe and none of which could be published. The receptionist pointed to the sign and the curator stopped by to make sure I saw the sign. So for a photographic tour I have nothing for you but you can see pictures on the Wade Center website.
Billy Graham Center Museum
South of the Wade Center sits the massive photo-friendly Billy Graham Center Museum. Behind the Roman column exterior, the museum is shaped with hallways connecting large and dark circular rooms of various sizes. Much of the museum is taken up with artwork. The entrance to the museum features a 10-foot tall original painting of Christ by Warner Sallman and one dark room is devoted to a large three-dimensional crystal crucifix.
Most interesting was the “History of Evangelism in America” exhibit featuring a nice display on Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening.
The exhibit included an original 1746 edition of the Religious Affections.
As expected, the museum is chiefly devoted to the life and international evangelistic ministry of Billy Graham. Various items from his life and ministry were on display including his traveling pulpit, a childhood Bible, and dozens of photographs.
The marriage of Billy and Ruth Graham was sweet. Ruth, who passed away this year, must have been a hoot.
What especially caught my attention was Graham’s personal copy of John Stott’s The Cross of Christ with underlining on the first page of the seventh chapter. This simple book illustrates the power the publishing world to impact evangelism and the preaching of God’s Word. A book well-digested by a preacher is broadcast to souls that would otherwise never read the book. This underlining illustrates an interesting dynamic.
I left the museum with a sense I had passed through a display of holy relics. I decided not to publish photographs the many paintings of Christ or the crystal crucifix. But overall the Billy Graham Center Museum was positive and the history of evangelism in America was excellent.
I would not make it a special trip, but if you travel to Wheaton a quick stop to both museums will be enlightening. And both museums are free.
But enough of museums. History is being written as we speak. I headed South over the nearby train tracks to the Good News Publishers and Crossway Books building surrounded by neighborhoods. It’s known as the home of the English Standard Version and home to uber blogger Justin Taylor. …