By Wallace H. Little
Note the Philippine proverb: “When the mango tree is being stoned, it is to be understood it is full of fruit.”
I am seriously disturbed over unjust criticism of two Philippine preachers, brethren Romulo B. Agduma and Victorio R. Tibayan. It is from two sources. One, the institutionally-minded brethren, especially those Americans running the Philippine Bible College (PBC). It would be difficult to overestimate the fear these PBC-Americans have of Agduma and Tibayan because of their strong and effective opposition to the liberalism of that school. The Americans try to discredit these men by accusing them of things they have not done, saying things they have not said and holding positions not held, all without acknowledging their denials, to say nothing of considering the proofs offered. Also, unable to meet their arguments, the Americans try to silence the man making them. While I was back there in 1973,. Don Huddleson, preacher at the liberal Clark Air Base church told me we could have peace between us if only we would cease our opposition to the PBC. Error would always have it so!
Agduma and Tibayan have been tremendous sources of strength among conservative brethren in that nation. Hence the second source, the unfair fault-finding and jealous sniping by those who, supposedly, are also conservative is even more disquieting. I will cite one example. It is typical and the man involved needs to be exposed publically. Mateo E. Dawi asked and received Agduma’s recommendation for US financial support. He went to Davao City to preach. Later he abandoned that work and moved to a small barrio. Romulo was distressed over this but urged that Dawi continue to be supported. He believed the man was capable of an acceptable work in his new area. Agduma then asked me to join him in requesting Dawi give up half of his support due to reduced expenses where he now lived. We recommended he urge his supporters divert the remainder to a worthy young preacher, Ecclesiastes C. Licayan. Dawi had previously assisted Licayan personally. He turned on Agduma. Having received nothing but good at Agduma’s hands, Dawi now wants to ruin his benefactor. He and his associates sent out many vicious letters against Agduma, none containing any truth! He. forged letters against Licayan and also wrote US brethren falsely charging me. But Romulo bore the brunt of the attack by Dawi and his friends. In his last letter, Dawi made a thinly-veiled threat to “go back to the liberals if his full support was not restored.” We have all begged him to repent, without effect. Dawi has access to addresses of many conservative US churches. He has, and probably will continue writing these seeking “restoration of his full support.” Before acting favorably on any request, it would be wise to contact one of us who has been there.
In the same manner, some are trying to ruin Vic Tibayan. Earl Robertson and Larry Hafley who recently returned from an extended preaching trip there were witnesses to one such dishonest effort. I mention the abuses these men are enduring to urge all to disregard jealous and unfounded criticism. A valid charge backed by testimony from two or three competent and reliable witnesses is one thing; false charges quite another. Attacks on Agduma and Tibayan by men like Dawi are false charges.
Lindy McDaniel has been my close friend for more than ten years. Besides my strong personal affection, I highly esteem him for his work’s sake in the gospel. So when he wrote, disturbed over my comments in Truth Magazine (Vol. XVIII, No. 9, 3 January 1974, page 8 beginning, title: That Philippine >Christian’ Again), I took inventory. What bothered Lindy was in paragraph three, which read: “. . . They, and I seek a debate there solely and singly that the school (PBC) may be exposed to the Filipino brethren for what it is; a violation of the Word of God in practice which if not repented of and corrected, will send all connected with it to hell. . . .” I believe I qualified the statement in the following paragraph. I wrote: “. . . Further, while it is possible to be wrong and sincere, after exposure to truth, a person, if sincere, will be right; if not right, he will no longer be sincere. These brethren have been exposed to the truth on the institutional errors for a number of years, including several years at least partially as a result of my efforts. This is evidence of the finest sort that, one, they do not believe the Bible (if they did, they would be scared out of their socks-Heb. 10:31; 1229 and 2 Thess. 1:07-09), and two, they know they are out of harmony with Bible teaching. Thus their refusal to engage in public discussion is an attempt to prevent Filipino Christians from learning they know this, for in the minds of the Filipino saints, it would classify the PBC-Americans as hypocrites.”
Lindy did not understand this to be qualifying. I left the wrong impression with him, and at least with one other and perhaps more. I want to be clear. When I stated my conelusion as to the eternal destiny of these brethren, unrepentant, I referred to those who had both opportunity and ability to learn the principles and applications in the institutional apostasy. This is by the concept of responsibility in the parable of the talents., The distinction is in the hands of the all-knowing God of heaven. I personally doubt any of the Americans connected with the PBC fit this category, however. I base this on Mt. 7:20 and Jn. 7:24.
