James White – Mr. Apologetics Misfires – Part 3

As mentioned in Part 2, the real story behind the Robbins/Sungenis debate is what happened immediately after the exchange had ended. As we’ll see in a moment, purportedly “Protestant” men, and in virtual unison, began to assail Dr. Robbins while defending Roman Catholic Sungenis. The one thing I find amazing is how patiently Robbins stomached these ersatz-Reformed men, or better, “ersatz-men.”  But, maybe I’m being a bit harsh? After all, with the exception of White, I don’t know if any of the other list  participants even consider themselves Reformed.  Regardless, the only thing that comes close to the dismal performance of those attacking Robbins is years ago when I saw Conservative columnist Cal Thomas tear the legs off of some smarmy Liberal. After the debate some of my Conservative friends were – amazingly – defending Cal’s socialist opponent! Cal’s arguments were strong, sound and persuasive and his refutation of this particular Liberal’s arguments were devastating. Yet, and in spite of Cal’s performance being more than any Conservative could hope for, some of my “Conservative” friends felt sorry for Cal’s opponent.

Admittedly, while combing through the material White sent me it was difficult to decipher who the players are in every instance, so if by chance I have erred in attributing a quotation to the wrong person my apologies in advance. However, seeing that all those who were opposing Dr. Robbins were speaking with essentially one voice, I guess it really doesn’t matter a whole lot. You might say what follows is Robbins contra mundum.

Thomas Mactutus starts the ball rolling and provides a fitting example of much of what followed:

. . . I am assuming that you gentlemen are more than mere words and have a heart for truth and love and will not take my words as divisive or hurtful but in a quest for spiritual growth and maturity. Remember these are tones I get from the words not having the advantage of hearing your inflections.

The man known as Jrob seems to come of very presumptuous and argumentative culminated in the words I am directly replying to at this moment. He appears to have this hatred that blinds his vision and ears. He doesn’t see how answers are answers just because they do not come in the form for which he is looking. And I think that may be the key. For how many Christians when God answers a prayer with the word “no” they think that God has not answered them. It is almost as if he is having a talk with himself according to a script. I am almost tempted at times to just delete his responses for his lack of respect in looking for how his questions may have actually been answered and actually respond to the other fellow. I think then I might learn something. But I find it edifying that Sungenis always notes these discrepancies any way and expands the dialogue when he answers them just because they exist thought Jrob doesn’t plan on them as talking points.

What comes to my mind is that, “love does not think evil.” Yet I feel that Sungenis doesn’t have a fighting chance because of these blinders of hate Jrob is clinging to if one took Jrob’s opinion of who is winning this debate per se. In actual debate terms Sungenis is blowing him away. Sungenis seems to be more willing to talk things out . . . .

Notice how Mactutus begins his attack by flattering list members by appealing to them as “gentlemen” who “have a heart for truth and love.” He then prefaces his attack on Robbins with the pretense that he intends his words to be receive not as “divisive or hurtful but in a quest for spiritual growth and maturity.” Next, turning from this pious self-serving drivel, he then takes aim at Dr. Robbins. He asserts that Robbins “appears to have this hatred that blinds his vision and ears.” Really? It didn’t appear that way to me. What I read were arguments advanced by a man who loves the truth and who rightly hates the lies of Rome and who had successfully and systematically exposed one of Rome’s most able defenders and sent him running for cover.  What I saw was a man doing real Christian apologetics and not the ear tickling that sometimes passes for it.

Next, Mactutus insinuates that Robbins failed to grasp the answers supplied by Sungenis because they weren’t in “the form for which he is looking.” Really? Odd, in his quest for spiritual growth Mactutus neglected to demonstrate even one of his baseless assertions including this one. Yet, poor sensitive soul Mactutus tells us that he was “almost tempted at times to just delete his responses for his lack of respect.” Robbins is hateful, blind and lacking respect, whereas Sungenis “notes discrepancies” and “expands the dialogue.” Oh brother.

In response to the above pablum from Mactutus, and mixed in with what immediately followed, Austin Ruse exclaimed; “What a lovely response.” Unfortunately, Dr. Robbins assumed this remark was from Mactutus in defense of Sungenis’ abuse and slander of Robbins. Robbins was mistaken. Seizing upon Robbins error, Ruse pulls out his baseball bat:

Actually, the “what a lovely response” was frome(sic) me (Austin Ruse) to Mr.
Mactutus. The lack of charity in your remarks to Mr. Sungenis is astounding.

