Dr Clifford Wilson, Australian Archaeologist, Author, Academic and committed Christian worker died on the evening of Wednesday April 4, 2012 just a few weeks short of his 90th birthday.
Clifford Wilson was well known and much loved internationally, having contributed widely in Christian apologetics, academia, psycholinguistics, archaeology, Christian broadcasting, publishing and public speaking.
At the same time Clifford was cherished as a father, grandfather and great-granddad, with the ability to engage in encouraging conversation with people of all ages and walks of life.
He was truly a remarkable man with tireless energy and unbounded vision. He contributed above and beyond the call of duty, boldly stepping into issues where others shrank away.
And his many wonderful achievements would not have been possible without the capable and devoted support of his first wife, Avis, and his second wife, Barbara, who both preceded him in death.
Clifford’s achievements were listed at the Thanksgiving Service as:
* Naval Seaman during World War II
* Missionary to India (see comment added below with detail of his work there)
* First Regional Director of Emmaus Bible College (see comment below for a review of the early history of Emmaus and Clifford’s involvement)
* Hansard Reporter for the Fijian Government
* Pastoral service in Australia and USA
* Passionate supporter of Essendon Football Club (Aussie Rules Football)
* Lecturer at Emmaus Bible College, Melbourne Bible Institute (MBI), New Zealand Bible School, Collumbia Bible College, Pacific College of Graduate Studies, Toorak Teachers College and Monash University (among others)
* Named in America as an outstanding Educator of the Year
* Academic degrees in History, Education, Theology, Divinity and Psycholinguistics (B.A., M.A., B.D., M.R.Ed., Ph.D.)
* Founder of the Word of Truth Ministries and Pacific Ministries
* Radio Broadcaster in Australia, USA and internationally
* Founding President of Pacific College of Graduate Studies and Pacific International University
* Director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology
* Author of approximately 100 books
* Editor and Assistant Editor of New Life Christian Newspaper (Australia)
* Husband to Avis for 54 years
* Father to Bruce, Elaine, David and Lynnette and Father-in-law to Shirley, Alan, Debbie and Greg
* Grandfather to Darren, Debbie, Phil, Michelle, Ray, Bruce, Benj, Dee Dee, Marney, Jabin, Ryan, Brianna and Geordie
* Great grandfather to 23 children
* Husband to Barbara for 12 years
* Friend to ‘millions’
Dr Wilson, May 10 1923 – April 4 2012, was interred at a private burial on the morning of April 10, and a Thanksgiving Service followed at Canterbury Gardens Christian church that afternoon.
An article on the life of Barbara Wilson, who passed away in 2010, can be found at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/2010/06/03/barbara-wilson
Additional information about Clifford’s life can be found in the comments following this article.
Tags: archeology, broadcasts, dr clifford wilson, emmaus bible institute, pacific college of graduate studies, pacific international university, stones still shout
Garry R Stone says
Dr Cliff (or Rabbi as I used to joke to him) was my friend and mentor. He supervised my M.A. thesis on Biblical archaeology and for many years I assisted Cliff and Barbara in their work producing items and images for archaeological museum displays. During my twelve and a half years at the Institute of Archaeology Cliff and Barbara were frequent visitors and many was the time I was able to provide research material and later replicas for him.
I lost touch with Cliff after Barbara’s passing and during my father’s fourteen month battle with melanoma leading to his death in February this year. I had attempted to contact Cliff but no matter where I turned I drew a blank. So I was very sad to receive the news of his death without any news of the thanksgiving service for his life until a day after the event.
Cliff was known as “buzz saw” to his students in the US and we all know why; that boundless energy always seeking out new projects in Christian Apologetics, his quick wit, vast knowledge and above all his meekness and humble Christian faith characterised the man. We did not always agree on issues of creation and theological details but I soon learned that we had a relationship that transcended that. Cliff would have said that “we agreed to disagree agreeably.”
In the Post-Modern age with its philosophy entrenched in Christian schools and the “Happy Clappy” brand of “Christianity” that despises knowledge of the Bible, its history and setting, the Australian Church needed Dr Cliff.
Cliff, Rabbi, friend, it was a pleasure and an adventure knowing you and to be able to participate to some small extent in your life and mission both while I was employed at the Australian Institute of Archaeology and after. My life is the poorer for your passing but the richer for having known and worked with you.
Garry R Stone
Chris Field says
Rev Bob Thomas, Editor of New Life Newspaper headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, published the following comments about Dr Wilson in the New Life Newspaper.
“Cliff was the perfect example of a Christian who was ‘always ready to give
an answer for the hope that is in (him)’ (1 Peter 3.15). He was obedient to
Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 15.58, ‘Therefore stand firm, let nothing
move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because
you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.’
