This article will be different from others, as it consists of random thoughts that may be revised and organized in the future in a more orderly fashion. This website was started as a way to put forth rough draft portions of a book that has long been in the making. For this reason some material in our website may come across as "rough." It was felt that a website would be helpful to get the material out while slowly writing the book, but alsoallowing feedback to be received through reader comments.
What drives Ruckman?
What motivated him to write an extensive Bible commentary series, and over 100 publications? We confess that we do not know his heart. We could be wrong. Ruckman does not hesitate to judge the motives of his critics. One difference about our approach is that we recognize we could be wrong, and only God can see the heart. With this in mind, we will share what we suspect drives Ruckman. He seems to be obsessed with a desire to present a novel and unique theological system of interpretation that can be linked to him. Numerous statements of his have led us to that conclusion. When he studies the Bible, he does not hesitate to “think outside the box” (which is not entirely wrong). He is constantly attempting to come up with something new, as long as there is at least an isolated (and often vague) passage he can point to in order to attempt to justify his unusual view. He uses a combination of conjecture, superstition, vivid imagination, deviation from hermeneutical principles, isolated passages out of context, and a drive to be known as the “discoverer” of a new “truth.” He wants to claim to understand difficult passages that stump other Bible teachers. In his desire to stand out with new interpretations, Ruckman often with questionable interpretations turns mere possibility into probability, and via theological slight-of-hand turns probability into certainty, where other equally viable interpretations exist.
He teaches in his own circles and own church to adoring crowds who will not roll their eyes nor confront him about anything and continue to yell “amen” no matter how off-the-wall it is. He feels safe in his circle, and has little fear of people walking out in disgust over extreme teachings (except an occasional visitor). This theological system of checks and balances is missing.
This book should not have had to be written. That’s because the false doctrine of Ruckmanism should have been noticed in its early stages, and the command to “note that man” (2 Thes. 3:14) should have been heeded early on. It seems that only a few in the 1970’s raised their voice, during a very crucial time. By the late 1980’s when concern began to grow, the writings of warning of a few was too little, too late. Much damage had already been done.
The case of Peter Ruckman brings up many questions. When did he begin to come up with new doctrines? Was he truly saved? What led him to become so bitter against others? Why did influential fundamentalist leaders open doors for him in his early years? What led him to go to such extremes defending the KJV? What led people to follow him in such a cultic fashion? What was his family life like? What drove him to write so many books and publish so many recordings? Did he have a photographic memory?
Sometimes Fundamentalists have a reputation for being too quick to judge. In the case of Peter Ruckman, I believe the opposite was true for a significant number of Fundamentalists who opened doors for Ruckman in the early days. I believe that as Fundamentalists/conservative Christians, we should ask ourselves what went wrong, less the same type of mistake be repeated in the future.
A number of independent Baptists have shown a noticeable lack of discernment regarding Ruckmanism. Some non-Ruckmanites will support a Ruckmanite missionary or will have a Ruckmanite preacher in to preach thinking, “they are a little fanatical about the King James, but that’s about it. No big deal.” This tolerance has allowed Ruckmanism to make an inroad (even if small) within mainstream fundamentalism. Many preachers will not inform themselves about Ruckmanism, like they will about the New Evangelical or Ecumenical movement.
I’m familiar with the case of a fundamental church that claimed to be against Ruckmanism that had an online Christian bookstore that even sold David Cloud’s book against Ruckman. However, this same online bookstore without warning sold books (not written by Peter Ruckman) that promoted Ruckmanism. I pointed this out to the pastor when he was communicating with me about a different matter. The last time I checked (one year later), the books promoting Ruckmanism were still being sold at their online bookstore without warning.
Some non-Ruckmanite preachers will read Ruckman’s books with the intention of “spitting out the bones.” It cannot be denied that there is some truth, or perhaps much truth in Ruckman’s books. But much truth intermingled with serious error is often far more dangerous than straight error. Many of Ruckman’s books pose trick questions that the reader may not be able to answer, therefore the reader is led to believe that Ruckman has answers no one else has.
How did Ruckmanism seduce so many?