And Mr. Mactutus, although probably in disagreement with Mr. Sungenis, was, in fact, lovely.

It seems that your anger and yes hatred have even blinded you to reading an email address correctly.

Notice that Mactutus was “lovely” for criticizing Robbins and praising Sungenis. It seems Robbins’ critics learned at least one debating trick from Sungenis — the use of the abusive ad hominem.

At this point Mactutus jumped back in, or was it Ruse, or someone else entirely? I confess reading through the exchange at this point I’m not altogether sure, but if I’m mistaken, and if Austin Ruse ever reads this, I’m sure he’ll be there with his Louisville Slugger aimed squarely for my teeth. So, to play it safe and to protect my smile, let’s just say that at this point “someone” said to Robbins:

. . . I was hoping to learn from you actually and to see how the Catholic’s have twisted things but your arguments were so terrbile and your language that I can not see your points. I thought you would appreciate my attempt to say what i said so that you could help me to learn your points. But logically I can not consider what you say because the foundations of your points are all over the place.

. . . Please sir I do not know how to put the correct tone in my words I hope you can hear this for you have not as yet it would seem by your response. I do not know you nor Sungenis except for the words that say of whom you are in this dialogue about Regis and if you love Christ you should care aobut how you appear to others by your own words. So like don’t think i hate you or don’t like you or something that would be to be hasty in judgement. i am just talking about a small thing here of how you are coming off. what i can see from what Pastor White said and Sungenis and you is that there are ways of beign harsh that are harsh but there are also ways of beign harsh that are better worded as beign forthright or principled that do not have an attacking spirit . . . .

. . . Yes Mr. Jrob, I did not catch where you were slandered either. i took none of his comments about you that way at all . . . .

Robbins replied:

For the third–or it is fourth?–time, this is one of the things what Sungenis wrote:

RS: The only thing you hit, Mr. Robbins, is the fact that you are a bigoted ignoramus who likes to engage in throwing insults, but doesn’t have the guts to answer the hard challenges posed to him. Your character reeks of hatred and pride, and I want nothing further to do with you. Please don’t clutter up my email box with your insidious remarks any longer.

I suppose, given the irrationality that seems to prevail in this group, that this is high praise.

John Robbins

At this point Sungenis reappeared and chimed in:

If I have said anything disrespectful, I apologize for that. I did make a concerted attempt to refrain from such language, but if I slipped up on occasion, I regret that.

Robbins

If?? You made a concerted attempt to refrain??

Come on, Sungenis. Let’s not be disingenuous, too.

With the preliminary assault on Robbins now over, we move on to our main event. This is where James White steps into the fray.

Look, folks, like most folks on this list, I have no intention of enduring another day of “Did too!” “Did not!” “Did too!” “Uh uh!”

Please, I hope to find a few moments to reply to Robert’s post regarding evolution/creation, etc., but I ask everyone to stop this silliness.

James

Then White adds (I admit when I first read this I didn’t catch that it had been written by White and in my letter to him prior to posting here I gave him the benefit of the doubt):

Question is…was ANYONE listening? A wise man once said, “men raise their voices when they should be bolstering their arguments.” Even though this is virtual, the salvos launched over the past 24+ hours have nearly decimated Manhattan, so to speak.

We have witness a debate amongst “Christians?” go from debate to electronic fisticuffs. Brother Paul of Tarsus used harsh language. Even our Lord used harsh language when called for, but what were the situations in which the hammer of truth was laid with power? A well-trained soldier knows when, how and where to apply his skill; focused, concentrated, efficient. One-shot: one-kill. Not a wasteful, all-out free for all in which the point is quickly lost in the dust of filibuster.

If the Reformers sought to point us back to the truth of scripture then it is all of scripture that must be heeded. “…Shrewd and serpents and gentle as lambs…”, remember? As powerful argument can be whispered and it will lose nothing in the volume of it delivery.

To this one participant added:

Impressive response. I am ex-military so I have an appreciation for an informed use of martial examples. Yet your point was not at all lost. Dead shot.

