Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Debate


Yes, there is indeed going to be a debate about Calvinism and yes, yours truly has agreed to participate in it. After Ergun and Emir Caner showed up on this blog and began launching scud missiles against the doctrines of grace, James White reissued his challenge to Ergun to join him in a debate. There was quite a bit of dancing and dodging that took place before the comments on that blog finally flamed out, but then the challenge was continued via emails. After a week or so, the "powers that be" signed off on the idea, and Ergun and Emir agreed to debate, provided that they could do it as a team and that James select a partner--preferably "an SBC man." James asked me to join him and, after prayer and counsel, I agreed. We had hoped to set a date that was "sooner rather than later," but due to immense scheduling difficulties, have settled for the first open date in the fall.

I am not a debater. I am a preacher. Quite honestly, James does not need me by his side in this debate. He is quite capable from both his gifts and experience to handle this on his own. I have seen him in action. He is good. Very good. The debate format suits him well. The Caners may have insisted that he have a partner simply to cut his time in half!

I have never been a big fan of theological debates. I am glad that James engages in them and I appreciate those whose sense of calling involves giving themselves to this kind of work. But rarely does a debate seem to change people's views. Their greater value seems to be in providing a forum for measured give-and-take which can provide answers to questions posed by various theological perspectives. The audio recordings may serve this purpose in ways that are greater than even the live exchange.

With all of that said, I am glad to be invited to participate in this debate. It is past time for an honest exchange of views on the issue of historic Southern Baptist soteriology. The doctrines of grace have been easily caricatured and dismissed by folks who have been unwilling to represent them honestly. I am grateful to the Caners for agreeing to engage the issues in a setting where there will at least be the opportunity to provide an honest hearing. And I am grateful to James for inviting me as a "non-debater" to participate.

I am praying that this debate will bring honor to our Lord by showing how brothers can disagree strongly and decisively without resorting to the kind of name calling, misrepresentations, distortions that too often characterizes disagreements on this issue. I am also praying that the Gospel of God's grace will be set forth clearly and simply; that God's Word will be accurately handled; that truth will be honored and error exposed. I have no doubt that not only James, but also Ergun and Emir would join me in saying "Amen" to these petitions offered to our Lord. As God brings this to mind, please pray to this end.


Here are the details:

Monday, October 16th, 2006 at 7 PM

Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia

Cost: Free (all proceeds go the Tom Ascol vacation fund)

36 comments:

Pastor Kevin said...

Dr. Ascol,
Do you know if Thomas Road will provide over-flow rooms? I do hope they are making provisions for such.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. A,

Welcome home! I am excited by the debage. Who will moderate? What will the format be?

Love in Christ,

Jeff

GeneMBridges said...

I already know a small Reformed Baptist church down in NC will be sending an envoy, Tom.

I take it you will be taking the history portion of the debate v. Emir Caner? I gather you will be discussing the "two stream" theory, among other issues. I have some material of my own on that, which accounts for the history of NC, the state in which the Sandy Creek tradition rose. To my knowledge, nobody on either side of the evaluation of that tradition ever bothers to deal with it from that perspective. Many of the eccentricities of that tradition can be readily accounted for by their sitz en liben, in fact, many if not all the factors that critics take to be a "moderating" of their Calvinism are accounted for by those things, ditto for the more stringently perceived Charleston tradition. IMO, church historians tend to focus so much on their theology that they lose sight of the basic background of the character of the regions in which those 2 traditions were formed. If you'd like, I'd be more than happy to send this to you for you to read.

David B. Hewitt said...

I'll definitely have to get the audio files from this one. :)

Thanks, Tom, for being willing to be used of the Lord Jesus in this way. May God's Name be glorified and honored as the truth of His Word is proclaimed and His sovereign grace magnified!

Dave Hewitt

Ben said...

Tom,

In what format will the audio files be available. Please say a free MP3 download.

David & Rose Ann said...

Tom, don't underestimate the power of debate to change opinion. It is true that unmoderated debates between lay people have little effect on those involved. These exchanges often become the incubators of tension and disunity. On the other hand, moderated debate led by theologians and ministers handled in a collegial environment actually allows the Church to hear different perspectives on a Biblical issue. Debates of this nature spark conversation and media coverage (within relevant circles, of course). Honest ministers listen to debates and read the Word and sometimes allow those ideas to flow from the pulpit. A lot of people have changed their views on this subject because of healthy, open discussion. Most often, it is not the debate itself that is important, but what flows out of it.

So, I will pray as well that the debate will be an effective forum for the discussion of these ideas. It can have a potent effect on the theological atmosphere of the SBC.

jbuchanan said...

Tom,
I will be praying for all involved in this debate and for the SBC. This debate may change some minds but it will also certainly harden others. My prayer is that it will do more good than harm and that God will be honored through it. I am glad that you have been chosen to participate and I know that you will conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel.

jbuchanan said...

