Brother Ralph Sweet's Article

Cecil Willis
Marion, IN.

Brother Sweet indicated by letter that he was running in the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE my three articles entitled "Modernism in Bible Class Literature." Accordingly, we are glad to have his article in response published in TRUTH MAGAZINE. This gesture of fairness on the part of Brother Sweet is much appreciated. Brethren sometime think we should publish what they have to say without any consideration of giving our articles equal circulation, even when they have ready access to facilities to do so.



Brother Sweet seems amazed that we should criticize his literature "now that they are selling literature." Brother Sweet ought to know that my criticism was not of the fact that they were "selling literature;" instead it was the kind of literature they sell that I criticized. Furthermore, some might get the impression from what Brother Sweet said that we just began selling literature. Yet TRUTH MAGAZINE has been in the religious literature retail business for well over a decade. I did not attack his literature just because we have just begun selling literature. Yet Brother Sweet says, "it seems very coincidental that a part of the plan is to accuse others of modernism in hopes of selling their own materials." This is a rather low "dig" to come from one in such a position as that held by Ralph Sweet. It is a charge that he could not possibly prove, for it is absolutely false.

The Sweet Company has published more liberal and modernistic for several years. This trend was well developed and underway long before we purchased from them the old

"JOURNEYS THROUGH THE BIBLE" series. In fact, I had been very critical of some of the Sweet publications for several years before we purchased "JOURNEYS." Is Brother Sweet trying to imply that we should not now criticize anything they teach or sell just because we also sell literature? If he thinks that, I fear he is going to be sadly disappointed in us.

The fact is that I wrote my series of three articles on the GENESIS AND MY LIFE class book published by Sweet Company the very week I saw the book for the first time. I had seen quotations from the book, but I had not seen the book, in spite of the fact that the book had been on the market for seven years. The fact we had bought "JOURNEYS" had nothing whatever to do with my writing the articles, and I severely resent the implication that it did have. Brother Sweet ought to apologize for such an innuendo. An innuendo is "a covert allusion to something not directly named.'' Sweet says that Ira Rice uses innuendoes on him. Reckon what he would call what he sought to use on us?

Theistic Evolution

Brother Sweet is categorical in his disavowal of the theory of theistic evolution. This explicit disavowal is appreciated. Yet it does not explain some of the statements in the Sweet Company book. Theistic evolution is the theory that God created the heavens and the earth by the process of evolution.

Yet Brother Sweet's disavowal of theistic evolution would logically involve him in more difficulty. His literature states that we do not know "how" the universe was created. Keep in mind that the scriptures tell us that the creation was effected "by the word of God" (Heb. 11:3; Ps. 33:6-9). I therefore know not only "Who" created, but I also know "by faith .... How" He created. If one does not believe God in six days spoke the worlds into existence, nor that God created by the process of evolution, what alternatives are open to him? Those who contend for the great periods of time do so in order to allow time for God to create by the process of evolution. Brother Sweet's material argues for the great epochs of time, but still asserts that he does not believe "theistic evolution." If Brother Sweet does not believe in a "six day" creation, nor in theistic evolution, how does he believe the universe came into existence?

Brother Sweet says, "Our material teaches that we do not know how long creation took." This is one thing wrong with your literature, Brother Sweet. The Bible tells us "how long" creation took. Exodus 20:11 is as explicit as it possibly could be put: "for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day." Wonder why Brother Sweet does not know how long creation took?

The Sweet literature under discussion attempts to make these "days" great geological eras. The author of this High School Teacher-Student manual says: "The length of these days of creation has caused much discussion. By all the rules of Biblical language there seems to be no reason to insist that the 'days' were 24 hour periods.... Whether He did it in 6 days of 24 hours, or 2400 billion years is relatively unimportant. One's piety is not affected by his view of the length of the creation days."

By some stretch of the author's imagination, he implies that these "six days" just might be elongated into "2400 billion years." This yet-anonymous author said: "By all the rules of Biblical language there seems to be no reason to insist that the 'days' were 24 hour periods "I still think the name of this hermeneutical wizard should be given. I need to know what these "rules of Biblical language" are which enabled him to learn that these "six days" were not ordinary days, but might have been perhaps "2400 billion years."

Dr. Henry Morris, who has written extensively on the subject of evolution, said f "The day-age theory is thus merely a semantic variant of theistic evolution" (CREATION RESEARCH QUARTERLY, March, 1969, p. 132). Thus it is not quite sufficient for Brother Sweet merely to assert that "We do not believe theistic evolution," and then to turn around and attempt to defend a "semantic variant of theistic evolution."

When we purchased the old "JOURNEYS THROUGH THE BIBLE" series from the Sweet Company, we discussed beforehand that in some instances revision would be needful. But we thought then, and still think so, that the series had the skeleton of a good series of Bible lessons. However, as books are reprinted, doubtful statements (if there are such) will be deleted, and revisions will be made as necessary.

