Recently, I had the opportunity to write a blog for the Criswell College blog entitled For Christ and Culture. I wrote on evangelist Billy Sunday and said this:
Billy Sunday is a heroic figure in evangelical history. By the end of his life, it was widely believed that no one had preached the gospel to more people than the one-time Chicago White Stocking centerfielder, once the fastest man in baseball. More than almost any other figure of his generation, Sunday had a passion to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people lost in their sin and far from God. There will be many we meet in heaven who, in God’s grace, found the narrow way to it through the efforts of Billy Sunday.
I went on to tangle with one of the evangelist’s most famous sayings:
One of the evangelist’s most famous utterances was that he knew no more about theology than a jack-rabbit did about ping-pong, a witticism that could wring a laugh out of the staunchest supralapsarian. The remark was intended to downplay the role of theology in Christian practice, which Sunday believed bore far more importance than did exegetical minutiae and doctrinal hair-splitting. Such useless activities constituted the study of theology, in the evangelist’s mind. Better to get out and share the gospel than to lose oneself in the study of books.
My piece attempted to show how this kind of thinking is deficient. Here’s one of my closing paragraphs:
I tend to think that, contrary to common wisdom, all Christian activity is theological. We may consciously operate from such a conviction. With Sunday, we might disavow the role of theology in our lives, pointing out that we’re a doer, not a thinker.But let’s pause there for a moment. What is more theological than being an evangelist? Or a missionary?…What is more theological than believing that Jesus is the Son of God and then telling people that truth? What is more doctrinal, more philosophically potent, than venturing out into Islamic territory to announce to people that the one true God includes three holy persons, each God, together one?
Read the whole thing here. I like Billy Sunday and would love to be as evangelistically prolific as he was. I think his saying, though, points to a flaw in common evangelical thinking, one that I would love to see corrected in coming days.
I also did a lively radio interview on “Coffee with Creamer” about the Sunday piece. My commentary starts at about the 16:15 mark. I spoke in chapel on 2 Kings 6 and Matthew 27. The message was entitled “Those Who Are with Us.” All of this activity was enriching and exciting, and it is good to see how the Lord is using Criswell College for his glory and the upbuilding of his church.