Dr. Robert Sumner passed away in December 2016. The Biblical Evangelist newspaper is no longer being published and the ministry of Biblical Evangelism has ceased operation.

The remaining inventory of his books and gospel tracts was transferred to The Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles and may be ordered here.


Off the Cuff! (Part 1 of 6)
Dr. Robert L. Sumner, Editor

We have a sermon this time from the heart and pen of a preacher that many of today’s Christians never heard preach – or, perhaps, of whom they never heard – for which we can only lament, “The more’s a pity!” James McGinley (called “Jim” by his friends) was a charming, popular speaker and a big hit on the Bible conference circuit. He was a favorite of one of my roommates at seminary, Heber VanGilder, Jr.

Born in Scotland, his brogue was part of his charm. He started his ministry pastoring in Canada and then came to the United States (Brooklyn’s Baptist Temple). From there he went into evangelism and conference ministry, a big repeater in places like the Moody Bible Institute’s Founders Week and the Winona Lake summer conferences. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage, in his hotel room, at the young age of 57.

If you like this one, we have more we can print.

What would you think of a pastor who preached for over sixty years at the same church? One of our writers in this issue, William Jay, did exactly that! He started a pastorate at the nonconformist (independent) Argyle Chapel at Bath, England, on January 30, 1791, and concluded his ministry in January 1853, several months before his death. In his day he was considered one of the most eminent and articulate Congregationalist preachers in England.

Considered a revivalist preacher, he was one of the first independents to clearly and lucidly explain the ‘great awakening’ under George Whitefield and John Wesley. For a short time prior to his Bath pastorate he filled the pulpit at Rowland Hill’s Surrey Chapel in London, followed by pastorates of two and one year at Christian Malford and Hope Chapel respectively. Before reaching age 21 he had preached over 1,000 times!

The book from which this issue’s sermon came was Short Discourses to be Read in Families, published in 1807 and given to me by a former employee, Becky Vradenburgh.

The Bible Study Corner contains portraits of the Messiah by a man who lived and breathed Jewish evangelism, my longtime friend, Gerald V. Smelser. He was a fellow board member at what is now Cedarville University. When my son had an educational unit built on his church, the Prophet’s Chamber was named in his honor.

There is also an article from one of the most knowledgeable men alive about the roots of American history, David Barton, director of Wall Builders. It is not intended as a political message, but as an honest evaluation and examination regarding our country of the man currently in the White House. It is shocking, startling, an obvious warning and wake-up call for the nation. Read it carefully and note the documentation, for which we did not want to use the space but felt some would not believe the article without it.

The editor’s contribution for this issue is a hard-hitting, pleading evangelistic message addressed to anyone not already saved and ready for Heaven. It is a special message from God Himself to such an individual. Read it yourself and then share it with those who need it.

MEMORIALS

He had a beautiful tenor voice but he didn’t know it until after he was discharged from the Army and was a student at the Denver Bible Institute. Born at Glenco (OH) to Swedish immigrants (the baby of a dozen kids) and a star football player at Struthers High School, William Paul “Billy” Renstrom, entered the Army after graduation and arrived at Normandy Beach as a mere kid, 18 years old.

Serving in Patton’s Third Army, days after his 20th birthday he was involved with a landmine and shrapnel embedded his face, arms and legs – along with internal injuries. He was completely blind in one eye and almost blind in the other. While he could see light, for all practical purposes he was blind.

Things like this cause one of two responses, one good and one bad. In his case it brought him closer to Christ and he rededicated his life to his Savior. After his discharge, he and his brother Roy took off for the Denver Bible Institute. That’s when he discovered his musical talent and developed a lifelong passion for music. That was also where he met, wooed and won his life mate, Ruby Harwood.

They married in 1947 and Billy was called to his first church at Boone (CO). Later he was invited to teach at the Western Bible Institute in Morrison (CO). Then the pair went to Denver’s Central Bible Church where he ministered as Associate Pastor & Music Director. Next, the late Dr. Bill Rice, founder of Cumberwood, a ranch for deaf youth, invited him to join his team and he traveled with him for the next 10 years.

