Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Dr. Hartley Responds to Paul Owen
10/25/2006 - James WhiteFor some reason, Paul Owen is addicted to my blog. It's sorta sad, really. I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to his oxymoronically monickered blog, but for some reason he loves reading mine. I have lost track of how many times something has appeared under his name shortly after the topic came up here on this blog.
In any case, you may recall that Paul Owen is the
Svendsen is correct in noticing that I do not list the heirs of the Radical Reformation among the congregations of Christ’s visible Catholic Church on earth. Svendsen and his evangelical brethren do indeed have a noble tradition of their own, stemming backwards in time to Smith Wigglesworth, Billy Sunday and Charles Finney, and further still to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Fausto Socinus, Michael Servetus, Caspar Schwenckfeld, Menno Simons, Conrad Grebel, Balthasar Hubmaier and the Zwickau Prophets, and yet beyond to the Montanists, Novatians, Donatists and various Gnostic sects of the early centuries of the Church. But it is a trajectory of figures and movements of varying doctrinal orthodoxy outside the Catholic Church (though of course containing many faithful believers in Jesus within their ranks).Eric rightly knocked that one out of the ballpark, though, I must confess, I disagreed with Eric's statement that this paragraph illustrates Owen's ignorance of Evangelicalism and its beliefs. No, my experience has led me to conclude Owen is not ignorant of Evangelicalism and its beliefs. He simply refuses to be honest about the issues he addresses, in particular when he is seeking to express his disdain for those who hold to certain views.
In any case, when I posted Dr. Hartley's comments on Spurgeon's sermon regarding Esau, fairly quickly Owen went to press with an attack upon his position, running out the ol' "hyper-Calvinist" argument (this is the same man who has directed us in the past to the excellent "exegesis" offered by Arminians). I was not even aware of the response before Dr. Hartley sent me this pdf in response to Owen. I asked if I might post it, as I found it useful, and he graciously acceded.
Dr. Hartley on Spurgeon and Romans 9: Lessons for Us All
10/21/2006 - James WhiteA number of years ago I made a presentation on the impact of the Donatist Controversy and the Pelagian Controversy on the theology of Augustine. I have repeated the essence of that material a number of times in various venues. To encapsulate it, even the most brilliant of Christian theologians and leaders are impacted by the contexts in which they live and minister, and in particular, by the controversies that define their age. The reason Warfield could rightly say that the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the victory of Augustine's doctrine of grace over Augustine's doctrine of the church is that the one came from his controvery against the Pelagians and the other from his role in the Donatist controversy. From afar, modern readers can sometimes wonder how ancient writers could have been so "blind" to their internal self-contradictions, but distance and time are convenient aids that we do not get to have in looking at ourselves.
The same truths apply to our beloved Spurgeon. A five-pointer he most certainly was. However, his context was not our context. Oh, surely, his context is much more like our own than that of Augustine. But, as I learned when I spoke at his church at a ministerial fraternal earlier this year, the British context contains an element that only a small number of Reformed folks in the States have to deal with on a regular basis. Spurgeon was very, very sensitive to the charge of hyper-Calvinism, and he struggled long and hard against the movement, which persists, in fact, to this day in England. Surely his sharp arrows likewise dug deep into the heart of Arminianism many times in his sermons, but since he preached so clearly the doctrines of grace, including, no matter how often modern men prove themselves ignorant on the subject, limited atonement, he was particularly concerned to make sure to distance himself from those who did not call men to faith and repentance, and did not preach man's duty to do so. This concern lies behind certain inconsistencies that we can detect on an exegetical and theological level in the Great Master's explications.
Last week I made note of Ergun Caner's citation of a couple of sentences from Spurgeon yet once again, and linked to his entire sermon on Jacob and Esau. Dr. Don Hartley, whose work I have noted and commended on his blog before, dropped me a note on Spurgeon's sermon, and given his insights, I have asked if I could post it here on the blog, and he graciously gave me permission. The comments below on Romans 9:20-23 and the one who has been "fitted for destruction" parallel my own in The Potter's Freedom and likewise my refutation of the same argument put forward by Lenski but often repeated today by those who deny the clear message of God's sovereignty over the clay.
