Carl McIntire, Jan. 1957
McIntire was one of the students who left Princeton Theological Seminary in 1938 with J. Grecham Machen and others to form Westminster Seminary and the Bible Presbyterian Church. They were separating from theological liberalism.
McIntire’s parents, Charles and Hettie, intended to go to China as missionaries when Charles graduated from Princeton, but as they were waiting to embark from San Francisco, Charles fell ill and they had to cancel the plan. Charles became a pastor in Salt Lake City, instead, and Hettie did evangelistic work among Native Americans and Mormons. When Carl was six, Charles had a mental breakdown and had to be hospitalized. “[H]is persistent mental difficulties led to a series of delusionary episodes that forced him to seek prolonged refuge in a mental asylum” (Markku Ruotsila, Fighting Fundamentalist). Eventually Carl’s parents were divorced and his mother raised the children alone in Oklahoma. She had memorized the book of Proverbs in college and taught it to her four children. She also taught them how to pray in faith. When an Aunt Lucy lost a valuable stone from her ring, they had a family prayer meeting to request its recovery. “The next morning young Carl was sent to the yard to wring the neck of a chicken for that day’s dinner--and there it was, inside that chicken he had picked at random, the lost gem” (Ruotsila). It was Hettie that introduced her children to dispensational theology from teaching she had picked up from the Bible prophecy movement that was percolating all over the country. One influence was Arno Gaebelein’s Our Hope magazine.
McIntire married Fairy Davis of Texas, and they had three children, a boy and two girls. “From the start theirs was a partnership, for by all accounts he had great respect for the opinions of the woman whom others described as smart, practical, and orderly” (Ruotsila).
As the pastor of the Bible Presbyterian Church in Collingswood, New Jersey, McIntire was a traditional Calvinist Presbyterian who held to the Westminster Confession of Faith, except for a literal view of prophecy. He often preached systematically and exegetically through books. He encouraged his members to read through the Bible annually. The church had an active Sunday School and an evangelistic Summer Bible School that ran four weeks each summer.
McIntire was a crusader who had a large influence through radio and the printed page. In 1936, he began publishing the Christian Beacon weekly magazine, which had a circulation of 10,000 by 1940 and reached 650,000 at its peak in the 1980s. In 1955, he founded the Twentieth-Century Reformation Hour radio broadcast, which was eventually heard on more than 600 stations in the United States and on shortwave worldwide. In 1962, McIntire purchased the Admiral Hotel in Cape May, New Jersey, and established the Christian Admiral Bible Conference and Freedom Center. McIntire’s Christian Beacon press “turned out a flood of widely distributed pamphlets, tracts, and newsletters” (Ruotsila, Fighting Fundamentalist).
In 1941, McIntire was a major figure in the founding of the AMERICAN COUNCIL OF CHRISTIAN CHURCHES (ACCC) “as a conservative alternative to the liberal Federal (later, National) Council of Churches (NCC).” “Formally, he would serve as the ACCC’s president only until 1944, but it was clear to all concerned that the ACCC was his personal preserve and that all the final decisions would be made by him” (Ruotsila). ACCC membership included the Union of Regular Baptist Churches in Canada led by T.T. Shields, the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches led by Robert Ketcham, Evangelical Methodist Churches (EMC), Bible Presbyterian Churches, the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA), the Associated Gospel Churches, World Baptist Fellowship, and the Tioga River Christian Conference. The ACCC was also supported by Bob Jones, Sr., Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, and a great many other fundamentalist leaders, both non-denominational and Baptist. The total constituent membership was about 40,000, but it appears that the numbers were inflated by various schemes because of the worldly philosophy that numbers represents strength.
Not content to preach the gospel and teach the Bible and disciple believers and to contend for the faith, McIntire increasingly became fixated on political action pertaining to pro-Americanism and anti-communism.
