In the 1950s, Charles Templeton was a household name among evangelical Christians. He was a close friend of Dr. Billy Graham and the pastor of a large and growing church in Toronto, Canada. He was also a mighty evangelist and in some ways was more eloquent and able than Dr. Graham. Many predicted that Charles would become one of the most famous preachers in history. Together, Graham and Templeton had founded Youth for Christ in Canada.
Not that many years later, news came out that Charles Templeton had walked away from the truth of the Scriptures and the God he had proclaimed to millions. Templeton declared himself to now be an agnostic, and his announcement sent shockwaves through the church world.
In spite of his disbelief in a loving God, Templeton continued to give much thought to God and his struggles with Christianity over the rest of his life. He wrote several books about these concepts with which he grappled. In 1999, Templeton published his last book, titled Farewell to God. The book’s subtitle was My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith.
Author Lee Strobel was fascinated with the volume and sought an interview with the Canadian to gain more understanding into this man’s journey. Strobel ended up writing his book The Case for Faith in response to that meeting. In it, Strobel recounts that eventful conversation.
Strobel had gone to Templeton’s high-rise apartment in Toronto to sit with this 83-yearold man. At the time, Templeton’s health was failing with Alzheimer’s. For some minutes, Strobel pressed Templeton about his beliefs in God. Growing more strong and adamant, Templeton made it clear that he could not reconcile believing in a God who seemed to permit random cruelty and evil. He stood his intellectual ground, giving no hint that anything could change his hardened position.
Strobel then turned the interview toward Jesus. An article from Christian Courier comments on their conversation as follows: How would he now assess Jesus at this stage of his life?
Strobel says that, amazingly, Templeton’s “body language softened.” His voice took on a “melancholy and refl ective tone.” And then, incredibly, he said: “He was 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 reading. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world.”
. . . Strobel quietly commented: “You sound like you really care about him.”
“Well, yes,” Templeton acknowledged, “he’s the most important thing in my life.” He stammered: “I . . . I . . . I adore him. . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.”
Strobel was stunned. He listened in shock. He says that Templeton’s voice began to crack. He then said, “I . . . miss . . . him!” With that the old man burst into tears; with shaking frame, he wept bitterly.