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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Unbelievable - Read for Yourself

Two parts: The first is the latest post from James White explaining why the debate is officially over. The second part consists of a few comments from Liberty students and their response to the debate being cancelled. Read for yourself: From James White:

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. . . . 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.
From Liberty University students:
#1 Drs Ascol and White, I'm a sophomore at Liberty University studying philosophy, and, despite some significant concerns, I was very much looking forward to the debate. As a Reformed student, I am grieved every time I have the opportunity to gently explain to someone that what they are referring to by "Calvinism" or "Reformed Theology" is not what I, or any orthodox Reformed person, believe. How can I blame them when they get their information from a charismatic professor and Dean of our seminary? Hence the reason I was eager for the debate to take place, despite the fact that it would have been, to some extent, a debacle: Two godly, knowledgeable, men who believe in the truthfulness and beauty of Reformed theology would have been able to present their position and defend it. Students at LU would have had the chance, for once, in public, to hear "our" side fairly represented. I and some of my reformed friends also wanted ask both of you out to dinner on behalf of the Reformed students at Liberty. I suppose that opportunity is gone as well (if you ever come, it's a standing offer!). Thank you both for your ministries and the way this situation is being handled. In an environment like LU, characterized largely by ignorance of, and therefore to some extent hostility towards, Reformed theology, it is crucial that Reformed students be loving, kind and gracious when they present their views (if they are granted an opportunity). So I am very grateful that both of you men have honored the qualifications of your office and modeled a proper response to a very difficult situation. I greatly looked forward to at least meeting both of you men personally and hope that, somehow, I may eventually have that opportunity. Sempre Reformanda, Samuel J. Loncar
#2 Very sad for us here at Liberty. I think some momentum for a very good reformed turnout was underway, despite Dr. White's prescient warning not to come. Our family was looking forward to this in ways most of you cannot imagine. The oppression here has caused some tender souls to crack under the stress of isolation and peer pressure. It brings grief to my soul that our administration has committed itself to a theology that is a Frankensteinian hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism. How I wish we could speak as brothers concerning the profound mysteries of God's grace, in humility. Instead, Open Theism and new age psychosurgery are "infecting" the classrooms by way of textbooks. You might say our theology has no immunity to such an attack, lacking as it does the antibodies of the attributes of a truly sovereign God. Could I propose, Dr. White, that you emulate Billy Graham, just this one time, by coming to our modern theological equivalent of "Laugh-In," and just trust God that He will make His own case despite the irreverence of our "show?" No? I didn’t think so. But I had to ask. Limited (Definite) Atonement is the big problem here. The administration is only too happy to invoke the sovereignty of God occasionally as appropriate, but in recent months it has been impressed on us that staying true to the General Atonement is a key mission of the school, literally a part of our identity, to be projected far into the future. Were the debate to go badly for Liberty, it would tend to undermine that perceived mission, which is viewed as critical to the larger mission of world evangelism. Hence, a solid move to Reformed theology would detract from the effort to save the world through the therapy of Open Theism, Feel Good Theism, what have you. Yet just the other day our chancellor referred to the substitutionary atonement of Christ, apparently disregarding the Calvinistic history of that term, not to mention the direct inference that assertion has, that any sin paid for in Christ is a closed account, and cannot be reopened by some theoretical act of human will. There are good intentions here. And I know even now, God will do as he pleases among the inhabitants of Lynchburg. Therefore, we will march on. But know that we are very sad not to have y'all as our guests a week from Monday. The good news is, at least now I won't have to cut class to attend the most famous debate that never happened. Unless ...
#3 Here is one extremely positive and important benefit of such a debate. At LU, students are constantly lied to. Yes, lied to. Historic Reformed theology is mocked and ridiculed, misrepresented and abused, by a popular professor who also happens to be the Dean of our seminary. Most student who listen to Caner and think they can trust him, hardly an unwarranted assumption given his position, then form an opinion of Reformed theology that is entirely defective. Having two godly, knowledgeable man who hold the position that Caner misrepresents give an accurate and fair portrayal of Reformed theology would, by itself, make the debate worth having. People would at least get an accurate articulation of Reformed theology from its adherents, rather than from a man who thinks Piper and his theology is a "virus" that "kills" churches and abuses his authority as a professor by making fun of adherents of a position when they cannot in any way defend themselves.
#4 As a junior at Liberty University who has heard Dr. Caner speak on many occasions, it's a shame to see the chain of events that culminated in the debate being called off, but I can't say I'm surprised. Admittedly I have cynical tendencies, but when I first learned about the debate from Pastor Ascol back in May, my immediate mental response was "Caner? He doesn't debate, he rants." I'm going to be careful in my choice of words here, but in 3 years spent here, my personal opinion of Dr. Caner has been steadily declining. I don't claim to know him personally or speak to his character, I'm only speaking to what I have observed. He displays a great level of arrogance and pride; are they outward evidences of an internal disposition or simply his speaking style, I don't know, but I can see the person he presents. Beginning this year he has delivered the message in our Wednesday night campus church services. Just about every message includes some form of slam on Calvinists, beginning with the first message of the year where he addressed the freshman about the types of people they will encounter in college. One of these types was "Calvinist Kyle" who will go out of his way to debate you any chance he gets. On several recent occasions he mentioned the debate with "hyper-calvinists". Most recently in SuperConference in the context of trends in the church and God's unchanging nature among other points. I couldn't hear all of what he said due to applause, but he mentioned something "those hyper-calvinist boys", trends, and John Piper. I haven't found a video to verify the exact quote so I won't say anything further about that particular service. It would be impossible for many reasons, memory not the least, to list three years worth of examples. Every time he gets up to speak I say to myself "Maybe this time will be different", and I have yet to be right. The one thing I'd like everyone to know is that the conduct and views of Dr. Caner do not necessarily and rarely do represent the entire student body. There will always be students who don't think for themselves (I refer to them as the Liberty Lemmings, and their number is far too high) and take Dr. Caner's words as gospel truth, but there are others who attempt to spread truth. At least one professor that I am aware of teaches Theology from a balanced perspective (Being a Presbyterian himself), and I recommend him to everybody who takes the class. With all that said, despite my dislikes about many things that go at Liberty, I still love it here. As a Prayer Leader on my hall last year and a Spiritual Life Director in my dorm this year, (http://tinyurl.com/r7fth if you really want to know that those titles actually mean) my ministry in individual lives remains just as important, and I can't let my opinions of the administration dampen my fervor for the hearts and lives of those placed in my care. Jedidiah Brightbill