The seductive nature of Ruckman is different than in most cases among religious leaders. He does not come across as smooth and polished. He does not try to butter people up. He does not try to win people over with big smiles and a charming personality. He does not try to make friends on all sides. He comes across differently, often reminding people that he was an infantryman, and he seems to use his rough edges to his advantage to reach those who are not impressed by teachers with big smiles who keep repeating the same plain old-fashioned Gospel. He approaches them as a common man who got to experience the world and its main religions before converting to Christianity and becoming an intellectual by reading a book a day and reading the Bible through so many times as to become what he called “the fastest gun in the West.”
His ability to draw colorful artwork pertaining to his message while he preached was apparently a big draw. His radio voice and his ability to make up sound effects from the pulpit also captured the attention of his audiences. He sometimes indulged in fantastic speculation for what might otherwise be considered boring Bible passages, making them come to life with interpretations of interplanetary travel and reproduction in heaven, an original chaotic creation, adding sexual elements to Bible anecdotes that no one else could find, revealing what the forbidden fruit was in the Garden of Eden, the date of Christ’s birth, and rapture date guessing–all with some racist remarks added for effect. He had a rapid-fire method of quoting verses that seemed to back up what he was saying, but he would quickly move on to the next verse before his audience had a chance to have a good look at a passage to assess its validity within context for themselves. You were just supposed to trust Ruckman’s interpretation, and many did. Even though he seemed to have plenty of time to develop his pet theories, he nearly always seemed rushed when it came time to back up his views with Scripture. It would be hard to believe that this was not intentional.
There is no denying that his teaching included a significant amount of truth. This, coupled with what was often a long string of Bible references after one of his “Ruckmanisms,” plus telling his audience reassuring statements such as “look up the references,” “don’t take my word for it” no doubt convinced many that he must be right.
However, what happens when someone accepts his challenge to “look up the references,” and writes Ruckman a personal letter expressing their concerns? This author did exactly that in 2004. Instead of clarifying his teachings and answering questions, he wrote back with the most unkind letter I have ever received. He accused me of being a liar and worse. I received two cruel answering machine messages the following week from people likely in his circle he had apparently shared my letter with. To tell someone in the midst of their teaching to look up the Bible references he provides and tell people to check him out, only to insult, demean and ridicule them (and influence others to do the same) when they actually follow through is nothing short of cultic behavior.
What he is trying to get across subconsciously is that since he has read the Bible over 100 times, has read over 35,000 books, has 5 academic degrees, has written over 100 books, has such a varied background, including dabbling in major world religions, living in different places, and working in many different occupations, that he is uniquely qualified to unlock biblical mysteries and have a special insight on the Bible that no one else has ever had. By continuing to bring up his background and mocking so many other Bible teachers, he is conditioning his audience in a cultic fashion to accept what he teaches no matter how new or odd it sounds. His book sales and number of his followers points to how successful he's been in grooming them with this strategy.
Ruckman often paraphrases the beliefs of others when attempting to refute them. In other words, Ruckman often rephrases what others believe in his own words, in a convenient way in order to make them easier to refute. We are not accusing Ruckman of never providing exact quotes from his adversaries. What we are saying is Ruckman prefers to generalize views held by his adversaries, but spelled out in a way they may or may not accurately express their view. For example. "The Holy Spirit did not come IN to men in the Old Testament. He merely came 'on them.' This standard Fundamentalist lie is held to be Biblical truth by… [lists 7 men without quoting them]" (Bible Believer’s Bulletin April 1984, p. 1)
He intentionally over-simplifies the issues, creating a false dichotomy in which only his position can be correct. Those who are not well informed do not realize he could be withholding information that significantly weakens or even invalidates his arguments, or that there are viable alternatives to his positions that do not violate Scripture or common sense.
In his interpretations, Ruckman is driven by superstitions and a desire to disclose new theological discoveries to add to the concept he has coined as "advanced revelations." In the process, it is not unusual for him to mock others for not noticing what he has "discovered."
For his strange interpretations, Ruckman frequently relies on doubtful or obscure definitions of keywords in order to fit his narrative. Often when this occurs, he doesn't provide a source for his unusual definitions. Using an unusual definition without a source, he will proceed to use key terms outside their normal, ordinary use. In the process he will switch source languages for his keywords at his convenience, something he chides others for doing.
