The Sword of the Lord
|Owner(s)||Sword of the Lord Ministries|
|Founder(s)||John R. Rice|
|Founded||September 28, 1934|
The Sword of the Lord is published by Sword of the Lord Ministries, a non-profit organizationbased in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which also publishes religious books, pamphlets, and tracts from a fundamentalist Christian perspective, as Sword of the Lord Publications.
In 2012 the newspaper was a 24-page, biweekly tabloid with a circulation of "just over 100,000."
The Sword of the Lord was first published on September 28, 1934, in Dallas, Texas by John R. Rice, who edited the publication until his death on December 29, 1980. At first it was simply the four-page paper of Fundamentalist (later, Galilean) Baptist Church of Dallas, where Rice was the pastor. The paper was handed out on the street, and Rice's daughters and other Sunday school children delivered it door-to-door.
The Sword of the Lord moved with the Rice family to Wheaton, Illinois in 1940, and then to its present location in 1963. Upon the Sword's move to Tennessee, Rice co-edited the paper with his brother Bill (1912-1978) until Bill's death. Curtis Hutson replaced Bill Rice as co-editor, and he became the sole editor two years later when John R. Rice died. Hutson died in 1995, and editorship passed to Shelton Smith, former pastor of the Church of the Open Door/Carroll Christian Schools, Westminster, Maryland.
The name of the ministry and publication is taken from a phrase in Judges 7:20: "And they cried, The Sword of the LORD, and of Gideon." The verse is featured in the banner, as is the newspaper's stated purpose:
"An Independent Christian Publication, Standing for the Verbal Inspiration of the Bible, the Deity of Christ, His Blood Atonement, Salvation by Faith, New Testament Soul Winning and the Premillennial Return of Christ; Opposing Modernism (Liberalism), Worldliness and Formalism."
As is true in many small businesses, family members of the editors often assumed integral roles in the ministry of The Sword of the Lord. In 2009, the approximately fifty employees of the Sword of the Lord Foundation included editor Shelton Smith; his son, Marlon, executive vice president; and Shelton Smith's son-in-law, Guy King, vice president of publishing.
The Sword of the Lord emphasizes soul winning, the belief that Christians should actively seek to convert others to faith in Jesus Christ. It promotes fulfilling the Great Commission by publishing books and materials on the topic as well as sponsoring annual "School of the Prophets" seminars.
King James Bible
"The Sword of the Lord believes the Bible, the Scriptures of the Old Testament and the New Testament, have been preserved in the Masoretic text (Old Testament), the Textus Receptus (New Testament). It also believes the King James Bible, is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, and altogether authentic, accurate and authoritative Word of God, therefore the supreme and final authority in all things (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Peter 1:21; Rev. 22:18-19)." However, the organization actively opposes more radical King-James-Only views, such as those of Peter Ruckman.
For many years The Sword of the Lord has published sermons of contemporary Independent Baptist preachers who are part of its circle. It also publishes sermons from a wider spectrum of evangelicals of past generations (not all of whom were Independent Baptist), including Hyman Appelman, Harry A. Ironside, Bob Jones, Sr., R. A. Torrey, Robert G. Lee, Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday, T. De Witt Talmage, and George Truett.
The Sword of the Lord is strongly anti-Calvinist and as such does not publish sermons by Calvinist preachers, although an exception has been made for the noted nineteenth-century Calvinist Charles Spurgeon. Nevertheless, Spurgeon's sermons have been edited to remove Calvinist-leaning passages.
The paper usually includes "Editor's Notes," a column by Smith commenting on his recent travels and upcoming events; "Noteworthy News," brief descriptions of events involving Christians or matters related to Christianity, with occasional editorial commentary; columns on church planting and bus ministries; and advertisements for independent fundamentalist Baptist churches and Bible colleges.
- "Editor's Notes," Sword of the Lord (September 14, 2012), 2.
- Fred Barlow, "A Brief Biography of Dr. John R. Rice: Giant of Evangelism," Sword of the Lord (September 22, 2006), 14.
- Sword of the Lord (September 18, 2009), 2. "Meet the Staff," SOTL website. Other members of the leadership team included Larry Norman, director of marketing; Jimmy Barrett, customer service manager; and Bart Walker, director of accounting and advertising.
- "What We Believe," Sword of the Lord website.
- In 1950, John R. Rice wrote of his editing practices, "If there are paragraphs which are not acceptable doctrinally, I indicate that they are to be left out." The Sword of the Lord, (September 22, 1950), 1. A scholarly study by Howard Moore discovered that Rice had deleted passages in many sermons, including those of Charles Finney, Talmage, and even Jonathan Edwards', "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." But, said Moore, "No other ancient worthy seems to have suffered as much from Rice's editorial license...as Charles H. Spurgeon." Howard Edgar Moore, "The Emergence of Moderate Fundamentalism: John R. Rice and 'The Sword of the Lord,'" Ph.D. dissertation, George Washington University, 1990, 502-10.
- Both "Editor's Notes" and "Noteworthy News" are also featured free of charge on the Sword's website at http://www.swordofthelord.com/editor.php
- Before her death, the paper usually included a column by Viola Walden (1915-2007), who was first employed by the paper in 1934 and served for over 72 years until her death. See Lauren Hamblen, "Lady of the Sword: The Ministry of Viola Mae Walden at The Sword of the Lord," MA Thesis, Bob Jones University, 2009.