By the way, could you try to set apart some time to discuss pewism and the demonic trend towards theater style seating during the debate.

Tom said...

I don't have much more information than what I posted. The debate is scheduled for the "new" Thomas Road facility. Details about moderator, format, thesis, etc. are still being negotiated. James White is the expert on these things and is trying to get specifics nailed down asap.

Gene, I have appreciated what I have read from your insights into NC history. Please do send me any materials you think might be helpful. As I mentioned, the thesis has not yet been decided, though James has made more than one suggestion. We are deferring to the Caners on much of this for the sake of insuring that it gets done.

I don't know how the debate will be recorded, though I know James has provided video as well as audio of many of his more recent debates. I assume that MP3s will be available. Regarding their cost, I do not have a clue.

Scripture Searcher said...

I agree with every word you have written regarding the
October debate with vastly different points of view regarding the awesome purpose, plan and power of our sovereign God in the salvation of sinners.......


But, thank the Lord, you are willing to "get your feet wet" AKA "enter the arena of serious scriptural theological dialogue in the FORMAL DEBATE FORMAT."


MUCH, MUCH MUCH, MUCH good
will come from this debate and the one between Mohler and Patterson.


Recordings will be heard by
many who cannot attend these
events in person! Prayers are being made from people
everywhere!!!


Persevere!

Scripture Searcher said...

What a sweet, funny, greedy sense of humor you do have!
All proceeds go to your annual vacation fund - and some may think you are on a permanent vacation. After all, you are a pastor who works only 4-6 hours each week!


MANY Christians who are not
Southern Baptists are going
to be very interested in the
debates in June and October.


Therefore, PLEASE resolve to
keep the BIBLE the center of
all the exchanges!


Please do not be tempted, as many debaters are, to run around the current fads,
opinions and teachings of mere men whether they be doctors, nurses, professors,
deacons, or denominational
employees!


We need to know TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE and not about the
traditions of certain men of
early or current Baptist and non-Baptist history. Many of them were wrong!


PLEASE! BACK TO THE BIBLE!

vox reformata said...

scrpituresearcher: are you even a calvinist? i dont know tom, but 4 to 6 hours is insulting. have you heard him preach? serious study and sermon preperation is from 40 to 50 hours. then, everything else, like being a pastor. get real and have some respect, as im sure the scripture declares, search and see.

mark said...

vox reformata said...
"i dont know tom, but 4 to 6 hours is insulting. have you heard him preach? serious study and sermon preperation is from 40 to 50 hours. then, everything else, like being a pastor."

you've got to be kidding, vox. it was a joke.

"get real and have some respect, as im sure the scripture declares, search and see."

get a sense of humor.

Calvinist Gadfly said...

Tom,

I realize that details are forthcoming and I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but I need to voice a great concern.

From what I understand the debate will be only three hours. Debating Southern Baptist History and Calvinism in three hours is impossible.

I would like to see a debate on the thesis of predestination with extensive cross-examination, or no debate at all. If Caner rejects this, so be it; then we have won the debate without there being a debate.

If Caner is not cross-examined in the debate, I can see it now: "I debated James White and I won." Let's not concede anything to their side just because we are eager to debate these folks. Further, I believe that a watered down debate will dishonor God's Word and disrespect those in attendance.

I would suggest two three-hour debates: One with Southern Baptist History (Ascol)---with a specific thesis; and a debate on the thesis of election (White) with plenty of cross-examination.

Thanks,
Alan

jbuchanan said...

Does God elect some to have a sense of humor and others to not have a sense of humor? And did we gain a sense of humor in the fall or did we lose it in the fall.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Alan,

Please do not entertain any illusions about how the Brothers Caner will conduct themselves. They will not debate, no matter what the format is supposed to be. They will sling their unsubstantiated claims and accusations, and will refuse to participate in an academic manner.

Dear Joe,

You crack me up. You've got to start writing something on your blog!

Love in Christ,

Jeff

Sam Hughey said...

Was that Cost:

Free (all proceeds go the Tom Ascol vacation fund)

fund or FUN?

Sam Hughey

Clif Cummings said...

With all the video resources available at Thomas Road -- surely someone can figure out a live video feed via the internet! If not I will have to settle for the mp3s. Shoot, I would even settle for cassette tapes!!
This I've got to hear!
In HIS Grace ALONE,
Pastor Clif

jbuchanan said...

Jeff,

Thanks. Maybe I will start blogging. Are you really and elder at Corinth Baptist Church? Are you of Cephas, Apollos, Paul or Jesus?

Sam Hughey said...

scripture searcher,

You made some excellent suggestions and I hope they are equally directed toward the Caners.