McIntire’s generation witnessed great, disturbing changes in American society and government. In the first half of the 20th century, the nation was being turned upside down and the remnants of biblical influence were disappearing. International communism was on the march, and communists were infiltrating trade unions, universities, and government. The League of Nations appeared to be forerunner of a one-world government. Beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, there was an ever-increasing move toward socialism. The power of the federal government had increased dramatically since the end of the Civil War in 1865, but Roosevelt took it much farther. He claimed that men should be guaranteed “four freedoms” by the government: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Thus he specifically put the government in the role of God in men’s lives. In The Rise of the Tyrant: Controlled Economy vs. Private Enterprise (1945), McIntire warned that a government that attempts to deliver men from want and fear is idolatrous and will have “tragic and far-reaching results.” He warned that “America is in greater danger of losing her freedom today than at any time since the Declaration of Independence.” In 1917, W.B. Riley had warned in The Menace of Modernism that America was in great danger because of the liberal theology that was permeating the churches and theological schools and the liberal philosophies such as Darwinism that were permeating the secular colleges and universities. He prophesied that the infiltration of liberal philosophy into America’s educational system was “an outrage” that would destroy America’s morality. John Dewey’s “Progressive education” was transforming the public schools into humanistic propaganda stations. Dewey co-authored the Humanist Manifesto, which promoted atheism, evolution, self-determination, and socialism. In 1924, William Jennings Bryan leaned over to evangelist Bob Jones, Sr., at a Bible conference and said, “If schools do not quit teaching evolution as a fact, we are going to become a nation of atheists” (Turner, Standing Without Apology, p. 19). Since the the 1920s jazz era, powerful social forces had been transforming the nation: feminism, abortion rights, rampant alcohol and drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, working mothers. The divorce rate increased by 2,000 percent between the Civil War and the Great Depression of the 1930s, when one in six marriages ended in divorce (MacLean, Behind the Mask of Chivalry). The jazz era created a youth culture characterized by rejection of parental restraint, dating, “movie mania,” “dance madness,” smoking, drinking, drugs, immodest dress styles, moral license, an arrogant attitude. Preachers warned that “girls spurned femininity, boys acted sissy, and their nighttime joyrides were taking them down the surest road to hell.” In the 1920s, Baptist pastor John Straton was calling America’s cities Sodom and Gomorrah. His books included The Menace of Immorality in Church and State (1920), The Scarlet Stain on the City (c. 1921), and Satan in the Dance Hall (c. 1925). Chapter titles in the latter included “Flappers and the Dance of Life” and “The Devil’s Music and the Scopes Trial.” There were 750 dance halls in New York City in Straton’s day. Of female fashions, he said, “When it comes to women’s dress today there is not enough to talk about.” In his sermon “New York as Modern Babylon,” Straton said worldly homes had produced “the cigarette smoking boy who develops into the girl-ogling, sap-headed dude who would not recognize a sound thought or a sound ethical principal if he met it in the street; and the female flapper and flirt who knows more at 16 than her grandmother knew at 60, who hasn’t a speaking acquaintance with the art of sweeping a room, sewing a dress, or making a biscuit, but is past mistress with the lip-stick, the powder puff, and the bunny bag [a small bag for cosmetics and other female accouterments].” Straton charged the mainstream media of his day with “engaging in a plot to ruin moral forces and bring them into national contempt” (George Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America). In 1934, Harry Ironside preached the following at Moody Memorial Church in Chicago: “We are living in a day when uncleanness is everywhere. Our modern novels are reeking with it, our newspaper stands are filled with vile pornographic literature that came from hell, and men are enriching themselves by poisoning the minds of our young people. The pictures they see, the songs that come over the radio, many are filled with suggestions of impurity and uncleanness. ... Let us give everything like that a wide berth.” Though church membership increased in the 1940s, Bible sales doubled, and youth were flocking to Christian rallies, America was becoming far more filthy, more rebellious to Bible truth, more self-focused than ever. The popular American Christianity was largely a lukewarm, powerless thing. It was a form of godliness that salved consciences while the moral condition of the nation continued a downward spiral. There was “a surge of hard-living hedonism ... women’s fashions were skimpier, Hollywood grew more brazen, and live entertainment became more vulgar” (Joel Carpenter, Revive Us Again). American parents were listening to Spock more than Proverbs and were reaping a whirlwind of delinquency. The justice system was being reconstructed along the lines of humanistic psychology. Already in the 1920s, Straton was preaching against the budding tendency for American courts to coddle criminals. He said God is “not a mollycoddle ... and the present wave of crime and vice that is simply devastating America is the direct result of this false and flimsy teaching.” When President Roosevelt called for a national day of prayer for New Years Day 1943, evangelist Hyman Appleman asked how God could answer America’s prayers, warning the nation to heed the words of the Psalmist, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps. 66:18).
