By Cecil Willis
In the March 15, 1973 issue of Gospel Guardian, my good friend and brother, William E. Wallace, editorialized under the heading of “Turning Off Second Generation Preachers.” In this article he discussed how some of the “second generation” preachers are “turned off” by what some of its “first generation” preachers teach and write. Interestingly, this editorial appeared on the exact date that James W. Adams began his series in Truth Magazine on the “Unity Cult.” Brother Adams has given considerable attention to those whom he calls “neophytes” among us.
Brother Wallace speaks of those holding to the “old paths” as a “minority fellowship” which he says was “formed in the 1950’s.” Of the second generation preachers,” he says, “It is difficult to instill into a new generation the same espirit de corps for the movement. It is natural for the first generation participants to seek to perpetuate the principles they hold dear and to oppose positions, beliefs, and policies which they consider a threat to first generation accomplishments, and to second generation perpetuity.”
Further Wallace stated, “When new generation personnel seem to depreciate the values of the movement, soften the thrust, and impugn the heritage, they can expect ‘fire’ from the first generation ‘fathers.’ But it is precisely this ‘fire’ that ‘turns off’ many in the new generation.” Being only forty-one years old myself, it is difficult for me to conceive of myself being one of the first generation “fathers.” But perhaps it was persons like me that Brother Wallace had in mind as being responsible for “turning off” these “second generation preachers.”
Brother Wallace also stated in the afore mentioned editorial: “Lacking sensitivity and nostalgia about first generation experiences, the young do not share our keen feelings about the past. The young are seeking and searching for truth and relevancy. They can see both the truth and relevancy of our opposition to church supported institutions and sponsoring churches, when the biblical principles are not obscured by what they judge to be a pontifical establishment or party spirit. It is the apparent disposition to ‘cram-it-down-our-throats’ or ‘line-its-up in the ranks’ that turns off some of the younger men. But they will listen and study when confronted with arguments and positions, if intellectual honesty and good-will are manifested.”
No doubt some of our spiritual “neophytes” are “turned off” by some of what they read in Truth Magazine. One would have to be both blind and deaf not to have learned that. I am told that in some circles of these “second generation” neophytes, not only is there a drastic apathy toward Truth Magazine, but with some there is a definite antipathy toward it. But this could be said of some of the “first generation” preachers too, as has been evidenced in the attitude toward what we have been saying for the past generation or so.
Truth Magazine has never sought to “turn on” either “first generation” or second generation” preachers. We simply have sought to say; in the best way we knew how to say it, what we sincerely thought needed to be said at the time. Some have appreciated what we have said, as could be proved by quotations from scores of letters from both “first generation” and “second generation” preachers, if we were disposed to run a column in our pages bragging on ourselves, as some papers regularly do. However, we could also quote a good many of both “first generation” and “second generation” preachers who have not approved what we have said. But approval or disapproval has never been the criterion that determined what we said or did not say.
Elsewhere in this issue you will find an article entitled “An Open Letter to the Gospel Guardian” written and signed by four of these “second generation” preachers. This article, which the Guardian editor elected not to publish, reveals that the Gospel Guardian has “turned off” some “second generation” preachers too. I might add that it has “turned off” not a few of the “first generation” preachers too, if the mail I receive is any accurate barometer.
In his letter explaining to these concerned “second generation” preachers as to why he had decided not to publish their “Open Letter,” Brother Wallace said: “The Gospel Guardian is not silent on the matters of which you write, nor does it intend to ‘remain free’ from any ‘coming controversy.’ It has never been inclined to keep ‘its mouth shut,’ nor shun the taking of a stand. We have already taken a stand on the issues of which you write. We are opposed to the false doctrine of Carl Ketcherside concerning fellowship, and to the digressive movement surrounding his views.” However, it would be helpful if the Gospel Guardian would undertake a detailed exposure of this “false doctrine of Carl Ketcherside” and the “digressive movement surrounding his views” rather than toss accolades in their direction for their good attitude, and stones in the direction of those who have attempted to say what the Guardian should also be saying.
