In this article I am going to shock you with some of the statements I am going to make regarding the great explosion of the Independent Baptist movement that surged forty and fifty years ago and about the men God used to bring it about. Most of us knew little about those days but I for one was fortunate to both see it from afar but to be close to it through Dr. Hyles. My association with him allowed me to know Dr. Roberson, Dr. Malone, Dr. Rice and many others and to actually spend time alone with them. They were a different breed. They were BIG men, not distracted by the pettiness we see today. They were focused on the work of God not the weaknesses of each other. They were passionate about reaching the lost and they did not squabble over triteness. They could disagree with squawking like a bunch of hens because someone called them out.
However, there were other great men of the day who were equally used of God to influence our movement. These were men like Havner, Lee, Jones, Cederholm, Vick, Sightler, and others who were great leaders of their day and helped form who we are as independent Baptists.
Jack Hyles was very close to many men who were not Independent Baptists. They loved him. They admired him. They respected him. They trusted him. He was good to them; however many of them had their roots firmly planted elsewhere. Why then did they get along so well? Independent thinkers are drawn to other independent thinkers. Dr. Hyles was deeply independent and he was also deeply Baptist. However he had a healthy respect for men who were independent but not Baptists even more so than those who were Baptists but not independent.
Many of those men did not build independent Baptist works per se. Many ministries that Dr. Hyles supported later came back and attacked him. He was not wrestling for the future control of an institution. He supported the work of a man in whom he believed not because of the work but because of the man. Bob Jones University was never a Baptist institution yet for many years it was a place Dr. Hyles readily recommended to his graduates. Many FBC kids attended there and thrived in the environment. Did they get a Baptist education? No, but they got the old time religion and character of Dr. Bob.
Some of the men had family members who were not real independent Baptists and did not particularly like Dr. Hyles. He knew that. He respected and honored them because of his love and loyalty to the man in spite of their dislike of him. Many of them merely tolerated him until their husband or father passed away and then they turned away from him and in some cases turned against him.
Dr. Bill Rice and Dr. Hyles were close friends. These men not only loved each other, they liked each other. For many years Dr. Hyles was synonymous with the Bill Rice Ranch. He raised untold amounts of money for the ministry in Murfreesboro, TN, and in turn was blessed greatly by the work of the Ranch. Most summers he would preach at least twice at one of the summer conferences. Dr. Bill called Dr. Hyles Solomon because of his respect for Dr. Hyles wisdom. When Dr. Bill had his stroke and his health failed Dr. Hyles reached out to help him in every way possible.
After Dr. Bill passed away Bill Rice III turned viciously against Dr. Hyles and completely separated himself from the former loyal friend of his father. Bill would “claim” it was over the accusations against Dr. Hyles, but truth be known Bill Rice III never cared for Dr. Hyles and made it clear to many. Dr. Hyles was not totally surprised by the betrayal of his friends son because he already knew his feelings towards him. However he never worried about it nor did he resent that he had done so much to support the Ranch in its early days. He loved Dr. Bill and he was not going to be thwarted of good feelings because of the direction the son took.
Of course Bill could and probably would say that his dad did not know what he did. I would argue that Bill III does not know what his dad knew. Those were the greater men. They had a common cause that drew them together. Dr. Hyles never attacked Bill III until the day he died because he was still loyal to his friend Dr. Bill in spite of the hateful and vicious attacks of the son.
Dr. Hyles never tried to gain a foothold into another man’s work nor did he support the work in hopes of gaining anything later. He supported them because of what they could do at that moment. Brother Hyles often said that every institution was born to die. He knew they would not stay the same and he did not fight that inevitability, nor did he resent it. He expected it. Institutions he supported when the great man was a live often changed so that he could no longer support them. He accepted that and did not allow it to discourage him.
Get ready for this!
The independent Baptist movement was built from the strength of many who were not even Baptists. Lets face it. Dr. Hyles knew what he needed and much of it came from men who were not even Baptists or at least not independent Baptists. Brethren, we do not own truth nor do we have all of our mess together. Dr. Hyles recognized greatness, but he also recognized error and danger. He aligned himself carefully with men he trusted even if they were not like him; however he avoided some he felt would lead him in the wrong direction. Dr. Bob Jones Sr. was a great man but he was never a Baptist except maybe for a very brief time as a child. Few men influenced Dr. Hyles more than Dr. Bob. He was a great man and bestowed an honorary doctorate on Dr. Hyles from Bob Jones University. These two men were different but they were also similar. Dr. Hyles’ ability to spot error and spot truth was like none other. I am worried about this younger generation who are attracted to personality and ignorantly adopt the error it brings with it.
R G Lee loved Jack Hyles and the two men became fast friends over the years. Long after Dr. Hyles had left the convention he invited Dr. Lee to preach in Hammond and without apology. He wanted some of what RG Lee had. At Dr. Lee’s later days Dr. Hyles would call and check on Dr. Lee regularly. In fact Dr. Lee’s daughter commented on how Dr. Hyles was the only one who would check on her dad regularly.
Some who were independent never fully separated themselves from their non-independent Baptist roots. Dr. Hyles never pressured them to do so either. Myron Cederholm was a great man and he and Dr. Hyles deeply loved one another. Dr. Hyles believed that he was a great man and he was proud to be friends and to allow him to influence him as a younger preacher. Control was not a characteristic that described Dr. Hyles; influence was. He did not seek to control and he did not allow anyone else to control him.
Some of the followers of those men often resented Dr. Hyles because they sensed he was different than them. Some of Dr. Hyles fiercest enemies descended from some of his dearest friends. That may seem strange to many but Dr. Hyles understood it fully and accepted it graciously.
Some of the followers of men he was close to became critical of Dr. Hyles and distanced themselves from him. Look, lets face it, we are all a bit territorial. I am loyal to Dr. Hyles and if there was a game of horseshoes between Dr. Hyles and Lee Roberson I would have cheered on Dr. Hyles. I would expect that most Temple grads would have cheered on Dr. Roberson. That is our makeup. We pull for our hero and sometimes we even pull against someone who threatens to upstage them. We compare them and find the weakness of the other guy in light of the strength of our hero. It is perfectly natural. The funny thing is that these men did not do that with each other. They pulled for each other and never tried to lift up themselves by tearing down the other. We tend to tear others down because of our own weaknesses in hopes no one will notice them both.
What we see today is a lack of unity for the cause and a division of camps. We have men who loved Tom Malone or Lee Roberson who feel a distance between themselves and Dr. Hyles as if they are being disloyal to their hero. This is an absurdity in the worst degree. There was no drive for “union” on these men’s parts, but there was a desire for “unity” for the cause. Thus each was needed and appreciated in order to accomplish great things for God. I am afraid it is not so in this day and time. We slander successful great men and end up losing out on the spiritual qualities they possessed that could add a step to our life toward the cause of Christ.