Monday, October 09, 2006

UnHoly War: Systemic Unholiness and Anti-Calvinism - A Commentary on the White-Ascol Caner Debacle

I've been asked to comment on this topic. There are those who have observed and noted that this is a systemic problem. I'll reproduce what they have said to me and then follow with my (lengthy) reply.

I'm not as directly involved in some of these disputes. It's just something I monitor from time to time. And, as a result, I have formed a broad impression. What I notice is what seems to be an emerging pattern on the part of many fundamentalist critics of Calvinism. Examples include the Caners and other players at Liberty U, as well as Dave Hunt, along the two guys you were dueling with at Strangebaptistfire, in addition to the KJV-only crowd. These are a few examples which come to mind.

And this is a systematic lack of simple honesty. To begin with, these critics don't seem to feel that they are under any obligation to acquaint themselves with the actual position of the opposing side by consulting the opposing side. Moreover, when their straw man arguments are corrected, they continue to retail the very same straw man arguments.

And I think this raises a more general question: why do certain fundamentalist leaders or spokesmen feel that a Christian doesn't have to be honest? Why to they act as if they are exempt from doing the right thing? Why do they think that even after their error is pointed out to them repeatedly, it's okay for them to brush off correction and continue with business as usual?

It looks to me as if this attitude has been very entrenched. It's become so habitual that it's expected. This is their standard modus operandi. Dr. White has often had to discuss this at a specific level, but I think we're at the point where this needs to be addressed at a separate issue. How did this behavior come to be acceptable in their theological circles?

What we're dealing with here goes to a fundamental breach of holiness. Pervasive dishonesty is unholy. And that brings me to a second point: is there something about easy believism and the antinomian version of eternal security which is feeding into what has evolved into a theological culture of unholiness? Where the idea of holiness in word and deed is no longer an essential ingredient of Christian ethics and the walk of faith? Is there's something about popular fundamentalism which selects out for contrition and spiritual self-examination by cultivating a shallow notion of conversion as well as a superficial notion of piety?

I think this attitude needs to be confronted at a general level and on a regular basis. From what I can tell, it has become endemic among certain fundamentalist leaders and spokesmen. Second nature. To take an invidious comparison, I've reminded of the way the liberal media automatically discounts Muslim violence. After all, they're just Muslims! What do you expect?

On a related note, a guy like Dr. White couldn't be habitually dishonest even if he wanted to be. That's because White is a public debater.When you're a public debater, when you engage in a public debate before a live audience, with cross-examination, and a public record of the event (audio,dvd/transcript), you leave yourself very exposed. You can't hide behind a keyboard. You can't play to a sympathetic clique. You can't choose what questions to answer, and what questions to duck.If you duck a tough question, everyone will see the dodge for what it is. The dynamic is completely different. It forces a measure of accountability. A debater doesn't have to answer a tough question, but if he's evasive, it will show. If he's evasive, he will pay a price in the court of public opinion. He will disillusion some of his one-time supporters. That is undoubtedly a major reason why some of White's most vociferous opponents avoid getting into a setting where they are not in control of the variables.


The examples would be used to make a larger point. Although it cannot be prevented, this behavior should not be allowed to go unnoticed or unchallenged. Rather, it needs to be highlighted and challenged on a regular basis. Not just in the narrow terms of backing out of a debate and then blaming the opponent, but as a separate issue of whether a Christian is called to a life of holiness. For honesty in word and deed is a necessary ingredient of holiness.
I've tried to stay out of this fray for the past few months. I'm one of the ones that, in the back of my mind, thought they'd find a way to back out. This is, in my opinion, common currency in the SBC at present in some respects.

In the past, we in or formerly of the SBC have observed good men mowed down by third parties doing the dirty work of others. Misrepresentations of their views abound in the wake of those episodes. "Did you know that so and so believes such and such?" Then the judge's gavel comes down, and the man and/or his church and his associates are systematically ostracized.

The blogs have changed this, as has the internet. Men like Ergun Caner and the trustees of the IMB can't hide anymore. The news about what they have done travels too quickly. In Dr. Caner's case, he seems to have a habit of opening his mouth without thinking first. On the one hand, I feel like I'm watching the followers who don't match up to their predecessors. The architects of the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC were never this sloppy. What's more, they were more diplomatic, though I'm well aware of underhandness that went on many times that is traceable, at least in part, to one particular character. On the other hand, I'm tempted to see this as the logical outworking of a culture that promotes baptizing a million while your own church continues to decline; a culture where the church with 200 faithful members and 50 extras every week is called a "failure" and "unevangelistic" whereas the church that baptizes 300 people in a year, and only 30 are added to the attendance in the process is called a success. This is what happens when you baptize the unconverted.

