Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 21, 1952
NUMBER 41, PAGE 4-6,9b

That Pepperdine Problem


We are delighted to give space (front page) this week to an article from brother E. V. Pullias, entitled, "Reply To Brother Tant's Accusations." For several years brother Pullias has been under a heavy and increasing barrage of criticism. Grave and serious charges have been leveled against him by scores of faithful Christians who were in a position to know what they were talking about. Friends and patrons of George Pepperdine College, faculty members, board members, visiting preachers, faithful and godly elders, thoughtful and earnest students in the school—a vast multitude of fine and noble Christians, with absolutely no motive save the good of Pepperdine College and of the cause of Christ, have joined in these charges against brother Pullias. No one man is responsible for all of them, or even for any very great number of them; they are not the "irresponsible accusations" nor the "hearsay or gossip" of "disgruntled people who may be jealous and who hold personal grudges." On the contrary, these criticisms are the cumulative judgment of hundreds of independent observers who have been in touch with the situation for nearly fifteen years.

Hitherto brother Pullias has ignored all criticism, not deigning to notice it or to reply to it. Today he departs from that policy, and shows a desire for a frank and open airing of the whole matter. We commend him for that. If the charges are all false, if these hundreds of brethren who have made the charges have been mistaken, if the newspaper reports of brother Pullias' affiliation with denominational groups have been in error (we realize how often they do print misleading articles), if only "disgruntled" and "jealous" people have been spreading malicious slander—then the Guardian wants to know it. And we stand ready to apologize to brother Pullias and to George Pepperdine College for any false or misleading statement this journal has ever printed concerning these matters. Furthermore, we here and now pledge the Guardian to publish anything brother Pullias may want to write in defense of his record and in reply to the criticisms against him. We believe that is a fair and brotherly offer, and it is in keeping with the policy of this journal.

Every true Christian will surely pray that brother Pullias' present willingness to speak of "the facts open to the knowledge of all and subject to checking by all" may be the beginning of a real and proper solution of "the Pepperdine problem." The school has become a serious embarrassment to most Christian people in the state; it is regarded by a majority of the California brethren as a growing threat to the church of Lord. We realize that brother Pullias was under a strain when he prepared the article which we publish on the front page, and we make full allowance for that fact. It took courage for him to defend his record, and to depart from a life-long policy of "not replying" to criticisms any way. We commend him for his willingness to come out in the open with an honest reply to the charges. And we are perfectly willing to overlook his accusations, both stated and implied, that we were motivated by malice and were deliberately falsifying when we printed brother Thompson's article concerning his Bakersfield activities. Such impugning of a brother's motives is beneath the dignity of any Christian gentleman, and no doubt even now brother Pullias sincerely regrets having permitted himself to stoop to such a level. It is certainly not in keeping with the usual suavity of his poised and polished conversation.

We call attention to these items brought out in brother Pullias' "Reply":

I. Personal vs. Public Brother Pullias is much distressed that we have not sought him out personally and discussed with him the matters set forth in our articles and editorials. He laments that "It does not seem right to air such personal contentions and controversies before the whole church."

What on earth is our brother talking about?

Does he think we have something "personally" against him? Why should we seek him out personally? We hold no personal grudge against him: he has done us no personal wrong or injury. What he did was not some private, personal affair between him and the editor. Why is it that some brethren WILL NOT see the difference between a personal private matter between two brethren and an open, public, notorious sin against the whole church? What brother Pullias did was not private; it was public. His "affiliations" with the Christian Church, the Congregational Church, the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church, and various other denominational and sectarian bodies have been notorious for years! And now he thinks that our public criticism of his public behavior is an "irresponsible accusation" motivated by malice, and that we should have come to him privately to discuss the case!!

Some who read little and understand less could think that Matthew 18:15 would apply in this case; but could a college professor, a college dean, a Ph.D., an elder of the church, one who for many years has taught and written about the gospel of Christ, taught Sunday school classes for about twenty-seven years, preached for numerous "church of Christ audiences" (heaven help us!) for more than twenty years, written for religious journals for fifteen years, been a psychology teacher in college, written for professional journals, had the privilege of working closely for fourteen years with Christian men in discussion groups, been taught by such men as E. A. Elam, F. D. Srygley (he means F. B.; Fletcher D. Srygley was dead before Pullias was born), H. Leo Boles, T. Q. Martin, A. G. Freed, S. H. Hall, N. B. Hardeman, C. R. Nichol, C. M. Pullias, and G C. Brewer—could HE think that Matthew 18:15 applies to this case? Could he? If so, we doubt that he would recognize modernism if he saw it walking down the road with a sign on it.

May we presume to join the illustrious company of brother Pullias' teachers listed above, and add one additional bit of scriptural truth to what these fine brethren must have undoubtedly taught him: Brother Pullias, Matthew 18:15 applies to personal differences between brethren; it does not apply to the matter of open, public, notorious, and scandalous sin against the whole church. And that is the kind of behavior you have been charged with—not some personal private injury done a brother.