Hello James. I enjoyed the read of Spurgeon but I'm sure you noticed a few inconsistencies in his sermon. Yes, he rightly rejects the "love less" view and he also notes that divine hatred here is a statment of Esau's non-elect status (Rom 9:13). He also notes rightly that this chapter deals with individual not national election. This is a profitable area of the sermon. But, I think Spurgeon gets off track on the Esau issue. Romans 9 says God hated [did not elect] Esau "even before they were born or had done anything good or bad (so that God's purpose in election would stand, not by works but by his calling.)" (NET Bible). Thus we would hold Paul teaches that God elects eternally and unconditionally, that is, based on absolutely no merit actual or forseen in an individual but purely out of his own good pleasure where he arbitrarily chooses some and passes over others. That God chooses any for salvation is pure grace. The flip side of this act of choosing is not choosing others thereby guaranteeing that those unchosen will be damned. Thus by the one act of eternal and unconditional election, God predestines both the elect to salvation by positively securing their salvation in the atonement and the non-elect to damnation by negatively passing over them in election (reprobation) and not providing salvation for them. This is double-predestination. Those who say that double-predestination elects some to damnation seriously misrepresent the position. No one is elected to damnation; they are predestined to damnation by not being elected to salvation, and justly so.
But when Spurgeon goes into the life of Esau, he attempts to point out issues in the OT narrative that would bring God's derserved hatred. See the problem? This is after Esau is born and based on works precisely the opposite of what Paul says. Finally, Spurgeon fails outright to understand (or at least appreciate) the issue of double-predestination. As a pastor, I can see why he avoids this but as an exegete this is inexcusable. He translates the Greek perfect participle as middle and not passive in Rom 9:22 (passive: "the objects of wrath prepared for destruction" [NET Bible].). Instead, he says, "But it does not say anything about fitting men for destruction; they fitted themselves. They did that: God had nothing to do with it. But when men are saved, God fits them for that. All the glory to God in salvation; all the blame to men in damnation." Romans 9 says the very thing Spurgeon denies: the non-elect individual is "fitted [by God] for destruction." The passive voice is divine and thus he is prepared by God. How God does this is via preterition (passing over the non-elect) unto reprobation. So double-predestination is asymmetrical for sure, that is, God does not elect to salvation and elect to damnation but rather he elects some to salvation and passes over the rest to certain damnation---hence asymmetrical double-predestination. But there is no doubt in Romans 9 of the double in double-predestination. Spurgeon's middle voice interpretation ("they fitted themselves") is easily refuted when given the context of the potter and the clay as well as upon examining the lexical issue. Does clay form itself? No. This sermon, however, is a good example of a five-point Calvinist that shys away from the harsher elements of biblical theology, exegetical precision, and consistent theism. But it is this kind of inconsistency that gives non-Calvinists a foot in the door in a manner of speaking.
One final matter. That hell was created for the devil and his angels supposedly rules out this double-predestination interpretation. But all that the text may be said to imply about preparing hell for angels and not man is that hell was created before man fell; not that certain men were not ordained to eternal punishment or as Paul says here, "destruction." Again, one could wish Spurgeon was more consistent here given the fact that he is indeed a five-point Calvinist.
All the best,
Don Hartley, Ph.D.
Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart, or Did Pharaoh?
10/13/2006 - James WhiteYesterday on the DL I mentioned the appearance on Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong's blog of a brief statement on Romans 9. As much as I wanted to respond to it myself, I had to finish a project by last night (does a little after midnight count?). So I asked Colin Smith, who has written for this website before (you can find his articles in our apologetics sections) if he would be willing to put something together in response to Armstrong, and he was very kind to do so. Very fast movement...for a British fellow! So here is Colin Smith's response to Dave Armstrong on Romans 9 and the hardening of Pharaoh's heart.
Passages like Exodus 4:21 and Romans 9:17-18 have been a cause of discussion and soul-searching among Christians for centuries due to the uncomfortable image of God they seem to portray. On the one hand, the Bible assures us that God takes no pleasure in wickedness (Psalm 5:4) and from all that Scripture teaches about Gods holiness and hatred of sin, it is inconceivable that He should be made out to be the author of sin. However, in these passages, the Bible presents us with the notion that God actively caused Pharaohs heart to harden when Moses related to him the divine injunction to release the Israelites. This hardening of heart in turn led Pharaoh to disobey God. Disobedience to God is sin, so it would seem to follow that Gods action in hardening Pharaohs heart caused Pharaoh to sin. The Lord is, therefore, apparently portrayed in such passages as putting within a person a desire to commit sin, making Him the author of sin in the persons heart.
There are two common resolutions to this apparent problem. First there is the suggestion that Pharaohs sin was the product of his free will, and God merely saw this development within Pharaohs psyche and permitted it to fulfill His purposes. God did not put the thought into Pharaohs head, and He did not direct Pharaohs intentions toward disobedience; He just took advantage of the carnal stubbornness of the Egyptian ruler to advance His own plan. Advocates of this position consider the language of passages such as the above-cited Exodus 4:21 that indicate God had an active role in the hardening process to be shorthand for God allowed Pharaoh to harden his own heart, and He then used that hardened heart. In a recent blog article, Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong argued that it is necessary to understand the poetic nature of the Hebrew language, allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, and understand such passages in the light of all of what the Bible teaches. In this regard, he cites passages that explicitly state that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15, 32, et al.) which, for him, add that particular nuance that alleviates him from having to defend God against accusations of positively ordaining evil. ...
