Oy vey! Another doomsday prediction gone sour!

For the past couple of months, I’ve caught bits and pieces on religious talk radio of some strange prediction about the end of the world happening this past Saturday, September 23rd. Well, it’s September 25th and we’re all still here. Evidently, “Christian numerologist and researcher,” David Meade (pictured), had posted a You Tube video predicting the end of the world on September 23rd, but he’s now pushed the date back to October 15th, along with all kinds of lame excuses. It’s Edgar C. Whisenant all over again (see below). I agree that circumstances in the world are getting increasingly dicey, but no man knows the day of the Lord’s return.

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” – Matthew 24:26

excatholic4christ

After we accepted the Lord in 1983, my wife and I attended an independent fundamentalAAAAAA Baptist (IFB) church for eight years. We were firmly grounded in God’s Word at that church, but the pastor also took the congregation down some strange rabbit holes. I can laugh about it now.

In the early part of 1988, a small booklet was creating quite a stir at our church as well as at thousands of other evangelical and fundamentalist churches. Former NASA engineer, Edgar C. Whisenant, had written “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.” Based on information from the Bible and using his own mathematical calculations, Whisenant had determined the Rapture of the church would occur sometime between September 11th and September 13th of 1988. 4.5 million copies of the booklet ended up being distributed.

Like most IFB preachers, our pastor often taught the Rapture – the taking up of Christians bodily into…

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How a “church” became a dark stain on the Gospel witness in my city

Today, I am reminded that 1) our sin will find us out [Numbers 32:23] and 2) we must trust in the Lord and not in any man [Psalm 118:8-9].

This is a very disturbing story and some may be offended that I’m posting about it, but these types of toxic situations exist precisely because Christians would rather bury their heads in the sand than shine a light on sin. I’m going to give a short introduction to this post and I apologize to those who are already familiar with that part of the story.

Shortly after my wife and I accepted Christ in 1983, we began attending an independent Bible Baptist church in the area. I was looking for a Gospel-preaching church that was close to us and I picked that particular one based on an advertisement in the Yellow Pages (remember those?). We stayed at that church for eight years and became heavily involved. The pastor of the church, Joe B., was a karate black-belt tough guy and preached in an “in your face” style, which was quite a novelty and initially very appealing. I was used to limp-wristed priests when I was a Catholic and this was a refreshing change. But after awhile, the pastor’s very heavy-handed, macho-man style began to grate on me. It got to a point where just about every sermon made my skin scrawl. We finally left the church and I was so disgusted with churchianity that I walked away from the Lord for a very long period. Not smart. I had been trusting in man rather than the Lord. If I had been walking closely with the Lord, I would have just asked Him to lead us to a good church right away. But even as messed up as I was, I still felt sorry for those who remained behind at that church and voluntarily submitted to the spiritual and emotional bullying.

I’ve kept an eye on our old church from a distance over the years and it’s had its share of problems, most of them self-induced. One of the pastor’s sons, Paul B., followed in his father’s footsteps and attended his dad’s Bible college alma mater, but got involved in some sinful behaviors and activities that became known to the church’s membership back home. After he returned to Rochester, his father hired him as youth pastor, prompting some members to transfer to a Baptist church on the other side of town. In 2011, after his father had a temporarily debilitating stroke, Paul was promoted to pastor.

Paul not only continued his father’s “in your face” style of preaching and pastoring but he took it even further. He quickly established mixed martial arts (MMA) training and competition fighting as one of the church’s main “ministries.” Illustrations of mythological warriors with bulging muscles and menacing swords, evidently meant to symbolize aggressive, militant Christianity, saturated the church’s web site and social media. Paul swaggered around town with sleeveless t-shirts, exposing his bulked-up musculature, while his equally hard-training wife competed in Mrs. New York State competitions and regularly posted revealing modeling photos of herself in skimpy bikinis on her Twitter and Facebook accounts. This unconventional pastor couple were obviously very proud of their hard-earned, chiseled physiques and wanted everyone to know it. But in 2014, the county police department interviewed three individuals who claimed Paul had either sexually abused them or had attempted to. Some of the accusations described situations involving both the pastor and his wife. These allegations were splashed across the internet. The police concluded their investigation saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. Pastor emeritus, Joe, now fully recovered from his stroke, lobbied the church “leadership” and membership on behalf of his beleaguered son. The executive pastor and deacon board of the church fully supported Paul.

