When I was studying the patterns of apostasies (Acquiring Faith, Losing Faith), I identified Ruth Tucker’s book so valuable and this post draws from her book. (paid hyperlinks)
By Ruth Tucker
“Suddenly from head to foot, Robert was shaken with what seemed like a magnetic thrill of heavenly delight and floods of glory seemed to pour by way of him, soul and physique.” Hannah wanted the similar expertise and later in the course of a revival meeting went down to the altar, armed with handkerchiefs, pondering she would be overcome with weeping. Nothing at all occurred. By her personal account, she remained “a dry old stick” Each have been evangelists: Robert Pearshall Smith walked away from faith Hannah Whitehall Smith did not. I inform their story in chapter three of Walking Away from Faith.
Chapter two is titled “A Tale of Two Evangelists: Billy and Chuck.” Billy Graham tells how his uncertainty in becoming a evangelist “came to a climax” on a moonlit evening at a retreat center in the San Bernardino Mountains. There he gripped his Bible and prayed: “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith—faith to go beyond my intellectual inquiries and doubts.” His fantastic buddy and fellow evangelist Chuck Templeton had mentioned to Billy: “You can not do that. You do not dare cease pondering about the most vital query in life. Do it and you start to die. It is intellectual suicide.” Chuck went on to study at Princeton and later walked away from faith.
Chuck was a pastor and evangelist from Toronto, who worked with Billy in Youth For Christ, a movement that grew swiftly following Planet War II. When the YFC evangelistic group flew from Chicago to Europe and the British Isles, photographers captured the handsome young guys and their cheering fans. “No developing was substantial sufficient,” writes Chuck in Farewell to God, “to property the youngsters who flocked to the meetings.” It was a heady time. They quickly went their separate strategies, nevertheless, Billy preaching in substantial stadiums, Chuck choosing up the slack in smaller sized towns. The turning point for Chuck was a private discussion on the merits of Christianity with the captain of the Yale debating group. Chuck was prepared for him and he scored each point. But he could not rid himself of the realization that he didn’t think his personal arguments: “There was no actual option. I could keep in the ministry and reside a lie or I could make the break. My wife and I packed our handful of possessions in a rental trailer and began on the road back to Toronto exactly where, nineteen years earlier, I had begun.”
How do these historical accounts inform evangelists and pastors—and lay people—today? Is there a way to each privately and publicly navigate inquiries and doubts? Or are we teetering on a tight rope: falling away or committing intellectual suicide?
The tale of the two Smiths is really distinctive. Hannah, raised a strict Quaker, became consumed with doubt quickly following she married Robert: “I started to wonder if God could be all-effective given that the creatures He developed appear to have so small energy to resist evil.” And why, she could have asked, would God snuff the life out of her small 5-year-old Nellie? But amazingly that was what revived her faith: “My valuable kid, my angel kid, thou shalt certainly be, I trust, a hyperlink to draw me up to heaven.” The deaths of far more young children would stick to.
Contacts with Baptists and Methodist Holiness groups set the stage for the Smiths’ starting their personal revival meetings. Throughout a camp meeting Robert had felt the fire of Holy Spirit baptism. The following year, all eyes—and prayers—were on Hannah. The hours passed. Nothing at all. She later concluded (no doubt utilizing Robert as her prime instance) that “emotional blessings” have been not steady and permanent as have been the spiritual truths that sprang from Scripture. Robert suffered from depression balanced by emotional highs, no doubt bi-polar with no meds however to aid him. In 1873, following their eighteen-year-old son had died from typhoid fever, Robert sailed to England, hoping for a remedy for his depression. The following year, Hannah joined him and they each preached at “Higher Life” conferences. He was the evangelist, she the Bible teacher, that is, till she lost her false teeth.
Quickly following they arrived back property, Robert returned to Europe and inside weeks was on a higher, writing property that “All Europe is at my feet.” Hannah joined him in 1875 (with an additional set of false teeth) and drew substantial crowds eager for her engaging Bible teaching. Certainly, her fame was starting to eclipse her husband’s with her newly released The Christian’s Secret of A Delighted Life. Then, the unthinkable. Whilst on a brief vacation to Switzerland, a telegram informed her that Robert was ill and that she need to come right away.
When she arrived, she discovered that the “illness” was dismissal at the Brighton conference mainly because he had molested a young girl. He had gone to her area and explained the “thrills” they could have together—all even though praying. The newspaper headline mentioned it all: “Famous Evangelist Located in Bedroom of Adoring Female Follower.” As is normally correct right now, such headlines didn’t cease the preacher. Back property the following summer time he was the featured speaker at the Framingham conference. But all the even though, Robert expressed doubts and unbelief, and by 1877, he had lost his faith altogether.
Hannah, as well, struggled with doubts, but once again death intervened. “Little Ray, our youngest, our ideal small girl, was only eleven and her life was complete of guarantee. . . . For her loss there was no comfort, but just and only the sweet will of God”—and 1 far more hyperlink to heaven.” In the years that followed, Robert started sneaking out of the property to devote nights with his nearby lady buddy. That was negative sufficient, but then her daughter Mary abandoned her husband and two young daughters. Right after Hannah’s son-in-law died she was granted custody of the girls. That was fantastic news, but unbelief continued to fester inside the household. Walt Whitman, a neighbor and frequent visitor, talked of beginning a religion with its personal bible, Leaves of Grass—deemed by numerous as a rag of obscenity. If Whitman’s influence was not sufficient, daughter Alys married atheist Bertrand Russell.
Robert died in 1898, and quickly following Hannah wrote to a buddy that her “dear husband was permitted to escape from the earthly tabernacle,” and “that his extended time of darkness is more than and that God’s light has shown upon him at final.” He had been “safely gathered”—as would be her unbelieving young children and grandchildren. Her emphasis was on the “mother-like of God.”
As a mother, I will under no circumstances cease to like my young children, no matter what they do. God, our loving God, has a heart of mother-like infinitely higher than mine. He under no circumstances withholds his like from any sinner, no matter how black-hearted or unrepentant the particular person could be. His like is fully unconditional. Oh, it is as well a lot. I can’t bear to hear a preacher of the gospel say such restricted and untruthful items about the Appreciate of God.
Hannah lived on till 1911, getting witnessed her very best-promoting book, The Christian’s Secret to A Delighted Life, break publishing records—today getting exceeded ten million and nonetheless promoting. She has been deemed a heretic by some, but like numerous skilled theologians, her beliefs have been private as a lot as biblical. She wondered how anybody could think in a God who would punish loved ones eternally in a lake of fire—the pretty hell of which Billy warned his listeners. Her belief was primarily based on a denied such a hell and a heaven of reconstituted household unity. Chuck and Robert just abandoned God and the idea of heaven altogether.
What is the worth of the accounts of these 4 folks and other folks who have equivalent stories? When I was writing Walking Away from Faith practically two decades ago, I believed I knew. I’m not so particular any far more. Confident, I contain stories of folks returning to faith. But our culture has changed considerably in the final twenty years, and to some extent the book’s relevance now appears dated.