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Sad, Sad Day in Lynchburg (Updated)
10/12/2006 - James WhiteThere is little need to comment much on Ergun Caner's Q&A on his website regarding the debate. Any person who has read the materials Tom Ascol and I have provided can only shake his or her head in amazement at the behavior of Dr. Caner. He insists upon ignoring the signed agreement and the documentation of its existence, and it is truly embarrassing to see him ignoring that 800 lb. gorilla sitting on the desk of the President of Liberty Seminary. The documentation has been provided by only one side (note the utter lack of citation of e-mails, signed or otherwise, dates, etc., by Ergun Caner), and the other side has to use the bully pulpit in hopes that the large portion of his followers will not Google this subject and find out the truth. If Dr. Caner actually believes what he is saying, he will add a new question to his Q&A: "Dr. Caner, given the documentation of a signed agreement between the two sides, could you please explain why you reneged on your agreement? And if you say Dr. White ended the debate, could you explain why it was Dr. O'Donnell who first wrote to all parties on 10/4, only twelve days before the debate, not Dr. White, throwing out your signed agreement? Does Dr. White control Dr. O'Donnell?"
I would ask all Liberty students, faculty, and supporters to consider for a moment what the President of Liberty Seminary is now saying. While ignoring the signature of his brother, provided as his representative in the discussions, he is attacking my character and my trustworthiness for refusing to allow him to renege upon a signed agreement! He is then using this dishonest attack as his reason for refusing to debate in Orlando, or anywhere else, even though we have proven our ability to engage in these debates in a fair and reasoned manner with a wide, wide range of opponents over the course of 16 years, while he has yet to provide example one of his capacity to do so. Is this the behavior that should be exemplified by one of the largest Christian universities in the United States? A sad, sad day indeed.
One of my ops in channel has posted a very insightful blog entry about Ergun Caner's highly questionable scholarship. As is the tendency with us mad jihadist Calvinists, he provides lot of links to direct documentation. This blog entry focuses upon true historical revisionism regarding Balthasar Hubmaier who Caner claims was killed by the "Reformers." Ferdinand was a Reformer? Really? I guess that explains why Caner can redefine "hyper-Calvinism" on his own authority, and teach his students that Spurgeon denied limited atonement, too? I guess I should not wonder at Ergun's changing history that took place only a week ago now, when he's been at it so long!
Dr. Falwell, you have a problem, sir. You need to address it before the integrity of the institution you have worked so long to build is irreparably damaged.
10/10/2006 - James WhiteJust a few quick items before the Dividing Line this morning with Tom Ascol. Pastor McBrien will not be joining us, which disappoints me, but I am sure the situation in Lynchburg this day is quite volatile. It would not have had to have been.
Emir Caner has posted an article on his website. Emir titled his article "OCD: Obsessive Calvinistic Disorder." You know what I'm going to do today? I'm going to ask the Lord to help me keep a smile on my face and try to interpret things in their best possible light. So I am going to smile, chuckle, and say, "Hey, Emir, thanks for the humor. Obsessive Calvinistic Disorder. That's a good one. Of course, I'd rather have OCD than HAS (Human Autonomy Syndrome)!" In fact, I needed a good chuckle this morning, and to help everyone else with just such a chuckle, I will post a cartoon Angelz just sent to me that absolutely positively nails the essence of this situation below. Yes, I needed to smile and laugh today. And to all my dour Calvinist friends: try it. Your face won't break, trust me.
The rest of Emir's response, outside of leaving out some rather important facts, is far more respectful and useful than anything Ergun Caner posted, and I appreciate that.
Now, back to the serious stuff for a moment and, outside of the DL today, hopefully for the last time for a while, at least regarding this particular incident. It will be stated that the debate was cancelled over six minutes of time. That is untrue. Remember, I tried to deal with Dr. O'Donnell, all the while experiencing the incredible silence of the Caner brothers, who had negotiated the agreement. They allowed O'Donnell to throw their agreement "under the bus" and said nothing while I struggled, while trying to write a book and prepare for three debates over the course of the next month, to reason with him, not only about the agreement, but about video taping rights as well. What is not being said is that the very first thing torn out was the cross-examination that we had specifically asked for in the agreement arrived at. I have said it repeatedly in the past, and I'll say it again: in theological debate the truth is normally determined by cross-examination. I know that is not the case in scholastic speed-talking, but it is in this context, a context that is unfamiliar territory for all involved on the other side. So, cross-ex was being diminished to the point of being irrelevant. Further, and again, this must be explained by the Caners, they had been given first and last word and not once did anyone on their side even attempt to defend this action in light of the fact that the only reason that advantage is given to the affirmative is because they have the burden of proof. There was no need for this in our debate because of the lack of an affirmable/deniable thesis statement! We had agreed that whoever went first, did not go last. Even and fair. This was changed, no reason was given, and no compromise offered. And finally, the real reason that neither Ergun nor Emir Caner have yet to even acknowledge is the one that all fair minded people who have read the documentation knows was the real "deal breaker:" the Caners allowed their word to be violated unilaterally, making trusting them impossible. They gave their word, they signed the agreement (see screen shot below), they made it clear they would change the agreement if told to do so. Upon what basis could anyone trust that the debate would go forward as promised even if we agreed, yet again, to another modified format?
