Chapter 9 - Hyles, Two Years Later

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While we doubt that people are moving to Hammond anymore to worship at First Baptist Church, there may be many doing so to attend the college. If you know young people thinking of attending Hyles-Anderson you might want to share this CD with them. There are so many good evangelical, fundamental schools out there offering a sound, scholarly education it is a shame that young men and young women end up at H-AC.

The kind of cult mentality observed around Hyles described in this CD is seen in the fact that his first church building has already been moved from Texas and rebuilt on the Hyles-Anderson College grounds. It is currently used as a spare classroom. In less than 9 months after Hyles' death, plans were announced to move the house where he was born to the campus. An associate at the church, Ray Young, who was given credit for the idea by the local media, said he wasn't sure yet what it would be used for, but promised it wouldn't be as a spare classroom. If we may offer a prediction as to its use, it will be as a "worship center," if you know what we mean. The Hammond Times, in announcing the story, described it as "a permanent monument to Hyles."

In our electronic age there are many web sites, we understand, dedicated to exposing Dr. Hyles. May their tribe be multiplied. Unfortunately, those we have seen have little more to offer than what the sponsors gleaned from our past articles – and few of them give any credit to their sources. Alas, some didn't even get the facts straight. We are not complaining about their use of our material – we merely wish they would be accurate in what they publish. As for me, I am just glad the message is getting out. Hopefully, many lives and ministries will be saved as a result.

Unfortunately, the same sordid story is still going on. Out of many, many examples we could give, here is just one fruit of the Hyles mentality and practice, something we published in our May-June 2000 issue of The Biblical Evangelist. It will probably remind you of the David and Brenda Hyles situation with little Brent Stevens. This was the editorial:

ANOTHER TRAGIC HYLES FALL-OUT!

We consign this terrible tragedy to the Hyles syndrome because, for one thing, the man in question was formerly head of the Hyles-Anderson College Bible Department and billed by Dr. Jack Hyles as the greatest Bible teacher in Christendom, or words to that effect. For another thing, he is a Hyles clone, the man who testified publicly that he sometimes, in petitioning deity, catches himself praying, “Dear Brother Hyles” – a matter which may not miss the mark all that much for many of the Hammond elite. His name is Joe Combs and until recently he was pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Bristol, Tennessee (now defunct).

This sad story began in 1977 when Joe and Evangeline Lopez Combs, unable to conceive children, decided to adopt a son. Evidently they were pleased and the following year the couple went to what is now the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries, Inc., in nearby Valparaiso, Indiana – a highly respected organization on the approved list of social agencies at the time for the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches – and selected a beautiful 4-month old girl. They signed an adoption agreement and took custody of her, naming her Esther Alice Evangeline Combs. (Strangely, the womb was then opened and the couple produced four biological children.) So far, so good.

Alas, this beautiful story ends right there. The Combses made that precious soul their personal slave and subjected her to a life of horror and abuse – physical, mental, emotional and social – one that ended only when she went to authorities in Georgia and told her tale, bringing to termination nearly two decades of horror. (She had been sent to that State to live with Joe’s brother and his family because Tennessee police had filed a petition for guardianship on Esther – and for the first time in her life she discovered living.)

A life of horror for Esther? Let me count some of the ways.

Å° Her earliest memory was of being thrown down the stairs while strapped in her high chair.

Å° At age 3 or 4, after accidentally dropping a spoon in a pot of hot oatmeal, her hands were burned when Mrs. Combs made her dig it out.

Å° Accused by siblings of jumping on a bed, Mrs. Combs hurled her against the wall and knocked out two front teeth, which were hurriedly placed back in their sockets and grew oddly spaced and crooked.

Å° On one occasion, in a fit of temper, Mrs. Combs threw a shoe at her, hitting her in the head and opening a bloody cut. Evangeline promptly sewed it up with needle and thread, then referred to the scars as “her marks of the beast.”

Å° She was beaten with a hose for falling asleep in church.

Å° Esther was treated as a slave for the rest of the family her entire life, told by the Combses that this was God’s purpose for her life. When she didn’t finish her duties on time, she was beaten.

Å° Over the years she was burned with a curling iron, beaten with a baseball bat, and tortured in other ways. Altogether, there were 410 scars on the poor girl’s body, all documented and charted by the prosecution for the jury!