II. What Is "Modernism"?

Is brother Pullias a "modernist"? He brings forth a great array of negative "facts' 'to prove that he is not—mostly that men who know him and have worked with him have never charged him with modernism. But like all "modernists" he gives his own special meaning to the word or term "modernism." He restricts its meaning obviously to that final, ultimate, conclusive extreme of modernism which denies the miracles and declares that the Bible is purely the product of human intelligence.

That brother Pullias has ever been charged with this final ultimate extremity of modernism we doubt. That he has for years been modernistic in tendency and direction is a fact too well known to too many thousands to be denied. Long before the final stages of modernism are reached, there are tendencies and actions which are definitely headed toward that final atheistic philosophy. When a man heads from solid truth toward this awful abyss, his progress is usually along a fairly well defined path or pattern: (1) he becomes increasingly critical of those who stand squarely and forthrightly for the truth, contending that he agrees with them doctrinally, but deplores their "methods"; (2) he begins to emphasize the things held in common between Christians and those in error, and to minimize and belittle the things that are not in common; (3) he "softens up' on doctrinal preaching and teaching generally; (4) he begins to tolerate error, and to associate with those in error WITHOUT TRYING TO CORRECT THEIR ERRORS; (5) he begins to fraternize and "affiliate" with those teaching error; (6) he begins to emphasize the similarities between Christianity and the world's other great religions, pointing out the great "truths" of Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, etc.; (8) he begins to doubt that a "loving Father" would ever consign anyone to an eternal hell of fire ... etc., etc.

One does not have to eat the whole egg to know it is rotten; one bite ought to tell him. One does not have to embrace the whole of modernism to be a modernist. That brother Pullias has already gone a long, long way down that tragic trail toward ultimate and final modernism known to thousands. His record speaks for itself. Take a look:

III. Brother Pullias' Record

1. By his own admission our brother taught a class in the "Disciples of Christ" church while he was teaching at Duke University. We do not know what he taught them, but we do know the following: (a) there was no true church of the Lord in Durham when brother Pullias went there; (b) he remained there for some six or seven years being "affiliated" with the Disciples of Christ church and teaching a class in that denomination; (c) there was no loyal church of Christ in Durham when brother Pullias left Durham.

Brother Pullias found the Durham "Disciples of Christ" church in error; he affiliated with them and taught them for six or seven years, and he left them in error! So far as we have been able to determine NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON IN THAT CHURCH WAS TAUGHT THE SINFULNESS OF INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC IN THOSE SIX OR SEVEN YEARS. Will brother Pullias tell us that he feels he was "following the example of Christ and the apostles" in that kind of teaching? Does he think they would have left a record like that? Their preaching produced a revival or a riot—brother Pullias' teaching in the Disciples of Christ church produced neither.

2. Record in California. Since coming to Pepperdine College, our brother has repeatedly "affiliated" with sectarian churches, holding services with them, participating in their special programs, being invited again and again to engage with them in activities designed to build up and strengthen these sectarian bodies. He often preaches in these groups where instrumental music is being used. So far as we have been able to learn he has never either publicly or privately made any effort to get these denominational bodies to abandon their unscriptural practices. Does our brother conceive that he is "following the example of Christ and the apostles" in such prolonged, continued, fraternal "affiliation" with those who teach error and will lead trusting men into hell?

3. Record at Bakersfield. This is the incident to which we referred in an article in the January 3 issue of the Guardian. Brother Pullias allowed himself to be used by the Christian Church in Bakersfield in opposition to a gospel meeting being conducted by the faithful brethren in that city. He says he spoke on "Christian Education," but the elders of one of the loyal congregations in the city, who attended the service, say that at the close of his sermon (lecture) he extended the invitation, and also invited people to place membership with the apostate Christian Church in Bakersfield!

IV. Questions

Brother Pullias' forthright and unequivocal answers to the following questions will go far toward helping our readers, and us, (and him!) to determine whether or not he has been misrepresented, and whether or not we are due him an apology. Will you answer, dear brother? We will gladly publish your response:

1. Since you admit that your "judgment" may have been bad in your "affiliation" with the Disciples of Christ church in North Carolina, what would you do now under similar circumstances? If you were again so affiliated, would you meet and worship with an apostate body--or would you attempt to establish a true congregation of Christians in that city, worshipping God after the New Testament pattern? What advice do you give students at Pepperdine College when they ask you what to do under such circumstances?

2. Do you feel it was only a matter of "bad judgment" for you to worship six years with an apostate church, or do you believe now that you sinned in so doing?

8. If you think you sinned, have you made public confession of the sin, and acknowledged that you did do wrong?

4. If you have not made public confession of a public sin, do you contemplate doing so at any time in the near future?

5. You state, "I certainly would not have made the speech at Bakersfield had I known it would offend my good brethren there . . ." Now that you know it DID offend them, what steps have you taken to correct the matter? You publicly sinned against the Bakersfield church. Have you sought their forgiveness? Have you made public apology for the hurt you did them? Are you determined never to be guilty of such behavior again? And now that you know that any such appearance by you on a denominational program gives offense to thousands of your "good brethren," is it your present determination never again to be guilty of such action? Or do you intend, as in the past, to ignore the feelings of your brethren in these matters?

