Updated: Apr 26
John R. Rice the great revivalist icon of Independent Baptist (IB) Fundamentalism (IFB), was a big leader in the Old Boys Club and a terribly compromised and heretical man for a number of important reasons. Let’s consider a few:
1. Rice the mega-church guru and despiser of small churches.
He laid the foundation for the advent of the IB mega-churches of the '70s, while mocking “bland, self-assured 'Bible teachers' preaching to little groups of saints,” and lumping “doctrinally sound sermons” with “entertaining sermons” that were “devoid of the anointing power of the Holy Spirit.” Rice considered small churches to be sinful. The level of "success" a pastor/ evangelist/ missionary/ Bible college president must achieve before he can be considered to be one of the "Anointed" ones varies from group to group. Years ago Rice honoured pastors who had baptized more than 200 converts a year.
Consider the immortal words of Rice about small churches being sinful: “It is not a sin for a church to start small. It is a sin for a church to stay small.” Wow. I’m sure that he had a chapter and verse on that one. But he didn't need one. He, after all, had a big church. Make sure you do not sin so against the Lord. Three to four hundred will not do. As Dr. Rice reminded us, the church at Jerusalem had thousands. We don’t know about any of the others, like Corinth or Ephesus, but we can assume that they did too. Otherwise, they would have been in sin, and since Paul never rebuked them for being small, they must’ve not been. Because Paul would have rebuked them if they had been small. Because it is a sin to stay small (Rice 9:2). So, get big (Rice 9:3). If you can’t get big (say you are in a town of 300 people), then move to a bigger town or bigger church, and get bigger. Mediocre pastors have no place on the platform of the Sword of the Lord. I guess there goes the unreproved church at Philadelphia (Rev 3).
The worse about that statement, is that Rice makes God to be a liar. The Bible never says anywhere what Rice is claiming here, and contrariwise, the most exalted church in the Bible might have been very small (Rev. 3:7-13), while the biggest was the worst and apostate (Rev. 3:14-22).
Rice was a neo-evangelical at heart and church growth guru, hence why all his children became neo-evangelical gurus themselves.
2. Rice promoted a corrupted gospel.
He double-spoke when it came to repentance and the gospel. He would make statements that appeared Biblically right, but then contradict himself completely, revealing his true beliefs on the subject. First of all, he never actually went any deeper than skin on the subject, if he mentioned it at all. The truth is, he actually didn’t believe in Biblical repentance one bit, for he believed faith and repentance were the same thing, and it didn’t require sorrow:
“One who believes in Christ has repented. Repentance and faith are the same thing put in different words, and neither requires a long period of time, nor a process of mourning and sorrow.” (“What Must I Do To Be Saved?”)
That is plain heresy. Repentance and faith are NOT the same thing. (Both are addressed here in Lordship Salvation is Salvation). It is true that repentance doesn’t require a long period of time but it’s not true that it doesn’t require sorrow. There is also no salvation without godly sorrow (2 Cor 7:10). Rice undermines the sorrow in repentance by creating a straw man by putting in the word “process.” 2 Cor. 7:10 says, “godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” and no man can be saved without a poor, broken and contrite heart (Matt. 5:3). Contrary to his unsubstantiated claims, not everyone that “believes in Christ has repented.” Many people “believed in Christ” in the Bible but they were unrepentant false “believers” (e.g. Jn. 2:23-25; 6:60-66; 8:31-36; 1 Jn. 2:19; Judas Iscariot; Simon Magi; Balaam; Diotrephes; etc). In Acts 8, Simon the sorcerer "believed" in Christ (v. 13) but had never repented (v. 22) and was yet lost in his sin (vv. 20-23) to which he was self- and demonically deceived (v. 24). The “devils also believe” and they even “tremble” (Jam. 2:19) but they don’t repent so they cannot be saved. According to what John R. Rice says, they could be. How naive and gullible can a person get? That same chapter in James teaches about a “dead faith” which is a faith that is not saved, an unrepentant faith that produces no godly fruit. Click here for more about Repentance.
