Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 4, 1969
NUMBER 18, PAGE 1-2a

Will The Liberals Recant?

William E. Wallace

Considerable interest is aroused in the escalating battle in "liberal" ranks. The liberal controversialists, who formerly spent their polemic time in attacking "conservatives," are now engaged in a supreme effort against certain forms of modernism within their ranks.

It has become clear that many liberals in the area of institutionalism and sponsoring church arrangements, are not willing to travel on with the modernists toward doctrinal chaos. A number of periodicals have been launched for the precise purpose of saving the "liberals" from modernism. The battle among them is major — it is a hot one. In talking with some of the men in high places among them, one gets the impression that the danger of modernism is enormous.

I find it encouraging and refreshing to know that many "liberals" will not move on to the many extremes of modernism. There was a time when I thought differently. I once thought it would be good to see them go on into extreme modernism, so fruits of their innovations could be displayed more vividly. Now I find it exciting to read criticisms from some of their pens — criticisms of the institutional and centralized complexes among them which have created the modernist monster.

The question facing us concerns our attitude toward our liberal brethren who would go no further in the maze of error, and who apply the brakes on the proverbial institutional bandwagon.

"Suppose," we are asked, "Modernism is completely eradicated from 'liberal' ranks. Would not `liberals' continue to promote and operate church supported institutions and sponsoring church projects?" I suspect so. Of course modernism will not be completely annihilated. I suspect further that there will be a great acceleration of the drive to get the colleges in the budgets of churches by some of the liberals. One quite prominent 'liberal' college man has recently expressed to me his feeling that the saving of colleges from modernism could be accomplished by making them answerable to churches which grant money to them. This of course is absolutely unacceptable, and many liberals, perhaps the majority, are not willing to accept church support of colleges...yet.

If we cooperate with liberals in a battle against a common enemy — modernism — will we gain anything regarding our fight against institutionalism and sponsoring church projects? The question is a worthy one. It cannot, it seems, be answered with a simple yes or no. On the ground that it cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, I contend that a closer communication and association with 'liberal' brethren is worth careful consideration. Further, inasmuch as many 'liberals' are not going as far down the road of error as we supposed, and are willing to communicate with us, and are receptive to our services against modernism, I feel compelled to explore the various possibilities cautiously.

"But will the 'liberals' recant?" "Will they turn away from institutionalism and sponsoring church arrangements?" There will be a definite, a natural de-escalation in these promotions as many 'liberals' realize how these centralizations have offered strongholds and spring boards for modernism. Many liberals will become disgusted with the centralized complexes and will turn from them, by necessity, if not by conviction. They will see the value of the simple New Testament way and seek less dangerous forms of cooperation. And we will be closer to common ground.

If we can remove bitterness, recrimination, radicalism, and excesses, which have contributed so much to widen the cleavage, there is a real and genuine possibility that this final one-third of the 20th century will reverse trends. Perhaps there will be some adjustments in the area of support of projects — adjustments which could be acceptable to us and in harmony with scriptural principle. Fantasy? Maybe. But so were the prospects of men walking on the moon!

The editor of this journal aroused considerable interest by his "peace offensive," inaugurated last spring. I think his idea is good, but perhaps his choice of words for the label are unfortunate. Some were certain to see in the word "peace" a compromising spirit. As suggested by another, it would have been better to call it a "reasoning offensive — "Come let us reason together." When brethren of all persuasions free themselves from evil or unkind attitudes, and perverse or ill dispositions, they will reason together.

The Arlington, Texas "unity" meeting of 1968 was significant. There were some pitfall surrounding it, I believe, which created chagrin in many, including me. But a lot of things were learned as result of it, and it may be recognized in the history of these times as some sort of a turning point. A similar meeting in Leakey, Texas in 1969 sought to avoid the pitfalls of the first.

The future may prove all this worthless, as for a real biblical unity, but it behooves all Christians of character depth, emotional maturity, and intellectual honest to consider the possibilities.