Now, Emir raises the issue of the length of the debate. Again we have the problem of not being familiar with theological debate. I have not done a lot of four-man debates, but obviously, when you are bringing men in from all over the country, you do not do so while limiting them to a tiny amount of time during which to speak. I just checked the length on the one debate I did that had four men involved at Boston College (please note the parallel there) and it was four hours, twenty minutes in length. I do not recall anyone leaving that debate, by the way. Anyway, my one-on-one debates on Long Island run 3.5 hours regularly. Hence, all we were asking for was the same length as my normal one-on-one debates in the Great Debate Series. This is too long for a four man debate on a massively wide topic? Seriously? Since the debate was to start at 6pm (the original invitation said 7pm, so, they had no problem going to 9:30 back then), that would have taken us all the way to the tremendously late hour of...9:30pm. This is too long? I hardly think so.
So in any case, I hope, honestly, this is my last blog entry on this topic. I can't see how there is anything more to be said. The facts are out there, and I personally do not believe we are going to get beyond the impasse of "We chose to unilaterally violate our own word and scrap the agreement we signed, and we chose to do so less than two weeks prior to the debate." That is what happened, the documentation is unquestionable.
So, to close this topic, I simply must post without a doubt the most "spot on" observation I have seen about this entire debacle. Our good friend Angelz is a cartoonist in the Chicago area. His work is of the highest level, as anyone who has reviewed his work on my blog in the past knows. But beyond his exceptional skills at transferring real faces to the canvas is his insight into the reality of apologetic and theological situations. I have always appreciated the fact that what makes Angelz' cartoons so good is that they capture the essence of a situation. If you don't read his titles you miss his point. And so this morning Angelz weighed in on the Caner situation. Now, I know that the same folks who detest the editorial cartoons will dislike anything Angelz says, seemingly thinking that only the written word should be used, never the drawn image. But Angelz is making a statement in art that is absolutely positively identical to what I've been saying all along: this debate ended because of a fundamental lack of trust, and by reminding all of us (I guess some young folks might not get this one, now that I think about it) of an image that is part of our common cultural experience, he has nailed the situation down perfectly. By the way, as you look at this, think of this: could anyone on the Caner's side draw one that is as truthful? And that, my friends, proves the case. And now, Angelz graphic commentary:
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Shining a Little Light on Ergun Caner
10/09/2006 - James WhiteA few months ago I took more than a little heat for posting the e-mails that had been exchanged between myself and Ergun Caner (even though, as they show, he himself had simply requested that they be posted en toto, which I did). When they asked that the second "round" of e-mails be kept private, Tom Ascol and I said, "No way. Public debate, public discussion." Again I was attacked by many for posting them. Brett O'Donnell, though he did not seem to even read them, said I was the most unprofessional person he had ever met for so doing. Etc. and etc.
Time has a way of taking care of such things, as we are now seeing. One side in this situation has been transparent and reasonable. The other anything but. And how can this be proven? Well, it's called documentation. We have it. They don't.
Ergun Caner has posted a statement on his website regarding the debate. As expected, it fails to deal with the facts of the situation. If Dr. Caner cannot be bothered to worry about the facts of Romans 9:11 when preaching behind the pulpit why should all those troublesome e-mails written by his own hand bother him?
Now, let's shine some light on Ergun Caner's statement. Let's remember what has been documented. The Caners, via Emir Caner, agreed to a debate format. Emir Caner's name appears on the e-mail, as I documented earlier today. Now, will Ergun admit this? Will he explain why they acted as if they could negotiate the format and rules with us, if they in fact did not believe they could? Or will he explain why they thought they could but then threw their word out the window and allowed a third party to step in twelve days before the debate and throw out everything they had agreed to? Obviously, if his statement is to be meaningful, it will acknowledge the agreement and explain their sudden change of heart. Oh, and it will likewise explain why Ergun Caner remained stone silent from Wednesday, October 4th until this morning, October 9th. Let's see how well the statement fairs in the light of what is demanded by simple integrity and honesty:
The definition of revisionist history is often as simple as someone wanting it to be true.True, but rather irrelevant in a situation where the facts are documented.
