Evangelist Billy Sunday boiled with scorn, contempt, and invective for the theory of evolution. He was not shy about expressing himself on that point.
Sunday had been a nationwide sports sensation; he was one of the country’s most popular athletes as a major league baseball player. After leaving baseball at the height of his career in March 1891 to preach the Gospel, he eventually became the country’s most popular preacher.
Billy Sunday (1862-1935) mesmerized crusade audiences for 40 years with his rapid-fire delivery, colorful denunciations of sins, and on-stage dramatics. He impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands for eternity.
The previous three articles on Billy Sunday covered his two careers:
1. Billy Sunday’s Baseball Career
2. Billy Sunday’s Ministry Career
3. Billy Sunday’s Teachings That Snap and Crackle
This concluding article features some of Billy Sunday’s sizzling statements about the theory of evolution. He expressed strong opinions with vocabulary that was quite uncharacteristic for preachers.
Sunday On Creation & Evolution
Billy Sunday was a firm creationist, and he strongly opposed the biological theory of evolution because it contradicted the literal interpretation of Genesis. He believed God created Adam and Eve as real individual people who were the father and mother of the entire human race.
“God created Adam and Eve without human agencies. … I do not believe there ever was a time, since Adam and Eve were turned out of Eden, when traps and pitfalls were more numerous and dangerous than today.”
(Billy Sunday, sermon “Spiritual Food for a Hungry World“)
Sunday saw a distinction between the experimental, testable science that leads to technological advances and scientists’ speculation about unrepeatable events of history. He said,
“If by evolution you mean advance, I go with you, but if you mean by evolution that I came from a monkey, good night!”
(Billy Sunday, Boston Herald, November 14, 1916, p. 1.)
Billy Sunday believed the Word of God should control one’s thinking rather than the research of fallible men. According to a stenographer’s sermon transcript, Sunday said,
“I don’t believe your own bastard theory of evolution, either; I believe it’s pure jackass nonsense. When the consensus of scholarship says one thing and the Word of God another, the consensus of scholarship can go plumb to hell for all I care.”
(Algie Martin Simons, Charles H. Kerr, The International Socialist Review, Volume 16, Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1915, p. 465.)
Billy Sunday condemned evolution and evolutionists in the most blistering terms. He even castigated preachers who shilly-shallied and compromised with evolution:
“In no century since the morning stars sang together has there been more real hunger for genuine religion than this. And yet, many a preacher, instead of trying to feed this spiritual hunger, is giving some book review, staking a claim out on Jupiter or talking evolution, trying to prove we came from a monkey with his prehensile tail wrapped around a limb shying coconuts at his neighbor across the alley.”
(Billy Sunday, sermon “Spiritual Food for a Hungry World“)
In a 1925 interview Sunday said,
“If a minister believes and teaches evolution, he is a stinking skunk, a hypocrite, and a liar.”
(Charles Lincoln Van Doren, Robert McHenry, Webster’s Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium, Merriam-Webster, 1971, 1428 pp, p. 423.)
When Rev. George Wallace of Toledo, OH privately rebuked Sunday for his outspoken intolerance of evolution, Sunday publicly called out the pastor the next day from the crusade platform:
“Stand up you there you bastard evolutionist! Stand up with the atheists and the infidels and the whoremongers and the adulterers and go to hell!”
(Higgs, Robert, God in the Stadium: Sports and Religion in America, University Press of Kentucky, 1995, page 255.)
Many Christian leaders repeatedly and emphatically criticized Billy Sunday for language such as this. But Jesus Himself used extremely strong language against the false teachers of His day. He called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites and sons of hell despite their fervent evangelistic efforts:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)
Jesus said the false teachers were like graves full of old corpses. To His audience, this was the ultimate in contamination and impurity.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27,28)
Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.” (John 8:44) You can’t criticize someone more harshly than this. Jesus did not beat around the bush and neither did Billy Sunday.
Jesus also called the scribes and Pharisees serpents, a brood of vipers, and said explicitly that they were under a sentence of hell.
