"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.X No.II Pg.4-7
February 1948

Concerning Pepperdine College

(The following article by Brother John Wolfe, previously published, is being reprinted that all may read it and Brother Hugh M. Tiner's reply together. Brother Tiner's article has been in type some time and we regret that space has not been available until now, for reasons all of the readers understand. Other articles concerning Pepperdine College, including further statements by President Tiner, faculty and board members will appear in the next issue—Editor.)


Many of my friends have asked me about the teaching of Modernism at George Pepperdine College. For some time I have had on my desk three letters, two from preachers and one from a college professor asking for information on this question, none of which I have as yet answered. I feel that these brethren, and the brotherhood at large, have a right to know about some of the things that I learned while attending Pepperdine, and which can only be learned by sitting in the class rooms of that institution.

I notice that Brother Lovell says that Modernism is a word that some "great defender" of the church uses to climb to popularity. I have never coveted such a title or station. Neither am I jealous of the president or of any professor in any college in the brotherhood, as he implies is true of anyone who would call attention to harmful trends in any of our schools. On the contrary, I believe one hundred percent in real Christian education. I went to Pepperdine prepared to find that the rumors I had heard about tendencies toward Modernism were exaggerated. I presumed that they would boil down to a tolerant attitude toward sectarianism and a healthy desire to get away from a too legalistic mode of interpreting the scriptures. I was rudely awakened from these easy-going assumptions.

The Bible Explained by Atheists

I was warned that many of the books I was asked to read were written by men who did not believe in God. I was to learn that there is something far more dangerous than a plain, straightforward denial of the truth of the Bible. That is the interpretation of religion upon the principles of evolution. The majority of the books on my reading lists were written by men for whom religion was something conceived in the mind of man and developed through the ages, mounting to higher and higher conceptions much as the race has developed its systems of languages, arts, or sciences. A large percent of the writers either ignored or tried to explain away anything of a miraculous nature. Thus, the pillar of fire that led the Israelites in the desert was formed by the glowing sulphur and brimstone erupting from Mt. Sinai; the pillar of cloud was formed by the sulphuric vapors of the same volcanic origin; and the voice of the trumpet was the roaring of the lava as it flowed down the side of the mountain. Why is such a large quantity of reading such as this required in a so-called Christian school? The only reason given was that we ought to become acquainted with such writers and their books. However, not one attempt, in any of my classes was ever made to answer the explanations and arguments which these infidel writers set forth. I cannot but wonder about the effect of so much of this kind of reading upon the minds of students who are not firmly and unshakably established in the faith. Nay, I know what the effect has been upon many a Christian, including some gospel preachers. They have landed in the ranks of the atheists. It may be presumed that students must be required to read the learned (?) books of these atheistic commentators in order to maintain the scholastic standing of the school. Such, I am persuaded is not the case, since there are hundreds and thousands of scholarly books on the Bible, written by men who at least believe in a personal God and in divine inspiration of His Word. If such is the case, however, then I assure that every Christian would say that rather than undermine the faith of students, let scholastic standing be thrown to the moles and the bats.

Evolutionary Mode of Interpretation Seconded by Professor at Pepperdine

I have referred to the interpretation of religion upon the evolutionary principle, as a belief and a sentiment conceived and developed through the centuries in the minds of men without reference to a miraculous revelations from a Divine Power. He would be blind and deaf who could not discern a strong undercurrent of this very type of interpretation in many of the Bible classes at Pepperdine. In the class I attended, Old Testament prophecy was treated as something that developed with the growing national life of Israel. In the days of David the prophets were few and their prophecies meager. Later on, the schools of the prophets were developed; and finally, with the period of Isaiah and Jeremiah, the tree of prophecy bore its perfect fruit. That, I believe, is a good illustration of the evolutionary method of interpreting the Bible. Emphasis was also placed on the experiences and character of the prophet as elements that contributed strongly to the nature of his message. Required reading was here relied on to give the student a background for the study of the text. To illustrate, Amos, the herdsman prophet, on his journeys to the sheep markets of Samaria and perhaps to Damascus, had opportunity to observe the morally decadent state of Israel. In the deserts of Tekoa he meditated upon the things he had observed. To this observation and meditation was brought a profound moral sense and spiritual perception which enabled him to utter the teachings and prophecies found in the book that bears his name. I grant that much that is interesting and much that is true can be gained from studying the Bible from the human standpoint; but when the human elements overshadow the great truth that the Bible is of divine revelation, we are treading on dangerous ground, from which many have sunk into skepticism and unbelief.

