"Mission" Magazine and Biological Evolution

Cecil Willis
Marion Indiana

The liberal churches of Christ are in troublebad trouble. For a generation now, they have been trying to open the gates to some unauthorized practices and institutions. Of
course, they have wanted to open the gates, but not too far. But to open the door to one unauthorized practice is like letting the camel get his nose under the tent, and then trying to keep him out of the tent.

A theological background for the rise of classical modernism among churches of Christ has been laid for a quarter of a century. The seeds of liberalism have been sown, and harvest time is at hand. Already the leaders in promoting liberalism (the GOSPEL ADVOCATE and the FIRM FOUNDATION) are attempting to chock the wheels. They are now to receive from the new generation of liberals which they have spawned the same kind of treatment they have been dishing out to us whom they have dubbed "Antis."

Leroy Garrett says that the whole show is now in the hands of what he calls the "young princes." These "young princes" are now ready to by-pass such old-time liberal promoters as B.C. Goodpasture, Guy N. Woods, and Reuel Lemmons. Interestingly, Goodpasture, Woods, Lemmons, Tom Warren, Glenn Wallace, and others, are now being cast in the role of "Antis."

The "young princes" started them a paper to promote their ultra-liberalism in 1967. They named it "MISSION." It is staffed, to a considerable degree, by Pepperdine College and Abilene Christian College faculty, Sweet Company personnel, and miscellaneous other liberals. Each issue of their paper becomes progressively further out.

Dr. Neal D. Buffalo

Perhaps the most modernistic article which has been published in MISSION is one by Neal D. Buffalo, who is an Elder in the College Church of Christ in Conway, Arkansas, and Professor of Biology in the State College of Arkansas at Conway.

Brother Buffalo entitled his article, "God or Evolution?", and the thrust of his article was that we should not pose the question "God or Evolution." His argument is that there is no conflict between God and the acceptance of biological evolution. In fact, his article was sub-titled "No Conflict."

Our brother does not equivocate. He definitely believes in the theory of evolution. In fact, he affirmed the theory of evolution more recently (in December, 1969) at Hartford, Illinois. To show you just how far some liberals have gone--his opponent in debate at Hartford was a member of the Christian Church!

Brother Buffalo emphatically declares: "I believe that any intelligent person who lends himself directly and without prejudice to the data of comparative morphology and physiology, paleontology and cytogenesis will come away with the conviction that evolution (the process) has occurred, that evolution (the theory) is a valid working tool for the biologist and that evolution (the concept) is inescapable as a philosophy of nature" (MISSION, April 1969, p. 18).

Like most theistic evolutionists, Brother Buffalo argues that the Bible stresses the who of creation, and not the how. He said, "Suffice it to say that a careful reading of the Genesis account of creation reveals an overwhelming emphasis upon the who of creation, not the how" (p. 19). He adds that "it makes very little difference to me whether a person accepts evolution.; especially in the case of a fellow Christian, I can appreciate his non-acceptance of it, and I can only hope that he will respect my convictions." Brother Buffalo simply here states that most Christians do not believe in evolution, but that he does believe it.

Further on in his shocking article, he makes a lengthy quotation from Nobel laureate G.W. Beadle, "because he expresses the matter succinctly." Beadle said (and Buffalo endorsed his statement):

"A theory of evolution that postulates that life arose by natural processes from non-living precursors and achieved its present diversity, including man, through the natural selection of rare favorable re-arrangements in the genetic material is on first thought abhorrent to many. It is a mechanistic view, and it appears to conflict with the teachings of many religious. How, then, can it be accepted by science?

"It is true that the thesis here defended does conflict with the Bible as literally interpreted. In fact, any acceptance of organic evolution leads logically to such a conflict. One must accept all of evolution or none. And the evidence for organic evolution is overwhelmingly convincing."

The Bible not only tells us that God created, but it tells us how God created, and how long it took Him to complete the creation. The Hebrew writer said, "By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear" (Heb. 11: 3). A similar statement is found in Ps. 33:6-9: "By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth ....For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." Exodus 20:11 tells us how much time was consumed by God's creative acts: "for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." One may accept the Bible or evolution, but one cannot consistently accept the Bible and evolution.

Brother Buffalo accepts all the theory, and adjusts his view of the Bible accordingly. In his speech at Hartford, Illinois, it was reported by an eye-witness that he said that Genesis 1 and 2 are not historical, but are merely a parable. He added that Genesis 1-11 is not really "told like it is" (as reported by Hiram Hutto in THE BULLETIN, January 8, 1970, Peoria, Illinois).