As I have the entire Reformed community up in arms over my statement concerning the debate, I would simply like to put an end to the speculation.Is it possible Ergun Caner does not understand why folks objected to his false accusation of hyper-Calvinism? Probably not, since Ergun Caner does not believe that he is under any obligation to use terminology in a consistent, scholarly fashion. He can make it up as he goes along. I was told recently by someone at Liberty that Caner had actually stated that any person who held to any of the points of Calvinism is a hyper-Calvinist. Does that make a lick of sense? No more than saying Esau was hated because he was evil in light of Romans 9:11 does. But Ergun Caner is not constrained by the same canons of reason, logic, history, or scholarship, that bind the rest of us. He is a law unto himself. The celestial bodies of definition and meaning are meant to assume their orbits at his command.
On Friday as I was flying to a speaking engagement I was informed by my office that Drs. White and Ascol (either one or both of them) objected to the rules established by the moderator, Brett O'Donnell.Excuse me, but this would require us to believe that neither Dr. Caner, nor anyone on his staff, had bothered to check his e-mail since Wednesday morning. Otherwise, he would have been fully aware of the conflict and the main issue: whether he would stand behind his word or not. This would also require us to believe that Emir Caner had not contacted his brother about the situation over the course of nearly sixty hours. Is this what he is asking us to believe? That he, too, was completely caught off guard by O'Donnell's actions? I would like to know if this is the assertion being made. ...
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The Caner Spin
10/09/2006 - James WhiteI get the feeling Ergun Caner is spending a good deal of time at his computer today. However, all of the responses I have seen so far sort of neglect one little thing: the facts. Instead, he seems intent upon redefining theological terms and misrepresenting others, a sad consistency in what we have seen from the President of Liberty Seminary over the past number of months. The "hyper-Calvinist" label seems to be all he can come up with. For example, he wrote to Gary Fox,
I am standing right here.The "problem with authority" means I did not accept Brett O'Donnell's taking over the debate and throwing out an agreement that even Ergun Caner admitted existed prior to last Wednesday. I am sorry Dr. Caner is choosing to spin this situation and attack me with falsehoods in the process. It only makes the situation worse. I had hoped to not have to do this, but the truth must be known in the face of his falsehoods. Everyone knows he is just throwing dirt with the theological silliness he is putting forth. Remember, this is the man who turned Romans 9 on its head and who teaches his students Spurgeon denied particular redemption. His knowledge of the issues is highly questionable. But let's keep two things in mind, especially for any LU students who might be dropping by to check on the facts of the matter. First, Ergun Caner has been invited at least five times that I know of to debate me one-on-one, and has a standing invitation to do so in just a matter of weeks in Orlando, in fact. If he is, as he says, "standing right here," then I invite him to "stand right there" in Orlando. I have actually agreed to debate him the night before I debate John Shelby Spong. Why? Well, Michael O'Fallon at Sovereign Cruises has already paid for the 1200 seat ballroom at the hotel for that night and is willing to accommodate the event. The venue is there, and unlike what has taken place before, we have a long and documented track record in holding to our word and debating fairly. Dr. Caner has none. So, if he is "standing right here" then let him do so in Orlando. I'm willing to do it, is he?
I am ready for the debate.
Just because JW has a problem with authority, and cannot manipulate the situation, he backs out.
Anyone who holds to predestination to hell, and the possibility of infant damnation, even in theory, is a hyper Calvinist.
He is hyper Calvinist. Now everyone knows it.
Secondly, we need to establish, with finality, the fact that a signed agreement existed that the Caners reneged upon, even if they are now saying they did so out of some kind of "obedience" to Brett O'Donnell. If it was their view that O'Donnell was in charge of the debate format, why did they bother arguing with us for months on the topic? Why did Emir Caner engage in phone conversations with Tom Ascol if he did not think he had the right to negotiate regarding format and topic? Do the Caners not realize that their current spin means they were negotiating in bad faith only a matter of weeks ago? Such is simply beyond reason. On September 13th Tom Ascol wrote:
I have taken the liberty to go back over Ergun's email from May 11 and have tried to adjust times to fit into a 3-hour allotment. Following are the results. Please let me know if this is acceptable or if we need to make further adjustments. If this is acceptable then we can all begin making preparations accordingly. If it is not, please make adjustments as soon as possible. Thanks!As has been the case all along, it took quite some time to get a reply, but Emir Caner did, in fact, respond on 9/27. I am providing a screen shot because Emir Caner includes his signature as a graphic in his e-mails. He has a distinctive sign-off, and anyone who has received an e-mail from him will recognize that this is, indeed, his affirmative, his signature.