It was in the middle of that ministry that the Veteran’s Hospital in Nashville arranged for a Vanderbilt University eye surgeon to operate on his eyes. Thinking at first it was a failure, Billy was able to see again – after 31 years of blindness!

In 1980 the couple moved to Florida and started their own evangelist team and then he was called as Associate Pastor and Music Director at the Community Baptist Church in Seffner (FL). In failing health the last couple of decades of his life, the pair moved back to Colorado. He contracted cancer and efforts for a cure failed; the physicians put him in a hospice where, a few days after his 87th birthday, the battle ended and he, in the words of his favorite gospel song (“When We See Christ” by Esther Kerr Rusthoi), found it was worth it all when he saw Christ!

In addition to his wife of 67 years, Ruby, he is survived by four children, nine grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren. Memorial services were conducted at Ridgeview Baptist Church, 3810 Youngfield Street, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033. We have given the church’s address because the family requested, in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts be sent to the church.

We agree with the assessment of one obituary we saw: “His life was characterized by his deep faith, love for his Lord and family, a tender heart, never-ending smile, hearty chuckle, and non-stop jokes.”

*****

One of the founding fathers and leaders in the Baptist Bible Fellowship went to be with Christ in early February and was buried on Valentine’s Day. Richard Herbert Fitzpatrick – “Herb” to most of his friends (and he had many) – was a man dedicated to Christ who got whatever job he was given to do done and done right the first time.

When I first heard of him he was the pastor (and founder) of the Calvary Baptist Church in Connersville, Indiana. Starting with 13 members, he built it to the size where Dr. Elmer Towns listed it as one of the 100 largest churches in America. From there he went to the Riverdale Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro (MD), staying there for a little over a third of a century (1964-1998).

When he started his ministry in Maryland, the church had less than 300 members, but under Fitzpatrick’s leadership it went on to become one of the nation’s first mega-churches, attendance exceeding 3,000 every Sunday. He was well known in the area of our nation’s capital, especially due to his telecast, The Riverdale Baptist Hour. Dr. Towns listed Riverdale as one of the 10 fastest growing churches in the country in his America’s Fastest Growing Churches, published in 1972. And he noted, “Fitzpatrick was the first pastor to lead two different churches to be listed among the largest churches in America.”

Dr. Fitzpatrick was invited, in 1976, to join the board of what now is Liberty University and he remained on the Executive Committee until his death. It may have been one of founding Falwell’s better moves. Why? Because in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the school and church went through that terrible financial crisis, Fitzpatrick had his Riverdale church loan Liberty $2 million. Talking about it today, the current Chancellor, Jerry Falwell, Jr., said, “That loan was a significant factor in Liberty’s financial recovery and ultimate prosperity as an institution … Dr. Fitzpatrick went out on a limb for Liberty when it faced its hour of greatest need. My father and I deeply appreciated Herb’s friendship and his love for and loyalty to the mission of Liberty University.”

He showed his love and loyalty to the school in other ways as well. During the school’s second year he had 10 students and the third year over 20 of his young people were on campus. Towns said, “No other pastor supported Liberty as great as he did in the early days. Over the years no church has sent more students to Liberty University than Dr. Fitzpatrick’s church.”

Fitzpatrick is survived by his wife of 61 years, Lois Bartlett Fitzpatrick. Two children, Dr. Jeri E. Fitzpatrick and James R. Fitzpatrick, also survive. Memorial services were held at Riverdale and in Roanoke, Virginia. Burial was at the Walden-Fitzpatrick family cemetery in Bright’s Corner (VA). 

*****

A former African ‘bush pilot’ went to Heaven on Valentine’s Day. Julius Theophilus “J. T." Lyons, the youngest son of a dozen children and a World War II Navy veteran served as a missionary to Liberia for 18 years and then spent another 17 years pioneering the Mission’s work in Spain.