So far as 'Back to the Bible' is concerned, we'll see.

Garvis Campbell said...

Thank you, Tom, for agreeing to joining the debate. I'll pray for the preparation especially.

I'm with Alan regarding the cross-examination necessity. I can't fathom White agreeing to terms without it, and I don't think the Caners could afford to deny it (to do so would seem like an unnecessary avoidance of that healthy interaction seen in formal debates).

Yet, I do think three hours is sufficient for this initial, formal engagement of biblical and historical interpretations. As I've intimated in a comment elsewhere on this site, the brief intellectual tussle will whet appetites for a more balanced round of formal, written exchanges that could be published in book form and which covers both SBC historicity and election. Christian debates are wonderful tools where the Word of God can shine in a plethora of mini-sermons/teachings among the participants. Nevertheless, I think bending our thoughts to consider scholarly writings (or popular writings for that matter) are just as helpful in turning hearts and minds toward biblical truth. While I am quite confident in our Calvinist team's oratory abilities, what I would cringe to see is a reliance on rhetoric which, as Alan touched upon, could and definitely would be dismissed in part due to either the lack of perceptual acuity or pride's sinister attempt to admit defeat. Polemical writings, in an equal space format, do not generally permit this type of subjectivity (selective hearing/understanding) and can afford a seasoned review of the debate at its top form, which may or may not be the same as hearing the best speaker in public debate.

In short, let the public debate roll on, but commit to take the next step and publish a carefully thought out exchange for publication that interested Southern Baptists can sit down and peruse with a cup of coffee.

Semper reformanda,

Garvis

Scripture Searcher said...

Tom, some of your fans have
posted some very comical
comments....wonder what they
ate and drank today! LOL



All my suggestions about the
forthcoming debate being based on the TRUTH of the Bible and not the TRADITIONS
of men are for the sake of the Caner brothers!!!



I have no doubt that Ascol and White will "tie the Caners in knots" from which
they cannot escape - even
wiggle -



~ if they, with the alert and fair assistance of the debate moderator force the
Caners to debate the assigned subject which is the Bible and the system of theology commonly called Calvinism.



As some know, on the Falwell
"turf" the Caner boys, with all their rabid Arminian fans are going to be hard to keep on the subject....



..which should be THE BIBLE AND THAT SYSTEM OF THEOLOGY COMMONLY KNOWN AS CALVINISM.

Alex F said...

Webcast webcast webcast!!!

Please!

David Keuss said...

Well, someone who believes strongly in Reformed doctrine is the best. I am sure you'll do a great job God-willing.

Tony K. said...

Webcast or Pay Per View on Satellite?
From the 345+ comments on the other post it might be the egghead equivalent to ultimate fighting. If not a fight a stand up comedy routine – most of the comments were that funny. Most of it had the quailty of a Bible College Dorm-room debate.

“Did we gain a sense of humor in the fall or did we lose it in the fall?”

I think we can discern some humor from Jesus in the gospels. I would speculate that humor may be present in the Trinity – maybe someone could email Bruce Ware?

GeneMBridges said...

scrpituresearcher: are you even a calvinist? i dont know tom, but 4 to 6 hours is insulting. have you heard him preach? serious study and sermon preperation is from 40 to 50 hours. then, everything else, like being a pastor. get real and have some respect, as im sure the scripture declares, search and see.

Brother Frank,

I'll be as nice as possible. Oh yes, Scripture Searcher is a Calvinist. He's also a Septugenarian and has influenced Tom in the real world. The 2 of them go back quite a ways. I'll not discuss how far, because I don't know how sensitive Tom is about his age.

It was a joke, Frank. Scripture Searcher knows about sermon preparation quite well. In fact, dare I say, he could teach us all a thing or two. He is a dear, dear brother. He and I are separated by not quite 40 years and about 1500 miles, but I, for one, am quite looking forward to meeting him in the Temple COurts one day.

Unless, of course, he bites the bullet and comes to the SBC in Greensboro this year. If he does, I'll see him then, since that's my town.

Tom,

I'll pull together some information on NC history for you and send it to you this weekend. If you get a handle on NC history in the 18th century, I promise the Sandy Creek Association's practices and confession make a lot more sense than the ad hoc theory that they were "moderate Calvinists."

Uncialman said...

My sincere prayer for this debate is that each side will attempt to make their case from an exegetical understanding of Scripture. *If* this is the case, then the cross-examination period should be the most engaging.

I would also hope that:

1. There will be a unbiased moderator chosen for the debate that will simply enforce the rules of engagement that will be decided upon prior to the debate. This will ensure that the debate will stay on track topic wise and will hopefully mean that the ad hominem comments will be kept to an absolute minnimum.