Baptist churches are congregational, at least for the most part. I lay this at the feet of members who look the other way as long as the numbers are up. I lay this at the feet of a faculty and staff at LU that doesn't sit Ergun Caner down as a group. President or not, and tell him to knock it off, because he is dragging down the whole institution. I especially chalk it up to Dr. Falwell, who is both Chancellor of the university and senior pastor of the church to which the university and seminary are attached. He needs to do the work of a pastor, and not the CEO of a multinational corporation. I feel like I'm watching a "sanctified" (and I use this term broadly) version of Enron unravel. Why should the greater society listen to us, when this is the way our "leaders" (and use this term even more broadly) behave? Why is it that Dr. White is the bad guy, when he's the one standing up for integrity?

What's more it seems these anti-Calvinist rants are more personal than anything else. Perhaps these men feel threatened. Let's face it, the John Pipers and John MacArthur's of this world are few and far between. These rants often come from men in the large churches. To some extent, I know it comes from the smaller ones, but the most vocal persons come from men with large ministries. What do they fear? A loss of numbers? Well, might I ask which is more successful? 1600 members with 250 showing up, 200 of whom are members, or a church of 200 members, with 250 showing up, 200 of whom are the members? On this level these persons remind me of fast food addicts. They've grown up on Big Macs and fries for so long that they don't want to give up their Super Size options. They've grown fat in the process and don't want to change the menu to a healthier option. When Mommy and Daddy tell them they are going to go to Subway instead, they throw a temper tantrum in the corner. It's disgusting. They need a spanking.

However, all that said, this isn't necessarily a new thing. In the 19th century Russell Reneau tried to exterminate Calvinism too. Never heard of him before? Well, consider that nobody reads him today, but lots of folks know who P.H. Mell is. Mell rebutted Reneau in his own body of writing. In doing this, he prophetically said, "Calvinism has never heard of him before, and if its advocates ever think of him hereafter it will never be in a connection flattering to his vanity." http://www.founders.org/library/mell1/predest.html The same is true of Ergun Caner, Dave Hunt, and the rest.

What Mell says in Predestination and the Saints' Perseverance is worth noting because, if one didn't know it, one would think that he was writing today and addressing Ergun Caner or Dave Hunt (emphasis mine):

The following tract appeared, first, in weekly numbers, in the columns of "The Christian Index", and is republished, with slight alteration and addition, at the request of many brethren. The controversial feature is retained, not because it is thought that Mr. Reneau's name will add any dignity to it, but because,


1. I have not time to re-write it.

2. If all allusion to Mr. R's publication were removed, it would lack congruity and completeness. It discusses Predestination and the Saint's Perseverance, because they are the doctrines assailed; and it is ostensibly confined to a consideration of Mr. Reneau's arguments.

3. Those who have requested its re-publication desire it to retain its original form. Mr. R's production, which it reviews, has been extensively distributed through parts of Georgia and Tennessee and has been lauded as a complete refutation of Calvinism. It is thought, therefore, that, in such localities, it is better calculated to do good in its present form. Besides, men are more likely to read an argument when it is associated with controversy than when it is presented in the form of abstract discussion.


I have been pained to notice, for some years past, on the part of some of our ministers, in some localities in the South, a disposition to waive the doctrines of Grace in their public ministrations. While some have been entirely silent about them and have even preached, though not ostensibly, doctrines not consistent with them, others have given them only a cold and half-hearted assent, and some few have openly derided and denounced them. This, in many cases, has resulted, doubtless from a lack of information and from an apprehension, therefore, that the doctrines of Grace are synonymous with Antinomianism. For this reason, I have thought that a concise and popular exposition of those doctrines was urgently demanded. It is true, there are many able treatises on them, extant; but, they are all locked up in voluminous Bodies of Divinity and, therefore, not accessible to the general reader. I confess, then, that it was to supply, to the extent of my ability, this demand and to counteract, as far as I was able, the tendencies to Arminianism, that I took up my pen. For this purpose, I was glad that the pretext of answering Mr. Reneau was afforded me; and, with this object in view, I extended the discussion on the subject of Predestination beyond Mr. R's objections. Should this publication have the effect to confirm my brethren in the faith once delivered to the Saints and serve, in any degree, to counteract the tendencies in our midst to Arminianism, I shall have accomplished my main design in writing.

Of course, it will be understood that the term, Calvinism, is used in conformity to custom and not to imply that the doctrines embraced in it originated with the Genevan Reformer.

...

