Sunday, January 27, 2013

Charles Templeton

In 1999, I visited the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College and felt like I was walking on hallowed ground. A large portion of the museum is devoted to chronicling Graham's crusade ministry with photographs, video footage, newspaper clippings, and interviews. Many of the names of Graham's associates were already familiar to me from growing up in the evangelical world. They were preachers, writers, musicians, athletes, even actors, all connected with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

From the Wheaton Archives
But the name Charles Templeton did not ring a bell when I came across his biography on this fascinating blog. Chuck Templeton and Billy Graham were best friends and partners in ministry in the early 1940's. Together, they founded Youth for Christ International. But Chuck wanted to prepare for further ministry by more solidly answering questions of his own so he enrolled in Princeton Theological Seminary while Billy went on to lead his famous Los Angeles campaign. 

Templeton kept studying and preaching. After Princeton, he was invited to lead evangelism campaigns for the National Council of Churches. People responded readily to his gentle persuasion, but he no longer convinced himself. At age 35, Chuck began suffering from daily anxiety symptoms and nightly panic attacks. A heart specialist assured him the symptoms stemmed, not from any heart trouble, but from an unresolved mental conflict. In time, Templeton acknowledged his loss of faith and left the ministry to pursue journalism, writing, and even politics. In spite of Templeton's open agnosticism, he and Billy Graham remained good friends.

In 1996, Templeton published Farewell to God, in which he explains the reasons behind his loss of belief.

From the description on
In straightforward language, Templeton deals with such subjects as the Creation fable, racial prejudice in the Bible, the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus’ alienation from his family, the second-class status of women in the church, the mystery of evil, the illusion that prayer works, why there is suffering and death, and the loss of faith in God.

Ken Ham and his Creation Museum are eager to hold up Chuck Templeton's book as an example of how higher education can be the slippery slope to unbelief. Lee Strobel's The Case for Faith begins with an interview: atheist-turned-evangelist writer Strobel discussing the claims of the Bible with evangelist-turned-agnostic writer Templeton. As Strobel quizzed him about his beliefs, the frail ex-preacher explained that he still revered the man Jesus. And, in a moment of emotional candor, Templeton told Strobel that he still "missed" Jesus--a dynamic man whose teachings, life, and death have changed the history of the world. 

"[Evangelists]... are relatively ignorant men with narrow minds and narrow interests. They know almost nothing of the human psyche and little of the effects of guilt on the human spirit....  They are like the old-fashioned medicine men; they live off people’s fears. They are quacks practicing spiritual medicine without a licence, offering remedies they neither understand nor have bothered to examine. They are not evil men in the usual sense, not men of ill-will, not malicious - indeed, they may be eminently personable - but in their zeal to "do good" they often do great and lasting harm. They exploit guilt and fear. They warp the mind. They may sometimes do good - at least temporarily - but it usually happens by chance."  
(excerpted from Templeton's memoir)


  1. Thank you so much for writing this. I too have experienced terrible panic attacks, anxiety and nightmares. Two of my therapists said they stem from a disconnect between mind and spirit. I'm slowly working at connecting the two again, and it's a beautiful precious thing. So glad Templeton found peace too.

  2. Templeton may have found a superficial peace in denying the reality of scripture because it conflicted with his own beliefs, but placing his own wisdom above the authority of scripture had terrible, eternal consequences. Unless something revolutionary happened in his last hour to bring him to repent of his sins, and accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he is now suffering an eternity in hell. People who look and act like Christians, but lack the saving relationship with Jesus Christ that comes with accepting Him into their hearts, are the greatest tragedy of all time. Don't fall into the same trap. As Templeton's partner, Billy Graham, pointed out, if you're not sure that you are saved by Jesus Christ, there is no decision more important. And the time is now; you may not get another chance. Jesus is calling to you today, and He wants to be your Savior and Lord.