On purpose, Sword of the Lord (organization that Rice started) would leave out biblical repentance as a necessary prerequisite for justification or salvation. So it is of no surprise that Curtis Hutson, a brash rejector and hater of Biblical repentance, was given the leadership of the Sword of the Lord (SOTL) publication (a vehicle to spread revivalism of revivalistic fundamentalism which doesn’t represent the true gospel or true sanctification). Along with the false repentance, Rice promoted and taught the decisionist techniques of the apostate Charles G. Finney (who rejected justification by faith alone) and was a major promoter of the Quick Prayerism false gospel and the big numbers of professions that were reported in the 1970s and 1980s through this methodology. And Christ’s Lordship is completely missing from any salvation presentations, relegated entirely to post-salvation for sanctification, thus promoting “another Jesus” (2 Cor 11:4).
Rice would publish Hyles or Hyles type of gospel messages (Do you want to go to heaven?!) and have a tear-out attached. If you answered yes, you were to ask the Lord to save you, tear out that card, and mail it in. Then you had assurance of eternal life. The card was like an altar call. That’s heresy and further proof of his perverted gospel. Rice argued that it is better to have 500 professions with 250 of those being genuine than to have 15 professions with 13 or 14 genuine.
“But suppose it were true that out of a church that baptized over five hundred converts in a year . . . only 250 of the 500 were actually saved. Wouldn’t that be better than a church that had fifteen professions of faith and perhaps one or two of them were not saved?” Wouldn’t you rather 250 people go to Heaven than thirteen or fourteen?” (I Am a Fundamentalist, pp. 227-228).
The most troubling aspect of this sort of pragmatic heresy is the mentality behind it.
In all, it is very apparent Rice embraced a false gospel (Gal 1:6-9). On purpose, he left out Biblical repentance and Christ' Lordship as a necessary prerequisite for justification or salvation, which results in a false gospel and false Jesus (2 Cor. 11:4). He avoided preaching a true gospel and didn’t care that he proclaimed a false one.
3. Rice clearly did not hold to the Received Text position, and opposed KJV Onlyism.
He was okay with modern versions that hack, mutilate and butcher God’s Word, such as the NIV, and the Critical Text whence it was born.
4. Rice embraced and taught the heresy of “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty.”
This popular but heretical false teaching denies tons of scripture and foundational principals of Gods Word. It’s a vehicle for ecumenicalism, which is what Rice loved. In The Sword of the Lord, Aug. 20 1976, he wrote,
“The division of lesser and weightier doctrines, essentials for Christian fellowship, and those not so essential, is scriptural.”
Rice taught that separation on the basis of “non-essentials” is “secondary separation,” which he rejected. He wrote,
“The practice of Bible saints was never secondary separation." (Sword of the Lord, Apr 13, 1979).
In his 1974 book Come Out or Stay In, Rice said that there should be no separation for “minor differences in doctrine and methods.” He said we should work with those who disagree with us on baptism, tongues, prophecy, election, and association with SBC. That’s plain heresy.
The Bible doesn’t teach ranking doctrines, there is no such thing as “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty.” The gospel is not the only doctrine essential for fellowship or unity or of importance. Rice advocated for a false unity (which he also practiced), by reducing the teachings or issues over which you will separate to a manageable number, which is really just one. Scripture on the other hand explicitly says every doctrine is essential. We don’t have even one example in Scripture of something God said being dispensable or something we can discard for “unity” sake or some “noble” cause. We are not given liberty in the Bible to disobey God (uniting with error, compromisers, heretics, apostates, cults, etc) or to believe differently than what Scripture says. Anything that God did say in His Word is primary and fundamental and is what “true believers should be united on.”