According to my system, six minutes (not two weeks) after I received Emir's note, Tom replied,
Thanks, Emir. I will plan accordingly.Those are the facts. Now, if Dr. Caner wants to ask his readers to believe that our refusal to allow that agreed upon format, order, etc., to be thrown out unilaterally less than two weeks before the debate means we are "backing out," well, he doesn't seem to have a lot of respect for the insight and intellect of his readers. Nor does his constant reference to me as a hyper-Calvinist say much for his view of simple gentlemanly behavior and honesty, let alone for his own scholarship. If Dr. Caner cannot accurately identify the theological position of a Reformed Baptist elder who is active in his own area of expertise (i.e., apologetics with reference to Islam), how can we trust what he says on almost any other subject? This must be the question being asked in Lynchburg by those concerned with the integrity of the seminary located there.
Finally, I would direct anyone interested to my response to Ergun Caner's sermon at the Thomas Road Baptist Church earlier this year wherein he hammered away on the "infants who die in infancy" issue, assuming, incorrectly, of course, that it is definitional of our disagreements. It is not, nor is it the simplistic issue Caner makes it out to be (if you are comfortable making abortion the greatest heaven-filling device ever devised by man, then go ahead and take the simple route. If you are not, you might want to consider giving God the same freedom in saving infants He has in saving adults in light of the reality of the doctrine of original sin and the fact that even infants, fallen sons and daughters of Adam, would require the positive extension of grace to receive salvation). I addressed the topic during the course of the program. I invite in particular LU students or anyone who is in agreement with Ergun Caner, but who has never taken the time to listen to the other side, to download my reply to Ergun Caner's sermon.
After Many Weeks of Silence...
10/09/2006 - James WhitePersonally, I think it is somewhat symbolic of not only the past eight months worth of attempted interaction, but of the entire situation in seeking to have meaningful debate and biblically-based dialogue with the opponents of God's freedom in salvation in the Southern Baptist Convention. You've read the e-mail I posted that was sent to all parties; you've read the immediately preceding article in which I documented various of the aspects of the recent situation leading to the cancellation of the debate. You will note that in all of this, Ergun Caner was silent, and has been silent for a number of months, actually (all replies came from Emir, not Ergun). So what would the first statements by the President of Liberty Seminary be like? Would they be focused upon issues, providing insight and helpful context, free of insults or name-calling? Well, we no longer have to wait. Compare and contrast, if you will. I hardly need provide more commentary:
Calvinist Debate Cancelled by Hyper-calvinist
James White backs out of the debate. Refused to submit to moderator rules. Details will follow tonight.
10/08/2006 - James WhiteDr. O'Donnell has verified with Dr. Falwell that there will be no debate on Monday the 16th. Dr. O'Donnell wrote, "Given that the two sides cannot agree on the terms of the debate in a spirit of compromise he concurs that the debate should not occur and therefore there will not be a debate on October 16 agreeing with the decision that was announced on Friday by Dr. White." As Tom Ascol immediately pointed out on the Founder's blog, that was not, in fact, the reason. The reason was that we had a signed agreement for a three hour debate; the debate had X amount of cross examination; the debate was fair in that it began with one side, ended with the other (neither side had the first/last speaking advantage). But twelve days out Brett O'Donnell of Liberty University assumed what can only be called dictatorial powers over the entirety of the situation. He unilaterally dismissed the agreement reached primarily through the interaction of Tom Ascol and Emir Caner, removing each of the very items that we had requested to get things "back on track" back in July. But the "deal breaker" was not even that, to be honest. The deal breaker was when Emir Caner capitulated to O'Donnell's actions rather than standing firm behind his own name sent on an e-mail confirming the format agreed upon. That was the "deal breaker," for you see, even if we had then worked out something with O'Donnell yet again (making the debate format negotiations the longest in modern history, extending from March to October!), there would be no reason to believe the agreement reached would be honored up to and through the time of the debate. Once Emir Caner reneged on his word (and for a few months now he has represented their side in all negotiations, so I truly doubt he was acting outside of Ergun Caner's knowledge) the debate was over, at least for anyone who believes a debate of this kind requires that everyone involved keep their word.
There are two situations in our past that I would like to mention that throw some light on our demand that people keep their word in debate negotiation. First, in 2000, we had written agreement from St. Joseph's Communications that any video taping would be shared with both sides. They put up a video tape camera (we had been told they would not) but after the debate, they would not provide a copy of the tape. Here's the story. In any case, we have refused to have anything to do with St. Joseph's since then due to their behavior.
