The Tolerance of Intolerance
by: Dr. Bob Gray Sr.
There was an amazing character trait within Dr. Jack Hyles that often appeared at particular times. Many mistakenly believe that Brother Hyles’ views became more extreme as he grew older and at the close of his ministry. I do not believe that is true.
In 1 Chronicles 7:28, God promised His blessings upon Solomon “…if he be constant…” I believe Brother Hyles’ positions remained very consistent throughout his ministry. There were issues and positions where he evolved slightly, but none drastically, and always with Bible support. We simply became of aware of them because of the attacks of others.
No one physically grows extra body parts, but the body does grow. Brother Hyles matured and grew without adding the so-called new. When asked about his growth in certain areas he simply replied to me, “Some grow and some do not.” He obviously “grew.” He was always in a teachable mode.
1 Peter 2:2 and 2 Peter 3:18 probably described Brother Hyles best, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ…” He loved the Word of God and grew because of God’s Word.
Dr. Hyles always believed that women should not wear man’s apparel, or specifically breeches, as well as dressing modestly. (Deuteronomy 22:5; 1 Timothy 2:9) It was his right to believe so and was a position he felt safe in taking based upon the Word of God. In his book, Jack Hyles Speaks On Biblical Separation, the issue of pants on women was touched on once and long hair on men only twice. (1 Corinthians 11:14) It was not a pet issue, but it was one to which he personally held.
His observations were in some ways prophetic concerning the end of the path of disobedience to the biblical separation issues of his day. He was consistently urging us to look to the end of a matter first, before deciding to take a path. Hebrews 13:7, “…whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”
In our nation we have same-sex marriages, some proposing marriage with animals, and multiple same-sex marriages. It was a bigger issue than just clothing to Dr. Hyles. His sermon on “Unisex” was prophetic. He did not want his people to take a wrong path. (Proverbs 5:4; 14:12; 23:18)
1 Peter 4:17, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”
Proverbs 27:23, “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.”
He never placed church membership requirements on this or other separation issues. He gathered around him leaders who already embraced such standards. He looked for folks who were already walking with God, not people who were made to walk with God because of a position.
Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Brother Hyles understood one of the biblical reasons for the blessings of Pentecost was leadership being on the same page and not being forced to be on the same page.
Romans 1:12, “That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
Dr. Hyles loved the bus ministry. His famous statement, “I’ll take the bus kids” has been repeated and even ridiculed thousands of times. He did love the bus ministry, even though he built his first four churches without ever having a bus ministry, and he himself never actually worked on a bus route. He actually advised many pastors not to start a bus ministry too soon or not to build it too quickly. He reached the poor, the halt, the blind and the lame because the Bible said to do so. (Luke 14:12-24)
He always loved the King James Bible. Always did! Nothing changed. Other translations were never used as anything other than referral tools in his early days. He believed in biblical inspiration and preservation through the King James Bible his entire ministry. When other translations became a distraction and detrimental to the cause of Christ, he quickly moved to the right, strengthening his position. He remained teachable and taught others what he had learned.
He loved the local church and believed in the autonomy of the local church. He believed in and practiced independence throughout his ministry even when he was in the Southern Baptist Convention. His position never wavered on this issue.
Nothing drastically changed regarding his beliefs in these and other issues in his ministry. He grew like all great men, but never demanded that others grow as he grew. However, in all of these areas he practiced great tolerance with others whose ideas were not totally aligned with his.
There were many good men with whom he preached and fellowshipped who did not align with him totally on some of these issues. They were tolerant of him and he of them. They loved each other. They held each other in high regard and showed great respect towards one another. They were brothers in their love of the Word and in reaching the lost.
Did something change in his later ministry? Yes, it most definitely did. Did Dr. Hyles become stronger on things? No! He became more knowledgeable as he grew, while remaining tolerant of others who had not arrived at his same conclusions. He merely responded to intolerance of others while holding the same belief system. (Romans 14:1-5)
Did these become pet issues to him that defined him? The answer is absolutely not! Then what changed, you may be wondering? It does seem that he spoke out more vehemently about these at the end of his life than he had earlier. The answer is simple and it is built around a principle by which he lived his life.
The extremes of Dr. Hyles’ positions were defined by the level of tolerance or intolerance others had for that position. Dr. Hyles had no desire to control others and he was comfortable with their choices. Some pastor friends did not take his position regarding pants on women, and he tolerated that. Romans 14:5, “…Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
2 Timothy 2:1-2, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
He was not compelled, nor ever felt compelled, to push his choices on other men of God. The level of tolerance or intolerance was coming toward him, but never from him. He only committed to teaching those who wanted what he had to offer. He was perfectly comfortable within the confines of his church and Pastors’ School to teach and preach his beliefs. Others wanted what he had been given by God, and only to that extent did he respond to their request.