Earlier this summer, one of the Paul’s previous victims had posted on her blog that he had been “fired” (news reports say he resigned) from the church because of new allegations of abuse. I checked the church’s website and, sure enough, any and all signs of him had been erased and Joe, now age 68, had resumed pastoring duties. A week ago, the local television news and newspaper ran stories saying Paul had been arrested after two new individuals had contacted the police with claims that he had sexually abused them. Two days later, a third person also pressed charges. Paul is scheduled to appear in court today for his arraignment. The signed testimonies of the victims were released this morning and they all tell a similar story; Paul had used the MMA and workout “ministries” to connect with the women and lure them into his home where the abuse took place.

Last week, after an update on the scandal had aired on the local television news, my wife turned to me and asked, “Why did you get us involved in that church in the first place?” Boy, did that hurt. I was a baby Christian when we began attending that church, with little discernment and no basis of comparison.

I hesitated in writing this post for several obvious reasons, but the Lord kept bringing it to the forefront. There are some men who are not genuinely called to pastor churches, but do so anyway. They do more harm to the Gospel than good. This particular church has become the laughingstock/snakepit of the Greater Rochester area, with the very heavy media coverage of this scandal. All of it reflects very poorly on the entire Gospel witness in this area, not to mention the people, adults and children, who have been abused at this church over the years, both physically and emotionally. No church is perfect, but this church was on a downward spiral from Day #1. If your pastor is a megalomaniac and there is little or no pastoral oversight, you should leave immediately and ask the Lord to lead you to a God-honoring fellowship.

Former pastor accused of using hot tub to target women
http://13wham.com/news/local/former-pastor-accused-of-using-hot-tub-to-target-women

See my posts from last year regarding the abuse at this church here and here.

“Don’t be such a stickler! Can’t we all just ‘love Jesus’ and get along?”

There are many so-called “evangelicals” today who muddy the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. These days, as long as a person “loves Jesus,” then what they believe about HOW a person is saved doesn’t seem to matter to many. Those who unapologetically teach a person is saved by baptism and by other sacraments are embraced as Christians. Those who unapologetically teach a person is saved by “faith” AND good works are embraced as Christians. Those who teach EVERYONE is going to Heaven as long as they “follow the light they are given” are embraced as Christians.

The past couple of days, I’ve come across many examples of so-called “evangelicals” who are muddying the Gospel. It’s a little disheartening, but our Lord is still sovereign and He’s aware of the compromise and betrayal much more than I am. But I would like to point out just a couple of the examples I’ve come across today:

First, we have “America’s Pastor,” Purpose Driven Rick Warren, being held up as an exemplary model of loving Evangelical-Catholic ecumenism in a new article below from a Catholic source. Warren has a long history of cooperation with Catholicism and has held several seminars for Catholic dioceses on reversing dwindling church attendance (filling the pews via modern marketing methods is his specialty). Warren’s watered-down, purpose driven gospel is pretty compatible with Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit because, for Rick, the bottom line is just “loving Jesus.”

In Orange County, bishop and pastor model Catholic/Evangelical ties
https://cruxnow.com/interviews/2017/09/14/orange-county-bishop-pastor-model-catholicevangelical-ties/

The next example is much more personal. I attended a Catholic church in suburban Rochester, NY as a child and teenager. In my late twenties, I came out of Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. My wife and I then attended an independent Bible Baptist church for eight years where we had the opportunity to fellowship with many of our spiritual brothers and sisters. One of the guys, Lou, was on fire for the Lord. Sadly, the pastor did very little in the way of comparative theology, which is often the case in most evangelical churches. We finally left that church because it was way too legalistic in many respects, along with some additional problems, which I’ve touched upon in the past. See here. Well, that church is still having problems (more to come on that later) and as I was doing some associated research on the internet, I came across a PDF file saying Lou had visited my old Catholic church in 2008 to give a presentation at the parish’s “Christian Unity Service” (see photo above). I was flabbergasted! I had come out of Catholicism with its false gospel and accepted Jesus Christ and the Gospel of grace, but old friend Lou had gone back and visited my old Catholic parish as part of a “Christian Unity” event? Does not compute.

