Wednesday, March 01, 2006

To Debate or Not to Debate, That Is the Question:

Calvinism Debate Imminent

It appears that while everyone is staying hush-hush right now, Dr. Ergun Caner, Dean of Liberty Theological Seminary on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia and Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries are talking about holding a debate on Calvinism. This is a far cry from what most bloggers assumed would happen, especially after the email discourse between the two seemed to suggest that Dr. Caner was completely unwilling to take Dr. White's challenge. However, Dr. White today on his radio program, "The Dividing Line" hinted that this would be the case. Here is what he said so that you can decide for yourself (approx. 17:50 into it):

I, actually am holding back today on some really big news about a future debate. I'm really holding back because I want to be able to give everything at once, but there could be something coming in the pretty near future like before June-ish I would say that's, uh, going to get a lot of attention. Let's put it
that way. So . . . . just thought I'd mention that.

When the caller to whom he was speaking said that he needed to make sure it was in Southern California, Dr. White had this response:

Ah, no, in fact, I am going to give one hint, because people in my chat channel already know what it is, but . . . I'll give one hint it would be in Virginia. That should be enough to tell everybody actually what's possibly going to be happening . . . I'll leave it at that. All you gotta do is think about what's in
Virginia and what cities are in Virginia and you can figure it out from there. . . Not everything is completely in place yet, so that's why I'm not saying anything more about that.So there you have it.

It seems apparent that a debate with Ergun Caner is imminently upon us. James White is correct when he says that it is going to get a lot of attention. The Patterson/Mohler breakout session coming up at the SBC Pastor's Conference that was first thought to be a debate fizzled when it was revealed that it would be more of a discussion. But you can bet that this will not fizzle. It will be an old-fashioned theological throwdown. And it is likely to make history. Stay tuned for more.


TBlogue Commentary:

1. Will they schedule it at the time of the SBC? Wouldn't that be a hoot. The SBC is in June.

2. I bet Ergun's having a hissy. I just got a confirmation today that Mark Dever has been chosen to run as First Vice President of the SBC in June. This isn't a "wildcard" entry, apparently it has the blessing of our council of cardinals.

3. So is this only going to be on the atonement? Ergun claims he is an Amyraldian, remember. Why would a real Amyraldian have a problem with Points 1,2,4, and 5 of Calvinism?

4. I don't live too terribly far away. I believe I may have to take a drive up there for this one.

5. Keep in mind Ergun endorses Elmer Towns....

Now this is the funny part. In an email that has been made public here:

Ergun says Dr. White is trying get him to debate to promote his new book.

I find your e-mail interesting, in that, at least three times as many e-mails, pastors/laymen have commented on Dr. White acting petulant, with all types of provocation, all in the cause of getting me to debate him so he can sell his latest book (which, interestingly enough, is on the exact text he wants
to debate!)

Notice the double standard. He chastises James White for allegedly wanting to promote his book, while Ergun gets to promote Elmer Towns website. Ergun and his brother say they have debated Muslims ad infintum (and, in fact, they have). Hmmm, I wonder if they held any debates with Muslims when they published any of their books?

As for my Chancellor, he is well aware of this ongoing debate, and, as a Baptist, stands with me. Our Dean of the School of Religion, Dr. Elmer Towns, has written a superb expose on the dangers of Calvinism, which you can view for free on his website ( Feel free to search
the term "Calvinism" under the "Theological Q&A" section.

Uh-huh...Towns says:

Jesus died for all. No man goes to hell for his sin -- people go to hell for unbelief ... they have not believed in Jesus Christ," Towns says. "Therefore, the atonement covers the sin of every person -- but that's not universalism. We must give them the message, they must believe."

So Christ died for all sins except the sin of unbelief? Unbelief is not a sin? If this is the level of thinking of a university chancellor, I have to question his competence. Maybe that's why the people at the BaptistFire website like him so much.

"A person who becomes a five-point Calvinist ultimately becomes a fatalist -- he doesn't take control of his life, he doesn't live for the best of God," he says.

This, of course, is a bold-faced lie. I hardly think anybody on either side of the theological aisle would say the Puritans were fatalists. On the contrary, it is Arminianism that works out to fatalism. After all, if God's foreknowledge is perfect then your foreseen faith is fixed already, but you have contra-causal freedom. Ergo, your faith may be by chance. That works out pretty close to fatalism.

I wonder, does Towns think Shubal Stearns, Daniel Marshall, John L. Dagg, James Boyce, Benjamin Keach, Isaac Backus, Andrew Fuller, etc. were all fatalists that didn't live their best for God?

If Elmer Towns represents sound argumentation, we have to wonder if it is wise for Ergun Caner to debate the issues at all.

Let's take this zinger from Brother Towns' website that says the answers were compiled by himself, Falwell, and two others:

One of the attributes of God is that he is just. That is, God is under no obligation to provide salvation for anyone since all are responsible for their present lost condition. But it is very difficult to see how God can choose some from the mass of guilty and condemned men, and provide salvation for them and
efficiently secure their salvation, and do nothing about all the others; if, as we read, righteousness is the foundation of his throne. God would not be partial if He permitted all men to go to their deserved dooms—but how can He be other than partial if He selects some from this multitude of men and does things for them and in them that He refuses to do for others?