In 1947, a year after his discharge from the Navy, he married Iva Janet Driggers and God blessed that union with four sons. J. T. and Iva were both saved three weeks before Christmas in 1955. Feeling called of God to preach the night he got saved, the couple went to Tennessee Temple College the following year. It was during a mission conference there that the couple surrendered their lives for service in Liberia – and they left for that country after graduation under Baptist Mid-Missions. He served in Africa not only as a bush pilot, but mechanic, builder and preacher of the gospel. After nearly two decades in Liberia the couple transferred to Spain where they pioneered the Baptist Mid-Missions work in that country. Health problems forced them back to the States and J. T. ministered here until his Homegoing.

Dr. Lyons is survived by his wife, Iva Janet; four sons, Steven Randolph, Sanford Leroy, Michael Dean and Jonathan David; ten grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His memorial service was conducted at the Woodland Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, with his son Rev. Jonathan David Lyons and Rev. Tim Gammons in charge. The VFW Memorial Honor Guard provided Military Honors.

The family requested, in lieu of flowers, memorial funds be given to the Woodland Baptist Church Building Fund, 1175 Bethania-Rural Hall Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27105.

*****

He was the pastor of a great church, one we seminary boys liked to take our girlfriends to and from on Sunday night because it was a long, dark walk from our quarters to and from it: Park Avenue Baptist Church in Binghamton (NY). So when George Carapelle, who went to Heaven recently, invited me to conduct a two-week crusade there in October of 1966, I accepted it as a real honor even though I had been at greater and more prestigious churches quite often.

In fact, one of the most embarrassing events of my long ministry took place there when I failed to make the first service, something that happened less than a half-dozen times in my long career. I was driving my own car and I was in the area in plenty of time. However, while I could easily see the big neon sign of the church from the road on the north side of the Susquehanna River, I couldn’t find my way across it. While I had known how to walk there from my seminary city, driving was a completely different thing (and there was no GPS available in 1966). When I did get across the river, the many turns and cuts made it impossible for me to get back to a place where I could visibly see the church. Talk about frustrating! I finally did arrive at the church about the time Carapelle was finishing his extemporary message. We did have a good meeting, as I now recall.

George, who pastored churches in Massachusetts and North Carolina, as well as New York, was perhaps best (and nationally) known for his battle with the Southern Baptist Convention during his Carolina pastorate of the Westview Baptist Church at Rocky Mount. Leadership in the North Carolina Baptist Convention was very liberal in the mid-century 1900s and he first exposed the liberalism, then led his church to vote out of it.

The Southern Baptists – along with all Baptists historically – have been notoriously famous for believing in and standing for the autonomy of the local church (it is one of the main distinctives in the Baptist creed). Yet, surprisingly, the Carolina Baptists went to court and demanded the property, saying it had always been in the Convention and when it voted out, the people could do as they pleased, but the property belonged to it. There was not a leg for them to stand on, biblically, denominationally, or morally.

It was quite a fight! A lot of bigwigs went to North Carolina to testify for the defense, including the late Dr. Robert T. Ketcham. George and his people won the case.

His first wife, Edna, with whom he had three daughters, preceded him in death. The girls (Catherine C. Strawn, Donna C. Gray and Beverly Carapelle) survive him, as does his second wife of 21 years, Patricia. He is also survived by eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

*****

The noted artist, Thomas Kincaid, died at his Northern California home on “Good Friday.” He was well known for the “light” in his paintings; in fact, he called himself, “Painter of Light.” Every window showed a light inside all the buildings he painted. Most of his paintings featured cottages, churches or gardens. In addition, he put his wife’s initials on every painting, which honored her.

His paintings and spin-off products brought in an annual income of some $100 million a year in sales. Kincaid’s paintings were said to be in some 10 million homes, just in the United States alone.

He was only 54 years of age at the time of his decease. The cause of death was from a lifelong problem which he battled unsuccessfully.

