Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 2, 1968
NUMBER 1, PAGE 1-3,5b-6a

"Theological Liberals" On Abilene Christian College Bible Department Faculty

Roy E. Cogdill

There came into the hands of this writer recently some information that was rather startling. I have thought that I knew it for a long time, but having that judgment confirmed by the source from which it came was astonishing.

First, let me say, that I am a little dubious about the avenue through which this information came. There came addressed to the Par Avenue Church where I preach "Ira Y. Rice, Jr.'s Far East Newsletter" dated Dec. 31, 1967. In this newsletter there is a letter from Eugene W. Clevenger, of the faculty of the Bible Department of Abilene Christian College, to Ira Y. Rice, Jr. and also a letter from brother Clevenger to Mr. David Stewart of the R. B. Sweet Publishing Co., Inc. Brother Clevenger's letter to Rice was dated Oct. 5, 1967, and his letter to R. B. Sweet Co., Inc. was dated April 29, 1967. These two letters contain the startling information that there are "Theological Liberals"' on the faculty of the Bible Department of Abilene Christian College. The only apology I have to make in discussing the matter is for the channel through which the information came. It goes against my nature to quote Ira Y. Rice, Jr. on anything. I would not accept his personal testimony about anything: I have neither confidence in his character or integrity. He has promoted himself into a champion of the institutional churches in missionary work and has recently written, actually compiled is more correct, two books which he has called "Axe On The Root" Volumes I and II. In these two books he has published quite a bit of information about the modernism among liberal brethren. How authentic it is, I would not know. If none of it is any more accurate than the first two paragraphs of Vol. I, p. 5, it would not do to believe anything in it. These paragraphs read as follows:

"Exactly 20 years ago today, what has since become generally known as the 'Anti-cooperation Movement' among churches of Christ had its inception at East Oakland in California's San Francisco/Oakland Bay area. I know this for a fact for I was there — by invitation.

"Perpetrated originally by brethren Morton T. Utley and Roy Cogdill (Mort was then preaching at East Oakland and was principally responsible for calling Roy in to help launch the movement), if we could have awakened the brethren generally, right then, to what was happening, such a tragic division as afterward robbed us of perhaps ten percent of our congregations need never have happened. However, brethren just knew what was initiated that afternoon at East Oakland could not possibly be what Mort and Roy had in mind! And by the time our Rip Van Tinkles began to wake up — years later — it already was too late. Division resulted.

"Whether this warning to the brotherhood already may be too late, I cannot say. But just as I sounded out the alarm against the then-forming 'Anti-cooperation' movement 20 years ago, even so I am focusing attention of the entire brotherhood upon a similar such movement now forming in our midst right today."

There are no elements of truth whatever in the above statement by Rice concerning the East Oakland incident. He remembers things that did not happen and has evidently forgotten, as he would have the brethren forget or ignore, a good many things that did happen about that time that are no credit to him. He is a "big-shot" would be prophet and wise man to warn the whole brotherhood but if all of his prophecies are as false as some of them are — no wonder they will not believe him!

He has published such lies before about what happened at East Oakland and we have chosen to ignore them as we ordinarily do the falsehoods that such men as Rice tell. But the brethren should know the facts and for the record they should be set straight. The fact is that Ira Rice, Jr., and Bob Price and others in the "Bay Area" of San Francisco were advocating the doctrine of "No Eldership" and had created quite a bit of controversy concerning it. Rice did not have any elders where he preached and did not want them. They had created quite a stir in that area by teaching that there is no such thing as "Elders" in the church of the Lord today. In the meeting at East Oakland — 1946 — Utley was the local preacher and it had been advertised by the elders and him when I got there that there would be a special service on Sunday afternoon during the meeting at which time I would speak on "Congregational Government." Rice does not know the difference between that and "Congregational Cooperation." I made the speech and preached the truth. Rice put out the story that I personated him in the speech and would not give him any chance to reply. That is not so either! I called on him personally during the speech to produce the passage of scripture where churches of Christ were authorized to settle anything by majority vote and he kept his seat and silence. The issues involved in the co-operation question were not under discussion and were not mentioned except as the independence, equality, and autonomy of the local churches of Christ involved them in principle. Only the question of whether or not "Bible Colleges" are church institutions and should be supported out of the church treasury was under discussion at that time.

