Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | April 8, 2015

19. Famous Thinkers – Evangelist Is a Creationist 3

Billy Sunday preached muscular Christianity

Billy Sunday preached
“muscular Christianity”

1965 film contains most of the available
film footage of Billy Sunday and an appearance by his crusade
song leader Homer Rodeheaver.

Revivalist Billy Sunday (1862-1935) mesmerized crusade audiences for 40 years with his rapid-fire delivery and on-stage dramatics. A much-admired former professional baseball player, Sunday left the sport at the height of his career in order to preach the Gospel.

Billy Sunday’s radical step impacted the lives of thousands for eternity as he eventually became the country’s most popular preacher. He was known for his “muscular Christianity” approach as he sought to attract and convert men through his appeal as an athlete.

The previous two articles on Billy Sunday covered his baseball and ministry careers:
1. Billy Sunday’s Baseball Career
2. Billy Sunday’s Ministry Career
In this article, some of Billy Sunday’s beliefs and teachings may surprise you. Can you guess which issue was the most controversial in his ministry?

Teachings That Snap and Crackle

Sunday was a conservative evangelical who interpreted the Bible literally. He believed in and preached the inerrancy of Scripture, God the Creator, the Virgin Birth of Christ, the Resurrection, salvation through Jesus Christ, a literal devil, a real Hell, and the return of Jesus Christ.

Sunday made no pretense of being a theologian, saying, “I don’t know any more about theology than a jack-rabbit knows about ping-pong, but I’m on my way to glory.” He summarized his theology in a single 10-word sentence:

“With Christ you are saved; without Him you are lost.”

Sunday explained the Gospel in simple terms:

“You can’t argue against sin. It is in the world and men and women are blighted and mildewed by it. … Christ came into this world and gave up His life that you and I might be reconciled to God through our faith in Jesus Christ. … Salvation is escape from the punishment of sin. … Everyone who accepts the sacrifice of Christ as his own is released from the penalty of the law. That is God’s method of salvation.”

Sunday believed the devil was the main obstacle to men’s salvation:

“The devil is the most formidable enemy the human race has to contend with…the real, genuine, blazing-eyed, cloven-hoofed, forked-tail, old devil hanging on to your coattail.”

Sunday criticized the ministers of his day who denied the existence of a literal devil. He said that those who say “there isn’t any devil–that he is just a figure of speech, a poetic personification of the sin in our natures, are calling the Holy Bible a lie.”

Billy Sunday was very dramatic in teaching about the devil:

“Billy crouches on the platform, knocks on the floor and shouts an invitation for the Devil to come up and take his medicine. Billy admits his own fearlessness and when the bid to Beelzebub is not accepted the audience shares with the champion the delight and conquering pose. Cheers ring for the tower of physical strength and spiritual righteousness whom the Boss of Hell dares not meet in combat.”
(From Higgs, Robert, God in the Stadium: Sports and Religion in America, University Press of Kentucky, 1995, p. 256.)

Detroit News Tribune 1916

Detroit News Tribune image for Billy Sunday’s 1916 Detroit Crusade

Likewise Sunday believed in and taught a literal hell and a literal heaven:

“There is a hell and when the Bible says so don’t you be so blackhearted, lowdown, and degenerate as to say you don’t believe it, you big fool!”
“You are going to live forever in heaven, or you are going to live forever in hell. There’s no other place–just the two. It is for you to decide. It’s up to you, and you must decide now!”