This is a pamphlet of twenty-eight pages and contains the substance of two sermons delivered in various parts of Middle Georgia in 1849. They created quite a sensation at the time, and their author, having no further use for them for the pulpit, has slightly expurgated them, and the world is now blessed with them in a more permanent form. They are designed as attacks (in their author's opinion, it would seem, very effective ones) upon the Calvinistic doctrines of Predestination and what is called, the Final Perseverance of the Saints. There is nothing original about them, excepting the spirit that is exhibited and some ingenious misapprehensions of the plain language of Calvinistic writers, which no one before has been so constituted as to fall into. Leaving these out of view, the remaining is made up of arguments in a diluted state, borrowed, without acknowledgment, from standard Arminian writers; and if we were assured that our readers are in possession of the authors on the Calvinistic side of the question, we should consider ours (excepting in so far as we may be performing a service to our author) a work of supererogation. This publication, we suppose, is but an earnest of what is to follow as we are told on page 1: "We are determined that if it (Calvinism) lives any longer than we do that it shall not be our fault." We hope that on this announcement, our Calvinistic readers will not give way to unnecessary alarm: Calvinism had survived Arminius, and Whitby, and Wesley, and Fletcher, and Watson, and a host of other able assailants. Let us live in hopes, therefore, that it may possibly survive even Mr. Reneau.


Our author, however, has formally declared war against Calvinism and, in effect, announced that he has not only drawn his sword but thrown the scabbard away. The war under his direction, is to be of the most sanguinary character. Nothing short of complete extermination will satisfy him. "We have determined that if it (Calvinism) lives any longer than we do that it shall not be our fault." No quarter is to be granted perhaps none is to be asked. Conscious of his strength, he may be confident that he will occupy the victorious position of Samson when in triumph he sung: "With the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men;" or perhaps, like the same Samson in adversity, he anticipates that, by a mighty effort of strength, he will rejoice to overwhelm in one common destruction both himself and his enemies. However this may be, we confess it shocks us to hear such a blood-thirsty determination announced. There are to be granted no terms of honorable capitulation -- the forces of Calvinism are not to be cheered with the hope that, if it come to the worst, they can save their lives by surrendering at discretion. Entreat as piteously as they may for mercy it is in no case to be granted them. The lifeblood of one or both, it is sternly decided, must water the ground! Is not this the nineteenth century? Has not the savage ferocity of war been mitigated by the spirit of the Gospel and by the humanizing influences of advancing civilization? We hope our author, for his own sake, will reconsider this determination. It may make Calvinism desperate. If he has no bowels of mercy and no respect for "the spirit of the age," -- if none of the softer or the nobler motives can influence him, then let prudence and sound policy cause him to haul down that blood-red flag If he has unrelentingly determined that the forces of Calvinism shall, in no case, be prisoners on parole, let them have the consolation to know that they shall be prisoners of some sort, or they will sell their lives as dearly as possible.


But, after all, we are more than half inclined to think that the danger to Calvinism from him has its existence only in our author's harmless self-complacency. That he considers himself a warrior of no inferior stamp -- destined to achieve victories which no polemical hero before him (he tacitly acknowledges) has been adequate to, is abundantly evident, not only from this, but from other passages of his production; but we see no reason why any else should labor under the same delusion -- surely there is none to be found in the performance before us. It is no uncommon thing for men to "think of themselves more highly than they ought to think." Where they are composed of materials suitable for the purpose and placed in a favorable position, a very little encouragement makes them in fancy swell out beyond all reasonable proportions: and there is no conception of themselves too exalted for them to entertain. Herod, while listening to the adulation of his courtiers, fancied himself a God; and a wise king of Macedon, aware of his propensity of poor human nature, enjoined it upon one of his household to repeat to him daily, "Remember, O King, that thou art mortal!" We are not quite sure that a monitor of the same kind would not be of service to our author?


Notwithstanding, however, he broadly intimates that he has much confidence in his success, his language would seem to imply that he has some apprehension that he may, after all, fail in his super-human enterprise. "If it lives any longer than we do, it shall not be our fault.'' He will at least make a conscientious use of the strength he possesses. He feels that a solemn responsibility rests upon him in the premises -- that much has been given him and therefore much will be required of him. The blood of all the controversialists flows through his veins -- the strength of all the champions of Arminianism nerves his arm" -- "his height is six cubits and a span" (1 Sam. 17:4), and he is commanded to use his resources for the annihilation of Calvinism. Will he come up to his responsibilities? If he fails it shall not be his fault! But suppose Calvinism should not be accommodating enough to die when he attacks it, how will he infallibly know that he has acquitted himself as in duty bound? We fancy that we see him now harassed by the most painful uncertainty. Some months ago he made his first attack and discharged at his enemy seventy-two paragraphs (all numbered off), and since then silence has reigned over the field of operations. If he fancies that this silence is caused by his complete success and that Calvinism lies among the slain, it becomes our painful office to inform him that it is not dead but sleepeth and that we are the only one of its friends that seem to have been awakened by the noise of the attack! But then what becomes of his conscientious determination so to act as to avoid blame? Could he not have hurled one paragraph more? Did he have no other shot to fire? Perhaps another shot, more lucky than the rest, might have reached his enemy's heart and freed the world of bondage. Why then did he not discharge it? If he did all that he could, what becomes of his ostentatious profession of strength? Verily there seems to be an antagonism here -- Strength vs. Conscience. His exalted conceptions of himself, or his conscience, one or the other, must give way. Our author's estimate of his powers must be lowered, in the present aspect of the case, or (his conscience remaining lively) he must be in the most painful state of uncertainty as to whether he is to be any longer responsible for the existence of Calvinism. Verily, Atlas requires much strength to sustain the weight of the world!


