Dr. 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.
Now, it was a completely honest equipment failure. Immediately after the debate, Warren Smith went to Patrick Madrid, sat down with him, and explained the entirety of the situation to him. As you can see in that video, a still shot of Patrick is used to cover over the video failure period. In any case, we acted in good faith and immediately informed Mr. Madrid of the problem (as I am sure Patrick would confirm).
Likewise, all of my opponents for the past number of years where Alpha and Omega Ministries has done the video taping will confirm the receipt of the video tapes in usable condition after the debate itself. They will also report that once the debate format was arranged, none of them were contacted in the days before the debate for sudden changes, especially changes of particular requests they themselves had made. To borrow a phrase, that is just “bad form.”
So in essence, I can point to a fully documented body of work in support of my assertion that I along with the President of A&O, Rich Pierce, together with Tom Ascol, worked in good faith from March through October to seek to make this debate work. Through June we got nowhere. Brother Ascol managed, with Emir Caner, to work out an agreeable format, and I for one had very expensive airline tickets (which I cannot change, and hence must find other uses for now) to Lynchburg (ever tried to fly there directly? Yeah, a blessed providence to you!), hotel reservations, and rental car reservations, all set up. I honestly was far too focused upon writing Pulpit Crimes and preparing for the baptism debate to have almost any time at all to invest in pondering if any sudden changes would be made by the other side. Yes, many had speculated that this would happen. I continue to try to hope the best, even when I have been given good reason to think otherwise. In any case, when the e-mail arrived on Wednesday throwing our agreement out the window, I was shocked. The e-mail likewise claimed exclusive rights for Liberty on the video tapes, and asked that we sign the no-use contract and fax it back within 48 hours, even though the very first e-mail back in March from Ergun offering the debate included the direct statement from Dr. Falwell that all sides would have equal rights. So for nearly three days I had to stop everything I was doing and dig through old e-mails providing O’Donnell with documentation regarding the video taping arrangements, etc. And though from Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning we asked, repeatedly, for Emir and Ergun Caner to engage the topic, to defend the honor of their word in the signed agreement (Emir sends his personal signature on his e-mails, hence, it was, in fact, signed), until the e-mail sent by Emir capitulating to O’Donnell’s coup at exactly 5pm, they never said a word. They did not confirm to O’Donnell the video arrangements, though they had first offered them. I was left to do this. Though we repeatedly cited their own words to O’Donnell, they never bothered to confirm these things in writing. They remained silent, and, to this day, Ergun Caner has not said word one in response to the complete hi-jacking of his own agreed-to terms for the debate. Brethren, I cannot begin to conceive having put my name to an agreement and then allowing someone else to completely overthrow my word and remaining silent in the face of it all. It is completely outside my realm of experience.
I repeat the challenge that was offered to Ergun Caner in February of this year: one-on-one moderated public debate on whether Calvinism is Biblical or not. I can prove my side has never, and will never, play games with the debate. Dr. Caner has no reason to be concerned for even a moment as to whether we would honor our agreements, provide him with a video tape, or change the rules at the last moment. We do not play those games, and I can call witnesses from a wide range of theological beliefs to prove it. And so, in essence, we are back to where we were when I was in Inverness Scotland in February of this year. Of course, a number of people have learned a lot about those who openly oppose Reformed theology in this process, so I cannot say our time was completely wasted. God has His purposes.