Å° While the other children were home schooled, she rarely got to attend. When a baby sitter taught her to write her name, Esther was beaten and the greatest Bible teacher in Christendom told her that Jesus didn’t learn to read and write until He was 12 years old, and she shouldn’t either. By the way, this girl and another sitter testified that they suspected abuse, but were afraid of this highly revered Bible professor. The other girl did report her misgivings to the school president, but no action was taken. (The policy is, you may recall, If I didn’t see it, it didn’t happen; even if I did see it, I was probably mistaken; and even if I did see it and wasn’t mistaken, someone else had to have seen it in order to confirm that I saw it!)

Å° As a teen-ager, Combs bound a rope around her neck, then draped her over his back, cutting off her air supply until she passed out.

Å° It was also as a teen-ager that the greatest Bible teacher in Christendom raped her repeatedly, usually on church property (where they were living).

Å° Esther said Mrs. Combs repeatedly pulled chunks of her flesh out with a pair of pliers.

Å° On at least two occasions Esther ran away from home, not getting far either time and each time brought back by police – when she was severely beaten for her actions.

Å° Finally, as a legal teen-age adult, desperate and unhappy, she decided to end her life by drinking antifreeze. She was found unconscious and rushed by ambulance to an area hospital and the seeds for ending the abuse were planted. Physicians found layers of scar tissue from wounds and fractures than had not healed properly. She had no birth certificate, no school records, no medical records, and no Social Security. Because the frightened girl denied being abused, she was returned to the horror house, but a few months later the police filed their petition for guardianship.

Prosecutor Barry Staubus summed it up well: “Esther lived as a broken person, devastated by physical, verbal, psychological and sexual abuse without any other family… and deprived of self-worth.”

Is the above true? I would certainly be interested in someone explaining those 410 scars on Esther’s body in any other way! The jury concluded both were guilty on 15 of 16 charges (Judge Jerry Beck had dismissed four charges earlier, agreeing with the defense that the prosecution had not filed them in time – not that the pair was innocent of them) and the verdicts certainly pointed to their guilt. (By the way, the fact that the jury only deliberated four hours indicates the panel thought the evidence was overwhelming.) The only acquittal came on the charge against Mrs. Combs of aggravated assault, which her husband had committed but during which she had stood passively by and hence permitted and condoned.

Joseph Combs was found guilty on 11 counts, namely, charges of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated perjury, aggravated rape, and 7 other counts of rape. The jury imposed fines totally $240,000. Evangeline Combs was found guilty on 6 counts, namely, charges of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and 4 counts of aggravated child abuse. The jury levied $150,000 in fines against her. The actual sentencing was scheduled for April 25th (past our deadline for reporting) and, if sentences ran consecutively instead of concurrently, “the greatest Bible teacher in Christendom” could get 144 years in the slammer and Mrs. Combs 73 years. It is our conviction that neither should ever see the outside of a prison wall again, but we are enough of a realist to know that American jurisprudence in our day and age doesn’t work that way.

The big surprise to us was that the “great American emancipator of preachers from sin’s penalties,” Jack Hyles, didn’t fly to Tennessee and testify for the Combses, trying to get them off the hook – as he has done for so many others over the years. Perhaps he realized there was too much evidence for even him to offset in this case.

Strangely, the Baptist Children’s Home apparently didn’t follow up properly on the adoption and may be in a spot of trouble itself. While the legal adoption was the duty of Combs and his wife, the Home was seemingly negligent in making sure it took place, i.e., that it was finalized. While the Home sent letters to the couple in 1980, 1984 and 1994 inquiring about the adoption status and requesting a copy of the court record, those letters were not answered and the 1994 missive was returned as undeliverable. Combs’ excuse for failure was that the Home wanted ten percent of his income over an undetermined period of time and he refused to give it. False! The Home never asked for a single penny.

Are you ready for a final shocker about this case? Do you remember our major book review of that horrible tome by Roy Branson, Jr., Dear Abner, I Love You, Joab, that we so profusely panned [The Biblical Evangelist, November 1, 1992] because it appeared to give carte blanche to antinomianism? The glowing Introduction was written by Branson’s pastor at the now defunct Emmanuel Baptist Church in Bristol, “the greatest Bible teacher in Christendom,” Doctor Joseph Combs himself. No fooling!

We have other editorials we could run, but have determined this sample is enough.

I am afraid the full record of the damage done to Christendom and to individual Christians by Hyles and those in his orbit can never even be imagined – to say nothing of being told – this side of the Judgment Seat of Christ!

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