How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.Psalm 40:4
Perhaps one of Satan’s greatest triumphs has been his ability to convince a fairly broad swath of humanity that if one wants to be considered smart, erudite, rational, and intellectual one had better abandon God’s Holy Word or at least heavily qualify one’s beliefs and support of it. If one wants to be viewed as smart, erudite, rational, and intellectual it might still be okay to be a Christian as long as one is not too much of a Christian. In short, many have become ashamed to admit allegiance to God’s Word as preserved in the pages of Bible. Many have become ashamed to confess their Christian faith in the secular culture in which they are now immersed. This is true notwithstanding the clear warning of Jesus, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38; See also, Luke 9:26; Matthew 10:32-33).
Pride is said to be the sin that God hates the most because the arrogance and self-will that it embodies makes all other sin possible.[i] Humans are by nature prideful creatures, and it is often this tendency to pride that places mankind at odds with God and the clearly delineated self-evident mandates of Scripture. The pull of our secular, and often godless, society will always be away from the biblical moral and ethical rules for a life that is pleasing to God. Modern man often wants and needs to appear bright, clever, and smart in the eyes of the secular world. Therefore, many want to avoid being mocked or shamed for their faith at all costs. They either abandon their faith altogether or fashion a watered down or compromised faith in which they worship a god of their own imagination that will be acceptable to the elite communities of academia, the media, governmental bureaucracies, woke corporations, and many liberal mainstream denominational churches all of whom now collectively man the gates of political correctness.
We, thus, live in a time of go-along-to-get-along compromise, but that is not how Christians in the first century lived. Their faith and the promise of eternal life based upon Jesus Christ’s death upon the cross and subsequent resurrection were of supreme importance to them. They died the death of martyrs rather than compromise their faith. Has the grace of Christ crucified changed to mean that we can ignore foundational doctrines of Christianity and disregard God’s moral and ethical teachings any time we deem it pleasurable, convenient, or expedient?
The question for today’s Christian is whether someone who does not know you can see enough difference between you and other people to tell that you are a Christian. The famous evangelist and teacher, Andrew Womack, once said only half in jest, “If most Christians today were arrested for being Christian, the prosecutor wouldn’t be able to find enough evidence to get a conviction.” How many times do we modern Christians compromise our Christian values just to be accepted by our secular friends, acquaintances, and business associates? The great Baptist minister, Adrian Rogers, once said, “We ought to be living as if Jesus died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back this afternoon.”
How often do we fail to defend the Bible as the Constitution and Employee Handbook of our faith to those who claim to be Christians, but do not think the Bible is needed any longer in our secular culture? How many times out of misplaced loyalty to a political party have we voted for political candidates whose party platform despises God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Scriptures? How many times have we voted for political candidates who promise to enact laws that seem calculated to restrict religious freedom for Christians or legalize behavior that is forbidden in Scripture? How many times have we voted for political candidates who seem intent upon expunging Jesus Christ from American life in defiance of the first amendment of the U. S. Constitution? How many times have we patronized businesses and woke corporations that proudly and defiantly endorse actions, policies, and doctrines in direct opposition to God’s moral and ethical teachings for human life within His will?
How many times have we interviewed pastors for our churches without even asking them what they believed with respect to the Bible and God’s ethical and moral commandments? How many times have we sat quietly in the pew without walking out while an ungodly, progressive pastor preaches a social justice agenda unrelated to individual salvation and in direct violation of Scripture? How often have we remained members of a church or denomination that no longer honors the Bible nor preaches the Scriptures accurately, truthfully, and within biblical context? How often have we continued to pay our tithes to a church or denomination which enables and supports the policies and activities of those:
Who call evil good, and good evil;Isaiah 5:20-21
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight!
How many times have we failed to say grace in a restaurant? How many times have we been ashamed to defend the true Christian faith as actually described in the Bible? How many times have we been too proud or too afraid to kneel proudly before Jesus Christ?
