Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I haven’t attempted to follow every twist and turn of the Caner scandal. It’s something I encounter in passing because I frequent certain blogs.

There may be exceptions that I’m unaware of, but from what I’ve seen, the Calvinists are Caner’s opponents of Caner while the anti-Calvinists are his supporters. It’s like a play in which all of the actors are typecast.

Incidentally, if anti-Calvinists really have the freedom to do otherwise, you have to wonder why they’re so predictable in situations like this. But I digress.

Anyway, one of the attempts to deflect attention away from Caner’s conduct is to say that criticism of Caner is driven by a theological agenda, or even a personal vendetta. So let’s evaluate that charge:

1.In a fallen world we frequently see a competitive group dynamic at work. Each team is apt to automatically excuse the conduct of its own players while it attacks the real or alleged misconduct of the opposing team.

In one sense this is unfortunate. It reflects blind group loyalty.

On the other hand, it has the fringe benefit of providing an informal system of checks and balances. To the extent that one team refuses to police its own players, it’s useful to have unsympathetic outsiders who provide a counterbalance.

A dramatic case in point is the Catholic abuse scandal. Catholic apologists complain about how the liberal media is using this scandal as a pretext to either discredit the church of Rome or liberalize its policies. And, to some degree, that is undoubtedly true. But imagine how much worse the situation would be if you left it up to the hierarchy to patrol its own. We’ve all see how that works out.

If would be preferable if most folks weren’t so partisan, but as long as that’s the case, then it’s better to have partisans who keep an eye on each other’s affairs rather than have each side occupy secret compounds where you can get away with anything behind closed doors.

2.Apropos (1), it is duplicitous of anti-Calvinists to blame Calvinists for doing what the anti-Calvinists refuse to do. If the anti-Calvinists refuse to police their own, then, of course, that task will fall to unsympathetic outsiders.

Let’s to back to the example of the Catholic abuse scandal. It’s duplicitous for “good Catholics” to do nothing meaningful to rectify the problem, then complain when outsiders take advantage of their negligence. If you are derelict in your duty, then you’re in no position to object case somebody else sounds the alarm. If you don’t want outsiders to exploit the situation, then fix it yourself.

3.I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an element of payback in this situation. Assuming that’s the case, is that wrong?

I suppose that hovering in the background of this allegation is the suggestion that White is being vindictive, which violates the Biblical prohibitions against private vengeance. If that’s the insinuation, let’s consider that for a moment.

4.First of all, we need to guard against the temptation of trivializing what the Bible forbids. This isn’t a literal blood feud. So let’s be clear on what the Bible actually prohibits. It’s not a case of: “You done me wrong, so now I’m gonna kidnap your children to exact revenge!”

5.In addition, even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that personal motives figure in this dispute, that’s not all there is to it by any means.

After negotiations over the ill-fated debate fell through, Caner and his supporters couldn’t let it go. They’d periodically taunt and attack White, Ascol, et al.

If Caner and his supporters had left White (and other participants) alone, that might well have been reciprocated. But if you continue to provoke and attack the other side, then they can’t leave you alone even if they want to since you refuse to leave them alone. It takes two to play tit-for-tat. Unless you break it off, you are spoiling for blowback.

6.Finally, this is a theological dispute, and–what is more–this a dispute which spills over into church politics. The future of the SBC is at stake.

So there’s more to it than rhetorically volleys back and forth. Take Paige Patterson. He uses his official position to actively persecute Calvinists. Power politics. Winners and losers. The destruction of careers.


  1. Great post, Steve. I like your clear and thoughtful analysis. But there's one part near the end where I thought there might be some hyperbole:

    "The future of the SBC is at stake."

    Is that really true? It seems like an overstatement.


    "Is that really true? It seems like an overstatement."

    Not at all. What will be the dominant theology in the SBC? What will be taught in SBC seminaries and colleges? Will it be Calvinism, Fundamentalism, or both?

  3. The dominant theology in the SBC is something called soul competency that even the bravest of the New Calvinists is too scared to touch. Even Founders promotes it.

    Soul competency is the unbiblical nonsense that "all persons have an inalienable right of direct access to God." The SBC sees this as distinctive and as such it promotes quack theology.