Why are evangelicals, who supposedly believe in the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE, participating in unity services with purveyors of a works gospel? Are we also scheduling unity services at Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Halls and Mormons’ meetinghouses since they all “love Jesus” too???

Papal allies accuse Catholic and evangelical Trump supporters of joining together in “ecumenism of hate”

For centuries, Bible Christians never had much of a problem distinguishing between the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit.

But beginning around sixty years ago, evangelical pastors and para-church leaders began to rise up saying ecumenism with Rome was fine and even desirable; influential men like Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Bill Bright, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell. Sure, they didn’t embrace all of Rome’s doctrinal deviations and “eccentricities,” but they gladly overlooked the “fine print” and declared Roman Catholicism to be “close enough.” After all, Christians in America were in a bitter battle to preserve “Judeo-Christian morality” and to “save America for Jesus,” so it didn’t seem wise to inspect the denominational dog tags of fellow soldiers combating the onslaught of secularism. Chuck Colson cleverly coined this alliance, “ecumenism in the trenches.”

But at this stage of the “culture war,” in the year 2017, politically-involved evangelicals have to concede that secularism has pretty much taken over the high ground. However, political/religious ecumenism with conservative Catholics and the culture battles continue. Research shows that 81 percent of White evangelicals voted for unlikely-candidate (to put it mildly), Donald Trump, in the presidential election. That’s no surprise given the only other option was Hillary Clinton. What is surprising is that 52 percent of Catholic voters, historically supporters of Democratic candidates, also voted for Trump.

But an article last week from a Vatican-approved source reveals not all Roman Catholics are pleased with the alliance between politically conservative Catholics and evangelicals in America. The article, written by two of pope Francis’s close advisors, warns of the “ecumenism of hate” shared by conservative Catholics (labeled as “integralists”) and evangelicals (labeled as “fundamentalists”).

“Appealing to the values of fundamentalism, a strange form of surprising ecumenism is developing between Evangelical fundamentalists and Catholic Integralists brought together by the same desire for religious influence in the political sphere.” – from “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism,” La Civiltà Cattolica, July 13, 2017.

See here for the full article.

According to Francis and his allies in the church, religious and “social justice” ecumenism is just fine, but ecumenism based on “the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state” is not.

Where does Jesus Christ fit into all of this? He doesn’t. Evangelical Christians need to be about their Father’s business as emissaries and ambassadors of the Kingdom and the Gospel of grace. Roman Catholics are our mission field, they are NOT our allies in some misguided Falwellian “culture war” to “save America!”


Below are two articles on the controversy from a conservative Catholic source. This newest squabble gives traditionalist Catholics yet another reason to hope for an early end to Francis’s reign.

Vatican-reviewed magazine accuses Catholics of ‘hate’ for supporting Trump
https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/u.s.-catholics-and-evangelicals-supporting-trump-are-fostering-an-ecumenism

Archbishop rips Vatican-approved magazine’s ‘ignorant’ attack on pro-Trump Catholics
https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/archbishop-chaput-rips-vatican-approved-magazines-willfully-ignorant-attack

What’s going on with the Southern Baptist Convention?

News sources have recently reported that well-known Calvary Chapel pastor and evangelist, Greg Laurie, has decided to align with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  See the article below. I had wanted to write a post on the SBC at some future date, especially in light of reports about declining membership, but the news about Laurie got the ol’ brain synapses firing.

