EDITORIAL - The New Liberals

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

The above title is chosen as a heading under which to say some things regarding an article by Editor Roy D. Merritt in the February, 1971 Gospel Herald, which is a Canadian publication. Brother Merritt entitled his article "The New Antis."

For the most part, the Canadian liberal brethren have tried to maintain a dignified aloofness to the institutional controversy that has raged within the churches for considerably more than a quarter of a century now. Only occasionally have these Canadian liberal brethren stepped down from their ivory towered objectivity even to admit that there is such a controversy raging, and then only to take their share of "pot-shots" (as he called them) at their "Anti" brethren, as he so affectionately labels us.


Brother Merritt states "The term 'anti' is not a pretty designation. . . . Around the middle of this century it began to be applied to individuals who opposed certain cooperative efforts on the part of congregations of the church." The thing about which he is chafing is that someone now has begun to apply this same derogatory term "anti" to him. In his editorial he seeks to loose himself from such a derisive expression, and to make it applicable to those whom some would call "ultra-liberals." Brother Merritt states, "This editor has been called a 'liberal' by the 'antis' and an 'anti' by the 'liberals'"

Brother Merritt would label those of us who write for Truth Magazine as the old-type of "anti." He states that this derogatory term "anti" began to be applied to "individuals who opposed certain cooperative efforts" "Around the middle of this century." Though Brother Merritt admits it "is not a pretty designation," he and others associated with him have not scrupled to use it derisively to speak of us.

He says that one has been dubbed as "liberal" heretofore who "supports, or claims the liberty to support, cooperative projects of preaching and benevolence." These Canadian brethren have done very little of supporting such "cooperative projects"; they have just "claimed the liberty to support" such centralized endeavors. In fact, this has been one rather obvious point. Many have jumped on the liberal "band-wagon" who have not supported with their dollars those things which they so loudly defended with their mouths and pens. Their own liberal brethren have so denounced them.

In fact, the Boles Home News states that these "liberals" (???) "are spending the stupendous sum of 50 cents per member per year for benevolence" (February 25, 1966 issue). Is "liberal" the proper word to describe such people? The Boles Home News states they are spending 50 cents per member per year. Why, that is a penny a week per member! My, what liberality!! Brother Merritt is exactly right when he says that those who have been called "liberals" "claim the liberty" to support such enterprises.

The New Antis

The thing that has Brother Merritt so upset is that his kind of preaching has produced a new generation of "ultra liberals." He does not want to admit any kinship with them. Like B. C. Goodpasture G. K. Wallace, Guy N. Woods, Tom Warren, Roy Deaver, and Clifton Inman, Brother Merritt now would like to deny his own children.

Brother Merritt is smarting under the fact that he now is being denominated by his spiritual children an "anti," and he does not like the term. So he attempts to pluck the name-plate from his own breast, and pin it on the "ultra liberals" whom he and his ilk have begotten. He says these "New Antis" (he means those who are very liberal) are "modern Gnostics," "self-willed," "unfair," and "unloving." He even charges that these "New Antis" (the ultra-liberals) are so dogmatic that "One must support any machinery which they set in motion or one is opposing God." They are "the high priests of progress." He says they use "satire," "sarcasm," and "cynicism" against their brethren. After all this vituperation, Brother Merritt insists we must treat these "New Anti" (i.e. ultra-liberal) brethren "with humility and love. . . ." His is a rather strange way of speaking of those whom he loves.

Brother Merritt almost had me feeling sorry for him. However, it is Brother Merritt and those associated with him who have insisted that we must support the Herald of Truth "machinery," or the human institutions which he and his other liberal brethren have devised, or we are "opposing God." Brother Merritt has been among those who charged we were "making laws where God made none."

All of which means--Brother Merritt does not like the same kind of shabby treatment he has accorded us-when the treatment is coming in his direction rather than from him. He says that these "New Antis" (the ultraliberals) "take pot-shots at narrow-minded brethren. . . ." Brother Merritt, you and the other liberal preachers have taught them by your actions that that is what they are supposed to do. You have taken your "potshots" at us whom you would call "narrow-minded" because we oppose "machinery which you have set in motion."

Merritt's Misery

Brother Merritt is now being considered as an old "moss-back," "dyed-in-the-wool," "legalistic," "do-nothing." He does not like the appellations which he has used on others. It is interesting to notice that there is either a sprinkling or a full shock of gray in the hair of nearly all those among the liberals who are beginning a hopeless struggle against "liberalism" within their ranks. These mature and sometimes aged men seem oblivious to the fact that the young generation whom they think of as "wild-eyed liberals" have been begotten and nourished by their "where there is no pattern" propaganda.

Unfortunately, past history indicates that Brother Merritt and his peers are now destined to be relegated to the theological junk-heap by the new breed of liberal intellectuals whom their loose teaching has engendered. Now it appears such precursors of ultra-liberalism are destined to be fed out of their own spoon the asinine vituperation which they have heaped on those of us whom 66 around the middle of this century" they began to label as "antis." Future historians will caricature Brother Merritt and his disturbed middle-aged associates as little boys who were trying to stop a run-away locomotive by waving a handkerchief at it, or as disgruntled misfits who were trying to stop the wheels of progress, or perhaps as old men who were trying to sweep back the sea with a broom. But whatever the figure, they will be depicted as fighting a losing battle . . . for when one sows the seeds of liberalism, he is destined to reap the whirlwind of ultra liberalism. The harvest season has just begun, Brother Merritt.

So repugnant to Brother Merritt now are the labels they have sought to pin on us that he incongruously seeks to remove the "anti" badge and to make it applicable to those liberals who now are calling him "anti." "Anti" would be a laughable misnomer if applied to these brethren who oppose virtually nothing. The wheel of time spins out paradoxical and sometimes circuitous circumstances doesn't it Brother Merritt.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 22, pp. 3-5
April 8, 1971