Posts Tagged Cessationism

Rice Fundamentalists?

I’ve noticed something recently in discussions about Fundamentalism that is intriguing—the issue of cessationism vs. continuationism comes into the discussion as a basis for either rejecting or calling into question whether someone is a Fundamentalist or not. While I personally believe that this issue is a very important one, I also believe it is inaccurate to include it into the rubric for defining Fundamentalism simply because it was not historically. (This, by the way, is one of the challenges in defining Fundamentalism—does theological-historical or historical-theological control the process?) To be clear, I am making a distinction here between defining Fundamentalism and practicing separation (i.e., I am not treating those as co-equal).

Anyway, I saw something recently that touted John R. Rice positively as a Fundamentalist hero and aggressively denounced others for not taking a strong vocal stand against non-cessationists. That combo was funny to me because it represents the kind of historical blindness that often seriously distorts conversations about Fundamentalism. The fact is that John R. Rice: (1) was unmistakably clear that he believed the doctrine of “secondary separation” was dead wrong; and, therefore, (2) was open to fellowship with non-cessationists. Substantiation of the former point would only take a little time to track down the load of articles that he wrote about it for the Sword of the Lord or the books that addressed it (e.g., Come Out or Stay In? or I am a Fundamentalist). John R. Rice helped paved the way for Jerry Falwell and Jack Van Impe (though Rice is not responsible for how far they went).

What about John R. Rice’s view on the cessation vs. continuation issue? He did not think it was a matter that called for separation:

You say, “This person talks in tongues.” Well, personally I prefer the English tongue! But a man who talks in tongues—is he saved? Does he believe the Bible? Does he love the Lord? Is he right on all the essentials about Christ and the Bible? If he is, I can have fellowship with him, provided he does not make for doubtful disputations (Come Out or Stay In? p. 181).

In I am a Fundamentalist, Rice has a section which discusses Oral Roberts which acknowledges some very unflattering things about Roberts, yet concludes, “God bless Oral Roberts. He is one of God’s sheep” (p. 107). When Rice was criticized for publishing a sermon by Dr. C. M. Ward of the Assemblies of God, he responded, “Now I must, of course, help people see what the Bible teaches on the tongues question, and I must feel free to teach the truth as I see it. But can’t I recognize an earnest Christian man who loves the Lord?” (I am a Fundamentalist, p. 93).

Now, what I am pointing out doesn’t really speak to the fact of whether one ought to extend fellowship to non-cessationists or not. It speaks to the fact that it is either historical blindness or dishonesty to hold up John R. Rice as an exemplary Fundamentalist while chiding others for allowing the same things that he allowed. Frankly, I find it just plain odd that some of Rice’s biggest fans are actually embracing and articulating positions that he spilled a lot of ink rejecting and attacking. It is a sad combination of revisionist history (e.g., on the separation issue) and theology (e.g., on the KJV issue).

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