After my wife and I trusted in Christ in the early 80s, we attended an independent fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church for eight years. I subscribed to an IFB newspaper for awhile and one of its favorite targets was the “liberal” Southern Baptist Convention. I became increasingly unhappy with the legalistic preaching at our church and eventually walked out. Sadly, I allowed the experience to turn me away from the Lord.

The Lord graciously took me back three years ago and where did we start attending church? You guessed it! At an SBC church! I know I was purposely looking for a fellowship that didn’t resemble our previous one.

The small SBC church was a breath of fresh year because the new pastor just out of seminary emphasized God’s grace and mercy as much as His holiness. Regrettably, he was also very ecumenically-minded and often praised Catholic theologians, which is why we left after one year and began attending our current non-denominational church (with Baptist roots) about 20 months ago.

The Southern Baptist Convention reports around 15 million members in 47 thousand congregations. After one year in an SBC church, I’m certainly not an expert on the convention but I do have some thoughts on why it’s experiencing a decline in membership:

It’s too conservative

I believe the SBC is not attracting new members because it’s perceived as too conservative. In this era of egregiously hip church names – Resurgence Church, Elevation Church, The Gathering, etc. – having “Baptist” in the church name just doesn’t cut it for many. Research from Lifeway, an SBC organization, shows unbelievers and especially millennial unbelievers have a comparatively low opinion of Baptists. When Hollywood needs an “overly-zealous” religious character, who do they turn to? The character is invariably a Baptist. Then there’s the completely crazy Westboro Baptist Church nightmare in Topeka, Kansas. People also still link the Southern Baptist Convention with the White slave owners of the antebellum South and post-Civil War segregation. The young pastor of our previous SBC church dropped the “Baptist” from the church’s name only one year after he arrived.

It’s becoming too liberal

I believe some people are walking away from the SBC because it’s drifting into liberalism. An intense battle raged between orthodox and liberals over control of SBC seminaries beginning in the 1960s and continuing into the late 1990s with the orthodox eventually claiming victory. But liberalism continues to nibble away at the convention. SBC leaders, Richard Land and Larry Lewis, were initial signers of the 1994 ecumenical document, Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Popular Southern Baptists such as Rick Warren, Steven Furtick (pictured with his polar opposite, Charles Stanley), Beth Moore, Ed Young, and Dallas Willard (d. 2013) continue their assault on Biblical orthodoxy. Former SBC president, Ronnie Floyd, joined with pope Francis at Together 2016. Now, with ecumenically-minded and TBN-favorite, Greg Laurie, joining the SBC, the orthodox/conservative members of the convention have another reason to be concerned.

Too conservative? Too liberal? Is there a Catch-22 going on here or what? The rising number of “nones” (no religious affiliation) nationally is also assuredly affecting the SBC.

I am a Baptist Christian and I love my Baptist brothers and sisters. There’s many excellent, godly pastors and para-church leaders (Charles Stanley, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Paul Washer come to mind) and Christ-loving members in the SBC. No doubt about it. But in such situations as we currently see with the SBC, there’s the danger of fidelity to the organization and numbers taking precedence over fidelity to Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and Biblical orthodoxy. My prayers go out to those in the SBC who continue to uphold the Gospel and God’s Word.


Greg Laurie, Calvary Chapel’s Big Crusader, Joins Southern Baptist Convention
http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/june/greg-laurie-southern-baptist-calvary-chapel-harvest-crusade.html

Southern Baptists have lost a million members in 10 years
https://baptistnews.com/article/southern-baptists-lost-million-members-10-years/#.WULHKuvyu1s

Southern Baptist Convention Deploys Theology Referees To Elevation Church (satire)
http://babylonbee.com/news/southern-baptist-convention-deploys-theology-referees-elevation-church/

IFB Memories #12: Church and politics

There’s always been a tension within Christianity regarding what kind of a relationship the church should have with politics and the state. The early Reformers unfortunately adopted the Roman Catholic viewpoint that the state was the divinely ordained agent of the church. That concept still lingers in varying degrees throughout the West but especially in the United States. European countries still have official state-supported denominations although few people attend services.

