There are many people who struggle with their faith in Jesus and the Bible. Inevitably as we grow in our faith and gain knowledge of new things, there will be important questions that need to be answered. Some people arrive at a place where they feel that their questions cannot be answered, and so, they give up and fall away from Jesus.
One of the greatest Christian evangelists of history was Charles Templeton. Born in 1915 and professing faith in Christ in 1936, Templeton led millions to faith in Christ.
In 1945 Charles Templeton and Billy Graham became friends, sharing their ministry together in 1946 during the Youth For Christ Evangelistic Tour in Europe. Questions began for Templeton in 1948 as he began to have doubts about some of the text of the Bible that he could not reconcile with science or logic. By 1957, after completing Seminary at Princeton Theological Seminary, Templeton publicly declared that he no longer knew for certain if God existed.
In 1996, Templeton wrote, “Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith.”
It was because these important questions were never properly addressed or answered, that Charles Templeton gave up on his faith and fell away from Jesus. What I have found incredible regarding Templeton’s departure of faith, is that all of his questions have solid answers. It appears that there was no one qualified or knowledgeable who was able to meet the demands of his questions at the time of his crisis of faith.
This is an often repeated tragedy that I have personally observed myself during my past 44 years of following Jesus and trusting in the Bible.
Perhaps it is because my own journey of faith began with the Jesus People Movement in the 70’s, and the proficient teaching of Calvary Chapel, that I was able to continue for so long in faith. Very early I was taken through the entire Bible, and learned the reasons for faith that I have continued to trust in to the present day. On every occasion when I have had personal doubts, I have found answers in the Bible that met my need for evidence to support my faith.
Today, there is a great lack of teaching in the word of God. As a result, many people have not found the answers to their questions and many have fallen away. It was for this reason that I began a vigilant efforts several years ago to write books and articles that presented scientific, historical, and archeological evidence to support the text of the Bible.
How Doubts Cause Faith To Die
Billy Graham recounts a conversation that he had with Charles Templeton that gives us a view into the doubts that Templeton had at that time:
“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.”
In this conversation we can see that Billy’s inability to know the answers to Templeton’s questions, affected his own faith and ultimately the end of faith for Charles Templeton.
What I find interesting is that regarding the question of when God created the universe, the Genesis account does not specifically state that God created the universe in six days.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Verse 1, simply states: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The precise time when the original creation of the universe commenced, is not defined by this text—only that God is the source of all creation, in the beginning.
It is proposed by some scholars that verse 2, is describing the earth before God formed it for inhabitation by Adam. If this theory is true, then beginning at verse 3, God is describing how He formed the earth for inhabitation for man, not how He created the entire universe in six days.
Therefore, we should not discount the fact that the universe could have been created by God 13.7 billion years ago and the earth was formed just 4.56 billion years ago—when God made the environment suitable for human habitation during the six days described.
This is possible because of what the Bible says, not because of what Theologians say.
The earth was made by the Lord to be inhabited, according to Isaiah Chapter 45:18.
For thus says the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he has established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. ~Isaiah 45:18(UKJV)
The earth was made to be inhabited, but it would take the natural process of time for the earth to develop to a point where it would be inhabitable. Let me explain:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We know that this is true from the word of God, as described in Genesis Chapter 1:1. When God spoke the universe into existence, it was not immediately ready for human life. It would take billions of years for the matter that was produced in the big bang, to form stars, galaxies, and planets. In other words, although God made the universe for life so that it could be inhabited by human beings, this life would not be created on earth for some time.
God very often uses, what appears to us here on earth as naturally occurring circumstances, to bring about supernatural events. God chose Abraham and Sarah to become the parents of a son who would bring the Messiah into the world. Sarah was well beyond the normal age of conception, so God performed a miracle; using the natural events of a pregnancy and birth to bring Isaac into the world. The supernatural event was observed in God making it possible for an old man and woman who were physically incapable of conceiving a child—able to conceive. Then God used the natural process of a normal 9 month human gestation period to bring this son into the world, who God had promised to Abraham and Sarah.
When Jesus came to the earth as the Messiah, He did not arrive as a grown man. He came as a baby, who had to learn and grow as any child would, in order to become a fully mature man. God used the normal events of pregnancy, birth, and the development of a child—into a man, in order to bring about the supernatural arrival of God to the earth. This all took time.
Great Expanses Of Time
Those who object to God creating the universe over billions of years, must answer the question: why did God take six days if He could have done it instantly? It seems that the reason for this insistence that God made the universe very quickly is due to the belief that God does not need to take a long time to do anything. He has the power to bring things into existence instantaneously. If this were always true then we would not observe God taking long periods of time to accomplish His will in the narrative of the Bible. In fact, what we find is that God, very often, uses a great expanse of time to accomplish His will in human life.
