Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 21, 1960
NUMBER 49, PAGE 4-5a

Two Presidents


We call attention to an article on the front page of this issue (first installment in a series of two) by Brother Adlai Stevenson Groom relative to the mush-rooming modernism now sweeping the campus and administrative personnel of Harding College. The article (taken from a widely-circulated tract) is written by a friend of Harding College, whose interest in the school, and whose connection with it ante-dates that of any man now connected with Harding. As a matter of fact, Adlai S. Groom is the very man who gave Harding College its name. He was President of Arkansas Christian College 1922 to 1924, and it was at his request the name was changed to Harding. Brother Groom has a long history of work in the field of what has come to be called "Christian education." A graduate of Freed-Hardeman College, Groom as a young man continued his formal studies at the University of Louisville, the Southern Baptist Seminary, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago. There is probably not a man on the Harding faculty who has had the quality of university training to compare favorably with Groom's. Certainly George S. Benson, present president of the school, is a mere tyro academically when compared with Groom. Dr. W. B. West has received most of his formal training under the extreme liberal and modernistic influences of the University of Chicago, and is unquestionably affected by the atmosphere in which he has moved for so many years. When Ralph Wilburn was ruining so many promising young preachers at Pepperdine College, Dr. West, Wilburn's superior, did nothing at all to correct the situation.

Christians everywhere will follow with interest the fight that is now being made to provide a "Church of Christ Seminary" for young men who are "studying for the ministry" — a euphemism common among the brethren to describe what the denominational people call a "divinity student". This latest move is all part and parcel of the craze for recognition which seems to have the brotherhood (or a good segment of it) in its grip. We want to be able to point with pride to "our" orphanages, "our" colleges, "our" hospitals, "our" national radio and television programs, "our" institutions — and now "our" seminary. Training professional clergymen has come to such a place of prominence and importance among us that certain standards must be set up and observed. Harding College (or Dr. West and Dr. Benson) will set the pace.

Dr. Benson, present incumbent of the presidential chair at Harding, is about as far removed from his predecessor, Groom, in character and attitude as one man could be from another. Groom in conviction and courage belongs to the "old school" of dedicated men who place conviction and honor and truth above policy and expediency. If a thing is true, or right, or fair, or scriptural, Groom's course of action is clear and unequivocal. Benson belongs to the more slippery segment of humanity; policy, expediency, popularity, seem to be his guiding principles. A case in point: A former President of the Board of Directors of Harding College has declared to many brethren, and on different occasions, that when Benson took over the presidency of the school back in the thirties he (Benson) seriously questioned this man as to "which side" was likely to win in the fight over premillennialism then raging within the church. Benson stated frankly (so the Board President declared) that he needed to know which side would win so he could know which way to turn the school — pro-premillennial or anti-premillennial! He became convinced that the "antis" were going to win out, hence Harding College came out strong with "anti" teaching on that subject.

Another case in point: Benson for some years has been an elder in one of the Searcy congregations. Some time ago a local Presbyterian Church was putting on a money drive for some program of theirs, and needed a real "live wire" to spark the thing, and to loosen up the mug-strings of their members. So whom did they get but George Benson! He deserted the service of his own congregation on a Wednesday night, went down to the Presbyterian Church, and put on a rally rousing "money-raising campaign" for the Presbyterians, being the chief speaker of the occasion and the main mogul in putting the campaign over the top.

Another case in point: It is common knowledge in Searcy (to the unutterable disgust of faculty, students, and townspeople generally) that when Benson gets his industrial tycoons from the east and north to visit Harding campus he soft-pedals the religious atmosphere of the campus and stresses "AMERICANISM", particularly the "free enterprise" slogans which have become such a fetish with him. More than one ex-student of Harding College has told of drunken Jews, Catholics, and probably atheists staggering around the campus and through Harding's hallowed halls in the small hours of the morning — Dr. Bensons guests and prospective donors to the school! Cleaning out the empty whiskey bottles after such a gathering was no small chore. This in years past became such a notorious thing and created such anger among school patrons that of late years certain changes have been made — not by reason of Benson's convictions, but because of the furious anger of parents whose sons and daughters were being subjected to such indignities.

Meanwhile, the "institutional" churches in the land, urged on by great hordes of promoters and sycophants will no doubt get behind the Benson-West promotion and work hard for the "seminary." We doubt not that Harding faculty, in spite of their opposition, will fall into line and work for the program. Indeed, if they are to remain "the Harding faculty", they will have to; for Benson is the absolute autocrat of that institution. His word is law. Even the Board of Directors will not seriously cross or oppose him. Dr. West has always been a man with a deep interest in "what the brethren will think", and has usually determined his course of action pretty largely by what he thought would be acceptable to the brotherhood. It is quite obvious now that he feels the majority of the brotherhood will approve and endorse his seminary; otherwise he would not promote it.

Meanwhile, as we've said so many times before, those faithful Christians whose main objective in life is to gain heaven at death will continue on in the even tenor of their way, sacrificially giving of their means and of their lives to preach the gospel of Christ, starting new congregations, helping the poor and needy, and walking humbly before God. — F. Y. T.