Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Upcoming Debate at Lynchburg

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This is the official poster that Liberty University has produced to publicize the upcoming debate involving James White, Ergun and Emir Caner and me. Dr. White has recently reported that Dr. Jerry Falwell announced the debate a week or so ago by referring to James (by name) and me (as the guy whose name he could not remember :-) ) as "hyper-Calvinists." That is the very kind of mischaracterization that needs to be avoided in the interest of honesty and advancing the cause of God and truth. Hopefully, it will be the last such mistatement leading up to the debate.

Some details of the debate have yet to be finalized, but it will be 3 hours, with a break in the middle; it will be "open" in the sense that under the heading of "Baptists and Calvinism," any issue is fair game; and it will be structured according to a modified parliamentary format.

Please pray that the Lord will be honored not only in the efforts of 4 men to present and defend truth but also in the manner and spirit in which the debate is conducted. Many people are expecting--and some are even hoping--to see an unprincipled, rancorous exchange. I do not expect that to happen and am praying that the Lord will grant each of us grace to speak the truth plainly, unapologetically and lovingly.


Brian Hamrick said...


Unfortunately for me, I moved in the wrong direction this month (VA to FLA) and won't be able to attend.

Have you considered calling Dr. Falwell and trying to get the record straight on the "Hyper-Calvinist" comment? And if so, asking for an apology, or at least why he would make that characterization?

andrew said...
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Jim Crigler said...

When I lived in Florida, the pastor of my Very Large church once spent part of his sermon explaining why he wasn't a Calvinist from the definitions of the five points. The wrong definitions.

He is a graduate of NOBTS, and he repeatedly referred to 5-pointers as hypers.

The problem with slogans, labels and abbreviations is that they tend to take on a life of their own. This happens with, for example, "sola fide" when faith becomes a kind of work, negating thoroughgoing grace.

sparrowhawk said...

"Your Imperial Dr. Falwell, and Your Lordship Caners, demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished.

Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Nashville or Lynchburg, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.

On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me."

(With apologies to the chief scribe at Diet of Worms...)

Tony Hicks said...

To quote Luke Skywalker, "I have a bad feeling about this." Ergun Caner is a fundamentalist firebrand working for another fundamentalist firebrand. I fear that this will be turned into a theatre of inflammatory statements designed to arouse the home crowd rather than an honest debate. Tom, I know you and James R. White are not rubes and will handle yourselves well but you are walking into the arena and the lions are hungry.

Brian Hamrick said...


I am just concerned for you if Dr. Falwell is the one who might make an introduction or welcome at the debate. If he has so mischaracterized you, it will lead some students to dismiss you from the get go.

Perhaps the Lord would use you as in instrument to bring about his repentance, for who knows if He has put you in this situation for such a time as this?

Brian Hamrick said...

Oh, and let me be clear. I did not move in the wrong direction, per se. I moved in the wrong direction in terms of accessibility to the debate :)

Timmy said...


What's up with the picture? Is this supposed to be a visual of what the "virus" of Calvinism does in our churches? Coming from Falwell and Caner, I don't know how else to take it, especially in light of Ergun's comments in the past. I certainly hope that the cute comments and rhetorical flourishes in the past won't inhibit meaningful, biblical discussion of the heart of the matter. I will be praying for this event.

BK said...

Tom -

I recall James mentioning on his site that there was no guarantee that anyone but students would be able to attend this debate. I don't see anything on trbc.org or in the poster above indicating this. Do you know whether this is the case?

I live about 4 hours north of Lynchburg and would dearly love to drive down for the debate, but I want to be sure I will get a seat! :)


scripturesearcher said...

Sparrowhawk, I know thee not but you got OUR sentiments in print on this blog before I did. Amen!

Fawell will know a bit more than he really wants to when the circus
(debate) has ended about the TRUTH and its messengers, one of whom he was either unwilling or unable to mention at the time he was begging people on TV to pay for the new synagogue he recently moved into in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Christopher Redman said...

I had wanted to travel to VA to attend the debate. However, since I have been invited to preach a revival just out of Louisville during the same time as the debate.

I'll have to wait for the video and the blogs.


Bill Moore said...


Concerning getting a seat, the poster states "everyone welcome." Now, does "everyone" mean "every one," or does it mean folks from every walk of society or perhaps everyone who is a student? Does "everyone" mean each and every person who so desires, or does it mean something else? ;)


Tom said...