It is easy to see that all of us have been guilty at one time or another of being ashamed or afraid to give evidence of our Christian faith publicly, but Jesus was never ashamed of us. Even though He could have called down twelve legions of angels to His defense (Matthew 26:53), God’s only begotten Son permitted Himself to be arrested, stripped of His clothes, horribly flogged, and then crucified publicly so that those of us who believe in Him and His resurrection might have eternal life.
In return, Jesus asked only that we strip ourselves of our pride and approach Him humbly as would a child. Jesus stated simply but firmly, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3; See also, Mark 10:14; Luke 18:17). The call of Jesus was a gentle call; “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). The great nineteenth century preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, made this point beautifully:
Faith is a stooping grace, and nothing can make a man stoop without faith… Now a man who has not faith proves that he cannot stoop; for he has not faith, for this reason, because he is too proud to believe. He declares, he will not yield his intellect, he will not become a child, and believe meekly what God tells him to believe. He is too proud, and he cannot enter heaven, because the door of heaven is so low that no one can enter in by it unless they will bow their heads. There never was a man who could walk into salvation erect…Therefore it is, that faith is necessary, because a want of faith is certain evidence of absence of humility.[ii]
We must never become discouraged when we momentarily lapse into timidity respecting our faith. In our current woke/cancellation culture there are demonic forces actively trying to shame us into renouncing our faith, and, failing that, to persecute those who stand firm with threats of job loss, business destruction, and even physical violence. This should not surprise us because Jesus warned us:
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.John 15:18-21
The Apostle Paul Was Not Ashamed
At a time when he had already been beaten, stoned, imprisoned, mocked, and otherwise suffered many abuses for bravely preaching the salvation offered to mankind through Jesus Christ and no other, the Apostle Paul could still proudly declare in his letter to the church in Rome: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
The Apostle Paul was far from being naïve, uneducated, or a rube. He had been taught at the feet of Gamaliel, one of Judaism’s greatest Pharisaic teachers (Acts 22:3). He was also familiar with Greek philosophy and poetry. He was in fact a well-respected, well-read, intellectual, and Jewish theologian. Paulus Sergius, proconsul of Cyprus, was actually converted to Christianity by Paul (Acts 13:7,12). Paul appears to have made a favorable impression upon the Roman procurators Felix (Acts 24:24,26), Festus, and also King Agrippa (Acts 26:31-32). And, yet Paul freely gave up his elite academic standing and intellectual respectability to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and evangelize the Christian faith. This is why we can believe the testimony of the Apostle Paul; he literally gave up everything to follow Jesus. He had drunk heavily from the fountain of the best scholarship of his day and found it wanting. He boldly declared:
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong,
And the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’.1Corinthians 1: 18-31
The Bible Is the Best-Preserved Book in The World
This modern tendency to be embarrassed by the Bible has progressed notwithstanding the fact that the Bible is the best-preserved book from antiquity. The Scriptures we have today are faithful to the earliest known documents yet discovered.[iii] There is a general consensus that Jesus was crucified in AD 30 or 33. Even many liberal theologians now admit that the entire New Testament was complete by the year AD 100 which places it’s authorship within the lifetimes of those who had heard Jesus’ teachings from His lips.
The Apostle Paul’s letters constitute almost thirty percent of the New Testament. Since we know that the Emperor Nero, who had Paul executed, committed suicide in AD 68, this means that the entire corpus of Paul’s theological writings was complete prior to AD 68 or within at most 38 years from the crucifixion. In addition, the New Testament does not mention the deaths of the Apostle Paul or the Apostle Peter, and the New Testament texts appear to presume that the Jewish Temple is still functioning which would place most if not all of the New Testament writings complete before the fall of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple in AD 70. If most New Testament writings were indeed completed before the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, then virtually all of the New Testament was completed within forty years of the crucifixion. In historical terms this is a very short time and a far cry from the hundreds of years that have often been posited by liberal theologians. Contrary to modern liberal skepticism, the Bible is still relevant, reliable, and true.