This tells us what Falwell, Wilmington, and Towns who compiled the Q and A section on this at Elmer Towns website have no clue what they are addressing.

The answer is quite simple. Nobody has a just claim on the mercy of God. These men see salvation as a form of remunerative justice. It is "unjust" for God to choose some and not others. If He does so, He is partial.

Problem one: Salvation is in the ethical category of mercy, not justice.

Problem two: How is this partiality if it is not made with reference to anything in that person? Partiality would be God elected on the basis of a condition in that person, like, oh, I dunno, foreseen faith. Everybody believes for a different reason. Where they more spiritual, intellectual, fearful? It is not unjust not to offer salvation to all when nobody has a claim on the mercy of God from the start. Inequality of treatment is only unjust when it denies a party his just claims to something.

Thus no principle of justice is violated here. However, if Jesus dies for all men extensively, under an Arminian theory of the will, God is either exacting double jeopardy on men’s sins by punishing them in hell for something for which Christ has paid and satisfied God’s wrath or by lying to men and telling them that all their sins have been taken by Christ, and then secretly exempting unbelief. That is unjust.

Also, if God says He loves all men redemptively without exception but then some perish apart from ever having heard the gospel, while God says the whole time that He loves everybody the same way, redemptively, God is seen to be unjust for not offering them the gospel. Also, if election is based upon who God knows ahead of time will believe in Christ and who will reject Christ, then what He has done is looked into history and made a decision based upon a person’s acts. Why does one person believe and not another? Were they were more spiritual, smarter, more afraid? Whatever, the reason, God has based His decision on something intrinsic in men, and, since all men are different and believe for different reasons, then God has played favorites based on the intrinsic or extrinsic characteristics and acts of men. This is exactly the kind of favoritism that James denounces in his epistle as being unjust. Thus, it is the free will position that portrays God as playing favorites and acting unjustly toward men. This so basic it barely merits a response.

It is our position that common grace is extended to all and that everyone has an opportunity and the ability to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. It seems to us that only if God makes the same provisions for all and makes the same offers to all, is He truly just.

Problem: Since when did salvation become a matter of common grace? This is theological term with meaning. Common grace is not special grace. It is not effectual grace; it isn't even prevenient grace. This is quite telling indeed. If they aren't redefining terms (to be fair they may mean "prevenient grace" but simply ignore the nomenclature...after all if Ergun can claim to be an Amyraldian, Towns can call prevenient grace common grace, right?) these people really are functional Pelagians. Common grace is extended to all to accept Christ. What have I been saying? These people have no doctrine of prevenient grace and they put both election and regeneration outside a chain effected by grace, for only the cross is in view; ergo they are functionally Pelagian and functionally Unitarian.


Apparently, Dr. Falwell is on the board of this group.

Now, this is rather interesting...Ergun Caner, anti-Calvinist extraordinaire, is at Liberty Seminary, attached to Liberty Baptist Church, an SBC church now, and Falwell is on the board of a group that seem to want to set aside the gospel for sake of Israel's security. I'm all for Israel's right to exist as a nation...but not at the expense of the gospel. Will the "Good Ol' Boys" in the SBC speak up. Dr. Falwell has said that he does not affirm Hagee's theology, but the irony is that he feels quite comfortable acting as a spokesman for evangelical Christianity while sitting on the board of an organization that, it would seem, affirm a dual covenant, if we go by what the folks have written here and here.

Two quotes come to mind:

"We never know what we shall hear next, and perhaps it is a mercy that these absurdities are revealed one at a time, in order that we may be able to endure their stupidity without dying of amazement." (Spurgeon)

"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." (P.H. Mell on anti-Calvinist Russell Reneau).


  1. I saw that garbage about White trying to sell books -- complete slander. Ergun didn't even try to defend it either! Where does he get such info?

    And you said:
    "I wonder, does Towns think Shubal Stearns, Daniel Marshall, John L. Dagg, James Boyce, Benjamin Keach, Isaac Backus, Andrew Fuller, etc. were all fatalists that didn't live their best for God?"

    And those are just a few, not to mention Adoniram Judson, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainard, George Mueller, and Charles Spurgeon. These guys lives will be held up as examples of the Christian life until Christ comes back. See ridiculous statements like this one don't hold up to any legitimate scrutiny.

    BTW, thanks for the link.

  2. If the question is, "To debate or not to debate" I wish "Dr" White would recover from his Rossphobia and respond to Bob Ross.

    The following are remarks by Bob Ross.

    Subject: WHITE SMOKE AGAIN [02/25--2005]


    Today is my birthday -- the 71st. One of my readers sent me some humorous stuff this morning -- I suppose it was for a Birthday Greeting (?).

    It consisted of more confusing smoke signals from the Arizona Reservation of Big Chief Tangle-Tongue Exegete (James White), the foremost Tomahawker and Smoke-Stoker of the "We Were Born Again Before Faith" tribe of "Super-Sized" Hybrid Calvinists.

