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Billy Graham and Charles Templeton: A Sad Tale of Two Evangelists

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As many of you know, Billy Graham and Charles Templeton were evangelists who rose to fame in the 40s (Graham, of course, is still an evangelist). Early in their careers they were friends – close friends. Many have said Templeton was the one that everyone thought was going to overturn the world with the Gospel. However, Templeton ended up leaving the Christian faith, eventually becoming an atheist.  In 1982, though still an atheist, he said of Billy Graham, “There is no feigning in him: he believes what he believes with an invincible innocence. He is the only mass evangelist I would trust” (Anecdotal Memoir). Templeton died in 2001 at the age of 86, shortly after he wrote what I consider to be one of the most heart-breaking books ever published: Farewell to God.

Here is an excerpt from that book, about a pivotal conversation he had with Billy Graham as he was leaving the faith. The context is his desire to go to Princeton to study the Christian faith more critically. He wanted Graham to come with him. Please keep in mind, this is his account of the conversation:

“All our differences came to a head in a discussion which, better than anything I know, explains Billy Graham and his phenomenal success as an evangelist.

In the course of our conversation I said, ‘But, Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact.’

‘I don’t accept that’ Billy said. ‘And there are reputable scholars who don’t.’

‘Who are these scholars?’ I said. ‘Men in conservative Christian colleges[?]’

‘Most of them, yes,’ he said. ‘But that is not the point. I believe the Genesis account of creation because it’s in the Bible. I’ve discovered something in my ministry: When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says,’ or ‘The Bible says,’ the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results. Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. I don’t have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of the theological dispute, so I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s word.’

‘But Billy,’ I protested, ‘You cannot do that. You don’t dare stop thinking about the most important question in life. Do it and you begin to die. It’s intellectual suicide.'”

‘I don’t know about anybody else,’ he said, ‘but I’ve decided that that’s the path for me.'”

(Farewell to God, 7-8)

For me, this represents one of the saddest encounters two people have ever had. It recounts a decisive breach in the friendship between two men as one left Christ, never to come back, and the other went on to, in my opinion, change the world.

As I said, I don’t know if Graham’s words are the words he actually said, but I have no reason to doubt that they are. You see, there does come a time in our life when we “decide” to believe. It is not as if our intellect is no longer in the game, it is simply that there is a sufficient amount of evidence to make a commitment. Graham had enough. He is right, there is no way faith can wait until every stone is overturned. None of us will ever get to a place where our intellect has no objections whatsoever. This is the modernistic ideal of indubitability, which is impossible in any area of life. At some point in our journey, we decide that God is real, the Bible is trustworthy, and Christ is who he said he was.

Templeton, as his own story makes plain (p. 3), never truly reached a point where he was intellectually convicted of the truthfulness of Christianity (what the reformers called assensus). Assensus represents the conviction we have in our minds. Assent of the mind is vital to our faith. Graham, according to this testimony, had enough assensus to make a decision. He was not going to be an eternal “tire-kicker” with regard to Christianity. Sure, he could have waited, like Templeton, until every possible objection to the faith was answered, but this would amount to a failure of modernistic irrationality. We can never have all our questions answered. At some point there must be a sufficiency in probability.

There is a time when we, like Billy Graham, must stop the type of questioning that comes prior to faith, and make a decision. This does not mean we stop using our minds, as Templeton unfortunately assumed. In Christianity, we call this fides quaenes intellectum, “faith seeking understanding.” We believe in order to understand. We have faith and seek understanding.

May God give us all the ability to be like Billy Graham and make a decision to trust God and the Bible. May he help us to believe what we believe with an invincible innocence. Though doubts may still exist, they do not mean that our faith is not real.

97 Responses to “Billy Graham and Charles Templeton: A Sad Tale of Two Evangelists”

  1. I also find it sad that the example given in their discussion was six-day creation and some less-than-nuanced notion of “literalism.” I fear that remnants of 20th century fundamentalism’s lack of acknowledgment of the incarnational nature of Scripture has caused many seekers to stumble over some of Christianity’s claims, especially in these secondary areas like the specifics of Creation. Another example would be Ehrman’s dismissal of divine inspiration or at least true Pauline authorship of some NT letters partially based on the authors’ use of secretaries/scribes (I forget the technical term).

