(Saint Stephen, first martyr of Christianity, painted in 1506 by Marx Reichlich (1460–1520)
(Pinakothek of Munich)
By Spencer D Gear PhD
Some prominent apostates included:
(Image courtesy Pinterest)
Chuck Templeton became a convert to Christ/Christianity in 1936 and then became an evangelist. He founded Avenue Road Church of the Nazarene in Toronto, Canada in 1941.
In 1945, he met with Torrey Johnson at Winona Lake, Indiana to form a group that became Youth for Christ. Billy Graham was hired as its first full-time evangelist. He and Templeton engaged in an evangelistic tour of Western Europe.
He attended Princeton Theological Seminary and hosted a weekly religious television show on CBS, Look Up and Live, in the 1950s.
He struggled with doubt about the Christian faith and in 1957 he announced he had become agnostic. This publicity caused reactions in the evangelical community.
He made forays into politics in Canada but spent much of the rest of his life as a journalist in public life.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the late 1990s and passed away from disease complications in 2001.
A couple years before he died, Lee Strobel of A Case for Christ fame interviewed Charles Templeton. Some of Templeton’s replies to Strobel included the following:
[Strobel asked]: “And how do you assess this 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” (Charles Templeton: Missing Jesus, The Gospel Coalition).
What penetrating statements from one who had committed apostasy by rejecting God and Jesus!
(Photo of an elderly Charles Templeton, courtesy The Gospel Coalition, U.S. Edition)
When Christians have doubts about anything relating to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the life of a Christian, the place to begin addressing those doubts is not to head into the darkness of agnosticism – I don’t know if God exists. That’s a fence-sitting position with no hope of resolution.
A better way to go, I suggest, would be to tackle these doubts one at a time and with the counsel of wise biblical theologians and apologists. In this era with the Internet, it’s so easy to obtain information to deal with doubts.
However, the Holy Spirit’s personal ministry to all Christians is especially in these actions:
John 14:15-18 (NIV)
‘If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you’.
John 15:26 (NIV)
‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me’.
Romans 8:9 (NIV)
’You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.’
The NT Greek word for Advocate, parakletos, in various occurrences in the NT, means Helper, Intercessor and Convincer. In John’s Gospel only is the Holy Spirit called ‘the Helper’ (Jn 14:16, 26; 16:7). There is a damaged fragment of the Greek MSS for 1 John 2:1 that is in all English translations. It reads, ‘My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (ESV).
So here Jesus Christ has the role of being an advocate. In pre-Christian and extra-Christian literature, the word has the meaning of ‘one who appears in another’s behalf, mediator, intercessor, helper’ (Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon 1957:623-624).
I recommend this article to help us in ‘understanding the Role of the Holy Spirit as our Helper’.
Another who was once an evangelical Christian and from present indications is an apostate. I speak of
Professor Bart D. Ehrman.
(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)
He attended Moody Bible Institute, known for its evangelical Christianity and the liberal arts, and Wheaton College (Billy Graham’s alma mater).
Today Ehrman is a theologically liberal professor in a university. He could not be clearer about his view today:
I have not called myself a Christian publicly for a very long time, twenty years or so I suppose. But a number of people tell me that they think at heart I’m a Christian, and I sometimes think of myself as a Christian agnostic/atheist. Their thinking, and mine, has been that if I do my best to follow the teachings of Jesus, in some respect I’m a Christian, even if I don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God, or that he was raised from the dead, or that… or even that God exists. In fact I don’t believe all these things. But can’t I be a Christian in a different sense, one who follows Jesus’ teachings? (The Bart Ehrman Blog, March 6 2017).
With backgrounds from training in Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, both stalwart evangelical institutions, Bart Ehrman knows that good works and rejection of God’s and Jesus’ existence and attributes do not suffice for entrance into God’s kingdom.
He has written books antagonistic to the Christian faith:
In his works, I have found Ehrman to set out to destroy evangelical Christianity and promote his own brand of liberal, agnostic religion. In a YouTube clip he claimed that he moved from fundamentalist Christian to liberal Christian who went to church, to an agnostic and humanist. He says he became an agnostic because of the problem of suffering in the world.