    Chief James has a daily Smokesite called a Blog from which he often stokes confused theological smoke signals, and today's smoke signal involves yours truly, as follows:

    >>And I guess there is some fellow named "Charles" running about every single blog he can find posting something about Bob Ross (go figure--have to feel sorry for someone who invests their lives in such pursuits). I just checked Steve Camp's blog and read some of "Charles'"comments. Evidently whoever he is he's upset that at some time, years and years ago, I defended John MacArthur against Bob Ross' less-than-fair attacks. That would explain why Ross has since then attacked me on the ordo salutis. Despite Ross' behavior, and his unwillingness to even accept my own profession based upon the LBCF, I have refused to argue with the man. He did a great work many decades ago in printing Spurgeon's materials, and for that past work I have simply said, "Lord bless you, Bob," and left him to rail if he chooses to do so. There is no arguing with someone who says, "Well, you say you believe that, but you really don't."


    The situation with Chief James is, it seems that in his own noggin he is simply "never wrong" -- at least, not on anything of substance -- not even when he puts his foot into his mouth.

    In the case of John MacArthur and the Sonship of Christ view, James scolded me right roundly for my critiquing of MacArthur's former "incarnational sonship" view, and when MacArthur later saw the error of his way and came out publicly for the Confessional view of Eternal Sonship for which we stood, it left poor James "in a pickle." He had "egg on his face."

    Now, in retrospect, instead of simply acknowledging the error of his way, James tries to "explain away" the fact that he put his foot in his mouth in trying to defend MacArthur. Someday we hope he will be conscientious enough to simply say, "Sorry, Bob, I was wrong to say what I did," and James' mind about me will be much more at ease.

    As for the idea that we have ever "attacked" Chief James, we have never attacked anything related to him but what we believe to be his confusing smoke signals, and we believe we have dispelled his smoke in various articles.

    As for James' ongoing crusade in behalf of Hybrid Calvinism on the matter of the New Birth --

    For the benefit of my own readers who may wish to refresh your mind about this Hybrid Calvinism -- which consists of a mixture of Hardshellism and Presbyterianism on the New Birth -- advocated by James White, I refer you to the following website for a few of my smoke-repelling articles about the Big Chief's Hybridism:

    Selected Writings of Bob Ross


    Here are some of the articles on this website which have to do with James White and the "pre-faith regeneration" Hybrid Calvinist heterodoxy:

    CHARNOCK vs SHEDD BERKHOF and Followers

  3. Charles,

    You have, on multiple occasions, been asked to refrain from posting this material on the Reformed blogs. I know for certain Steve Camp has interacted with you about this personally. Do not come here or to these blogs discussing Bob Ross's feud with James White when you refuse to communicate with James himself about the matter, and when what Dr. Ross does not tell you is that, according to James, he has communicated in the past with Bob, but Bob, like Bob generally does, refuses to listen, since Bob does not generally believe himself open to correction. James has never taught that regeneration occurs apart from the means of the gospel; nor has he ever taught a theory that one could be a regenerate unbeliever, and, like the rest of the Reformed/Calvinist theologians, he has consistently affirmed that the ordu salutis with respect to regeneration and faith is logical, not temporal, that is to say, they are so close as to be considered simultaneous. What could be any less clear on this? As for Bob saying he has never "attacked" James, this is a boldfaced lie, considering that no less than 14 of your own links are attacks on what he has said or written. This whole bizarre quest that you and Bob are on here boils down to one thing: James isn't using the words that Bob thinks he should use in the right combination. In other words, that's not how Bob would say it. What Bob does not mention is that Hardshell Baptists have a doctrine of eternal justification that they affirm along with their theory of regeneration. James does not and has never affirmed such a thing.

    Thou hypocrite. Do not speak to the removal of the mote from your brother's eye when there is a tree in your own. James affirms the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689. He does not and have never defended the hyper-Calvinist doctrine of eternal justification on which their theory of a regenerate unbeliever is built. If you have problem with James White you have two options in the blogosphere:

    (a) Start a blog of your own and confine your interaction there.

    (b) Email James or, better yet, call the DL. I have YET to hear you call him. It's quite easy to sit behind your keyboard and spam others from a position of security. Rather than emailing Bob, why don't you do the right thing and take up your dispute with Dr. White personally? Instead, you come to the blogs to grind your axe and sow division among the brethren.

    (c) This is your first and ONLY warning, Charles.

    a. Rule Two under "Rules of Engagement" for this blog:

    2. It is not, however, equally acceptable to turn the combox into a free-fire zone whereby one outsider can heap personal abuse on another outsider.

    You are here as a houseguest. Behave like one or find yourself back on the curb!

    This thread is about Ergun Caner and James White, not James and Bob Ross.

    b. Rule Seven under "Rules of Engagement" for this blog:

    7. There are trolls who, left to their own devices, will infiltrate the combox and take it over, turning the combox into a parasitic, parallel universe to further their own agenda. This is impermissible.

    Apropos A, for spamming the thread to further your agenda after being reprimanded by at least one other blogger, you are inviolation of Rule 7.

    I have more tolerance for K7 / c.t. than I do you, and I assure you, between Steve and myself, I am not quite as forgiving about the comment box after I give warnings.