Sunday believed the history of the Bible was literally true. He treated Adam and Eve as real people created by God as described in Genesis who were the father and mother of the entire human race. In his teaching he referred to many of the events of the Old and New Testaments as real happenings. Here are excerpts from Sunday’s sermons that illustrate his belief in the historicity of the Bible:

“God never intended to give you a picture of the world in one panoramic view. From the time of Adam and Eve down to the time Jesus Christ hung on the cross, He was unfolding his views. When I see Moses leading the people out of bondage where they for years had bared their backs to the taskmaster’s lash; when I see the lowing herds and the high priest standing before the altar severing the jugular vein of the rams and the bullocks; on until Christ cried out from the cross, ‘It is finished,’ God was preparing the picture for the consummation of it in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.”
(Billy Sunday, sermon “Atonement Through the Blood of Jesus“)

“I have sometimes thought that Adam and Eve didn’t understand as fully as we do when the Lord said, ‘Eat and you shall surely die.’ (Gen. 2:17) They had never seen any one die. They might have thought it simply meant a separation from God. But no sooner had they eaten and seen their nakedness than they sought to cover themselves, and it is the same today. When man sees himself in his sins, uncovered, he tries to cover himself in philosophy or some fake. But God looked through the fig leaves and the foliage and God walked out in the field and slew the beasts and took their skins and wrapped them around Adam and Eve, and from that day to this when a man has been a sinner and has covered himself, it has been by and through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.”
(Billy Sunday, sermon “Atonement Through the Blood of Jesus“)

“When Noah built the ark and loaded it with strange cargo, that was a sensation. When Jonah walked down the streets of Nineveh covered with seaweed crying, “Repent! Repent!”-that was sensational. Jesus Christ created a sensation when He went into the synagogue at the beginning of His ministry and taught, not as the scribes, but as one who had authority.”
(Billy Sunday, sermon “Broken Down Altars“)

Elijah called upon the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God who made the ravens feed him every morning and every night; the God who made the clouds obey Him; the God who made the stars witness that He was true; the God who burned Sodom and Gomorrah with fire; the God who drowned the world with a Flood; the God who saved Noah; the God who said,” Let there be light”; the God who shut the lions’ mouths for Daniel; the God who didn’t let the fire burn Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the furnace because they wouldn’t bow down to Nebuchadnezzar and his idol of gold. The prayer that Elijah offered to God that brought fire down from Heaven was short-only sixty-three words-and it burned up and consumed everything. When the fire fell, everyone on the mount knew it was the fire of the Lord. It licked up the water; it licked up the dust; it licked up the stone; and the people fell on their faces-all except these 450 stiff-necked, uncircumcised, black-hearted, white-livered false prophets of Baal. God has plenty of the same kind of fire up in Heaven to pour down on us! And He will give it to us and to our country just as freely as He poured it down on the altar on Mount Carmel.”
(Billy Sunday, sermon “Broken Down Altars“)

They [angels] had seen Sennacherib come up with his men, and they had seen 180,000 Assyrians laid low by the sword when the angel of God smote them in the night. They had seen Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego cast into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow themselves down to idols, and had seen them come out from it unharmed. They had seen the brave Daniel hurled into the lion’s den for refusing to bow the knee to anyone save Jehovah, and they had seen him come out from the den of wild beasts alive. But never before had the angels beheld such a sight as when they looked down upon the garden of Gethsemane and saw the Son of God kneeling there, sweating drops of blood as He agonized over man.
(Billy Sunday, sermon “Gethsemane“)

“The millennium cannot begin until Satan has been bound in the pit. Nothing is more certain than that the glory of God shall cover the earth, but it will be after Jesus comes. … On the day before the Flood there were no doubt many people who were sincere in thinking that the world was growing better, and yet it was so hopelessly wicked that God had to destroy it. Some of the men who married into the family of Lot may have made the same claim for Sodom, only a day or two before its destruction; no doubt Lot’s wife was of the same opinion. On the day before the Crucifixion there were men in Jerusalem who undoubtedly agreed with each other that the world was growing better.”
(Billy Sunday, sermon “The Second Coming of Christ“)

“They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage until the day that Noah entered the ark and the Flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot, they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded. But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.”
(Billy Sunday, sermon “The Second Coming of Christ“)

Noah kept working away on the ark for a hundred and twenty years, without seeing a flash of lightning or hearing a clap of thunder. Had he been living only for what he could see, it would never have been said of him that ‘he was a just man and perfect, and walked with God.’ … Abraham was another man who had a faith that lifted him higher than the sun, when looking for ‘a city which had foundations, whose maker and builder was God.'”
(Billy Sunday, sermon “Under the Sun“)

Billy Sunday Puts Everything into His Sermons

Billy Sunday Goes All-Out
in His Sermons

Sunday energetically preached against alcohol, eugenics, dancing, playing cards, the theater, and the theory of evolution as he urged his listeners to follow Christ. One of Sunday’s most frequent quips was “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” Newspapers printed long columns of such “Sundayisms.”