The other instance took place during the debate with Patrick Madrid on Long Island regarding the veneration of saints and angels. Rich Pierce did not make the trip, and at that time, we were shipping a large amount of equipment so as to hand our opponents a master tape with titling at the end of the debate. A noble attempt (we managed it with Mitch Pacwa in 1999 in San Diego) but one also that over-reached, in hindsight, what you should attempt to do on-location. In any case, during a portion of Madrid's presentation the screens went blank. Warren Smith, who was running the equipment, in consultation with Rich Pierce back in Phoenix by phone, had to reset the character generator. When it came back up, it did so in default mode, going back to the last character sets it was generating. Unfortunately, it had last been editing the debate with Barry Lynn on homosexuality, hence, the only video of that moment has the title of that debate, "Homosexuality," plastered across Patrick's face.
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Greg Stafford on Calvinism
10/07/2006 - James WhiteSome of you know Gene Cook had Greg Stafford on his program recently, and that they were joined by Bob Morey. The discussion focused on God's exhaustive knowledge of all things. Many are unaware that Jehovah's Witnesses are unorthodox even on the knowledge of God Himself. Their position bears a striking resemblance to Open Theism. In any case, it was an interesting program.
Mr. Stafford has written an article about the program, and I wanted to note that it is not just inconsistent, tradition-bound Baptists who hate Calvinism (in fact, if I started a list of those who do, I wonder how long it would go?), but Jehovah's Witnesses do, too. I'm not sure Mr. Stafford realizes how shrill this sounds, but in any case, here are some quotes:
Jehovah’s Witnesses have spoken truthfully about Jehovah’s knowledge. But more can be said to define and defend what they have taught. The “Reformers” and those who have followed in their footsteps have not spoken truthfully about God’s knowledge. More must be said to undo the damage that they have done. They have also not spoken truthfully about man and his standing before God.After citing Schaff's brief summary of Calvin's views on predestination, Stafford writes, "I reject this teaching entirely. I do not believe the Bible teaches that Jehovah God has by 'eternal decree' predestined the salvation and condemnation of 'every man.'" His pure synergism (along with Rome and so many "evangelicals" today) is expressed clearly:
Thus, I agree with and will defend Jehovah’s Witnesses’ view of the salvation of mankind through a living faith and their belief in the existence of human free will, a will that must turn to God who will accept us and have mercy upon us all:And then he gets a little, well, dramatic:
It is time to crush the “Reformers” view of God and their misleading and even false teachings respecting his nature and his knowledge....As I said, John Calvin was a murderer and a false prophet, a rotten tree who produced rotten fruit. I pray that Jehovah crushes Calvinism. I pray that he gives me a part in crushing it along with any of the variety of fruit it has produced.Well, there you go! Personally, I find it easier to deal with direct denials like that than I do inconsistent "well, godly men have disagreed" folks. In any case, look out, all you Reformed folks! Greg Stafford is going to "crush" the view of God that freed Europe from Rome's tyranny! I do find it just slightly odd that Greg does not see how weak his arguments appear to those of us who are, in fact, Reformed. When you camp in Genesis while ignoring the clear, didactic statements of Scripture (Isaiah, Romans, Ephesians) on the subject at hand, that tells us that your position is not overly sound. In any case, I found these comments, especially in light of recent events, most interesting.
There Will Be No Debate in Lynchburg on October 16th
10/06/2006 - James WhiteThe following e-mail was just sent to Emir Caner, Brett O'Donnell, and Ergun Caner.
Gentlemen:If the need arises (and I'm sure it will), I will provide all the documentation of the past days' e-mails. However, the last e-mail, to which I responded above, had a conspicuous "privacy" notification. See today's DL (here) for a discussion of the events leading up to the cancellation of the debate.
Thank you for finally writing, Dr. Caner. I believe a quicker reply would have saved us all a lot of trouble, but that is water under the bridge.
In essence, Emir, you have just said that while you worked with Tom to arrive at an agreement, you are willing to renege, less than two weeks prior to that debate, on the agreement, throwing out the very heart of the requests Tom brought to you in good faith, all because Dr. O'Donnell does not like them? Sir, could I please ask you how we can trust anything that is said to us when your word can be changed by someone with an allegedly "higher" authority? What if someone decides that the debate needs to be two hours, and that on Monday night the 16th of October? Will that then be what happens?
Further, Emir, if Dr. O'Donnell is to be given ultimate, final, and complete authority over the debate (something that was never requested, let alone granted, by us), why did you come to us and ask what we would have to do to make this work? Why not have Dr. O'Donnell do this, since, if you are being consistent now, you did not have the authority to negotiate anyway? If you were negotiating in good faith then, how can you renege on that negotiation now? If you were not negotiating in good faith then, what was your purpose? I cannot begin to understand this behavior on your part.
I have to ask you all. If this is not breach of contract, at least in the realm of one's word and honor, what would, in fact, constitute this?