In American evangelicalism today, at one end of the spectrum are Christians who argue the church and state should work hand in glove; elect Christian-friendly politicians, ensure the appointment of Christian-friendly judges, and legislate laws that reflect Judeo-Christian beliefs and values. At the other end of the spectrum are Christians who argue the job of the church is to evangelize and disciple and not to become entangled in worldly concerns. We are ambassadors of our Father in Heaven on a mission to evangelize, not to be deeply-rooted, nationalistic patriots.

My wife and I accepted Christ back in the early-1980s and we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist church that patterned itself after Jerry Falwell (pictured) and his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Falwell and his Moral Majority were so focused on championing conservative causes that the Gospel was relegated to the back seat. Co-belligerency alongside religious unbelievers (e.g., conservative Catholics) eventually contributed to an “ecumenism of the trenches” as Chuck Colson once approvingly noted.

Our pastor regularly mixed the Gospel with politics from the pulpit. America was presented as a Christian nation that was in a covenant with God in the very same way as was ancient Israel. Old Testament passages meant only for Israel were regularly misapplied to the United States. Our church was heavily involved with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a political advocacy group supported by IFB and conservative evangelical churches in the state (see last article below). During election years, candidates from both parties were invited to our church to discuss their political positions but only Republicans bothered to show up. That church’s heavy involvement in politics and the constant harangues about the culture wars from the pulpit led to our decision to leave, among other reasons.

I don’t know exactly where the line is regarding the church’s involvement with politics and the state but I’m quite happy politics are never mentioned from the pulpit of our current church.

I’m currently reading “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America” by Frances FitzGerald, which was published in April. It’s a history of evangelicalism in America from an unbeliever’s perspective. It’s not always complimentary but the facts are fascinating, especially regarding the struggle to determine the church’s relationship with the state. Review to follow.

Below are a few articles that touch upon this church-state dichotomy:

With God on Their Side: How Evangelicals Entered American Politics

Don’t compromise the gospel in social cooperation
http://news.sbts.edu/2017/04/13/dont-compromise-gospel-social-cooperation-says-mohler-tgc-workshop/

Evangelicals gather in Albany
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/273279/evangelicals-gather-in-albany/

The Conversion Center: Still Reaching Out to Catholics after 65 years

After my wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior in 1983, we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist church in the area. The church’s information table was stocked with tracts and the latest issues of “Our Daily Bread” and “The Sword of the Lord,” a newspaper geared toward independent fundamental Baptists. Inside “The Sword of the Lord” were advertisements from Christian outreaches to Roman Catholics including The Conversion Center (Donald Maconaghie), Mission to Catholics (Bart Brewer), and Christians Evangelizing Catholics (Bill Jackson). Coming from a Catholic background, I was thrilled to see there were ministries devoted to reaching Catholics for Christ. I immediately wrote to all three ministries requesting their catalogs of available books and pamphlets and to be added to their mailing lists. This was obviously before the internet era. All the materials I received were a blessing to me at the time.

I eventually soured on what I was hearing from the pulpit of our IFB church, which sadly resulted in my walking away from the Lord for many years. In the interim, Bart Brewer of Mission to Catholics went home to be with the Lord in 2005 at the age of 80 although his website is strangely still available with a note saying it was last updated in 2006 (see here). I’m not sure of the status of Bill Jackson although a note posted in 2007 on the Apprising Ministries website states Bill suffered a second heart attack. There’s no trace of Jackson on the internet after that and the website for Christians Evangelizing Catholics is no longer operational. The Conversion Center continued to faithfully send me quarterly newsletters during my very long prodigal “season,” much to my discomfort (praise God!), and the ministry continues to this day.