Clearly outnumbered, Robbins replied:

James apparently would be unctuously reprimanding both the Judaizers and Paul for their silliness.

John Robbins

However, before continuing, let’s pause to consider Dr. White’s words above. Notice, he claims he has witnessed a debate amongst “Christians?” Make careful note of the quotation and question marks. The debate was between Robbins and Sungenis. Since Sungenis is no Christian that leaves White placing his quotations and big question mark squarely over Robbins. Is White suggesting that Dr. Robbins is not a Christian? It certainly appears that way. He then accuses Robbins of being an untrained incompetent firing wildly unable to efficiently deliver the kill shot. White evidently sees himself as a special forces sniper and Robbins as Barney Fife. He then chastises Robbins for failing to be “Shrewd [as] serpents and gentle as lambs….” Implied of course is that Robbins was somehow unfaithful to his Lord’s command and is guilty of sin in his exchange with Sungenis. Yet, where is White’s demonstration of Robbins’ sin? Is this how he corrects members in his own church by misapplying and even misquoting Scripture? Yet, how exactly has Robbins violated Matthew 10:16? White doesn’t say. Of course the verse has nothing to do with how we are to confront false teachers who attempt to bring Christians under bondage. Galatians 1 does, but White does not want to go there.

Undeterred and even encouraged by the vote of confidence from the military enthusiast in the peanut gallery, White continues his attack on Robbins:

. . . you are not an apostle, nor the son of an apostle. : -) Then again, neither am I. Hence, I firmly agree with the Apostle’s condemnation of false teachers and false gospels. I think Mr. Sungenis would, without much hesitation, firmly confirm the fact that I am no friend to his cause, nor his message. He would likewise tell you that I have never made any effort to foster any kind of ecumenical spirit in our relationship in the sense of allowing for compromise. He knows well that I believe Rome’s gospel is a false gospel, and that it does not, and cannot, save. I have been clear on this topic for many years. I don’t think anyone who has read my books or listened to my debates or anything else could possibly be confused on the subject, at least not *honestly* confused.

The difference between, us, sir, might well be likened to this: you approach Roman Catholicism with a 10-gauge shotgun set on “wide-angle” and the idea, “Shoot first, ask questions later.” I approach the subject with a Ruger 1-B 300 Winchester with a Bushnell 4-12X variable scope and the idea, “Make sure of your target before you pull the trigger.” Further, you seem to scatter your fire well beyond the borders of the city of Rome, including such folks as R.C. Sproul, for example, while I make sure my fire is tightly controlled. : -)

James

Robbins:

Mr. White, I was not unsure of my target, as you gratuitously suggest. I demonstrated that Rome teaches theistic evolution. In the process of doing so, I also pointed out some of the debating tricks that many Romanist apologists use to win debates.

As for the gentleman impressed with military analogies, Mr. White wants a Redcoat to shoot at, when the adversary is a gang of guerillas.

Further, you seem to scatter your fire well beyond the borders of the city of Rome, including such folks as R.C. Sproul, for example >> “while I make sure my fire is tightly controlled. :-)”

As for R.C. Sproul, I don’t know why White brings his name up in this context, since Sproul teaches creation, not evolution, and since White quotes nothing that I have written about Sproul. I guess White brings up Sproul’s name in order to suggest that I have written something unwarranted about him.

White does not and cannot instantiate his innuendo.

John Robbins

Now, I should point out that there are clearly bits and pieces missing from the exchange White sent at this point. I don’t know whether or not this was due to selective editing, oversight or accident, but here is the best recreation of the flow of what followed from a response by Robbins:

[White]: Innuendo?

[Robbins]: Yes, innuendo.

[White]: Well, if it is your position that you have not criticized R.C.
concerning his views of Rome and his arguments relating to that subject, then I apologize.

[Robbins]: Thank you, Mr. White. But my question is: Why are you not sure of your target before you fire? You just unctuously lectured me on that subject, boasting that you are sure before you fire.

[White]: Now, if I were the irascible sort, I’d jump on the Internet and go searching for the article I read by someone named “Robbins” who is associated, in some way, with your ministry, that attacked Sproul and others vociferously. That must have been some other Robbins (it’s a small cyber world, isn’t it?).