All That Glitters Is Not Gold
Contrast the theological wisdom of the Apostle Paul who was a true intellectual with the climate in many liberal seminaries and pulpits today where doubting the Scriptures is almost deemed a prerequisite for acceptance as an intellectual. This atmosphere is reinforced by the “publish or perish” practice of many universities which require that a professor be frequently published or be dismissed prior to achieving tenure regardless of the professor’s teaching abilities or other credentials. In our modern secular world, it is often much easier to get an article or book published if the material contains a new or novel approach to denigrate the Bible or Jesus Christ than it is to publish a book or article about new scholarship or archeological discoveries supportive of the traditional biblical narrative. Sadly, for some, once one has experienced the rarified Elysian Fields of intellectual acceptance in academia or the privileged liberal pulpit, undermining the Bible can be perceived as a small price to pay for the privilege of staying there.
C. S. Lewis gave credit to The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton as one of the books that converted him from atheism to Christianity. In The Everlasting Man, Chesterton raises an issue, which can also be applied to theology today, during his amusing discussion of science’s attempt to make sense of the sparce evidence available concerning prehistoric man or “a past that has almost entirely perished” and can only be accessed “by evidence and not by experiment.”[iv] He notes that from these distant periods there is “hardly enough evidence to even be evidential. Thus, while most science moves in a sort of curve, being constantly corrected by new evidence,” the science attempting to interpret these remote times can fly “off into space in a straight line uncorrected by anything.”[v] When dealing with times shrouded in the distant past, Chesterton notes that science can sometimes become inpatient and give rise to a “series of hypotheses so hasty that they may well be called fancies and cannot in any case be further corrected by facts” that no longer exist or have not yet been uncovered.[vi]
When studying biblical times, the theologian often has insufficient evidence beyond that supplied by the Bible texts themselves, but the temptation to sometimes build largely unsubstantiated, but nonetheless novel assumptions, hypotheses, and theories on small pieces of extrabiblical evidence can sometimes be overwhelming. Chesterton notes that, when dealing with remote times, a scrap of evidence may be wielded by its finder with “a fanaticism far in excess of anything shown by men of science when they can collect more facts from experience and even add new facts by experiment.”[vii] Chesterton continues by stating, “Sometimes the professor with his bone becomes almost as dangerous as a dog with a bone. And the dog at least does not deduce a theory from it, proving that mankind is going to the dogs—or that it came from them.”[viii]
Chesterton is alluding to the fact that while there is much worthwhile investigative research being conducted at any given time, we would often be amazed by how scant the hard evidence is for theories stated, “so plainly and positively that men have hardly the moral courage to pause upon them and find that they are without support.”[ix] In the field of biblical criticism, we know what the Biblical text states, but we can only guess at what biblical figures may have been thinking or what their ulterior motives may have been beyond what is actually written. We often have virtually no information outside the biblical texts with respect to many people mentioned in the Bible. It is often this lack of information that gives rise to the flights of fancy on the part of some researchers as alluded to by Chesterton in his discussion of prehistoric man.
And so it is that we have seen books postulating that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene when there is absolutely no biblical evidence for this. There have been books stating that Jesus was a radical or zealot who challenged the Roman empire. Again, there is no scriptural evidence for this beyond the fact that some of Jesus’ disciples desired that He challenge the Romans. Not only did Jesus show no interest in challenging Rome, He healed the servant of a Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10) and told His countrymen to, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew22:21).
There has also been speculation that Jesus, a devout first century Jew, would have approved of the current LGBQT movement despite Scriptures which directly contradict this hypothesis (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; Matthew 5:17-20; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 5:3; Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 13:23-27). And of course, the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages have long been demonized by academia and the liberal pulpit, despite the fact that by AD 711 (some three hundred years before the first crusade) “two-thirds (or 66 percent) Christendom’s original territory—including three of the five most important centers of Christianity—Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria—were permanently swallowed up by Islam” through war and terror.[x]
Such theories, hypotheses, or blind error are published because the remoteness of time and lack of hard evidence beyond what is written in the Scriptures or other ancient sources often make it difficult to conclusively disprove the hypothesis or statement. Such theories are often financially successful due to the currently prevailing state of biblical illiteracy on the part of a substantial portion of the general public. Chesterton states that the ignorance born of scant evidence is sometimes “simply covered up by impudence.”[xi] It is worth noting that despite a deluge of New Age materials, there have been no new discoveries that can definitively refute the teachings of the traditional Judeo-Christian church.