MILESTONES

Half-Century: your editor and Cedarville University. Back in 1962, at the invitation of President Dr. James T. Jeremiah and the board of trustees at Cedarville College, I became a trustee of this Baptist institution. Founded in January of 1887 as a school affiliated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, by 1953 the school had fallen on hard times, both from the standpoint of finances and student body (the two do go together). An orthodox and evangelical school in Cedarville (OH), it sought some group with the same basic convictions. Eventually it turned to the Baptist Bible Institute of Cleveland which, at that time I believe, was mostly an evening school looking to expand.

The trustee boards got together, the college became a Baptist institution, and the latter called Jim Jeremiah, then serving as a pastor in nearby Dayton, as its first president. It was a brilliant choice and under his leadership, the college about to die became a thriving institution. Within six years with Jim at the helm, there was a student body of over 350. In another half-dozen years the latter had grown to 763 and when Dr. Jeremiah retired after 25 years at the helm, it totaled over 1,200 students.

To replace Jeremiah, the school turned to a popular and successful young evangelist, Paul Dixon. He, too, was God’s man and under his leadership during another quarter-century the on-campus student body grew to nearly 3,000. At the turn of the century, Cedarville had become a university and in 2003, on Dr. Dixon’s retirement, Dr. William Brown was called to lead the school. Brown was president of Bryon College at the time. Today the school has been turning out evangelical leaders for 125 years and the student body has grown to 3,300. (It is celebrating its 125th Anniversary this year with several special events!)

For many years I served the trustee board on the Academic Committee and later with the Student Life Committee. I could write a book about my experiences with the school (but I promise not to). I developed a real friendship over the years with several men on the board, most of whom have already accepted retirement in Heaven.

I resigned as a trustee in 1987 at age 65 (at the time, a normal retirement age for most in various positions). Shortly thereafter, the school honored me with the position of Trustee Emeriti, which I have held since that time.

Admittedly, as I am about to celebrate my 90th birthday, I have not been as active as in the early days. While I could still find my way around the ever-expanding campus, that walk would not see me recognizing many faculty or administration faces. When we passed we might smile and speak, with both thinking, “Who in the world was that?”

Let me close this trip down memory lane by quoting the university’s mission statement: “Cedarville University is a Christ-centered learning community equipping students for lifelong leadership and service through an education marked by excellence and grounded in biblical truth.”

*****

Congratulations are in order to our friend, Dr. O. S. Hawkins, president and CEO of GuideStone Financial Resources, on winning the prestigious Lipper trophy for Best Overall Small Fund Group in the United States. The latter recognizes a standard of excellence that GuideStone, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, pursues in a consistent manner as it seeks to honor Christ and His Word.

GuideStone is the first ever Christian-based, socially screened fund family to win the prestigious Lipper trophy. Lipper awards “the recognition to one company annually with assets under management up to $40 billion based on consistent risk-adjusted returns.” The trophy was granted during an awards dinner sponsored by the Wall Street Journal at a dinner in New York City last March attended by several of the GuideStone officers.

*****

Leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention said some were concerned their name kept people from coming to Christ and suggested changing it. That was certainly a noble aim for change, even though we doubt it was very accurate. In my experience, most of the people I have won to Christ would have gotten saved even if I told them I was from the Goose Creek Goosers Church. The name of the church I represented was very incidental; it was the message I presented that did the job – both in the half-century plus that I was an evangelist, and in the years I served as a pastor.

Be that as it may, SBC President Bryant Wright appointed a task force (committee) consisting of current and past SBC leaders to investigate the matter and make a recommendation to the convention. It settled on keeping “Southern Baptist Convention” as the legal name (too many problems associated with messing with it), but also adding “Great Commission Baptists” for those who choose to use it. (You know, something like novelist Mary Anne Evans using the pen name George Eliot! She thought using a masculine name would give her more respect – and apparently the Baptists think the same with their new name. Alas, another reason was that she had something to hide; she lived for two decades with a man married to another woman, George Henry Lewes, and she was afraid her secret would get out and ruin book sales. The SBC has no such secret fears!)