Even a “minor” issue of not working is presented as reasonable grounds for separation (2 Th 3:10-15). The Biblical version however is: “In Biblical issues, unity. In non-Biblical issues, liberty. In all things, love.” If you won’t separate over every teaching of Scripture, then you may as well fellowship with everyone no matter what their beliefs. When you rank doctrines, you are going to let teachings go like tomatoes falling off the back of a produce truck. The God of the Bible doesn’t approve of any disobedience of Him. In essence, God is left out of this discussion. It’s man-centred “theology.” Ironically, ranking doctrines doesn’t love God. God is loved by keeping all His commandments, words, and sayings (Jn 14:15, 21, 23; 1 Jn 2:3-5). You may claim to love your neighbour or “brother,” but you don’t actually love him or God (1 Jn 5:1-3). We have doctrinal and practical light and then doctrinal and practical darkness with no shades of grey in between. If everything that He says is true, then all of it is important. All of it needs to be followed.
5. Rice embraced experience over grammatical exegesis.
He believed and taught the infamous Keswick (and hence Pentecostal) heretical hermeneutics in placing experience over grammatical exegesis, especially seen through his perverted views and beliefs on the Holy Spirit. As seen here:
“We have retreated from fanaticism. We were afraid of "wild fire." And the truth is that, fearing what men would say, we have not thought enough about what God would say. We have gone in human wisdom. We have gone with educated sermons, with entertaining sermons, with doctrinally sound sermons; but, alas, we have gone without the Holy anointing, without the miracle-working, supernatural power of the Holy Spirit!”
Since the real Holy Spirit power is in the subjective experience, "what God would say" is not necessarily "doctrinally sound," and that's considered to be in harmony. No wonder IB fundamentalism is so oriented to personalities and carnal philosophies and generally less concerned (or even unconcerned) with sound doctrine!
It is actually a type of continuationism and Jack Hyles often said the same thing. It is also the same man-centred, carnal, Bible-rejecting teaching we have experienced at various revivalists-type Baptist Churches throughout the world. Being too doctrinally strict or sound might take the fun and emotion out of Christianity. Essentially these are akin to Pentecostals, only without the holy laughter and slayings. The context was Rice arguing for the need for a Spirit baptism like "Finney, Moody, and Torrey," while bashing the "Darbyites" for their "self-assured Bible teachers" and "small groups of believers" (which is sin to Rice) unaccompanied by the conversion of "harlots and drunkards." His hermeneutics was “not the case of a teaching that gains a hearing, but events that attract a following.” (Vinson Synan, “Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins,” pp. 25-27).
This dovetails well with the rampant Hylesism. It all comes down primarily to an error-filled hermeneutic in which man-determined results govern the interpretation of Scripture. I say "man-determined," because the results of living by the fruit of the Spirit, being submitted to the Lordship of Christ, and the evidence of grace-producing sanctification are not among the results used by these men to judge whether their hermeneutic is correct.
6. Rice befriended, worked with, and strongly supported the wolf in sheep’s clothing Jack Hyles.
In spite of the ravening wolf Jack Hyle’s horrible perversion of the gospel and endless false teachings and heresy and chronic adultery and other sin, Rice was close friends with him and a strong supporter, even hosting “soul winning conferences” together with him. Yep, ‘Soul winning Conference by Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,’ and he didn’t have the discernment to know the difference. Wow! Unbelievable. Rice even sold Hyles books at the Sword of the Lord, beginning with the heretical Let’s Go Soulwinning in 1962. Even if all of Hyles sexual immorality, chronic lying, and his sons sins hadn’t come fully to light while Rice was yet alive, his false gospel and massive scripture perversion and theoretic antics and dictatorship, always exposed him as a grievous wolf (Matt. 7:15; Ac. 20:29). Thus if Rice had even just an ounce of spiritual discernment and desire to please and obey God, he would’ve surely separated himself from such a ravening wolf. But he didn’t. Instead he promoted him and preached with him often, having no issues with him whatsoever.
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Am 3:3).
7. Rice pretended to be a Biblical separatist but it was all sinful and deceptive pretence.
He claimed we should work with those who disagree with the Bible on baptism, tongues, prophecy, election, and even should associate with the heretical SBC. Rice would even preach at Pentecostal meetings. There’s that ecumenicalism that I mentioned he loved.
