It is doubtful that any man has had a greater influence on the Independent Baptist “movement” than the late Jack Hyles. His influence lies particularly in his pastoral philosophy and in his evangelistic philosophy and techniques, as we document in the book The Two Jacks.
Recently I was given a copy of the book Jack Hyles on Justice (Hyles-Anderson Publishers, 1992), which helped me better understand the man’s philosophy.
Hyles’ put himself above being tested by Scripture or reproved for sin and heresy, and he terribly abused the Scripture toward this end. The title of the book should be “Why Jack Hyles Cannot Be Judged by Any Man.”
The book contains sermons Hyles preached on Wednesday evenings. He emphasized six points that would make it impossible for a church to effectively discipline a pastor and that grant preachers the liberty to live and teach above human accountability. While “private” exhortation of the preacher might be allowed in certain cases, public reproof is never allowed. These unscriptural principles, to various degrees and in various incarnations, have spread widely.
First, Hyles taught that the believer can only judge within the realm of his own authority.
“You are to judge in that area and not in any other area. ... Not only are you not to take any action about things outside your own area, but YOU ARE NOT TO MAKE MENTAL JUDGMENTS OUTSIDE YOUR OWN AREA. ... As pastor, I am to rule (lead), and my followers or members are to follow. ... God says everybody is to have his own area of judgment, and nobody is to interfere with anybody’s else’s area. ... It is not your job to figure out what the pastor ought to do in areas of his responsibilities. You are to judge only in your God-given areas. ... The Bible is telling us not to go into the other person’s area of judgment and criticize, even if we know the facts concerning a situation. ... Judging by hearsay and judging by fact are both wrong if it is outside of your area. ... You have been given an area where you are to judge. Outside of that area, you are not even to judge in your mind. You are to occupy yourself with judging your own area. ...
“When I go hear a preacher preach, I do not judge his sermon. I search for a blessing. God has not given me the responsibility of judging his preaching. ...
“If two witnesses come to you, AND IF IT IS INSIDE YOUR JURISDICTION, you must then investigate it” (Jack Hyles on Justice, pp. 4, 5, 7, 25, 26, 82).
This is a perfect principle for a man-centered cult. Hyles claimed that no one could judge him or hold him accountable or reprove him, including his own church members or pastors of other churches, because no one else could exercise within his realm of judgment. Others could not even judge his preaching or doctrine. They could not deal with his sin even if there were two witnesses, because they are not allowed to “judge” outside of their “jurisdiction.”
To the contrary, the Bible says the believer is to prove all things (1 Thess. 5:21). The spiritual man judges all things by God’s Word (1 Cor. 2:15). Paul was an apostle, but the Bereans tested his doctrine to see if it was of God (Acts 17:11). David and Herod were kings, but Nathan and John the Baptist did not hesitate to reprove them for their sin (2 Samuel 12:7; Mark 6:18). Paul had no church authority over Peter and the Jerusalem apostles, yet Paul did not hesitate to judge their hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-14). When it came to judgment, Paul refused to be a respecter of persons. He said, “But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (WHATSOEVER THEY WERE, IT MAKETH NO MATTER TO ME: GOD ACCEPTETH NO MAN’S PERSON) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me” (Galatians 2:6).
Young Samuel didn’t have authority over the Tabernacle, but God told him to judge Eli, the high priest, for his sin of honoring his sons above God and “because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” (1 Samuel 3).
This is precisely one of the sins that Jack Hyles was guilty of. Eli apparently had the Hyles’ philosophy that he should not listen to “evil speaking” about his sons, even if the reports were true.
Abigail didn’t have authority over her household, but she didn’t hesitate to judge her husband truthfully as a “man of Belial” and a man of “folly” and to take it upon herself to intercede with David about her husband’s wickedness (1 Samuel 25).
Second, Hyles taught that Christians are not to believe any statement or accusation unless it is made by two eyewitnesses who present their account together.
“If one person comes accusing a person, do not listen unless he is an eyewitness and has a second eyewitness with him. If someone comes to you and tells you something bad he heard about someone you are disobedient if you listen to it. If two witnesses come to you, AND IF IT IS INSIDE YOUR JURISDICTION, you must then investigate it. These two witnesses should come to you together and present their account together. We are not to read accusations against individuals in magazines or newspapers. We are not to listen to them on the radio or television. ... Often a person will come to me to tell me something he saw, and I will tell him that I refuse to receive it unless he has another witness” (pp. 82, 83).
False accusations and gossip are harmful to the cause of Christ, but Hyles went far beyond forbidding such things. He even forbade legitimate and spiritually profitable truth telling.
Contrary to Hyles’ doctrine, the apostle Paul warned Timothy about false teachers, compromisers, and backsliders by name--such as Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:16-18), Demas (2 Tim. 4:10), and Alexander the coppersmith (2 Tim. 4:14-15)--and Timothy listened to Paul’s warnings without requiring two witnesses or without pondering whether these men were in his “jurisdiction.”