Jesus is called the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth,” yet He did not arrive on the earth as the Messiah until some 4,000 years after Adam’s creation.
In the mind of God, Jesus was the Savior of all the descendants of Adam, before He made the universe, or Adam. Jesus volunteered to be our Savior, knowing that Adam would sin against God and all of his future descendants would also be lost. God waited for 4,000 years before sending Jesus, to allow the natural process of time to permit all the events necessary—to occur first, before Jesus came to earth as a human being to die for the sins of the world.
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law. ~Galatians 4:4
- God promised Abram a son, but it took a long process of time before Isaac was born.
- God told Noah that a great flood would destroy the earth but He allowed a long process of time before this judgement arrived.
- God called the nation of Israel to be the spokesman for the Messiah—to reveal Him to the world, yet Israel was in slavery in Egypt for 400 years.
- Jesus promised that He would return to earth for His church—2,000 years ago. God has chosen to wait for the purpose of allowing people enough time to repent of their sins and receive Jesus as their Savior.
Time is irrelevant with God, while He understands that time is extremely important to human beings. God does not sit and wait for time to pass as a human being does. The passage of a billion years is but a moment to God. However, these long expanses of time, in the human experience, adds a great deal of meaning to our lives. This is particularly meaningful when we consider that God could have created the universe in an instant, but instead He chose to do so over billions of years, requiring Him to be actively involved in preparing the universe for us—with constant care and control.
In a universe where God must be actively involved for nearly 14 billion years, instead of an instantaneous creation, we gain a tremendous knowledge of how deeply God cares for us as the objects of His love and care.
God Uses Time
We know today that the earth formed out of the universe at about 4.56 billion years ago, according to the latest estimates of science. This process occurred when the earth began to take shape by the compression of gases thrown off by our sun.
The material of our solar system in which our sun, the earth, and the other planets exist, are made up of material that is at least 4.56 billion years old. The formation of our solar system happened in conjunction with the formation of our sun. As the material of the sun began to spin and flatten into a disk, some of this material was thrown off and later formed the planets of our solar system, including earth. This all took a great amount of time. It is thought by scientists that the atmosphere of earth developed by volcanic activity which produced the specific gases and water vapor that would later produce a perfect balance of oxygen and other gases, necessary for human beings to breathe. Earth’s massive oceans may have come through collisions with asteroids and comets which carried water to our planet.
The outer crust of the earth was formed over a long process of cooling. At the same time, the sun was going through many changes which caused its luminosity to increase from about 70% early in its formation, to its current 100% luminosity, which produces the precise amount of light and energy required for life to exist on earth. As the interior of earth molten core began to cool, continents began to change by massive tectonic movement. Scientists think that these massive shifts in the continents have occurred at least three times, before our current arrangement of land masses took shape.
All of these events required the process of at least 4.5 billion years to complete. This was the naturally occurring process of time that God built into the universe, our solar system, and the earth, that was required in order to form a planet fit for human habitation. When Genesis 1:2 states that the earth was without form and void, it was during this long period of time in forming a planet fit for inhabitation, that verse 2 is describing. Although God made the earth to be inhabited by human beings, He would take a very long time to accomplish this.
Let me be clear here, in every micro second of the entire process of preparing the universe for earth much later, God was at work. He did not set the universe into motion and then allow it to evolve into its present state. Although God rested on the seventh day after the earth was ready and man was created, God has not rested from His active involvement in the universe—earth itself—nor each one of our lives, since these things were created. Jesus said that until the present time, God has been working, and Jesus said the He is also continually working.
But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” ~John 5:17
In one of the early comments that I received from a reader who purchased my book, “A Universe From God,” he unfairly characterized me as believing in “Cosmic Evolution,” I do not, and if this reader had read the entire text where I put forth my position—he would have understood the opposite.
God is the source of all creation and He is responsible for every process which occurred over specific periods of time. It is preposterous to state that the entire universe was created in six days and that every process necessary for life was completed in this period of time. Primarily because the text of Genesis 1:1 does not state this, and secondly because scientists today are able to measure the age of the universe and conclude with certainty that at least 13 billions years have passed since the original expansion of the universe began. This passage of time was not evolution—it was God working to prepare the cosmos for earth, and then in six days God brought the earth into a state of readiness for human life.
Once the earth was at a point in its development when God determined it was ready for inhabitation, He commenced with the six days of creation described, beginning at Genesis 1:3. The Sun already existed, but it was not visible on the earth because of the heavy atmosphere and water which covered the planet. God separated the water from the land, created an atmosphere that allowed the sun to be visible, and then added the various life forms which are described in the creation account of Genesis 3-31.
