I was directed to this article relating to my debates with Michael Brown on monergism and synergism. Now, I am glad this fellow is listening, but goodness, what is he hearing? We have a tremendous example here of tradition filtering out the majority of what the person just doesn’t want to hear. Take this description for example:
My own reservation about Calvinism is that it requires that God create people who go to Hell. They go to Hell only because God chooses not to draw them to him. So there are people pre-destined to Hell for eternity who are not responsible since its God’s choice where they are saved or not.
How many times have Reformed folks debunked just this kind of strawman understanding? It is not only inaccurate, it is downright dishonest, sadly. No one goes to hell “only because God chooses not to draw them to him.” Men endure eternal punishment because of the holiness of God and their own sin. The very idea that God is under the slightest duty to provide mercy and grace to sinful men is part and parcel of humanistic religion, not biblical truth. And this kind of “sentimentality as theology” viewpoint has led, many times in recent history, directly into the quagmire of universalism. Next, if you want to see the wilderness into which Molinism leads you when it comes to exegesis, check this out:
I totally agree with Romans 9, where it says that God creates some people for destruction, and that those people cannot resist Gods will that they be created for destruction. But on my view, those people are people who would resist him in any time, in any place, even if he tried to save them. They cannot demand to be saved even though they resist God. They cannot say to their maker that they should not be created only to be damned, either, because being damned is their own fault. They dont have a right to demand that they be saved because they would freely choose not to respond to God in any set of circumstances that God might try to place them in in order to save them. So God is permitted to create vessels of wrath for his own glory but its their fault, not God’s.
Remember when William Lane Craig told us how there are certain people God could never save, in any “possible universe”? There is one major difference between the biblical God and the God of man’s imagination: the biblical God can save anyone He so chooses to save, freely, perfectly, and powerfully. When you have to come up with the idea that God cannot save who He chooses just to protect the creature’s “free choice,” you have truly exhibited your real motivations, and your real focus of devotion.
On a less theological, but just as tradition-bound note, I was directed to this kind, even-handed, truly brotherly blast from, from what I discern, is the Senior Pastor (!) of Arlington Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, Tim Guthrie. You hardly even know where to begin when reading something like this–the number of factual errors, emotionally-driven logical crashes, and ad-hominems, is quite impressive for a relatively short article! It takes some work to cram all of that in there! Most of Pastor Guthrie’s errors are plainly seen upon a first reading (yeah, I’ve never once talked about Columbia Evangelical Seminary, my work there, or anything else—despite having articles on the web since 1998 and doing entire programs on the topic! Nothing like doing your homework there Pastor Guthrie!), but what is completely lacking from this rant is the first bit of honesty in regards to the real issues behind the Caner saga. Check out this example of whistling a happy tune while walking through the graveyard: “There is absolutely nothing new being brought to light concerning Dr. Ergun Caner.” Really? How can anyone say that (or, I guess, type it) with a straight face? Did Pastor Guthrie point out to Ergun Caner that he had not, in fact, debated Shabir Ally, when he had claimed to on multiple occasions? Did Pastor Guthrie recognize that Abdul Saleeb is a Christian name that no Muslim would ever bear? Did Pastor Guthrie recognize that Ergun Caner confused Surah Al-Fatiha with the Shahada? Did Pastor Guthrie point out that Ergun has claimed that Arabic was his first language, only to contradict himself later and admit otherwise? Did Pastor Guthrie detect the nearly decade-long “problem” in Ergun Caner’s time-line, including his claim to have always lived in “majority Muslim countires” prior to coming to the US (Sweden is not a majority Muslim country, and Ergun has been living in the US since he was four years old, shivering through the Ohio winters just like all the rest of you!) and that he came here via Beirut and Cairo? I rather doubt it.
What we have with Pastor Guthrie is a harsh, hard denominationalism, sadly common in Southern Baptist circles. Those enmeshed in this “circle the wagons, lash out at any perceived threat, whether it is based in truth or not” way of thinking care little at all about truthfulness—the “group” must be defended, at all costs. This is why he ignores the real issues regarding Ergun Caner, in the same way so many ignored what I actually said back in 2004 when reviewing Dr. Seifrid’s work, Christ Our Righteousness. I will never forget one well known Southern Baptist editor who informed me, in the wake of that situation, that he would never work with me again since I had “attacked a fellow Southern Baptist professor.” When I asked him if he had actually read anything I had written about Seifrid’s theological position, he admitted he had not. That is the kind of hard-core denominationalism I am talking about.
It likewise explains the knee-jerk, ignorance-bound reactionary response of many to the expression of Reformed theology. I recently was sent a copy of an e-mail that George Bryson sent out to pretty much all Calvary Chapel pastors titled “The Calvinists are Coming.” It is a classic example of the doomed-to-failure attempt on the part of synergists to keep biblical monergism out of their churches (until Calvary Chapel realizes the only way to do that is to stop directing people to the study of the Bible, they will keep cranking out Calvinists). In the same way, Pastor Guthrie’s comments in his blast show a deep ignorance and prejudice relating to the matters at hand:
How ridiculous is it that a Muslim man who has been out to destroy Dr. Caner is now being linked to and advises Christians while his error of faith goes without question and his eternal life is destined for Hell. I guess when Mr. White says he believes in limited atonement, Mohammad is just out of the equation. I guess Mr. White and a few others fail to realize that Christians are to be separate from the evil ones. Maybe just maybe, this is blind passion of a man who would much rather suck blood from a Christian brother to promote is own false doctrine than to be busy about leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I wonder if Pastor Guthrie has considered how much damage Ergun Caner has done to the evangelism of thinking Muslims by his falsehoods and self-promotion? I know I have sought to make sure Muhammad Khan realizes that not all Christians are like Ergun Caner: we actually seek to be consistent with our profession of faith by honoring the truth. Has Pastor Guthrie contacted him? Well, how could he? Mr. Khan would ask him direct and honest questions about his friend Ergun Caner, and it seems Pastor Guthrie is very short on meaningful answers in that regard. Next, where did Guthrie get the idea that Mr. Khan is “advising” anyone at all? Why does he think Mr. Khan’s commitment to Islam has not been challenged? Mr. Khan will verify that I invited him to attend my lectures in London when I was there last month, and to attend my debate with Abdullah al-Andalusi as well (something Ergun Caner could not do, despite his oft-repeated claims to have engaged in such debates in a dozen countries and all over the United States).
But then note Pastor Guthrie’s statement regarding particular redemption. Why would anyone who either has an accurate knowledge of particular redemption and a modicum of honesty say such a thing? It is hard to avoid concluding that Pastor Guthrie’s emotions have so taken him over that he cannot write clearly, but it is plain that it is his intention to say that limited atonement means you should not, or cannot, evangelize Muslims. That this is patently false is known to anyone with the slightest knowledge of the belief, so, why would Guthrie say this? Evidently, it flows from his anger, not from his theological training. This leads him to the odd (and self-contradictory) conclusion that I (or any other Christian, I guess) should have nothing to do with Mr. Khan. Tell me, does he apply that standard to Ergun Caner when he allegedly has “debates” with Muslims, or anyone else Pastor Guthrie deems it proper to identify as “evil”? I doubt it. So note the identification of the great truth of the perfection of Christ’s atoning work as “false doctrine” in the context of accusing me of “sucking blood from a Christian brother.” Pastor Guthrie has a way with words! Too bad he is wasting that talent by defending the indefensible.