As to the "launching of any movement" there or anywhere else in conjunction with anyone else, there is no truth whatsoever in the statement and I am willing to stand on that in the judgment. Rice and Price had launched the movement and it was an "Anti-eldership" movement. Rice and Goodpasture seem to be real sociable these days for he goes out of his way to let it be known in his newsletter that he had been entertained in Goodpasture's home. Of course, Goodpasture will use any one, without regard to character, that he can to grease his machinery. He and Rice should get their stories together though for Goodpasture says, and others in Nashville, that the "Anti-Cooperation Movement," as they call it, originated out of a meeting of a group, in which I was included, in Dallas and that we decided that we had to have an issue to feature and made the "institutional issue" our platform. Again there is no resemblance of truth connected with such a story. I never was in such a meeting any where at any time and never "made" an issue in my life nor plotted with anyone to begin any kind of a "movement." All such lies will be judged in the last day.

But what Rice says about me is of no importance to me and I would not have given it any notice except to demonstrate the man's complete lack of integrity and set the record straight for the future. What I really am concerned about are the letters that appear in his "newsletter." Unless he has fabricated them (like he did the above matter,) they merit some consideration and since they have been made public property in this publication by Rice, I give our readers the benefit of them and make some observations in connection with them.

From The Newsletter:

"Eugene W. Clevenger, Department of Bible and Religious Education, Abilene Christian College, Abilene, Texas, also on October 5, 1967 wrote, saying, 'I have just finished the second volume of Axe on the Root, and I want you to know that I know you are on track.

`Since you called my name in the book with regard to the R. B. Sweet Living Word Commentary, I thought you might be interested in a letter which I wrote David Stewart on April 29 of this year. I am enclosing a copy of the letter.

`Neil Lightfoot has also withdrawn from the Commentary, and I am hoping that others of us who are not in agreement with the views of such men as I named in the letter will also withdraw.

`I want you to know that I sincerely appreciate the Christian vigilance and courage which you have and are manifesting, and I am with you 100%. If I can help you in any way, please let me

"The copy of the letter brother Clevenger enclosed reads as follows:

`April 29, 1967

`Mr. David Stewart R. B. Sweet Company, Inc. Austin, Texas 78751

`Dear David:

`This is to inform you that I have decided not to write the Living Word Commentary on Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon for the following reason.

`I was conscious from the beginning that many of the writers of this commentary were theological liberals, but I thought that if men like Frank Pack, Raymond Kelcy and Neil Lightfoot and a few others could join you in this effort, I could too. However, after considering the matter carefully, I have about concluded that the liberals have gained control of the R. B. Sweet Company, and my opinion is that you have a few conservative brethren as writers to make the set respectable to a broad segment of the brotherhood.

`I have decided not to have a part in this cooperative effort with such liberals as Everett Ferguson, Abe Malherbe, Tony Ash, Dick Batey, Bob Johnson, Pat Harrell, Don McGaughey, J. W. Roberts. 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 I, for one, will do what I can to expose the liberalism that prevails in the Bible Department here at A. C. C.

'I ask you therefore, in view of my feelings on the subject and in view of what I plan to do in exposing some of these brethren, to withdraw my name from the Living Word Commentary. I may add, if anyone wants to know the reason for this withdrawal, you are at liberty to tell them what I have said in this letter.

`Sincerely yours,

`(S) Eugene W. Clevenger."


Eugene Clevenger gave good promise for awhile of standing for the truth in the present division in the church but for some reason that I do not care to speculate about and which he may not even recognize, he went with the institutional brethren and landed on the faculty of A. C. C. For some reason some of these ambitious brethren among us feel that if they can land a position on the faculty in the Bible Department of one of our larger schools, they will be scholars and will have it made. Brother Clevenger himself would have to be counted as a "liberal" in attitude toward the Word of God and especially when it comes to a "strict interpretation" of the Scriptures and faithfully following prescribed Bible Authority. He has given his endorsement to and is a part of a group of brethren that long ago quit trying to assign scriptural authority for what they teach and practice. I suppose there is nothing in the practice of the "liberal" churches today including support of all the societies such as the benevolent, educational, and evangelistic organizations among these brethren that he would not go along with, at least we have not heard of him condemning anything in the entire category, including church support of the schools, and hospitals, or the entire catalog of the social gospel practices. If he is against anything much he has been mighty quiet about it.