Little Fear of God or Error
Sadly, there seems to be little fear today of the warning in Jesus’ parable of the tares wherein Jesus warned that the tares (weeds or darnels) are sown into His wheat field (the world) by the devil, but that at the end of the age He (Jesus) “will send forth His angels to gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:37-42). Fictitious, misleading, or false commentaries on biblical or theological matters can lead people astray from the true Bible and the path to salvation that Jesus came to reveal.
As referenced above, articles, books, and even movies are often presented today in the guise of truth while based upon little more than opinion, conjecture, or theory. Such New Age material often sells well in a modern culture eager for something sensational or contrary to the traditional biblical narrative or the teachings of the traditional Judeo-Christian church. Such dubious or speculative theories or narratives are frequently believed because so many now know so little about what the Bible actually says. We are reminded of the words of Jesus:
Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me, ‘But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”Mark 7:6-8; See also, Matthew 15:8-9
The Apostle Paul warned, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Paul also cautioned, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him…. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2: 6,8).
Paul reminded us that just because something may be lawful does not mean it is helpful or appropriate (1Corinthians 6:12). To Timothy he said, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:15-16).
Faith Versus Vanity
Few stories illustrate the mischief that can be worked in the lives of individuals by literary denigration of the Bible and academic biblical criticism than the sad tale of Charles Templeton, an early associate and good friend of Billy Graham. Templeton’s story is beautifully summarized in Lee Strobel’s documentary film The Case for Faith as well as the book by the same name.[xii] Along with Billy Graham, Templeton was one of the greatest evangelists of the 1940s and early 1950s. He was one of the founders of Youth for Christ International and along with Billy Graham preached in a series of extremely popular post-war crusades in Europe and Great Britain. Templeton was a man that inspired confidence and successfully evangelized thousands for Christ on an ongoing basis. At one point many thought that Templeton would possibly outshine Graham.
At a time when the world seemed destined to become Templeton’s oyster, doubts began to nibble away at Templeton’s belief in the truth of the Bible and the foundations of his faith. While in many respects a brilliant and highly successful man, he had only a ninth-grade education and longed to learn more about his faith. Unfortunately, he began reading books of biblical criticism by famous intellectuals like Thomas Paine, Thomas Huxley, Voltaire, and Bertrand Russell. The disdain which these acclaimed thinkers had for the Bible and Christianity itself had a devastating impact upon Templeton’s faith and biblical world view. He then resolved to allay his doubts by attending a seminary. Although he did not have a college degree, his fame and connections gained him acceptance as a special student at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Unfortunately, many of Princeton’s traditional conservative biblical scholars had left Princeton (which had become decidedly theologically liberal) in 1929 to form Westminster Theological Seminary. These professors had chosen to oppose theological compromise and stand for the truth of the Bible and a Christ-centered gospel. With the loss of many of its theologically traditional professors, Princeton had solidified its liberal standing but had no doubt lost some of the academic balance that might have helped salvage the faith of Charles Templeton.
By the end of his first year at Princeton, Templeton told his friend, Billy Graham, that Graham’s preaching was behind the times and hopelessly dated. Templeton went on to state:
“It’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation,” Templeton argued. “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 replied stoically: And there are reputable scholars who don’t.”
“Who are these scholars?” Templeton asked. “Men in conservative Christian colleges?”