I believe the six days described in Genesis 1:3-31 are six literal 24 hour days. This is due to the language, evening and morning, the first day, an so forth. However, God does not state that He created the heavens and the earth during these six days. This creation is stated in verse 1. Beginning at verse 3, we see how the earth was brought out of an uninhabitable condition, to be made suitable for life by God.
- Day 1: Genesis 1:3-5, God causes the light that is already in existence by our Sun, to be seen on the surface of the earth (no land yet).
- Day 2: Genesis 1:6-8, dividing the thick atmosphere of the earth from the water that covered the earth.
- Day 3: Genesis 1:9-13, dividing the seas from the land so that land appears, seeds begins to grow (seeds were already present); grass, herbs, and trees begin to grow.
- Day 4: Genesis 1:14-19, the stars, moon, and sun are fully visible on the land of earth (they already existed but were unseen on the surface of the earth).
- Day 5: Genesis 1:20-23, creation of fish, birds, and the larger sea creatures. Each created according to their own kind, not evolved.
- Day 6: Genesis 1:24-31, creation of land animals, creation of man and woman, dominion over the earth given to man, command to reproduce; all plants, herbs, and trees given to mankind for food.
- Day 7: God ends His work of creation on the earth.
There is a tremendous amount of additional evidence to support the idea of an old universe, but the space of this article will not permit the inclusion of this evidence. If you are interested in reading all that we do know regarding the scientific evidence to support an old universe—in confirmation of the text of Genesis and the Bible, see my books “A Universe From God,” and “How Intelligence Acted Upon The Universe.”
Like Charles Templeton, there are many people who have not been able to find the kind of scientific information I have briefly indicated here in this article. Imagine if Templeton had understood what I have written here. Perhaps he would have gained sufficient knowledge to continue trusting the text of the Bible and would have continued to follow Jesus.
To Love Jesus
When we examine the final words of Charles Templeton, we see that his objections to faith never had anything to do with Jesus, but the other parts of the Bible that he was not able to reconcile.
Some fifty years after Charles Templeton fell away from Jesus, Lee Strobel had an opportunity to interview him just a couple of years before his death at the age of 85:
“And how do you assess this Jesus?” It seemed like the next logical question—but I wasn’t ready for the response it would evoke.
Templeton’s body language softened. It was as if he suddenly felt relaxed and comfortable in talking about an old and dear friend. His voice, which at times had displayed such a sharp and insistent edge, now took on a melancholy and reflective tone. His guard seemingly down, he spoke in an unhurried pace, almost nostalgically, carefully choosing his words as he talked about Jesus.
“He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?”
I was taken aback. “You sound like you really care about him,” I said.
“Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,” came his reply. “I . . . I . . . I . . . ,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, ‘I know it may sound strange, but I have to say . . . I adore him!” . . .
” . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes . . . yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don’t think of him that way, but they don’t read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. 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….’
“Uh . . . but . . . no,’ he said slowly, ‘he’s the most . . .” He stopped, 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. . . .
Templeton fought to compose himself. I could tell it wasn’t like him to lose control in front of a stranger. He sighed deeply and wiped away a tear. After a few more awkward moments, he waved his hand dismissively. Finally, quietly but adamantly, he insisted: “Enough of that.”
It is clear to me that Templeton loved Jesus until the very end, though he was not able to reconcile the other questions of faith that were never answered.
Providing answers to these questions for the serious seeker has been one of the preeminent pursuits of my life. To those whose goals are to ridicule and mock Christ and the Bible, I have no interest in a discourse. To those who really want answers and are sincerely seeking them, I continue to write and publish with the hope that perhaps I might be able to save even one from the peril that Charles Templeton experienced in his life.
Did Charles Templeton go to be with the Lord at his death? From my personal view, his love of Jesus is apparent from the words he used to describe him and how he felt about the Lord. I know that Jesus is far more merciful and patient with people than any of us. I know that those who genuinely love Jesus will be with Him at the end of their lives, regardless of their personal struggles while on earth. None of us knows the final destination of any human being at the end of their life. What we do know is that Jesus did not intend that our faith would be simply a matter of an unintelligent decision. He left us with an immense amount of evidence to support faith in Him and His words. It is up to us to diligently seek answers to our questions and not be satisfied until we find them. Those who do this will find solutions to their difficulties and they will be able to go on and follow Jesus and dispel all doubts.
Categories: Agnostics and Skeptics, Contradictions in the Bible, Errors of the Christian Church, Following Jesus, Historical Validity of the New Testament, Jesus confirmed by secular sources, No Compromise, Overcoming trials, Reliability of the Bible, Robert Clifton Robinson, The age of the Earth, The Authority of God, The Condition of the Heart, The Historical Jesus, The Historical Jesus, The Miracles of Jesus, The Resurrection of Jesus, To Preach the Gospel, True Repentance