As far as I know, the debate is open to the public, not just students. Though, as Bill, wryly points out, maybe "everyone" doesn't really mean "everyone." :-)

Timmy, I had the same question when I saw the church picture. Originally I thought that this is what they expect the building to look like after the debate! Further reflection leads me to believe that this was taken before the new auditorium was completed.

flawedcricket said...

I noticed two things about the poster. One, the sanctuary picture was definitely a subliminal message on the part of Falwell and the Caner duo. Two, at least the field is equal in terms of hairlines. Does this suggest the pairings for the evening (James vs. Ergun; Thomas vs. Emir)?

GUNNY said...

Promise me one thing, Tom ... you will labor to make the distinction between sweet, clean Calvinists and those dirty non-father having Hyper-Calvinists!

Really, few things whip me like the mischaracterization, though, as you've pointed out before, one has to wonder just how accidental it really is.

I liked the poster and am pleased it wasn't more along the lines of a World Wrestling Entertainment or Monster Truck Rally ad.

However, I wouldn't think it a bad idea to have some "Let me tell you sumthin, brother!" in your back pocket in case you really need it when they get out of line.

Lord willing this will be conducted in the manner of the Drs. Patterson & Mohler debate earlier in the year, constructive and fair.

Gig 'em and keep us posted as we'll be praying for you and the event.

jbuchanan said...

I belive that the picture represents the dreaded curse of chairism that is invading the SBC and the evangelical world in general. We must return to the pew brothers.

oneidcracker said...

The debate will have live video on Dr. Caner's website. www.erguncaner.com
I have not heard of any other live feeds of yet, but will pass on any other info that I may hear of.

Greg B said...

Did anyone else notice that James and Tom are smiling and the Caner brothers are looking rather grim?
Just goes to show you how freeing and joyful one can be when they accept free and soveriegn grace from an omnipotent God.
Kinda' repudiates that dour Calvinist mantra.

Timmy said...

Greg B,

That would be self-determination :| vs. sovereign grace :).

GUNNY said...

flawedcricket said...

I noticed two things about the poster. One, the sanctuary picture was definitely a subliminal message on the part of Falwell and the Caner duo. Two, at least the field is equal in terms of hairlines. Does this suggest the pairings for the evening (James vs. Ergun; Thomas vs. Emir)?

Or do you think it will be suits against each other and the church casual guys squaring off?

On a serious note ... Tom, you may want to hit the gym quite a bit and get buff just in case it goes "shirts vs. skins" at the last minute and you're on the epidermic side. I'm not gonna tell you your business, but it may be time to handle up on the back hair, if necessary.

Hey, we've all been there and we men know we want to make sure it's the cross that's offensive, not our body hair.

Serious ... for reals ... Gig 'em, Aggie!

Chris Webster said...

Even if there is a live feed that evening, perhaps we could be in constant prayer during the debate - that God would be honored, and His truth clearly heard. Believe me, I would be the first one to want to watch it live, but I can always get the DVD. I can't pray after the fact...chris webster

Chris Webster said...

Sorry folks, did not finish my thoughts. Perhaps someone could watch the debate live, and then blog on how we can best pray, depending on how it is going...chris

irreverend fox said...

I'd like to know if "Jerry" is still gonna pimp this event.

After the circus I am disapointed you or James are even fooling with this. I e-mailed James and told him the same.

But, that being said, I'm sure my curiosity will get the best of me and I'll cough up the cash to either drive down or buy the DVD.

I do respect you and White very much and that is why I am disappointed over all.

I will pray for all involved.

Forest A said...

To those who will be attending the debate:

Would you be interested in gathering afterwards at a convenient location? If so, I will be happy to arrange it.

- Forest

Les Puryear said...


May God cause you to defend his decrees ably and completely. May God confound those who would rob Him of His glory.

I'll be praying for you.

Best regards,


kingofbleh said...

Liberty used to have a policy (and may still have it) where most undergrad students could not attend regular services in the (old) TRBC sanctuary due to it's small size relative to the school. This new auditorium seats about 6,000 I think. So they may have just added that so that all students would know they are welcome to attend.

As for the pic, it is a shot of TRBC's new auditorium under construction (you can see more shots at TRBC's web site). Including it in the poster definitely gives room for pause. But I still think it looks good.

jbuchanan said...