6. You speak of your "earnest desire to keep every part of the college as true to New Testament teaching as is humanly possible," and say that you and President Tiner "under the direction of a devout Christian board and with the help of the faculty" have a heavy responsibility. Is it your idea, brother Pullias, that this responsibility can be best discharged by a faculty that is in considerable degree NON-CHRISTIAN? How can men who are Presbyterian, Methodists, Mennonites, and members of no religious body at all teach "true . . . New Testament teaching" to the Pepperdine students? Is it the calm and considered judgment of your "devout Christian board" that the best way to get "New Testament teaching" into the hearts of your students is to subject them to the daily influence of NON-CHRISTIAN teachers, and Catholic priests, Jewish rabbis and Hollywood movie stars as chapel speakers?

7. Do you and the "devout Christian board" still endorse and defend brother Ralph Wilburn as you have for the past several years? If brother Wilburn was released from the school because of his modernism, why was not some public statement made to that effect? As an elder in the Vermont Church you were aware for several years of brother Wilburn's unsoundness and his dangerous liberalism. Did you publicly oppose the false positions he has publicly advocated? Have you ever made any statement of any kind disavowing your long and persistent defense of him, even when it was generally known that he was a modernist?

V. The Responsibility

Pepperdine College has become a thorn in the flesh and a constant reproach and embarrassment to the faithful Christians in California who know of her liberalism and her compromise with sectarianism. It seems that it has even reached the place now that it is well nigh impossible for the school to get loyal California preachers even to appear on their lecture programs! They are reduced to using their own faculty, or out of state speakers, or else a few California men who are notorious for their softness and liberalism.

What could have been a great and wonderful help to Christians in California has become a dark and loathe-some sore.

It is recognized by nearly everybody that one man—brother E. V. Pullias—bears the real responsibility for that tragic development. Brother Hugh Tiner, the affable and friendly president of the school, is generally looked upon as little more than a figurehead. Informed brethren say that for a number of years it has been brother Pullias, not brother Tiner, who has controlled and directed the policy of the school; that in his usual agreeable "yes, yes, yes" brother Tiner has for all practicable purposes relinquished his presidential powers to the dean. And it would be difficult to find very many in California who think brother Tiner could remove Pullias, even if he wanted to —which he doesn't. It is brother Pullias more than any other man who has made the school a stench and a reproach to the faithful Christians in the west.

Surely if our brother honestly and truly loves the Lord, and if he has any regard at all for the thousands of brethren whom he has offended, he will almost certainly either remove himself from the school, or else make such changes as may be necessary to permit brother Pepperdine to swing the school back into the sort of institution he planned it to be—an institution that can be of help and service to Christians, not one that is a constant embarrassment and threat to them. We are certain brother Pepperdine does not take pleasure in the present bad name his school is carrying. Brother Pullias (along with considerable help from the departed Bible teacher, brother R. G. Wilbur) must bear the blame for this sad state of affairs.

VI. Brother Pullias' Dilemma

It is fairly evident to any careful reader of brother Pullias' article that our brother is suffering from a deep and terrible conflict within his own heart. He says, "I certainly would not have made the speech at Bakersfield had I known it would offend my good brethren there..."; and yet in the same article he declared that he could not "in good conscience" refuse to "speak or preach wherever or whenever it seems good can be done."

That Poses The Dilemma!

Brother Pullias feels that his "conscience" compels him to participate in these various denominational services; yet he also declares that he would have refused to speak at one of them (Bakersfield) "had I known it would offend my good brethren there." He was COMPELLED BY CONSCIENCE to speak at Bakersfield—yet had he known how his brethren would be offended by his act, he would have stifled the voice of conscience and declined the invitation!

Brother Pullias, are you happy? Do you have peace of mind? Is this conflict raging within your heart the real explanation of your vicious disregard for the feelings of your brethren? How easy it is for us to rationalize our conduct, to find sufficient justification, to think we are acting reasonably and "for conscience sake" in those matters where our own desires are often concealed and hidden. But, dear brother, is not your "conscience" in any way tender or sensitive toward your own brethren in Christ? Are you willing to wound them, thrust a dividing wedge into the body of the believers, alienate brethren from one another, ruin and betray the noble aims and desires of the founder of Pepperdine College—and still claim that you are forced "for conscience sake" to such a course? How dark and treacherous are the ways of the human heart! How easy for us to rationalize our conduct so as to justify us in doing what we want to do.

If our brother is indeed suffering from the real dilemma which his statements imply, then there is small wonder at his striking out at those who criticize his conduct, and his violent defense. It is a typical reaction which the trained psychologist recognizes at once. If we may suggest such a course kindly, and in all seriousness, we would like to recommend to brother Pullias some frank and friendly visits and long earnest talks with some good consulting psychologist or psychiatrist. For that his cold and contemptuous affront to his brethren, his brutal indifference to their pleas and persuasions, stem from a torn and divided soul would seem fairly obvious.

Of course, the physician we'd more highly recommend is one whose services are without charge—the Great Physician. We particularly suggest that our brother study the example of this great Healer of Souls, and seek to follow it earnestly in the special matter of the treatment of and "affiliation" with teachers of false doctrine.

— F.Y.T.