Introduction by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle
of Los Angeles; website at www.realconversion.com.

Dr. J. Frank Norris was born in 1877 and died in 1952. He was the father of the independent Baptist movement, and was the founding president of the World Baptist Fellowship (1935-1952). Dr. Norris was the most fearless and powerful preacher of his generation. As a Southern Baptist, he studied at Baylor University. He pastored the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas (1909-1952), which had ten thousand members, while at the same time pastoring the Temple Baptist Church, Detroit, with 8,000 members. He traveled by air to pastor those two great churches. His associate was the esteemed Dr. Louis Entzminger. Norris openly exposed liberalism in the Southern Baptist universities and seminaries, particularly the teaching of Darwininan evolution and a critical view of the Holy Scriptures. He was expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention in 1924 for his work in challenging openly the liberalism in Southern Baptist colleges and seminaries. Norris edited The Searchlight (1917-1927) and The Fundamentalist (1927-1952). He started the World Baptist Fellowship (1935) and the Bible Baptist Seminary of Fort Worth, Texas (1939). Dr. Norris died of a heart attack while preaching the Gospel at a youth camp in Florida in 1952. He was instrumental in creating the modern independent Baptist movement, which continues to this day. Dr. Norris was a powerful voice for God during a time of spiritual decline in the various Baptist movements in the first half of the 20th century.

Although his invitations tended to be “decisionist” in nature, he is considered to be one of the greatest Gospel preachers of modern times. His stand against Hitler, and in favor of a Jewish homeland in Israel, reveals that he was not only a friend of the Jews, but a man of deep spiritual understanding. – Editorial comments by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles. You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons and articles at www.realconversion.com. The following article by Rev. David Stokes has been slightly edited with Rev. Stokes’ permission.


by Rev. David R. Stokes

Eleven minutes after David Ben Gurion, speaking in a “heavily guarded art museum in Tel Aviv,” announced the birth of the modern State of Israel, President Harry S. Truman signed a document officially recognizing the new nation. The single typewritten page, on display these days at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, shows the President’s cursive corrections - including a wording change from “new Jewish state” to “State of Israel” – and the directive “Approved May 14, 1948.”1

This was a bold step for the American President, one opposed by powerful members of his own administration.

J. Frank Norris, the fundamentalist pastor from Fort Worth, Texas, had spent many years promoting the Jewish cause and he applauded the President’s courage. Many prominent fundamentalists shied away from eschatological interpretations of global events, especially in the early years of the movement. But not Norris; he was an ardent and outspoken pre-millennialist.

And he was an unabashed proponent of a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine.

Ever fascinated by international affairs, Dr. Norris considered himself to be somewhat of an expert in the field. His sermons and writings regularly featured commentary on the world situation. In the aftermath of World War One, he came to believe that the “primary significance” of that conflict was the potential for “the ultimate return of Palestine to the Jews.”2

The Balfour Declaration of 1917, positioning the British government as favorable to a homeland for the Jews in Palestine, seemed to pave the way for what Norris saw as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Even as Jewish hope gave way to cycles of delay and frustration during the time of the British Mandate over Palestine (which began in 1918), Norris didn’t waver from his views.

Not all fundamentalists of the day were sympathetic to the plight of the Jews, some even flirted with what would surely be called anti-Semitism by today’s standards. For example, William Bell Riley, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and founder of the first viable fundamentalist organization – the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association (1919) – along with Arno C. Gaeblein, and other prominent preachers and teachers of the day, periodically promoted the infamous Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion – a spurious document purporting to prove a Jewish conspiracy for world domination. This forgery has long been a favorite of those seeking “alternative” views of history and reality, and has been used as a pernicious proof-text for a wide range of malignant writings from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, to Henry Ford’s Dearborn Independent, to those peddled by modern day skin-heads and race-baiters.3

J. Frank Norris…managed to resist the temptation to buy into a Jewish/Bolshevik conspiracy theory idea that some fundamentalists seemed to find compelling. In fact, he had no problem attacking his brethren on this issue, writing in his paper in 1937: “I confess my amazement that certain intelligent outstanding fundamentalist pastors have joined this age-long and divinely cursed persecution.”4

In the aftermath of the Second World War, and in the wake of horrific revelations of the Holocaust, Norris directed his passion for global politics toward applying pressure for the advancement of the cause of the Jews and a national homeland for them in Palestine. He traveled widely across the country, promoting this cause and was skilled at using the media of the day; a master of the sound byte. An article in the New York Post carried the headline, Baptist Official Says Jews Have Just Palestine Claim and the Washington Star similarly reported, Palestine Belongs to Jews by Divine Right: Dr. Norris.5

But Norris undoubtedly considered his most important contribution to the issue, beyond raising general public awareness, to be a letter he wrote to President Truman in October of 1947.

Harry S. Truman was a shrewd and savvy politician, with an autodidactic appreciation for history. As a boy, when his chronic near-sightedness kept him from some strenuous activities, he would lose himself in books. Among his favorites was a “gold-trimmed, four-volume history called Great Men and Famous Women.” One of the great men chronicled was Cyrus the Great, King of Persia who “enabled the Jewish people to leave their exile and go back to Palestine.” There is evidence that this ancient story was on his mind as he dealt with the current events of his administration.6

We have no way of knowing how much influence any one piece of correspondence, or singular meeting, had on Mr. Truman’s thinking, but Norris’s letter to the President made his case from a Biblical vantage point at a crucial time.

J. Frank Norris had just returned from a trip that took him to Europe and the Middle East, a journey he had made many times in his life. By 1947 he had been pastor of the First Baptist Church in Fort Worth for thirty-eight years, and the Temple Baptist Church in Detroit for thirteen years. The combined membership of the congregations was more than twenty-five thousand. With such a following it was not difficult for Norris to obtain “official” letters from governmental leaders when he traveled. Such letters served to open doors for him.

