Ergun Caner obviously got a few e-mails about the less-than overly humorous book cover noted below (remember, when the truth content takes a dive, so does the humor, or, for my UK brethren, humour). He has posted a short article on his blog about it. Once again, almost as if Dr. Caner lives to help us illustrate the incoherence and inconsistency of his form of evangelicalism, he has made our job very, very easy. It truly makes you wonder if he even bothers to listen to what is said in response to him? If he did, would he not have to adjust his claims to at least make it look like he’s serious? In any case, let’s allow the President of Liberty Theological Seminary to enlighten our holidays:
You guys have spent the past years attempting to convince the evangelical world that your form of Calvinism is the only true preaching of the Gospel. We do not believe that.
Uh, Dr. Caner, this debate is a bit older than the past few years. In fact, you might wish to consider going back at least to Augustine and Pelagius for some of the basic issues at least some of us are actually addressing. Now, I don’t know what you mean by “your form of Calvinism” since you still can’t seem to accept the reality that you are not the final authority in defining theological terms and that such things as “hyper-Calvinism” had meanings before you were born that you don’t get to change just because you are promoted to high positions at Liberty. Further, I have never understood your objection to our belief that we are simply seeking to preach the entirety of Christ’s Gospel without human addition or subtraction. Isn’t that your goal, as well? It seems that where we differ is in the means by which we determine what true gospel preaching is, and what the true gospel is. We believe you determine that by humble, obedient exegesis of the inspired text of Scripture, and it seems like many on your side are quite enamored with your traditions and a highly pragmatic approach (“See, look at how big our sanctuary is! This works, so it must be the right gospel!”).
You believe one must be a Calvinist or an Arminian. I am neither. I am a Free Church, General Atonement, Sandy Creek, congregational polity, Southern Baptist.
And for the umpteenth time, that makes as much sense as saying “I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat! I’m blue!” Category error, Dr. Caner, category error. I truly must ask how you became president of a theological seminary when you cannot see that you are making regular use of category errors on a freshman level subject. I mean, to use another analogy, your repeated public proclamations are as errant as my saying, “I don’t believe in imputation or infusion, I’m an amillenialist!” Now, given that you turned Gill into a Presbyterian and you turn Spurgeon into an Amyraldian (both errors of amazing simplicity), I guess you might really believe your statement is meaningful, but sir, you must realize, only the most starry-eyed of your followers can follow you down that path.
Two comments are in order. First, you are correct to say you are not a fully consistent historical Arminian. Few today are, in fact. But you do not seem to understand the reason why someone would identify you as an Arminian, and the reason is fairly simple to understand, if you would but lay aside your bluster long enough to consider it. Let’s consider the five, or should I say today, six points of Calvinism. I add the first because it is no longer a given at all in today’s theological environment, one considerably less informed and rich than a few centuries ago, that being the sovereignty of God, His exhaustive divine foreknowledge, creatorship, and divine decree. You may affirm, reluctantly, I think, part of that, but surely not all of it. In any case, there is a logical and biblical relationship between each of the points. You reject the first five of the six points, only accepting, in a somewhat modified form, a portion of the sixth. Now, if you agree with the Arminian perspective in, conservatively speaking, 85% of the field under discussion, and possibly as much as 95%, can you really complain if someone says you fall very much into the Arminian camp?
But next, may I suggest you take just a moment to fire up your Internet browser and Google the following phrase? Sandy Creek Statement of Faith. It is really quite easy to do. You keep claiming to be a “Sandy Creeker.” Ok, I guess that means you believe the following from the Sandy Creek Association’s Statement of Faith:
III. That Adam fell from his original state of purity, and that his sin is imputed to his posterity; that human nature is corrupt, and that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily place.