The convention leaders had asked for suggestions and these were the top five, with the times suggested in parenthesis (the one chosen was the fifth most popular among the suggestions): Global Baptist Convention (85 suggestions); International Baptist Convention (58); United Baptist Convention (30);  Evangelical Baptist Convention (25); Great Commission Baptist Convention (23); North American Baptist Convention (23); The Baptist Convention (23); American Baptist Convention (22); World Baptist Convention (19); and, Worldwide Baptist Convention (19). You will note that several of the suggested names were very close to the names of denominations already out there and they were wise not to choose them.

When the full convention meet in June a final decision will be made.

*****

In an early February meeting at an airport hotel, the trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention's Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, accepted the resignation, offered before the meeting commenced, of the seminary's president, Dr. R. Philip Roberts, effective at the end of that month. They appointed, as acting president, Robin Hadaway, the school's associate professor of missions, and he was to serve at least through the April board meeting.

Roberts, who had held the position for eleven years, was "facing questions about misuse of seminary resources and verbal abuse of seminary staff." Roberts remains on the seminary board. He was Midwestern's fourth president.

At one juncture of the meeting, Wayne Lee of Southlake (TX) resigned as chairman of the executive committee and was replaced by Kevin Shrum of Madison (TN).

*****

While he carries a ministry load that says he is a young man, his birth certificate belies the claim. We salute Louis Arnold of Nicholasville (KY) for celebrating his 98th birthday in January at the Clays Mill Road Baptist Church in Lexington.

An evangelist for as long as I have known of him, last year Dr. Arnold preached in more than 40 churches and camp meetings. He also conducts a powerful radio broadcast on WHBN five days a week, Monday through Friday at 12:15 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. The programs may also be heard on the internet.

Dr. Arnold has also written a number of books, several of which we have reviewed in the past, including Christian fiction. All of his books have been well received.

*****

Another birthday milestone relates to Harold Willmington, who, on April 7, reached the “blessed” threescore plus ten “by reason of strength” mentioned in Psalm 90:10. One of the late Jerry Falwell’s last acts was to move that Liberty’s Bible school be renamed the Willmington School of the Bible in his honor.

Dr. Willmington has written a number of outstanding books (see, for example, this issue’s book review section) and has given his life to the training of young men and young women in the truths of the Blessed Book. May his days be lengthened more and his tribe increase.

*****

One of our nation’s fine Christian singers, Steven Curtis Chapman, recently celebrated a quarter of a century in Christian music. He has been commemorating the occasion by presenting a 'one-take performance’ of one of his songs and the story behind it on alternating Thursdays at stevencurtischapman.com/scc25.

Each performance will be available for 25 days, then removed. He calls it his "Twenty Five" series. Baptist Press reports: "In his 25 years of music, Chapman has amassed 46 No. 1 singles, 56 Dove Awards, five Grammy awards and more than 200 songs on 17 original albums. He has sold more than 10 million records, and his Show HOPE ministry to help families reduce the financial barrier of adoption has provided grants to more than 2,700 families since 2001."

MANY CALLED; FEW CHOSEN

Alas, like many others, I receive unwanted and unsolicited e-mails by the dozens (thank God for the ‘delete’ button on my computer). One I recently received (from a rabid, hyper-Calvinist source) was advertising a book featuring a debate (it is easier and less tiring for Calvinists to debate than go out soul winning; thank God, however, for the many that do go out seeking to reach the lost).

The ad started, “The Lord Jesus said, ‘many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matt. 22:14). The obvious implication is that the one who does the choosing also does the calling.”

 Obvious? To whom? I have no problem with that if the context is followed: service! It is when a preacher tries to take it out of context and make it, as this one did in his promo, a matter of salvation.