‘Most of them, yes,’ Graham admitted, “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,’ Templeton interjected, “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,” Graham answered, “but I’ve decided that that’s the path for me.”[xiii]
When Templeton accused Graham’s preaching of being hopelessly dated, he might have stopped to consider that by his standards the preaching of the Apostle Paul, Jan Hus, Martin Luther, George Whitefield, John Wesley, Charles H. Spurgeon, and many other renowned preachers would also be dated. The Scripture-based preaching of these old masters was, however, no longer considered sophisticated or scholarly in the hallowed halls of liberal academia, and Templeton very much wanted to be accepted as a smart intellectual theologian not an evangelist of the revival tent and stadiums. He seemed to yearn for an easy-going God who was more just (in his eyes) and a gospel that did not place such an emphasis on heaven, hell, and damnation. Billy Graham’s response to Templeton had been from the heart, but he was shaken, shocked, and troubled by the defection of his old friend into the camp of liberal, progressive theology.
Graham’s Rendezvous with God at The Stump
So it was that a troubled Billy Graham accepted an invitation to speak at the Forest Home, a Christian retreat center founded by the influential Christian leader Henrietta Mears in the San Bernardino mountains of California. Mears regarded the inerrancy of Scripture as the cornerstone of Christianity and reassured Graham to that effect. As told by his grandson, Will Graham, at some point shortly after his discussion with Mears, Billy Graham took his Bible and walked out into the night in the forest near the Forest Home and placed his Bible upon a stump and cried out:
O God! There are many things in this book I do not understand. There are many problems with it for which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions. There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science. I can’t answer some of the philosophical questions Chuck [Templeton] and others are raising.
And then, my grandfather fell to his knees and the Holy Spirit moved in him as he said, ‘Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word!’
My grandaddy wrote in his autobiography that as he stood up his eyes stung with tears, but he felt the power and presence of God in a way he hadn’t in months. A major bridge had been crossed,’ he said.[xiv]
From that point on Billy Graham preached with a new authority and power. He was never again tempted by the type of arguments that had seduced Templeton. Graham gave God the faith without which it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and God gave Graham the gifts of teaching, exhortation, courage, and a mighty power of the Holy Spirit. Graham had been gifted with something precious that everyone needs (particularly pastors) — resolute and unwavering faith. This made him a spiritual role model and one of history’s great ambassadors for the Christian faith. Graham had wisely stopped to consider that the part he was fated to play in the script before him was not just about him, but also involved God’s will and the millions of souls he had the opportunity to lead to salvation through Jesus Christ.
Within a few weeks Billy Graham would launch the historic 1949 Los Angeles Crusade that would place his feet firmly on the world stage as God’s herald for the rest of his life. In the news reels of those early sermons, the Holy Spirit seemed to illuminate Graham’s face with spiritual power much as the Old Testament says that the face of Moses was illuminated after talking with God. Billy Graham was boldly and (most importantly) unashamedly quoting the Bible as the very Word of God and that gave his messages a spiritual power rarely seen today. Afterall had not the great old time evangelical preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon said years before, “When we believe the gospel to be powerful, then we shall see it is powerful.”[xv] While interviewing Reinhard Bonnke in 2018 on the 700 Club television show, Pat Robertson expressed amazement at the success and size of Bonnke’s African crusades. Bonnke then relayed one simple truth that is often forgotten in our modern secular culture, “If we preach what the Apostles preached, we will get the same results that the Apostles got.”
One of America’s greatest theologians, Charles Hodge, touched on this point when discussing the Apostle Paul:
If Paul in preaching had either substituted human wisdom for the doctrine of the cross, or had so presented that doctrine as to turn it into a philosophy, his preaching would have been powerless. It would lose its divine element and become nothing more than human wisdom. Whatever obscures the cross deprives the gospel of its power.[xvi]
The Way of Cain
As for Charles Templeton, he would continue for a few years to walk in the way of Cain trying to use his academic credentials to fashion a new more liberal, more politically correct, and more intellectually acceptable path to God that would not require him to yield his intellect or become like a child to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:13-16; Mathew 18:3). Spurgeon had once noted that “a want of faith is certain evidence of a lack of humility.”[xvii] The way of Cain has always been the way of pride and it rarely leads through that narrow gate by which salvation is found (Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-25).
