In the summer of 1949, my team and I were preparing for the most intensive evangelistic mission we had ever attempted, a citywide outreach in Los Angeles, California.
Just weeks before the mission was to start, however, I experienced a major crisis of faith—the most intense of my life. Some months before, Charles Templeton, a fellow evangelist whom I respected greatly had begun to express doubts about the Bible, urging me to “face facts” and change my belief that the Bible was the inspired Word of God. “Billy,” he said, “you’re fifty years out-of-date. People no longer accept the Bible as being inspired the way you do. Your faith is too simple.” I knew from my own reading that some modern theologians shared his views.
For months doubts about the Bible swirled through my mind, finally coming to a boil during a conference at which I was speaking in the mountains east of Los Angeles. One night, alone in my cabin at the conference, I studied carefully what the Bible said about its divine origin. I recalled that the prophets clearly believed they were speaking God’s Word; they used the phrase “Thus says the Lord” (or similar words) hundreds of times. I also knew that archaeological discoveries had repeatedly confirmed the Bible’s historical accuracy.
Especially significant to me, however, was Jesus’ own view of Scripture. He not only quoted it frequently, but also accepted it as the Word of God. While praying for His disciples, He said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). He also told them, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law” (Matthew 5:18). Shouldn’t I have the same view of Scripture as my Lord?