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 didnâ€™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