The e-mails are running 70-30. Seventy percent want me to press forward, hold my nose, and let the truth do the speaking on October 16th. Thirty percent say, “These men are not serious, there is no way to reason with them, get out while you still can.”
I would like nothing better than to never have anything to do with the likes of Ergun Caner again. You will note I am not referring to him as “brother.” I’ve grown tired of trying to bend over backwards and absorb his constant insults while going, “Oh, he’s just a brother with tradition issues.” No, the man is mean-spirited, angry, insolent, and has an ego as big as the Glamour Shots on his website. I am definitely the victim of trying way too hard to give someone the benefit of the doubt. One of my many, many faults.
Stephen Morse just posted this on his blog:
Later as I heard him destroy Romans 9 in a sermon at Thomas Road Baptist Church, I simply wrote him off as an angry, yipping puppy. His rhetoric and vitrolic verbage doesn’t interest me in the least and it makes him look like a jr. high punk….The longer I read the interaction between Drs White and Caner though, I struggle to see the difference. The more they dialogue the more they are beginning to look like each other….Dr. White… Give it up already. Who cares what they (the Caner ilk) think of you… those who respect you and enjoy your ministry are beginning to think ill of you. It won’t make you look any better and it certainly doesn’t reflect well on your testimony of Christ’s work when you end up looking as bad as they do! Be the bigger man and let the little boys have their fun… it doesn’t reflect on you at all but when you join them at their tired ploys… it does.
Yes, it is devastating, after having invested so much effort to carefully, painstakingly respond to each claim, demonstrate the twisting of facts, the straw-man argumentation, and the like, that Ergun Caner, a seminary president no less, has been throwing out over the past four months, to be accused of starting to look like Caner himself. It truly makes you wonder if it is ever worth giving an answer. But there are many who think as Pastor Morse. Some of my closest friends have said, “James, drop it. That man is beyond all reason. He just wants a show, he does not want a debate. Give it up.” Now, I happen to agree with them. Ergun Caner is no serious scholar, he is no serious theologian. He is the Baptist version of Art Sippo. The fact that he has done everything in his power to avoid every demonstration of his errors as well as avoid ever putting himself in a position of having to actually debate me–you know, actually interact, get to the text, demonstrate you know what you are talking about—proves that point. On that level the correspondence files alone have ended any and all scholarly or apologetic credibility Caner ever wanted for himself. And given his behavior, honestly, all we have to do is sit back and he will implode on his own.
But Pastor Morse isn’t the only one writing. My father, a Southern Baptist pastor still serving in his seventies, wrote to me as well:
Dear Son, I have been concerned all night by the thought that this debate would come to an end. This is not the time for weak minds or faint hearts. The propaganda of the Caner’s, indicate they do not want this debate to take place, however if it does not they will say they won. When Napoleon was asked what determines which general loses the battle, his answer was the first to say I surrender. Now is not the time for surrender. God is looking for a man to stand in the gap and make up the hedge. If they can go silent so can you. Nothing would put more fear in their hearts than for you to say no more about the debate until you showed up, then no matter what the procedures, take control and present the truth. We can not rob these students nor the cause of truth by failing at this point. I know it is hard I have been there often but God is able.
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB)
5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
I don’t know how but you must hold his feet to the fire.
We will continue to pray. Love Dad
I have added to the pdf file the most recent correspondence in the saga, this time from Tom Ascol to the group. In it, Tom makes it clear how disgusted he is at the juvenile behavior of Ergun Caner, and he likewise refers to his brief encounter with Caner at the Southern Baptist Convention. As I have posted all the other e-mails that have passed between us, I post this one as well:
I find Ergun’s characterization of this whole issue to be far different from my own. I have read every single email that has been exchanged and would do so again except that I don’t think I have sinned sufficiently to warrant such a sentence. It is enough to know that the record contained in those emails is clear enough to show anyone who wants to know about this pseudo-debate exactly what has transpired and how it has transpired.