In an interview in 2018, Ehrman stated: ‘I feel like I’ve gained a lot by becoming an atheist, but I’ve also lost a lot, and there’s no reason, in my mind, to deny that’ (An Interview with Professor Bart Ehrman, Author of The Triumph of Christianity, Friendly Atheist, 15 August 2018)
There you have the slow movement of Bart Ehrman from evangelical Christianity, to liberal Christianity, to agnosticism and atheism.
It began with his doubts about the accuracy of the Bible and not having a biblical solution to the problem of evil in the world.
1. Evolution defeats Christianity
I’ll pick up a few things from the early parts of his post.
He wrote: ‘I walked away from Christianity as a child because of evolution’. To allow Charles Darwin & Co to determine HOW God created and continues to create is a view that is added to Scripture. I don’t see the origin of species and adaptation (Darwinism) in Scripture.
It’s the theory of evolution that has now become the facts of evolution.
For further examination of the evolution-creation debate, I recommend this series of books by a Christian lawyer (Philip E Johnson) and a non-Christian biologist (Michael Denton):
(photograph Michael Denton, courtesy Discovery Institute)
Michael Denton, Evolution: A theory in crisis (Burnett Books 1985);
Michael J Denton, Evolution: Still a theory in crisis (Discovery Institute 2016); hear a podcast of this issue (YouTube).
Michael J Denton, Nature’s destiny: How the laws of biology reveal purpose in the universe (The Free Press 1998);
Phillip E Johnson, Darwin on trial (InterVarsity Press);
Phillip E Johnson, Reason in the balance: The case against naturalism in science, law & education (InterVarsity Press);
Phillip E Johnson, Defeating Darwinism by opening minds (InterVarsity Press);
Phillip E Johnson, Objections sustained: Subversive essays on evolution, law & culture (InterVarsity Press).
See also my articles:
Challenges to evolutionary ‘factual’ evidence
Has evolution been proved by science?
2. Does literal interpretation mean you are conservative?
Again, his reasoning is, ‘I’m not sure if dropping literalism means dropping conservativism (sic), because there have been people who’ve read Genesis as allegory since the religion first started up. That seems to be even more common in Judaism’.
He provided no documentation for this. It is his assertion. Therefore, it is a diversionary tactic. Do you want the first man and woman to be an allegory? Are you going to treat Noah and the flood as an allegory? How about Abraham? Is God’s promise to Abraham an allegory that had no relationship to the nation of Israel: ‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing’ (Gen 12:2 NIV)?
How do you read your local newspaper, whether hard copy or online? Do you read it literally or impose your allegory on it? Take this article from The Sydney Morning Herald (29 January 2017), Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US.
The story began:
New York: President Donald Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect on Friday night (Saturday AEDT). Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports.?
What would stop the person on the forum from making this an allegory where you force your own meaning onto it to make it say what you want? That’s what allegorical interpretation does. It imposes a meaning from outside of what the text states. It is far too easy for you to say,
There have been people who’ve read Genesis as allegory since the religion first started up. That seems to be even more common in Judaism. I didn’t know that this stuff could be read in layers when I was seven, but I certainly know it now’.
So you are already accepting the ‘layers’ of allegorical interpretation without investigating the harmful consequences of what that does to any piece of literature, including the Bible.
3. His liberal bias
He continued: ‘If I decide the Resurrection happened, I can then start working on the question of how much of the rest is true, but that seems a bit backwards as a starting point.’
My comeback was he already told us about his ‘liberal bias’. How will he ever get to understand Jesus’ resurrection as an historical event without telling us which historical criteria he will use to examine the evidence?
Can you be conservative and read the Garden of Eden metaphorically? I find it a very powerful statement when viewed symbolically, but when taken literally I think it’s blatantly misogynistic. My liberal bias very clearly lines up to the reality that Eve has been used as an excuse to justify the oppression of women throughout all of Judeo-Christian history.