As Templeton saw Graham’s career blossom by preaching the gospel in the earnest, innocent, simple, plain-reading-of-the-Bible, evangelical manner of which he (Templeton) was ashamed; he must have known that Graham’s choice had been the correct one. He could no doubt see that the politically correct, watered-down Christianity of the liberal mainstream churches was causing them to slowly wither away on the vine, while conservative, Bible-preaching, traditional, orthodox churches were continuing to follow the Bible to new growth. Templeton eventually left the ministry and became an agnostic pursuing a career in broadcasting, journalism, writing, and even inventing. His last book was entitled Farewell to God wherein he tried to use the same sort of arguments that had seduced him away from the faith to lead others down the same path.
Shortly before he died, Templeton granted one of his last interviews to Lee Strobel. Strobel asked him what he thought of Jesus. Surprisingly, Templeton softened and gave a beautiful, heartfelt description of Jesus that would have been worthy of Billy Graham. He ended by saying of Jesus: “In my view,” he is the most important human being who has ever existed. And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I …miss …him!”[xviii]
What is one to make of Templeton’s loving words about Jesus near the end of his life? I suspect he was remembering those golden halcyon days of his youth when he had walked under the anointing and lordship of Jesus Christ doing good, making a positive difference in the world, and leading thousands upon thousands to salvation in Jesus’ name. My guess is that Templeton may have been weeping for the lost opportunities of a wasted life, but we will never know.
Everyone Has God-given Skills and Talents That Can Be Used to Good Purpose
Charles Templeton was initially gifted with mighty spiritual gifts that God used early in Templeton’s career to advance the reach of the Christian church and lead thousands to salvation, but he was seduced away from the pathways of Scripture into a quest for something more. He sought his Holy Grail in the halls of liberal academia and fell from converting others to Christ to being converted himself to the ways of the world. Charles F. Stanley once reminded us that the Bible tells us all we need to know to be saved, but nowhere does God promise to tell us everything in this life about which we might be curious. This is consistent with Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” Yes, we live in a fallen world and there are many harsh realities, but Christianity provides better answers and hope than any other religion, philosophy, or creed in the world. The surest path to life’s answers, knowledge, and wisdom is in the pages of the Bible itself. The renowned pastor of Cornerstone Chapel, Gary Hamrick, has noted that, “The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible.”
Each of us is born with some special talent, ability, or capacity (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 1 Peter 4:10), and God does have a purpose for every believer if we have the courage to seek that purpose out (Psalms 139:13-16; Ephesians 2:10).[xix] We must pray for the wisdom to seek God’s will, to discern God’s will, and to serve God’s will. God has also given each of us the freedom to decide whether to use our special gifts or toss them away. Templeton failed to use his gifts and passed from legend into obscurity. Billy Graham did use his gifts and through the power of God helped pivot the axis of the world during his lifetime toward the salvation offered by Jesus Christ and no other. God has given us the freedom to use the unique talents He has given us for good or evil, to build or destroy, to unify or divide. He has given us the freedom to decide whether we will use our brief time on this earth to make a positive impact or a negative impact upon our current world and the future we cannot yet see.
Today, in the petulant pursuit of agendas that are forbidden by Scripture, or which do not lead to Salvation and life as God intended, far too many liberal theologians and clergy are using their talents to divide, weaken, and destroy the Christian faith. Far too many people in the pews sit silently while the pilot in the church pulpit flies the church they have loved into the ground.
One of the main goals of The Beginning of Wisdom is to point people toward the Bible and demonstrate how practical and useful it is—to show how the Bible is filled with helpful answers and wisdom about every aspect of life. It is absolutely essential that Christians dust off their Bibles and begin to learn what the Old and New Testaments really do say. This is the believer’s best defense against the false teachings, half-truths, and outright apostasies so rampant in many pulpits today.