"I am determined, that if it survives my attacks!" Surely Mr. Reneau's perception of the ludicrous must be defective? Calvinism has never heard of him before, and if its advocates ever think of him hereafter, it will never be in a connection flattering to his vanity!


We confidently believe that no publication in the language of the same length, contains as great an amount of bitterness and as many examples of misrepresentation as that upon which we are animadverting. The author seems to have written with the feelings of the man, who having the most self--satisfying confidence in his own prowess, and having ostentatiously called upon the whole world to witness the ease with which he would demolish his antagonist, is made conscious at last of a disgraceful failure, and vents his impotent rage by abusive epithets at a respectful distance. Like the Mexican Chief, who soothed the mortification of repulse by pronouncing the American General so ignorant of military science as not to know when he was defeated -- or, more properly, like the blustering quarrelsome urchin, who said if he could not chastise the larger boy he could make faces at him.


The following examples of his style and spirit, under appropriate heads, are given, not because they are the worst of their kind, but because they are shorter and can be more easily extracted.


His Courtesy and Liberality. -- "But in order to carry out their Calvinistic scheme, this talk, &c., has been made a part of their visionary scheme and theories;" -- "To exhibit still further the mad scheme of this system," &c., p.16. "No man that prefers the truth to his own prejudices, it would seem to us, could doubt that Jesus did intend on this occasion to teach that his disciples might lose their religion." "Calvinists holding on to their error with a zeal worthy of a better cause." -- "if we were to admit this foolish hypothesis." p.19. "No man can mistake here provided his prejudices have not blinded him and so wholly perverted his understanding that nothing could instruct him." p.21. "Is there a man on this Camp-Ground stupid enough to believe such to be the true meaning of these texts of Holy Writ? Every one who has sense enough to know the road to the mill knows better." p.23. "We feel that enough has been said to satisfy every honest enquirer after truth, that it is possible for a man to receive the grace of God in vain and thus perish everlastingly." p.23. "Do Calvinists think the world dull enough to believe that such argument makes out their doctrine?" p.27.


His CANDOR. -- "It is palpable that Calvinists hold that God's elect are ordained to everlasting life without any regard to their Christian character." p.14.


His DOGMATISM. -- "This is indeed a very convenient method of proving an unscriptural doctrine." p.6. "If we believe no more concerning predestination than the Bible teaches, we will never believe the Calvinistic notion on that subject." p.11. "Neither these" (passages of scripture) "nor any others prove anything at all in their favor." p.27.


His REFINEMENT. -- "If a poor reprobate were to commit such crimes, eternal damnation in Hell-fire would be the consequence, but let one of these predestinated pets commit them, and they will have the headache or some other punishment and then bask in heaven's smiles world without end." P. 15.


Any where else than in a sermon, this would be called slang. Other examples under this head we deem it proper to suppress, as they are too gross to meet the eye of our lady readers.


His DEFERENCE TO THE BIBLE. -- "Convince us that Christianity tolerates such things, and we will plead its cause no more." p.15.


Finally, in the way of extracts: "We fear our Calvinistic friends will not easily forgive us for our frank dealing with their favorite doctrines." p.17. "If our Calvinistic brethren feel hurt, they may rest assured that we deliver these sentiments out of no unkind feelings. It is because we thus believe that we thus preach." p. 12. We hope that after this none of our Calvinistic readers will be so unreasonable as to continue dissatisfied. True, our author says that they are "silly" and "dull" and "stupid" and "prejudiced" and "dishonest" and "without sense enough to know the road to the mill", but "it is because he thus believes that he thus writes." Let us, therefore, be grateful for his tenderness and repress our complainings.


