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I shall never forget it. I was 10 years old. I was desperately reaching through a mob of fans to get the signature of the hero I idolized. People were pushing and shoving. I was asthmatic and nearly suffocating as I fought to press my way forward. My once-in-a-life-time chance could not, must not, pass me up. I had to get that autograph. The rudest people were the adults. I think they knew that, being older, there would be fewer chances for them to get within reach of their icon before they died. Little guys like me could be stepped on. But I got it! The little asthmatic got it! I trembled with excitement in the presence of my hero. And I still have the signature today.

It wasn’t a rock star, or a sports icon. It was Jack Hyles.

I have a number of signatures in my old Bible. I found it today when I was rummaging through the basement. I don’t like the sign-the-Bible tradition. But I have to admit that my collection makes me smile. And, though a grown five-point Calvinistic man, I am not ashamed to admit that Jack Hyles’ influence in my life wasn’t all negative. I know God used him even though almost everything about the man’s ministry turns my stomach.

Take a look at a few from my “collection.” Please note: To own their signature does not mean that I endorse them now!

Bill Gothard. I’m not a fan now.

E.Robert Jordan. Great church planter and the only preacher I’ve ever heard say “butt” from the pulpit. Calvary Baptist Church and Theological Seminary is a great ministry.

Ernest Pickering. I loved this man. He seemed to understand me when others wrote me off as a troublemaker. I am deeply indebted to this man and for his many excellent writings.

John C. Whitcomb. I was a little boy when I heard him give a series of lessons from Isaiah. I have loved that book ever since.

Alfred B. Smith. We used his hymn book for years. I think I heard him lead the music at a Sword Conference many years ago.

Curtis Hudson

Walt Handford, son-in-law to John R. Rice and my first beloved pastor at Southside Baptist Church now Southside Fellowship, a church that I would not attend today.

Rudy Atwood. I practically worshipped the way this man performed. I remember listening to his recordings when I was a kid. Don’t have any now. Probably wouldn’t be that impressed anymore. Nonetheless, I like Rudy Atwood and when I met him at his home church one year while with my folks on furlough, I asked for his signature in my Bible.

James B. Irwin. A Christian astronaut. Heard him speak in Central Africa Republic in the early 1980s.

13 Responses

  1. i love e.r. jordan.
    curtis hudson wrote 5 reasons why he wasn’t a calvinist. it is an…interesting…booklet.

  2. You missed out, you needed Bob Gray (FL) (missionary to Germany, former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL) not to be confused with the fake Bob Gray of Longview, TX.

    Dr. Gray’s signature is a work of art and I still do not know how he does it…

  3. Bob,

    You’re brave, and honest. I so much appreciate the fact that you are willing to acknowledge the impact of others in your life, even though you wouldn’t necessarily endorse them all, or endorse them fully, today.

    I served in the US Army in Georgia in the early 80s. It was there that I was exposed to Jack Hyles (I have the same response now, though much faded – I don’t think much about him anymore), and I truly was encouraged by those pushing him to be more evangelistic (though my methods and approach are totally different now).

    Though I never met John R Rice, his booklets (remember those, the ones for 35 cents?) helped me at least think through things that I had never thought about before. It was also one of his booklets that helped me stay clear of the KJV only position (he was one of the few that never bought into that teaching). I was challenged regarding modesty and marriage, children and evangelism, whole-hearted ministry, and intensity in ministry. I was confused by the Arminian “ask Jesus into your heart” thoughts, and the “if you can’t remember what you felt, you’re probably not saved” theology. I was exposed to this group (Hyles influenced) that would not even admit that predestination was a word in the Bible. I had to think through altar calls and emotional appeals. I learned the value and the futility of door-to-door evangelism (I think it’s still valid, to a point). I saw men who sought and gained human greatness, and others who sought to serve the Great one in humulity, and who were themselves unknown but truly great. All these things stimulated me to think and wrestle and embrace the Word of God with fervor. I cannot imagine how soft and clueless my mind would still be if I had a mind untested by these prior to Bible college. Traversing those craters of thought made me think deeply about things that many in a normal Bible college setting don’t even consider (not part of the curriculum or scope and sequence).

    Exposure to that “flavor” of people (and “preachers”) gave me a deep sense of urgency and passion for the Word of God that I rarely see (not talking pulpit pounding or showmanship, which existed in those circles too, but the heart-felt and heart-broken teaching that came from one who had let the Word go through him before daring to share it with others).

    I am convinced that God greatly used the situation and opportunties of my “southern” military four-year tour, and the exposure to those ministries and men to help shape me early as an adult (much was having to think through, study through, and discard what was taught or practiced, but it still caused that to happen). I really felt that I was way ahead of others when I finally got to Bible college, simply because I had much more to think about and sort through. Questions in one’s mind make for a thirsty learner!

    I have been exposed to and influenced by several on your list, but not to the same level, I’m sure. I have my own key influencers (some of whom signed my Bibles), and many were my pastors or Sunday school teachers growing up. Some were/are radio teachers (I’d catch a new guy named John MacArthur on the Moody station in Chatanooga while driving home on leave to Iowa in the early 80s, and he helped present a counterpoint to the Hyles viewpoint). Some were just good books that I “happed upon” that changed my life and thinking forever.

    Oh that we too, might be used, hopefully with accuracy and fidelity, to influence others. May we make it on such a list one day, for God’s glory.

