Nothing New At Sunset

By Tommy J. Hicks

In a previous article I said, “The first I heard that SSOP ‘might’ be teaching something it should not on the ‘Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage’ question was in 1978.” I also said that when I went to Sunset to inquire into this matter, brother Cline Paden, then the Director of the Sunset School of Preaching, provided me with a form letter, dated March 6, 1973. Just over Paden’s signature, the concluding statement of that letter was: “Therefore, Sunset School of Preaching does not, and will not teach that the guilty party may remarry.” My article indicated that Sunset had not taught error on “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage” while I was a student there (1967-69), and that it was my impression from Paden’s 1973 letter and my 1978 visit with him in his office that during those years the school was still not teaching error on that issue. I was wrong!

Richard Rogers

Not long after my article was published, I began receiving letters and phone calls from other SSOP alumni. They let me know, in no uncertain terms, that Sunset had taught error on “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage” before I was a student there, while I was a student there, and after I was a student there. One of the first letters I received came from brother Perry O’Dell, a classmate of mine at SSOP from 1967 to 1969. Brother O’Dell succinctly told me: “You were wrong about the teaching about the ‘guilty party.’ Richard [Rogers] taught this false doctrine several times in class. He made mention that a person divorced was not married, therefore was free to marry.” Another SSOP alumnus, Wayland McClellan, who attended from 1969 to 1971, wrote me and said:

In our classes with Richard Rogers, and I am not sure which ones it might have been, he used the illustration of two being handcuffed together. The point, supposedly, was to show that if one was released (that being the party which had the right to divorce) then the other (guilty) party would not be tied to anyone. It sounded “good” to a young Christian who sat in “awe” of his teacher, but the truth being that there was no Biblical basis for such a conclusion.

Brother McClellan went on to say that, until about a year after his graduation, he held the erroneous view taught to him by Richard Rogers. Fortunately, brother McClellan came to see that what he had been taught was error and he has renounced it. However, how many “young Christian” preacher students have “sat in ‘awe’” of their teachers (Abe Lincoln, Richard Rogers, Truman Scott, Ted Stewart, and others) at Sunset, have believed and accepted the errors they have been taught there and continue to hold those errors to this day? Not only that, how many have been taught error at Sunset and then have gone all over the world teaching that error?

SSOP alumni from the 1965-67 class, from the 1967-69 class, from the 1969-71 class, and from later classes have come forward to say that Richard Rogers taught, all those years, that the “guilty party” can remarry after a divorce. So, I stand corrected. But, what does all this surfacing information reveal about brother Paden’s 1973 letter?

The Paden Letter

An abundance of evidence (testimony from the students who were there, many of whom no doubt still have their class notes) proves beyond any doubt that, all through the years between 1965 and 1973, Richard Rogers was teaching that the “guilty party” could remarry after a divorce. It is now evident that it was because of this very fact that many brethren were sending inquiries to Paden about what was being taught at SSOP relative to “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage.” Evidently, so many inquiries were coming in that Paden felt it expedient to produce a form letter to deal with them. It is in that form letter, dated March 6, 1973, that Paden emphatically declared, “Sunset School of Preaching does not, and will not teach that the guilty party may remarry.” In light of the fact that, in truth, it had been and was being openly taught (at least by Richard Rogers) that the “guilty party may remarry,” how could Paden make such a denial? Was he ignorant of what was being taught? Did he not investigate the matter even though it was repeatedly brought to his attention by the numerous inquiries he was receiving? Could it be that he knew what was being taught, but attempted to cover it up so that financial support and students would continue to come Sunset’s way? I do not know the answer to these questions, but I do know two things for sure: (1) Paden should have known what was being taught at Sunset; and, (2) what he wrote in his March 6, 1973, letter (whether intentionally or unintentionally) was not the truth.