I can state my beliefs briefly, When evidence is examined and points to a definitive conclusion, while this is judging, a Christian is not putting himself in the place of God. All he does is declare the obvious, using God’s law as his standard. Also, I understand 2 Jn. 9 means the doctrine which Christ taught, including but not limited to that about Himself. Hence I accept as fact, doctrine limits fellowship, with all this implies.
Finally, I do not want anything I write here considered personally derogatory to Lindy. We disagree on some important doctrinal points. However, he continues to love me enough to point out what he believes my errors. I love and respect him enough to consider carefully what he said. In his latest letter he left it to my judgment whether or not I should make this explanation.
Robertson’s and Hafley’s Trip
Earl Robertson and Larry Hafley graciously interrupted their return trip at the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport to spend hours with me discussing their preaching visit to the Philippines. I am much encouraged. It is evident the cause of Christ prospered in their hands. There is the ever-present danger that this not be so. Those who go must respect the customs and traditions of the Filipino society. In our conduct, we need to remember always, we are the foreigners there. They obtained proof of several men passing themselves off as gospel preachers whose god is their belly. As regrettable as it is, some do depart from the faith. Those opposing the institutional apostasy were again greatly encouraged and strengthened by their visit. While it is impossible to measure the total good from these yearly trips, statistics alone show growth far exceeds what might be expected from a comparable-length gospel meeting in the US or Philippines. In time these visits may have to end, or at least no longer be conducted on an annual basis. But I do not believe that time has come yet. There is also still the need for on-the-spot reporting of the work being done there through financial support provided by US brethren. Cecil Willis and Connie W. Adams plan to return in 1975. Already I am receiving letters from Filipino brethren eagerly looking forward to that trip and the much good it will produce. I commend these two godly men to churches and individuals for financial support. Make your plans now and assist them. It is a worthy endeavor.
Prior to their trip, Larry and Earl received a letter from Bob Buchanan, current president of the PBC. He made two points, essentially. A debate between either of them and one of the PBC-Americans was . . . not very high on my list of priorities. . . .” He also established a list of prerequisites to any such debate. His stipulations are an unhappy mixture of diversion and untruth. The PBC-Americans have added these to their previous objections to a debate. Not one of the five points dealt fairly or properly with a debate. I guess the earlier excuses were not convincing. The liberals fear losing many people if they permit them access to information on both sides. This is verified in a recent letter from Andrew Gawe. Buchanan forbad him to give PBC students any material on the institutional issues. (Andrew pays no attention to this demand.) If they had the truth, they would have no need of censorship. Additional proof is their frequent misrepresentations both of faithful Filipino preachers and conservative Americans who go there. Hafley and Robertson are now on the list of those to be misrepresented. The vehicle is their paper, the so-called Philippine Christian (its title: the contents bear little resemblance to Christianity).
The Whole, Sorry, Sad Story!
Recently I received a large envelope of correspondence from Filipino brethren who oppose the institutional apostasy, especially as represented by the PBC-Americans. In it is the whole, sorry, sad story. Ray Bryan from the PBC, aided by some native liberal preachers made a deliberate attempt to split a church.
In the fight over institutional errors, brethren are often forced to leave churches whose benevolence and preaching are by the sponsoring church concepts Their justification for these unauthorized practices? Such nonsense as: “We do many things for which we have no authority.” What? (Col. 3:17; Jn. 4:24; Eph. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:16,17; Mt. 28:19, 20; 2 Jn. 9.) Next liberal brethren tell us to sit down and shut up, or leave! We have little choice. To remain would make us partakers of their sins (2 Jn. 10, 11). We leave to save our souls, to be free to worship and work according to God’s Word. It is a matter of conscience. Liberals then classify us as “Anti’s” and charge us with church-splitting using the fact of our leaving as proof. In some instances: the accusation is ignorance. Others well know they are the ones who actually divide churches by insisting on activities unauthorized in the New Testament. This is what the charge is about but seldom what those making it will admit.
