"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.V No.IX Pg.5
April 1943

"Hicks From The Sticks" And The Dean From Duke: Or, Relativity Of Religion

Under the caption of "Hicks From the Sticks, or, "Relativity of Morals" the Dean of George Pepperdine College, formerly of Duke University, tells us an interesting story in the Gospel Advocate "of a small-time politician, the honorable Hicks from the Sticks." Since the character of the story did not believe in "taking sides" on anything it would seem strange that the dean from Duke could use him as a witness against anybody, as no one has ever heard of the dean himself coming out very strong on anything. Could it be possible that he is himself Hicks from the Sticks?

Anyway, Squire Hicks from the Sticks always answered every question "yes and no."' Well, that fits some of the teaching and preaching of the dean and his playmates now, who are themselves somewhat like the preacher who did "take sides" by preaching on heaven and hell because he had friends in both places!

But the dean says the "yes and no" infection is in the church and gives an example of "a minister of the gospel" who, he says, "irresponsibly lies about his brethren" and "dodges his honest obligations" and "uses abusive language (as Paul expresses it) and so on." Apparently fearing that he himself would be charged with such an expression "abusive language" he puts "as Paul expresses it" in parenthesis--he wants us to know that it was Paul who so expressed it, not the dean, O, no. But he charges that some brethren will actually say "yes and no" when they are asked if an irresponsibly--lying, debt-dodging minister of the gospel is all right! I am made to wonder with what kind of brethren the distressed dean has been associating, and where, for in all my travels among the churches I have never found brethren who would answer "yes and no" to such a thing, or whose "implication is that righteousness is unimportant to preaching the gospel." The dean must have been associating of late with a crowd of profligate preachers and brethren, or else that dream about Hicks from the Sticks must have been a nightmare.

Personally, I think he has his illustration turned the wrong way--he has it in reverse. He has it pointed toward the wrong group. If there are any in the church who have played the "yes and no" role, it is not the ones whom he seeks to impugn and impeach in his application. Rather does his story fit that soft-speaking, step-easy, tread-lightly, go-away-around-by-the Joneses group among us who have never stood for sound doctrine and who probably never will, including the dean. But the dean does break down and admit that it is all right to stand for "what the Bible teaches on these basic questions" except when it is done in an "altogether un-Christ-like rudeness and discourtesy." As to what he would regard "un-Christ-like rudeness" and "discourtesy" we are left to guess. I have an idea that some of us could write out some of the sayings of Christ and leave off the Lord's signature and it would be called un-Christ-like, rude and discourteous by the dean and some of the brethren he is running with.

But the dean's "yes and no" Hicks from the Sticks story suggests some questions. We have been told that when the dean was with Duke University that he regularly attended the denominational churches. Our information is that he did not gather together any number of individuals he might have found for simple New Testament worship or to start a New Testament church. It is reported that he chose rather to go in with the denominations in Durham. We do not want to misrepresent any one nor to be unfair, and certainly not to "irresponsibly lie about" the dean. But we have honestly been told that he preached for the various denominational churches during the several years that he spent at Duke in Durham. It has even been said that he had membership in the Congregational Church, a union of Congregationalists and Digressives, during the "six years" that he taught in Duke.

If and when the dean was teaching in Duke and preaching for denominational churches someone had asked him if denominational churches are wrong--would he have said, like Hicks from Sticks, "yes and no"? Well, if they are wrong, what do you --think of these actions--or shall we say, "relativity" in doctrine and practice? Must a person be baptized to be a child of God?" The dean has us answer, "certainly." Well, how did the dean answer it in the denominational pulpits of Durham-"yes and no," or did he answer it at all? If so or if not "Is this action right or wrong," Squire Hicks? Did you say "yes and no"?

Should denominationalism be fellowshipped? "Yes and no," says the dean from Duke. Is it right to have denominational preachers teach their doctrine to students of George Pepperdine College in chapel services? "Yes and no" says "Hicks from the Sticks." Is it right to fellowship Premillennialism and those who teach it? "Yes and no" says Hicks. Hickism, indeed!

Finally the dean from Duke has quite a lot of ugly things to say about others, in a "Christ-like" way. He charges them with lying, dishonesty, hypocrisy, hatred, tale bearing, jealousy on "questions relating to Christian, life and virtue." Then, he says "it is not implied that any great proportion of ministers or other Christians are seriously immoral." Wonder how much immoral "ministers or other Christians" can be without being seriously immoral? Since the dean appears to be authority on "relativity of morals" perhaps he can tell us without saying "yes and no." Again he says, "undoubtedly the proportion is relatively small as yet." That's encouraging. Since there are so few, perhaps he could publish the list and relieve the curiosity, as well as the suspicion, as to who these lying, debt-dodging "ministers and other Christians" are. It might turn out that the dean is himself a purveyor of gossip and is "irresponsibly lying" on somebody. Personally, I am not as much concerned about what someone does who is "irresponsible," as I am about men like the dean from Duke who are old enough to be responsible for what they do and say.

Really, "the prize example of Hickism" on relativity of doctrine and practice is the dean himself. At least, while urging others to be "Christ-like in word and spirit, and in action" he might pause upon his own threshold with due deliberation and caution.

The dean's article is also a "prize example" of how these brethren who lay claim to the "spirit of Christ" resort to the lowest of all personalities--insinuation--when their teaching and practice are called in question.

History repeats itself, and with their dean from Duke, George Pepperdine College is reliving and re-enacting the experience of Abilene Christian College with such teachers as George A. Klingman and David L. Cooper.