Well, this saga will certainly go down in history. It will do so because I will continue to arrange meaningful, scholarly debates with leading proponents of other viewpoints, just as I will be debating John Shelby Spong in November, and we will continue to demonstrate the highest standards in honestly seeking to fairly and openly defend the Christian faith in those situations. And if Dr. Ergun Caner would like to arrange a one-on-one debate at a neutral location in the future, I would dearly love to do so. But as it stands now, you have reneged upon our agreement unilaterally; you refuse to allow for sufficient time for a four-man debate and for the agreed to cross-examination; you likewise have claimed, through O'Donnell's actions, the advantage of speaking first and last despite the thesis statement not requiring that advantage to the affirmative side. Since the video taping rights issue likewise has not been completely settled, and given that Dr. O'Donnell has disqualified himself by his demeanor and behavior from moderating, it is obvious that there is no good faith being exercised by your side in this event. The ability to trust that the others will do what they say they will do is necessary to have a meaningful event.
Therefore, in light of the knowing and unilateral abandonment of the settled agreement on the part of Brett O'Donnell, and your support of this, there will be no debate on October 16th in Lynchburg, Virginia. Immediately before your e-mail arrived Dr. Ascol called me from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I confirmed with him that we would not accept the unilateral rejection of our agreement. Then, I sent this e-mail to him for his approval, and he managed to get an internet connection from the airport, and he stands with me. There can be no debate without debaters, and the behavior of your side in openly reneging upon your word has made any further attempts to make this work, despite months of struggle, worthless. My personal challenge to Ergun Caner stands for a one-on-one debate, but now with the stipulation that it take place in a neutral location with a neutral moderator.
Any suggestions or assertions that this debate ended for any other reason than the truth, i.e., that twelve days prior to the debate the agreement upon which it was based was unilaterally thrown out by Brett O'Donnell with the support of Emir Caner, will be met with full and complete documentation of the facts. It is bad enough that this has happened. Please, do not add to this with any campaign to make it look like we pulled out of this. Everyone in this group knows otherwise.
Regarding the Lynchburg Situation
10/06/2006 - James WhiteI received an e-mail within ten seconds of 5pm EDT. In essence it states that the agreement that existed between the two sides since September has been abandoned unilaterally. Dr. Ascol is currently traveling back from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Unfortunately, he called me about five minutes before the response was sent to me, and since he was standing in a line at the airport (I know exactly what line it is, too---I've been there), hoping to get a seat, I do not expect to be able to speak to him again soon. If by some miracle he does call me back, I will be able to post an announcement on this blog sooner. However, at the moment, I do not wish to do so until I have been able to speak with Dr. Ascol and get his approval.
A Prayer Request
10/06/2006 - James WhiteBrothers and sisters, the debate October 16th at the Thomas Road Baptist Church is in severe peril of not taking place. Unless I hear back from the other side by 5pm EDT that the agreement which was reached by all four participants in September remains in force (it has been arbitrarily rescinded without discussion by outside individuals), the debate will be canceled. As the documentation shows, and will show, we have bent over backwards to try to arrange a meaningful debate on the topic of the doctrines of grace at the Thomas Road Baptist Church. But there are certain fundamental issues of fairness that we simply cannot allow to be trampled, and that is the current demand being made. At this point, I have not heard a single word, after days of intense correspondence, from either Ergun or Emir Caner. They have been, to this point, once again, utterly silent. I have never in my entire life encountered this kind of behavior in the context of arranging debates, let me assure you. I am simply beside myself with amazement that we can arrange meaningful, useful, scholarly debates with Roman Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, Jesus Seminar scholars and Muslims, but we cannot get the first bit of meaningful cooperation in the effort from Southern Baptists. I deeply desire this debate to go forward. My travel plans are already set, of course. But I will not allow any debate opponent to simply say, "You know all that stuff that was agreed upon before? Forget it. Here is how it will be." That is not fair, it is not right, and I will not allow it to stand. As much as I desire the opportunity to present the doctrines of grace in that context, there is a matter of principle here. Men of honor keep their word. If we cannot trust the other side ten days out, how can we know there will not be further changes made the night of the debate, or during the debate itself?
So, brothers and sisters, please pray.
10/04/2006 - James WhiteJohn Orlando, a sometimes-visitor to our chat channel, has posted a very interesting article here. I found it interesting not because it is complimentary of me, but for the citations it provides from Jerry Falwell relating to Reformed theology and John Calvin. Anyone who reads those comments from Falwell and compares them with what has been preached within the past six months from the pulpit at Thomas Road Baptist Church cannot help but scratch their heads in wonderment. And keep going down the road a bit for the citations regarding the Arminian view of the atonement and inerrancy. A longer article, but well worth the read.