The Bible addresses us in plain and intelligible language, While there are many mysteries in it that angels desire in vain to look into and many things difficult to be understood which the perverse frequently wrest to their own destruction, those truths which pertain to eternal life are revealed in the most unambiguous language. God does not dishonor Himself and trifle with His creatures by making their salvation to depend upon the reception of doctrines that are either unintelligible or contradictory. His system of heavenly truth is harmonious and consistent; and revealed with perspicuity and precision. Commencing here on earth with the first "principles of the doctrine of Christ" -- with "repentance from dead works and faith toward God," it ascends a glorious chain, each link shining more brightly as it rises into the pure heavens above until it glitters in the effulgence that shines from God's throne. We are not only commanded to search the scriptures, but we are encouraged by the promise that we shall know if we follow on to know the Lord. Like his sanctification, the path of the Christian's knowledge is as the shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day. God designed that His people should understand His truth-- nay, He has made their salvation to depend upon their belief of it -- and it is His will that they should all come into the unity of the faith, that they should be one as Christ and the Father are one. Why then is there such a diversity of sentiment in the Christian world? Why is it that even evangelical sects draw from the scriptures systems so diametrically opposite? That good men do differ in theological sentiment is indisputable and is as lamentable as it is true; but the reason is not to be found in any ambiguity in the word of God. Some of the difference, perhaps, is to be ascribed to the diversity of their mental constitution and the different way in which the same evidence strikes different minds; much to the force of early bias, to the influence of association, and to the distorted media, therefore through which the truth is seen much to the carelessness with which many read the scriptures and to the indolence which causes them to construct a system out of fragments of Bible truth; but without doubt no inconsiderable part of the disagreement is to be attributed to presumption. Professing Christians (sometimes unconsciously) not infrequently form in advance an idea in their minds -- drawn from the teachings of others or from their own reflections -- of the character of God and of the doctrines which he ought to promulgate and then afterwards consult the Bible to prove that their views are correct; and some carry their presumption to such daring lengths as to reject the Bible if it fails to sustain them in their positions. May not those opinions, which would rob Christ of His divinity, which deny the doctrine of the trinity -- and those others which would make eternal life the portion of all mankind, have their origin here?


While we are far from the bigotry which would make us assert that the denomination to which we belong are the only people exempt from this presumption, and as far from the illiberality which would induce us to apply it to any individual who may differ from us -- while we are free to grant, until evidence appear to the contrary, that all evangelical Christians who differ from us are as honest seekers after truth as we are; we feel no hesitation in placing any one in this category who openly confesses it to be his appropriate place. Such our author has done. He has, in effect, declared that, if it can be shown to him that the Bible teaches Calvinism, he will reject it, and turn his back upon it. "Convince us that Christianity tolerates such things, and we will plead its cause no more." p.15. Like the madman in "The World's Anti-slavery Convention" who said: convince me that the Bible sanctions slavery, and I cast it to the winds and learn my religion from the flowers of the field. The "things" he refers to here are such as he ascribes -- it matters not whether justly or unjustly -- to Calvinists, and which do not therefore, by universal consent, bear upon their face the infallible marks of falsity. Convince him that the sentiments of Edwards, and Doddridge, and Baxter, and a host of other worthies -- who lived in the faith, and who being dead yet speak -- are tolerated by the word of God, and he will plead its cause no more! Verily he has placed himself in a dilemma from which it is impossible that he can be extricated. If he knew in his heart that these sentiments, which were so horrifying to him, were no less decidedly rejected by all other Christians, and that he could therefore with safety stake his reverence for the Bible upon their falsity, then he was guilty of bearing false witness against his brethren. But if he sincerely believed that they were the sentiments of his opponents, then he stands convicted of prescribing terms to Almighty God and of saying to Him that if it can be proved that He sanctions Calvinism, he will plead His cause no more!


He utters a threat that, in a certain contingency mentioned, he "will plead the cause of Christianity no more." It is evidently his intention here that somebody should take warning -- But who? Not his opponents, surely; for if their measure of his efficiency come up to the half his pretensions, they would rejoice that there is a prospect of his quitting the field:(2sp?) not his friends and co-laborers; for they are innocent of any blame in the premises. Against whom then is the threat uttered? Is it possible that our author is unconscious of its impious nature!


The advocates of Calvinism seem to be in a strait here betwixt two. If they permit the argument to go against them by default, they give up what they conceive to be important scripture truth: if they vanquish their assailant, they do it at the expense of making an infidel of him -- or we should rather say, of driving him into open connection with infidels for his threat contains already all the essential elements of infidelity. No explanation can make it much better for him, but we would fain hope, that this sentence escaped him in the heat of chronic passion!


And this is the man that with so much confidence intimates that he is destined to exterminate Calvinism from the land. How will he do it? He has fallen upon a poor expedient to prepare the way for success. We thank God that, in this highly favored land, the doctrine of the Reformation so generally prevails: "The Bible, without note or comment, the only and the all sufficient rule of faith and practice." The people profess to yield themselves with humble submission to the teachings of God's word, and they will say to him and to all others like him. "Let God be true, but every man a liar."


It is a rule in parliamentary proceedings that if the provisions of a bill do not conform to its title, it is to be rejected. Were our author's first sermon tried by the same principle, it would meet with the same fate. It has seldom been our lot to read a production (as far as the argument is concerned) so desultory and incongruous. He uses his arguments in as arbitrary a manner as he does the figures with which he begins his paragraphs. Question them as closely as you may, you will fail to learn from them their adaptation to the case in hand. Old as they are and as much as they have seen of the world, we venture the assertion they have never found themselves in such strange connections before. What dependence they have upon each other and what support they mutually afford, it is difficult to discern. And yet they need all the assistance they can obtain; for, divest them of the martial livery put upon them by their present owner and exorcise them of the evil spirit with which they are possessed, and they are exhibited to be of the most feeble and attenuated nature with hardly strength enough to maintain a perpendicular attitude. Besides, being employed from their youth for other purposes now that old age and hard usage are added to constitutional weakness, they do not possess the flexibility which would make them useful auxiliaries in an employment so contrary to their natures and their habits. Never, perhaps, were very innocent arguments so badly treated. Another example, doubtless, tending to establish the truth of the old saying -- that we esteem that lightly which cost us little.