Cline Paden’s protestations and disinformation to the contrary notwithstanding, it has been and can be verified and demonstrated that, since the mid 1960s to the present, Sunset School of Preaching (now called Sunset International Bible Institute) has taught and continues to teach that the “guilty party” may remarry after a divorce. Richard Rogers, a SSOP faculty member (“on” and “off”—he is presently “on”) since the mid 1960s, cannot successfully, correctly, and truthfully deny having taught, at Sunset, all through those years, that the “guilty party” may remarry after a divorce. He is still teaching that same false doctrine at Sunset.

Also, at Sunset, teaching that the “guilty party” may remarry after a divorce are Truman Scott and Ted Stewart, just to mention a couple (Truitt Adair, director of the school, other teachers, and Sunset staffers hold and teach the same view). I specifically named brethren Scott and Stewart for a reason.

The Scott Debate

Truman Scott, in addition to being a teacher in the school at Sunset, holds the position, “Dean of International Studies.” In my “Open Letter” to Sunset’s elders, I wrote:

The debate on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage that your faculty member, Truman Scott, had with Wayne Jackson is in print. That debate not only revealed what brother Scott teaches regarding the Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage issue, it shows brother Scott’s lack of intellectual integrity. (PLEASE ASK ME TO PROVE THIS!)

Upon reading this material, brother Stewart phoned me and accused me of having “maligned” his “good brother—Truman Scott.” However, he did not show me “how” or “where” I had “maligned” brother Scott. Since brother Stewart has accused me of “maligning” brother Scott, I am compelled to prove what I said about brother Scott. What I said about brother Scott is factual, truthful, and contains no errors or misrepresentations; therefore, I did not “malign” him.

On September 25, 1982, the church in Martinez, California, hosted a “study discussion” on the subject of “Divorce and Remarriage” between brethren Wayne Jackson and Truman Scott. That discussion was printed in book form and entitled, Divorce & Remarriage. In this book, it is revealed that brother Scott teaches that “fornication” and “adultery” are not “sexual intercourse outside of marriage.” On page 38, brother Scott is quoted saying, “The Bible clearly teaches that any kind of sexual intercourse outside of the marriage covenant is sinful and damning for multiple reasons. But that kind of contact is not fornication and that is an extremely important clarification we need to make” (emphasis mine, TJH). Further, on page 48, brother Scott said, “The basic, original meaning of our key word, adultery, therefore, is not sexual intercourse, but covenant breaking” (emphasis mine, TJH). Any serious Bible student knows that brother Scott’s efforts to redefine these terms are not only silly, they are futile. However, it was necessary for brother Scott to attempt to do so in his vain striving to support his false doctrine. The book under consideration revealed that brother Scott would tell a man or a woman in their second marriage, after they had divorced their former mates where neither party had committed fornication, to “do everything you can, and exhaust all of your resources to make that marriage work” (p. 110). Thus, brother Scott teaches them to do everything in their power to stay in what Jesus called adultery (Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18). What does brother Scott teach concerning the remarriage of the “guilty party” after he/she has been put away by the “innocent party” for the cause of fornication? Pages 100-105 reveals explicitly, undeniably that brother Scott teaches that the “guilty party” may remarry after a divorce.

These previously mentioned things are in the book; Scott said these things. As a participant in the discussion, before the book was printed, brother Scott took advantage of the opportunity to proof-read his presentations to make sure they were correctly set forth (see p. 125). No, I did not “malign” brother Scott when I said, “That debate…revealed what brother Scott teaches regarding the Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage issue.” It does. If there was any “maligning” here, brother Scott did it to himself.

Whatever Happened To Intergrity?

When brother Stewart accused me of “maligning” brother Scott, perhaps, he had in mind my statement: “That debate…shows brother Scott’s lack of intellectual integrity.” If so, a question comes to my mind: “Has brother Stewart read the book?” (Does brother Stewart have the book on hand, available for sale in his bookstore?) If he had read the book, especially pages 122-128, I do not believe brother Stewart could seriously accuse me of “maligning” brother Scott relative to brother Scott’s “lack of intellectual integrity.” Throughout the discussion, brother Jackson, in a gentlemanly, scholarly, loving, Christian way, completely devastated and annihilated every one of brother Scott’s erroneous arguments.