The Conversion Center was founded in 1952 by Alex O. Dunlap, and was led many years by Donald F. Maconaghie (d. 2001). The current director is Mark Reno. The Conversion Center reflects hardcore independent fundamental Baptist beliefs and previously offered books from Chick Publications via its on-line store. The organization also upholds KJV 1611-Onlyism like many other IFB churches and groups. The Conversion Center has recently updated its website (see here), which includes on-line copies of its quarterly newsletter (see photo). Gone is the long list of book and pamphlet offerings but there is a very large assortment of tracts written for Catholics. I don’t agree with The Conversion Center’s endorsement of Chick publications and its view on KJV 1611-Onlyism, but I certainly do support their outreach to Roman Catholics with the Gospel of grace.

In addition to The Conversion Center, there are several other ministries that reach out to Roman Catholics with the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. See my Links page here.

Ben Seewald reaches out to Catholics again!

After a very long prodigal “season,” I returned to the Lord in 2014. That same year, our oldest son hooked us up with Netflix. I can’t say I watch a lot of Netflix but I did make it a point to watch the “19 Kids and Counting” show featuring the Duggar family. I watched the first four and a half-seasons until The Learning Channel yanked the show from Netflix.

The Duggars didn’t talk a lot about their religious affiliation directly, but if a viewer paid attention they could gather that they were independent fundamental Baptists who adhered to Bill Gothard’s and Doug Phillips’ ultra-conservative Christian Dominionist/Reconstructionism. Coming from an IFB background myself (although much less hardcore than the Duggars’), I was fascinated by the show. Among many other IFB distinctives, the girls weren’t allowed to have short hairdoos or wear pants. I could argue secondary doctrinal issues with the Duggars but at least they uphold the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE.

The series premiered in 2009 and ran until May 2015 when news headlines revealed oldest son, Josh Duggar, was involved in several scandalous transgressions. A spinoff show, “Counting On,” carries on the Duggar saga, focusing mainly on married daughters, Jill and Jessa.

I recently saw that Jessa’s husband, Ben Seewald (see photo), is making headlines once again with remarks about Catholicism. Back in 2014, Seewald posted some comments critical of Roman Catholicism on his Facebook account, which caused a firestorm among 19 Kids and Counting’s Catholic fans. I see in the recent article below from a virtual gossip rag that Ben has posted on Facebook and Instagram that he’s currently reading James White’s excellent “The Roman Catholic Controversy: Catholics and Protestants – Do the Differences Still Matter?” (see my review here) to further educate himself regarding Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit and Catholic fans are up in arms once again.

Up until about fifty years ago, most evangelicals were very aware that Catholicism’s gospel of sacramental grace and merit was a false gospel. But because of the ecumenical push by Rome and some Judas evangelicals, the differences between Catholicism’s false gospel and the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE have been blurred in the minds of many. It’s now considered unkind, unloving, and intolerant to warn Catholics that they are on the wide way to destruction. I admire young Ben Seewald for upholding the Gospel of grace despite undoubtedly enormous pressure from network executives and family to keep his mouth shut.

Persevere in the Lord, Ben Seewald! There’s already way too much cooperation, compromise, and betrayal within evangelicalism.


Ben Seewald: Duggar Husband Studies To Refute Catholicism While Jill and Derick Evangelize to Catholics
http://www.inquisitr.com/4166855/ben-seewald-duggar-husband-studies-to-refute-catholicism-while-jill-and-derick-evangelize-to-catholics/

Tainted by association

NJR

Night Journey From Rome
By Clark Butterfield
Chick Publications, 1982, 207 pages

Clark Butterfield was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1965 and “served” in that capacity in California, Kansas, and Michigan until 1973. After losing confidence in various Catholic dogmas, he left the priesthood without scandal and obtained a job working in the offices of the Detroit Police Department, although he still practiced his Catholic religion. He was led to the Lord by a fellow member of the police department in 1978 and subsequently wrote this book, which includes his personal testimony and comparisons of God’s Word with Catholicism in regards to Mary, church authority, confession, the eucharist, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and end times eschatology.

In attempting to get this book published, Butterfield relates that several of the main Christian book publishers rejected his finished manuscript because it was anti-ecumenical. Butterfield then sent the manuscript to Chick Publications where the controversial Alberto Rivera championed its publication. Butterfield died in 1981 and this book was published the following year.