[Robbins]: Here is the innuendo again, Mr. White. You have absolutely no evidence of a vociferous attack on R. C. Sproul by me (or anyone else named Robbins associated with Trinity), yet you suggest that I have in fact attacked Sproul “vociferously.” You even attempt to turn your lack of evidence into a virtue by praising yourself as non-irascible. As I said before, you cannot instantiate your charges. I must conclude then, that your apology is no apology at all, for you have renewed the false allegation in this paragraph.

[White]: But since I have not the first interest in wasting time doing such a thing,

[Robbins]: You dismiss finding the evidence to back up your allegations as “wasting time.”

[White]: I will gladly say that if it is your claim you have never criticized Sproul regarding Catholicism (which was the context of my quote), I’ll accept your word for it.

[Robbins]: Please don’t accept my word, Mr. White. Had you looked at the Reformation Day Statement at http://www.trinityfoundation.org, you might have seen that R.C. Sproul is a signer of The Reformation Day Statement. Finally, why do you think you have to do your homework before leveling charges against Romanism, but not when you level charges against Christians?

Some might recall that in Part 1 White said he would be “wasting” his time responding to my request that he corroborate his charge against Dr. Robbins. Notice White tries this same evasive maneuver with Robbins after insinuating that Robbins had “written something unwarranted” about Sproul. Even in his feigned apology White continues to advance this same baseless charge. Which brings us back to the heart of matter and White’s charge against Dr. Robbins.

White claimed that Robbins took him to task for not being “nasty,” “angry,” and “mean-spirited” to papist/apologist Robert Sungenis.

To one person White wrote::

I note from some of your materials on line that you fall into the Robbins group. I am grieved that the man attaches terms like “heresy” and “cult” to every possible difference of opinion, thus confusing the central issues. I remember Robbins attacking me simply for not being mean spirited toward Robert Sungenis. Sad, very sad.

To another he wrote:

I hold Robbins accountable for this: I remember well when he attacked me publicly for the sole reason that I was not nasty and angry when I corresponded with Robert Sungenis on a particular point of doctrine when Robbins was on the cc list. What a mindset he has, constantly attaching “heresy” or “cult” to people’s names. He will have much to answer for someday before God, to be sure.

Well, I searched high and low through that “cc list” White provided, and, unless I missed it, Dr. Robbins nowhere “attacked White for not being “nasty,” “angry,” or “mean-spirited” in his interactions with Sungenis. What Robbins did say, and is the closest thing I could find in the entire exchange that even comes close to supporting White’s charge, is this addendum to one of his posts previously cited in Part 2:

Well, James,

You need not worry that Robert Sungenis and I will continue to bombard your pure ears with “unwarranted” invective. If you have received the last email from Sungenis, you know that the debate will not continue. My exposure of Sungenis’ debating tricks ended the debate.

But you would agree that strong, harsh language is sometimes warranted, would you not?

John Robbins

Could that be White’s smoking gun? I hardly think so. The above does not support White’s libel against Dr. Robbins in the slightest. I suspect the above remarks morphed in White’s mind over the last eight years and magically transformed into something they are clearly not. Besides, what Christian could possibly disagree with Robbins here? Strong and harsh language is sometimes warranted and especially against those who would advance a false gospel. It doesn’t follow from any of this that one has to be “nasty,” “angry,” or “mean-spirited.” Recall above that White said, “Brother Paul of Tarsus used harsh language. Even our Lord used harsh language when called for . . . .” So White agrees with Robbins that there are times when harsh language is called for, evidently just not when leveled against his debating buddy Robert Sungenis. This is where White and Robbins differ. Robbins believes that we are to emulate “Brother Paul of Tarus” and our Lord when confronting those who are peddling false gospels, men like Robert Sungenis, whereas for White, not so much.

In the exchange, and contrary to White’s appraisal of his own abilities, we see Dr. Robbins as the personification of a well trained mercenary armed with concentrated efficiency able to deliver the kill shot from a distance or even when fighting hand to hand. Not only did John successfully and quickly cutoff Sungenis at the knees, blowing White’s above self-serving military analogy to bits, he stripped the man naked and sent him running for cover. A better example of a well trained marksman, White included, would be hard to find.