None of brother Jackson’s arguments were more powerfully decimating to and exposing of brother Scott’s baseless argument (that adultery is not sexual activity, but rather that it is “covenant breaking”) than his argument from John 8. Brother Jackson said, “In John 8, the Bible says that the Jews brought to Christ a woman who had been taken in the very act of adultery.” Then, brother Jackson said to brother Scott, “My question to you is this: what did they apprehend her doing? Breaking a covenant? Or was she involved in illicit sexual activity?” (p. 122). It is here, in response to this argument, that brother Scott manifested his “lack of intellectual integrity.”

A Greek Word The Spirit Did Not Use

Responding to brother Jackson, brother Scott said the phrase “the very act,” in John 8:4, is a mistranslation of the Greek word autophonia. Concerning this word, autophonia, brother Scott declared, “Now that does not translate ‘the very act of.’ That translates, ‘by her own mouth she accuses herself’” (pp. 124-125). Further-more, brother Scott said, “The expression ‘caught in the very act’ (‘the act’, ‘the very act,’) only occurs this one time in the Greek New Testament….It only occurs to my knowledge, one or perhaps two times outside of the New Testament” (p. 123). How do these statements manifest that brother Scott lacks “intellectual integrity?” Brother Jackson laid brother Scott’s lack of “intellectual integrity” bare when he showed, “There is no such word in the Greek New Testament as autophonia” (p. 126). Contrary to brother Scott’s bogus definition of a word that does not even exist in the Greek New Testament, brother Jackson proved:

The word in John 8:4 is from the Greek term autophoros [the word that actually is there, TJH], a word found frequently [not a mere one or two times] in Greek literature, which means “caught in the act” (cf., the lexicons of: Liddell & Scott, p. 264; Arndt Gingrich, p. 123; Thayer, p. 87; Abbott-Smith, p. 70; Robinson, p. 110; etc.). I personally found the word used by several Greek classical writers in exactly the same sense as employed by the apostle in John 8:4 (p. 127).

Is one manifesting a “lack of intellectual integrity” when he erroneously claims there is a certain Greek word in John 8:4, but no such word is found anywhere in the entire Greek New Testament? Is one proving he lacks “intellectual integrity” when he claims a definition exists (and gives it) for a word that does not in fact exist (but he claims that it does)? Is one demonstrating a lack of “intellectual integrity” when he presents himself to have so thoroughly studied a particular word that he is so authoritative on that word that he can (1) Reject established and proven scholarship, (2) Provide a definition for the word without etymological or linguistic evidence, and (3) Claim to know something of how many times the word is used in and out of the Greek New Testament? This should be sufficient to expose brother Scott’s “lack of intellectual integrity,” BUT THERE IS MORE!

Caught “In The Very Act”

Brother Jackson caught Scott “in the very act” of the previously mentioned misrepresentations and confronted him with his error. Regarding his use of the Greek word autophonia, in a letter to brother Jackson, dated October 4, 1982, brother Scott admitted what he called “an obvious error on my part” and even called it an “inexplicable error.” More than that brother Jackson said:

He promised that he would “go back and discover the origin or cause of the misstatement.” You can imagine my surprise—and my dismay—when, after more than seven months [May 13, 1983], I received Truman’s revised transcript and the only change was an alteration of autophonia to autophoro. Yet, left uncorrected was the entire false argument that had been erected upon his spurious word, namely, that the term meant “self-accused” (p. 127).

On October 23, 1982, Darrell Perry (the brother who published the book) wrote to brother Scott, saying, “In addition, brother Jackson has informed us of your admitted mistake with regard to John 8. If it is your desire to add an appendix to the discussion correcting that error, let us know at your earliest convenience.” Later, on March 17, 1983, brother Perry wrote to brother Scott: “Concerning your comments on John 8 in the Question and Answer Period: You may wish, after going over that section grammatically and letting it stand as presented, to add a brief paragraph correcting the information you presented on that text. The number of words should hardly exceed the original number you employed.”