In my eyes Clifford Wilson ranks among the great apologists and defenders
of the Faith, and I believe that only in Eternity will we find out the full
extent of the effectiveness of Cliff’s compendious knowledge of all things
Biblical, his strong defence of the Faith, his voluminous writing and broadcasting
In recent years he struggled against the effects of a massive stroke, the
decline of his once acute mental powers and the loss of his beloved
Barbara. He has entered into the joy of his Lord.” Bob Thomas
Chris Field says
The following text was written by Dr Clifford Wilson in July 2011 as resource information for Emmaus Bible College in Australia.
Fortuitously the article contains quite detailed information about several issues Dr Wilson engaged in during his early ministry time in India as well as other content.
It is added to provide the reader a wider understanding of the life of Clifford Wilson.
Emmaus Memories – by Clifford Wilson B.A., M.A., B.D., M.R.Ed., Ph.D.
“I was a commended worker with the Assemblies in India when Arthur & Joy Flack were there. In correspondence from Arthur he asked if I personally could come to Clarence High School in Bangalore in Mysore State, South India. Another young man was at that time working as a missionary in Ootacamund in the Nilgary Hills, South India – Bill James. Bill & I are now in the same assembly – Canterbury Gardens Community Church (a new name for Heathmont & Ferntree Gully combined). I don’t think Bill actually went to Clarence but we have both talked about Arthur Flack’s involvement.
With my wife Avis I was able to tell Arthur Flack that we had a clearance from the Lord to go to India to relieve Arthur for his furlough or however the Lord directed. The health of both Arthur & Joy was seriously deteriorating and they urged Avis & me to come immediately. However, I told him we had no money and that we would need to move around Australian Assemblies to get enough funds to travel. We agreed that the matter was urgent and we accepted what seemed to be the Lord’s clear leading to take over from the Flacks. We had no guarantees of support as we set off in faith.
We immediately met a very serious situation on our undertaking to go and Arthur & Joy were actually on board a ship coming back to Australia which passed us not far from India. We off-loaded at Bombay for we were to go to Bangalore by train. One of the Redwood family met us there in Bombay. The same ship on which we arrived was to go on to England and would take Alfred Redwood to England. Many years earlier in England, both Redwood brothers had been commended to the work in India and when Alfred retired the younger brother, Walter, was the school Correspondent. Today he would be called the Business Manager.
A few days later we arrived in Bangalore and were surprised to find that several days before our arrival in India some four leading Indians had approached the Clarence High School authorities about a quite serious matter. Walter Redwood had asked that the whole matter be held until he could return from Bombay after farewelling his elderly brother. They agreed to withhold until he returned a petition which they were about to present to the Mysore State Government and the All India Government.
While he was away, however, this group presented their petition to both governments’ authorities. They had decided to proceed quickly while the Redwoods and the Flacks were out of Bangalore. They wanted to take advantage of the raw young recruit! Their petition was intended to stop the Missionary Schools’ insistence that all students, including Hindus and those of other religions, should receive instruction in the Christian religion and should become acquainted with the teachings of the Christian Bible. They approached me along these lines: “We know you will understand Mr. Wilson, that you cannot expect Hindu children to learn a foreign religion.”
While Walter was still away I had to face those authorities and plead the cause of missionary schools such as ours to continue to have all students trained in Bible & Christianity as part of the actual class curriculum. Here was I, in the heart of a strange country, not knowing their culture and with no-one available to advise me. What could I do? Avis & I prayed for an immediate decision. These men were determined to take advantage of the English speaking foreigners. I felt led to get down the constitution of India which had recently been amended and, as I studied it, I realised that minorities such as ours had certain legal rights.
So I had to go before those high government officials in separate locations but united in their objections to us. On the surface it seemed that they had a fool-proof case. Obviously I argued from the point of view of the minorities but the local authorities thought they had an easy win because of the absence of those other workers. Those high-ranking officials totally took the side of the Indian petitioners.
The conversation went something like this “You can understand Mr Wilson that the local parents will not like their children to be subjected to the teachings and worship of a foreign religion without any teaching in the principles of their own religion.” The formal conversation lasted for a considerable period. The authorities suggested that the students be accepted for instruction but would be exempt from Christian religion. Mostly the conversation went around the argument that it was illogical for us to expect Indian Children to be forced to study the Bible and Christianity. And then: “But Mr. Wilson, we believe that we will allow this petition to be granted.”