Brother Wallace explains to these “second generation” preachers, “I may be in disagreement with some as to what is required to be militant. I believe the attitude and deportment of some ‘militant defenders’ do more to kick people into the Ketcherside movement than they do to save souls from it. I do not understand militancy to require ugliness in controversy such as personal abuse, bombastic pomposity, haughty or arrogant spirit, and ‘such like.’ Some leave the impression with me that they aspire to the titular headship of the brotherhood.”
Now that pronouncement in itself is quite a piece of indictment of the efforts and motives of those who have written in defense of the truth. It is just possible that, had I said that, someone would have been disposed to condemn me for “ugliness in controversy,” “personal abuse,” “bombastic pomposity,” “haughty or arrogant spirit,” or “such like.” It is even possible that I might have been accused of aspiring to the “titular headship of the brotherhood.”
Those who have read William Wallace’s writings over the past decade or so are aware of the fact that he has hit as hard as anyone, until the last two or three years, when he began to suggest that we all go back to about 1955 and act like what has happened in that interim had not happened at all. His suggestion of “sweet spirited” and toned-down opposition to innovationism is all too familiar to me, as I reflect upon the literary justification for the establishment of the Christian Standard a century ago. (M Course, the Christian Standard became the for the defense of a host of innovations, of the need for a weekly journal with a better spirit.
That “young prince” of digression a century ago, W. T. Moore, in arguing for the need of a new paper said, “Many, however, began to feel that the reactionary tendency of Mr. Franklin’s paper (the American Christian Review-CW) was not conducive to the best interests of the Disciple movement.” (W. T. Moore, A Comprehensive History of the Disciples of Christ, p. 523) Moore further stated that the Review under Franklin constituted “a very decided force in the development of what a considerable number of Disciples believed was wholly contrary to the spirit and aim of the Disciple movement . . . .” (Loc. Cit.)
A fellow-digressive, J. S. Lamar, asserted: “There were several weeklies, also, among them the ‘Review’ and ‘Gospel Advocate,’ but these were not satisfactory. These were regarded as being narrow in their views in many respects, hurtful rather than helpful to the great cause which they assumed to represent.” (J. S. Lamar, Memoirs of Isaac Errett, Vol. 1, pp. 300, 301) Furthermore, Lamar said of these other papers, which were hammering away at digression, they are “breathing an unwholesome religious atmosphere. They seem to infuse an unlovely and earth-born spirit, which they clothe, nevertheless, in the garb of divine letter, and enforce with cold, legalistic and crushing power. The great truth, for whose defense the Disciples are set, demanded a wiser, sweeter, better advocacy-an advocacy that should exhibit the apostolic spirit as well as the apostolic letter. (Loc. Cit.)
Do not these century-old plaudits sound like those expressions of a superior literary spirit which we now read everywhere in religious journals which either advocate or are sympathetic to the advocacy of digression of various. Actually, there is a decided absence of humility in the “bombastic pomposity” of those sweet-spirits of a century ago, and of today. Their sentiment seems to be, “If only we had been fighting that fight … it would have been so different.” In most instances, there would have been no truth-error combat at all. They would have sought to smother the digressive spirit with their own sweet spirit. Such a “haughty or arrogant spirit” does not reflect favorably upon the Herculean effort of those spiritual giants who waged the warfare a generation ago, many of whom have now gone on to their spiritual reward, or of those who soon must meet their Maker. I speak of men like W. W. Otey, W. Curtis Porter, Cecil Douthitt and a host of other great men whose earthy frames now are mingled with the earth’s dust. I speak of those older men among us like Roy Cogdill, Luther Blackmon, James Adams, W. L. Wharton, Stanley Lovett, H. E. Phillips, and a host of others who now are facing the Sunset. Such derogatory statements of their efforts are repulsive to me, and constitute an effrontery, which it is difficult for me to stomach.
Frankly, I have never been able to oppose digression on any subject in a way that pleased the digressive. When I receive those frequent letters that begin with, “I agree with what you said, but just did not like the way you said it . . .” I nearly always write the brother and tell him: “I do not profess to know perfectly the way a thing should be said, but since you apparently do know just how it should be said, and since you state that you agree with what I said, would you please write an article on the same subject and say what should be said in the way it should be said?” Do you know how many “takers” of this offer I have had to date? Not a single one! But more on this next week.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 32, pp.3-6
June 14, 1973