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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Templeton’

Canadian politician/author/inventor/journalist/broadcaster Charles Templeton was a mostly brilliant jack-of-all-trades. But I’ve left one “occupation” out because it’s poignant and sad and, perhaps, telling the story can help us thoughtfully consider our lives.

Templeton (1915-2001) was also a gifted evangelist who was once on par with Billy Graham. In fact, they travelled the continent together as a team. Templeton hosted a weekly Christian TV show in the United States, regularly preached at massive crusades and, during the 1950s, was a towering leader in the North American church.

But Templeton also had nagging doubts about Christianity – doubts which eventually led him to become an agnostic (someone who simply doesn’t know if there is a God) and walk away from the ministry.

I used to listen to Templeton every morning on Toronto’s CKEY radio. So once I became a Christian and discovered his past, Templeton’s story intrigued me to the point of writing a Calgary Herald review of his 1996 book Farewell To God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith.

What that book left out was an incident from when he was struggling with his faith. Templeton had what can only be called a mystical experience, where he “saw” God and Jesus weeping for the sins, wars, and hatreds of humanity. As he wrote in another book, his anecdotal memoir:

“When I became conscious of my surroundings again, I was lying on the wet grass, convulsed by sobs. I had been outside myself and didn’t know for how long. Later, I couldn’t sleep and trembled as though with a fever at the thought that I had caught a glimpse through the veil.”

Templeton tried to repeat the experience, which is bizarre because how would one go about “creating” such an extraordinary event? When he couldn’t, Templeton researched mystical experiences until concluding they were not unusual, and in his words, “of no special significance. Mystical experience has added no insight to our knowledge of God or to Christian doctrine.”

Not unusual? Of no special significance?? People all over this planet would love to have the sort of mystical experience that was bestowed on Templeton, regardless of belief level. Indeed, Mother Teresa spent most of her adult life praying (in vain) to experience God this way. And what “authority” declared mystical experiences are irrelevant unless they add to our knowledge of God?

I find myself profoundly saddened that Templeton found ways to write off one of the most incredible moments any human being can ever pray to experience. The way I see it, God did, indeed, let him glimpse through the veil and see things most of us can never hope to see. God went out of his way for Templeton. And Templeton still walked away from a life of faith.

So what can we take away from this? In his book Your God Is Too Safe, Canadian author Mark Buchanan puts it this way: “Here lies the basic flaw of all doubt: it can never really be satisfied. No evidence is ever, fully, finally enough. Doubt wants always to consume, never to consummate.”

Before I became a Christian, Buchanan’s words were a perfect description for me. At some point, I had to reconcile myself with not getting all the answers to my questions. Once I did that, the doors opened to a transformational chapter in my life – a transformation that won’t be finished until this life is done.

Can you set aside your nagging questions and trust in somone bigger than yourself? Or are you staring at the possibility of Charles Templeton’s fate? Post a comment and let me know.

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