I have been working on this review in various forms of drafts and notes for about a month and a half now. I don’t often accept offers and open blog posts to do Pre-Release book reviews, but I liked the potential this book brought to the table.
Why this book?
I come from conservative Southern Baptist roots. I have spent some time in Independent Baptist churches growing up. I have many friends that are Independent Fundamentalist Baptist. I am familiar with names and theology of those like J. Frank Norris, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Jack Hyles, Bob Jones, and John R. Rice (The basis of this book). I just wasn’t always sure who ran with who and who were working together.
Andrew Himes does a brilliant job of story-telling in this book. You follow his family lineage all the way from pre-revolutionary war days, to the civil war, to the Death of John R. Rice to the present day. You see his journey in bits and pieces all throughout the book (more on this in a bit). There is much for the history buff in this book. He did a wonderful job of bringing you in as “part of the family”. I found the Civil War history to be very well told, and I could envision where the family plantation was located (having spent time in ministry in Lafayette County, Missouri).
Andrew also does a great job of capturing and tying together the various fragments of the fundamentalist movement and what precipitated the theology that was contained within it. He does a very good job of distinguishing between doctrines, theology, traditions, and preferences in this book (sometimes a very daunting task in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist world).
Andrew does not shy away from the difficult topics of Fundamentalism. The legacy of racism and segregation were very present in the pages of this book. He also addressed how John R. Rice dealt with topics such as the civil right movement, feminism, and the Vietnam War.
God’s Word is a story of redemption, of making things that were once broken, whole again. The book pulls no punches about Andrew’a experience as a prodigal son and his journey back to God and his family after years of running away. I love stories that show God’s power in how He can restore relationships that we think are forever destroyed. This is one of them.
This book gives you a lot. History, personal journey, theology and doctrine are all there. It is a worthy read in my opinion. Read it and see what God does with your view of Fundamentalism. Did it make me one? No. Did it help me further understand how I can co-labor with them in building the Kingdom of God? Yes.