    I also find the Van Tillian presuppositional understanding of unbelief and the role of evidence in apologetics a lot more compelling and consistent with Romans 1 and other passages than the idea of volitionally “deciding” to believe and commit at a certain point after “evidence” pushes somebody a certain amount in that direction.

  2. Leslie Jebaraj July 30, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    I am glad Billy Graham did not detour. I came to Jesus reading his book, How to be Born Again. The proofs he shares for the resurrection of Jesus were very convincing to me, even as a 15 year old. Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

  3. I wonder what might have happened had Billy Graham had said, “That’s a good point. There are many evangelical scholars and theologians who would agree with you. I believe it was a literal seven days but that’s a legitimate discussion we can have as Christians.’ It was Augustine who stated (paraphrase) that we should never create barriers for people to believe in the face of legitimate science. Think of those who might have kept people away from faith because they insisted that the sun had to revolve around the earth because the Bible said so. We need to be very careful of setting up false barriers to faith where there may be legitimate science that indicates otherwise. God created the world. How He did it should not be the deal breaker for people to come to faith. Obviously, Billy Graham was a powerful witness for Jesus but that kind of fundamental literalism has kept many people from pursuing the real Christ.

  4. The illustration makes me cringe a bit, but the point of the post couldn’t be more timely. I think it’s really unfortunate that anyone would leave faith over the age of the universe (although I would assume that this is generally just a tip of the iceberg arising from deeper issues). Nevertheless, there will always be deeper unanswered scientific and philosophical questions. As I study both I am staggered primarily by how much we don’t know. I find that I simply have to make the decision over and over again that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by faith, and remind myself that the most elementary evidence seems to point to God. It is sometimes infuriating, sometimes discouraging, but walking away is the worst thing to do. I keep thinking of the verse “you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.” I guess God allows the uncertainty to remain in order to keep us humble and dependent.

  5. Reading this article reminds me of the interview former atheist, Lee Strobel conducted with Templeton. When Strobel asked him about Jesus, he said, ‘“he’s the most important thing in my life.” He stammered: “I . . . I . . . I adore him . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.” Strobel was stunned. He listened in shock. He says that Templeton’s voice began to crack. He then said, “I . . . miss . . . him!” With that the old man burst into tears; with shaking frame, he wept bitterly.’

    http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/328-a-skeptic-reflects-upon-jesus-christ

  6. You are right. The decisive turning point for Templeton was not the creation account, but the problem of suffering. He said he looked at a time mag with a African lady holder her son, both about to die due to water shortage. He said that he could not believe in a God who would let people die due to a lack of rain.

  7. That’s just shockingly tragic. Most people now wouldn’t think anyone running in Billy Graham’s circle would ever leave the faith.

    Further proof in each of our absolute reliance on the grace and mercy of Christ to press on.

  8. Billy Graham was a powerful witness for Jesus but that kind of fundamental literalism has kept many people from pursuing the real Christ.yes,,very true, above,,now mr graham is on record as stating we can get into the body of christ without christ and the gospel,,, +his links with the pope and his church, has cause many a lost catholic soul to stay in this false cult,, and end up in hell… when we hear a pastor being called by the world ,[ mr wonderful ]we know he preaches a water -down gospel,, that never saves anyone ,billy was warned by many true pastors in 1960s of his links with rome,,,and how the pope is one true christian,,i dont think billy ever went to bible college,, and done any real studying in truth of false systems,,his tent meetings were conducted in sending lost souls back to there false churches,,, and most of the temp staff were from local catholic churches,,, billy has lots to answer for when he mets christ,,,, god bless,, from uk,,

  9. George Jenkins July 31, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Templeton supposedly said,”……………The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; its a demonstrable fact.’

