Greg Wilson's Reviews > The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family

The Sword of the Lord by Andrew Himes
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As a child, John R. Rice would come and preach at my church. I remember him and Jack Hyles preaching a Sword conference there. In fact, in one of Hyles’ books he mentioned a story that took place while they were speaking there. During a break Rice went missing. Hyles says he found him playing hopscotch with a child down the street. While in college I lived in the “John R. Rice Hall.” While living there I wrote a song (parody) “On the cover of The Sword of the Lord” sung to the tune of “The Cover of Rolling Stone.”
Well we are big time preachers,
we've got diamonds on our fingers
And we're loved everywhere we go
We hold big camp meetings
and fill big churches
But it’s not ALL for show
We don’t need any pills
to give us all kind of thrills
But the thrill we've never known
Is the thrill that'll get you
when you get your picture
On the cover of the Sword of the Lord
On the Sword Wanna see my picture on the cover
Sword Wanna buy five copies for my mother
Sword Wanna see my smilin' face
On the cover of the Sword of the Lord
If that offends you I will remind you that Buck Owens did “On the Cover of the Music City News” and I am sure somebody somewhere has done “On the Cover of the Gospel Singing News.”

The school declared a day of mourning when Rice died in 1980. The college president was one of the speakers at his funeral. I got his newspaper, “The Sword of the Lord” for many years. I saved every one until my wife finally declared the stacks were taking up too much space. So I read this book (actually I received a .pdf early release from the author) with much anticipation. I found it fascinating, thought provoking and a little sad.

Andrew Himes is the grandson of famed evangelist John R. Rice. His father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, five nephews and many cousins are or were Baptist preachers. His mother was one of Rice’s six daughters. He had an insider’s view of the early days of independent Baptist fundamentalism and it wasn’t all pretty.

As the title states this book is about the roots of fundamentalism in an American family. This isn’t a biography of John R. Rice. It goes back much further than him. In fact, this book was uniquely enjoyable to me because not only does it deal with fundamentalism, but American history (particularly Civil War history) as well. He traces his family roots all the way back to Revolutionary War times. Himes does a very fine job of intertwining his personal story as he gives us a historical perspective on the roots of fundamentalism. Each of the first 26 chapters starts with some type of quote referencing the sword of the Lord (the biblical usage, not the newspaper). Some of these are from the Bible, some from sermons, some from other literary sources.

Himes comes across as being honest, about himself, his family, and his famous grandfather. If you are looking for a smear job of Rice, you won’t find it here. In spite of the fact that he left fundamentalism (and I would say orthodoxy too) he loved his grandfather (and grandmother). In reference to Rice’s funeral he writes, “I had always thought of him as one of the kindest, funniest and most honorable people I knew” (p. 11).

Because it is what he lived, Himes is dealing with southern fundamentalism. I trace my roots to northern fundamentalism, so I sometimes felt that fundamentalism was being painted with too broad a brush. Not everything he accused fundamentalism as being guilty of was true for all fundamentalists. He especially deals with racism among early fundamentalists (and Southern Baptists). Though disturbing, I don’t doubt what he says. It was primarily this racism that drove him away from his Christian faith. He became a prodigal before finishing high school.

There is much good historical information in this book, especially concerning America’s religious evolution from puritans to neo-evangelicals. Also, I never realized the magnitude of Rice’s ministry. At one time, The Sword of the Lord employed over 50 people and had a mailing list of 300,000!

Himes does a fair job of explaining what fundamentalism believes and why people would espouse such a belief. In is interesting to hear a clear explanation of the gospel from someone who doesn’t believe it. Although he now considers himself a Christian again, he admits it is not historic Christianity.

If you grow up in Sword style fundamentalism you will enjoy reading this book.
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February 24, 2011 – Shelved
Started Reading
February 26, 2011 – Finished Reading

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