WHEN PRINCIPLE WAS KING
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A hardback book with 33 Chapters and 408 pages
3 Divisions-PERSONAL PRINCIPLES, MINISTRY PRINCIPLES, and MOVEMENT PRINCIPLES
THE PRINCIPLE OF HERO WORSHIP
Now, to some this may seem like a strange title, but I wanted to confront a subject which seems to confound many. Dr. Hyles was a man with many heroes and he was a hero to many others, including myself. The haters of Dr. Hyles often tried to accuse him of being a cultish leader who mesmerized people into following him rather than God. I address this only for the sake of those who log onto Internet forums and read silly nonsense.
Of course, he was a cult-like leader. I admit it. That is the most often used, yet, most feeble accusation placed upon all strong leaders, especially when they are on the opposite side. Weaker leaders especially like to use that argument as an excuse mechanism to explain away their lack of a following.
Show me any leader with a huge following and I will show you a man who will be adored by some of his followers. So, to you haters I will admit that many of us look to him with great respect, for he is a hero and one that we choose to follow. In fact, my love for Christ grew much more because of my love and loyalty to Dr. Hyles. His focus was on Jesus, and with
his charismatic personality he inspired his followers to love Christ even more.
Much of who Dr. Hyles was as a man can be traced to his childhood and to the heroes he had. Raised in the home of an alcoholic father who had little time for him, he was forced to look to other men to be his heroes. Although his mother was in many ways the most powerful influence in his life she, in her wisdom, pointed her young son to other men who would become great heroes to him. As a result, at an early age he developed a healthy respect for strong men, some who became his heroes.
The heroes of Dr. Hyles fell pretty much into two categories; sports and church. He loved sports and never outgrew his appreciation for his sports heroes, such as Ted Williams. One of the highlights of his life was the privilege he had to share the Gospel with the Hall of Fame baseball player. By contrast, he developed an early appreciation and loyalty for men like his pastor, Dr. Sizemore. Being a man’s man, Dr. Hyles lived a lifetime having heroes.
As Dr. Hyles became an adult, his admiration for great men continued. He discovered those men whose accomplishments he admired and attached himself to them in order to learn all he could from them. Few men I have ever known sought out greatness as did Dr. Hyles. He would, later, even write a book on the lessons he had learned from the great men he had known. The variety of his heroes was immense, and not all of them were well-known, but there was something about them that he saw as great.
Some were preachers, such as Lee Roberson, R. G. Lee, G. B. Vick or Tom Malone. Some were evangelists, like Dr. John Rice and his half brother, Dr. Bill Rice. Some were great pulpiteers and defenders of the faith, like Lester Roloff and Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. There were many others as well, and he did his best to attach himself to these men; not to enhance his own influence, but to allow them to influence him. As a result, he became somewhat of a
microcosm of these great men who were his heroes.
Not only did Dr. Hyles have heroes, but he was also a hero-maker or builder. Never one to be threatened by the strength of other strong men, Dr. Hyles chose to shine the spotlight on others and allow them to be heroes. Some of these lesser-known men had been used of God to do something mighty, like songwriter Charles F. Weigle or Pastor Ford Porter, the author of the tract “God’s Simple Plan Of Salvation”.
Evangelist Joe Boyd was somewhat of a childhood hero to Dr. Hyles and, although he never preached giant meetings, Dr. Hyles promoted him as the hero he felt he was. These men were not chosen for their personality or for what they could do for Dr. Hyles. He promoted these men because he saw them as heroes who he wanted to expose to his generation.
In 1966, First Baptist Church became the sixth largest Sunday school in America. That summer, at the Bible Conference Grounds, in Cedar Lake, Indiana, Dr. Hyles invited the pastors of the five largest Sunday Schools to preach in a conference for his church. These were his heroes and he wanted them to influence his life and his people as well. Make no mistake about it: he was a man with an appreciation and love for his heroes.
Today there seems to be such a critical attitude towards having men of God as heroes. We seem to need to lower them down so that people do not “worship” them. Admiration is not worship!
1. Dr. Hyles never believed his heroes were perfect, but he never found delight in exposing their imperfections. He taught that it takes character to follow a leader once we discover their imperfections. Was Dr. Hyles gullible enough to believe that his heroes were perfect? Absolutely not. He knew them too well, but he knew that even in their imperfections they had allowed God to use them in a powerful way. We all certainly know the imperfections of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 12; yet, the way they are portrayed in Scripture makes them sound perfect.
2. He wanted to gain everything he could by studying these men, but he was never opportunistic in trying to use these men for his own gain. Dr. Hyles could have been the editor of The Sword of the Lord if he had wanted it, but he did not. His heroes offered him numerous opportunities that a lesser man might have jumped at, but Dr. Hyles was not trying to gain something from them other than their wisdom and walk with God.