This is a strange book in more than a few regards. At the beginning of the book Jack Chick inserts a publisher’s note and Rivera adds an introduction. A preface attributed to Butterfield is highly complimentary of Rivera although Butterfield’s core original manuscript includes absolutely no hints of Rivera-like claims of Jesuit world-wide conspiracies. A postscript written by Jim MacKinnon, the man who led Butterfield to the Lord, which is also mildly complimentary of Rivera, closes the book. It’s suggested that Butterfield’s death was suspicious in nature but such an insinuation is par for the course in any Chick publication.

Jack Chick was already publishing hard-hitting, comic tracts that were very popular in fundamentalist circles when he hooked up with Rivera, who claimed to be an ex-Jesuit bishop, in 1979 and the two would proceed to write and publish a boatload of comic books, tracts, and books, which purported that every calamity in the history of Western civilization could be traced to the Jesuits and the Vatican. Rivera stoked the Chick conspiracy engine until his death in 1997. Those outlandish attacks on Catholicism did much to undermine the witness of responsible Gospel outreach ministries to Roman Catholics. I believe Satan was the inspiration behind Alberto Rivera and Chick Publications. It’s a shame “Night Journey From Rome” was published by Chick because, excluding the favorable extraneous references to Rivera and Chick that I mentioned, it’s an informative testimony from an ex-Catholic priest.

Fundamentalism and a family: I couldn’t put it down

The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Familyjr
By Andrew Himes
Chiara Press, 2011, 344 pages

Several weeks ago I posted a message regarding “The Sword of the Lord,” a Christian fundamentalist newspaper I subscribed to for a couple of years back in the early 1980s. See here.

Evangelist John R. Rice (pictured) was the original editor and publisher of the Sword. Although he had been dead for a few years by the time I started my subscription, I came to admire the man through his archived sermons and writings. Yes, the Sword often featured some hard-nosed fundamentalist diatribes that rubbed me the wrong way and eventually led to my letting my subscription run out, but I still have a soft spot for Rice and for much of what he preached.

I saw this book on Amazon when it was first published and was intrigued but not enough to buy it. After posting the message on the SOTL, I ordered a used copy from an Amazon 3rd-party seller and I’m so glad I did. I enjoyed this book immensely.

The author, Andrew Himes, is a grandson of John R. Rice and he gives the reader an intimate account of the rise of fundamentalism in the early 20th-century and the rise of Rice’s ministry. Few evangelical Christians know about John R. Rice these days but the man was perhaps the most influential leader of Christian fundamentalism from the 1940s through the 1970s. The movement had its struggles especially in regards to segregation and race relations (Rice’s minister father was a member of the KKK), the emergence of Billy Graham and evangelical ecumenism, and increasing involvement with politics which peaked with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. Himes gives fantastic insight into the life of his grandfather and the movement he shepherded.

Relatively few churches still preach the hard-core brand of fundamentalism championed by J. Frank Norris, William Bell Riley, John R. Rice, Bob Jones, Sr., and Jack Hyles, where the Gospel was mixed with a certain degree of arrogance and judgmentalism.  Unfortunately, many of today’s evangelical churches lean toward the opposite extreme with Joel Osteen-Rick Warren-TBN loosey gooseyism. Andrew Himes says he accepted Christ as a child, became a Marxist atheist, but now encourages everyone to discover the enigmatic “God within ourselves.” But don’t let that stop you. Hime’s New Age/Universalism soliloquy only lasts a paragraph or two. Although this book is harshly critical of several aspects of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, Himes combines criticism with love and a good degree of respect.

For anyone interested in the history of Christian fundamentalism with a very personal twist, this book is the ticket. I couldn’t put it down.

p.s. Be forewarned. “The Sword of the Lord” traces the Rice family history from 1778 onward, sometimes with exacting detail. Those who dislike history will find this book more than a little daunting. Himes has definitely done his research.

jrr