Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 2, 1954
NUMBER 17, PAGE 4,5b

Preaching John's Funeral


We call your attention to an article on another page in this issue, "John Asked For His Own Funeral." The article was written some weeks ago by Brother C. Wayland James, who was at the time of writing minister of the Uptown Church of Christ in Long Beach, California. We suggest that you read the article in its entirety, taking time to think through it, and to grasp the full significance of the statements made and the attitude taken. This article is a clear evidence of one of the most serious problems now facing the church of the Lord — the problem of a growing and ever more arrogant "modernism" in the ranks of the disciples.

For several years now the Gospel Guardian has been sounding warnings of this development. Those who are familiar with the past will recall the progress of the fight; they will remember how we warned against the modernistic teachings of Ralph Wilburn and E. V. Pullias in Pepperdine College (they may also remember how the Firm Foundation and the Gospel Advocate continued to carry the articles from these two men, and how the Firm Foundation particularly severely criticized the Guardian for questioning the soundness of Wilburn, Pullias, and others); they will recall the lengthy series of articles we carried on "That Pepperdine Problem," and Brother Pullias writings in defense of the institution. And they will recall how at length, in full vindication of the charges we made, Ralph Wilburn had the honesty and integrity (which some of his associates lacked) to come out into the open with his modernism, make a clean and formal break with the Church of Christ, and "affiliate" himself with the liberal wing of the Christian Church.

All of these facts are well known to our readers, and many others in line with them are familiar to California. For it seems to be here, in this land of sunshine and superlatives, that Modernism has made her most serious inroads among the churches. The influence of Pepperdine College has been perhaps the strongest single factor in promoting this cancerous growth. C. Wayland James' article which we carry in this issue is but a sample of the sort of thing one often finds among Pepperdine students, ex-students, and sympathizers. It is the philosophy of humanism, naturalism, and anti-supernaturalism in religion. Its fruits are seen in an emphasis on the "social gospel," an over-weening desire toward fraternalism and full fellowship with denominational and sectarian bodies. These things are too painfully familiar to Californians to need much discussion.

John's Funeral

In the article we carry, Brother James says that "John Asked For His Own Funeral." Brother James then obliges by giving the funeral oration. His article is based on the assumption that John was guided by his own narrow, bitter, "legalistic" spirit in his preaching and teaching; that such "legalism" fore-doomed his mission to failure. But Jesus, on the other hand, more tolerant, understanding, and sympathetic preached on "LOVE" and his mission succeeded.

Can any sincere Christian read James' article without nausea? What becomes of the inspired statement that "There came a man, sent from God whose name was John"? (John 1:6.) The Bible teaches that John came in fulfillment of prophecy (Matt. 3:3); Jesus said of him that he was even "more than a prophet" (Matt. 11:9); the angel said of him "he shall be great in the sight of the Lord .... and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb." (Luke 1:15.) John's teaching was given hi mby the Holy Spirit; but C. Wayland James' estimate of that teaching is that it was "harshness, bitterness, and legalism!" He thinks John deserved the death he got; he was merely "reaping what he sowed"!

The Future

Long before it happened the Gospel Guardian predicted that Ralph Wilburn and James Arthur Warren would forsake the Lord's church to throw in their lot with sectarianism. We now make the same unqualified and unequivocal prediction concerning C. Wayland James. He is already a modernist and a liberal in his thinking. He is definitely not at home among and not in harmony with the conservative and humble followers of Jesus Christ; he does not believe the Bible.

We do not know how long it will take James to make the formal break. Perhaps a year, perhaps longer. He has resigned from his work at Uptown Church and is to teach in the Department of Religion at a Presbyterian college in Easton, Pennsylvania. The fact that he was able to bring Uptown Church such a great length with him in his progress toward the modernistic camp may retard somewhat his final break with the church. Ralph Wilburn and James Arthur Warren both tried to convert the churches where they labored to their modernism; they were only relatively successful, and finally gave up hope of doing so. The fact that James has been so much more successful than the other two may give him greater incentive to remain with the church of Christ. He will reason that if he could convert one congregation (Uptown) to modernism, perhaps he can win others. But when he becomes convinced that he cannot advance his liberalism among the disciples, he will most certainly sever his connection with them and seek fellowship among those who are more in harmony with his ideas. Why should he not? No convictions as to Bible teaching stand in the way.

Meanwhile, let Christians everywhere be alert and aroused. Ten years ago our great problem was trying to keep modernism out of the church. That's not the big problem now; a greater has superseded it. Our present problem is the task of GETTING modernism out of the church!

— F. Y. T.