Theological Liberalism at Abilene Christian College (II)

By Cecil Willis

In a previous article, I referred to an article entitled “Theological Liberalism At Abilene Christian College,” which was written by a young brother, Randall Mark Trainer, in which Brother Trainer said he had found no evidence of any liberalism on the part of any Bible faculty member at ACC. I also quoted letters from one ACC Bible faculty member, Eugene Clevenger, in which Clevenger resigned a writing position on the Sweet Company commentary set because “I have decided not to have a part in this cooperative effort with such liberals as Everett Ferguson, Abe Malberbe, Tony Ash Dick Batey, Bob Johnson, Pat Harrell: Don McGaughey, J. W. Roberts.” Clevenger also said that many of the commentary writers were “theological liberals.”

Clevenger also stated, “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 1, for one, will do what I can to expose the liberalism that prevails in the Bible Department here at ACC.” Ira Rice, to whom Clevenger sent a copy of his letter, said that he already knew that all the men named by Clevenger as “liberals” were such, except Bob Johnson and J. W. Roberts, and Rice said he merely had no documentation on these two others. Rice said, “I have documentation on most of the others.”

Clevenger indicated he was going to expose the liberals on the ACC Bible faculty. Associated with him as ACC Bible faculty members were Everett Ferguson, Abe Malherbe, Tony Ash, and J. W. Roberts, all of whom Clevenger labeled as “liberals.” Bob Johnson, also included in Clevengers list, formerly taught at ACC in the Bible Department. Tony Ash has since transferred to Pepperdine College, where I think he is now Read of the Bible Department. Some of Dick Bateys liberalism is at this moment being discussed by James D. Bales in a series of articles being carried in the Gospel Advocate.

Unfortunately, Clevengers nerve did not measure up to his boast. He said he was determined to expose the modernism in the ACC Bible faculty. However, Administrative pressure was exerted upon him to retract his statement. Clevenger later publicly stated he could not prove his charges. Did Clevenger deliberately lie? I, for one, do not think that he did, nor did he say that he did in his retraction. I suspect his teaching job was “on the line,” and he compromised and stated that he could not prove his charges. Several years ago, I heard Eugene Clevenger deliver a splendid lecture on the Florida Christian College lecture program. His lecture was entitled, “An Unchanging Charge,” and pertained to the charge Paul gave Timothy to “preach the word.” Clevenger stated that Paul not only told Timothy what to preach, but how to preach it. I then secured a copy of Clevengers fine, detailed outline of his sermon, a copy of which I yet have. Under the heading of his discussion of those who will not declare faithfully the whole counsel of God, Clevenger said: “For a price, doctors acquiesce.” I personally strongly suspect that for the price of his job, Dr. Eugene Clevenger acquiesced,” and made a half-hearted retraction of his former very bold charge of wide-spread liberalism among the ACC Bible faculty members,

Bear in mind that Rice said he had documentary proof to prove the “liberalism” of all those whom Clevenger charged, except Johnson and J. W. Roberts. Keep in mind too, that B. C. Goodpasture also rejoiced to hear that Clevenger had purposed to publicly expose the liberalism on the ACC Bible faculty, and Rice indicated that” Goodpasture wanted to write Clevenger “a word of appreciation and encouragement.” Do you really think that Clevenger, Rice, and Goodpasture had no evidence whatsoever of any liberalism on the ACC Bible faculty? Or might it be more plausible to believe that an undergraduate student who “transferred to ACC last summer” merely did not detect any liberalism on the ACC Bible faculty?

ACC and “Mission” Magazine

Several Bible faculty members at ACC are on the Board of Trustees of Mission magazine, which regularly publishes the rankest kind of liberalism, whether young Brother Trainer recognizes it to be such or not. Everett Ferguson, Thomas Olbricht, and J. W. Roberts are all on the Board of Trustees of Mission. Surely they bear some responsibility regarding the thrust and direction of Mission.

In the April, 1969 issue of Mission, Dr. Neal Buffaloe, who is Professor of Biology and Chairman of the Department of Biological Science at State College of Arkansas at Conway, but also an Elder at the College Church of Christ in Conway, openly taught theistic evolution. Brother Buffaloe said: “I believe that any intelligent person who lends himself directly and without prejudice to the data of comparative morphology and physiology, paleontology and cytogenetics 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.” Brother Buffaloe also added, “Either the Genesis account of the days is non-literal or it is false.” Don McGaughey, who also is labeled as a liberal by Clevenger, simply stated of Genesis Chapters 1-11, “this portion of the Bible is a myth.” (First Century Christian, Dec., 1968, p. 8)

Now what did Mission do about the article by Brother Buffaloe advocating theistic evolution? They gave him an award for the article!!! Their criteria of judgment of articles were as follows: “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.”, Their Award Announcement reads:

“The Trustees of Mission announce awards for outstanding literary achievement in bringing the Christian message to bear on the world of 1969 to: . . . Second Place — Neal D. Buffaloe for God or Evolution.” (Mission, Oct., 1969, p. 30)

Can you imagine what would happen if I printed and commended such an article in Truth Magazine? Imagine what kind of a reaction I would get from Roy E. Cogdill, James W. Adams, Connie W. Adams, Karl Robertson, Luther Blackmon, O. C. Birdwell, Ferrell Jenkins, Larry Hafley, Irvin Himmel, and Jimmy Tuten! Now can you imagine the Truth Magazine staff awarding a yearly award to such a Bible-denying article? Yet that is precisely what happened in the instance of Mission, and Everett Ferguson, J. W. Roberts, and Abraham Malherbe were on the Board of “Trustees” who made the award to Neal Buffaloe. Yet young Brother Trainer would have us to believe, “Neither does there appear to be a trend in the direction of theological liberalism.” Believe it who can, but I cannot. More will be said on this issue next week.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 40, pp. 3-5
August 17, 1972