"You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
J. N. Armstrong wrote the following in 1944:
"I feel distressed over the condition of the church everywhere. For instance I think that our schools are all in line to build up the clergy, and that the church in general is trending toward denominationalism, I do not know what can be done, maybe nothing, but I do think there is need for us to put on the brakes, and warn the brotherhood about the definite trends of the times. I am not a pessimist, but my optimism does not keep me from facing facts. I think as I said above, that all our schools are set for the training of professional preachers. I tell them at Harding College that we are also being influenced by these trends."
N. B. Hardeman declared in 1946:
"I don't have to tell you that in harmony with government demands of transition and social changes so radically made, the same thing has crept into religious matters, and on the part of many there has been a tendency to drift away from the old landmarks. I think that every one who can observe matters at all will certainly agree that such is characteristic of this age. Our preaching has become largely professional, and since the school question has been mentioned by Brother Hall, I have just fear that we are turning out professional pastors over the various congregations. Down at Freed-Hardeman we teach against such a drift with all our might. But with higher education, saturated with downright infidelity, there is a temptation for our schools to emphasize the academic departments, and to minimize the religious and Bible courses. Some no longer want to talk about things that characterize Bible times and the restoration movement. A man who preaches on Philip and the eunuch, or who discusses faith, repentance and baptism, is branded as a fellow who is narrow and old-timey and out of date."
W. W. Otey wrote the following in 1951:
"Alexander Campbell founded Bethany, and others soon followed. For about the first generation, possibly reaching into the second, Bible colleges were under the management of men of faith in and reverence for the word of the Lord. They believed that the gospel, and the New Testament church were given by the Lord for all peoples, and all times. While so existing they were without question, a mighty power for the advancement of the kingdom on earth. Then soon followed the apostasy, which was born in the minds, and led by Bethany College men, with few exceptions."
"I think we may safely say that every man of note among us will not only admit but will affirm that all church schools from the first till the last half dozen among churches of Christ, became centers of corrupt teaching that flowed through preachers educated in them, to corrupt the religious bodies supporting them. Now we are engaged in the same experiment. It is no more than an experiment. If Campbell could not safeguard Bethany after his passing, what assurance have we that men of the present can do more to safeguard the present schools?"
Unless the present managers and their successors are wiser, stronger, and greater than all others who have gone before them in Bible College work, Campbell included, the present schools will, in time, become corrupt in teaching, and so again, lead the church into apostasy. I do not say this as an enemy of Bible Colleges, but as a friend, perhaps a better friend than those who can not, or will not, see danger for the future. The peace, purity, unity and holiness of the church of the Lord was never endangered by respectful, sincere warnings. Complacency is the danger-signal in any people. The idea that "it can't happen to us" is an opiate that dulls the will to think carefully…
… For more than forty years I have given such schools my deepest thought. Their concern has given me many sleepless nights. And not for one hour during forty years, have I doubted that they will, in the end, go the way of all other religious schools…
… Modernism. Are there possibilities that loyal Christians may become modernists? A few years ago, thousands of members of the Christian Church became higher critics, wandered away from the faith and then were lined up with the more pronounced skeptics, which, in other words, in our day, are called modernists. In the realm of higher education and particularly in religious schools of all classes —except the church, the school of Christ—this is now the order of the day. This is one of the failures of higher education in modern life. A century ago the various denominational churches established schools—religious schools—for the moral and spiritual training of their children. They selected teachers who were deeply religious. All of them were of the faith and order of the various churches or religious bodies establishing the schools. The old practice among the puritans and their successors would bar any teacher who was not deeply religious. He must be a student of the Bible and of the faith and practice in his church; he must be prayerful, pious, consecrated, and capable of instructing children how to read and write and also in other branches of study, but especially in the Bible. As the schools and colleges and universities grew and became great, the effort was made on the part of these various religious schools to affiliate their work with the state schools. In order to do this, they must have teachers who had degrees from great universities like Yale, Harvard, and Columbia, and who could thus articulate their work acceptably with these great institutions. They desired teachers of their own faith and practice, but when those who could satisfy these conditions and still belong "to the same faith and order" were not obtainable, they secured others who had the qualifications minus the "faith and order." Thus they introduced skeptical teachers, higher critics, modernists and today by far the greater number of denominational schools are simply a hot-bed of skepticism, infidelity and atheism. The steps were gradual, but led unerringly to the sad plight of the present day denominational modernism that prevails almost universally among these schools.