Sunday’s most famous sermon, titled “Get on the Water Wagon” or more commonly known simply as the “Booze Sermon” or “The Curse of Liquor,” was his polemic against liquor and drunkenness. In it he quipped, “Whiskey and beer are all right in their place, but their place is in hell.” The sermon begins,

“I am the sworn, eternal and uncompromising enemy of the liquor traffic. I have been, and will go on, fighting that damnable, dirty, rotten business with all the power at my command. I shall ask no quarter from that gang, and they shall get none from me. After all is said that can be said on the liquor traffic, its influence is degrading on the individual, the family, politics, and business and upon everything that you touch in this old world.”

Sunday’s vigorous preaching against alcohol in all his crusades played a significant role in generating public support for the passage of the 18th Amendment on Prohibition in 1919.

The best way to understand Billy Sunday’s thought is to read some of his sermons. Here is a webpage with links to 18 of his sermons:
Billy Sunday Sermons

The next blog article will discuss Sunday’s sizzling statements about the theory of evolution. He used some phrases you’ve probably never heard from a preacher before.

Questions to Ponder
  1. What speaker has held your attention most effectively? What were his interest-keeping techniques? What kept your interest, the subject or the speaker?
  2. What do you think about Billy Sunday’s emphasis on avoiding alcohol?
  3. Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

Reference: Unless otherwise identified, Billy Sunday quotes in this article are from
McLoughlin, William G., Billy Sunday Was His Real Name, The University of Chicago Press, 1955, pp. 123-125.

Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the nineteenth installment in the Famous Thinkers series highlighting great men who believed in the Creator.
Read the prequels:
1. Famous Thinkers – Former U.S. President Supports Intelligent Design
2. Famous Thinkers – Scientist Supports Intelligent Design
3. Famous Thinkers – Mathematician Supports Intelligent Design
4. Famous Thinkers – Theologian Testifies for Creation
5. Famous Thinkers – Rocket Scientist Supports Intelligent Design
6. Famous Thinkers – Botanist Supports Creation
7. Famous Thinkers – Botanist Supports Creation 2
8. Famous Thinkers – Astronomer Is a Creationist
9. Famous Thinkers – Mathematician Is a Creationist
10. Famous Thinkers – Mathematician Is a Creationist 2
11. Famous Thinkers – Chemist Is a Creationist 1
12. Famous Thinkers – Chemist Is a Creationist 2
13. Famous Thinkers – Chemist Is a Creationist 3
14. Famous Thinkers – Chemist Is a Creationist 4
15. Famous Thinkers – Physician Is a Creationist
16. Famous Thinkers – President Is a Creationist
17. Famous Thinkers – Evangelist Is a Creationist 1
18. Famous Thinkers – Evangelist Is a Creationist 2

Read the sequel:
20. Famous Thinkers – Evangelist Is a Creationist 4

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday April 8, 2015 A.D.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:18-23)


  1. Bill, I have enjoyed your series on Billy Sunday. I knew only his name, and that he was a character, before reading your posts. I have traveled to spend time with and listen to many of the contemporary great preachers of God’s Truth in my adult years, and would, I believe, have enjoyed listening to Billy. I am looking forward to the next post on Billy Sunday. jed


    • Yes, I would very much have enjoyed listening to Billy Sunday also. He spoke with energy and passion as he strove to communicate with audiences and to persuade his hearers. In addition, he proclaimed the truth in quite entertaining ways. Thanks for reading and commenting.


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