Concrete Example of Modernism at Pepperdine

So far, I have been dealing in generalities; I will come to specific cases. The example I am about to give was not taken from a book or given to illustrate a theory, but was taught as a fact by one of the professors. It concerns "the doctrine of the resurrection," to use the professor's own words. It is to the effect that Israel for centuries looked in vain for the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the Messianic kingdom. But so great was the honor and esteem in which were held the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that they could not conceive of a Messianic kingdom in which these heroes did not have a share. Evidently, then, being long dead, they would have to be raised again to have a part in the glories of the future kingdom. Out of this logical necessity, "the doctrine of the resurrection" was born. Now, if that is not Modernism pure and simple I am at a loss to know what to call it.

While speaking of things of Old Testament interest, I would like to record an incident in one of my classes that to me was illuminating. I had called attention to Paul's explanation of one of the prophecies, and the professor made this reply: "Yes, Paul was very fond of taking statements from the Old Testament and giving them an allegorical meaning." I would only ask, if Paul's explanations of prophetic statements were made merely because he was "fond" of this mode of illustrating his point, how much of his other teaching is the result of a mere fondness for ideas he expresses? And how many subtle suggestions of that kind are necessary to start a student doubting the divine inspiration of the Bible? Finally, what kind of thinking was back of the statement that Paul was "fond" of certain ideas included in his writings. All discerning students at Pepperdine knew the answer to that.

Miracles Are Hocus-Pocus

In another class, the discussion turned abruptly to miracles. Regarding a certain point, I had made the statement: "I suppose the only way to prove that is by the Bible." Little did I think that that statement could stir up such a hornet's nest. Without an instant's hesitation the professor replied: "What is the Bible? Brother Wolfe, how do you validate the Bible?" I replied, "Chiefly by its miraculous element." Those words seemed to add fuel to the flame, and the professor said: "But what is the need for miracles—some kind of hocus-pocus—to sustain our faith? Of course they are all right for adolescent minds, but for minds that are developed they aren't necessary. I don't need miracles to sustain my faith." Those words burned themselves into my mind. They were the most forthright statement I had yet heard concerning this professor's real sentiments, but now that they were out and openly declared, I was not surprised at them. They seemed to fit easily and naturally against the background of the atheistic books we were required to read. Nor did they seem to cause any great surprise to anyone else in the class. They were all of a piece with the general atmosphere that pervaded the classroom. The class was almost ready to adjourn, but the professor continued: "Mohammedanism also claims many miracles." Feeling it necessary to make some reply, I said: "But they are false miracles." The professor said: "But you can't prove it;" putting special emphasis on the word "prove." The unmistakable impression that was left was that the miracles of Mohammedanism and those of Christianity were to be placed in the same category, and that none of them could be proved to be actual facts.

Wants to Get Away and Forget

One faithful gospel preacher remarked to me after one of the classes: "It's pretty hard to take, but when you get away from it and get to preaching the gospel you can forget enough of it so that it won't have too much influence on you." If such was the feeling of those most strongly grounded in the faith, you may well ask what is the result in the minds and hearts of the weaker members of the class. The answer to that is provided in the statement of another preacher who said to me: "What I hate most about this teaching is that it is making some of the boys hypocritical in their preaching. Brother ______ said that when he went back home he would continue to preach what the church believes and what the brethren expect him to preach, but that he no longer believes it." I wonder if Pepperdine College is proud of that kind of product.