IV. We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.
I’m sorry, Dr. Caner, but if you actually believe these statements, you sorta need to work a bit on making your sermons fit your theology, because I never would have guessed that from your preaching at the TRBC earlier this year. Now, please, please don’t tell us that “election from eternity” means “I was elected because I selected.” That may rhyme nicely, and, if properly inflected and spoken with force in a context created by music and a light show, have an impact upon an impressionable mind, but such theatrics have never been overly commensurate with sound theology and truthful teaching. Instead, as Tom Ascol so clearly presented at our national conference a few weeks ago, if you go back to a meaningful historiography, you discover that it is not overly difficult to provide a meaningful context to these words. In fact, we simply ask you to explain to us all, and especially to your students, how it is that in the very first generations after the founding of the Sandy Creek church you find clear, compelling confessions of full Calvinism–Calvinism on the very level you confess to “detest,” is found in the Sandy Creek circle of influence? I would direct you to his comments beginning around 42 minutes into the presentation that we are encouraging all of your students to listen to, found here. But just as an example, could you have been a member in good standing of Daniel Marshall’s church in Georgia (co-founder of the Sandy Creek Church) when the pre-amble of the church covenant included the following, as quoted by Dr. Ascol, at our conference?
According to God’s appointment in His Word, we do hereby in His name and strength covenant and promise to keep up and defend all the articles of faith according to God’s Word, such as, the great doctrine of election, effectual calling, particular redemption, justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone, sanctification by the Spirit of God, believer’s baptism by immersion, the saints’ absolute final perserverance in grace, the resurrection of the dead, the future rewards and punishments, and so forth, all according to Scripture, which we take as the rule of our faith and practice, with some other doctrines herein not mentioned, as are commanded and supported by that blessed book, denying the Arian, Socinian, and Arminian errors, and every other principle contrary to the Word of God.
So, are you really a Sandy Creeker, Dr. Caner, or are you just repeating less-than-solid historical fictions that, while popular, cannot stand up to meaningful examination? We know you “loathe” the great doctrine of election, unless, of course, it is election conditioned upon human activity, and you “loathe” particular redemption, so, could you have been a member of the church founded by the co-founder of the Sandy Creek church itself? Yes or no? If no, why continue to claim otherwise? Inquiring minds want to know!
You have a myriad of sites mocking us, saying one is either a Calvinist, or obviously not an evangelical, an intellectual, or both. Again, we do not believe that. Just because we are responding to you does not mean that you must “declare war,” call us heretics, or call another Council.
I would truly love to see a few citations, a few quotations, substantiating your assertions here? I wonder, is demonstrating that you simply do not seem to care to be accurate and forthright in your assertions on this topic the same as mocking you? When you insist upon repeating the same tired, refuted, errant platitudes as if they continue to serve the truth, is it not proper and appropriate to point out your errors? At some point is it not time to ask for you to be held accountable, given the positions to which you have been appointed? And sir, given that you have posted on your own blog that Calvinists are worse than Muslims, may I point out, Dr. Pot, that Mr. Kettle is calling on line one?
Besides, remember your own logic – Most of you are presuppositionalists. I do not agree with your Bezian presuppositions. So WHY would you argue with me? Doesn’t that go against your very system?
I see your knowledge of presuppositional apologetics is as full and robust as your knowledge of Spurgeon, Gill, and the history of Calvinism. I do not have “Bezian presuppositions” to begin with, but even if I did, I would then demonstrate the consistency of my presuppositions and worldview over against your own, and, when your position is shown to be incoherent and self-contradictory, I would invite you to honor God by ceasing to honor illogic and error. Recognizing the role of presuppositions does not mean interaction and reason cease, Dr. Caner, though, you seem to think that is the case. I would invite you to do a little bit more…no, a whole lot more reading in the field so as to come to a solid understanding of the issue.
So, just kick back and enjoy some humor. I found the Ergun Caner doll very funny – I even showed it to over 5,000 students last Wednesday night. I showed it as a tribute to some very clever people. If you have not seen it, it is in the article below this one.
Well, here’s the problem. The Ergun Caner doll was humorous because it parodies the truth. You repeat certain montras with such force and passion, but, like a wind-up doll, you don’t hear the replies and refutations, and just keep saying the same things over and over again. That’s why it was funny. Your book cover idea isn’t funny because it only shows you don’t understand the issues at hand. See, when the truth element of the parody/caricature is lost, the humor goes with it.
BTW, I’d invite you to show those same students Angel’s great cartoon, BENUTZ, and provide them with free downloads of the mp3 of our examination of your sermon and Emir’s sermon.
Liberty University will never be 5-point Calvinist. Never. Dr. Falwell loathes the very system, as does Dr. Patterson at SWBTS, and many of us in the SBC. Only a small portion of the SBC considers itself Calvinist. We have no problem with guys who hold to four-point position, as long as it does not interfere with the biblical imperative of personal soul winning and corporate invitations.