    It reminds me of some of the discussions that I had with evolutionist researchers and professors at the university. The hardest ones to reason with were the arts profs. They took evolution as a “demonstrable fact”. Most of the science researchers were at least willing to acknowledge where demonstrability and assumption or belief took over.

    To Don: I believe that Templeton did not really run ” in Billy Graham’s circle”. They were more like equals with, as suggested above, Templeton at one time being more highly regarded. Some of the stories of his meetings are amazing.

    Those who think that the Biblical account of Creation is a “secondary issue” to salvation should visit some science faculties at secular universities.

  10. To George Jenkins:

    Can you expand upon your final statement?

    Because, in my experience those who I have talked to who are Atheists make a big deal of it, but I do not think I would say it was more than a “secondary issue” regardless. When I point out to them (usually from Immanuel Kant) that due to lack of empirical evidence we cannot speak conclusively, they have always been willing to talk about Christ. So I wonder if it is not just something they major on as opposed to being a major issue. I think I would tend more to agree with an earlier commenter that it is only “the tip of the iceberg”.

  11. why can’t people believe that an all mighty, all powerful God could have created in 6 days an earth which was already aged? He created Adam as an adult. Why not the earth? He can do anything can’t He?

  12. Truth Unites... and Divides July 31, 2011 at 9:23 am

    This is a good and helpful blog post about persevering faith. Billy Graham has it and Charles Templeton didn’t. By biblical reasoning, one is going to Heaven and one is in Hell.

    Whether someone categorizes an issue as primary, secondary, tertiary, or trivial, if Satan can use the issue to lead someone to take the broad path and wide gate to Hell, he will.

  13. Great article. I always “believed” & went before the church when I was 8 but I didn’t have my “deciding” moment until about 5 yrs ago. I finally decided to take God’s Word as it was & chose to believe things I didn’t necessarily agree with. However, almost instantly upon choosing, I really did believe & agree. I was always an evolutionary creationist, I now wholly believe in Biblical Creationism (aka, young earth). I was quite the libertarian & now I am ultra-conservative. Once you choose to let God be your master, He begins to mould you.

  14. This is one of the most trenchant observations I have read in a long time.

    there does come a time in our life when we “decide” to believe. It is not as if our intellect is not longer in the game, it is simply that there is a sufficient amount of evidence to make a commitment. Graham had enough. He is right, there is no way faith can wait until every stone has to be turned. None of us will ever get to a place where we our intellect has no objections whatsoever. This is the modernistic ideal of indubitably which is impossible in any area of life. At some point in our journey, we decide that God is real, the Bible is trustworthy, and Christ is who he said he was.

  15. Interesting that Templeton comes up with Gen. 1 as a prime example of where he couldn’t or wouldn’t assent any longer. Exegetical tricks aside, this is just what the text, and its context asserts. I figure I have a choice: if I think the author means to assert it, I can believe it, or not.

    Maybe I’m all wet, maybe I’m a clod for buying such a notion–can’t do one of the myriad fixes–such as the “incarnational” suggestion Tyler C. gives us (#1). But so what?

    What if I’m wrong to believe what I think it says? So I get the age of the universe wrong. What is that ever going to hurt?

    But if I start to chip away at the faith–just at the edges–and Heb 11:3 puts understanding Gen 1 as a matter of faith–because I believe my science teacher over God–then that can hurt me–a la Templeton and many others.

    “Has God really said…” is the start of a conversation that is not known for leading us in paths of righteousness.

  16. John From Down Under August 1, 2011 at 4:30 am

    I wonder if Templeton fits the Calvinist version of Hebrews 6:4-6, as in, he didn’t actually lose his salvation but never had it to begin with. Just asking.

