By Cecil Willis
In an article published last week, we were discussing Brother William Wallace’s Gospel Guardian article entitled “Turning Off Second Generation Preachers” (published March 15, 1973), and “An Open Letter to the Gospel Guardian,” written by four young men at Florida College. If you have access to those articles, I suggest that you read them before proceeding further with this article, if you have not already read them.
You will notice in the “Open Letter” article (published in Truth Magazine last week) that these four young men asked Brother Wallace his opinion regarding Randall Trainer’s declaration that there was no theological liberalism at Abilene Christian College, which statement was published in the Gospel Guardian last year, and to which I made reply in Truth Magazine last Fall. In a letter to these young men, Brother Wallace stated again (April 30, 1973) that he had seen no evidence in print showing conclusively that there was theological liberalism at Abilene Christian College.
Wallace said: “Was Trainer’s article absolutely true? I do not know whether or not it was absolutely true, but I would say that I haven’t seen anything in print to prove it was absolutely false. Is there any theological liberalism at ACC? I suspect so, but I would think it has gone ‘underground.’ I doubt very seriously that theological liberalism is an open problem at Abilene. There are elements in liberal ranks fighting theological liberalism in a most effective way and it appears that ACC is trying to keep its house clean.”
I beg to differ with my friend, William Wallace, in his assessment of whether there is any liberalism at Abilene Christian College. In my articles last Fall, I showed that three ACC Bible faculty members persisted in remaining on the Board of Trustees of Mission, which is the most liberal magazine published by brethren, and they persisted in remaining on the Board of Trustees even after a good deal of public pressure had been brought to bear upon them by Roy Lanier through the Firm Foundation and James D. Bales through the Gospel Advocate. One ACC faculty member recently told me that two of these Board of Trustee members remained upon the Board of Mission because of their liberalism, and the other because of his hard-headedness. The present editor of Mission, who certainly has so far shown no disposition to correct the course of that paper, was chosen on the recommendation of the Head of the Graduate Division of Bible at ACC. Furthermore there are plenty other evidences of liberalism on the Bible faculty of ACC, whether Brother Wallace wants to admit it or not. In fact, even Bill “suspects” there might be some “underground” liberalism on the ACC Bible faculty, even though he permitted Brother Trainer to assure us categorically that there was none. And I might repeat: Brother Trainer had himself joined a liberal congregation the last I knew of him.
Brother Wallace assured the “second generation” preachers from Florida College that “We do not intend to ride one theme or to be abusive to our brethren .One reason we have not said more on the Ketcherside error than we have is the prominence other journals have given to the problem. We see no reason to echo what others are saying.” Yet the charge that consistently has been made against the Guardian for twenty years or more is that they have ridden “one theme” (institutionalism), and I have often defended them for so doing. Yet while Searching the Scriptures, Preceptor, Torch, and Truth Magazine have also been plugging away at institutionalism, the Gospel Guardian did not hesitate to “echo what others are saying.” It might more correctly be said, in that instance, that the other papers just mentioned did not hesitate to “echo” what the Gospel Guardian had been saying with great power and effectiveness for a score or more years.
They tell us now that they are going to turn the Gospel Guardian more into a “family-type” magazine and to leave the battlefields to papers more disposed to occupy these battlefields. It is precisely this reluctance to join battle, as they once did with errorists of every kind that has shaken the confidence of many brethren in the Gospel Guardian.
I would not for one moment deny that Truth Magazine has “turned off” a goodly number of “second generation” preachers, but I can tell you precisely which ones we have turned off. There are a host of “second generation” preachers who are constantly on my back because they do not think we are hitting error hard enough. These are not the ones whom we have “turned off,” nor are they the ones to whom Brother Wallace had reference in his “second generation” preachers article.
There are a goodly number of young men among us who already have swallowed the Ketcherside line on “fellowship.” Without exception, Truth Magazine is “turning off” these second generation preachers. Their peers often are telling me of the aversion of these “second generation” preachers to our efforts in Truth Magazine. These “second generation” preachers who are in sympathy with Brother Ketcherside and his “Unity Cult” have their own communication system going among themselves, but some of their material has been sent to me, by, several of the “second generation preachers who are not “turned off” by Truth Magazine. Let me show you a little of what is being taught by some of these “second generation” preachers whom Truth Magazine is turning off.
In one of their pieces entitled “Establishing Bible Authority,” published by the “underground” means of these “second generation” preachers, we find them completely denying the binding authority of apostolic example. The article from which I am going to quote is signed by Ronnie Compton and Phillip Kight, both of whom now are studying at Abilene Christian College, but who formerly studied at Florida College. I might add that I have spent several hours discussing this matter with these two young preachers whom Truth Magazine has “turned off.” In fact, in January, 1973 brethren James W. Adams, Harry Pickup, Jr. Melvin Curry, Lindy McDaniel, Larry Hafley, and I spent several hours trying to help these young men get back on the right track, but apparently we were not successful in doing so.
In the “Bible Authority” article which was mimeographed and distributed rather widely, these young men state: “It is the belief of many members of the church that Bible examples are of equal weight with Bible commands and direct statements … However, we feel that it is only honest to remind our brethren that such a conviction is open to question and may not be imposed on others without the unmistakable authority of our Father in heaven … We fail to find a basis here for placing apostolic deeds apart from inspired commentary on a par with the clear and forthright commandments issued by the power of the Holy Spirit … Our Saviour never said ‘Thou shalt keep all the apostolic examples that you find in the New Testament.’ It also holds true that no apostle of His ever said this either … We are firmly convinced that God requires only that His children believe and obey His commandments, not the hay and stubble of human opinion about unexplained New Testament examples. It is evident to us that a misunderstanding of this principle has been and will continue to be a chief source of the bloodthirsty division in the body of Christ … Once it dawned on us that we could conceivably be wrong about the significance of New Testament examples, we developed a healthy respect for this new-found capability. The very likelihood of our misconstruing such historical data became so apparent that we purposed never again to bind our own conclusions on another brother as a condition of his fellowship with God and us. Finally realizing that, if we should live to be a thousand, we would never arrive at moral, ethical, or doctrinal perfection, the need for and value of God’s saving grace broke upon us like a tidal wave . . . We were surprised to learn that we really don’t deserve God’s mercy more than any other man who has come to the cross for grace and pardon. We have found the writings of brother Edward Fudge to be very helpful in this area (C. E. 1. Pub. Co., Box 858, Athens, Ala. 35611). We also recommend the writings of Thomas and Alexander Campbell on the subject of faith and opinion as it relates to salvation and fellowship.”
These are the “second generation” preachers whom Truth Magazine has “turned off,” hut somebody needs to turn them off until they learn more than they have expressed about establishing scriptural authority. When Brother James Adams made some reference to the fact that these young men are citing Brother Edward Fudge as having been “very helpful in this area,” Brother Fudge did not correct these voting men, or publically repudiate what they attributed to him. Instead, he simply said, “A brother recently asserted in another paper that someone had quoted my writings in support of what he deemed false doctrine. (My emphasis CW) It is regrettable that such should ever occur.” (Gospel Guardian, May 3, 1973).
You will notice that Brother Fudge said that the brother “deemed false doctrine” that which was being attributed to him. Did Brother Fudge it to be false doctrine? He did not say. He simply used it as another opportunity to recommend his books. No doubt we are “turning off” some “second generation” preachers, and we will have more to say about this next week.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 33, pp. 3-6
June 21, 1973