But, we have said that the production is desultory and incongruous. In the title, the author proposes to attack Calvinistic Predestination; but, in giving a description of it, he defines (in a lame and ungrammatical way) Election; while the attack itself is leveled chiefly at the doctrine of necessity, as opposed to the Arminian idea of Liberty or self-determining power! Why is this? Is it because he is ignorant of that which he professes to assail; or, aping a skillful General, does he design to weaken the point aimed at, by compelling the garrison (as expecting a general attack) to occupy, at the same time, the whole line of defence? Does he amuse us with feigned attacks, that he may mask his real intentions? If so, we submit to him whether this comports with the confidence, more than hinted, that his forces are sufficient, by dint of mere strength, to raze our fortress to its foundations and to put the garrison to the sword? And it may be well, too, for him to bear in mind that, while deceptions on a warlike theatre and on a large scale are called by dignified names and, when successful, are applauded in a more limited sphere, they degenerate into mere tricks which not infrequently bring their perpetrators into merited contempt.


Election and the doctrine of Necessity are important parts of Predestination, but they do not constitute the whole of it. Why, then, did he not give to his readers a definition of Predestination in the very words of its advocates and attempt, fairly and in a manly way, a refutation of it in all its parts and as a whole? Only two suppositions can be given. Either he did not comprehend that to which he was objecting, or he designedly left it in uncertainty that he might avail himself of all the prejudices and misapprehensions of his hearers -- that, by using disjoined parts (and disfigured at that) of the Calvinistic system, united with others of his own invention, he might construct a hideous image (adapting it to his capacity as an adversary) and call it Predestination; and, having demolished this, his depraved creature (to the relief of Calvinists, no less than of Arminians) might set up a shout of triumph, as if he had gained a victory over Calvinism. This course may have been very successful (on a small scale) for the time; but our author will find that it will re-act, with retributive force upon himself. He may have thought, while skipping about, with such marvelous agility over all parts of the field (excepting the right one) -- making so much noise and raising such a smoke- that he would bewilder his adversary and gain the admiration of the lookers-on; and, if he should fail of victory, find at least in the smoke and dust a concealment from the resentment he provoked. But let him know that Calvinism, if it feel so disposed, can trace him out in the deep obscurity he has created, and, having dragged him forth into the light, can bestow upon him before the world the chastisement which will be salutary, not only for his correction, but as a warning to all like him inclined.


Our author possesses some of that ingenuity which is efficient in misrepresenting an opponent and is gifted in no ordinary degree with the powers of denunciation and abuse but he seems to be entirely destitute of analysis. We defy any one to extract a complete skeleton from this sermon. It would seem as if he sat down to write, without any system in his mind and with nothing to guide his ideas but the bitter feelings by which they were impelled. The only difficulties, therefore, in the way of answering his arguments consist 1st -- in finding out what they are, and 2nd -- in perceiving what bearing they have upon the subject after they are discovered. In his title, he essays to give us a treatise on Predestination; but, excepting the arbitrary use of the word, his denunciation is of any other Calvinistic doctrine rather.



Amphora coepit
Institui; currente rota cur urceus exit?

Again, he professes to treat of Calvinistic doctrines; but in his statement of them, he quotes from the writings of Dr. Hopkins! Now, every polemic theologian ought to know that the Doctor was the founder of a distinct school and is not acknowledged as a Calvinist at all. Many of his sentiments doubtless, as well as those of James Arminius, conform to our system; but this makes the one, not more than the other, a disciple of John Calvin. Why, then, is Dr. Hopkins cited in this connection? If he meant not to violate the common principles of fairness, he furnishes us with another instance of his inability to pursue steadily the object before him. Having a grudge against the Calvinists, he belabors the Hopkinsians! Let him take care lest he may by mistake kill the wrong man. That would be very sad and may be, if possible, a source of regret even to him. But, why did he not quote from those exclusively who are universally acknowledged as standard Calvinistic writers? To have done so would have given him less opportunity perhaps for the exercise of his peculiar gifts; but it would have been more candid, and we will say also more manly. It matters not though the language quoted from Dr. Hopkins expressed exactly Calvinistic sentiments; it is enough to know that we are no more responsible for him than we are for Mr. Reneau. And this is another specimen of his candor! It would seem that he is so bent on the destruction of Calvinism as to feel authorized for this purpose to adopt the Roman Catholic principle that the end sanctifies the means. This, however, is not one of the most glaring of the misrepresentations with which his pamphlet abounds. We do not know that it will be of any avail; but we would advise him, hereafter, to take pains in advance to understand any thing before he attacks it and to endeavor to treat his opponents with justice and candor. It may make him feel better and fare better -- "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."

