of the Christ
Civil War General Lew Wallace commanded
Union troops during the Battle of Monocacy. Though technically a loss for
federal troops, the battle slowed the Confederate advance on the capital,
coming to be known as “the battle that saved Washington.”
Wallace continued to distinguish
himself in the military and in politics, but his greatest achievement is related
to another type of battle — a distinctly spiritual one.
Wallace’s attitude toward
religion was, in his words, “absolute indifference.” Then on a
two-hour train ride he found himself discussing the topic with noted agnostic
Robert Ingersoll. They discussed the existence of God, the devil, heaven and
hell. Wallace, who made it clear he had formulated no opinion on the subjects,
reported that Ingersoll poured out a “pungent excoriation of believers
in God, Christ and heaven.”
Strangely enough, it was these
“most outright denials of all human knowledge of God, Christ, Heaven,
and the Hereafter” which stimulated Wallace’s pursuit of truth.
“Was the Colonel [Ingersoll] right?” Wallace wrote. “What
had I on which to answer yes or no? He had made me ashamed of my ignorance:
and then … as I walked on in the cool darkness, I was aroused for the
first time in my life to the importance of religion.”
Wallace, already a successful author,
resolved to investigate — by writing a book on the life of Christ. “That
would compel me,” he said, “to study everything of pertinency;
after which, possibly, I would be possessed of opinions of real value.”
His search ended with
two results: “first, the book Ben Hur, and second,
a conviction amounting to absolute belief in God and the divinity
Ben Hur: A Tale
of the Christ became the best-selling novel of the 19th century.
It has never been out of print since first published in 1880,
and has been translated into nearly every major language of the
Ingersoll’s invective caused
the opposite effect of the one intended. Wallace went on a search. He found
the Truth. And Wallace the agnostic became Wallace the believer.
This same Jesus, who revealed himself
to Lew Wallace, awaits the sincere seeker today.
— Ken Horn
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