I will not be attending the debate due to the fact that I plab to be in Wake Forest the next morning for a preaching conference at Southeastern, however, I will be praying for it. We must lift up all four of these men and pray for God to fill them with His truth and love.

Elias said...


I will be attending the dabate. Are you from Virginia? Are you familiar with the Lynchburg area? Were you thinking to have the gathering at a restaurant or someones house?

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Ascol,

I trust you are well. I also trust the engagement in Lynchburg will very much honor our Lord.

Will this be the first "formal" debate in which you have participated?

With that, I am...


Forest A said...

I graduated from Liberty recently and will be returning for the debate. My first thoughts are to see about reserving a room at "Billy Joe's Ice Cream Parlor". It is about 5 minutes from campus and there was a room we used for meetings that will hold a good number of people (roughly 60). Casual atmosphere.

Scott Hill said...

The pic is definitley there for a purpose, but I highly doubt that it is a picture of the new sanctuary prior to completion. I don't think they would had sporatic pews around the place at anytime during construction. I would venture to say it is a post Katrina church somewhere in the South.

jdlongmire said...

...and the the potential effects of "rampant Calvinism" to a church...

Elias said...

Forest, here is my email address:


what are you and Dr. White doing after the debate? Have you guys talked about it? If you guys are thinking about hanging out somewhere to talk about how the dabate went, I sure would like to be there. :)

Chris said...

I agree with Scott Hill about the picture. That is not a church under construction. You can see papers all over the floor and damage to the walls in the background.

Recently, I made an ad for our church's upcoming Peacemaker Seminar. I used a picture of a Katrina destroyed church as an anology for the damage done by church conflict.

I believe a similar tactic is being employed here. It's a powerful visual analogy.

Tom said...

Well, after further study and consultation with subliminal experts (who did not let me know they were helping me) I have been persuaded that the photo is not of a church under construction but one after devastation. Now, all kinds of conclusions could be drawn from this, but I think what those who designed the poster are trying to say is this: without theological discourse, churches fall apart. :-)

Peter, I have never formally debated anyone before, though I have argued with my son once or twice. Gunny, I am at the gym, man, but I am afraid at this stage of life, buff is not in my vocabulary! I do intend to distinguish between Calvinism and hyperism.

Someone asked about an after meeting. Forest A. is willing to set one up. James and I have not talked about it, but I think it would be a great opportunity for fellowship.

Thanks for your prayers. The Lord reigns.

Benji Ramsaur said...

Hey Tom,

If you and James are hyper-calvinists and the Caners are nonCalvinists, then there would not have to be an ugly throw down at all. All four of you could just agree that Calvinism is wrong and go out for some crab legs together afterward.

Eek said...
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Eek said...

I thought the debate topic was going to be...

"That God is an Omnibenevolent God to all of humanity through salvation and opportunity"

When did it become "Baptists and Calvinism"?

Scott Hill said...

Does anyone else find it a little spooky that it only took a few hours for blogs to spread info fast enough for Ergun or whoever to remove the destroyed church pic on the LBU link?

Timmy said...

Scott is correct. The picture has been altered. Go here to see for yourself:


Spooky? Maybe. Disappointing? Definitely.

Chris said...

Pic = 1000 words.

martyduren said...

Peter Lumpkins-
If you don't write anything, are you still "Peter"?

I love the mood of the poster and the b/w, but my first thought was your first thought: that is the scene after the debate--papers laying around, seats uprooted from the mooring. I guess that couldn't find any bodies to lay around.

WalterJC said...

Scott Morgan...you got what you asked for.

Travis Hilton said...


Would you happen to know why this event was not given even a faint mention in the October edition of the National Liberty Journal? Are there any plans to promote this event other than by internet? I suppose that it would be wishful thinking that it would show up on a TV spot.

WalterJC said...

The debate will be audio and video recorded and will be made available through the ministries of those involved.

BK said...

Tom -

Thanks for the info on who the debate is open to. Here's hoping those opening the doors at the debate consider me to be part of "everyone" ;)

Forest A -

I would love the chance to get together with some folks from this blog. I wasn't planning on spending the evening, but I can try to arrange that in order to be able to meet up with you all.

BTW, a friend of mine told me the weekend in question is homecoming weekend. Do you know if this is true?

- Brian

Rev. S. Michael Huffman said...


