Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 25, 1955
NUMBER 16, PAGE 8-10a

An Open Letter To Yater Tant And Robert Welch

Guy N. Woods, Memphis, Tennessee

In view of the fact that I edit the ADULT GOSPEL QUARTERLY, one of the publications of the Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, to which five of the six articles in your recent series, "Modernism In Gospel Advocate Literature," were devoted, my interest therein will be readily understandable. Congratulations to you for your zeal in this laudable, if a bit late, effort to warn the brethren of the deadly danger which lurks in our literature!

It is observable that your allegations are, for the most part, based on statements appearing in the spring issue of the Quarterly for 1951 — four years ago. This Quarterly has, incidentally, by far, the greatest circulation of any publication distributed regularly by the brethren today. It is possible that a quarter of a million people study these lessons each week. We are, in the light of these facts, constrained to ask, why the long delay in bringing these matters to the attention of the brotherhood? Do you know that while you dallied, multitudes were being subjected to the insidious poison which you allege? The Gospel Guardian, eh? Guardian of what gospel, one might ask! Of course it could not be (perish the thought!) that this series in the Guardian was conceived and brought forth as a back-handed slap at the Gospel Advocate for our defense of orphan homes, homes for the aged, and cooperative evangelism, could it? No, of course not! Of course it couldn't be! Not of course!

This writer has had considerable experience in the area of controversy. For more than a quarter of a century he has read controversial literature of every type and kind. We have yet to meet an effort more baseless, less characterized by candor, honesty and regard for truth than your series, "Modernism in Gospel Advocate Literature."

From a careful consideration of the whole we have been able to isolate the following bill of particulars:

  1. We have taught that the writers of scripture were often influenced in what they wrote by considerations of personal, local and current nature.
  2. Hosea's personal and family life supplied an occasion for much of the prophecy which bears his name.
  3. We have quoted from scholars known to be modernistic.
  4. We taught that the Holy Spirit "evidently revealed to the apostle" (Peter) the motives which influenced Ananias and Sapphira, which you allege implies that it could have been known some other way.
  5. We have been guilty of plagiarism.

On the basis of these allegations you charge that there is modernism in the literature. We shall accordingly examine them, one by one.

1. You are unable to conceive of an inspired writer being influenced in what he wrote by personal, local, or current conditions. Any suggestion, to this end is, in your view, rank modernism.

It follows, therefore, that when Paul penned these words to the Philippians, "For many walk, of whom have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ," (Phil. 3:18), it was not any intense personal feeling which prompted the apostle to write thus; his inspiration was wholly apart from, and in no way influenced by, his feelings! When, in the same epistle, he expressed a desire "to depart, and to be with Christ," (1:23), this desire in no way colored his writing; merely to aver such is modernistic! When, as a prisoner in Rome, and while enduring the rigors of an Italian winter, he asked for a cloak which he had left at Troas with Carpus, it was not to protect his shivering frame from the wintery blasts; the way he felt had nothing to do with what he wrote! We are constrained, in the light of these facts to inquire, just how simple is it possible for one to be? In your evil effort to destroy the Advocate and all associated with it, you have abandoned reason rendered yourselves ridiculous.

Of Hosea, we wrote:

"The domestic tragedy which characterized his life tinged his prophecy with a strange note of sadness; and equipped him with the ability to see the deeper things of God's inexhaustible love. His own life became somewhat of a preview of God and Israel . . . . Israel had abandoned her true husband for gain. And, as he had received the penitent woman back into his arms, so Jehovah would welcome home wandering Israel."

You object to this on the ground that it is, so you allege, "attributing the things said by the prophet to his own understanding and interpretation through natural means, instead of attributing what he said to inspiration." You ask, "Was Hosea inspired of God to write the book? or, did he learn it from his 'domestic tragedy?' "It is possible that you are incapable of seeing that it was both? We have heard of "one-track minds" all of our days; perhaps it is your intention to exhibit such? 'We might, with equal propriety, ask, Was Paul inspired of God to write 'Timothy to bring him his cloak, or, did he learn of its need from the sensations of cold which he experienced? The answer is, He was inspired of God to write the book, and he learned of his need for a cloak because he was cold!

Homer Hailey, in a splendid series on the prophets in the Preceptor, recently wrote of Hosea:

"The prophet's unhappy experience with his wife led him to see, as nothing else could have shown him Jehovah's feeling toward Israel. The real key to an appreciation of the book lies in the parallel between Hosea and Gomer, and Jehovah and Israel. Out of this tragic experience in his own life the prophet came to see more clearly how God felt toward unfaithful Israel Out of this tragic experience the prophet came to see the terrible apostasy and sin of Israel, as he departed from Jehovah, playing the harlot with other gods, going after them for the hire of increased flocks and fields." (March issue 1955.)