How can I respond to someone who wants to interpret the Bible his way – metaphorically? Here goes!
You can’t be a legitimate biblical interpreter and make the Scriptures mean what you want them to mean. When you impose a metaphorical hermeneutic on the Garden of Eden, you introduce your own story into the narrative.
That’s called a red herring fallacy because it takes us away from what the narrative states. There is no indicator in the text of Gen 1-3 (ESV) that tells us the Garden of Eden account is an allegory. That’s your ‘liberal bias’ speaking.
4. Driven by this agenda
He nailed what drives his agenda: ‘I lean towards the liberal view that the Word of God was filtered through a patriarchal culture and picked up some of its bias’.
Again, that’s imposition on the text. It’s eisegesis (putting your meaning into the text) instead of exegesis (getting the meaning out of the text).
Unless you put your presuppositions up for examination and follow the evidence wherever it leads, you are going to have difficulty in pursuing this investigation. I see your foggy worldview of liberalism blinding you to the reality of what the text states.
When you pick and choose what you want to make allegory, you are a postmodern deconstructionist who is deconstructing the text to your own world view. I urge you to place your presuppositions on the altar of critical examination – crucify them (I ask the same of all of us on this forum, including myself).
5. I chose to accept Christ’s offer of salvation
Why have I (this writer) chosen not to follow Charles Templeton and Bart Ehrman in their rejection of Christianity? Scripture confirms that the Templeton and Ehrman examples were anticipated in Scripture. See Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV) and my article Once saved, always saved or once saved, lost again, which exegetes these verses.
I was raised on two sugar cane farms near Bundaberg, Qld., Australia. My parents were ‘religious’ Methodists who took the 3 children with them to Sunday School and church. However, in 1959 real Christianity came to live in our house when Mum and Dad responded to the Gospel invitation through the preaching of Billy Graham. Billy preached in the Brisbane Ekka grounds and his voice came through the loud speakers at the Bundaberg Show Grounds (called Fair Grounds in the USA).
They sat in their old Ford Prefect utility and at the Gospel invitation they went forward to receive Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Our household was changed from that day. Jesus so changed my parents’ lives that all 3 children became born-again Christians, not through coercion, but through the free offer of salvation made available to the children. We have each grown in various dimensions down through the years.
Through Mum and Dad’s influence and the teaching in a local Baptist church I responded in faith to Jesus and was baptised as a believer in 1962.
That was the beginning of my journey of over 50 years of growth and failure in the Christian life. By ‘failure’ I refer to the years in my late teens and early 20s when I went astray but later returned to the faith. During the remaining years I’ve also failed others and myself in not living up to the standards of the teachings of the NT.
My faith has continued to grow as have my gifts as a Bible teacher and apologist. This homepage should demonstrate how I have chosen to pursue Jesus with all my heart and to seek answers when doubts and questions arise.
5.1 Faith founded on facts
In this era when facts are being denied with the promotion of a post-facts’ world, there are facts historical and contemporary that are denied at our peril.
Post-fact is an adjective ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ (Lexico/Oxford Dictionary 2019. s.v. post-fact).
My faith is not founded on a leap of faith but on facts of God’s existence; Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection; the historical reliability of the Old Testament and New Testament, and the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Neither is my faith established by how I feel about the Trinitarian God. Feelings are unreliable in establishing truth because they can change so rapidly.
Historical facts about the world of the Old Covenant Israelites and the New Covenant Scriptures have been demonstrated in historical research. See:
Kenneth A Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans).
Walter C Kaiser, The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? (InterVarsity Press).
Craig L Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (InterVarsity 1986)
Craig L Blomberg presentation, Historical Reliability of the Gospels (YouTube).
Craig L Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament (B&H Academic).
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Eerdmans).
I understand challenges to the Christian faith as opportunities to engage with antagonists to better understand their world views, expose inconsistencies, and discover their presuppositions that drive their anti-God agendas.
See especially the topics covered in Apologetics index.
