A Public Statement
Since February 27th of this year, plans have been underway to schedule a debate on Baptists and Calvinism. Drs. James White, Ergun Caner, Emir Caner and Tom Ascol initially agreed to participate in this event which was scheduled to be held at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia on October 16, 2006. Over the last five months, efforts to negotiate the terms of the debate at times degenerated into heated, antagonistic exchanges between the four participants. In both speech and tone too much of the communication has been perceived and/or characterized by sinful attitudes that have not honored the Lord Jesus Christ. We acknowledge our responsibility in this and deeply regret that we allowed it to happen. Each of us longs to represent Christ honorably and our intent is to conduct further negotiations in ways that will do so.
Through ongoing communication out of the public eye we have come to terms regarding the debate. It remains scheduled on October 16th and will involve all four of us. The topic will be, “Baptists and Calvinism: An Open Debate.” The length will be three hours. The format will be modified Parliamentary. The place will be Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.
We are committed to engaging in a debate that will highlight the significant differences that exist between our respective views of how the Gospel of God works in bringing salvation to sinners. We believe that such debate can be conducted in a lively, vigorous exchange that need not violate the standard for Christian conduct that God has given us in His Word. Our goal is to do exactly this. The issues on which we disagree are important. It is because of our love for Christ and His truth that we believe these issues are worth debating. However, we regard this as a fraternal debate and intend to approach it not as antagonists, but as brothers with strong disagreements.
To that end we are asking those who have followed the issues surrounding this debate to join us in prayer that the Lord will guide us as final preparations are being made and that He will help us to conduct ourselves in a manner “worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
Sincerely in Christ,
My thoughts: Tom Ascol has commented briefly on his blog, so I thought I’d add a few thoughts myself. Those who know me (and I speak of a small number of folks, really) know that I am passionate about the truth and that I debate not out of a love of controversy (I fully understand the desire Calvin had when heading for Strassbourg prior to his providential encounter with Farel) but because I believe it is necessary and God has called me to the task. I have never, ever wanted this debate challenge to be anything other than intra-mural in nature. Just as I am looking forward to my exchange with Pastor Bill Shishko within the bonds of Christian charity and brotherhood, so I have always hoped that no matter how strongly the two sides feel on the topic that this, too, could be handled in the same context, with a common confession of faith in the resurrected Lord and in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures. I have repeatedly expressed my heart-felt desire that our focus be on the people of God and their benefit, their edification, and I truly hope that we have now come to a position where this common goal will take us through any other difficult issues that need to be faced over the next few weeks before we stand before the folks at the Thomas Road Baptist Church and discuss this vital issue.
I would still like to encourage folks to avoid traveling to attend this debate. Why? Because it is primarily designed for students from Liberty University. We cannot guarantee entrance to the debate should there be a healthy turn out from the student body. This debate will be recorded and made available in DVD, CD, and mp3 formats. Tom and I will be discussing the debate at the conference in Orlando less than two weeks later. Instead, if you wish to support the on-going ministry of engaging in God-honoring, truth-displaying debates, click here! And then pray for Ergun, Emir, Tom and myself, that on the 16th we will be able to have a God-honoring, edifying, brotherly exchange on the truly vital issues that center around the issues of monergism and synergism, how to understand the expression of God’s love, the atonement, etc.