Blogger ajlin said...

The fact that Ergun Caner posted what appears to be an advertisment for the Oct. 16 debate on his blog yesterday- or at least after we talked on Saturday (and why does the date attached to the post read Sept. 15?)- is that some form of gloating, or is he somehow unaware that there's no debate, or what?
It's kinda hard to tell, as he doesn't allow comments on his site.

10/09/2006 05:52:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...


If I am not mistaken, the announcement Ergun made on his blog is dated September 15, 2006. He did say that he was planning to have a live video feed of the debate through his blog, which, one might expect, should gain a large audience. As far as I can tell, neither of the Caners have said anything publicly since the debate was called off nor have they talked to Tom or James despite the numerous emails sent to them. According to White, the only correspondence he has received was from Emir who capitulated to O'Donnell and agreed with the new changes unilaterally made by him (O'Donnell), thus reneging on the agreement he made with the others and going against his own word.

10/09/2006 08:37:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

Update from Ergun Caner's website:

Calvinist Debate Cancelled by Hyper-calvinist

James White backs out of the debate. Refused to submit to moderator rules. Details will follow tonight.

I have commented on this over at Founders blog and won't elaborate any more right now. Needless to say, this is all so sad.

10/09/2006 11:44:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

And here is James White's initial response:

After Many Weeks of Silence...

