[*] it looks worse on you

Let's face it: we all have vices. We all have personal shortcomings that we are either trying to overcome, or that we are trying to hide, or that we are trying to whitewash. And before you get that creepy feeling, no: this is not some lousy "this is where I am right now" confession of personal wrong-doing.

In the meta of my complaint against Dr. Juanita Bynum, someone has pointed me at this article by John Robbins complaining about why heretics win battles. This is not the first time I've read Dr. Robbins' work, and frankly I'm willing to say at this point I'm not a fan. He's one of those guys who is apparently "on my team" but that I wish was "on the bench" or "in the locker room" or "not allowed off the bus" or "sent back down to the minors to work on his sinker".

But before I approach the link I was directed to, let me say that Dr. Robbins and I share a vice: we are both a little bit strident in the way we approach people who disagree with us. The less-refined reader will call this vice "arrogance", but it is not anything of the sort. It's a polemical tactic which, in common parlance, is really a form of bluster.

You're familiar with bluster, right? Remember the Very Blustery Day in Pooh? It's the approach that if you blow hard enough, the other guy's house will fall down. Even if it's a brick house, or Owl's house up in a tree. Strident polemicists blow hard, and the best ones also blow hot, so in the end there's a kind of whithering effect on the argument against which one is blowing. Bill Buckley is a little strident, but his delivery is such that you're standing there nekked with scorch marks on your face and all your body hair carbonized before you realize that he has, in a very genteel way, walked all over you.

So Dr. Robbins is a strident polemicist, just like me. The problem, as with all bad fashion choices, is that it seems obvious to me that it doesn't look very good on him. See: it looks better on me because I accessorize it better, and the cut matches my manly lines. So before you read the rest of this criticism of Dr. Robbins, realize that I already know that he and I share this vice in common, only my opinion is that on me it looks very rakish and swank, while on him it's like a newspaper tuxedo with a tinfoil hat.

For example, he uses the term "heretics" a little wildly. That's not an argument. Honestly, he may wage the argument elsewhere for his use of that term, but if his essay "Why Heretics Win Battles" is meant to do anything but preach to the choir, it has to do more than break out the black hats and start putting them on heads.

But in that, he attributes too much to "the heretics", whoever they might be. For example, when he gives them credit for being shrewd by citing Luke 16, he overlooks that Christ's meaning here is the way they handle money not the way they handle Scripture or Authority in God's church. So in being strident, here Dr. Robbins pretty much blows it by doing what he complains the "heretics" have been doing in order to advance their causes.

Getting to the meat of the matter, I was referred to this paper because of Doug Wilson. Apparently, because I do not think he is the great Satan who lies with two tongues for the purpose of sweeping away the faith of the unsuspecting, I ought to review Dr. Robbins' writing with a greater depth. Well, here we go.

Dr. Robbins says this:

Wilson claims, “One of our fundamental concerns is this: we want to insist on believing God’s promises concerning our children.” Unfortunately, neither he nor any other proponent of Neolegalism ever quotes those promises. Worse, no critic of Neolegalism calls Wilson’s bluff in this book. Wilson alludes to Acts 2:39, but that merely shows he does not understand the verse. Neither that verse nor any other verse in the Bible promises salvation to children of believers simply because they are children of believers. Several verses explicitly deny it (Luke 3:8; John 1:12-13), and others report that some children of believers are eternally lost.
Well, problematically, Doug Wilson does actually address this question in his book To a Thousand Generations, which I carry with me because I am going to write a book-length response to it over the course of, well, if God is merciful and generous and Jesus doesn't return before 2050. Since Dr. Robbins missed it, the promises of God to the children of believers are (1) the promises made to Abraham, [Chpt 8] (2) the promises to the Church as a community, [Chpt 1] and (3) the promises to the believer in Christ for salvation [Chpt 6]. The question – and here's where Dr. Robbins draws his view that the FV/AA are works-righteousness neolegalists – is whether and if those promises, made to families, can be left unfulfilled and God still be God. That's the way Wilson frames the issues, and that's the way he answers the issues, but that's not what Dr. Robbins deals with.

Let's remember that I'm not advocating for the FV/AA view – but to rightly refute it, you must first rightly represent it. And my problem with Dr. Robbins is that he does not rightly represent it. After that, no matter how hard he blows, he can't take down the house. He's facing the scarecrow, and man is that fella getting his head full of straw handed to him.