The amazing thing about brother Clevenger is that he is aware that there are some brethren on the faculty of the Bible Department of Abilene Christian College who are "theological liberals" -"modernists" in our language. They hold an attitude toward the Bible and things divine that is not just "liberal" but "modernistic." Modernism does not mean only that one must deny the divinity of Christ. It is modernism when anything divine is denied — even to "divine authority." Modernism is an attitude toward things divine.

It is apparent to anyone with any knowledge of these men on the list of authors of the proposed Sweet Commentaries that most of them are modernists. I, personally, told Ralph Sweet last November that the series would be full of "modernism." But what about Roberts, Thomas, Spain, and others in the list that are on the faculty of either Abilene or other "liberal" schools operated by the brethren? Are they "modernists?" Clevenger says Roberts and others on the A. C. C. faculty (Bible Department) are "theological liberals" and that he is going to expose them. I do not know when he intends to do this. I have seen nothing of any move he has made along this line. But there have been some indications of some sort of a stir by the caucuses that are going on among certain members of the Board of A. C. C. and which have been observed.

It would be interesting to know what J. W. Roberts teaches, believes, or disbelieves that makes him a "theological liberal" in the mind of brother Clevenger. I wish he would tell us. It needs to be told. If J. W. Roberts and others at A. C. C. are to be classified with men like the others named on the Commentary Staff of the R. B. Sweet Publishing Company, brethren who are patronizing and supporting A. C. C. by sending their children and money there, who do not go along with modernism, should in all fairness be made aware of it. It has been my judgment for a long time, and I have frequently said so, that the "Bible Colleges" in general are filled with teachers who no longer believe in the Scriptures as the inherently (verbally) inspired revelation of Almighty God. They have had their faith destroyed by the big universities where they have obtained their higher education. I would not risk my child in the hands of any of them. Just like schools of the T. C. U. and S. M. U. variety have filled the churches that established them full of infidelity and even atheism, so these schools among the "liberal" churches that are "church related" schools and most of which are supported by churches to some extent are filling the hearts and churches that patronize them with infidelity. Brother Clevenger, it needs exposing. Get busy!

If brother Clevenger means what he said in his letter to Rice and Stewart, we should have his exposure of those on the faculty of A. C. C. who are, in his language, "theological liberals." He alleges some are! Who are they? What do they teach and believe? When will this exposure take place and how? It can not be done in a corner, brother Clevenger. "It is later than you think," brother Clevenger, and as you were afraid, you are "guilty by association" and implication, whether you write the commentaries or not, if what you say about the faculty of which you are a part is true. So you have no time to loose! If the F.F. and G. A. will not let you be heard, the Gospel Guardian will, and there are other mediums where you can speak your piece. Of course, you will need to find you another job for the powers that be at Abilene including the illustrious president are not going to allow the "ark of the covenant" that is so holy to them and others to be rocked. They will surely put forth their hand to stay it. But you should do your duty anyway and help clean house where you are; your conscience should demand that of you.

If Goodpasture is honest in his commendation of you, he should help you. He, along with Rice and others, many others, should repent and ask the forgiveness both of God and the brethren. They, along with all of the rest, who have preached the doctrine of disregard for the authority of New Testament Scriptures and the liberty to do whatever God wants done in the way they want to do it rather than through the church, the organization that God built, have let the flood of "ultra-liberalism" "modernism", or "theological liberalism," call it what you may, come sweeping into the churches and they are parties to it. Until they repent and get back to the Word of God both in theory and practice and show the proper respect for it, which they have not done for two decades or more, they will find themselves impotent in exposing any kind of "liberalism" on the part of anybody. Their voices will have a hollow, insincere ring to them when they try. This is not all that Goodpasture and Rice need to repent of but this would be a start to cleaning up their other sins. Think about Ira Y. Rice getting into the "exposing business"!

Prophet Rice says that 90% of the churches still called churches of Christ are being endangered by it. He thinks that we have led 10% of the churches off into the "Anti-cooperative Movement." We think his figures are out of proportion but that is the way he figures. But Reuel Lemmons and Roy Lanier and those "middle-of-the-road" brethren had better get busy or get out before what ever percentage it is that is in danger of being engulfed by this "modernist" movement engulfs them. They are partly "anti" — and partly "liberal" — whether theologically or not and they may just have to get down off the fence before it is swept away. What are you doing about it brethren, outside of holding your caucuses about the modernism in A. C. C. and other high places?

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