Anent Brother Bill Robinson, Jr.'s Defense of Florida College
by Dudley Ross Spears
August 23, 2000
Brother Bill Robinson, Jr., asserting he is no apologist for those to whom the Open Letter was specifically addressed, apologized rather profusely for those to whom the Open Letter was addressed. At least he identified himself with those whose criticism of the Open Letter is identical will Bill's. I personally regret this because of the confidence my friendship with Bill generated in me in the past. However, friendship cannot silence my disappointment and chagrin.
The fact that several brethren signed a letter composed by one or two others in no way indicates it even "smacks" of a creedal dictum. Nor does the fact that several brethren signed a document directed specifically to the president, Bible department head, a professor and a guest lecturer at Florida College mean the document is creedal. Bill parrots the words of others in making such an unfounded comparison.
The issue, the only issue, addressed in the Open Letter is false teaching by one of the professors and a guest lecturer at Florida College, and the tolerance of such by the board, faculty and staff of the college. I wonder if Bill Robinson, Jr. would be as vehement in his defense (apology) for Florida College, if the board, faculty and staff of the college tolerated and defended one of the professors and a guest lecturers who were avowed Calvinists? What if one of the professors and a guest lecturer avowed the doctrine of premillennialism? If one of the professors and guest lecturers had published far and wide his views in favor on institutionalism, would Bill have been as apologetic as he is on the issue involving interpretation of Genesis 1?
Ferrell Jenkins, head of the Bible department at Florida College, is on record as ambivalent about the issue. Jenkins opined that it is possible to make room (in local churches - he is the one who transferred the issue of fellowship to local churches) for brethren in a local church to agree to disagree on the days of creation. Here is part of what Jenkins spoke on February 8, 2000 in a class called "Making Sense of the Days of Creation."
"Is there a place for two who strongly believe in creation, but who hold differing views on the days of Genesis? And what about the brother who says he's not sure that that's the solution to the problem? That it hasn't solved it completely in his mind. He believes in creation just as I have told you I do. Now, I think we run into a problem when we say "must," one of these views must be correct. And I've got a good brother friend who said one place that these must be long ages, and I can't say that. But on the other hand, I can't say they must be 24 hour ages."
Much of Robinson's defense of Florida College's tolerance of error in their lectures and classrooms focused on fellowship. It was Jenkins who injected the issue of fellowship into the controversy, not the 50+ signers of the Open Letter. Let all realize that Jenkins, and his apologist Bill Robinson, agree that they cannot say the days of Genesis 1 "must be 24 hour ages," but there also must be room for fellowship to exist with those who can (and do). Is this why they ignore the very real potential danger posed by tolerating professors and guest lecturers who have widely publicized their error on the days of creation?
Robinson emphasized repeatedly that those signing the letter were drawing the lines of fellowship. Fellowship is mentioned three times and 2 John 9 is cited once in the Open Letter. In none of these instances is there any statement justifying Bill's charge that the signers are attempting to re-draw the lines of fellowship for the church. Not only was the letter not addressed to the church (universal or local) it is clearly concerned only with what is being tolerated at a human institution composed of individuals - not churches of Christ. If Bill, or anyone else is naïve enough to think Christians throughout the brother hood are not being asked to get involved in the support of Florida College, let him read what Ferrell Jenkins stated.
"Individual Christians who believe in that for which the school stands should provide the financial and moral undergirding necessary." (Florida College Lectures, 1976).
If "individual Christians who believe what the school stands for" are asked to provide financial and moral support, surely they have a right to express their deep concerns over the things being tolerated among faculty and guest lecturers employed there.
Where does Robinson, and those in whose defense he wrote, find the basis for his charge that the signers of the letter are drawing the line of fellowship? If it is the application of 2 John 9, Robinson must deny that what Jesus taught regarding the creation days is any part of the doctrine of Christ. Those who ignore fundamental teaching of the Bible are the ones who draw a line of fellowship just a little bit wider than the one God drew in scripture.
It is the same ploy used by false teachers in similar controversies. If you call in question the teaching and practices of institutionalism, the accusation of drawing lines of fellowship is heard instantly. To which I reply, No, God drew the line and you have ignored it, going beyond the teaching of Christ. The line of fellowship was drawn by God through inspiration. It is our obligation, not to re-draw that line, but to recognize and respect the one God drew. That is what 2 John 9 is about.
I was impressed by Bill's defense of what Florida College is tolerating. He gave me the impression that Florida College is almost sacrosanct. Say nothing in opposition to what they tolerate in their faculty and guest lecturers. If you call in question what they tolerate you are trying to write a creed for the entire church. Did I miss the impact of Bill's defense?
Bill vainly tried to parallel a letter of concern to a document (the Questionnaire) used by some as a test of soundness on certain specific issues. Nothing I read in the Open Letter, which I signed, related anything other than a sincere concern for the toleration of erroneous teaching about the days of creation. Nothing in the document I signed indicated to me it was a "brotherhood" encyclical requiring the church of our Lord to draft a tenet of faith requiring unanimity of belief on the length of days of creation. The single thing I found was concern over the false teaching by one faculty member and one guest lecturer about the days of creation, and the toleration of it by the college.
Had I never read the Open Letter, my impression from Robinson's opposition to it would have led me to think the signers were a party of sectarians intent on setting up a council to dictate the items of faith for the brotherhood. It is my fear that those who have not read the Open Letter will have that false concept - if they read only what Robinson, Jenkins, and other defenders of Florida College have written. I sincerely hope those who read Bill's defense will objectively read the Open Letter. Anyone who takes Bill Robinson, Jr.'s denunciation of the Open Letter without reading it could easily be misled into thinking Bill is correct in his analysis of the situation. He is not right.
One of the most serious charges Robinson made is his statement:
"Whatever the intent it (the Open Letter) is saying we need something beyond the Bible to explicitly tell everyone what the lines of fellowship are, and what questions are to be matters of fellowship."
This is patently untrue. The intent of the letter is not as Robinson fancies - it is explicitly stated in the letter. The signers were, and are, concerned that what students there are taught is faith building truth. What Shane Scott and Hill Roberts believe and teach drives faith the opposite direction. The theory that day one of creation was an extended geological age, not only is false, it can ultimately lead one to say the same about organic life. Geologists and paleontologists have found primitive forms of life in fossils they say are nearly 4 billion years old. If students are led to believe the scientists are right about the age of the earth, and teachers at Florida College accommodate them by saying the days of Genesis 1 are harmonious with science, what is to keep them from coming to believe the creation of Adam and Eve can be interpreted figuratively to accommodate the guesses of science? This is the concern.
To caricature opposition to Florida College's tolerance of those who believe error on the days of creation, as my friend Bill Robinson has done, will do more to break fellowship than the letter could ever possibly do. I pray Bill will rethink what he has done and retract his unfounded and erroneous charges. I pray he will be a little more honest in his extrapolations of what he imagines was in the hearts and intents of those of us who signed a letter of concern over the effects of false doctrine that is tolerated at Florida College.
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