Hebrews 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
Each church is indigenous as well as the pastor of that church. The local pastor is independent of other pastors and their churches. There is no such thing as a denomination in the Scriptures, only local churches. Each pastor must give an account to God for every soul under his leadership. We have no pope or denominational headquarters on Earth.
1 Peter 4:11, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” We are not all alike in our positions on separation, but we are all alike in God’s call for separation from the world.
Romans 1:1, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” We are to separate from the world UNTO the Gospel of God. Each man of God must determine biblical boundaries for his ministry from the world in order to help his people navigate through this world’s system.
Some men of God did not run buses, and Brother Hyles was fine with their choice. Some were silent regarding their exclusive use of the King James Bible, so that would not be a point of contention. Some close preacher friends held somewhat differing views on the local church, and he did not shun them for that. Both sides practiced tolerance. This biblical truth of independence allowed him to be a good steward of the manifold grace of God.
If you study the men with whom Dr. Hyles was close, you would see a diversity of ideals and beliefs that was staggering. Men such as Bob Jones, Sr., Myron Cedarholm, G. B. Vick, Bill Dowell, John R. Rice, Lester Roloff, Lee Roberson, Curtis Hutson, Bill Rice, R. G. Lee, J. Harold Smith, Harold Sightler and many others were all very close friends and enjoyed great fellowship with one another. There was no dissension between these men and Dr. Hyles.
Even men like W. A. Criswell were men he respected and with whom he shared great similarities. Dr. Hyles was never intolerant of the choices these men made that differed with his own as long as they were not over important doctrinal issues. He did not leave the Southern Baptist Convention, nor did he turn on the men with whom he was friends. The SBC left him. His friends left him. Jack Hyles remained cordial with many Southern Baptists throughout his life and remained very close to R. G. Lee until his death. He had him preach for him many times, and R. G. Lee wrote the introduction to The Hyles Church Manual.
Please do not miss this: Dr. Hyles tolerated differences as long as his were tolerated. When the biblical independence was violated he stood for his right to be independent. When the things he believed in were attacked, he set out on a different course. He was an independent’s independent. He valued it for himself and guarded it for others. The reason was because of Hebrews 13:17 that he did such. Ultimately it affected his people he pastored and he could not allow it to happen.
Yet, when threatened by those who became intolerant of his differences and attempted to destroy something he stood for and believed in, he would become very vocal and make it an issue because it was an attack on his independence.
Acts 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
When those who did not take his position on women’s clothing began to attack his right to take his position, he took a stronger position. He defied anyone to infringe on his right to believe what he believed. Why? Because of the dear people he pastored and ultimately for whom he was accountable to God.
It was fine that many men did not approach the issue of women wearing pants as he did, but when they made it an issue he came out fighting. Dr. Hyles did not separate with anyone over that issue, but he fought those who reviled his position. The greats of the past were not men who did that to each other.
When men began to launch an attack against the King James Bible as a support for their own position, he saw the need to fight. Their intolerance became an attack on others’ tolerance. Dr. Hyles was not going to allow others to attack his Bible because of their decision to use other versions.
For example, he would not have attacked a preacher for his position until he slandered the King James Bible with assertions of it lacking inspiration in print. That would have brought out the fight in him, just as it did in many of us.
Some men’s intolerance is like waving a red flag to a bull in the rodeo ring. The truth is, there are several leaders who agreed with a recent pastor of a mega-church, but did not want anyone to know it. They chose to be tolerant when they should have been intolerant.
Proverbs 22:28, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”
When the bus ministry came under attack from men who thought it to be a shallow way to reach souls, Brother Hyles came out fighting. His idea was that it was fine if you did not want to have a bus ministry. It is your business what you do at your church, but if you attack others who believe in the bus ministry, Brother Hyles felt you were starting a fight.
He never chose the bus kids over the rich people. He merely refused to allow the rich people to pressure him into forsaking the bus kids. Had the bus kids said, “If you do not get rid of all these rich people we are leaving,” I believe Dr. Hyles then would have said, “I’ll take the rich people!”
Dr. Hyles was not afraid to fight for an issue, but he did not start the fights. Others looked for fights over issues while he accepted fights over his right to do what he felt God wanted him to do. Independence was always important to him. He was tolerant of others as long as they were tolerant of him.
The minute they sought to force him into a corner, look out! He did not think the bus ministry was the only ministry, nor did he think it was the most important ministry. When others began to take positions against the bus ministry and even fight them, he put on the gloves for a fight.