My faith was openly challenged when I took a Christian position in a doctoral class at a secular university on the evolution-creation issue. I pointed out an apparent discrepancy in the text book being used. The professor, in front of the class, shouted at me: ‘Your views are b… s..t’ and he did not abbreviate. The next day he spoke to me privately and apologised for what he said. However, he never expressed regret to the class.
I was shocked by his attack and eventually withdrew from that university’s program in counseling psychology as I couldn’t see that professor treating me objectively in the future. I’ve thought about what I should have done:
He committed an Ad Hominem (Abusive) logical fallacy. He attacked me rather than dealing with the issue. It was erroneous reasoning and that by a university professor teaching in a doctoral program in the USA.
- I should have left class immediately and gone straight to the academic dean of the department to make a complaint against the prof. However, I was too nervous and inexperienced to do that. Thirty five years since then have taught me a great deal about identifying logical fallacies that side-track a discussion.
- I could have challenged him further with evidence but I did not know enough about the evolutionist-creationist discussion.
(photograph, Norman Geisler, courtesy Norman Geisler International Ministries)
My mentor at a distance has been Dr Norman Geisler who went home to be with the Lord on 1 July 2019, at the age of 86, 20 days shy of his 87th birthday. He taught me so much through his books, online material, and debates.
5.2 The fact of human free will choices
Dr Geisler was one of the finest advocates for the biblical basis of human beings having free will, the power of contrary choice. He advocated this position in one of his finest publications, Chosen But Free (Bethany House Publishers).
He explained further:
Thomas Aquinas, keenly observed why there is no contradiction between God knowing future free acts and their being freely chosen. It is simply because a contradiction occurs only when something is both affirmed and denied of the same thing at the same time in the same relationship. But the relationship here is not the same. For “Everything known by God must necessarily be” is true if it refers to the statement of the truth of God’s knowledge, but it is false, if it refers to the necessity of the contingent events.
Since God is an omniscient being, He knows with certainty what we will do freely. The fact that He knows “in advance” from our temporal perspective does not mean that the event can not happen freely. For God can know for sure that the event will occur freely. The necessity of His knowledge about the contingent event does not make the event necessary (i.e., contrary to free choice). It simply makes His knowledge of this free event an infallible knowledge. In brief, the same event can be viewed in two different relationships; one in relation to God’s foreknowledge and the other in relation to a human being’s free will. Since the relationship is different, the law of non-contradiction is not violated (Norman L Geisler, Is God an Android? (2011).
6. Works consulted
Kurish, N & Fernandez, M 2017. Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US (online). The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 January. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/world/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-as-donald-trumps-antimuslim-executive-order-comes-into-force-20170129-gu0p5o.html (Accessed 29 January 2017).
 This person’s question and some responses are at Christian Forums.net 2017. Couple of Questions (online), Silmarien#29. Throughout this article I address this individual personally as ‘you’ and ‘he’. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/couple-of-questions.68199/page-2 (Accessed 19 October 2018).
 The above biographical information is from Wikipedia (2018. s.v. Charles Templeton).
 The ‘e’ in this transliteration is the Greek letter eta and not epsilon. The normal transliteration of eta is an ‘e’ with an ellipse (straight line) above it. Unfortunately, when I upload from MS Word to my webpage, all ellipses for transliteration become question marks. I have not learned how to stop that from happening.
 Available at: https://ehrmanblog.org/why-i-am-not-a-christian/ (Accessed 18 October 2018).
 This is my reply at ‘Couple of Questions’, OzSpen#52, #53.
 Christianforums.net 2017. OzSpen 29 January 2017.
 The correct spelling is conservatism. See Oxford Living Dictionaries (2019. s.v. conservatism).
 Silmaren, Christian Forums.net.
 Kulish & Fernandez (2017).
 Silmaren (as above).
 See the differentiation between exegesis and eisegesis in What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? (Got Questions Ministries 2019).
 See examples of how I attempt to do this with my comments as OzSpen in this thread, Was Izzy Folau moral? On Line Opinion, 1 July 2019.
Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 September 2021.