Friday, November 17, 2006

The Functional Hyper-Calvinism of Dr. Emir Caner or "Will the Real Hyper-Calvinist Please Stand Up?"

On the DL for 11/16/06, Dr. James White critiqued Dr. Emir Caner's sermon on Calvinism at Thomas Road Baptist Church. In his sermon, about 30 (give or take a few) minutes into it, Dr. Caner wanted to know of the Calvinist, "Can you honestly tell a person that Christ died for them...when you witness be honest and tell them that Christ might not have died for them..." He then proceeded to connect general atonement with evangelism, insinuating that unless you can tell a man Christ died for him in particular, you are being insincere and he has no reason to believe.

If I was to critique this in Dr. Caner's presence I would ask him if he's a hyper-Calvinist. In hyper-Calvinism, we are told that we need to have a gospel warrant to believe in order to convert. So, I don't think this is a case of putting a person on a "guilt trip," as Dr. White noted in his critique, rather Emir Caner is, in my opinion, "jonesing" for a good old fashioned warrant to believe. All he's done is deny that we can subjectively discern God's decretive will for a warrant to believe (hyper-Calvinism) and replace that particular epistemic warrant with general atonement. So, where the hyper-Calvinist has no concrete epistemic warrant to speak of, Dr. Caner has found a more concrete warrant, namely that Jesus died for everyone, therefore he died for you. Emir Caner is a functional hyper-Calvinist, the very thing that he calls Dr. White.

The logic is quite simple. Unless God seconds your call from the pulpit in some manner, then the call is not genuine. General atonement is a concrete marker. Since Christ died for everybody, you can know He died for you; thus you have a gospel warrant to believe. The problem is, Scripture never frames the gospel in those terms or the atonement in those terms. There is not a single text of Scripture that records anybody being told to believe because Jesus died for them. I would ask, if the only the elect believe it anyway, and the reprobate will not, then where's the harm in simply declaring that Christ died for sinners? The elect will believe Christ died for them by virtue of placing faith in Christ. Dr. Caner wants to offer assurance to the sinner. This only panders to his self-interest, and it conflates assurance and conversion. The warrant to believe is found not in discerning God's decretive will or in general atonement, but in the universal command of God that all sinners should believe in Christ and repent in order to be justified and be saved. Why is that not warrant enough? God did not give Abraham a list of detailed assurances that all would be well and instructions on how He would fulfill His promises when he called him out of Ur. He gave him a covenant that began with a command and continued with a promise. This is the same way it works in evangelism. Why can Dr. Caner and others like him not grasp this?

Moreover, Dr. Caner creates the impression that you must believe a particular doctrine of the atonement in order to be saved. That too is a function of some forms of hyper-Calvinism. If you don't believe me, remember that Dave Hunt has stated that he doesn't believe anybody who says he was saved and at that time believed the doctrines commonly called "Calvinism" is really a Christian.

Could someone who believes this false gospel of Calvinism be truly saved? Fortunately, many Calvinists (you among them) were saved before becoming Calvinists. They now malign God by saying that He is pleased to damn multitudes though He could save all—and that He predestines multitudes to the Lake of Fire before they are even born. But having believed the gospel before becoming Calvinists, they “shall not come into condemnation, but [have] passed from death unto life” (). Those who only know the false gospel of Calvinism are not saved, while those who are saved and ought to know better but teach these heresies will be judged for doing so.

Will the real hyper-Calvinist please stand up?


  1. Dr. Caner ought to know better. This is salvation by works, the work in question being doctrinal agrement with Dr. Caner. Apparently Dr. Caner cannot see that, in claiming that a person cannot be a consistent Calvinist and be saved he is, in essence saying that God demands more than repentance and faith in Jesus Christ to be saved from the wrath to come, that God looks down from heaven and says to the angels, "We shall save Dr. Caner because his beliefs are right, and he was converted under an arminian ministry, but that man over there is a Calvinist, and was converted under Calvinist preaching, so he's going to hell."

    If a contrary statement were made by a Calvinist, I expect Dr. Caner would be the first to point out the utter lack of Christian charity in such a statement.

  2. Principal John Macleod of the Free Church College, Edinburgh, said much the same thing in his magisterial 'Scottish Theology'

    "In regard to the claims of God, each of these extremes (of Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism) worked from a common principle which they turned to opposite ends. The Hyper-Calvinistic brethren held that there is no world-wide call to Christ sent out to all sinners to whom the in letter the Gospel comes, neither are all bidden to take Him as their Saviour. On the other hand, they maintained that Christ is held forth or offered as saviour to those to whom God effectually calls. To such positions they came because they reasoned that man, as a bankrupt in spiritual resources, cannot be called upon to do what is out of the compass of his power. He can neither repent nor believe. So it was out of place to call upon him to do what he cannot do. In this, when we look into it, we find the common Arminian position that man's responsibility is limited by his ability. The Arminian holds to the presence of a certain ability in those that are called; otherwise sinners could not be called upon to repent and believe the Gospel. Each side takes up the principle from its own end. They fail together to recognise that the sinner is responsible for his own spiritual impotence. It is the fruit of sin; and man's sin does not destroy nor put out of court God's right to ask for an obedience alike in service and repentance and faith that his sinful creatures have disabled themselves from yielding to Him. His title to make His demand is entirely and absolutely unimpaired."

    John Macleod Scottish Theology (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1974) P.141

  3. Perhaps I was not clear. The quote at the end is from Dave Hunt, not Dr. Caner. That said, it's telling that Ergun still has not deigned to call Dr. White his brother, and both he and his brother endorse the work of Dave Hunt publicly.

  4. I stand corrected. Regarding the above, please read 'Dave Hunt' for 'Dr. Caner' throughout.

    My apologies to Dr. Caner.

  5. Would I be out-of-line to suggest that Arminians do not understand the full import and extent of sin?

    "Sin is bad, but it can't be -so- bad as to render a man unwilling to choose God" seems to be the sentiment. Clearly, sin can render a man physically dead, depending on the nature of the sin--why is it hard to believe, then, that sin would make a man spiritually dead?

    I think it is instructive often times to ensure we're precise with our definitions. It's all and well to oppose "predestination" to "free will", for example, as long as the Calvinist and Arminian both agree on the definition of each. I frame it, generally, thus: A man is free to choose whatever he will. He can choose what he wants and is not somehow compelled one way or another. The issue is not that a man -can't- choose Christ; it's that he -won't- choose Christ because he doesn't -want- to -until- he is born again.

    Preaching to the choir.

    What specifically does Hunt believe regarding the damnation of a Calvinist (under the circumstances he mentions)? In my mind, the Gospel, condensed down into a sentence or two, is this: "All men have sinned and are liable to death; Christ died to save sinners. Repent and believe, and you will be saved." That message is hardly specific to Arminians or Calvinists. What is Hunt's point?

  6. No where does the Bible teach one time that God gave man the choice to choose Justification. God has often given justified people the choice to be obedient to his will, to be sanctified. No man has unlimited free will. God says all men are clay and God is the potter. If a person says “I must have free will or God made me a robot” that is a relativeist claim and it implys they could have unlimited free will. Unlimited free will would be a deity since it’s omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent in order to be unlimited. Hank’s arguements are a theological blunder.