Friday, October 13, 2006

Blowin' a Gasket

I'm not really into debating. I like a good discussion as much as the next guy, but as far as the public forum of debate is concerned, I'd rather watch someone field dress a deer in sub-zero temperatures. For the two people that read this blog (thanks, Mom!), I doubt any of you know: 1) who this guy above is; 2) why I'm blogging about him again ( my first post was about him).

This is Ergun Caner. Caner is a converted Muslim and has been very helpful and insightful in opening up the world of Islam to Western Christians. Caner is also the President of Liberty Theological Seminary. He is a passionate evangelist and scholar. He also happens to be stubbornly hostile towards the doctrines of grace (Calvinism, Reformed Theology).

On Monday October 16, Dr. Caner and Dr. James White were supposed to debate the doctrine of Calvinism on the campus of Liberty University. The debate got cancelled and the circumstances surrounding the cancellation are in question. Now there is a whole lot of finger-pointing and unsubstantiated allegations taking place between the White camp and the Caner camp (; If these two parties can't even have a civil conversation before the debate took place, I can only imagine the potential injury to the witness of the Church had this debate happened at all. I am thankful that God's providence didn't see fit to see this circus unfold for a watching world to witness.

The reason for this post is in response to something Caner said on his website (link listed above) where he states that Calvinists are worse that Muslims. Here is his response:

A: Yes, absolutely. For a small portion of these people, just daring to question the Bezian movement is heresy. They will blog and e-mail incessantly. I call it a “Calvinist Jihad,” because just like Muslims, they believe they are defending the honor of their view. They can discuss nothing else. I have even had a few call for my head! Dr. Falwell and I have laughed about it, because they are so insistent, and they miss the point completely. There are plenty of schools to which the neo-Calvinists can go, but Liberty will be a lighthouse for missions and evangelism to the “whosoever wills.” Period.
The difference is, Muslims know when to quit - for these guys it is the only topic abou which they can talk.

To be fair to Caner, his comparison could be that Calvinists are as ardent as the normal devoted street Muslim in defending the honor of their view. However, by employing the term "Calvinist Jihad"in his description, Caner seems to be implying that Calvinists are more like radical Islamic extremists than your run-of-the-mill Muslim. As far as I can tell, moderate Muslims haven't declared jihad (holy war) on anyone, although you will see many of them fill the streets in protest of anything, particulary that originates in the West, that is an offense to Islam or the beloved prophet Muhammed.

Again, in fairness, Caner tries to qualify his statement by stating that "a small portion of these people" - as if Calvinists are some kind of mutant breed of Christians - are Calvinist jihadists. Yet, the question was not qualified in stating that Caner equates a small percentage of Calvinists as worse than Muslims. Caner's response to the question, without sufficient qualification, indicates that he believes all (the irony here is that "all", if you press Caner, may not mean "all", and "all" is always a contended word in the debate over predestination and election)Calvinists are worse than Islamic extremists who orchestrate suicide bombings, murder Christians around the world, and suppress religious freedom. Why are Calvinists worse? Caner says it is because these Calvinists don't know when to stop in defending what they believe to be a biblical soteriology (notice I said biblical, not necessarily Baptist), whereas Islamic radical extremists do know when to stop once they get their point across (I imagine that hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq would beg to differ and would take the ardent, pushy Calvinist any day over the misguided Muslim with a bomb strapped to his chest).

As if comparing Calvinists to radical Muslims is not offensive enough, Caner then continues by implying that Calvinists do not have a heart for missions, evangelism and deny that "whosoever will" can enter into God's Kingdom by faith in Jesus. This is an unadulterated statement of ignorance that blatantly misrepresents the vast majority of Calvinists in our Southern Baptist churches (which Lifeway now tells us makes up only about 10% of leadership in SBC churches). To make such an assertion is irresponsible and injurious to Jesus' Bride.

Finally, what grieves me most about this post by Caner, as well as his tone as I have listened to him berate and attack Calvinism openly on stage, is that Caner often violates Paul's instruction to Timothy about the Lord's servant in the way that he chooses to speak, address his critics, and teach the students God has put under his ministry. "...the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness" (2Tim 2:24-25a).

As best I can tell, without knowing the motives of this man's heart, Caner often appears quarrelsome, rarely kind to Calvinists (what he calls Neo-Calvinists), and lacking tact and gentleness in his critique of Calvinism and those who hold to its teachings.

The world does not need to see the Church tearing Her own apart. Caner would be wise to listen more than he speaks, and when he does speak, heed Paul's counsel to Timothy as he engages those who do not see the issues of predestination and election the way that he does in Scripture.


At 8:17 PM , Blogger Calvinist Gadfly said...

"Now there is a whole lot of finger-pointing and unsubstantiated allegations taking place between the White camp and the Caner camp."

Actually there is only one side that has documented their claims, and that is James White. The Caners broke their agreement to debate.

All James White wanted was to have a friendly debate on the topic of Calvinism. And anyone remotely familiar with the saga this year knows that Caner has played games and has lost all intergrity in Christian civil discourse.

I challenge you to examine the documention and see who wanted God's truth to be defended with clarity and integrity:

Alan Kurschner

At 9:36 PM , Blogger Aaron said...

I appreciate your comments, though this wasn't actually the point of the post. I agree that Caner has discredited himself with the way that he has handled this situation, but to say that "all James White wanted was to have a friendly debate on the topic of Calvinism" is more than a little optimistic considering Caner's temperment, don't you think?

At 12:02 PM , Anonymous Meredith said...

There are people like Caner on both sides of the fence. Some Calvinists believe Arminians can't be saved and all that crap. Whatever. I don't understand why people have to be so radical in their statements. It makes Caner sounds supremely arrogant too, unfortunately. So much for loving the brethren.

At 3:23 PM , Blogger Drew Scott said...

I still remember the exchange when they couldn't get Caner to call them (White and Ascol) brothers. Brethren, indeed.


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