  17. George Jenkins August 1, 2011 at 5:16 am

    Hi Aaron,

    In trying to witness, discuss, evaluate Christianity with students, staff, and faculty I have often found that the main sticking point to be is the Bible true? The questions are often: “How do you know the Bible is true? Aren’t the creation, flood, ark, whale parts just myth(they like to use myth. This lets them segway into Gilgamesh). If they are just myth how can you trust what Jesus taught/said because He spoke of them as true and they are just myths?”
    This to me seems sound logic. If the creation story is a myth, then why should the rest of the Bible be trusted? Most, I have found, to be honest debaters/seekers. Some know a surprising amount about the Bible, having come from Christian homes, but they don’t see why they should trust any part of the Bible if it starts with a fairy tale and continues to treat it as true. Most know that trying to make Genesis fit evolution is just intellectual trickery and don’t even suggest that.

  18. Hi George,
    Thanks for the extra input. That does make a lot of sense. Thank you.

  19. John, I would put him in the 1 John 2:19 camp.

    • ah, another moment that makes me eternally grateful that it’s not my call and that we won’t be judged until all is said & done.
      Especially that it’s not my call. Hard enough to handle my own little life; I much prefer letting God be God!

  20. George57,

    We all have a lot to answer for when we meet Christ. Billy Graham, however, preached throughout his life that Christ was the only way to salvation. He may be on record saying something else; however, he is very old and from what I have heard his mind might not be as clear as it once was. I don’t think he can be condemned (although I haven’t heard what he said in that regard). He trusted in Christ for salvation, and taught others to do the same. I believe he is a hero of the faith and will be welcomed into heaven with “well done my good and faithful servant.”

  21. Do you know of a book called “Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000″, by Iain Murray?

    My reason for asking is that in assessing developments within evangelicalism in the second half of the 20th century, Murray devotes some careful attention to Billy Graham (amongst others).

    He concludes (rightly, I think) that through ecumenicalism, there has been a Gospel-compromising tendency to place unity above truth. BG has sadly played a part in this.

    By joining in ‘missions’ alongside all kinds of denominations, including Roman Catholic, and accepting all of those denominations as genuinely Christian, BG was watering down the definition of what it means to be a Christian long before he had the excuse of the infirmities of old age.

    Ecumenicalism is a mistake.

  22. I don’t think there are very many atheists who would ever convert if you tried to convince them that the earth is young. There is just far too much evidence with everything we see to suggest that the earth is anything but millions or most likely billions of years old.

    I think the problem with pain causes many people to lose their faith.

    (Lets not even get into the problem with the reprobate if you’re a calvinist).

  23. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNCnxA91fHE&feature=related

    Here’s Billy Graham on record saying Jesus (or rather belief in Jesus) isn’t the only way. If Templeton was a tragedy, Billy Graham is a tragedy that no one wants to talk about.

  24. I find the positions of both Graham and Templeton in this write-up to be unfortunate. Templeton made (what I think is) an unnecessary complete rejection of Christian faith as he wrestled with the major issues on the table. But Graham made (what I think is) an unnecessary complete rejection of intellectual inquiry as well.

    It’s natural for us as Christians to praise Graham and lament Templeton, but unfortunately too many believers today follow Graham’s example and see no need to truly wrestle with the issues on the table, even though they don’t have easy answers. Intellectual inquiry and questioning does not have to turn out like Charles Templeton or Bart Ehrman. Pursuing truth is not flirting with atheism. It’s a necessary part of life and crucial for our understanding of God and his ways in our world. It keeps us from repeating shallow and unnecessary misperceptions of God and his ways in our world.

  25. Sadly Graham seems to have become some type of univeralist, see clip of him with Robert Schuller from a few years back where Schuller lauds him for his change to see the ‘wideness’ in God’s grace. Frightening.

    I have to agree with those who say the creation issue is a primary block today for many from an intellectual standpoint. Ultimately the spiritual block of a sinful heart rebellious against God is the cause, however a heart can be changed without first a change in intellectual belief about creation.

    That being said there is mounting evidence in favor of a younger universe (soft tissue in dino bones for one) but sadly much of the church has ceded the intellectual ground and is ashamed of the idea of a literal 6 days of creation. That potentially leads, actually has already lead, to gymnastics with Scripture all over the place, now we’ve lost hell and even the gospel of Christ in so many quarters.