Dr. Hyles remained silent if a man differed in some of his ideas regarding the local church, but if that man began to be intolerant of what he believed to be true about the church, he took up the fight. If you wanted to be a Southern Baptist, he was fine with that choice for you, but if you attacked his right to be independent he would fight for his independence. In essence, Dr. Hyles did not pick fights; they picked him. Let me give you a few examples.
The first example was the right of a church to govern itself. Dr. Hyles held strong beliefs regarding the autonomy of a local church. If you did not agree with his beliefs that was fine. However, when those men who differed moved to intolerance, he entered the fray with total commitment.
Another example was the right to have the standards you believe are right. Dr. Hyles was far from being legalistic. He loved everybody. He never embarrassed women who came into the church building wearing pants. It was never really an issue to him, but when some evangelicals decided to attack anyone who believed as he did, he made it an issue. The issue was bigger than pants; it was his right to have his standards. He was tolerant until intolerance went on the attack.
The attack against the bus ministry was another example of him going on the offensive. Dr. Hyles loved the bus ministry, but he loved all ministries that reached souls for Christ. It was not his pet ministry. Some churches were unbalanced in their approach to the bus ministry, and in some cases, used buses to perhaps just to have a bigger attendance. He had never dedicated a service just to promote the bus ministry until the year when some individuals began to take pot shots at the bus ministry.
It was then that he made it an emphasis. Actually, they made it an issue, not him. He knew the lives that had been reached and transformed because of the bus ministry, and he was not going to allow some critic to tear down the right of churches to gladly operate bus ministries. It was then he took an entire service at Pastors’ School and promoted churches to commit to start and build the bus ministry.
The right to promote confrontational soul winning was one that brought out the fight in him. When the crowd who taught lifestyle evangelism decided that it was the best way for them to reach the lost, Dr. Hyles was not angry. He believed in lifestyle evangelism as a method of reaching people for Christ. When the proponents of that form of soul winning attacked personal confrontational soul winning, he went to war. His objection was not against their method, but their tyranny and intolerance.
This may shock you, but Dr. Jack Hyles preached some expository messages. Today we have young upstarts preaching against topical preaching while shooting their venom at Dr. Hyles’ way of preaching. He was a defender of topical preaching because of the intolerance. Yet the truth is he was not against expository messages.
Dr. Hyles did not believe in pet issues and warned us against them. Back in the 1950’s he took a fighting stance for the pre-millennial position not just to take a position, but also to defend it against the attacks. The attacks against were strong at the time and were gaining a foothold in his convention. Perhaps his only real “pet issue” was his right to be independent. When threatened, he fought back. Fight his right to take a position and you just got yourself into a fight.
He allowed others the freedom to differ from him, but not to dictate him, nor did he desire to dictate to them. Did he try to influence them? He absolutely did, BUT not with anger, threats or unkindness. When Dr. Hyles preached for others, he did his best not to preach his beliefs over theirs. He was a gentleman and a Christian.
1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”
I remember the time when Dr. Hyles came to fight against intolerance for me. Someone had written an article criticizing our soul winning methods at the Longview Baptist Temple. They questioned where all our converts were. To Dr. Hyles, the issue was not whether he did or did not agree with all our methods. The issue was that the critics were being intolerant because they, in essence, decided our methods were not acceptable to them, even though they really did not fully know our methods.
It was then that he wrote the article, “Where Are the Nine?” If you read that article very carefully, you will see the real fight he had undertaken was not at all about methods. It was about independence and intolerance. He also preached this as a sermon at the National Bus Conference.
There were three major national articles written against our bus ministry and soul winning. Dr. Hyles came to my defense and refuted those articles. The truth is he was fighting intolerance and supporting independence more than defending our ministry and me.
As I look back on the life of Dr. Hyles, he has been wrongly portrayed as a man who fought over minor issues or what they called “hobby horse” issues. Not only is that untrue, but I have never known a more tolerant man than he. The fight was much bigger than the issues. The fight was over the right to be independent to practice what you believed God would have you to do without judging another who did it differently.
John 21:21-22, “Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow me.”
If issues, such as pants on the females, had really been such a big issue to him, many men would have never spoken for or with him. He was bigger than that. What was intolerable to him was not his differences with others, but their intolerances with him.
Let us not forget the fight against us is not really a fight of issues because Satan cannot win that fight. It is a fight of distraction. Dr. Hyles knew that, as did the great men with whom he fellowshipped long ago which is why their fight was not over their differences. Don’t allow the enemy to bait you into missing the bigger point of protecting your right to take the stand you believe is right.
Dr. Bob Gray Sr.