I love apologetics. I love to argue “the case for God.” But sometimes, there are questions that I don’t have the answers to. There have been times in my life when my intellect wants to run one way, and my faith another and I simply can’t reconcile the two. There have been times when my experiences force me to choose between that which I understand to be true, and that which I believe to be true. There are times when faith must become an act of the will, rather than an understanding of the intellect.
A story is related about Billy Graham which took place just before the breakthrough crusade in Los Angeles that catapulted him into a national ministry. At that time, Graham was on the brink of a faith crisis. A good friend of his had recently left the faith and was trying to turn Billy away as well. The name of the friend was Charles Templeton, a former pulpit partner and close friend of Graham, whom many had thought would some day eclipse Graham as an evangelist. Doubts had chipped away at his faith, however, and questions about God had hardened him into a bitter opponent of Christianity. And so Billy found himself wrestling with doubt. His friend’s arguments were chipping away at his own belief in the Bible, and Graham knew that if he couldn’t trust the Bible, then he couldn’t go on. He searched the scriptures for answers, praying and meditating and trying to understand. Finally one night, during a heavy-hearted walk in the SanBernardino Mountains, everything came to a climax:
Gripping a Bible, Graham dropped to his knees and confessed that he couldn’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions that Templeton and others were raising. “I was trying to be on the level with God, but something remained unspoken,” he wrote. “At last the Holy Spirit freed me to say it: ‘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.’” Rising from his knees, tears in his eyes, Graham said he sensed the power of God as he hadn’t felt it for months. “Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed,” he said. “In my heart and mind I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won” (1).
Graham went on to become the most persuasive and effective evangelist of modern times.
The story doesn’t end there, however. For while one man would go on to become one of the most admired men in the world, bringing millions to a saving faith in Christ, the other would spend a lifetime writing books and preaching sermons that systematically attacked the existence of God and the Christian faith. Charles Templeton became “the Apostle to the Agnostics.”
Toward the end of his life, Templeton was interviewed by apologist Lee Strobel, who asked him his opinion of Jesus. In the book The Case for Christ, Strobel recounts Templeton’s response:
“Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus,” [Templeton said] … “He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people. But Jesus is Jesus… in my view he is the most important human being who ever existed.”
Abruptly, Templeton cut short his thoughts. There was a brief pause, almost as if he was uncertain whether he should continue.
“Uh… but… no,” he said slowly. “he’s the most…” He stopped, and then started again. “In my view,” he declared, “he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”
That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, “I… miss… him!”
With that, tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed as he wept (2).
Charles Templeton died a short time later.
Sometimes we don’t have all the answers. Sometimes we must choose to walk by faith in that which we do not understand. But it is my belief that no amount of intellectual surety can give us the kind of peace and joy as a life lived willfully and purposefully in the tension of not knowing all the answers – and choosing to believe, regardless.
1.) Strobel, Lee; The Case for Faith; Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000; pg 9
2.) Ibid, pg 18