Bill Bright

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This article is about the evangelist. For the linguist, see William Bright. For other people with the same name, see William Bright (disambiguation).
Bill Bright
Bill Bright, 1921–2003
Born (1921-10-19)October 19, 1921
Died July 19, 2003(2003-07-19) (aged 81)
Known for Campus Crusade for Christ

William R. "Bill" Bright (October 19, 1921 – July 19, 2003) was an American evangelist. In 1951 at the University of California, Los Angeles he founded Campus Crusade for Christ as a ministry for university students.[1] In 1952 he wrote The Four Spiritual Laws. In 1979 he produced the Jesus Film.

In 1996 Bill Bright was awarded the $1.1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, and donated the money to promote the spiritual benefits of fasting and prayer.[2] In 2001 he stepped down as leader of the organization and Rev. Steve Douglass became president.[1] He died in 2003.

Early life[edit]

Born in Coweta, Oklahoma, Bright described himself as being a "happy pagan" in his youth. He graduated from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma with an Economics degree. As a student at Northeastern State University, he was initiated into the Zeta Chapter of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity, and has subsequently been granted honorable alumni status to Alpha Gamma Omega Christ-Centered Fraternity. While in his early 20s he moved to Los Angeles, California and founded a company called Bright's California Confections.

Early ministry[edit]

In 1944, while attending the First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, Bright became an Evangelical Christian. He immediately began intensive Biblical studies which led him to graduate studies at Princeton and Fuller Theological Seminaries (although he never completed a degree at either). It was while he was a student at Fuller that he felt what he regarded as the call of God to help fulfill Christ's Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) by sharing his faith, beginning with students at UCLA. This gave birth to the Campus Crusade for Christ movement.

During the decades to follow, Bill Bright and his wife, Vonette Bright, remained faithful to this work, and the ministry expanded greatly. In 2011 Campus Crusade for Christ had 25,000 missionaries in 191 countries.[3]

The Four Spiritual Laws[edit]

In 1952, he wrote The Four Spiritual Laws, an evangelistic Christian tract. In the booklet he outlines his view of the essentials of the Christian faith concerning salvation. It is summarized as four spiritual laws or principles that govern what he sees as human beings' relationship with God. The tract is available from Campus Crusade for Christ, over one hundred million copies have been distributed in all of the major languages of the world.[4][5] The booklet ends with a prayer of repentance.

The booklet summarizes four spiritual laws or principles:[6]

1. God loves people and offers a divine plan for their lives.
  • John 3:16 King James Version (KJV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.[7]
  • John 10:10 (KJV) The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.[8]
2. Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life.
  • Romans 3:23 (KJV) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;[9]
  • Romans 6:23 (KJV) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.[10]
3. Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin. Through Him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life.
  • Romans 5:8 (KJV) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.[11]
  • I Corinthians 15:3-6 (KJV) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
  • John 14:6 (KJV) Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.[12]
4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives.
  • John 1:12 (KJV) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:[13]
  • Ephesians 2:8,9 (KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.[14]
  • John 3:1~8 (KJV) There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.[15]
  • Revelation 3:20 (KJV) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.[16]


Bill Bright (right) receives the Templeton Prize, 1996

Bright held five honorary doctorate degrees: a Doctor of Laws from the Jeonbuk National University of Korea, a Doctor of Divinity from John Brown University, a Doctor of Letters from Houghton Seminary, a Doctor of Divinity from the Los Angeles Bible College and Seminary, and a Doctor of Laws from Pepperdine University.[citation needed]

In 1983, he chaired the National Committee for the National Year of the Bible. He was named the 1996 recipient of the $1.1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. He donated the prize money to causes promoting the spiritual benefits of fasting and prayer.

He wrote more than 100 books and booklets, and thousands of articles and pamphlets that have been distributed in most major languages by the millions. He was a signer of the document Evangelicals and Catholics Together.[citation needed]

Bright was a co-founder of the Alliance Defense Fund which funds high profile litigation cases on behalf of Christians' First Amendment rights. He was also a co-signatory of the Land letter of 2002 which outlined a just war rationale for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, providing a theological underpinning for the invasion being planned by President George W. Bush.

He produced the Jesus Film in 1979, which was released by Warner Bros. in the United States. It was not a financial success, losing approximately $2 million. While praising its "meticulous attention to authenticity", critics panned Jesus for being "painfully monotonous". The Los Angeles Times called it a "...dull Sunday-School treatment of the life of Christ

In 1988 he led the protest against the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ.[17] He called the film "blasphemous".[17] He offered to buy the film's negative from Universal in order to destroy it.[18]


Bright died in 2003. He was survived by his wife Vonette, sons Zachary and Brad, and four grandchildren. His wife died in 2015.[19]

The Rev. Billy Graham released a statement on Bright's death: "He has carried a burden on his heart as few men that I've ever known - a burden for the evangelization of the world. He is a man whose sincerity and integrity and devotion to our Lord have been an inspiration and a blessing to me ever since the early days of my ministry."[20]

Further reading[edit]

  • Turner, John G. (2008). Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ : the renewal of evangelicalism in postwar America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-3185-4. 


  1. ^ a b "William R. Bright, 81, Founder Of Campus Crusade for Christ -". Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  2. ^ President of Cru Gets $1 Million Religion Prize New York Times
  3. ^ "The New York Times". Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  4. ^ "The Four Spiritual Laws, main page". 
  5. ^ "Four Spiritual Laws Online, all languages". 
  6. ^ "Four Spiritual Laws English". 
  7. ^ "John 3:16". 
  8. ^ "John 10". 
  9. ^ "Romans 3". 
  10. ^ "Romans 6". 
  11. ^ "Romans 5". 
  12. ^ "John 14". 
  13. ^ "John 1". 
  14. ^ "Ephesians 2". 
  15. ^ "John 3". 
  16. ^ "Revelation 3". 
  17. ^ a b "Campus Crusade for Christ to Leave Southland Headquarters for Florida - latimes". Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  18. ^ WGBH. "Culture Shock Flashpoints: Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ". Public Broadcasting Systems. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  19. ^ Roberts, Sam (December 24, 2015). "Vonette Z. Bright, a Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Dies at 89". New YorK Times. Retrieved December 26, 2015. 
  20. ^ "A Farewell Tribute: A Life Lived Well" (PDF). Campus Crusade for Christ International. 

External links[edit]