Note, especially, the following from this eminent preacher, teacher, and writer:

"The prophet's unhappy experience. . . let him to see, as nothing else could have shown him Jehovah's feeling toward Israel. . . . Out of this tragic experience the prophet came to see the terrible apostasy and sin of Israel. ..

This is precisely and exactly what we said in 1951. Let the reader compare our statement regarding Hosea with that of brother Halley, and note that they present exactly the same view. We do not pause to justify this view here, because anybody who has even a smattering knowledge of Hosea knows that such is so. Yet in your opinion, Yater Tant and Robert Welch, this is dangerous, insidious, soul-destroying modernism. When will you begin your series on "Homer Hailey's Modernism?" Or perhaps, "Modernism in the Preceptor?" or, "Modernism in Florida Christian College?" You will, of course, do this, and soon! It would indeed be a strange anomaly to discover that such views, in the Gospel Advocate, are rank Modernism; but, when they appear in the Preceptor and from Homer Halley, they are harmless, innocuous and safe! Here, incidentally, is an excellent opportunity for all who read the Guardian to test your candor, your honesty and your sincerity. You will, assuming that you are honest, candid and sincere, immediately apologize to the Gospel Advocate for your attack, or immediately launch a similar one against Homer Hailey the Preceptor and Florida Christian College. Which will it be? All who believe in your integrity of purpose will expect you to do one or the other.

It is rather amusing to this writer that, in one of the issues of the Guardian in which you were carrying your series against us, you published a lengthy article teaching precisely, in principle what you objected to in us. Warren Rainwater, in an excellent article on inspiration (whose views as to inspiration as set out there we hold) refers to Paul's experience in the Roman prison as a "domestic detail" (compare, brother Welch with the phrase "domestic tragedy" to which you object), and says,

"Paul, from the recess of his prison, begs Timothy to hasten and come to him before winter and to bring the cloak that he left at Troas.. . He is shivering with cold because winter has commenced and he wants his clothes. . . . If we cannot view the condition of Paul and appreciate the life that he lived from these few words then we do not grasp the love of God that is shed forth in the fearless champion of the cause." (Guardian, issue of May 5, 1955.)

Thus, the Guardian teaches that Paul's pen was influenced by his surroundings, and that his experience thus related teaches us "the love of God." Modernism in the Gospel Guardian!!!

3. In the lessons to which you object, we have quoted from scholars known to be modernistic in their thinking and writing. You offer, as instances, Yates, Ward, Smith, Brite and others. You neglected to note that, in these same lessons, we also quoted from Adam Clarke, the Methodist scholar. Why the omission of this scholar from your review? Could it be that you felt, Robert Welch, that your prejudicial device might lead some readers to think that because we quoted from modernistic writers we are, therefore, modernistic; but that you could hardly hope that the most avid Guardianite would think that because we quoted from Clarke, the Methodist, that we are, therefore, Methodists: But if not, why not? If quoting a Modernist proves that one is modernistic, why would not quoting the Methodist prove one is a disciple of John Wesley?

Your allusions to our quotations from these men was a malevolent measure designed to create prejudice, nothing less. The only question pertinent to such matters is this: Were the quotations themselves true, or false? If true, it is of little consequence through what channel truth comes; if false, though from a brother in Christ such should be repudiated. These men have written extensively on the prophets; our brethren have not. In our efforts to illumine the sacred text, we have availed ourselves of such source material as conduced to that end. You, Yater Tant, and you, Robert Welch, may have been born with the wisdom of the ages; we were not, and have hence been forced to search through the writings of others, through the years, to make what contribution we could to the edification of those with whom we have had to do. To this end we have utilized the works of Clarke, Pusey, Wilson, Robinson — conservative scholars, and numerous others, along with those mentioned above. Such has been the case of anyone who has done any serious study of the prophets. There is no commentary by our brethren available on this portion of the Old Testament. Why, in the final analysis, is it objectionable to use Yates, but entirely permissible to use Clarke? Along with brother Hailey, many others among us, we have screened the material and included only that which we believe to be the truth. Paul on occasion quoted from heathen poets. (Acts 11:28.) If to quote from a modernist makes one modernistic, why does not Paul's citation of heathen poets make him a heathen? Will you please inform us, Robert Welch?

You also wrote,

"Yates, together with a host of other modernists, uses the spelling 'Yahweh' for Jehovah. When the quarterly was copying statement number 14 from Yates, why did the author not go ahead and say 'Yahweh' instead of saying 'God'? Could it have been that the author decided his readers were not yet ready in their 'evolution' to accept the modern spelling and pronunciation?"