Brother Buffalo, in the MISSION article, had the audacity to state: "either the Genesis account of the 'days' is non-literal or it is false."

Modernism already has made serious inroads into the churches of Christ when an avowed exponent of evolution can be generally respected as an Elder and as an evolutionist.

I do not see how the "Trustees of Mission" can permit such an article to be published in their paper. It appears that men like J.W. Roberts, Carl Spain, Everett Ferguson and Thomas Olbricht (of Abilene Christian College) would at least have felt some compulsion to reply to such an article. Or you would have thought that some of the other board members (like Frank Pack, Ray Chester, Donald Sime, or David Stewart) would have felt the urgency to reply. These men last named are connected (or have been) with Pepperdine College or the Sweet Publishing Company.

The MISSION Awards

Instead of replying to Brother Buffalo's article advocating evolution, and rather than administering to him the stern rebuke he deserved, the "Trustees of Mission" bestowed upon him one of their annual literary awards "for outstanding literary achievement in bringing the Christian message to bear on the world of 1969" (MISSION, October, 1969, p. 30).

MISSION reported that "Articles were judged on the basis of their effectiveness in bringing the biblical message to bear on the Twentieth Century world, their relevance to contemporary religious life, their originality and creativity, and their communications effectiveness and reader, appeal."

"The judges for the contest were: Dr. David Stewart, Executive Editor, Sweet Publishing Company; Professor Abraham Malherbe, formerly of Abilene Christian College and currently Associate Professor of Religion, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; Professor James W. Culp, Department of English, Texas Technological College; Mr. Dwain Evans, a minister of the West Islip Church of Christ in West Islip, New York; and Mr. Allen Pettus, Editor of The Nashville Tennessean Magazine."

Brother Buffalo was awarded "second place" for his article, "God or Evolution," and was given a $100 cash prize. In connection with the award bestowal, MISSION commented: "In 'God or Evolution' (April, 1969) Dr. Buffalo argues against backing into the corner of choice between either God or evolution." MISSION said that Brother Buffalo thought the alleged conflict between file Bible and evolution could be solved if people would recognize "that the Bible at times speaks figuratively or in a literary sense." Buffalo maintains that Genesis 1 and 2 are figurative, and therefore do not really tell it "like it is."

A Sign of the Times

The award that Brother Buffalo received for his damaging article carries much more significance, in my judgment, than his article. One might understand when one individual loses his faith, and accepts biological evolution. However, that still would not solve the question of why such an unbeliever would be permitted to retain his position as an Elder in a church. Retaining Brother Buffalo tells much about the church where he is an Elder. MISSION reported that not only is Brother Buffalo an Elder in the College church in Conway, Arkansas, but also that he "is active in the teaching and preaching programs of that church" (October, 1969, p. 31). How would you like to have such a man teaching your children in a Bible class? Or, how would you like to have him to preach for the church where you worship?

But much more significant is the honor bestowed upon him by ~IISSION and its Board of Trustees consisting of twenty-two very prominent men in the brotherhood. If MISSION had published the article and then devastated it with a reply, their action might be understandable.

But instead, they honored the hurtful article as the second best article published in their journal in 1969. Surely, brethren, this must tell us much about what MISSION'S Trustees stand for, and where these "young princes" (Some of them are not quite so young!) will attempt to lead those in the church whom they can persuade.

The Pity of it All

Now after a quarter of a century of digressive effort in which ground was cultivated that now makes a fertile bed for modernism, the very men who prepared that soil are pretending to make a gigantic fight against modernism. They fight a losing battle. Just wait and see.

The liberal preachers of the last twenty-five years have taught the people to disregard and to disrespect what the Bible teaches. They have taught them how to ignore and to malign anyone who opposes them. Indeed, as one sympathizer with such modernism put it, "The obscurantists among us had better get out of the way or they'll be run down by those in search for relevance."

The liberals, who now propose to fight MISSION and its modernism, long ago cut away the Solid foundation beneath themselves upon which one must stand to wage any effective war against modernism. These brethren already have capitulated to modernism, but now must try to make some kind of face-saving fight against it. I predict it will be a losing battle.

As was stated in the outset of this article, the liberals are in trouble--bad trouble. A war is underway, and the very men who sought to bloody our heads as we attempted to stand for what the Bible teaches during the past quarter of a century are now to have their own weapons of intellectual snobbery, vilification and slander used upon them. It will be a gory fight!


March 26, 1970