Brethren Jackson and Perry were magnanimous in their dealings with Scott. He made a false argument. He was caught and even admitted his error. He was allowed the time and the opportunity to correct the matter. A man possessing true “intellectual integrity” would have done so. Scott chose not to do so. On March 9, 1984, brother Jackson wrote to Scott: “I have no way of explaining why you have persistently refused to publicly admit your error in the John 8 argument other than the fact you simply do not wish to do it and I know of no other light to view it save a lack of integrity” (emphasis mine, TJH). Almost 14 years have passed since brother Jackson wrote that letter. Brother Scott still has not corrected his false argument. He still lacks “intellectual integrity.” I did not “malign” Scott when I wrote that he lacked “intellectual integrity.” He did and he does.

Examine The Evidence For Yourself

No one has to accept my word for any of these things. All anyone has to do is read the book, Divorce & Remarriage, A Study Discussion. I encourage everyone to do so and draw their own conclusions about Scott’s arguments and his “lack of intellectual integrity.” In the November 1997, issue of Christian Courier, brother Jackson stated, “Those who are considering a joint-effort with Sunset in various mission projects may well wish to take this matter into consideration. Truman Scott is a leading figure in Sunset’s mission efforts.” To this I add, if you are considering sending a “preacher student” to Sunset or if you are considering sending financial support to the Sunset preacher training school, consider the false doctrine, doctrinal error that is being taught there—consider the lack of “intellectual integrity” some of the instructors have—and then, DO NOT SEND STUDENTS OR SUPPORT TO SUNSET!

Errors Regarding The Holy Spirit

Not only do I urge you to read Divorce & Remarriage, there is another book that reveals a great deal about how Sunset personnel stand regarding false doctrine. Before I give the title of the book, I want to pose some questions. Question One: “Do doctrinally sound elders, preachers, and teachers in schools of preaching endorse and help in the spread of false doctrines?” NO! (1 Tim. 4:1-6, 16; Tit. 1:9-13; Rom. 16:17; Eph. 5:11.) It is wrong, sinful for anyone, even if he disagrees with a false teacher and the false teacher’s doctrines to give encouragement to the false teacher and, in any way, aid him in spreading his false doctrine. “For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 11). Question Two (this question is specifically for Cline Paden, Richard Rogers, Ted Stewart, Sunset’s elders, and all of the faculty members at SIBI): “Do you deny that Terry Rush, in his book The Holy Spirit Makes No Earthly Sense, taught (teaches) very serious doctrinal error?” If brother Rush did teach false doctrines in that book (and he most certainly did), then why did Cline Paden write the “Introduction” for the book? Why would Richard Rogers endorse the book, saying that it is, “An unusual, practical, challenging book. I found it highly provocative and useful” (back cover of the first edition of the book). Another endorsement on the back of the book reads:

Terry Rush’s book on the Holy Spirit is thought provoking, exciting, encouraging, edifying and challenging. Every Christian can derive great spiri-tual benefit by reflecting on the ideas presented in this Bible study.—Ted Stewart, Chairman, School of Missions/Graduate, Sunset School of Preaching.

On the “Acknowledgments” page of his book, Terry Rush thankfully noted, “Cline Paden, Richard Baggett, and especially Ted Stewart of the Sunset School of Preaching gave suggestions to improve the phrasing of the manuscript.” According to this, the aforementioned Sunset brethren not only endorsed brother Rush’s book, they helped him write it. There are no warnings, no disclaimers, no statements of disagreement, no ex-pressed reservations to be found in Paden’s “Introduction” to, or in Rogers and Stewart’s endorsements of Rush’s book. None of these brethren can rightfully claim that they “endorsed the man, not the book.” In their remarks, they endorsed the book; therefore, they endorsed (without expressing a single word of disagreement) the false doctrines contained within the book. They became and are partakers of the false doctrines in the book. Doctrinally sound men do not endorse and help to spread false doctrines. I respectfully challenge Paden, Rogers, and Stewart to deny that this book, a book they endorsed, contains numerous, serious false doctrines. It contains too many false doctrines for us to consider them all in this publication, however, we will note four of them.