Having received a wire from President Truman’s Appointments Secretary Matthew J. Connelly soliciting a briefing about his recent trip, Norris responded with a written synopsis of the entire history of the Jews and analysis of the various issues related to the land of Palestine in the modern era.

He began by expressing his gratitude to the President for the “personal letter of August 5th, which was of invaluable assistance in all my travels.” Then, plunging into his theme, he defined the issue as simply: “whether we will take the authority of the Bible of our mothers or the Koran with the sword and flame.” He summarized for the President the Biblical position that the Jewish people have “title” to the land, citing key Scriptural passages dealing with God’s promises and covenants.

Norris then shifted his argument from the ancient text to the modern context suggesting that “a second and very important authority in addition to Scriptural authority, Great Britain was given mandate over Palestine for the purpose of Jewish immigration into that land and for making it a national home,” this mandate being “confirmed by the United States Government and by the 57 Nations of the League of Nations.”

He recalled the events of 1939 and the “two-fold appeasement” of then British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Norris argued that Chamberlain had not only fumbled the ball with Hitler – bringing on World War II – but also by limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine at a crucial time. He had acted out of cowardice toward the Arabs, who “were allies of Hitler.”

This particular passage most likely resonated with the President because it was very much in line with what Truman thought and said when the British government released a White Paper on the issue of Palestine in May of 1939. In essence, that policy statement advocated severe limitations on Jewish immigration to Palestine; this at a time when European anti-Semitism was reaching critical mass.

Truman, then a Senator from the state of Missouri, issued a forthright condemnation that was inserted into the Congressional Record: “Mr. President, the British Government has used its diplomatic umbrella again,” (this being an unmistakable dig at Mr. Chamberlain) “…this time on Palestine. It has made a scrap of paper out of Lord Balfour’s promise to the Jews. It has just added another to the long list of surrenders to the Axis powers.”7

Norris also referred to the Holocaust in his letter, accusing the Arabs of being complicit in the atrocities as allies of the Nazi regime “with their hands dripping with the blood of the Jews – six million of them murdered.”

Having made his case from history, ancient and recent, Norris concluded his letter with a Cold War warning. He told the President, “I interviewed many Arab leaders, and without question I found that the whole crowd are (sic) for Stalin, just like they were formerly for Hitler. Russia is doing everything at her command to foment the trouble.”

He concluded his correspondence with an appeal:

“The time has come, and long past, when the United States should keep its promise and take a firm stand for law and order in that land that has given the world its Bible and Savior.”

A few days later Norris received a reply on White House letterhead:

“Dear Dr. Norris:

I am most grateful for your thoughtful letter of October second. I deeply appreciate having the benefit of this expression of your views because I know that you have given long and extensive study to the Jewish-Palestinian question.

Very Sincerely Yours, Harry Truman.”8

Seven months later, Harry Truman, in a singular act of political courage, and against the advice of men he admired, recognized the new State of Israel. Whatever the reasons for his decision that day, there is no doubt that he was a man with a sense of the past. The internal world of thought, nurtured as a child through the reading of history, was very present in the man. Shortly after leaving office in 1953, while visiting a Jewish school in New York City, he was introduced as “the man who helped to create the State of Israel” – Truman interrupted and said: “What do you mean ‘helped create?’ I am Cyrus! I am Cyrus!”9

J. Frank Norris was dead by this time [he had died in August of 1952]. His life and ministry were filled with controversy [Norris was usually right]. [Yet] when it came to understanding current events and international affairs interpreted through the prism of scripture, he demonstrated a capacity to discern important signals and trends, even while other notably great men seemed to miss the point. His early grasp of issues related to the potential for a modern homeland for the Jews in Palestine is a prime example of this skill.

As had been his pattern with most political leaders, there had been times when he supported Harry S. Truman and there had been other times when he did not. But in 1948, he clearly admired the Man from Missouri, telling one associate a few months after the State of Israel had been proclaimed:

“I heard old Harry Truman – at two o’clock in the morning – giving his acceptance speech. He said: ‘We’ll whip the Republicans and make ‘m like it…wish I had old Harry to work for me in my church! We’d wave at – and call by name – every taxi driver in Fort Worth and get ‘m saved and baptized into First Baptist Church! Old Harry said: ‘the buck stops here’ – suits me. Let‘r stop with J. Frank Norris! ‘If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.’ Harry said that, too.”10

Harry [Truman] and J. Frank [Norris] – the President and the Preacher – were, in many ways, [men of courage and determination].


[This article is reprinted with Rev. David Stokes’ permission, with the provision that Dr. Hymers’ slight comments and a few deletions be permitted. It has been excerpted from Stokes' article, “J. Frank Norris and Israel – 1948,” featured in the Baptist Bible Tribune, May 2008.]


1Beschloss, Michael, Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How they Changed America 1789-1989. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2007, p. 226.

2Hankins, Barry, God’s Rascal: J. Frank Norris & the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism. The University Press of Kentucky, 1996, p. 80.

3Marsden, George M., Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism. Oxford University Press, New York, 1980, p. 210.

4The Fundamentalist, October 22, 1937.

5The New York Post and The Washington Star, quoted in Hankins, p. 82.

6Beschloss, pp. 211-212.

7Cohen, Michael J., Truman and Israel. University of California Press, 1990, p. 45.

8Text of both letters appears in Entzminger, Louis, The J. Frank Norris I Have Known for 34 Years. 1948, self-published, pp. 342-345.

9Beschloss, p. 234.

10Kemp, Roy, Extravaganza: A Biography of J. Frank Norris 1877-1952. No date, self-published, p. 93.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”