Recently, after the latest salvos from Lynchburg and a troubling conversation with Dr. Caner in Greensboro, NC, I weighed in with one of my few contributions to this written exchange. I post that letter, and Dr. Caner's response, below only because he has asked me to do so. Actually, to say he "asked" is putting it charitably. I have been restrained in making many public comments about the "debate" or about the incredibly frustrating process of trying to get it set up.
When I announced that there would indeed be a debate and that I had agreed to participate in it, I made these statement:
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 (emphasis added).Let me simply say in the three months since I wrote that I have been completely disabused of such naivete. Make no mistake, Dr. Ergun Caner does not want to participate in a scholarly debate on the doctrines of grace. That is obvious to me and, if my email is any indication, to countless others who have read his comments.
With that being said, here is the recent email exchange, posted at Dr. Ergun Caner's request.
Subject: Re: June 23, 2006
Date: June 24, 2006 2:42:15 PM EDT
I find Ergun's characterization of this whole issue to be far different from my own. I have read every single email that has been exchanged and would do so again except that I don't think I have sinned sufficiently to warrant such a sentence. It is enough to know that the record contained in those emails is clear enough to show anyone who wants to know about this pseudo-debate exactly what has transpired and how it has transpired.
Ergun, I do not know how or why you think that we have all agreed on the thesis or format. You have tried to dictate what they will be but there has been no negotiated agreement. Furthermore, Dr. O'Donnell's only email leads me to doubt the sincerity of his assurances to be an impartial moderator who will operate from the the rulebook of "fairness." His offer to entertain "specific questions about the format" as long as they are asked "professionally" rings hollow in light of my May 16 email to him. I did not copy it to anyone else because I was simply seeking to learn from him the best way to get information about the format.
Here is that email in its totality:
Dear Dr. O'Donnell:I sent it to directly to him. Yet, I still have not received even the courtesy of an acknowledgment, much less an offer to entertain my questions. As the written record demonstrates conclusively, this kind of treatment is typical of the lack of respect that has been afforded James and me in this whole process.
I have been told that you have agreed to moderate a debate on October 16, 2006 at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA. I am supposed to participate in that debate and have some questions about it that I would like to ask you. Would it be possible for me to address them to you via email, or would a phone conversation be better?
Thank you for your consideration.
No amount of posturing or posing can change the fact that you have attempted to throw numerous roadblocks in the way of this debate. Virtually any prospect of having a fair exchange of ideas in a setting where our differences can be clearly expressed has been undermined by your unwillingness to discuss questions that must be settled before such an exchange can take place. I suppose that this sounds like whining to you. To me, it is an honest attempt to dialogue.
Ergun, when you told me and others in Greensboro about Dr. Falwell's plans to "pimp" this debate all over the world I was caught off guard. At first I thought I had misunderstood you but your repeated declarations that he was going to "pimp" it on TV and "pimp" it to "little old ladies" quickly disabused me of that notion. Your emails of the last two days have only confirmed my worst fears that your chosen vocabulary to describe this "debate" is all-too-accurate.
Well, I am no one's prostitute. And I refuse to be "pimped." If you are comfortable letting Dr. Falwell "pimp" you then that is surely your prerogative. I would love to pursue a genuine, theological debate. If that is what the Drs. Caner want, then let's work it out and get it done. If, however, all you want to do is put on a Fundamentalist burlesque show, then go ahead with the plans that you are making but find yourself someone more suited than I to join you on stage.
Here is Dr. Caner's response:
Subject: Please Post This, Dr. Ascol
Date: June 26, 2006 8:48:57 AM EDT
26 June 2006
Dear Dr Ascol:
Well, for the first time in this discussion, I have come to the conclusion that posting private correspondence, which usually takes place between Christian gentlemen behind the scenes, might be helpful if posted. This is one e-mail that I believe should be posted, but I doubt if you will do it. This will stay private, or scrubbed, much like Brad Reynolds exchanges:
- For the record, your quote of my words at the SBC was correct. I did use the word "pimped."
- I do love the fact that Dr. Falwell is willing to give this debate as big a stage as possible.
- He believes, as we do, that this is a vital issue in the SBC, and MUST be confronted to as large a crowd as possible.
- Of course, since no one is making any money on this debate (as Emir and I stipulated- no tickets and no "entry fees") your concern over being "prostituted" is not really valid.
- HOWEVER, before you storm off...please do not feel too superior. Would it change the equation if we were offering to pay you for doing a CRUISE to teach?
- Yes, Dr. Ascol, we understand your desire not to be pimped. Does that extend to traveling on a cruise with Dr. White...along with others...for free...as the advertised speaker? Apparently I am not as accomplished at this "pimping" thing...
I am sorry you feel the way you do, Dr. Ascol.