  26. per my above comment on young earth evidence:
    http://www.icr.org/
    http://crev.info/
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/

    Not saying it must be the case but at least don’t dismiss the evidence like the secular elites have, don’t be one of them!

  27. George Jenkins August 1, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Well said, John S.

    A look at the polystrate fossils at Joggins is what made me start to question how relevant and trustworthy layering was for geological “dating”. That, and some young people asking me if evolution could fit with the Bible. I really tried to force that one from a science point of view, but it had to be one or the other. The atheists like Wald are right about that.

  28. Are you aware of the vulnerable moment when Lee Stroble asked Templeton to comment about Jesus? I wrote about it here: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/a-vulnerable-moment-for-a-well-known-atheist/

  29. Leslie Jebaraj August 2, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Those that smugly criticize Mr. Graham for his unfortunate comments, should know that he has retracted those statements publicly through his Decision magazine long ago. Those comments were made during a time when he was through physical ailments, including water in the brain.

  30. It is no surprise that there is nothing but the assumption that Templeton was lost.

    So many give lip service to salvation by grace through faith, they trumpet sola fide and sola gratia, and they “CLAIM” to believe Christ and Paul who said you are to believe on Christ to life everlasting.

    And then in the next breath state that regardless of if they believe on Christ for eternal life, they must endure to the end of their life, hold out faithful in good works and maintain an orthodoxy OR THEY WERE NEVER SAVED TO BEGIN WITH!!!!

    Are we saved by believing or enduring? Are we justfified by faith or by holding out faithful? Are we regenerated by the Spirit through trust in Christ or do we have to maintain orthodoxy?

    this reformed position on perseverance is nothing more than catholicism. It is little better than arminianism. The only difference is the arminian says you can lose your salvation and the reformed says you never had it to begin with….both are lost in the end…

  31. BTW— Does anyone know if his wife apostatized?
    Does anyone know if Templeton’s 4 kids are saved or atheists?

  32. rayner markley August 3, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I agree, David: ‘there comes a time when we ‘decide’ to believe. Graham took that existential step to faith, and it was quite fitting for one who in his career would ask thousands to make a ‘decision’ for Christ.

    I believe such a step is prompted by hearing the Gospel story under Holy Spirit conviction. It has nothing to do with being convinced about the scientific accuracy of the Bible, or even about the authority of the Bible or the church. In fact, I would pity one who ‘believes’ but is still searching and would change faith if other evidence turned up. That’s not even faith at all.

  33. Charles E. Miller, Deacon August 9, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    I believe that Dr. Billy Graham has following the will of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Charles Templeton turned from God and His word. I can only pray that Templeton returned to God before his spirit left this world.

    Charles E. Miller, BA,MAR,DipBS, Abschlussurkunde in Biblische Studien

  34. Peter A. Groben August 10, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    I may just be the Rodeo Clown, but I have no problem with the Biblical account of creation…………………
    I rather find mind boggling, however, & have a huge struggle with Loving God with all of my Heart, mind & soul, praying for my enemies (are you kidding me?) and dying to self in general…..just ask my wife!!!! I pray that Chuck Templeton somehow found God’s Unmerited Favour Lavished upon the Infinetly Ill-deserving, before his final breath. It does not look good but we’ll have to wait & see……Grace & Peace!

  35. Theodore A. Jones December 13, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    If Billy Graham has changed the world, as Patton says, it went from bad to worse.

  36. Having just viewed “Billy the early years”, the movie, I was fascinated with the contrast in how the lives of both Templeton and Graham played out. Both very successful in their own ways but one seemingly living a life of faith while the other expereinced a life of disbelief for the majority of his years. Seems to me that we all must come to grips with our own definition of belief and when we do it will be belief in God and his Word or belief in ourselves and what we can concoct on our own or with guidance from others who are in disbelief as well. For me it was settled when I experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit fifteen years ago this week. I had had many areas where my faith wavered or at least I had doubts as to the the idea of the Bible being without error and infallible. Well since I have had a peace that such questions simply cannot be answered and many of those that bothered me most have simply disappeared. “By faith are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, lest any man should boast.” It is simple faith that maintained Mr. Graham and it is faith that has propelled the Truth of Jesus Christ into the 21st century while so many other “truths” have disappeared over the millenia.

