The year was 1949. Thirty-year-old Billy Graham was unaware that he was on the brink of being catapulted into worldwide fame and influence. Ironically, as he readied himself for his breakthrough crusade in Los Angeles, he found himself grappling with uncertainty-not over the existence of God or the divinity of Jesus but over the fundamental issue of whether he could totally trust what his Bible was telling him.
In his autobiography, Graham said he felt as if he were being stretched on a rack. Pulling him toward God was Henrietta Mears, the bright and compassionate Christian educator who had a thorough understanding of modern scholarship and an abounding confidence in the reliability of the Scriptures. Yanking him the other way was Graham's close companion and preaching colleague, thirty-three-year-old Charles Templeton. 4
According to Templeton, he became a Christian fifteen years earlier when he found himself increasingly disgusted with his lifestyle on the sports staff of the Toronto Globe. Fresh from a night out at a sleazy strip joint, feeling shoddy and unclean, he went to his room and knelt by his bed in the darkness.
"Suddenly," he would recall later, "it was as though a black blanket had been draped over me. A sense of guilt pervaded my entire mind and body. The only words that would come were, 'Lord, come down. Come down "' And then:
Slowly, a weight began to lift, a weight as heavy as I. It passed through my thighs, my torso, my arms and shoulders, and lifted off. An ineffable warmth began to suffuse my body. It seemed that a light had turned on in my chest and that it had cleansed me I hardly dared breathe, fearing that I might alter or end the moment. And I heard myself whispering softly over and over again, "Thank you, Lord. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." Later, in bed, I lay quietly at the center of a radiant, overwhelming, all-pervasive happiness.5
After abandoning journalism for the ministry, Templeton met Graham in 1945 at a Youth for Christ rally. They were roommates and constant companions during an adventurous tour of Europe, alternating in the pulpit as they preached at rallies. Templeton founded a church that soon overflowed its 1,200-seat sanctuary. American Magazine said he "set a new standard for mass evangelism."6 His friendship with Graham grew. "He's one of the few men I have ever loved in my life," Graham once told a biographer.7
But soon doubts began gnawing at Templeton. "I had gone through a conversion experience as an incredibly green youth," he recalled later. "I lacked the intellectual skills and the theological training needed to buttress my beliefs when-as was inevitable-questions and doubts began to plague me My reason had begun to challenge and sometimes to rebut the central beliefs of the Christian faith."8
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