The Christian church pursued exactly the same course. Alexander Campbell founded Bethany college for religious purposes rather than education after the manner of this world. But where is that school today, and where are many others like it? The leaders in the Christian church have taken strides longer and more rapidly even than many of their religious neighbors about them. It is not long ago since I heard one of their most distinguished leaders say that he was sending his daughter to a State University because he did not want to entrust her to the religious teaching of a school conducted by the Christian church. And I suppose that I am not betraying confidence in making this statement. Anyhow, it is true.
In 1935 G. H. P. Showalter wrote the following:
At this juncture denominational churches took a fearful and frightful risk and they lost! Today nine-tenths—and most of the other tenth also—of sectarian schools, colleges, and universities are a hotbed of materialistic speculation and of atheistic philosophy. They no longer teach the Bible as the word of God, or as an inerrant revelation from heaven! They scoff the very suggestion the writers of the Bible were guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And it all came about in this way. They built colleges and then great universities. They must rank with the state schools and measure up to state institutional standards. When they needed some special academic recognition in some "department" or some "school" or "college" in a university and did not have available a man of their "own faith and order" to fill the bill, they went out and employed the man, minus the "faith and order" just to fill the place so they would not hazard their "standard of recognition." They went from bad to worse. Scientists and philosophers with no "faith" at all and no "order" either—and no religion— became the order of the day and the result is the downright infidelity, modernism, atheism, and what not that, today, not only prevalent, but dominant, in practically all the great schools of protestant churches. Where is the piety, the faith, the prayer—the reverence for the word of God—of Luther, Melancthon, Knox, Whitfield, or the Wesleys? It would make John Wesley or Adam Clarke turn in their graves—so to speak— to know of the discard of the Bible, the collapse of the spiritual, and the eclipse of faith such as is now the chief mark of distinction among those religious groups that perpetuate in their nomenclature, the worthy names of those honored reformers.
About the saddest concrete example of the "higher" in the realm of the intellectual and spiritual may be seen in the history of the "Christian Church" during the century just gone. It was almost exactly a century ago that Alexander Campbell became deeply impressed with what he recognized as a necessity in the establishment of a school, and a college, to safeguard the plea and the faith of the children of those who shared with him a desire for the restoration of the ancient order of things with reference to religion, the Bible and the church. He founded Bethany College. For a time things went well. Other colleges were founded along the same lines—and later still others were builded. But Campbell died and all that generation—and all the fathers that outlived Campbell— that illustrious and honored host of pioneers in a worthy, mighty movement for the restoration of the primitive gospel—they have taken their place with all the silent host in the vast domain of silence to await the glorious day, when, from the hand of the mighty invincible Conqueror of Death and of Hades, they shall have imposed on their foreheads, in blissful triumph, the imperishable crowns of matchless glory and everlasting life.
But the schools they founded—and the colleges—what of them? They soon wanted to become like the colleges about them. And so they did. "God gave to them the desire of their heart," but "sent leanness into their souls." They went out among the irreligious, the atheistic and the sectarian schools and colleges to find "heads" or "tails" or both—with which to top off or cap off their "departments."
And preferment, and much honor, and good pay, and over the children and children's children of Campbell and the other reformers. These young people admired these godless, faithless, atheistic teachers, they noticed the "preferment" the "distinction," the "honor" and the fat "salaries"—they came to love and appreciate them. The mighty work of the disintegration of the "plea" and of the destruction of faith and the disruption of churches began. Musical instruments were introduced into the worship—church societies—most anything, everything— whatever the soul desired. Faith as based upon the authority of God's word was gone. The young fellows who had been off to college had now returned—they knew all about what was important and what was unimportant—and they showed the old brethren and the old churches just how to do it—and if these old brethren did not do it just right, they did it themselves—they knew better how to do it anyway—they learned it at college. The pastor system and the rule of "the clergy"—alias "preachers"—was set up. The "Christian church" has become a sect among sects. Most of them know it and glory in it. They have departed further from God in a short time than any other religious group—possibly because they recognized no humanly made laws of church government, creeds, disciplines and articles of faith—as other sectarian churches to put even a temporary check on them. And they did it through their colleges.