Specifying Errors

Brother R.L. Popejoy wrote, “If there is a false doctrine in the religious world, our brethren will begin to clamor to it. Terry Rush in his book, The Holy Spirit Makes No Earthly Sense, advocates Adoptionist Christology” (Firm Foundation, October 1995, p. 16). Speaking of this same book, brother Terry Hightower penned, “As incredible as it sounds, from his perverted view of the Spirit’s operation, Terry Rush sets forth a form of the ‘Adoptionism’ heresy which holds that Jesus was merely a human during the early years of his life” (Studies in Ephesians, 1997 Denton Lectures, p. 191). Though he at times attempts to buffer the full impact of this hideous doctrine, no one can successfully deny that Rush teaches a form of “Adoptionism” (between His birth and His baptism, Christ was nothing more than and was only a human being). Concerning Jesus, on page 28, Rush said, “He was emptied of being on the level…of the nature of the invisible God” (emphasis mine, TJH). On page 48, he wrote, “Jesus was totally human.” When Jesus was baptized, Rush stressed, “The Spirit moved toward the ‘Word-became-flesh’ and immediately it was declared that Jesus is God’s Son” (p. 18). Having taught a variation on the false doctrine of “Adoptionism” throughout his book, Rush seems to have reached a climax on page 124 with: “Jesus set the pace. He never misstepped. He was as common as a Missouri farmer. He was as good as a New England fisherman. And until he linked with the Spirit of the Father, he was only a man.” That is blatant, soul-damning doctrinal error. When Paden, Rogers, and Stewart endorsed the book, The Holy Spirit Makes No Earthly Sense, they endorsed Rush’s false doctrine of “Adoptionism.” Doctrinally sound men do not endorse false doctrines.

Terry Rush teaches the false doctrine of the “Direct Operation of the Holy Spirit” in his book, The Holy Spirit Makes No Earthly Sense. As mentioned, brother Hightower called it a “perverted view of the Spirit’s operation.” Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Rush expressly stated, “With him, we gain strength—invisible, direct strength—to do kingdom work” (p. 74; emphasis mine, TJH). Besides direct strength, brother Rush implied that the Spirit provides the Christian with direct divine revelation. He declared on page 70, “Christians are led by the Spirit conclusively in that we are able to see secret signals” (emphasis mine, TJH). Throughout his book, Rush falsely teaches that Christians can do only what the Holy Spirit directly “empowers” them to do. If that were true, Christians would have no “free will.” The concluding sentence of his book serves as a “parting shot” against those who do not agree with his “Direct Operation of the Holy Spirit” doctrine. His last words were, “May we be as committed to telling neighbors about Jesus, as we have been to telling ourselves that the Spirit does not work within us” (p. 126). When Paden, Rogers, and Stewart endorsed The Holy Spirit Makes No Earthly Sense, they endorsed the false doctrine of the “Direct Operation of the Holy Spirit.” (I am not speaking of the Holy Spirit’s work in “providence.” I am speaking of the Holy Spirit working directly, without a medium, upon the Christian.) Doctrinally sound men do not endorse false doctrines such as the “Direct Operation of the Holy Spirit.”

Another false doctrine Rush teaches, in The Holy Spirit Makes No Earthly Sense, is the doctrine of “Divine Illumination.” The false doctrine of “Divine Illumination” claims that a man cannot understand the Bible unless the Holy Spirit “empowers” him to do so by “opening” his mind and heart to receive it. Rush expressed, “It is my observation that without the Holy Spirit the Bible only makes earthly sense” (p. 14). To this he added, “I am thoroughly persuaded that the Scriptures become nothing more than a book of ‘blah’ if we are not Spirit led” (p. 14). If the Bible “only makes earthly sense,” without the leading of the Spirit, what of the unconverted? What of “free will?” Clearly, Rush’s false doctrine is more in line with Calvinism than it is with the Bible. Whatever “spirit” it is that is leading Rush to understand the Bible as he does certainly is not the Holy Spirit. Contrary to Rush’s false doctrine, the Bible does not need illuminating. It is the Bible that does the “illuminating,” it is the light that shows men God’s will: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psa. 119:105; cf., Isa. 8:20). Paul taught, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3-4; cf., 2 Tim. 1:10). When Paden, Rogers, and Stewart endorsed The Holy Spirit Makes No Earthly Sense, they endorsed the false d o c t r i n e “ t h a t  w i t h o u t  t h e  H o l y  S p i r i t the Bible only makes earthly sense…that the Scriptures become nothing more than a book of ‘blah’ if we are not Spirit led.” Now, if Paden, Rogers, and Stewart do not believe this false doctrine, why did they endorse it? Why are they encouraging its spread?