Ergun, I do not know how or why you think that we have all agreed on the thesis or format. You have tried to dictate what they will be but there has been no negotiated agreement. Furthermore, Dr. O’Donnell’s only email leads me to doubt the sincerity of his assurances to be an impartial moderator who will operate from the the rulebook of “fairness.” His offer to entertain “specific questions about the format” as long as they are asked “professionally” rings hollow in light of my May 16 email to him. I did not copy it to anyone else because I was simply seeking to learn from him the best way to get information about the format.
Here is that email in its totality:
Dear Dr. O’Donnell:
I have been told that you have agreed to moderate a debate on October 16, 2006 at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA. I am supposed to participate in that debate and have some questions about it that I would like to ask you. Would it be possible for me to address them to you via email, or would a phone conversation be better?
Thank you for your consideration.
I sent it to directly to him. Yet, I still have not received even the courtesy of an acknowledgment, much less an offer to entertain my questions. As the written record demonstrates conclusively, this kind of treatment is typical of the lack of respect that has been afforded James and me in this whole process.
No amount of posturing or posing can change the fact that you have attempted to throw numerous roadblocks in the way of this debate. Virtually any prospect of having a fair exchange of ideas in a setting where our differences can be clearly expressed has been undermined by your unwillingness to discuss questions that must be settled before such an exchange can take place. I suppose that this sounds like whining to you. To me, it is an honest attempt to dialogue.
Ergun, when you told me and others in Greensboro about Dr. Falwell’s plans to “pimp” this debate all over the world I was caught off guard. At first I thought I had misunderstood you but your repeated declarations that he was going to “pimp” it on TV and “pimp” it to “little old ladies” quickly disabused me of that notion. Your emails of the last two days have only confirmed my worst fears that your chosen vocabulary to describe this “debate” is all-too-accurate.
Well, I am no one’s prostitute. And I refuse to be “pimped.” If you are comfortable letting Dr. Falwell “pimp” you then that is surely your prerogative. I would love to pursue a genuine, theological debate. If that is what the Drs. Caner want, then let’s work it out and get it done. If, however, all you want to do is put on a Fundamentalist burlesque show, then go ahead with the plans that you are making but find yourself someone more suited than I to join you on stage.
I agree wholeheartedly with Tom’s words. What is more, any person who has read the exchanges knows he is speaking the truth. How Ergun Caner can be so utterly blind to his own behavior is beyond me.
Now, Tom said at the end that if these men would like to drop their current course of behavior and come to the table like gentlemen and scholars so as to pursue a genuine theological debate, that’s great. I am unconvinced Ergun Caner can do that. It seems his idea is “my way or the highway.” And I am pretty certain that Ergun Caner will not allow for any discussion on the topic of the debate (despite the documentation showing I challenged him to debate Calvinism, not his dishonest misrepresentations thereof, or an unintelligible assertion about some concept of universalism couched in terms of omnibenevolence). Why am I certain of that? Because he took Tom’s note above as indication that it is all over. Why would he do that unless he is simply unwilling to allow for any discussion that would lead to a useful debate? Now, I need to warn you, if you are an honest person, and you have followed this saga at all, the following will end any hope you had for Ergun Caner’s honesty. Its level of self-deception is off the scale. So take a deep breath. centuri0n, one of the most famous folks in the blogosphere, wrote to Caner about their odd, incoherent thesis statement, and this is what he got in response:
Thank you for your recent e-mail, and the statement of your concerns.
I agree that this topic is an important one to discuss in American evangelicalism.
Unfortunately, I am afraid we will not be able to discuss this, as it looks like Drs. White and Ascol may both back out of the debate.
It truly surprised both my brother and me.
First Dr. White spent a considerable amount of energy and time, calling for a debate.
When we agreed, and even offered the location, the topic was decided. Our only condition was that the recordings would be made available to all.
Now, just four months before the debate, they do not want to debate.
Apparently we have discovered the one topic a hyper Calvinist is not comfortable debating…his own presuppositions.
It seems debating the nature of God and His attributes is not to Dr. White’s liking.
I have given a similar response to other e-mails, of the many people who are puzzled by White’s reluctance.
In any case, Emir and I both stand ready to debate the stated topic. We are more than happy to debate- but unlike others, we will not be manipulated by Dr. White’s highly unprofessional behavior. Debate must be on level ground.