  37. Say what you will about Charles Templeton… He was at least true to his convictions. I can appreciate his inability to reconcile the idea of the true & living God with the fact that he would allow evil to prevail in the world (Not the kind of evil that exists in the grand cosmic battle between light & darkness, but the random acts of natural violence that befall humans in the course of their daily lives). Indeed, the old Testament prophet Elijah challenged the 400 priests of Baal & Ashteroth to demonstrate that their gods were true by calling down fire from heaven. When they could not, he mocked them for worshiping gods of wood, clay & stone (e.g., lifeless & powerless). Today, the prayers of the faithful are no more effectual than these priests, but to use Elijah’s reasoning, should we not reach the same conclusion? As a consequence, it is not a stretch to conclude that the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob is no more involved in the affairs of men than any other gods.

  38. In reply to the post from Neal, Jan 15 6:32pm

    Are you a member of the Anglican clergy? If not, I reckon with your beliefs you’d fit right in (sadly). Though there are still a few gospel-faithful Anglicans around.

    One point that the Carmel incident proves is that even when people witness awesome signs and wonders, that doesn’t necessarily produce saving faith in the true God. Seeing is not believing. Though everyone was declaring ‘The LORD is God!’ after the fire fell, a short time later Elijah was running for his life.

    This is a point that the Bible repeatedly makes. Seeing miracles doesn’t save anyone. It’s one very good reason why God does not regularly answer prayers to prove he exists.

    God’s anger was provoked against Israel many times as they crossed the wilderness to Canaan precisely because of their unbelief. Despite having seen awesome miracles done by God, Israel stubbornly would not trust him.

    The Jews repeatedly asked Jesus for a sign that would prove who he was. And Jesus was already going about doing all kinds of amazing healings/miracles! But that wasn’t enough for them. They simply stubbornly refused to believe in him. No number of signs, miracles, or answers to prayer would have proven anything to them.

    God does not have to prove anything to us. The Bible makes clear that we are all by nature guilty sinners, accountable to God, and that we have no excuse. That by nature we are hostile to the truth. We all must turn to Christ in repentance and faith, and we have no excuse if we do not do so.

    Read Romans chapters 1 to 3 on how the whole world is guilty before God, and how God saves people who trust in Jesus, by His grace alone.

  39. As a matter of fact, I have an MDiv from an evangelical seminary. My wife & I were missionary candidates with the C&MA. Your reference to Anglicanism is a cheap shot, to say the least.

    As I expected, you used the typical response that God refused to perform miracles for an evil generation, or that he performed miracles yet they still refused to believe.

    In Mark 2:1-10, Jesus was confronted by 4 men who tore a hole in the roof of the house & lowered a paralytic on a pallet. He pronounced forgiveness of the man’s sins. When some of the teachers of the law wondered to themselves how he would have authority to forgive sins, he asked a pivotal question: Which is easier to say…?

    Jesus knew that talk is cheap. It is easier to pronounce a man absolved of his sins than heal him. In order to show that he had the authority to forgive, he told the man to rise, take his pallet & walk.

    The biggest problem that I have with the God of the bible is that he is not true to his promises. If your father only provided one meal a week when you were a child, the dept of social services would have come to your house & removed his parental rights. Jesus said that if we ask him for bread, his father would not provide a rock or a snake. At 53 years of age, I cannot think of a single time that God answered prayer in a decisive manner, despite years of praying & pleading. Human nature makes it impossible to love someone whom you do not trust.

  40. Truth Unites... and Divides January 16, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Confirmation/Clarification question:

    Neal, are you still a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ?

  41. I have to agree with Neal here.

    I spent my 30 years praying for this or that and I can’t say that there has ever been one time that I’ve seen a real miracle. I’ve seen things happen which I basically took as well God answered it his own way, not the way I expected and then I accepted it as a miracle because I wanted to have faith. Take for example praying for my paraplegic grandfather, he died unable to walk for 35 years so I just accepted it as he’s walking with God now.