3. He was more interested in furthering the influence of his heroes than he was in them furthering his. This was an amazing attribute of Dr. Hyles. He lifted up these men who, in some cases, were either in decline or unknown. He did not want his generation to lose them. He kept their memories alive even after they were in Heaven.
4. He did not cast doubt on the accomplishments or character of his heroes. He would not have considered playing down the accomplishments of another in order to inflate the public perception of his own success. It grieves my heart to see this being done to Dr. Hyles and for others to allow it to happen.
5. He did not feel it was his right to build his ministry on the back of his heroes, but to perpetuate their reputation and influence was right. When I agreed to join the Fundamentalist Conference Steering Committee, I learned from Dr. Hyles not to look for a free ride to national acclaim. Eventually, God will raise you up or tear you down to the level of your true character. I fear some men used the same opportunity as a way to propel themselves onto the national stage. That is their business, but it is not something Dr. Hyles would have done. Dr. Hyles did not need Dr. Rice to get him meetings. In fact, he often had to turn down other meetings in order to accommodate Dr. Rice.
6. He never tried to redefine or manipulate the ideas and beliefs of his heroes in order to justify his own. Dr. Hyles was secure enough in what he believed that he did not have to lie and twist the truth to justify his positions. One of Dr. Hyles’ staff men told me he was going to write a book using Dr. Hyles’ correspondence from the early 80’s to prove Dr. Hyles’ position of correcting the King James Bible was the same as Jack Schaap’s current position. This is deceptive, divisive, dangerous, damning, distasteful, disturbing, distracting, and detrimental to the next generation who may be fooled by this misinformation. Dr. Hyles was too good of and too much of a man to do any such thing to his heroes. His preaching and writings make his position clear about how to treat heroes.
7. He never justified his positions or himself with private, contradictory conversations he claimed to have with his heroes. Dr. Hyles had countless private conversations with his heroes, but he kept them to himself and never used them to build himself or his ministry!
8. He did not worship his heroes, but he did hold them in very high esteem and even reverence. He protected them as well. He did not go back and reintroduce Dr. Rice's enemies to his crowd after Dr. Rice was dead. That would have been blatantly disrespectful and he did not disrespect his heroes.
9. He allowed for the fact that his leaders may have taken a different position than he on certain issues without refuting them or attempting to cast them in a bad light. Dr. Hyles did not agree with John Rice on the issue of storehouse tithing, but he never tried to use that against him. He had too much respect for these men to do so.
10. Dr. Hyles would not have taken over the ministry of one of his heroes with the intent of fundamentally changing the philosophy or beliefs of that man. Please take note of this. Dr. Hyles would have taken himself out of contention if his belief on the Bible had not been exactly as stated by his hero. He would never have lacked the integrity to knowingly deceive anyone into thinking he believed the same, when, in reality, he did not.
Once, in a Question and Answer time, a young Bible college student asked Dr. Hyles, in Dr. John Rice’s presence, what he thought of storehouse tithing. Dr. Hyles very graciously said, “I believe Dr. Rice is the one who could answer that better than I could!” He deferred to Dr. Rice even though he disagreed with Dr. Rice.
Soon after that, the college student told Dr. Rice that Dr. Hyles disagreed with him on tithing. Dr. Hyles told me that Dr. Rice sent him a letter stating how that Dr. Rice was shaken to the foundation to think that Dr. Hyles did not believe like Dr. Rice did about tithing.
He demanded an answer from Dr. Hyles immediately! Dr. Hyles never responded. The next time they preached together, Dr. Hyles went to Dr. Rice’s motel room and asked Dr. Rice to come with him. Dr. Hyles took Dr. Rice to a local clothing store and bought Dr. Rice a complete outfit including shoes, overcoat, and hat. The subject never came up again in their traveling together.
Please do not misunderstand this. Dr. Hyles was quick to defend the necessity of the shed blood of Christ being applied as essential to salvation. When the critical doctrines were attacked, he did not stay on the sidelines. He was extremely vocal!
My heart is grieved to see how far from his principles we have gone. I cannot and will not allow the people I love to sit and listen to the dispersions being cast on the character and accomplishments of my hero, Dr. Hyles. It is difficult to listen to the venomous lies and slander of his enemies, but to hear it from his “loyal” followers is unfathomable to me. We need to perpetuate his influence, not attempt to water it down.
These distorters cast doubts on his standards, his leadership, his accounting, his ideas, his scope of influence, and even his state of mind. Do we need to say that Babe Ruth hit fewer home runs in order to make our numbers look better? Do we need to say that Thomas Jefferson plagiarized the Declaration of Independence in order to make ourselves look smarter?
One of my heroes in the secular world is Ronald Reagan. It amazes me how much his haters and distorters have undermined his accomplishments in order to negate his influence. I refuse to sit idly by and watch the same thing happen to Dr. Hyles. If ever we need real heroes in this country and among the Independent Baptist faithful, it is now. We must not allow ourselves to forget his works nor to manipulate his legacy. If we do, we are only doing harm to ourselves and to the generation to come.