Theological Speculation at Pepperdine

Theology, as the word has come to be used, is something that the brotherhood has a right to hate and fear. Theological speculation has been the most prolific cause of division since the beginning of the great apostasy that followed the apostolic age. Human reasonings, deductions, and speculations from Bible statements and upon Bible themes always take a multitude of directions, and result, and have resulted, in all the human creeds that have cursed the world. This was clearly seen by all the great leaders of the Restoration Movement, who for that reason determined to "speak where the Bible speaks," and to call Bible things by Bible names.

The "School of the Bible" at Pepperdine, we were told, is actually a school of theology, but the word isn't used because the brotherhood would not like it. In one of the classes, the position was definitely taken in regard to the atonement that Christ did not suffer and die to pay the sinner's debt; that his suffering and death did not represent the penalty that divine justice demanded of the sinner. His death on the cross was simply the demonstration of God's love for humanity, divine love profoundly and divinely yearning over man, and suffering and dying because of man's wayward and sinful state, the supreme demonstration of divine love.

I do not say which theory is correct. The former, which has been generally held, was first advanced by Anselm in the middle ages. The latter is of more modern origin. If both had been taught as matters of opinion, accompanied by a warning against speculation on the subject, I would have no complaint. As it was, the latter theory was taught as matter of faith, over which, as was only natural, the class was divided. The latter theory was incorporated in a sermon broadcast by one of the students of the president of the college. One preacher who listened to the broadcast became so perplexed and indignant that he said to me, "If that is a sample of the teaching at Pepperdine, then it is the greatest menace that now faces the church." That is just a sample of the way people divide over theories and speculations. The church could just as easily be divided over different theories of the atonement as it could over premillennialism.

Isaiah 53 Not a Prophecy About Christ
In connection with the discussions on the above subject, Isaiah 53 was mentioned. "But," said the professor, "the Jew will tell you that Isaiah 53 does not refer to the Messiah. He KNOWS that Isaiah 53 refers to the suffering servant of Jehovah as represented by the nation of Israel." This, let me emphasize, was not presented as the Jew's opinion, but as definite and absolute knowledge. Without any reservations whatever, the Jew was set up as a criterion for the interpretation of this passage of scripture. The implications of the professor's statement in this instance are so utterly astounding as to make the statement seem incredible. For if the Jew knows that Isaiah 53 does not refer to the Messiah, he knows just as surely that Jesus was not the Christ. In fact, the Jew rejected Jesus because he first rejected Isaiah 53 as being a picture of his sufferings and death. How beyond understanding to go to the unbelieving Jew for our interpretation of the prophecies concerning Christ!

The Church Treated As a Denomination

It is a very significant fact that the professor under whom I took most of my work at Pepperdine always spoke of the Church as "our group," and upon one occasion as "the group called the Church of Christ." His view of the church was consistently that of a sect among other sects. Upon one occasion he placed a number of circles on the board to represent the different religious groups. Then he said, "No one group can claim to be the one true church." On one occasion, in discussing the general councils held by the Catholic Church, he said that he sometimes thought it would be a good thing today for the church to have general councils, but that all the groups would have to be represented. I said, "But we do not recognize these groups." The professor replied: "If you don't, you just have to shut your eyes to the facts."

Let Him Stay in the Methodist Church

In view of such sentiments, I was not at all surprised when a fellow-student, a preacher in whom I have the utmost confidence, related the following incident. He said that a Methodist student at Pepperdine had become convinced that he ought to be immersed, but wanted to stay where he was in the Methodist Church. In discussing the matter in a small group, this professor remarked "Why not let him stay where he is?"

