Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Ergun Caner's "Humor"
11/21/2006 - James WhiteIronic, I think, that within a few hours of our providing a reasoned refutation of he and his brother's error-filled attacks upon straw-man versions of Calvinism, I am directed to this image posted, with almost no commentary whatsoever, on Ergun Caner's blog. If the image size is a bit small (I'm limited to 400 pixels across in my current blog format: someday that might increase!) you can see the original here.
Now, as everyone knows, I appreciate good humor. That's why I so enjoy Angel's cartoons. He listens carefully, thinks deeply, and focuses upon the central core of the issue. It is the truth content that makes a cartoon funny, and relevant. Lose the truth content, and you lose the humor. That was what was so good about his cartoon about the Caner situation. He connected the behavior of the Caners in reneging upon a signed agreement and trampling the worth of their word under foot to a situation we could all appreciate and connect with, that of Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football. That is why Angel does what Angel does, and I draw stick figures.
Now here we have an attempt at satire regarding my book, The Potter's Freedom. Let's keep in mind, however, that the one providing the satire has consistently and repeatedly failed to do anything more since February than repeat unfounded assertions regarding the actual argumentation contained in The Potter's Freedom. It would be one thing if Caner had provided evidence of his having seriously interacted with the work, but, as the documentation has shown repeatedly, interaction on the exegetical level is not Ergun Caner's thing.
Please note the "Forward" (an easy mistake to make, though, the book being parodied at least managed to spell "Foreword" correctly) and the line, "Nurseries in Hell's Flames: The Westminster Final Solution." The fact that the Westminster Confession speaks of God's mercy on elect infants does not seem to impact Dr. Caner's thinking, since, it seems fairly clear to me, anyway, his belief in original sin and the unity of mankind with Adam in his transgression is significantly less than...robust, shall we say? In any case, evidently, reasoned discussion on whether abortion is the best heaven-filling device ever devised by man or whether we should give the disposition of this issue into the hands of the judge of all the earth, trusting Him to do right, is not even allowed in Caner's world. If you dare think past his simplistic solution, you are a baby-hating Calvinist. Very sad indeed.
Those who have read through our attempts to reason with the Caners on a theological and biblical level recognize that there is little evidence of their willingness to actually interact on that level. Evidently, Dr. Caner presents God as being less than fully personal. That is, his God does not hate. The God of the Bible does, and to be fully personal and to be able to love, one must be able to hate as well. "You hate all who do iniquity" the Psalmist tells us (Psalm 5:5), and "the one who loves violence His soul hates" (Psalm 11:5). What does Dr. Caner do with these texts? What does He do with God's words to Pharaoh about the importance of the revelation of His wrath and His anger and His power? We do not know, since Dr. Caner avoids putting himself in positions of having to engage such problematic texts. But I truly wonder: does Ergun Caner really want to present a God who is incapable of hatred of evil? Does he want to present the Psalmist as having a higher view of God's law so that he "hates every false way" (Psalm 119:104, 128) and those who are double-minded (v. 113) than God Himself? Are we capable of doing something God is not (having righteous hatred)? Again, no one can answer since Ergun Caner has not produced sufficient written material upon which to base a response.
Next, we have the line, "They Go to Hell...God Gets the Glory." It is hard to know who "they" are, given its close proximity to the "Nurseries in Hell's Flames" line. But let's try to actually learn something and accomplish some good in reviewing this attempt at humor, so let's consider the question more broadly. Is God glorified in the punishment of the wicked or not? And immediately we are left with the same frustration we encounter every time we attempt to interact with Dr. Caner's cannon blasts: he has not put himself in a position of writing enough on the subject to hold him to a particular theological position. Given he is now the President of a Southern Baptist theological seminary, I would assume he rejects open theism. Therefore, he must believe God knew, when He created, that He would punish evildoers for their sin, correct? So, is Caner suggesting God purposefully created a situation that would not glorify Him? Is he suggesting that when God's holy law is fulfilled, and justice is done, that God is not glorified thereby? Is that his position?
This is what happens when you have a theologian without a theology. The result is downright embarrassing, to be honest. The resultant mish-mash of internal self-contradiction and inconsistency is hardly worthy of one who professes to teach the flock of Christ about God's truth. And it is my experience that those who have been promoted far beyond their capacity tend to make up for the lack of substance by just yelling a lot louder in hopes that the volume will make up for the missing argumentation. Ergun Caner has shown, in our correspondence, a deep disrespect for those who have gone before him in addressing the issues of the Christian faith. He seems to think himself capable of re-inventing the wheel, starting from scratch. That is always a dangerous thing. He is, truly, the proverbial "loose cannon." And since he does not seem to give any consideration to honoring God by carefully considering theology proper, the doctrine of God, he can throw out all sorts of emotional appeals and pious platitudes that excite the surface-level thinker but create no end of havoc for the serious minded student of Christian teaching. And what will eventually lead to Ergun Caner's being removed from his position is just this: there are lots of students at Liberty University, and Liberty Seminary, who think way beyond emotional appeals and pious platitudes.
The subtitle given is, "Learning to Love the Hatred of God A Celebration of Reprobation." I would like to seriously ask Dr. Caner: "Do you love to see God's power and might made known in His judgment of idolatry?" If not, why not? How high on your priority list is the demonstration of God's holiness and His wrath against sin? Or is your theology more a man-ology, more focused upon the creature than the Creator? Indeed, the very title of the book cover presents an interesting contrast: the Potter's freedom never seems to appear in Caner's thinking. He just can't accept that God might judge one, righteously, while extending mercy and grace to another.
It is important (as we point out in the Liberty mp3) to highlight the Caner's errors in regard to falsely equating God's election unto salvation (an act of grace undeserved involving the positive expression of divine power through the work of Christ and the Spirit) with the just punishment of those who are in Adam. I doubt that will stop them from the misrepresentation, but others can be helped to see the error of their presentation on the topic.
Now the irony is that over the past few days I have taught from Romans 9 on the Potter and the clay, the vessels of dishonor, vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. Can we find any in-depth exegesis offered by Dr. Ergun Caner of Liberty Seminary that even attempts to deal with the text on this level? No, we cannot. Has Ergun Caner produced anything of substance on this topic that we can examine for accuracy and scholarship? Evidently not. Instead, all we have is a pile of smoking straw-men, tattered emotional appeals, and, lest we forget, the signed statement agreeing to a particular debate on this very issue likewise shown as much respect as God's very nature. The contrast is stark between those who seriously seek to interact with the text in a context of belief and those who refuse to even make the attempt. I invite the reader, especially those who are fans of Ergun Caner, to listen to this mp3 for yourself and ask a simple question: why do you never hear Ergun Caner offering serious exegetical reflection coupled with a vigorous conservative, biblical orthodoxy? I would think that would be the forte of a seminary president.