It should be clear from the exchange that it was Robbins who approached his target “with a Ruger 1-B 300 Winchester with a Bushnell 4-12X variable scope,’” whereas White was running around wildly with a shotgun sending buckshot in every direction — and nowhere even near the primary target. My guess is this is what got White’s feathers ruffled.  White is still reeling from being shown up on his own turf. Rather than learning from Robbins it seems his ego and pride was wounded in the exchange, which perhaps explains why White has nursed this particular grudge against Dr. Robbins for the last eight years. Not only did White fail to substantiate any of his charges against Dr. Robbins, the irony in all this is that Dr. White is the one who has falsely and sinfully attacked Dr. Robbins – and continues to do so today.

Now, in fairness to Dr. White, and as mentioned, there were clearly sections missing from the exchange White provided. It is also always possible that even after repeatedly combing through the entire exchange that I might have missed something. Maybe one day, and assuming it exists, Dr. White can find the time to produce the material supporting his charges against Dr. Robbins. Until then, and seeing he has thus far failed completely in this effort, I would hope that he would repent of his uncalled for and repeatedly published libel of his Christian brother, John Robbins.

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6 Comments on “James White – Mr. Apologetics Misfires – Part 3”

  1. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Sean,
    This piece was an eye opener to me! Good work Sean!
    I cannot believe that a Christian can be so conciliatory towards enemies of the gospel, but throw around innuendo against a believer, and that before the very enemies of the gospel! If White had sent John some private message raising what he thought were legitimate concerns, one coould understand.
    I think at the bottom of these lame and nausiating whines about John’s “tone” is the naive and heretical view that being “nice” will convince sinners to come to repentance and faith in God. It is the gospel according to Dale Carnigie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. These people have been trained in the ways of the world(marketing) and not according to Holy Writ! They believe their proffesors, most of who were probably not believers. All they could teach them is gentlemanly behaviour and not the truth, since they don’t believe it.
    The Devil is not a gentleman, neither are his minions! Witness how Sungenis spews out invectives and then runs for cover after being exposed!

  2. brandonadams Says:

    I really don’t know what the deal is with this post, but its a post on the history of presuppositional apologetics by White that concludes with a rather heavy dose of self-appreciation. I would assume someone else wrote it, but it says White himself made the post…
    http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=4208

  3. Hugh McCann Says:

    B.,

    “…No such item exists…”

    H.

  4. Hugh McCann Says:

    B.,

    We are reminded of the ear-covering teeth-gnashers who stoned Stephen. But they at least heard him! White apparently isn’t to be bothered by little things like facts or context.

    As you’ve documented, Mr Apo has little time to read those slandered/ libeled/ misrepresented/ misunderstood by others:

    WHITE: …I have little use for Clark. …Clark’s “logos = logic” and his very poor understanding of faith, biblically, do not give me any reason to invest time with his writings.

    ADAMS: you read his book on saving faith?

    WHITE: As I said, I have no reason to invest my time in reading entire books by someone. The citations I have seen from his works do not give me any reason to do so.

    ADAMS: Well, ok. That explanation really kills me. I have searched far and wide on the internet for critiques of Clark from people I can trust, and all I can find is people refusing to consider him because of what someone else said (usually Van Til). I have personally benefitted tremendously from his work and listening to you talk about apologetic methodology, i really think you would agree with a lot of it

    WHITE: …well, that’s nice. However, I, and I alone, have to answer to the Lord for how I use the small amount of time I have.

    See the exchange at: https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2008/08/12/james-white-mr-apologetics-misfires-%E2%80%93-part-1/

    GHC’s understanding of saving faith [here derided by White as ‘very poor’] might in fact have been informed by a more substantive and thoughtful look at the subject than White has done by one not unfamiliar with Greek and logic.

    Were White to take the trouble of reading F&SF or TJL (together in _What is Saving Faith?_), he would better understand Clark, and hopefully appreciate and embrace the truth therein!

    Hugh

    P.S. Sadly, the tired parroting of Manton, MacArthur, et. al. is carried on by Tedd Tripp in the Oct. 2010 ‘Tabletalk’ magazine (p.22) mindlessly rehearsing the needless tautology that saving biblical faith = knowledge* + assent + trust (i.e faith)!

    * Or, as y’all like at this site, ‘understanding’!
    😉

  5. Tiago Baia Says:

    Thank you so much! Now I admire Dr. Robbins even more! Thank you! May God raise men like him here in Brazil to advance the Gospel!


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