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By Phillip Johnson
Science and Religion in the Era of William James
"Science and Religion in the Era of William James, Volume 1: The Eclipse of Certainty, 1820-1880." Paul Jerome Croce, University of North Carolina Press 350 pp.; $42.50, hardcover; $17.95, paper
Charles Templeton, who preached the gospel with Billy Graham in the 1940s, went to Princeton Theological Seminary and urged Graham to join him there, to lay a firmer academic foundation for his theology. Seminary study started Templeton down the road to agnosticism, however, and in subsequent discussions, he almost overwhelmed Graham with arguments for interpreting the Bible from a modernist standpoint. As the 1993 "Time" magazine cover story on Graham tells it (following the William Martin biography), Graham eventually concluded after prayer that "I don't have the time, the inclination, or the set of mind to pursue [the intellectual questions]. I found that if I say 'The Bible says' and 'God says,' I get results. I have decided I'm not going to wrestle with these questions any longer."
Templeton charged Graham with having committed intellectual suicide, although he admitted that his friend would not have been so effective a preacher if he had allowed his message to be compromised by doubt. The modernist Episcopal Bishop John Spong, who delivered newspapers to the Graham family farm as a boy in North Carolina, appears in the story as an example of what Billy Graham might have become. Spong commented to "Time" that "I would never seek to solve the ethical problems of the 20th century by quoting a passage of Holy Scripture, and I read the Bible every day. I wouldn't invest a book that was written between 1000 b.c. and a.d. 150 with that kind of moral authority."
The story of Graham and Templeton illustrates the difference between pragmatism and rationalism in philosophy. Even atheists might agree on pragmatic grounds that Graham made the right decision, if by closing his mind to Templeton's arguments he was able to become the revered figure he is today rather than merely another ...