Personally, I think it is somewhat symbolic of not only the past eight months worth of attempted interaction, but of the entire situation in seeking to have meaningful debate and biblically-based dialogue with the opponents of God's freedom in salvation in the Southern Baptist Convention. You've read the e-mail I posted that was sent to all parties; you've read the immediately preceding article in which I documented various of the aspects of the recent situation leading to the cancellation of the debate. You will note that in all of this, Ergun Caner was silent, and has been silent for a number of months, actually (all replies came from Emir, not Ergun). So what would the first statements by the President of Liberty Seminary be like? Would they be focused upon issues, providing insight and helpful context, free of insults or name-calling? Well, we no longer have to wait. Compare and contrast, if you will. I hardly need provide more commentary:

Calvinist Debate Cancelled by Hyper-calvinist

James White backs out of the debate. Refused to submit to moderator rules. Details will follow tonight.

10/09/2006 11:50:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

Well, while James White can't get any communication from Ergun Caner, some others have received immediate responses from Caner himself. Here are two:

Ergun Caner's responses . . .

1. Deal with the truth, whether you like it or not. Just because JW has a problem with authority, and would not submit to a moderator, we are not debating.

He whined about the first thesis.
He whined about the second thesis.
He whined about the time.
He whined about having someone else (other than him) in charge.

Anyone who holds to predestination to hell is hyper-Calvinist. Even
Spurgeon said so. Deal with it.

Whosoever will:



2. I am standing right here.
I am ready for the debate.

Just because JW has a problem with authority, and cannot manipulate the
situation, he backs out.


Anyone who holds to predestination to hell, and the possibility of
infant damnation, even in theory, is a hyper Calvinist.

He is hyper Calvinist. Now everyone knows it.


10/09/2006 01:49:00 PM

Blogger J. Gray said...

I'm disappointed. But to be honest, I'm not shocked.

One of the students at Liberty hit the nail on the head: caner doesn't debate, he rants.

It's true. He rants, nothing more. His "sermon" on calvinism = rant, not a sermon. His talks anywhere I've seen or heard him have been rants.
This plays well with the SBC bigwigs because he rants on the same things they rant on...only louder and meaner.

So, I'm not shocked that he has constantly misrepresented others (is that lying or bearing false witness or both?), I'm not shocked he went back on his word, and I'm not shocked this debate won't happen.
It seems to fit with what we've seen from him in the past.

The sad part is that his misreprensentations and charcter assasinations will still stand...and be perpetuated by the SBC bigdogs, with no real rebuttal.

10/09/2006 02:35:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

And now an official word from Ergun Caner:

A Statement from Ergun Caner regarding the Baptists and Calvinism Debate

The definition of revisionist history is often as simple as someone wanting it to be true.

As I have the entire Reformed community up in arms over my statement concerning the debate, I would simply like to put an end to the speculation. On Friday as I was flying to a speaking engagement I was informed by my office that Drs. White and Ascol (either one or both of them) objected to the rules established by the moderator, Brett O’Donnell. My answer then is the same as my answer now. Whatever the moderator stipulated I would agree to. As I was between flights to my final destination I discovered that Dr. White had dictated a deadline of 5:00pm. When I landed at my final destination, they had cancelled the debate. They had refused to come. I am disappointed but not surprised.

Dr. White didn’t like the original thesis. He complained.

He didn’t like the length of the debate. He complained.

He didn’t like the format. He complained.

We agreed to the new thesis. And he complained again.

We created a promotion piece. They even complained about the poster.

Now, in attempting to manipulate the proceedings, he actually wanted to tell the moderator how to moderate the debate.

I am not surprised when James White attacks me or my brother. I am disappointed when he attacks the character of Brett O’Donnell. Brett O’Donnell has won almost 20 National Debate Championships, defeating Harvard, Yale, etc. As an expert in debate, and more importantly, as a Christian gentleman, he did not deserve this type of abuse by James White.

So … it’s cancelled. They quit. Either Dr. White or Dr. Ascol, or both decided they didn’t want to debate under those rules. It’s as simple as that. I am unsure if James White has a problem with authority or simply doesn’t like to debate unless he can manipulate the proceedings to his advantage. The rules established by Brett O’Donnell would have been limiting to my brother and myself as well; the difference is, we didn’t whine and we didn’t quit.

This sad chapter is behind us, and I go back to being the President of a Seminary that stands firmly on the side of general atonement, like 90-95% of the Southern Baptist Convention. Let the Calvinists and the Hyper-Calvinists fight over the remaining 5-10%.