Note that Hyles warned his followers not to read accusations in print or to listen to them in any other media format. This is why his supporters refused to listen to the accusations that were made against him by R.L. Sumner and others. They wouldn’t listen, even though multiple witnesses were cited and thorough documentation was offered as evidence.
“Just after the public exposure [of Hyles], we tried to get meetings for our preachers in California, and word was spread of where I stood and we were blackballed in the state of California. I called up the fellow that was blackballing us and I said why don’t you at least read the article? He refused” (Roger Voegtlin, “Why I Am Not 100% for Hyles”).
One of the most frustrating things I have to deal with is the fact that so many preachers won’t read my exhortations for themselves. They depend on hearsay from some other man about what I am saying and they refuse to look into the matter themselves.
To ignore warnings about sin and error issued by Christ-loving men who provide solid evidence is foolish and is evidence of carnality rather than spirituality, of man-centeredness rather than Christ-centeredness, of a cult rather than a New Testament church.
Third, Hyles taught that it is a sin to accuse someone and a sin to listen to accusation.
“I always defend the accused (unless it concerns a broken civil law). I do not know whether or not the accused person did that which he is accused of doing, but I do know that the accuser is doing what the Devil does. He is accusing the brethren. The Devil is not a false accuser. He is a true accuser. If you accuse someone to me, I am the witness to your sin of accusing. A dear friend of mine who had been a preacher for many years called me one day. Years ago he quit the ministry, but I never knew why. He assumed I knew, so he started to tell me about it. I stopped him and said to him, ‘I do not want to know what bad you did. I just want to know about all the good you did. ... I try never to believe criticism. ... I do not want to know what someone did that was wrong. I do not want to know what a fellow pastor did or was accused of doing. ... Often people will ask me if I heard the news about someone. I ask them if it is good or bad. If it’s bad, I stop them from telling me any more. I do not want to hear it” (Jack Hyles on Justice, pp. 48, 94).
Here we see Hyles admitting to his practice of ignoring sin committed by pastors, and he expected to receive the same treatment.
Hyles made no difference between biblical exposure of sin and error and evil speaking or slander. It was all the same to him. In his opinion, accusation or reproof is almost always evil and the one doing the accusing is an evil person.
He cited the Devil, saying that the Devil accuses the brethren in truth, but Jesus said the Devil is a liar (John 8:44). Even when he speaks truth, it is from a hateful spirit and is for the objective of spreading lies and tearing down God’s work. On the contrary, godly reproof is not of the Devil. Godly reproof is speaking the truth in love for the purpose of building up God’s work.
Note in the following quote how that Hyles lumped all “criticism” together with slander.
“If you spend your time with people who criticize and hurt people, you are on the road to becoming an evil person. You hear the evil report. This is what you will get around evil men--evil reports. If you are around evil men, they will criticize or slander and try to destroy somebody. ... When people try to tell me evil about someone, I tell them I do not want to know because I do not want to get on the road that leads to becoming evil” (p. 119).
Slander is to speak lies or to speak something against a person with the objective of hurting them or hurting the church. Godly judgment, godly criticism, and godly reproof is not slander and is not evil.
When the house of Chloe told Paul about the contentions in the church at Corinth, and when Paul warned Timothy about Demas and Alexander, and when John warned Gaius about Diotrephes’ pride, that wasn’t slander and it wasn’t an evil report (1 Cor. 1:11; 2 Tim. 4; 3 John). When Paul listened to Chloe’s “criticism,” and when Timothy listened to Paul’s “criticism,” and when Gaius listened to John’s “criticism,” they were not pursuing evil. They were acting wisely.
It is wise to know about evil things so that you can avoid them and not be injured by them and so you can act on this knowledge in a godly manner, such as exercising church discipline or separating from harmful things.
If someone wants to join my church and I call his former church and ask about his character and whether or not he is under discipline, it is right for the pastor of that church to speak honestly and candidly about the person. If the individual has committed some disciplinary sin and has not made it right, it is wise to find this out before receiving him as a member. This is not evil doing or evil speaking. It is acting in godly wisdom.
If a church is considering calling a certain man as a pastor who is coming from another place, the church is wise to find out about the man’s background, and it is wrong if a former church refuses to tell the truth about the man if there is something in his past that would disqualify him as a pastor, such as adultery and divorce. It is not evil to seek such information and it is not evil to give such information.
Hyles even taught a technique whereby if you hear an accusation, you can allegedly purge it from your mind.
“If you cannot stop it [‘criticism’] and it gets on the screen of your mind, immediately say, ‘It isn’t true!’ or ‘I don’t believe it.’ Then the next time you see that person or think of him, you will have those words entered right beside the accusation. If you do think of the accusation in your subconscious mind, it will be accompanied by the fact you do not believe it and that it is not true” (pp. 94, 95).
This is how Hyles could support so many unqualified pastors. He refused to listen to the truth that was spoken about them and he refused to act on the facts even when he knew them to be true. He was like the monkey who hears no evil and sees no evil.
Even backslidden old Eli didn’t go this far in his sin. At least he believed the reports about his wicked sons and made a half-hearted effort to reprove them.
“Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord 's people to transgress. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him?” (1 Samuel 2:22-25).
Fourth, Hyles did not believe in church discipline.
“On ... occasions deacons have committed what we call ‘gross sin.’ I called those deacons in. If they admitted what they were accused of doing, I suggested that they resign the deacon board. I did not ‘blab’ it around! Those deacons have lovely families who do not need to bear the stigma of their daddy’s sin, just because some preacher thought he was supposed to blab everybody’s sin in front of the whole church. That is the way I handle it. I am not going to get up and broadcast everybody’s sins. I am not going to call my deacons together and reveal why that man resigned” (pp. 53, 54).
This is presumptuous rebellion against the clear teaching of God’s Word in 1 Corinthians 5 and elsewhere. Hyles followed his own thinking rather than the Bible, and his followers accepted it.
Because of his refusal to expose sins that should have been publicly disciplined, he allowed men to continue in their sin and oftentimes this resulted in people (including many children) being hurt by them at a later time.
This happened with Jack’s son, Dave. Instead of disciplining Dave, Jack swept his sin under the rug all the time he was at First Baptist in Hammond, and when Dave was called to the pastorate of a church in Texas Jack did not warn the church of his son’s moral perversion. As a result, Dave continued in his sin and destroyed many homes with his adulteries.
In the 1970s Roger Voegtlin was told about Dave Hyles’ long history of moral perversion by one of Dave’s best friends.
“I was preaching for Jim Maston in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Afterward we had a sandwich with Maston and his assistant pastor, who had been Dave Hyles’ best friend in college. As we ate, he started telling stories about Dave Hyles. I mean in detail, naming names of people he had committed adultery with. Since then I’ve found it all to be true. One name after another, how he had an affair here, he had an affair there, and how he was messing with the teenagers and how there was so much going on. But he said Dave Hyles laughed about it and said, ‘I’ll never get caught because I have twice as much on my father.’ I’m talking about in the 1970s I was told this. And Dave told the same story about his father and Jenny Nischick and how his father would sit in the window and see the lights flick on and off in Jenny’s house and how he would see his father take off and go to the Nischick home” (Voegtlin, “Why I Am Not 100% for Hyles”).
Because of Jack Hyles refusal to exercise church discipline, Dave Hyles committed immorality with at least 19 women in Texas and broke apart homes and caused the Lord only knows how much far-reaching spiritual damage. Like Eli, Jack Hyles enabled Dave to do this wickedness by not putting his foot down in a biblical manner.
This type of thing has happened countless times because of the refusal to exercise proper church discipline and the refusal to speak the truth about disciplinary type sins and the refusal to stand against pastors who have disqualified themselves from the ministry.
Fifth, Hyles taught that the only sin that is to be reproved publicly is the sin of accusation.
“Immature Christians use 1 Timothy 5:19-20 to defend publicly rebuking people before the entire church. That is ridiculous! Everyone sins ... What is this Scripture teaching? There is only one sin mentioned here, and that is the sin of being a false witness. God is teaching us in His Word that false accusers should be rebuked before everybody. ... The sin discussed in 1 Timothy 5:19 is not the sin of the accused but the sin of the one doing the accusing” (p. 61).
This is another example of how that Hyles abused Scripture in a frightful manner. He turned this passage on its head and destroyed its effectiveness. The sin referred to in this passage is not the sin of accusation; it is sin committed by a pastor. It is not every sin; it is sin that would necessitate discipline, and such sins are described in 1 Corinthians 5:11.
According to Hyles’ perverted teaching, pastors are above discipline and cannot be rebuked by the church. The only members that can be rebuked publicly are those who bring a false accusation. This is contrary to 1 Timothy 5:19-20 as well as to other Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18:15-19.
Sixth, Hyles taught that God’s people need human heroes that should never be criticized.
“I still feel the same awe toward Dr. Lee Roberson as I did the first time I met him. The fact is that Dr. Roberson has grown even as I have grown. I do not assume that I have caught up to him, so he is still my hero! I was with Dr. John Rice for many years, and I knew he had feet of clay. I could have found his weaknesses if I had wanted to, but I did not want to because I wanted Dr. Rice to remain as my hero. In fact, I tried to avoid seeing his faults. I feel sorry for people who think they have grown to the level of their heroes. If you ever lose your heroes, you lose your security. ... Your life is not going to be rich if you lose your heroes. ... The best preacher will be the one with a hero” (pp. 58, 62).
There is no support for this in Scripture. It is idolatry. We are warned about giving blind loyalty to man. Jeremiah warned that we are cursed if we trust in man, because our trust must be in God alone (Jer. 17:5-7).
What unassailable human hero did Paul have? He was willing to publicly reprove even Peter (Galatians 2).
To give proper honor to godly people and spiritual authority figures is right, but it is also right to test authority figures, including one’s own parents and pastors, with God’s Word. This is not to claim that one has “surpassed them”; it is simply to recognize that no one is infallible and that the sole authority for faith and practice is the Bible and not some “hero” living today.
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