In that case, it certainly is not plain at all, at least not as the only factor and certainly not as the writer implied. But the ad went on, “Or, to put it another way, who controls salvation? Is salvation the result of a sovereign act of God or is it the result of man’s supposed free-will?” (Why ‘either/or’ and not ‘both’?)

As usual, many Calvinists prefer making up their own language rather than using Bible terminology. Here the reference is to “Man’s supposed free-will.” Where does the Bible use that language? Not once. Nada. Never. It does speak of “whosoever will,” but you’ll never catch a Calvinist using that language (either in or out of a debate). It would ruin everything for him. But saying “man’s supposed free-will,” he feels like that is a winner every time.

You probably have a Bible concordance on your computer. Check it out. How many times does it speak of “free-will”? Not one single time, either in the Old or New Testament!

Check how many times it speaks of “whosoever will.” Eleven times in nine verses in the New Testament and twice in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 18:19 and Ezra 7:26).

But what about, as the ad went on to note, “Those who embrace Reformed Theology [here is one of the major problems; it is ‘Reformed Theology,’ not Biblical Theology – Editor] believe that God both calls and chooses and that He does not call and choose every single person because the word ‘many’ limits the nature and extent of this action. Because man is dead in sin, it takes a sovereign act of God, and God alone (Monergism), to achieve salvation on fallen man’s part.”

Ah, a good point. How could a dead man obey the “whosoever will” command?

Well, perhaps it is not such a good point after all. Regarding those lost dead men, John 1 says about Jesus Christ: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (Vss. 9-14, emphasis added).

We have quoted an extended passage so you can see that the context is dealing with salvation. And what does verse 9 say about the True Light: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” So every single lost person (dead in sin) coming into the world is given light by God in the area of salvation! If God gave each one light, then dead men can obviously receive light!

Not only so, but our Lord Jesus Christ, talking about His atoning death on Calvary, said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me,” the Holy Spirit adding the explanation, “This he said, signifying what death he should die” (John 12:32, 33, emphasis added).

So, regarding lost people dead in trespasses and sins, not only are all given some light but, thanks to the atonement at the cross, the Savior draws each and every one of them. Not only can dead men receive light, they can be drawn by the Savior. These two solid biblical facts mean that dead people can, indeed, respond to the One who calls and also invites “whosoever will” to respond through faith in Him.

“Man’s free will,” meaning the controlling action in salvation is exclusively on his part? Or, to put it another way, as the ad in question did, “Arminianism [alas, remember that the rabid Calvinist makes up his own definitions as he goes along; to him an Arminian is everyone and anyone who doesn’t accept his brand of Calvinism – Editor] has a different view. Though they maintain that man is dead in sin, they still believe that man has a choice and, in the end, it is man’s sovereign choice, not God’s, which ultimately determines who is saved” (emphasis added).

But if the Son of God died for the lost man, gave him light to respond, and then drew him sufficiently to make it possible to respond, how is it “in the end, man’s sovereign choice, not God’s”? That certainly looks and sounds like the biblical plan is “to God be the glory” to me!

Ah, details, details. That is not important, the Calvinist tells his disciples.

Obviously, according to this short Bible study, what a lost/dead person can do spiritually is different from what a lost/dead person can do physically. By way of example, the lost/dead man in Luke 16:19-31 was not limited in his response. He was dead, yes, but that deadness was not annihilation. He was obviously more than a corpse. He was able to – and did – speak, hear, feel, thirst and otherwise respond in ways a physically dead man could not.

Folks, let’s go as far as God goes in interpreting biblical language – and no further! It is, by the way, due to this erroneous understanding of spiritual deadness that causes otherwise intelligent men to insist a lost person must be born again (converted, saved) before he can trust Christ. Nonsense. That idea is completely without biblical foundation. Earlier Christians believed no such thing; it is a late invention to accommodate hyper-Calvinism. Necessity is the mother of invention and this is the mother/invention of a group helpless to defend its position on the Word of God alone.