Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 22, 1951
NUMBER 45, PAGE 4,5b

A California Tragedy


George Pepperdine is broke. This sad news was revealed last month in a story which vied with the Korean war for space on the front pages of Los Angeles newspapers. The plight of the wealthy philanthropist was brought to light when a suit was brought against him for the payment of a $10,000.00 note. The newspaper stories told of Pepperdine's rise from a modest start with a single store in 1916 to the pinnacle of success he achieved as head of the vast Western Auto Supply Company. His wealth was counted in the millions, times over.

The philanthropies of brother Pepperdine have been legendary for many years. Perhaps the best known of his benefactions was the $2,000,000.00 which he gave to found the college that bears his name. A faithful and humble member of the church, George Pepperdine wanted to use his great wealth for the good of his fellow man and to advance the cause of Christ in every way possible. He was persuaded that a part of his fortune could be put to a very fine use in providing a school where boys and girls could receive their college education under the influence of Christian teachers, and free from the blighting, atheistic teachings of the state schools. So in 1937 he founded Pepperdine College.

Christians over the nation, and especially in California, rejoiced at the deed. It was felt that the influence of such an institution would be of immeasurable benefit in providing opportunity for boys and girls in California and neighboring states to receive their training under the right kind of teachers. Brother Batsell Baxter, long experienced in the operation of the kind of a school brother Pepperdine desired, was asked to serve as first president. During the two or three years of his administration, it seemed that the fondest hopes of all were headed toward realization.

Then came the change. Brother Baxter left the school, and brother Hugh Tiner became president.

By almost imperceptible degrees, under the influence of brother Tiner and Dr. E. V. Pullias, a brilliant psychologist from Duke University, the college began to move away from the ideals of its founder and the pattern of its first two or three years, and to take on a character radically different. The Tiner-Pullias influence gradually changed the school from a simple college in the tradition of David Lipscomb College and Abilene Christian College, with emphasis on the development of Christian character into a high-class, modernistic, stream-lined educational institution. It has been the Tiner-Pullias influence that has saturated the school with the University of Chicago atmosphere, retaining on the faculty such men as brother Ralph Wilburn and brother Woodrow Whitten—men who are confused disciples of the neo-orthodoxy (modernism) of Karl Barth and Emil Brunner. It has been the same influence that has driven more than one teacher from the faculty, and has caused other good men on the faculty to be inconstant conflict with the obvious trend the school was taking.

As of today, Pepperdine College has become such a menace and such a threat to simple New Testament Christianity that loyal churches throughout California and the west are increasingly opposing it. A growing number of congregations will have little or nothing to do with the school; they are extremely reluctant to admit a Pepperdine teacher or student into their pulpits; they refuse to announce or attend the lectureships and other meetings. They have sensed so clearly the baleful influences emanating from the campus that they have completely lost confidence in the school and its administration. Something like 85 percent of the student body (and we do not know how many of the faculty, but a considerable number) are NON-CHRISTIANS. The atmosphere of the campus is not even remotely akin to the sort of thing in the original plans for the school as outlined by brother Pepperdine when the school was founded.

There are still a few preachers who cling to the hope (believed to be a vain one by the vast majority of Californians) that by some means the situation may yet be remedied, and that even at this late hour it may still be possible for the school to be brought back into the pattern in which Baxter started it off. Preachers holding to this view are decidedly in the minority; and their number grows smaller with every passing month. The evidences of modernism, denominationalism, and liberalistic educational philosophies are too ominous and too abundant to be ignored by the brethren or denied by the school. Most of the preachers who do still permit their names to appear as speakers on the Pepperdine lectureships are constantly explaining and apologizing for their actions. Some of them, of course, honestly believe that the school may he turned from its present course; others no doubt will have to be classed in that company of vacillating men who are always found trying to ride both sides of the fence on any controversial issue. They are the spiritual sons of those brethren who refused to "take sides" when the societies and instrumental music split the church.

Meanwhile, there is certainly no man in California or elsewhere who will not grieve at brother Pepperdine misfortune—not so much his misfortune in losing his wealth (for that is relatively unimportant) as his misfortune in being betrayed by those whom he has trusted. Surely it will bring sorrow to the hearts of all to know that the good intentions and honest desires of this humble man have been so perverted and misused in the school which he founded. Instead of being the great instrument for good which he intended, it seems fairly clear now that Pepperdine College (if it continues in its present course) is destined to be a constant threat to simple Christianity in the west, and that it may well rend the body of Christ, bringing heartache and division and bitterness for years to come.

Yes, this is a modern tragedy in the full meaning of that word. It is the tragedy of a good man being worked (and that is the very word some of brother Pepperdine's life-long friends used in telling us of the matter) for his money. Instead of the good which was Pepperdine's desire and intention, evil and harm are coming to the church from the school. Now that his wealth is gone, brother Pepperdine's influence with the school is greatly weakened; and even if he should be aware of how grievously the school has departed from his original plan for it (which apparently he isn't), there seems to be relatively little he could do about it.

We did hear one hopeful note, however. We were assured by more than one man of influence in the church that if by some chance brother Pepperdine should undertake to swing the school back into its original pattern, he would receive prompt and powerful help from that great host of brethren throughout the state who have been so deeply distressed at the turn the school has been taking. There is an atmosphere of watchful and expectant waiting. The next few months ought to tell the tale, one way or the other; and set the course of action for years to come. If brother Pepperdine does not act decisively within the very near future, the situation will be forever and completely beyond his control.

— F. Y. T.