    Thanks for the stimulation. It’s good to make a list, I think. It causes one to be thankful for all those that God uses to grow us, and helps us to see that we are indeed products of others’ efforts, to a great and wonderful degree. I look forward to an eternity with these people, as we ponder the greatness of our Savior that we all served in faulty fashion, and laugh at our ridiculous innaccuracies that will seem obvious then, but that we are blind to now.

    — Kevin

  4. Two funny (at least to me) autograph stories:

    I had a friend in college who was traveling with a college ensemble and happened to be in a church at the same time as Peter Ruckman. My friend had him sign his Bible–it was an NIV!

    A pastor aquaintance told me that he saw Mohamed Ali at a hotel while attending a school convention. He went over to get an autograph and the school administrator followed along. When they walked away, the administrator was very disturbed, saying something about the fact that he shouldn’t have done that. The pastor replied, “It’s only an autograph.” “I know,” replied the administrator, “but I didn’t have any paper, so I had him sign my Bible.”

    Too bad you don’t have those on your list!

  5. Bob,

    I too have Jack Hyles’ signature in the Bible I used in college. It’s the only signature in that Bible because in college I was a devoted Hyles fan (thanks to my college church pastor). When I went off to seminary at Calvary in Lansdale I heard E.R. Jordan say something one day so profound that I wrote it under Hyles’ autograph. He said, “Nothing ever becomes true because of who said it, except God.”

  6. Those are great stories. The Ruckman signature in an NIV Bible is worth some money! It ought to go in a museum of KJV controversy somewhere.

  7. Mark,

    You bring up the complex issue of pithy statements on the flyleaf of the Bible and the Christian’s sanctification. I tremble to trespass on holy ground and question what was going on in my mind when I wrote down certain statements. What moved me when I wrote them down in my expensive, leather-bound bible is mysterious. It could be proof of progressive sanctification, maturity, or a now calloused soul. But why did I write

    You can’t take the gospel to the wrong address

    down in my Bible? Or is

    It is your attitude not your aptitude that determines your altitude

    really worth memorializing forever in the back of my Bible.

    Frankly, some leave me scratching my head. Here’s one from E. Robert Jordan:

    A Christian is someone who is rightly related to Christ. A spiritual Christian is someone who is rightly related to the Holy Spirit.


  8. All throughout my Christian school and church upbringing, I remember kids asking “famous” speakers to sign their Bibles. They were always the kids who were “trying” to look spiritual. Some of them were, some…not so much. I once asked my father, a very godly man, if I should try to get some Biblegraphs (as we called them), and I’ll never forget his answer. He said, “Would you spray paint the Mona Lisa? Adding something to perfection is never a good idea.” Wise man. It taught me to never put anyone on a pedestal.

  9. Bob, How could you possibly forget the artist series with Al Smith? Maybe you’ve forgotten because you didn’t have to sit in the bleachers during his story marathon. My backside was beyond numb! I didn’t bother getting his autograph because I simply wanted some fresh air.

  10. Pastor,
    What a great post. It made me dig out my old “autographed” Bible. I too have Rudy Atwood’s signature, and as I remember he could really play the piano. Other “famous” autographs that I have are Jerry Sivinsky, Bob Holmes( the 1 Man volleyball team), Sketch Erikson, and William Battishill. Two years after I was married, I had the opportunity to get Jack Hyles autograph( he was preaching at my wife’s home church) I passed it up, but I had fun watching the masses trying to get their Bibles signed by him.

  11. Bob,
    I had ONE signature in my Bible…I guess I was an “autograph snob”. It was from Ian Paisley – got it while at BJU – and now, I’m a Presbo (Wredberg’s term for “presbyterian”…hmmmm) – so I think this is PROOF that some autographs are INSPIRED! Thanks for the enjoyable post…Peace.

  12. Interesting post.

    What might make it even more interesting is to let us know which scripture verse each of the signers wrote under their names.

    Which … reminds me of an interesting Jack Hyles’ Bible-signing story a friend related to me in the 1970s. As Hyles was signing his Bible, he said something like this to my friend, “if I write some of my favorite verse references down, will you promise to go read them all?” Of course, my friend said “yes” – only to discover Hyles had under his signature written “Gen. 1:1 – Rev. 22:21”!

  13. I once had a Thompson Chain-Reference Bible with a Jack Hyles, a John Goetsch, a Ron Comfort, an E. Robert Jordan, and even a Hyman Appleman. I had completely forgotten about the practice of signing Bibles until I read your post.

    Typing “Hyman Appleman” reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago, when I stumbled upon the Sword of the Lord‘s website. They have a “Preacher Biographies” page, which lists Appleman and Hyles, among others. I was really surprised to find, sandwiched between John Linton and Robert Murray McCheyne, a Missouri Synod Lutheran, Walter A. Maier of The Lutheran Hour! “A manuscript was before him, but often he forgot it as he hurled wide and far his thunderbolts of warning to a lost world.” They didn’t mention his stance on baptismal regeneration or the “thunderbolts” that he threw at others on their list, such as D.L. Moody and Billy Sunday.

    But, then again, directly across from the Lutheran is Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who famously said, in the pages of the London Telegraph, “The expression ‘smoking to the glory of God’ standing alone has an ill sound, and I do not justify it; but in the sense in which I employed it I still stand to it. No Christian should do anything in which he cannot glorify God; and this may be done, according to Scripture, in eating and drinking and the common actions of life. . . . There is growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men; to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the upbraidings of many good men, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God.”

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