    I have another close friend who’s child was born severely handicapped and no amount of prayer changes anything, they’ve accepted this fact and while don’t understand why god allowed this to happen, they believe its in god’s will and they’re happy that their son will never have to have worries like we do.

    In the end if I’m honest with myself, I can’t think of a single thing which has happened to me which undoubtedly is the effect of god.

    I think the real kicker for me was when I dated a girl whom I later realized had BPD, this was caused from abuse she suffered as a child and she’s never recovered. I have trouble accepting a mental disorder given to people who suffer as a child (which is the most common cause of it) as a benevolent thing to allow.

    Oh well, maybe one day I’ll believe again, but I’m tired of self deception so I can stay with something which I no longer believe. In all honesty, I went kicking and screaming but once I accepted the fact that there isn’t an interventionist god, there no longer is the major problem of theodicy and the world really makes perfect sense.

  42. “In all honesty, I went kicking and screaming but once I accepted the fact that there isn’t an interventionist god, there no longer is the major problem of theodicy and the world really makes perfect sense.”

    I know what you mean. Before coming to a place of reluctant acceptance, I was always angry. Now I have a new sense of peace in accepting things as they are, rather than trying to twist things to fit an evangelical theology of God as creator & sustainer of our world.

  43. 1
    Thanks Neal for responding.
    I hope the blog will allow my 3 linked comments. I’ve tried to be concise, but this is an important issue.

    I don’t know the personal circumstances in your life that lie behind what you post here, but I wonder if you felt hurt by God?

    You are correct that Jesus knew that talk is cheap. When Jesus pronounced the man’s sins forgiven, Jesus would have known full well that the only way this was going to be possible was because of the cross he would one day die on. There was no other way that the just anger of a holy God could be propitiated.

    Jesus indeed taught that if we ask the Father for bread, he will not give us a snake. But sometimes we ask for what we mistakenly think is bread, not understanding that it is really a snake. The request seems perfectly good to us, but God, in his wisdom & love, says no to the request, because unlike us he knows that what we have asked for is not good, though it may seem otherwise to us at the time.

  44. 2
    Neal:
    A while back I was woken in the middle of the night by the sound of someone trying to start a car. The engine was turning over but not firing. This went on for a few minutes. Thinking it was a neighbour who works shifts, I remember drowsily praying that God would enable them to get the car started, & I fell asleep again.

    In the morning, I went out to find that the door of MY car had been forced open, & someone had been trying to hot wire the ignition! When I realised that the sound I had heard in the night was someone trying to drive away in my car, I was quite pleased the Lord said no to that request!

    It’s only a trivial incident, but I think it illustrates an important point. We often don’t know what it is we are really asking for. God is infinitely wise & is trustworthy.

    We may never in this life be told the reasons why God does or doesn’t answer prayer. But it comes back to whether, in the light of what he did at Calvary, we are prepared to trust him anyway.

  45. 3
    Neal:
    You are correct that “Human nature makes it impossible to love someone whom you do not trust”

    It takes the new birth for us to receive a nature that causes us to love and trust God.

    Jesus said that anyone who has been forgiven much will love much.

    The reason I trust him, by his grace alone, is not because of any answered prayers of mine. It is because Jesus loved me & gave himself for me. He has demonstrated that I can trust him, no matter what, by what he did for me on that cross.

    I pray that you would come to know that Christ died for you, for if you really knew this, you would love him & trust him.

  46. Several years ago, my wife challenged me to begin tithing again, despite our financial struggles to due prolonged business failure. I agreed to follow the advice of a Christian financial radio “expert” who suggested tithing for 3 months to see God’s faithfulness. At the end of that period, if He had not rewarded our faith, then his challenge was to simply stop tithing. We followed through for the presribed period. At the end, the transmission in my car failed & cost us $3000 to replace. All we had accomplished during that 3 months was to dig our hole a little deeper. At some point, it makes sense to stop digging.

