Spiritual Battles Won, Spiritual Battles Lost: Billy Graham and Charles Templeton

Charles Templeton was born in Canada. He came to Christ in 1936. By 1941 he was an evangelist and had founded a church. Templeton was part of a 1945 meeting at Winona Lake, Indiana, that led to the founding of Youth for Christ.

Also at that meeting was Billy Graham. They became friends and associates, touring western Europe holding evangelistic crusades.

Then Templeton began to doubt his faith. His book, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith (McClelland & Stewart, 1998), chronicles his fall into unbelief and provides a challenge for all those who confess Christ as the Son of God.

Billy Graham, in his autobiography Just as I Am (HarperCollins, 1999), tells of Templeton’s struggles and how they affected him.  Graham knew he had to make a decision.

After a walk in the countryside of the San Bernardino mountains, Graham committed himself to the Word of God, even though he could not answer all the questions being raised by his friend. He wrote, “Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed. In my heart and mind, I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.”

Two friends facing similar spiritual battles; one is lost, one is won.

Decades later in Chicago, a newspaper man named Lee Strobel came to faith after a struggle with some of the same issues. Strobel did extensive research and wrote a far-reaching book entitled The Case for Faith (Zondervan, 2000), in which he refutes Templeton’s challenges one by one.

Strobel found Templeton in Toronto, suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. They spent the better part of a day together.  Templeton explained why he could no longer accept the claims of Christ, though he still longed for the peace he once knew. Strobel explained how he did accept the claims of Christ and how he now knew that peace.

Strobel also learned the most extraordinary thing from Templeton’s wife. Billy Graham had visited his old friend just a few days earlier. They had eaten together, and grace was said over food for the first time in years at the Templeton house. Then, before leaving, Billy and Charles embraced, and Billy prayed for his friend.

Templeton died in 2001.  Billy Graham died yesterday, February 21, 2018.

Spiritual battles won. Spiritual battles lost.

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