I told them that would be quite unacceptable to us. They strongly disagreed with me and said so. Rather boldly I told them, “It is really rather simple. We shall close the school.” Pressed as to why we would take such drastic action, I pointed out that many of our teachers were from so-called Christian countries and even without salary. I insisted for some considerable time that it would be quite illogical for these men & women to give their lives to the cause of Jesus Christ with no salary from the school and with Christian missionary funds used to keep the school running if there was no Christian teaching. Eventually they realized that I was very definite in my point of view and the petitioners were so notified. Very soon their representatives came to see me, saying that they wanted our excellent school to continue. They said that it was not them who had complained, but “others” and that these others were out of step with the majority who appreciated the Christian teachings, and the highly moral education of the Clarence High School.
So the whole episode ended peacefully and not one pupil was withdrawn at that time. When Walter Redwood returned after seeing his brother off to England, I naturally reported to him as the Senior Missionary. He thanked God in prayer for the outcome. He told me he believed God had given me great wisdom in dealing with this very awkward situation.
For a moment we refer to two incidents that are relevant to the whole story. One is a phone call from a Canadian Missionary Teacher who was in charge of the primary division of the High School. Her name was Emma Horton. She felt that I should be thanked for my handling of the petition situation. So she told me much later by phone when I was in America that now, some 50 years on, they continued to realize that my presence in India at that time was very significant, not only for Clarence High School, but also for ALL similar schools throughout India. The second incident was a few months ago. An Indian from the region around Bangalore, who was visiting Australia, had recently visited Clarence High School. He told me that he had seen my photo displayed there with a note regarding my particular contribution. I had no idea that that acknowledgement was there and I feel humbled and gratified to know this after all these years (about 60!).
We begin to come specifically to the story concerning Emmaus Bible School. I had expected to be in India for the rest of my life, but the Lord had other plans. I was there for only about two years because of a severe case of amoebic dysentery. In the time that I was there I made many changes and made improvements and had very good reports from the Inspector Of Schools. However, it was my Indian doctor that told me very frankly to get out of India. If I didn’t I would be buried in the land. At first I rejected his advice but later I had no option but to leave India. I consulted with other missionaries about the situation. They agreed and urged me that I and my family must leave India forthwith. My brother, Dr. Ray Wilson, paid our fares after I sent him an urgent message.
Arthur & Joy Flack had finished a time of furlough and our ships again passed in the night between Fremantle and India, as Avis and I and our two children returned to Australia. We had no option; but this was not favourably regarded by some who felt that I had given my life to India and that I had “broken my contract with God” – as was reported to me quite recently! I had lost about 3 stone in weight. I had no choice but to accept the medical advice.
At the same time Chrissy Durham, whose husband Wilf had recently passed away, had hoped that I would be the editor in Bombay of “The Indian Christian” which her husband had established. I still have a letter from her about this, dated 12/3/52. She came to Bangalore especially to see me, but I was out of town at the time she came, not knowing that she was coming. I was friends with them both but could not see her at that time. I think I am right in saying that Chrissy Durham had some connection with Dr. Ed Harlow who was passing through India on his way to Australia where he hoped to establish a branch of Emmaus Bible School. She believed I could have been the right man to carry on Wilf Durham’s work, but that was not to be .
My meeting with Ed Harlow was in itself interesting. I made several unsuccessful attempts to contact him. Then, when I was on my way back to Australia via Madras, Mr. Fountain, a senior missionary from New Zealand was there. We stayed for a night near his home. Mr. Fountain came to visit on the morning of our departure to ask whether I would like to go with him to see a lady missionary that he was about to visit. When we met this dear lady that morning she told me something special was happening. This lady told me that the Lord had told her that the events of this day would be important. As I remember, Ed Harlow was staying briefly in her home. Now it was possible to meet him! (Mid 1952?)
I had decided that my interest in Emmaus might not be significant. However, as soon as Ed and I started to talk, I discovered why he was going to Australia. We had hours of fruitful fellowship and discussion and we both came to the conclusion that this was not simply coincidence but a real calling of the Lord. We both felt very strongly that the Lord was in our meeting. So Ed went off to New Delhi and I had eight days in Australia before he himself reached there.
Before Ed Harlow met us again I had met with leading Brethren in Sydney and put the whole project before them. One quite thrilling emphasis was on the facts surrounding my early days at Clarence High School – the gaining of “official approval” for the use of Bible and Christian teaching for all students. A leading Brother in Sydney, Bob Elliot, made the point that if the Lord called us to India only for that purpose that would be sufficient reason for having been there.