Incidentally, this Sunday night at 6:00pm Dr. Emir Caner will be preaching at Thomas Road Baptist Church, and he will address this topic. I will be there. Whosoever will may come.

Ergun Caner

p.s. – If you have the desire to send me 30-page long emails, please don’t. My answer to you will be the same as it has been in this letter. We are ready, Emir and I are there; we weren’t the ones who quit.

10/09/2006 09:06:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

To keep you updated, here's White's response:

The Caner Spin

I get the feeling Ergun Caner is spending a good deal of time at his computer today. However, all of the responses I have seen so far sort of neglect one little thing: the facts. Instead, he seems intent upon redefining theological terms and misrepresenting others, a sad consistency in what we have seen from the President of Liberty Seminary over the past number of months. The "hyper-Calvinist" label seems to be all he can come up with. For example, he wrote to Gary Fox,

I am standing right here.
I am ready for the debate.
Just because JW has a problem with authority, and cannot manipulate the situation, he backs out.
Anyone who holds to predestination to hell, and the possibility of infant damnation, even in theory, is a hyper Calvinist.
He is hyper Calvinist. Now everyone knows it.

The "problem with authority" means I did not accept Brett O'Donnell's taking over the debate and throwing out an agreement that even Ergun Caner admitted existed prior to last Wednesday. I am sorry Dr. Caner is choosing to spin this situation and attack me with falsehoods in the process. It only makes the situation worse. I had hoped to not have to do this, but the truth must be known in the face of his falsehoods. Everyone knows he is just throwing dirt with the theological silliness he is putting forth. Remember, this is the man who turned Romans 9 on its head and who teaches his students Spurgeon denied particular redemption. His knowledge of the issues is highly questionable. But let's keep two things in mind, especially for any LU students who might be dropping by to check on the facts of the matter. First, Ergun Caner has been invited at least five times that I know of to debate me one-on-one, and has a standing invitation to do so in just a matter of weeks in Orlando, in fact. If he is, as he says, "standing right here," then I invite him to "stand right there" in Orlando. I have actually agreed to debate him the night before I debate John Shelby Spong. Why? Well, Michael O'Fallon at Sovereign Cruises has already paid for the 1200 seat ballroom at the hotel for that night and is willing to accommodate the event. The venue is there, and unlike what has taken place before, we have a long and documented track record in holding to our word and debating fairly. Dr. Caner has none. So, if he is "standing right here" then let him do so in Orlando. I'm willing to do it, is he?

Secondly, we need to establish, with finality, the fact that a signed agreement existed that the Caners reneged upon, even if they are now saying they did so out of some kind of "obedience" to Brett O'Donnell. If it was their view that O'Donnell was in charge of the debate format, why did they bother arguing with us for months on the topic? Why did Emir Caner engage in phone conversations with Tom Ascol if he did not think he had the right to negotiate regarding format and topic? Do the Caners not realize that their current spin means they were negotiating in bad faith only a matter of weeks ago? Such is simply beyond reason. On September 13th Tom Ascol wrote:

I have taken the liberty to go back over Ergun's email from May 11 and have tried to adjust times to fit into a 3-hour allotment. Following are the results. Please let me know if this is acceptable or if we need to make further adjustments. If this is acceptable then we can all begin making preparations accordingly. If it is not, please make adjustments as soon as possible. Thanks!
As has been the case all along, it took quite some time to get a reply, but Emir Caner did, in fact, respond on 9/27. I am providing a screen shot because Emir Caner includes his signature as a graphic in his e-mails. He has a distinctive sign-off, and anyone who has received an e-mail from him will recognize that this is, indeed, his affirmative, his signature.

According to my system, six minutes (not two weeks) after I received Emir's note, Tom replied,

Thanks, Emir. I will plan accordingly.

