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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Billy...a Pastor's review

I was sent Billy: The Untold Story of a Young Billy Graham and the Test of Faith that Almost Changed Everything from Thomas Nelson to read and review. I LOVE Billy Graham and so I eagerly dove in!

The book is a thought provoking look at the relationship between Billy Graham and his mentor. I also purchased a copy for my father-in-law, Clair, for Christmas. He is a Pastor at a church in Illinois. I asked him if he'd care to write me a review for my blog...and here it is.

But first, the book info:
The Untold Story of a Young Billy Graham and the Test of Faith that Almost Changed Everything
By William Paul McKay and Ken Abraham

The remarkable true story of a young Billy Graham and his best friend who walked away from the faith.

We all know how the story ends but how did it begin? Before he became a household name, and America's Pastor, he was simply known as Billy. When he wasn't playing baseball, he was discovering his love for Christian ministry. His best friend, Charles Templeton, was already on track to be a highly successful evangelist and the two young men began strategizing on how to win the world for Christ. That plan takes a drastic turn, however, when Templeton deserts the faith and becomes an atheist. The impact of this decision on a young Billy Graham is immeasurable and agonizing. Charles would later become the great intellectual architect for agnosticism and atheism. Billy would become the single greatest messenger for the Christian Gospel. It is one of the great untold dramas between friends - Atheism vs Christianity, betrayal and hope.

And now the review: by Clair Lathrop

A cliché question: Will Judas burn forever outside the presence of God? In theological contexts it becomes a game to ponder the answer. However, when our beloved friends turn from their faith, the question moves beyond cliché to heart wrenching grief. And what becomes of those who have come into faith through the denouncer's witness? Instinct tells us that shifting from faith to rebellion is an infectious, communicable disease causing others to doubt their own, tried and true faith.

Billy Graham and Charles Templeton were close friends, sharing successful ministries through evangelistic rallies, conferences, and preaching. Because of Templeton's youth, charisma, and powers of persuasion his abilities became broadly recognized. He became a successful broadcaster, public speaker, and leading evangelist with no more than a ninth grade education. Billy Graham believed that his own success in ministry depended on Templeton. For Billy, it was not a matter of pride it was a matter of Providence.

The story is set in a hospital room. Templeton is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. An aggressive, aging news reporter is interviewing Templeton for some possible dirt on Billy Graham. That assignment is her last chance to save her career. During the interview the scenes flash from the hospital room to biographical sketches of Graham and Templeton and back.

Templeton, given over to doubting faith in the main tenets of Christianity, is overcome by the guilt of of hypocrisy, and seeks Billy's counsel. That session ends with Templeton accusing Graham of “intellectual suicide”. Templeton goes to Princeton, continues in ministry, but eventually gives up his marriage and his ministry to become an agnostic. Graham's good friend and fellow minister continues to deride Graham, and entices him to leave the ministry to seek intellectual support for his faith or to abandon it. Templeton succumbs; Billy's faith challenged, but eventually, reinforced.

This book is unique in that it is presented as a book about Billy Graham, but could, easily, be considered a book about Charles Templeton. As such, the main character is a tragic, sorrowful, and pitiable individual. That aside, “Billy” is, indeed, about Billy. However, unlike other books I have read does not merely repackage and reuse common knowledge about the evangelist. I have gained more detail into Billy's period of doubt, the strengthening of faith, and the inspiration behind his ministry.

What will become of Templeton's soul? Perhaps, like Judas, God used him in His eternal plan to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God only knows. I now know Billy Graham suffered doubt, but God brought victory and faithfulness.

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