In the spring of 1945, Billy Graham and Charles Templeton worked alongside one another in a Youth for Christ tour throughout North America. Graham and Templeton shared the gospel to thousands effectively and genuinely. Graham and Templeton developed a strong friendship based on their common passion for the Christian faith. When their Youth for Christ rallies received International attention, they decided to broaden their mission and began a five week tour in Europe. It was at this tour that many predicted Templeton to be the best, most influential preacher of his generation. In the months that followed their European tour, Templeton began a long and life changing season of doubt. He states that logic and reason began to slowly erode away his seemingly strong faith. He lost his confidence in the inerrancy of scripture, the sovereignty of God, and the existence of the Trinity. Templeton continued working in the Christian ministry until 1957 when he declared publically that he was agnostic. In 1996, Templeton published his autobiography, “Farwell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith.”
As seen through the life of Charles Templeton, apostasy is a real danger. Even Charles Templeton, a man predicted to be the most influential preacher of his generation, was not exempt from falling into doubts that lead to apostasy. Perhaps one of the most saddening truths about Charles Templeton’s loss of faith was his own sense of loss. In his interview for Lee Strobel’s book, “A Case for Faith,” Charles Templeton stated, “There is a profound sense of loss when anyone abandons a belief system they’ve held since childhood. I was a teenager when I became a Christian, and I was ill equipped to challenge the ideas of my friends and mentors. At first, I accepted the beliefs of the people around me, but slowly, and against my will, my doubts deepened until my faith languished and died. These years of indecision were the most troubling and trying of my life. I found myself re-thinking the story of Jesus of Nazareth and for all its intrinsic fascination, it just wasn’t the same. It was as if someone I loved had died.”
So how can we strengthen our faith and avoid apostacy? We need to know the God we serve and be able to defend Him to the world. Maintaining a relationship with the Lord remains the top priority. If we truly know God, we know he exists. We need to challenge one another to think deeply about our faith. Our youth groups need to challenge our adolescents to think about the significance of a Christ centered reality instead of living a "christian life" based on an emotional high or the christian "experience". Without critically thinking about what our faith means, our faith cannot be genuinely our own. Though doubting can be dangerous, it is not shameful, but instead, it is a way for us to actively question the truths of Christ. Without questioning biblical truth, can we whole heartedly believe? The danger of doubt comes when you deal with it secretly, like Charles Templeton did. We should not give the devil a foothold in our life through isolation from our Christian community. We cannot give into secrecy because of our own sense of shame. When experiencing doubt, it is important to include the family of God. We need the accountability and support of our fellow believers through these dry seasons. Our community should seek to find truth together. My point is: we all doubt, but when we doubt we need to actively seek God with the help of those around us. Their prayers carry us through. We need to be able to defend our faith with confidence. Though knowing doctrine and theology is helpful, it is not enough to save our faith; we need to believe it. Even Templeton, a devote unbeliever, claims, “No one in history has touched the hearts of men and women the way Jesus did. He had the highest moral standard, and the greatest compassion of any person I’ve ever heard of. And his wisdom was unsurpassed. Everything good and decent and pure that I know, I learned from Jesus, and if I may put it this way, I miss him.”Lets learn from Templeton. Instead of concealing doubt, lets seek answers from God's Word, Christian peers, pastors, and mentors. Lets let our doubts lead to answers that strengthen the confidence we have in our faith.