13 comments:

  1. This is a splendid piece of very careful "surgery" on the "sick theology" of so many SBC leaders and members of the local churches affliated with the large Southern Baptist Convention during the
    past one hundred years.

    The important scriptural TRUTH that spiritual salvation is of the Lord, from start to finish, which was once the foundation of our SBC has been neglected in most of our universities and seminaries to the extent that many pastors are sadly ignorant of the TRUTH.

    Some have maliciously maligned and verbally attacked those who of us who remind them of our history.

    Gene M. Bridges,in his lengthy article,shows the tragic danger of this ignorance.

    It is hoped that many will take the time to digest his comments and do all they can to correct the error of the shallow, humanistic teaching so popular and prevalent today.

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  2. Allow me to post a few excerpts from your recent post, Gene.

    And this is a systematic lack of simple honesty. To begin with, these critics don't seem to feel that they are under any obligation to acquaint themselves with the actual position of the opposing side by consulting the opposing side.

    And I think this raises a more general question: why do certain fundamentalist leaders or spokesmen feel that a Christian doesn't have to be honest? Why to they act as if they are exempt from doing the right thing?

    It looks to me as if this attitude has been very entrenched. It's become so habitual that it's expected. This is their standard modus operandi.

    What we're dealing with here goes to a fundamental breach of holiness. Pervasive dishonesty is unholy.

    This is, in my opinion, common currency in the SBC at present in some respects.


    Clearly Gene you are mistaken to suggest dishonesty on the part of these Christians. As we learned from Jason Engwer during our discussion on Eusebius and dishonesty, Eusebius at specific places in his writings actually talks about truth and how it is important. He talks about other virtues as well. Clearly anybody that speaks highly of honesty and truth could never be guilty of dishonesty.

    Don't SBC people routinely talk about honesty and virtue? Doesn't Ergun Caner talk about similar themes? It therefore follows logically that they could never be guilty of pervasive dishonesty. You must be reading them wrong. Let me go see if I can find some commentaries by people deeply committed to the view that the Caners and the SBC are highly virtuous to help you properly understand what their words really meant.

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  3. Allow me to loudly AMEN the concise, correct comments of scripture searcher.

    Good surgery, Gene!

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  4. Jon,

    Sour grapes, man. What's being addressed here has nothing to do with your comments on Eusebius. It has to do with honestly portraying the position of your opponent and then refuting that position. Jason was attempting to accurately state what Eusebius was saying in the statements you quoted, but let's not go over that ground again...

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  5. It's dishonest to link KJV-only with anti-Calvinism. There are plenty of Calvinists that don't want to rely on corrupted texts.

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  6. How does Ergun Caner get by as a professing Christian, much less the president of a seminary, with this deplorable behavior? When Barry Lynn and John Shelby Spong keep their word and make setting up a debate relatively easy, how is it the Caners can be so stubborn and contentious? Ergun's spin on this would be laughable if he wasn't serious. The Caner's have lost all credibility in my opinion...

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  7. hostus twinkius10/10/2006 12:13 PM

    Lance,

    I think we generally link those two together because they're both full of baloney...

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  8. How does Ergun Caner get by as a professing Christian, much less the president of a seminary, with this deplorable behavior? When Barry Lynn and John Shelby Spong keep their word and make setting up a debate relatively easy, how is it the Caners can be so stubborn and contentious?

    Your problem is you expect more of Christians. I expect Christians (particularly apologists) to believe what they want to believe, think what they want to think, despite facts and documentation. The Caner's see what they want to see at Romans 9:11 and with regards to their correspondence with White. They really think they are justified in their behavior. They see in it what they need to see. So I'm not surprised to see Christians acting in this way.

    In my discussions with Jason he's argued that early Christians were men of high moral standards, and thus we can trust them with regards to certain claims (such as Irenaeus claims about the authorship of the gospels) though not other claims for some reason (such as that Jesus lived to his 50's or Papias claim that Judas head swelled to the width of a wagon trail).

    I see no reason to believe that early Christians had high moral standards. Jason points to their statements extolling the virtues of truth, honesty, and so forth. You will find similar statements from the Caner's I'm sure. It means nothing.

    I understand that LU is either the largest evangelical university or maybe the largest Southern Baptist University. I also understand that Jason was raised E-Free, so I assume he generally accepts E-Free theology. I'm not aware of any substantial difference in theology between E-Free and Southern Baptist. If that's true that would mean that the main representatives of Jason's denomination in education are wholly dishonest men. That's my conclusion as I've followed the arguments between the Caner's and White/Ascol. If these men can be dishonest, all the while extolling virtuous concepts, then extolling virtuous concepts does not show you to be honest. Hence we should not assume that the early Christians had high moral standards. And I think it's pretty obvious that they weren't, with rampant forging of documents, rampant modification of copies of canonical texts for theological motives, and later improvements on the gospel story from Mark to Matthew, Luke, and John. You shouldn't assume on the basis of the fact that a person is a Christian that you are dealing with someone more likely to have high moral standards. I don't see it.