Although Ruckman does not frequently write in a scholarly fashion, there is no doubt that he is intellectually brilliant, well educated, and has an excellent memory to recall facts, figures, dates, names and places. How easily he is able to recall Bible references and recite near encyclopedic knowledge when answering questions on-the-fly (as in the sample made available by the Bible Baptist Bookstore) reveal an extraordinary intellect. However, this alone does not make anyone a well-balanced individual who can exercise discernment and be wise in their views and approaches to issues. Some of the brightest intellectuals throughout history (with some of them being theologians) have been known to hold abhorrent views.
There is no denying that Ruckman had some extraordinary intellectual abilities and talents. He is brilliant in many ways, and he is obviously well read, even if his claim to have read a book a day since the age of ten may be doubtful. However, the proper question to ask at this point is whether he is wise, by God’s definition. James 3:17 defines wisdom as follows: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” That biblical definition does not seem to describe Ruckman.
If wisdom and balance and careful exegesis are not a characteristic of someone’s teaching, it doesn’t matter how many degrees they have, or how high an IQ, or how many books they’ve read, or how many souls they’ve won, or how many times they’ve read the Bible, or how much of it has been memorized. Although God can use these things, they are not a substitute for wisdom, balance, and careful hermeneutical practices.
When Ruckmanites are backed into a corner, our experience is that they will often demand to be shown which Bible teacher should substitute Ruckman. This of course is to facilitate pointing out the faults of whatever alternative teacher is suggested, in an attempt to make a point that everyone has faults—so why not continue to stand with Ruckman? For the purposes of deep Bible study and well-rounded preparation for God’s service, no single person can fill that void and be all things. A given writer may have written one of the best commentaries ever on the book of Psalms, for example, but he may have written a book on Revelation that leaves much to be desired. Someone who is not gifted in Biblical exegesis may have written one of the best books on counseling or sermon delivery. Some are better speakers than writers, and vice versa. The Bible speaks of “diversity of gifts” (1 Cor. 12:4). Obtaining nearly all study material from one author would be convenient, but we would be subjecting ourselves to all his weaknesses and shortcomings. There’s much truth to the adage that says, “to be master of all is to be master of none.”
We have never known Ruckman to admit to discovering he’s been wrong in one of his peculiar views or public teachings with the exception of a detail concerning 2 Timothy 3:16. His previous position on 2 Tim. 3:16 was not unique, but the prevailing view among those who are conservative in their theology. This should hardly count as a change, because it conveniently benefited his views on double inspiration and was suggested by one of his own followers. If our observation is correct, except for the exception noted, he has never admitted to being wrong in one of his personal interpretations or any unique views he has made public. For all the views he held and interpretations he made public over a period of approximately 60 years, it is inconceivable that he would not admit to a mistake in interpretations or more than a slight change in a position. Even with his failure to guess the date of the rapture, he could not bring himself to admit he was wrong for doing so, but instead blamed the calendar! What folly! What utter foolishness that should only be expected from the worse of cults!
When someone is found that seems to be balanced and wise and appears to demonstrate careful exegesis, our guard can still never be let down. When sincere questions arise that appear to show serious weaknesses in a major teaching, the concerns should not be dismissed with unquestioned loyalty.
One area Fundamentalists need to learn from past mistakes is over-reliance on personalities for doctrine and practices rather than the Word of God itself. Human leadership is necessary in ministry, but it also is a way for Satan to get his foot in the door. It must be realized that our loyalty ultimately is to Christ and his Word, not to a man or an institution or a movement.
We will conclude with the following relevant thought from the writings of RA Torrey:
One of the commonest causes of failure in Christian life is found in the attempt to follow some good man whom we greatly admire. No man and no woman, no matter how good, can be safely followed. If we follow any man or woman, we are bound to go astray. There has been but one absolutely perfect Man on this earth–the Man Christ Jesus. If we try to follow any other man we are surer to imitate his faults than his excellencies. Look to Jesus and Jesus only as your Guide.