But what about the quoted statements from Book 10, Part 1 of "JOURNEYS"?
These statements do not pertain at all to the "six day" creation. The book asks, "How
long had the creative process been going on before man came into being?.. All the
theories that science has worked out picture a period when space was filled with unorganized matter."

The Bible says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water" (Gen. l:l,2) Then the detailed account of the six day creation is given.

Some Bible scholars have thought that there may have been a period of lapsed time between the original creation of heaven and earth (recorded in Gen. 1:1L and the "six

day" creation. These scholars believe that during this interval "the earth was waste and void" and that "space was filled with unorganized matter."

This position, whether true or not, does not relate to the day-age theory which Dr. Henry Morris said is merely a "semantic variant of theistic evolution," and this is the theory implied by the Sweet Company book, GENESIS AND MY LIFE.

Bishop Ushers Chronology

Brother Sweet attempted to make it appear that I was defending the chronology of Archbishop Usher. Brother Sweet said, "It is not in the text of Genesis." I never said that it was. Brother Sweet told us that Usher was an "archbishop in the Catholic Church in Ireland." That statement is like the Sweet Company publication assertion that by a "new" kind of carbon--14 dating, scientists "can now determine the age of objects dating back 100,000 years"--i.e., it is neither documentable nor true! Usher was in the Anglican Church.

Writers Resign Because of Modernism

Brother Sweet said my statement that "two writers have resigned because of the modernism of others on the staff" is "not true." He said, "Cecil, prove this."

My reference was to a letter by Eugene Clevenger addressed to David Stewart, former Managing Editor of publications for the Sweet Company. Brother Clevenger is in the Department of Bible and Religious Education at Abilene Christian College. The letter to which I had reference is dated April 29, 1967, and probably yet is in the files of the Sweet Company in Austin. It might even be in a file in Brother Sweet's own office. But here is the letter:

"April 29, 1967

"Mr. David Stewart

R. B. Sweet Company, Inc.

Austin, Texas 78751

"Dear David:

"This is to inform you that I have decided not to write the Living Word Commentary on Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon for the following reason.

"I was conscious from the beginning that many of the writers of this commentary were theological liberals, but I thought that if men like Frank Pack, Raymond Kelcy and Nell Lightfoot and a few others could join with you in this effort, I could too. However, after considering the matter carefully, I have about concluded that the liberals have gained control of the R. B. Sweet Company, and my opinion is that you have a few conservative brethren as writers to make the set respectable to a broad segment of the brotherhood.

"I have decided not to have a part in this cooperative effort with such liberals as Everett Ferguson, Abe Malherbe, Tony Ash, Dick Batey, Bob Johnson, Pat Harrell, Don McGaughey, J. W. Roberts. The time is fast approaching when the position, of such men as are on the .Bible Faculty of Abilene Christian College must be made known to the brotherhood, and I have decided that I, for one, will do what I can to expose the liberalism that prevails in the Bible Department here at ACC.

"I ask you, therefore, in view of my feelings on the subject and in view of what I plan to do in exposing some of these brethren, to withdraw my name from the Living Word Commentary. I may add, ff anyone wants to know the reason for this withdrawal, you are at liberty to tell them what I have said in this letter.

"Sincerely yours,

"(s) Eugene W. Clevenger"

Now the other brother to whom I made reference as also resigning was a former schoolmate of mine, Nell Lightfoot, also an Abilene Christian College faculty member. In a letter dated October 5, 1967, Brother Clevenger said: "Neil Lightfoot has also withdrawn from the Commentary, and I am hoping that others of us who are not in agreement with the views of such men as I named in the letter will also withdraw."

"Ax on the Root"

I mentioned that two volumes entitled AX ON THE ROOT had been written to expose modernism, and that writers and publications of the Sweet Company were given a good deal of attention. Such books have indeed been written, and that is all that I said. I do not know Ira Rice personally. Brother Sweet makes some very strong statements about him. Whether he can prove them will have to remain between him and Brother Rice. Perhaps Brother Sweet should have sat down with Brother Rice, as he said he preferred to do, and to have discussed his "morals" and "integrity." I have heard they have had such a discussion regarding the books by Rice and Sweet's publications. Perhaps Brother Sweet now will arrange to discuss Rice's "morals" and "integrity."


Now re-read Brother Sweet's article, and see what defense he made of the statements in GENESIS AND MY LIFE. He made no defense of them at all, but merely spoke regarding some extraneous matters such as Usher's chronology, Rice's "morals" and "integrity," and TRUTH MAGAZINE selling literature.

I might also add, incidentally, that I still have not learned why the Sweet Company quit selling Warren Lewis' book on THE LORD'S SUPPER. Brother Sweet told me he would tell me why after he had seen my third article. I am still waiting.

It is my judgment that further exchange on these items will be helpful. I therefore recommend that Brother Sweet also publish this article in the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE, and I will be glad to publish his reply to it in TRUTH MAGAZINE. I want to see the GENESIS AND MY LIFE statement either defended, or explicitly repudiated. I would much prefer to see the later done, for they should be repudiated.


May 7, 1970