Let’s see if the liberals really believe church-splitting is all that bad, or is simply a matter of whose ox is being gored. Space is limited, so I will reproduce only a small portion of the material. First is a letter to me outlining the situation. Second, is a reply to Ray Bryan’s earlier letter in which he had tried to persuade these brethren to uphold their previous “agreement.”
“An Open Letter”
“We are sending herewith affidavits, showing what the Liberals did to destroy the peace and unity of Bituagan brethren.
“They (the Liberals) tried to mislead us by offering money and in kind. Brother Marciano Manubag told the Congregation that twelve preachers and their respective churches will contribute two hundred pesos (200.00) from each preacher, and one hundred fifty pesos (150.00) from each Congregation, besides rice and vivand. This condition was offered to induce us to accept their Lectureship in 1975.
“Finding perhaps that many of us were soft-hearted and innocent, they managed to have four of us sign without giving us enough time to ponder over the matter. After that they began telling us not to receive Brother Romulo Agduma and Manuel Villanueva whenever they shall come. Are the Liberals teaching >another gospel’?
“Be it known to all the brethren that after much thought and prayers, we finally decided to recind all previous commitments of the Church pertinent to the said Lectureship.
“With much regret, it must be told that on June 16, 1974 when Manubag staged a walk-out from our Meeting Place, at Bitaugan, a factious group followed him, including our Church Treasurer. They were the ones who were made to sign in secret the Petition prepared by Lacuata. Sorry to say that (with few exceptions) from said group, we find most problematic members, who need to be disciplined.
“We charge Manubag, Lacuata and Co. for sowing discord among the brethren in Bituagan Congregation. Whatever excuses they may offer, they cannot escape the condemnation of the following Scriptures: Proverbs 6:16-19; Gal. 1:6-9; Rom. 16:17; Acts 20:29,30; Jude 4-19….”
“This is to advise you that we definitely decided to decline your proposal to hold your Lectureship here at Bitaugan, San Isidro, Davao Oriental in 1975, for the following reasons, to wit:
“1. We desire to uphold the unity of faith, doctrine and practice in the body of Christ, based on Ephesians 4:1-6; 1 Cor.1:10.
“2: The seed of division is beginning to creep up in our midst since the time your selected group came in and preached to us >another gospel’. Gal. 1:6-9; Prov. 6:16-19; 2 Cor. 11:1-4; Rev. 22:18, 19. . . .”
“Hence, this retraction.”
Both documents were signed by Magno B. Dacillo and Eugenio D. Kieso, evangelists for the Bituagan and Hagimitan congregations. There is much more certification, including one statement signed by nearly seventy adult members of the church there. This is not the first time Brother Ray Bryan has engaged in church-splitting in the Philippines think(ing) he doeth God service.” (Jn. 16:2).
This example is characteristic of brethren wilfully blinded by their own attitude. The so-called pragmatic concept; “The ends justify the means” is a violation of Romans 6:1, 2 yet these brethren rationalize their conduct by it. Simultaneously they accuse us “Anti’s” of the “evil of church-splitting” when we leave to preserve our salvation. I guess us church-splitting “Anti’s” are so bad, any action to save a church from us is okay … even splitting it … if their ox is being gored.
Any wanting verification: I will gladly furnish names and addresses so you can check personally. As is my practice, I will send a copy of this to Ray Bryan, and offer opportunity for him to reply, should he desire to do so. Brother Bryan, I believe Cecil Willis (Editor, Truth Magazine) will allow you as many words as I used on this event, provided you discuss issues and maintain the disposition of a Christian while doing so. Will you offer us equal space in your paper? Let us hear from you on this.
I have long since concluded the Americans at the PBC and their Philippine cohorts are insincere and hypocritical. I base this not on the fact we disagree, but their deportment in disagreement. Their conduct for the more than seven years I have been involved in the Philippine work indicates they are concerned with preserving their unscriptural practices regardless of consequences, knowing these cannot be justified in God’s Word! Their methods are totally pragmatic, rationalizing their bad conduct by their purposes. They need to study and meditate carefully on Rom. 6:01, 02; 2 Cor. 10:04,05 and 2 Thess. 2:10-12. I fervently wish them to come back to God, and daily pray for their recovery (2 Pet. 3:09; 1 Jn. 2:09,10). But I am not hopeful.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:49, p. 11-12
October 17, 1974