There was very real interest in establishing Emmaus in Australia and it was agreed that I should bring forward the names of 12 men to the next meeting so that Emmaus Bible School could be established with these men as the Board, and myself as Regional Director for Australia of Emmaus Bible School. We had an enthusiastic body of helpers and I had already written some courses for use at Clarence High School. These, plus Emmaus courses from Canada became the basic curriculum for our new-founded school. (Late 1952?) This same 12-man Board also voted for me to commence making radio programs (The Voice of Melody?), mostly for Australia.
Unknown to me, Emmaus of Canada was already allowing Ian Irvine in Brisbane to offer throughout Australia some of their correspondence courses. I think one might have been “Primary Truths”. Several of my own courses were introduced especially “Glory To Glory”. Duplication of these courses took place in my parents home in Normanhurst, Sydney. If Ian is still alive he could fill in these details. In these early days we did not work together but we were in accord as to our objectives. The Queensland Brethren especially majored on Correspond Courses and a wonderful opening was found with prisoners in various Australian gaols. In Sydney we also offered some Correspondence Courses but our major objective was to establish a Bible Class which was intended to grow as the Lord enabled into a recognised Bible College. Ian and I had very cordial relations without having any formal relationship. Emmaus B School-Provisional Registration-1952-CAW
The Sydney Board men who I remember are: Bob Elliot, Fred Sattler, Arthur Simpson, Walter Simms, and Eric Sinclair. There were some others whose names I have forgotten. I would like to give full credit to these others but their names elude me. In many ways we were very successful and soon needed to move to an established classroom, which we did at Victoria Hall in Burwood. We had some good evening classes and good teachers such as Alf Cline, Tom Carson, and others.
I necessarily reported to Council a number of times that we had almost no income and, despite assurances that there would be more, virtually nothing came in for the Wilsons. Among the Assemblies there was serious opposition because of the secular degrees that I then had and others that I pursued part-time. Many felt that only the Bible should be taught and that secular degrees were worldly. Some members of our family helped considerably with finances but we never felt free to plead more widely for money. After several months a letter from a solicitor came to say that we would be taken to court unless a certain payment was received forthwith. At this point Fred Sattler was generous with some funds that he made available. Looking back, however, it seems that my job was to get Emmaus moving and that others were to take over when the school was established.
Over that period I was repeatedly approached by leaders of the Australian Institute of Archaeology to join their Staff because of an urgent need where they thought I would make a useful contribution. I said “No” over a period of nine months and then I received a final challenging letter which said in effect, “We felt that you were the man to join us; but we are obliged to make other plans if we hear nothing from you.”
By now I had accepted an appointment as a college lecturer in a government institution in Sydney. I have explained why I needed to engage in employment as a “tent-maker.” My wife and I prayed as I was about to go to work that morning and we had our reading together. Our passage for that day included the question from John’s disciples to Jesus. “Art thou He that would come or do we look for another?” (Matt.11:3) We prayed further and realised that there were leaders who had approached us over nine months with a similar question. We felt that our answer to the Australian Institute of Archaeology had to be “Yes.”
My work for the government involved teaching at two colleges. That day I was going from one to the other. I decided to visit my mother on the way between colleges. One college was at Ultimo and the other at North Sydney. I got off my train at Wynyard and, at the top of the escalator, met Gordon Blair. “What are you doing here, Cliff?” “Seeing Mum to tell her that I’m going to Melbourne and that Emmaus needs someone!” Gordon Blair was excited and extremely interested. A leading Christian worker with Everyman’s Work, he had been sensing an urging to move back to work within Brethren ministries. One other interesting point is that the Postal Sunday School Movement had offered us, and we accepted, a limited amount of space at their Headquarters near Ultimo. Gordon Blair was soon appointed as leader of the Emmaus work (November 1954) and I went to Melbourne to work at the Australian Institute of Archaeology where I was soon appointed Director. Emmaus Bible College was Registered in 1954 by Gordon Blair & Arthur Simpson (Asst.
at that time to the Attorney General of New South Wales).
It was wonderful to be able to work with the Institute’s artifacts and library books. Over subsequent years the Lord has used my knowledge, and then my experience, including a period of eight years as Senior Lecturer at the Melbourne Bible Institute where I became responsible for external studies and in which we had very good success. Also in retrospect, my work in the field of archaeology was tremendously used of the Lord later in the confrontation with Erich Von Daniken. Truly, did the “chariots of the gods” crash!
At another time I heard Silas Fox, after missionary work in India, give a lecture on the considerable travelling undertaken by Paul the Apostle. Itinerant ministries are sometimes required, said Silas Fox, of particular servants of the Lord. This emphasis was then, and is even now, a great encouragement to me as I reflect on the many and various ministry tasks in which I have been involved over many, many years.
These pages are my response to the request to outline the beginnings of Emmaus in Australia.”
Clifford A Wilson 20 July 2011