The Life and Ministry of J Frank Norris
DR. MARVIN JONES
LIBERTY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF CHHI 694 – D04
LEONARD (LEE) TOMLIN
DECEMBER 14th, 2012
Table of Contents
Is it possible for a man to be an oxymoron? According to the dictionary, the term oxymoron refers to “something that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements.” Bittersweet, Icy hot, silent noise, and pretty ugly are a few examples of words that do not fit together. These incongruent terms have come to mean different things although at first they appear to make little sense. While contradictory words can eventually gain a purpose and mean something, one must wonder if contradictory traits can be established in an individual and work together. Does an arrogant servant exist? What about an honest manipulator, or a life-giving killer? Each of these questions describe different character traits of one man. That man is J Frank Norris, the most controversial, lively, theatrical, and pretentious fiery fundamentalist the world has ever known.
J Frank Norris has been described in countless ways, some good and some not so good. He has been called “the most colorful and dramatic personality in the entire fundamentalist-modernist controversy.” He is known as one of the most controversial and even cantankerous public figures in the history of Christianity in America. Norris was loved by most fundamentalists and very nearly hated by mainline southern Baptist, local Fort Worth political leaders and others, but one thing is true, he was not ignored. J Frank Norris was a fascinating man who made a great impact on conservative Christianity in America. His impact which began100 years ago, is still very apparent in much of Evangelicalism today. This paper will show the life, ministry, and impact made by J Frank Norris by addressing his early life, his ministry success, and his controversies both politically and denominationally, along with his overall impact on conservative evangelicalism in America today. While J Frank Norris has become known for having some very rough edges, it cannot be denied that he was exceptionally gifted to accomplish a great work for Fundamentalism in America. His Early Life
J Frank Norris was born on September 18, 1877 in the slums of Alabama to an average American Family. His father, James Warner, and mother Mary Davis Norris lived in a modest country home about 80 miles southeast of Birmingham in the small town of Dadeville. Mary David was known as a godly woman. J Frank Norris often gave much of the credit of his success in ministry to his mother who was a fine example and a faithful prayer warrior. “Mary Norris’s strength was her faith. Deprived of the emotional benefits of a healthy marriage or material abundance, she sought solace in religion… She prayed with great optimism and fervency for her children, particularly young Frank. She saw in him, her hopes for the future, a successful son who would make his mark on the world.” James and Mary was a young couple that initially seemed to work together to create a stable future for their family. They were willing to take risks to achieve success, which is something that Norris eventually modeled very well in his future ministry. James and Mary moved to Arkansas, where they bought land to live on and prosper; However, this risk did not turn out as successful as they had hoped and they eventually moved back to another city in Alabama. Upon moving back to Alabama the Norris family become sharecroppers, which did not provide a lot, but it was enough to survive on. It was here that Norris’ father became a hopeless drunk. One of the heaviest burdens of young Frank’s life was the...