Rush Makes No Sense

Interestingly, Rush taught the false doctrine of the mutual exclusivity of “law” and “Spirit” in his book, The Holy Spirit Makes No Earthly Sense. Knowing what is taught at Sunset relative to “law” and “grace,” it does not surprise me that Paden, Rogers, and Stewart would endorse a false doctrine on the mutual exclusivity of the “law” and the “Spirit.” Without mincing words, Rush asserts, “Spirit and law don’t mix” (p. 38). Rush sees it as “Law versus Spirit” (p. 60). On page 63, Rush wrote, “God and sin do not coexist; nor do Spirit and law.” Brethren, do not be misled into thinking that Rush is just considering the “Law of Moses” when he says “Spirit and law don’t mix” or they do not coexist (as might be considered from 2 Cor. 3). Terry Rush includes “any and all law” in his statements disdaining law. Heretic liberals hate law. They deny it. They reject it. They condemn law and anyone who teaches that New Testament Christians do live under law. Be that as it may, Paul taught that “Spirit” and “law” do mix, that it is “law” and “Spirit” (rather than “Law versus Spirit” a la Rush), and that “law” and “Spirit” do coexist. More than that, Paul taught that the Spirit has a law. He said, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2; emphasis mine, TJH). If brother Rush’s false doctrine were true—that it is “Law versus Spirit”—then it would also be true that it is “Christ versus Spirit” because Christ has a “law.” Galatians 6:2 commands, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (emphasis mine, TJH). Not only is the law Christians live under called the “law of the Spirit” and the “law of Christ,” it is also called “law of faith” (Rom. 3:27), the “law of love” (Rom. 13:10), the “law of liberty” (Jam. 1:25), and the “royal law” (Jam. 2:8). Why do Paden, Rogers, and Stewart endorse this heretical book that teaches this false doctrine (the mutual exclusivity of “law” and “Spirit”) when the Scriptures teach so clearly that “law” and “Spirit” are not mutually exclusive?

Brethren, these are not the words of a vengeance seeking, unloving, disgruntled person. I take no delight in writing these things about my alma mater. No matter what anyone thinks or says, I love Cline Paden. I love Sunset. Because of all the good the school and brother Paden have done for me, I will be forever in their debt. I pray for them every day. My desire is that everyone reading these words will pray for them. Though some may chose to deny it, it is because of my love for the school and for brother Paden that I write these things. It is because of my love for the souls of men and for the truth that will save those souls that, until Sunset “cleans house,” getting rid of the false doctrines and provides a faculty that genuinely possesses “intellectual integrity” I will continue to sincerely urge brethren—DO NOT SEND FINANCIAL SUPPORT OR STUDENTS TO SUNSET.

Closing Plea

In closing, my final plea is, please do not take “my word” for any of the things I have written in this article. By that same token, please do not take the word of the brethren at Sunset either. There is evidence (letters, books, testimony of Sunset alumni) verifying everything I have said in this piece. That evidence is available to you. Get the evidence. Sift through it for yourself. Check what I have written against that evidence. Then, draw you own conclusions. The books mentioned in this article can be purchased at a bookstore operated by brethren, through this publication, through Wayne Jackson, or through Ted Stewart. You may contact me for copies of the letters I quoted (send a 55-cent stamped, self-addressed envelope).

Attribution: Defender, March 1998, Bellview Church of Christ, Pensacola, FL.


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