8. Rice did not take a Biblical view of sanctification.
He consistently preached second blessing or Keswick theology which is heresy. He misused and abused plenty of salvation passages to support his sanctification. His book "The Fulness of the Spirit," a book he had written about sanctification, clashes with what the Bible teaches. He was a revivalist and a soft continuationist, noted in the same book, which would totally mess a person up on biblical sanctification, looking for a second blessing and in many ways making Acts normative for today. Rice even believed in tongues speaking and practised it for a time, which fits his pentecostal heresy on the Holy Spirit, next.
9. Rice embraced and taught error in his writings on the Holy Spirit.
In one article he wrote,
“'Anointing' is a sign of the gift of the Holy Ghost or special anointing with Holy Spirit power” which “anointing” was “an obvious picture of an enduement of power. . . . that would be a good thing for a Christian to claim and pray for” and ends the article with, “Will you pray for a fresh anointing for yourself and for me? Will you pray for a fresh anointing for yourself and for the rest of us?” (“Anointed with Fresh Oil,” Nov 3, 2017).
This is unbiblical. The unction and anointing of the Holy Spirit are not higher planes of spiritual existence. They are not special kinds of dedication and unique empowerment or enabling by God for “pastors” or “preachers.”
Rice teaches in his article that the apostles had received the Holy Spirit in John 20, when Jesus said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," but that they were anointed with fresh oil on the Day of Pentecost, "a new anointing." The Bible tells us something different though. Someone who receives Jesus Christ also receives the Holy Spirit, who indwells him the rest of his life and can never be lost for the believer. The anointing or the unction manifests itself in continuing in the right doctrine. The Holy Spirit keeps believers in the truth, so that they cannot apostatize, no matter what false doctrine a false teacher brings. If someone does turn from the faith, 1 Jn 2:19 and 3:6 say he was never saved in the first place. No one needs to pray for that anointing. He cannot lose it.
10. Rice rejected the salvation that changes a person and is supernatural and dramatic.
Rice rejected the salvation that immediately and permanently changes a person and is supernatural and dramatic and fruitful. He embraced a “salvation” that was a watered down and bastardized version of true Christianity. People could live like the world and the devil, but be saved. To get to this heretical position, he had to twist and wrest a lot of scripture such as Rom. 7 and 1 Cor. 3. His “gospel” was one of easy believism.
Because of his false gospel, he didn’t understand when someone was saved in scripture. He falsely writes,
“In the first chapter of John, verses 35 to 49, we see where Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanael were all converted, one by one, immediately by faith in Christ.”
John 1 says nothing about Andrew and Simon Peter being converted, only Philip and Nathanael (vv. 43-51). That is pure speculation and eisegesis, unscriptural hermeneutics. Furthermore, the Bible actually gives us Andrew and Peter’s testimonies of conversion, which are recorded for us in Lk. 5:1-11; Mk. 1:14-20; Matt. 4:17-22, which Peter speaks of in Matt. 19:27 and Jesus confirms in Matt. 19:29-30. This is standard Keswick heresy and revivalism, since that teaching perverts Lk. 5:1-11; Mk. 1:14-20; Matt. 4:17-22 into post-salvation “discipleship.”
11. Rice was dishonest in his publishing practices.
“In 1950, John R. Rice wrote of his editing practices, "If there are paragraphs which are not acceptable doctrinally, I indicate that they are to be left out." The Sword of the Lord, (September 22, 1950), 1. A scholarly study by Howard Moore discovered that Rice had deleted passages in many sermons, including those of Charles Finney, Talmage, and even Jonathan Edwards', "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." But, said Moore, "No other ancient worthy seems to have suffered as much from Rice's editorial license . . . as Charles H. Spurgeon." Howard Edgar Moore, "The Emergence of Moderate Fundamentalism: John R. Rice and 'The Sword of the Lord,'" Ph.D. dissertation, George Washington University, 1990, 502-10.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sword_of_the_Lord)
Concluding, John R. Rice is often touted as this great fundamentalist, but he was not who he set himself up to be. It is certainly no doubt whatsoever that Rice was at the very least a very deeply compromised man; but the more accurate analysis would be that he was in fact a deceptive heretic. That would line up with what Scripture teaches.