Another incident that happened in the class of another professor was related to me as follows: A young lady, a member of the church, had taken a friend to visit the class with the intention of helping her see the truth. The friend was a Baptist, and the professor was apprised of the fact. Instead of trying to point out her error, he publicly lauded the Baptists for their honesty, sincerity and zeal, and the young lady afterward told her friend who had brought her to the class that that was just what they believed in their church, that if you were sincere and lived up to your belief that you were all right. Brother Lovell says that in Pepperdine College Christians are teaching sinners. To preachers who have attended Pepperdine it is pretty evident that someone should begin teaching these Christians.

Time for a New Religious Movement

In one class, the professor drew a line on the board representing the Catholic Church. He explained that when that Church became so corrupted, there was a violent reaction and the protestant movement was born. This he illustrated by another line drawn directly under the first one. But this movement finally dwindled down to the expression of partisan spirit and division, and this time the reaction resulted in "our movement." For this another line was drawn under the two preceding ones, Then came the almost incredible statement: "I like to think that we are now right out here (indicating the end of the last line) and beginning to shape the development of a new era." Even to one who had grown used to hearing such things as I have related, this statement was a stunning blow. This professor, who teaches more advanced (?) Bible than any other in Pepperdine, hopes that the movement to restore the New Testament Church, which he of course looks on as only "our group," is now almost at an end. While he did not so state, the implication was clear that he thinks "our movement" has become so corrupted in some form or fashion that it is now time for something new. And that in a College that professes to the brotherhood to uphold the teachings of the New Testament!

Preacher Students Encouraged to Go to the University of Chicago

Preacher students who go to Pepperdine College have now a new and modern Mecca set before them. The theological school of the University of Chicago is now the door of golden opportunity for the would-be preacher of the gospel. In fact so great is the lure held out that one preacher student asked in all seriousness, if the University of Chicago is so wonderful, why take the time to go to Pepperdine? Why not take all of one's college work up there? Other similar institutions in the East are also lauded as the seats of true wisdom and super excellence. Emphasis is placed on the great need for students to go to these hot-beds of skepticism and atheism in order to prepare themselves to be the teachers and professors of the future in our schools and colleges. As a result, many of the theological students of Pepperdine are planning to go, and some have already gone to sit at the feet of these learned sages and divines, that they may help in the glorious work of bringing the Restoration Movement to a quick end and ushering in the new and modernistic era for the church which my professor envisions.

Reaction Among the Students

Many will want to know what the reaction of the students to all of this. In general, the students fall into three classes. The first class, after staying one term or perhaps a whole year, upon finding out what is being taught, leaves Pepperdine for some other school. Another group stays, but protests against the teaching, secretly desiring, as the preacher whom I have already quoted to get away and forget it all. And finally, there is the third group, composed of no inconsiderable number, who drink it all in and pride themselves on being liberal. I found myself in the second group. I came away, but have not been able to forget or lightly dismiss what is without doubt one of the darkest shadows that has ever loomed up in the pathway of truth. I bear no malice against any individual, but I warn the church to beware. Modernism, theological speculation, and the spirit of sectarianism, as a three-headed viper has raised itself among us. Let the brethren cease to treat as idle rumors what all the students who go to Pepperdine know to be facts.


4503 Clinton S.

El Paso, Texas

January 17, 1948

Mr. Roy E. Cogdill

Lufkin, Texas

Dear Roy:

How Brother Tiner could report me as saying that Luther Blackmon or anyone else had changed or rewritten my article is beyond my comprehension. Two or three times he asked me if someone had not helped me with it, suggesting words, phrases, or ideas. Each time I told him that the article was mine and that no one else had anything to do with it.

I am glad that you were able to get some first-hand evidence. The situation is much worse, in my estimation, than anyone realizes. I am glad you are going after it.

I shall probably be coming your way in March and if you are in Lufkin at that time I shall drop in and see you. Sorry I missed you and Foy when you were through El Paso.

With every best wish,

Most sincerely,

John F. Wolfe