I do not know of anyone who is trying to make Liberty a “5-Point Calvinist” school. Right now, I’d settle for leadership that has the integrity and honesty to at least allow fair interchange and that would refrain from the straw-man misrepresentation that is the current norm as seen in you, Dr. Caner. But I do find it quite revealing that you say Dr. Falwell “loathes” the “very system.” Have you ever read his 1950s paper on the topic where he actually promoted it? Odd, isn’t it? And, since you say he “loathes” the system, could you explain his quotation from his sermon in 2001 where he states,
While I am not a five-point Calvinist, I salute the great impact that Calvin made on the world. With Calvin’s high view of the sovereignty of God, his great commitment to word-for-word inerrancy of Scripture, his understanding of the total depravity of man, and his unashamed support for the blood atonement of Jesus Christ; Calvin’s anointed scholarship produced men who went around the world teaching the Reformed view of theology that has become the foundation of Presbyterianism and traditional evangelical Christianity (emphasis mine).
That doesn’t sound too much like “loathing” to me. But lets say you are right—does that explain the lack of scholarship in your attacks upon the system?
You likewise say Paige Patterson “loathes” it. Funny, I did not hear “loathing” in his dialogue with Al Mohler last June, did you? I disagree with Patterson on many points, and have done so publicly, but I have likewise pointed out that he is a far cry from the likes of Dave Hunt or others who are completely out of touch with reality in their criticisms of Calvinism. In any case, I truly wonder if you do not recognize how out-of-balance you appear to a wide range of people, Dr. Caner. You “loathe” the theology expressed by many of the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention. You loathe it so much you cannot honestly interact with it. You loathe it so much you say Calvinists are worse than Muslims. Think of it. Men like Spurgeon and Edwards and Warfield and Machen and Sproul, defenders of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the crucifixion (Surah 4:157, Dr. Caner, remember?), resurrection, atonement, justification by faith, the inerrancy of the Bible—worse than those who deny the Trinity, deny the deity of Christ, deny the cross and the resurrection, and say Jesus is “just another rasool,” yes? Your loathing demonstrates your utter lack of balance, Dr. Caner. How can you not see this?
Finally, you closed with this:
Even if you hold to Reprobation, I should think you could relax. After all, you couldn’t convince me, one way or another, now could you?
I happen to be quite relaxed, Dr. Caner. Demonstrating the utter incoherence of your attacks upon the Reformed faith is not difficult at all, I assure you. In fact, as soon as I post this, I’m going to row 12,000m on my Concept2 rower, starting off the 2006 Concept2 Rowing Challenge. I hope to complete 200,000m before Christmas Eve, along with riding at least 50 miles per week and climbing a minimum of 2000 feet in those rides as well, during the same time period. That’s relaxed! You confuse the fact that we find dishonesty in argumentation amongst Christians wrong and distasteful with being unhappy, lacking humor, or needing to relax.
But in reference to your statement, given that you have never given any positive evidence of being even semi-well read in this field, and have given all sorts of negative evidence that you are not, does it not follow that, as the president of a theological seminary, you are boasting in your inability to change your mind based…upon your ignorance of the subject? Is this truly what you wish to advertise to prospective students? “Hi, I’m the President of a theological seminary that values closed-minded traditionalism over careful exegesis of the text of Scripture anyday! Come join up!” Dr. Caner, let me explain something to you. You want to stomp out Calvinism? There’s only one way to do it. Prove it wrong from the text. Want to go a long way to do that? Take up my challenge. I’ll fly to Lynchburg, I’ll appear in your classes with my Greek New Testament, and you and I will dive deep into the grammar and syntax of John 6. John 10. Ephesians 1. Romans 9. One on one. All your students right there. Once you have demonstrated the bankruptcy of Calvinism in that context, will you not have ended the “threat” you see Calvinism to be? But that is the only way you are going to do it. Provide evidence that you can fairly represent the system AND refute it by careful, consistent exegesis. Otherwise, you will never rid Liberty or the church of it, for the simple reason that we have infiltrated both with our greatest secret weapon: the Bible. As long as those texts are there, you will be reduced to dancing the hamsterdance all around the truth.