Those are the facts. Now, if Dr. Caner wants to ask his readers to believe that our refusal to allow that agreed upon format, order, etc., to be thrown out unilaterally less than two weeks before the debate means we are "backing out," well, he doesn't seem to have a lot of respect for the insight and intellect of his readers. Nor does his constant reference to me as a hyper-Calvinist say much for his view of simple gentlemanly behavior and honesty, let alone for his own scholarship. If Dr. Caner cannot accurately identify the theological position of a Reformed Baptist elder who is active in his own area of expertise (i.e., apologetics with reference to Islam), how can we trust what he says on almost any other subject? This must be the question being asked in Lynchburg by those concerned with the integrity of the seminary located there.

Finally, I would direct anyone interested to my response to Ergun Caner's sermon at the Thomas Road Baptist Church earlier this year wherein he hammered away on the "infants who die in infancy" issue, assuming, incorrectly, of course, that it is definitional of our disagreements. It is not, nor is it the simplistic issue Caner makes it out to be (if you are comfortable making abortion the greatest heaven-filling device ever devised by man, then go ahead and take the simple route. If you are not, you might want to consider giving God the same freedom in saving infants He has in saving adults in light of the reality of the doctrine of original sin and the fact that even infants, fallen sons and daughters of Adam, would require the positive extension of grace to receive salvation). I addressed the topic during the course of the program. I invite in particular LU students or anyone who is in agreement with Ergun Caner, but who has never taken the time to listen to the other side, to download my reply to Ergun Caner's sermon.

10/09/2006 09:12:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

Oh, and concerning the LU debate team being ranked #1, there are several places "debate" their status and renown.

Check out the following:






10/09/2006 09:18:00 PM

Blogger Stephen Newell said...

Sounds as if Falwell and Co. are taking a little too much pride in being merely a statistical #1. Also sounds as if everyone else is making too big a fuss over someone who's just a statistical #1. Just look at poor Georgia, getting run over by Tennessee in the second half.

10/10/2006 09:48:00 AM

Blogger BK said...

Timmy ... I love it, I just saw your quotation of this comment that Ergun made:

"Incidentally, this Sunday night at 6:00pm Dr. Emir Caner will be preaching at Thomas Road Baptist Church, and he will address this topic. I will be there. Whosoever will may come."

Does Ergun realize that not all people are able to come for a variety of reasons? Does that make his offer any less genuine, given that Ergun surely knows there are people who can't make it?

Gotta love it :)

-- Brian

10/10/2006 01:34:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for the accurate documentation and the faithfl reproduction of the Liberty student e-mails. This whole affair saddens me a great deal.

Martin Luther stood at the Diet of Worms and when asked to recant his positions said, "unless convinced by Scripture and right reason, I cannot, I will not, recant."

Just once, and I though this would be the time, I would like to see an anti-Calvinist (by Caner's testimony he is not an Arminian, though I have no idea what a "moderate Calvinist" is) stand up and attempt to refute the Doctrines of Grace using Scripture and sound reason. Stop the rhetoric, stop the straw men and the ad hominem, and open their Bibles, apply some hermeneutics and sound exegesis, and defend their position.

Alas, this was not meant to be. I am ready, as I am sure all Calvinists are, to renounce our beliefs if we can be shown from Scripture and sound reason that we are biblically incorrect. Unfortunately, that cannot be done, nor have I even seen it seriously attempted from those who are in opposition.

In Him,

10/13/2006 01:59:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


Great words man. I totally agree with you. I get so tired of hearing people say that Calvinism is a philosophical, man-made system and is not biblical.

Here's the deal. Those who want to refute Calvinism with the Bible simply cannot, so the way to win the argument is to be louder and more forceful in your argument in hopes that people will be convinced in spite of the absence of truth. Therefore, the content of the rhetoric and rants are deficient historically, superficial theologically, and boxed philosophically, resulting in caricatures, straw men, ad hominems, etc.

Oh well. Maybe one day we can get a fair, level-headed, reasoned, and biblical argument against Calvinism. But we should not expect to get that from "moderate Calvinists" or "biblicists" (as Jerry Vines would like to call them), or those who don't know the difference between a Calvinist or a hyper-Calvinist. As long as they are consulting Dave Hunt, Norm Geisler, Fisher Humphreys, et al., we cannot expect anything less.

10/13/2006 04:15:00 PM


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