“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?” (Matthew 23:33)
Some may cringe at hearing a preacher speak the way Billy Sunday spoke, but Jesus Himself spoke similarly to men who were deceptive and misleading in teaching abominable falsehoods. Sunday was simply following Jesus’ example when he criticized those who promoted a theory that led many astray and that denied God the glory of creation.
Another time Sunday said,
“I don’t believe in the bastard theory that men came from protoplasm by the fortuitous concurrence of atoms.”
(McLoughlin, William G., Billy Sunday Was His Real Name, The University of Chicago Press, 1955, p. 132.)
In the book The Great Monkey Trial by L. Sprague de Camp (p. 34), Sunday is quoted as calling evolution “bunk, junk, and poppycock!” as he leaped about the stage.
In 1923 during a six-week revival, he campaigned against teaching evolution in the schools of Louisville, KY. This followed the defeat of an anti-evolution bill in the state legislature in 1922.
In 1924 in Elmira, New York, Billy Sunday expressed his opinion about teaching evolution in government schools:
“If anyone wants to teach that God-forsaken, hell-born, bastard theory of evolution, then let him go out and let him be supported by men who believe that blasted theory and not expect the Christian people of this country to pay for the teaching of a rotten, stinking professor who gets up there and teaches our children to forsake God and makes our schools a clearing-house for their God-forsaken dirty politics.”
(Turner, Daniel, Standing Without Apology: The History of Bob Jones University, Bob Jones University Press, 1997, page 19.)
Where did the theory of evolution originate?
According to Billy Sunday, it was “hell-born.” I agree with Sunday. I think it originated in the mind of Satan, and he has been using it to deceive men throughout the ages. After all, as Jesus said, the devil is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Evolution is Satan’s primary tool to lead mankind away from God.
Billy Sunday held revival meetings in Tennessee during the passage of Tennessee’s anti-evolution Butler Act which provoked the Scopes Trial. Throughout those meetings he strongly opposed the teaching of evolution. He told rapt crowds at Tennessee revival meetings in February 1925, “Education today is chained to the Devil’s throne.”
Because of Sunday’s well-known opposition to Evolution and his support of Creation, William Jennings Bryan asked Billy Sunday to testify at the July 1925 Scopes Trial. Sunday declined, while assuring Bryan that “all the believing world is back of you in your defense of Christ and the Bible.”
We could use a preacher like Billy Sunday again – a man with active faith in the Creator, one who fearlessly proclaimed the truth, one with deep concern for his fellow man, and one who did not bore his listeners but rather challenged them to repent and follow Christ with “love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:23). We need pastors today who are electrified with the kind of vigorous, unapologetic Biblical preaching that Billy Sunday did. Sunday believed in the Creator, the God of the Bible, and he lived his life by the dictates of that Book. Billy Sunday was not duped by the evolutionism that deludes so many intellectuals today. How foolish is the arrogance and hubris of today–where man thinks he is so advanced and despises the wisdom of previous generations regarding the existence of a Creator!
Belief in a Creator is common sense based on looking at what has been created, just as
Paul the Apostle (Romans 1:18-23),
President Thomas Jefferson,
Sir Isaac Newton,
Dr. Werner von Braun,
George Washington Carver,
Dr. Raymond Damadian,
President Herbert Hoover,
and innumerable others have argued. These men believed in a Creator and Intelligent Designer. None would have been fooled by the evolutionism that hoodwinks so many today. Throughout history the vast majority of mankind has known that there must be a Creator.
Sunday believed in the Creator and lived his life in honorable service to mankind. Today’s intellectuals would do well to pay heed to this evangelist who convinced a million people to follow Jesus Christ — one whose achievements far exceed those of most today.
Questions to Ponder
- Would Sunday’s harangues against teaching evolution be effective today?
- How do you think Sunday would approach the subject today?
- If you had been on Sunday’s ministry team, how would you have advised him concerning his extreme language? How would you have advised Jesus about His language?
- From where do you think the concept of “molecules to man evolution” originated?
Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.
Soli Deo Gloria.
This is the twentieth 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
19. Famous Thinkers – Evangelist Is a Creationist 3
Read the sequel:
21. Famous Thinkers – Statesman Is a Creationist coming soon…
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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 15, 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)