McIntire decided that his calling was to lead a nation-building campaign to “save America.” He believed that the American system of government “was the direct outgrowth of specific biblical commands and its defense every Christian’s duty.” He went so far to say that Jesus came not only to save men’s souls, but also to preach “private enterprise, individual initiative, personal responsibility, competition” (McIntire, Author of Liberty). McIntire’s message was that Jesus “came to save individuals from slavery to sin and to save societies by teaching them about the freedom that only capitalism provided” (Ruotsila, Fighting Fundamentalist). He thus identified Jesus Christ with George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson!
McIntire created broad-based political alliances. He led public demonstrations. He sought for access to the White House and Congress. He raised money from millionaires regardless of their spiritual condition and doctrinal soundness. An example is J. Howard Pew, retired Sun Oil executive who was a member of the Federal Council of Churches, which McIntire had identified as enemy number one. McIntire’s constant refrain was that if God’s people don’t rise up and become active in his alliance, “we are doomed,” but, “If the Christian people of America will wake up and assert themselves, we can save our land” (The Rise of the Tyrant).
McIntire believed that not only could Christians save America, but a redeemed America could then usher in a “glorious time” when “the ideals of freedom and democracy could be propagated to the end of the earth” (Author of Liberty). He was premillennial, but he acted more like a post-millennialist.
McIntire called for an alliance with Roman Catholicism. He said, “The chasm separating the Roman Catholic church from the Protestant church is a small one compared to that indefinitely large chasm which separates the modernists from the fundamentalists” (Christian Beacon, May 26, 1938). But that is nonsense. A false gospel is a false gospel. One type of false gospel is as dangerous as another, and God’s people are forbidden to yoke together with false gospelers of any persuasion (Gal. 1:8; 2 Co. 6:14-18). McIntire worked closely with John T. Flynn, a Roman Catholic opponent of the New Deal and author of The Road Ahead (1949), which was publicized and sold by the ACCC. In fact, McIntire had secretly edited this book (Ruotsila, Fighting Fundamentalist). McIntire also worked closely with and promoted Roman Catholics William F. Buckley, Jr., Phyllis and Eleanor Schlafly, the founders of the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, as well as with Jewish Rabbi Benjamin Schultz.
Other influential Save America communist fighters who worked closely with McIntire were Edgar Bundy (Church League of America), Billy James Hargis (a Church of Christ preacher turned communist fighter, founder of the Christian Crusade), Frederick Schwarz (founder of the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade), and Robert Welch (Unitarian founder of the John Birch Society).
There is no biblical authority for the ACCC or any ministry like this. There is no biblical authority for its parachurch organization, for its ecumenical alliances, for its focus on political action, for the identification of America with the kingdom of God. McIntire disobeyed clear Scripture in the pursuit of these pragmatic objectives (e.g., Ro. 16:17-18; 2 Co. 6:14-18; 2 Ti. 3:5; Jude 3; 2 Jo. 1:7-11). “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Co. 6:14-18).
In 1973, McIntire’s radio station WXUR was forced off the air after a 12-year campaign by an alliance of his enemies, including the National Council of Churches, the Anti-Defamation League (Jewish), the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, and UNICEF, “actively encouraged and assisted by the Democratic National Committee” (Ruotsila, Fighting Fundamentalist). They used the FCC’s 1949 Fairness Doctrine as the hammer, “which required station managers to give equal time to the airing of opposing views on controversial issues of ‘public interest.’” The case went through the federal bureaucracy and the courts and eventually the Supreme Court sided against McIntire by refusing to hear the case. This was the first and only case of the FCC forcing a radio station off the air and it was a blatant act of government censorship that was upheld by a politicized, humanized, activist court system.