2. There might be a consideration to frame the structure of the debate in a similar manner to the Sungenis/White debate, Papal Infallibility, in 2000. In that debate, the complex nature of both the historical considerations (Zosimus & Honorius etc) and Scriptural considerations meant that the debate was seperated into two sections:

(1)Scirptural (Scripture Teaches the Infallibility and Authority of the Papacy)
Affirmative Open: 20 minutes
Negative Open : 20 minutes
Affirmative Rebuttal: 15 minutes
Negative Rebuttal: 15 minutes
Affirmative Cross-exam: 15 minutes
Negative Cross-exam: 15 mintues
Affirmative Cross-exam: 15 minutes
Negative Cross-exam: 15 minutes

(2)(History Proves the Infallibility and Authority of the Papacy)
Affirmative Open: 20 minutes
Negative Open : 20 minutes
Affirmative Rebuttal: 15 minutes
Negative Rebuttal: 15 minutes
Affirmative Cross-exam: 15 minutes
Negative Cross-exam: 15 mintues
Affirmative Cross-exam: 15 minutes
Negative Cross-exam: 15 minutes

If the debate is structured in this fashion, it would allow for even and tempered exchanges that would not *cross* into either field and end up in a chaotic exchange. It would also allow Emir and Tom to focus on Historical considerations for Southern Baptists in opening and rebuttal statements and for Ergun and James to offer opening and rebuttals for the Scriptural understanding of the issues at stake. Of course, cross-examination would be open for all four men to answer.

This is an extremely serious debate on issues that affect the life of the believer and the Gospel itself. I pray that this debate can be held in a scholastic tone and not with the pep-rally/cheerleading atmosphere that has present at the Tim Staples debates.

Blessings to you Tom.

Mike O.

Uncialman said...

For whatever stupid reason, I forgot to add:

10 Minute Closing Statement Affirmative
10 Minute Closing Statement Negative

on both of the debate sections.

I need more coffee...

vox reformata said...

ok, then. scripturesearcher seems to be a little too systematic in his words and sounded a bit like dave hunt and the caners. but clarifications made, cool. my words were simply meant to say that. and if i need a sense of humor, so does he. and yes we lost the sense of humor, but what fall?
lol

Charles said...

Tom, Hello!

You said, After Ergun and Emir Caner showed up on this blog and began launching scud missiles against the doctrines of grace

You forgot to add that they "showed up" only after this forum was "launching scud missiles" against Johnny Hunt.

Typical Founders rewrite of history.

Charles

Charles said...

Alan, Hello!

You said, Debating Southern Baptist History and Calvinism in three hours is impossible.

Alan, are you a Southern Baptist? I know James White is not. I know Steve Camp is not. Now we have you opining on Southern Baptist history.

Charles said...

Alan said, Debating Southern Baptist History and Calvinism in three hours is impossible.

Is the historic Calvinism of Spurgeon being debated or the "born again before faith" brand which was spawn from the paeobaptists?

Tom said...

Hi Charles. Long time no troll. Are things too slow for you over at the flycatcher? I would appreciate it if, in the words of Steve McCoy, you wouldn't come here to "pimp your blog." The material on regeneration has been more than adequately answered in both private exchanges and publicly, as you ought to know and as the author of it surely knows.

Charles said...

Tom, Hello!

You said, Hi Charles. Long time no troll. Are things too slow for you over at the flycatcher?

Hey, you guys told me to start a blog. I did.

I'm not familar with the word "troll." Maybe you could explain it to me.

As for things being slow, let's just say that we are getting lots of visits from Phoenix, Louisville and a certain place in Florida. The truth is spreading.

I would appreciate it if, in the words of Steve McCoy, you wouldn't come here to "pimp your blog."

Tom, I have noticed a lot of people here "pimp their blogs," and provide links and whatnot. Is pointing out that historical Calvinism will not be represented at the upcoming debate equal to a "pimp my blog"? Or do you only allow "Founders approved pimps?"

The material on regeneration has been more than adequately answered in both private exchanges and publicly, as you ought to know and as the author of it surely knows

When was it "adequately answered"? Who "adequately answered" it? You? James White?

Charles

Tom said...

Charles:

Why don't you ask the author of the material? I know about his recent exchange on the matter. Get him to let you in on the conversation.

"Phoenix, Louisville and a certain place in Florida"...my daughter told me you got all excited and commented on it when you saw a few visits from that last place. She confessed at the dinner table that she has visited your blog. She loves fiction. We all had a good laugh about it. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Sam Hughey said...

Three things will be true at the end of this debate:

1. The Caners will not become 5-Point Calvinists
2. White and Ascol will not become (inconsistent) Arminian free-will theists
3. Many on both sides will hear something they have never heard and didn't know was true.

God will be glorified if the objective is to glorify truth instead of winning an argument. This is the primary objective of the Apologist.