There Is Still Much for Which to Be Grateful
There are many excellent translations of the Bible in modern English that are easy to read such as the: New American Standard Version; New King James Version; English Standard Version, and Modern English Version. These translations can be found in helpful study Bible formats such as: the NASB Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible; the NKJV Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible; The ESV Jeremiah Study Bible; and the MEV D. James Kennedy Topical Study Bible. Today, some ministers and denominations are daring to say that the Bible is no longer essential—that it is merely a non-binding guide. That is not what the Bible says. As Spurgeon noted, “It is necessary, then, to true faith, that a man [or woman] should know something of the Bible…I believe that, since it is all the Word of God, it is all most assuredly true.”[xx] Spurgeon had the wisdom to discern that, “A man [or woman] cannot believe what he [or she] does not know.”[xxi]
The picture is not totally bleak. There have been many excellent modern biblical scholars such as William Barclay, Randall Price, Richard Bauckham, Peter A. Lillback, D. A. Carson, and many others. There are still excellent, biblically faithful seminaries such as Westminster Theological Seminary, Knox Theological Seminary, and Dallas Theological Seminary. There are many local ministers laboring in the community who are still faithful to biblical Scripture although it may take a search to find them. There are still famous ministers whose courageous biblically faithful sermons are available via streaming, DVDs, or television such as Gary Hamrick, Curt Dodd, David Jeremiah, Robert Jeffress, Michael Youssef, Charles F. Stanley, and (although now deceased) D. James Kennedy, Adrian Rogers, Billy Graham, and Harold E. Salem. These individuals and institutions, along with thousands like them across the centuries, have used their God-given gifts to lead the unsaved to salvation, preserve the faith, and grow the Christian church.
In a time that is increasingly theologically dark and desperate, we must take the time at last to study our Bibles and strengthen our courage that we may stand firm against our Judeo-Christian faith’s many enemies and take our place beside the heroes of the Christian faith that came before us. The goal is to attain eternal life and the gate to heaven can be accessed only through faith in Jesus Christ. We are saved not through works, but solely through the faith in Jesus Christ, but, as Christians, we can discover the components of a life pleasing to God only in the Old and New Testaments.
All Scripture references taken from the New American Standard Bible©, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
[i] Proverbs 3:34; 6:17; 8:13; 16:5; 18:12; Isaiah 2:11; Philippians 2:3; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5-6.
[ii] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Faith,” in Spurgeon’s Sermons (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, 2019 ), 1: 373-374.
[iii] Searching for the Original Bible by Randall Price, p. 113, 115, 247-248, 259, Copyright©2007 by World of the Bible Ministries, Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97402, www.harvesthousepublishers.com.
[iv] G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (Radford, VA: Wilder Publications, LLC., 2008 ,17.
[viii] Ibid., 18.
[ix] Ibid., 19.
[x] Ibrahim, Raymond, Sword and Scimitar (New York: Da Capo Press, Hachette Book Group, 2018),42-43,163.
[xii] Strobel, Lee, Allen, L., & Allen, W. P. (2008). The Case for Faith: The Film. (DVD) Lionsgate.
[xiii] Bean, Alan, Billy Graham’s Shadow: Chuck Templeton and the Crisis of American Religion, https://friendsofjustice.blog/2015/08/03/billy-grahams-shadow-chuck-templeton-and-the-crisis-of-american-religion/amp/ (accessed February, 2022).
[xiv] Graham, Will, The Tree Stump Prayer: When Billy Graham Overcame Doubt, https://billygraham.org/story/the-tree-stump-where-billy-graham-overcame-doubt/ (accessed February, 2022).
[xv] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Gospel Missions,”1:327.
[xvi] Hodge, Charles, An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians [Commentary 1 Corinthians 1:17](The Michigan Historical Reprint Series, The Scholarly Publishing Office, The University of Michigan University Library, .,18.
[xvii] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Faith,” 1:374.
[xviii] Strobel, Lee, The Case for Faith: The Film; See also, Bean, Alan, Billy Graham’s Shadow: Chuck Templeton and the Crisis of American Religion.
[xix] Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 32:8; Matthew 7:7-8; 11:28-29; 1 Peter 4:10; Revelation 3:20; Jeremiah 29:11-13.
[xx] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Faith,” 1:368-370.
[xxi] Ibid., 1:367.