I stumbled across a review of The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family, by Andrew Himes. Click here for the entire review.
NOTE – I am NOT providing these excerpts because I agree with the stance of the reviewer or the author. In many instances, they are critical of fundamentalism. Nonetheless, the book still provides many insightful historical insights. Bottom line – I do not necessarily recommend buying the book, but if you find a used or discount copy, go for it.
Following are some excerpts. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [bracketing]:
“A wonderful new book about Fundamentalism”
By rogereolson, June 8, 2011 10:05 pm
[I would not say the book is “wonderful,” but I am leaving this book review title intact]
The wonderful new book that I highly recommend to you is The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family by Andrew Himes (foreword by Parker J. Palmer) (Seattle: Chiara Press, 2011). Himes is the grandson of John R. Rice, one of the leaders of the Fundamentalist movement in the 20th century. This is the biography of a family that, through that family’s history, traces the origin and evolution of Fundamentalism in America. It is gripping, vivid, insightful, mostly accurate (I have a few quibbles with details) and especially emotionally moving to those of us who grew up in this religious milieu…
The book jumps around some, so at times it’s hard to follow the chronology, but it begins with the distant ancestors of the author and his grandfather John R. Rice, publisher and editor of The Sword of the Lord magazine who died in 1980 and age 85. His life, recounted in detail in the book (although it is not strictly speaking his biography), was inextricably entwined with 20th century Fundamentalism of which he was, with Bob Jones and Carl McIntire (unfortunately not mentioned in the book) one of the notable leaders.
Himes’ book alternates between vignettes of the lives of his ancestors and their fundamentalist friends and associates and mini-essays about American and especially Southern evangelical Christianity. It also contains chapters about Himes’ own life without being his autobiography.
My own interest in this subject and what kept me reading almost non-stop is more than my interest as a historical theologian especially interested in the history and theology of American evangelicalism (and Evangelicalism). Primarily it was the similarity between Himes’ family and faith community and my own growing up. (Himes left it as did I without it leaving us!) I grew up in Pentecostalism and many Fundamentalists rejected us, but we shared with this genre of American Christianity most of its ethos. (Movement Fundamentalists rejected us because of our belief in and practice of speaking in tongues, divine healing through the “gift of healings,” prophecy, etc. We rejected them because of their outspoken criticism of us AND because we were not as seperatistic as they. I grew up surrounded by adherents of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches [GARBC] and we did not get along even though we shared a great deal in common.)…
Especially interesting are his insider’s accounts of his grandfather [John R. Rice’s] falling out with Billy Graham in the 1950s and then his grandfather’s falling out with Bob Jones in the 1960s. One thing is clear about that. Himes believes that John R. Rice’s rejection of Billy Graham, with whom he was very good friends, was [partly] over the latter’s inclusion of “modernists” in his crusades beginning with his New York crusade in 1957…
This book is not a scholarly examination of Fundamentalism; it is a family history written from an insider’s perspective relying on lots of good research to fill in the details. The one major problem I have with the book is the absence of Carl McIntire. McIntire was a major leading of American Fundamentalism along with John R. Rice and Bob Jones and others mentioned in the book. I don’t see how it is possible to give a 300 plus page account of American Fundamentalism and not even mention him. One reason that’s an oversight is that, unlike Rice, McIntire separated from the “neo-evangelicalism” of Ockenga right at its beginning in the 1940s. It took Rice and Jones and others until the 1950s and 1960s to separate from, for example, the National Association of Evangelicals.
One thing this book rightly makes clear is the key, cornerstone, distinctive doctrine and practice of Fundamentalism that separates it from Evangelicalism is “biblical separation.” Rice and other Fundamentalist leaders believed it wrong for evangelicals to have Christian fellowship with heretics and people living unholy lives (as they defined holiness). Jones and Rice fell out over the doctrine and practice of “secondary separation” with Jones emphatically advocating it and Rice being much less enthusiastic about it. Secondary separation is the refusal of fellowship with fellow Christians who are having fellowship with heretics, modernists, unholy people, etc…
I could go on singing the praises of this book, but instead I’ll just recommend that you buy it and read it. [Again, I do not recommend buying it-DM] It’s well worth it if you have any interest in American Christian history and especially Evangelicalism including Fundamentalism. The material about J. Frank Norris and William Bell Riley alone is worth the price! (They were early associates of Rice’s and warhorses of the Fundamentalist movement in the 1920s and afterwords…)
This Amazon link to the book provides 53 customer reviews.