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  9. Speaking of dishonesty...Lance Roberts is, I do believe, "ct," aka Michael Dries, or whatever name s/he is using at present. Notice the masculine name for a person that claims to be female. The claim "Lance" about "corrupted manuscripts" is rather humorous from one that changes his or her name so frequently.

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  10. In my discussions with Jason he's argued that early Christians were men of high moral standards, and thus we can trust them with regards to certain claims (such as Irenaeus claims about the authorship of the gospels) though not other claims for some reason (such as that Jesus lived to his 50's or Papias claim that Judas head swelled to the width of a wagon trail).

    Of course, these are not claims made in isolation. Ergun Caner is a living person. Eusebius is dead. You need a reason to declare Eusebius "dishonest." All you have is the evidence of history about them. We have our personal eyewitness experience of this saga. What's more, some of us know these parties personally and have been privy to some of what has transpired.

    I've already dealt with, for example, Iraneus claim about the age of Jesus, and you simply discard it. Iranaeus said what he said against the backdrop of refuting Gnostics with a doctrine of the atonement we know as the recapitulation theory. What you see, therefore, there is a reflection of that. It is an error attributed to a particular interpretation of a text in John's Gospel and is a product of his overall atonement theory. We can also trace his motive for saying it.
    You make broad claims about Eusebius' history based on prejudicial, a contextual quotes, translated by one particular (hostile) person. No, Mr. Curry, these are not remotely the same.

    I understand that LU is either the largest evangelical university or maybe the largest Southern Baptist University. I also understand that Jason was raised E-Free, so I assume he generally accepts E-Free theology. I'm not aware of any substantial difference in theology between E-Free and Southern Baptist. If that's true that would mean that the main representatives of Jason's denomination in education are wholly dishonest men. That's my conclusion as I've followed the arguments between the Caner's and White/Ascol. If these men can be dishonest, all the while extolling virtuous concepts, then extolling virtuous concepts does not show you to be honest. Hence we should not assume that the early Christians had high moral standards. And I think it's pretty obvious that they weren't, with rampant forging of documents, rampant modification of copies of canonical texts for theological motives, and later improvements on the gospel story from Mark to Matthew, Luke, and John. You shouldn't assume on the basis of the fact that a person is a Christian that you are dealing with someone more likely to have high moral standards. I don't see it.

    Wow, there's just so much here that's wrong.

    LU is not a "Southern Baptist University." If you can't get this correct, then what trust should we have in anything else you write. LU began as an independent university. It is not supported by Cooperative Program dollars. You will not find an allotment for it in the SBC budget. You may find an allotment for it in the odd local church budget of churches in certain states, notably Virginia. You may find a budget item for it in one of the 2 state conventions in VA. That would, at best, make it a VA Baptist university, but not for the whole state. That's a far, far cry from "the largest SBC university" or even "an SBC university."

    EFree theology and SBC theology. Well, SBC theology is all over the map. I assume you think EFree is all over the map as well. That is, again, a pretty fundamental distinction you apparently are too lazy to study for yourself.

    If that's true that would mean that the main representatives of Jason's denomination in education are wholly dishonest men.

    Nonsequitur.

    If these men can be dishonest, all the while extolling virtuous concepts, then extolling virtuous concepts does not show you to be honest.Hence we should not assume that the early Christians had high moral standards This, of course, undermines any appeal you make for yourself and your own honesty in the past, now, or in the future. That, in turn undercuts your own reliability. Hence, we should assume that you have no high moral standards based on, well, anything you say.

    And I think it's pretty obvious that they weren't, with rampant forging of documents, rampant modification of copies of canonical texts for theological motives, and later improvements on the gospel story from Mark to Matthew, Luke, and John.

    Oh, goody, Jon Curry wants to make some claims about textual manipulation. Well, let's see them. To know this, you have to have a proper idea of the autographa in order to show deviation. You need to know who changed the text and how it was changed and why it was changed. So, let's see you justify this sweeping claim.

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  11. I already have held a mixed opinion of Jerry Falwell for years, dating back to the PTL Club fiascos. This latest scandal involving LU's seminary president further lowers my opinion of them. I've known plenty of gracious Arminian and Cal-minian brethren. There is no excuse for this chest-beating, bragging, and spin deception, no matter what theological camp you come from.

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  12. Jon,

    Christians are held to a biblical morality as followers of Christ. Overall, Drs. White and Ascol have acted admirably (though perhaps not perfectly or sinlessly) in this whole situation. They have documented what has taken place, and the facts reveal that the Caners' have, in my opinion, soiled their testimony as Christians with their boorish behavior. Expecting more of Christians is not my problem, it is a biblical expectation...

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