An inclination to be as charitable as possible prompts to the disposition to pass the foregoing without comment; but, inasmuch as you have declared yourself to be the judge of the orthodoxy of men, and of a paper for whose long and uninterrupted devotion to truth for the past century both you and Yater Tant might today be in denominationalism, we shall pay our respects. You, Robert Welch in your innocence do not knout that the word 'Yahweh' is the Tetragammation, [sic] the four original Consonants (JHVH), of the "incomparable name" of the supreme Being! Hebrew scholars, for many years, have been accustomed to transliterating the Name and so to use the original rather than the translation. Thus, to reproduce the name exactly as it appears in the original Hebrew text is, in your view, evidence of Modernism. Many years ago, we heard brother N. B. Hardeman say,

"Larger boats may venture more,

But smaller boats should stay near shore!"

We have yet to find an instance more apropos than yours! Evidently, from this ridiculous effusion you knew no better; but you, Yater Tant, did; and to say that you allowed this to be printed, knowingly, reflects on your honesty, to say that you permitted it to enter without reading it convicts you of inexcusable neglect. If there is a third hypothesis, we shall be pleased to have it.

4. We taught that the Holy Spirit "evidently revealed to the apostle" (Peter) the motives which influenced Ananias and Sapphira which, you allege, implies that it could have been known some other way! Here, perhaps as well as anywhere else in your series, you exhibit a desperate design to discover the worst. Surely, that "love which thinketh no evil" would never have seized upon this as a tell-tale clue to Modernism, Moreover, no unprejudiced, impartial mind would ever draw the deduction which you have. 'The Spirit, so we affirmed "evidently" revealed the motives manifested. Could one possible draw the conclusion that we teach that the Spirit was not involved in the matter? The adjective "evident" from which the adverb "evidently" is formed is defined by Webster as follows: "Clear to the vision and understanding — Syn. Plain, clear, patent." The etymological import of our statement is then, simply this: It is plain, clear and patent — clear to the vision and understanding — that the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter the motives of Ananias and Sapphira in their effort to deceive the apostles, the early church, the Holy. Spirit and the Father! Yet, our statement that the "Spirit evidently revealed to the apostle" these matters is offered by you as evidence that we believe that it is questionable whether the matter was done in this fashion or not! The truth is, Robert Welch, you did not, at the time you wrote your series, know what the word "evidently"

5. You have alleged that we are guilty of plagiarism. Here, you were simply being nasty; your motive was to reflect on the writer rather than the sincere desire on your part to exhibit truth. Richelieu once said, and the quotation is from memory: "Give me five lines from the purest of men, and I'll prove that he should be hanged." Where the will exists, and evil disposition dictates, a malevolent mind can ever find that on which to feed. "Plagiarism" is literary theft: the act of palming off as one's own, the material belonging to another. It is a vast and nebulous field. Inasmuch as we have for nearly a quarter of a century been a collector of books and a voluminous writer we have been vitally interested in the subject; and in our law studies many years ago we explored its legal mazes and stood an examination on some phases of the subject before the Board of Examiners of the Texas Supreme Court. We are, therefore, acquainted with its legal, moral and ethical aspects. You appear to be blissfully unaware, brother Welch, that is edited not originated! No name appears on the literature published by the Gospel Advocate Company. The word "edit" is defined by Webster: "To revise and prepare for publication... " This is precisely what we did with the material, though in no instance did you make out a case of slavish copying; on the contrary, you complain that we altered the phraseology, and omitted the modernism which you would have rejoiced to find in it. Far from making out a case against us, you exhibit sophomoric thinking which is inexcusable in one who proposes to do guard duty for the brotherhood. It would be interesting to know if, in the midst of your sermons, you pause for due credit for each thought, phrase, or word uttered: if your sermon outlines demonstrate simon-pure originality; if you never say anything that has been said by men, angels, or the devil! The time will come when you will be profoundly ashamed of this series. It was conceived in malice, brought forth in iniquity, and nurtured in hate. Because the Gospel Advocate stands squarely in your wicked effort to destroy orphan homes, homes for the aged; and all cooperative evangelism you have launched this vicious and bitter Attack. Shame on you!

We travel widely in the brotherhood and the only reaction to your series we have uncovered is either mild amusement at your obvious frustration, or wonder at the lengths that you appear determined to go.

With reference to the sixth article, so far as this writer knows, every person associated with the Gospel Advocate believes that the name Christian is of divine origin. The editor of the Annual Lesson Commentary is fully capable of defending himself and his effort in this matter.

We would just love to inform Guardian readers of the truth of the proposed debate in Indianapolis between brother Porter and this writer; and, also, to expose the supercilious sophism of the ridiculous review (?) of our articles on orphan homes and homes for the aged by another one of your hatchet men, James W. Adams. On invitation from you we shall be delighted to do this.