Perhaps you should ask Dr. White why he would not debate. If our defense of evangelical beliefs is so “incoherent,” one would imagine that it would be relatively easy for him to debate us. Why would he flinch? Why would he fail to defend his version of the “doctrines of grace?”
Perhaps this is why Calvin never traveled much- he only liked a “home court advantage.”
Dr. Ergun Mehmet Caner
President, Liberty Theological Seminary
The level of dishonesty and self-deception found here is troubling in the extreme. Here is a man who cannot use scholarly language in a meaningful fashion, who, despite repeatedly being refuted, has to continue to refer to us as “hyper-Calvinists,” who knows full well that I challenged him, singular, to debate Calvinism, and that I would come to his classes in a heart-beat and defend both my presuppositions and the doctrines of grace before his own students, carrying on as if we somehow do not want a debate. The man who has acted as a little dictator, demanding not only that the debate be a two-man debate, but that it have an incomprehensible thesis statement (which, from the above, evidently is something about the attributes of God and the doctrines of grace–go figure!), as brief a period of time as possible, and no meaningful cross-examination, saying we do not want to debate! What a preposterous claim on his part. Does Dr. Caner rule “from on high” at Liberty I wonder, passing down imperial edicts that are just simply to be obeyed by all his adoring subjects? Yes, debate must be on an even level. Which is why Caner doesn’t want to debate me, directly, in a real debate that would force him to look me in the eye and answer my questions. He knows it. I know it. That’s why he has become so rancorous, so insulting, and so dismissive. I have been told Dr. Falwell said from the pulpit last Sunday that we should not be debating Calvinism and Arminianism. I wonder…is this the ploy they have adopted to get out of this with their skin still intact? Act in such a juvenile fashion that no reasonable person could possibly put up with you? It is very tempting to think so.
I will be headed out of the country next week. I have lost more than enough time with this foolishness already. I will have much more to say about this on Tuesday on The Dividing Line. Let me make two statements for now.
First, let it be known to any student at Liberty University: I hereby offer to Dr. Ergun Caner an invitation and a challenge. I will come to Liberty University and I will attend every single class Dr. Caner teaches. I will come with nothing but the Scriptures, and I will discuss in-depth any text he wishes to discuss in front of the entire class, as long as an equal amount of time is spent discussing John 6:35-45. Will Ergun Caner allow this? Will he take up this challenge? We will see who really wants to discuss the doctrines of grace and who is just posturing.
Second, and please hear me here. Do not plan on attending anything at Liberty University or Thomas Road Baptist Church on October 16th. Might a debate still happen? Sure, miracles can happen. Ergun Caner might start acting in a civil fashion and a real debate might be worked out. But even if that were to happen, I am asking that everyone out there who supports Alpha and Omega’s work and ministry, who listens to the DL, reads this blog, etc., and who likewise supports and prays for Tom Ascol and the Founders ministries, leave any such happening to the students of Liberty University. We have never had any guarantee that there would even be room for outside folks to begin with. There is simply no reason to make vacation plans, travel plans, or anything else, for Lynchburg in October. None. Instead, if you wish to stand with us and support us and especially encourage me, there is something you can do….
There is a place called Orlando…an event called The Pulpit Crimes Conference... and a debate with a far more challenging opponent on an issue of tremendous importance in our culture today only two weeks after October 16th, and that is against John Shelby Spong. Now, it is a sad thing indeed to have to report the ease we have had working with Bishop Spong to arrange that debate. No rancor. No games. No juvenile behavior. Set it up, make sure both sides get equal time, there is sufficient interaction, and when both sides act in a respectful manner, goodness, how easy it is! In any case, we need your support in Orlando. Bishop Spong is a considerably more challenging opponent, and I believe you would be far more blessed and edified to see and hear that debate than to hear Caner’s tired straw-men anyway. Pray for any debate that takes place at Liberty, yes, but wait for the DVD (and pray there won’t be any games about providing that, too). Show your support by coming to hear Tom and I and David King and Burk Parsons and Steve Camp in the conference. And be there at a debate we can guarantee will not be a WWF-style smack-down and will be done properly and respectfully so that the real issue will be clearly presented.
Till the DL on Tuesday….