    • The only persons authorized to receive tithes were the Levites for the purpose of supporting themselves and caring for widows, orphans, the poor and strangers.

      Someone has sold you the Brooklyn Bridge if they are telling you that they are the replacements and you will receive a windfall from heaven, blah, blah….

      I only donate money because I desire to spread blessing, and don’t expect some heavenly repayment, except he knowledge that in a small way, I have aided in tikkun olam, the repair of the world.

  47. Neal,
    Inadvertently, I’ve been receiving comments on this post and had read the last few. I hope you will read this comment as well.
    I appreciate seeing your conversation here. I do not know what brought you to read this post, but I am glad you did.

    First, let me tell you just a little about myself. I became a Christian in 2004; in Feburary 2010 I became an atheist. I was an atheist for one month and then since God reveals himself on his own initiative, he broke into my life and I had to respond (I saw an elderly friend healed from a sickness due to the prayer of his wife). I submitted that he existed and then for the next 5 months I had the desire to be an atheist; but honestly, God wouldn’t let me become an atheist.
    I mention this because I understand your struggle, perhaps to a different degree; but I know the struggle.

    You gave the example of Elijah and you mentioned this financial ‘expert’. I think there is a way in which I was like you in that I wanted to be an atheist because all the people I knew who called themselves Christians were such frauds. You make a good point with the Elijah story; however, you are mistaken with one thing. Elijah said “I have done all these things at your word” (1Ki 18:36). Elijah wasn’t boldly acting on his own initiative assuming God would act. Sadly, the advice from the ‘expert’ was the same. “Act on your own initiative and God will be faithful”. Faithful? What promise did God make to us in regards to tithing? Had God promised you, he would have fulfilled it.

    What has God promised us? Christianity is falsely portrayed as so simple and leisurely. What is the example of the prophets? Most of them died horrible deaths and scripture said they didn’t receive that which was promised regardless (Heb 11:36). What of Job? And what the wiseman in Ecclesiastes? I mention this because I think your reaction to unfulfilled promises is mistaken because I think you have been taught about promises that God didn’t make.

    I don’t expect my words will necessarily convince you and everything will be alright tomorrow. I simply want to help you consider if what you are reacting against is really God or how he is falsely portrayed today.
    If you don’t want to discuss further, that is okay. If you do, you are welcome to email me to discuss there if you’d prefer.

  48. Neal,
    You wrote earlier, “Say what you will about Charles Templeton… He was at least true to his convictions.”

    There is no virtue in being true to your convictions ………….unless you convictions are true. Being sincere may lead to nothing more than being sincerely wrong.

  49. Neal, seems God is God and I am not. Profound point. I am not able to “call the shots”, He can do anything He wills and does. One of the most amazing stories of His healing can be witnessed on a YouTube segment about Duane Miller. He was, at the time, a Baptist music minister who had lost his voice to a viral illness, about three years earlier and was only able to whisper, with a raspy voice. His vocal cords were paralyzed, he had sought help form multiple doctors to no avail. He had pretty well give up on ever getting his voice back. He continued to teach a Sunday School class speaking, whispering actually, into a micophone which amplified his voice. He had a large class, maybe as many as 200. One specific Sunday, about 18 years ago now, more or less, he was teaching from Psalm 103.
    2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
    3 who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
    4 who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
    He was commenting on how this verse or Psalm 53 did not speak about physical healing. In fact he says, “I’m sorry but that’s not what it is speaking aobut here.”
    Even as he is speaking those words you can begin to hear his voice change. It is one of the most moving events I have ever listened to and is just one example of God’s ability to do what He wants, when He wants.
    I say all that to say, it’s not our place to challenge
    God but His place to…

  50. The irony in the recounting of the two men is astounding.

    Of all people, it was Billy Graham who contributed to his friend from turning from the faith. A friend who was the one thought would change the world for Christ.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. Can Satan Counterfeit The Born-Again Experience? - Christian Forums - August 17, 2012

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