After his radio station was shut down, McIntire purchased an old ship, refitted it as a 10,000-watt radio station, renamed it the Columbus, and began broadcasting “Radio Free America” in international waters three miles off Cape May. He wanted to use the “pirate station” to put pressure on legislators to overrule the Fairness Doctrine. “Let’s use the radio to straighten out the government.” To garner news attention, he donned a pirate hat and an eye patch. But technical difficulties ended the broadcasting after a few hours, and the U.S. Justice Department, supported by the courts, ruled that all broadcasts from U.S. owned vessels required a license. Radio Free America was finished. The closing of WXUR caused a domino effect whereby stations across the country dropped the Twentieth Century Reformation Hour and McIntire was left without his most effective fund-raising mechanism.
McIntire’s empire gradually collapsed. In the 1980s, the Christian Beacon press filed for bankruptcy, and the Christian Admiral complex, Shelton College, and Faith Theological Seminary shut down. But the old fighter wouldn’t give up. In 1996, at his 90th birthday party, he asked each attendee to bring a check for $90 so he could get back on the radio! A year later, he demonstrated outside the Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly, sitting in a wheelchair holding a placard denouncing their liberalism.
In 1993, he proposed that a full-scale model of Noah’s Ark be built as a tourist attraction that would “forever down these liberals” (Christian Beacon, Feb. 18–25, 1993). This massive venture was accomplished in 2016 by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, though it had nothing to do with Carl McIntire.
When McIntire was forced to resign his pastorate at Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood in 1999 at age 92, he started a new congregation in his living room and preached to his small flock until his death at age 95. Like many others, he could not let go of leadership and could not turn anything over to younger men. Many men who have built thriving ministries have killed them by holding on to the reins too long and not preparing younger men to take over.
Carl McIntire’s ecumenical “save America” movement was superseded by Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the 1970s and 1980s with an even broader coalition. Falwell, associated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI), began his political action campaign with a series of “I Love America” rallies in 1976.
But far from being saved by conservative political action, America has descended deeper into spiritual and moral darkness with each passing decade since the founding of the ACCC. They have lost the vast majority of their battles. They lost the battle against Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society War on Poverty, the battle against pulling America out of the United Nations and against evolution taught in public schools. They lost the battle against prayer and Bible reading being removed from public schools, followed by the battle for it being restored. They lost the battle against the federalization of the public school system and the formation of the Department of Education, the battle against sex education in the public schools, the battle against the radicalization of the universities, the battle against the removal of the Ten Commandments from courtrooms, the battle against the politicization of the courts, the battle against the repeal of prohibition, the battle to overturn Roe v. Wade, etc.
The only solution for America’s ills is to address the root problem. Cancer is not healed by addressing symptoms. The root of America’s ills is the condition of the nation’s churches: unregeneracy, unqualified leaders, cowardly leaders, worldliness, carnality, lukewarmness, the priority of tradition over God’s Word, pragmatism, heresy, and apostasy. America doesn’t fear God because her churches no longer preach the fear of God.
The root problem is addressed by doing exactly what God has told His people to do in this present time, which is to build biblical churches as the pillar and ground of the truth and to focus on the church’s great business, which is thorough discipling and aggressive world evangelism. This is the mandate that the risen Christ emphasized by repetition (Mt. 28:18-20; Mr. 16:15-16; Lu. 24:44-48; Ac. 1:8) and which we see the first Christians obeying in Acts and the Epistles.
To educate about spiritual enemies is encompassed within the church’s mandate to preach and to teach and to defend the faith. The materials published by the ACCC that educated and warned about liberalism, communism, socialism, etc., were helpful to churches, but to go beyond this to form mixed-multitude political alliances is a transgression of the Word of God. Disobedience does not have God’s blessing and therefore does not “work.”
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