A History of The Inspired King James Bible Movement

By Pastor Michael D. O'Neal

Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

       While Evangelist John R. Rice, the founding editor of the Sword of the Lord, was alive, almost all leading independent Baptist preachers who ever preached at Southwide Baptist Fellowship meetings (back when Southwide was a fundamentalist fellowship meeting), Jack Hyles' Pastor's School, or Sword of the Lord Conferences held that the King James Bible was the best Bible to use in the pulpit, but that it could be corrected "at will" by Hebrew and Greek scholarship. This was practiced by John R. Rice, Jack Hyles, Tom Malone, Bob Jones, Jr., Bob Jones III, and many others whose names you know.

Brother Rice had a tremendous amount of influence while he was alive. He believed in using the King James Bible publicly, but he believed that the New American Standard Version was more accurate.

When I left the Southern Baptist Convention in 1972 to become an independent Baptist, this was the standard position of Bob Jones University, as well as most other fundamental schools. Few influential men were willing to openly oppose Dr. Rice on anything. Before Brother Rice died, the only men, to my knowledge, with any national voice at all who publicly stated a Bible-believing position repeatedly and dogmatically were Peter S. Ruckman of Pensacola, FL and Bruce Cummons of Massillon, OH. It is obvious to me that Bob Gray of Jacksonville, FL and Lester Roloff also felt the same way as Ruckman and Cummons, but they were pretty silent about it at the time.

Over a period of years after Brother Rice died, there began a slow shift among independent Baptist leaders. Bob Gray and Lester Roloff both created a stir at a Southwide Baptist Fellowship meeting , making good statements on the King James Bible (I was there, and I was amazed at the thousands of "small-time preachers" like myself who were in the audience shouting, waving their Bibles, and backing them up!). But the shift was most notable with Dr. Jack Hyles, who gradually changed from a practice of correcting the English KJV text with the Greek in his lessons (cases are still available in print, and I heard him with my own ears) to ultimately claiming that the words of the King James Bible were the preserved, inspired words of God.

Many other good men changed to a Bible-believing position, as well. Although the Southwide Baptist Fellowship "went down the tubes," and Bob Jones University made no progress toward believing in the infallibility of the Authorized Version, the Sword of the Lord did. Curtis Hutson, the successor to Dr. Rice at the Sword, used the Amplified Version when he taught Sunday School, but before he died, he appeared to arrive at a fairly strong KJV position. Brother Hutson appointed Shelton Smith to take his place. From the time Brother Smith took over the Sword, his position on the King James Bible was and is solid. I wrote him and asked him about it before he got moved into his Murfreesboro, TN office. His answer was clear, and it was good. I part from him in that I don't recommend using the Hebrew or Greek at all, but he believes the King James Bible, according to his statements, exactly as I do.

Meanwhile, Dr. Hyles died, and the First Baptist Church of Hammond called his son-in-law, Jack Schaap, to be their pastor. Brother Schaap assumed an awesome responsibility. Sadly, in what appears to have been a desire to be unique, Brother Schaap has made and published some very questionable statements on various subjects. These statements have alienated former friends of Dr. Hyles from being able to support Brother Schaap and First Baptist Church.

The most recent controversy has been over the issue of the King James Bible. Brother Schaap has not only denied the inspiration of the King James Bible, but he has ridiculed those who believe it. If he had done this in the early 70s, he would not have created a stir at all. However, now he has pretty much forced Russell Anderson (the financing co-founder of Hyles-Anderson College), Jeff Fugate (the successor to Wally Beebe as editor of Church Bus News), and now Shelton Smith, editor of the Sword of the Lord, to openly part with him on this issue.

We need to pray for all of these men and others, as preachers across the country make up their minds about their true, personal beliefs on the subject of the inspired and preserved word of God. I've watched many churches depart from the faith in the 41 years that I've been saved. Some of them are no longer recognizable as independent Baptist churches.

We need to pray for Pastor Jack Schaap. Once a denomination, church or preacher makes a turn away from God, the Bible, standards, and godliness, they rarely return. This troubles me. Those of us who have watched the spiritual decay of Jerry Falwell's ministry, Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Southwide Baptist Fellowship, as well as members of our own churches can testify to this. Nevertheless, God is still able to work in hearts! Jonah decided that he was going in the wrong direction, and he made a change. Who knows what may happen if we pray?!

Then, let's be careful to pray for ourselves. It is easy to observe and criticize.

1 Corinthians 10:12, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

Jesus is coming! Let's believe our Bibles! Let's continue to live for God! Let's keep soul-winning! Let's pray for revival! Let's stand against the wiles of the devil! We are on the winning side!


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