This are just the kind of comments that you can exspect out of Lynchburg. I have spoken to so many semi-Pelagians, and have heard Drs. Falwell and Caner speak on the subject, and there straw-man arguments do not hold up to Scripture. They are trying to paint a good picture that you gentlemen are hyper-Calvinists, and hyper-calvinism is rejected by every calvinist I know.

I trust that God will be glorified and the light of His glorious Sovereignty will shine through. God Bless!

GUNNY said...

Tom wrote: "I do intend to distinguish between Calvinism and hyperism."

Hey, I like that term of distancing ... not even let them hijack the "C" word.

Pastor Shane said...

I grew up in a fundamentalist, non-reformed SBC church, so I have been thoroughly ("throughly" in the KJV) trained in the science of hidden-message interpretation. I'll try to study the photo.

Elias said...


I think what you and James could do to remove whatever points they think they can gain by calling you guys "hyper-Calvinists" all throughout the debate is to (right from the start) explain to everyone what the differences are between hyper-Calvinists and Calvinists. That way if they continue to do so, it will be seen as them doing so NOT out of ignorance but for some other reason - a reason they will then have to give an answer for.

Timmy said...

Lo and behold, the altered picture has been re-altered back to its original. Did anyone copy and save the altered pic? (I mean the second altered pic)

Chris Coppenbarger said...

I'll definitely check out the videos after the event. This will be interesting. Hit them on dispensationalism and find out where they stand on two peoples of God.

cslewisberkhof said...

Here's my take on the the subliminal message of the poster.

It's a picture taken from inside of a church. It is obviously not in the process of construction because the pews are already there. (notice the walls below the stained glass windows, they in a state of decay) The pews would not be put in until after the trash was picked up. All that just to say I don't think it's a picture of Thomas Road Baptist "under construction."

The photo is black and white. Notice how traditional the church looks. It looks "old." There are stained glass windows, not a Starbucks coffee in the background. And the whole picture is communicating an idea of "deadness/oldness."

I believe this picture represents Calvinism in the mind of the person who put this bit of art work together. Whoever put this poster together believes it (Calvinism) is a dead "thing" and and the purpose of this debate is to tear down this "thing" once and for all. But you can't kill it! Calvinism --a.k.a. the Biblical Gospel-- will never die!

Tom said...


Curiousier and curiousier.

Timmy said...

No kidding, Tom. The purpose of me bringing up the photo was not to be overtly pessimistic, but all of us who have watched all that has transpired simply have been led to a point where we cannot think that there was an agenda here. I think they realized that too, only when it was brought up. I just hope that once again stunts like this don't detract from the hopeful profitability of such an important debate. In spite of such tactics, silly rhetoric, and mischaracterizations, I pray that God will use you and Mr. White to represent God's free and sovereign grace to those attending in a way that God is honored and His truth is treasured.

Benji Ramsaur said...

I know I made light of this before (crab legs are good though). But I think Dr. Falwell's statement is inconsistent. If Tom and James, according to Falwell, are not Calvinists, then why debate Calvinism when there are no Calvinists in the debate?

That's like having a debate on the Republican party by two from the Democratic party and two from the Libertarian party.


Do you think this statement from Falwell and the title of the debate might be intended to set up a debate on the definition of Calvinism? Aside from the mischaracterization, what sense do you make of all of this if there is any sense to be made?

Benji Ramsaur said...

If this is headed towards debating the definition of Calvinism, then the two sides have really NOT agreed on what the debate topic will be. This would mean that they are really headed towards debating "Baptists and What is Calvinism", instead of "Baptist and Calvinism [as if both sides agree as to what it is]".


Did the Caners indicate that they agreed with you and James as to what Calvinism meant in the debate topic?

Tom said...


The Caners have were very gracious in the last deliberations about the debate. Obviously, James and i have concerns and they have concerns in how the debate is structured. One of their concerns is that it not be so limited as to prevent them from ranging into various fields of exegesis, theology and history. That is why we all agreed to this very broad topic. Establishing definitions will be an important part of the actual debate itself, I assume.

Benji Ramsaur said...

I think I get it Tom.

"Very" broad

Juan said...

Hi, my name is Juan – the infamous creator of “The Poster.” First and foremost, thank you. I was told that there was some discussion as to my poster on your site, so I read through the message board and many of you have brought me quite a good laugh. Sorry this has taken me so long to give you a response, but please allow me to clear some things up.

1. To those of you like Drs Ascol and White who were kind enough to compliment the design: I truly appreciate it and I sincerely hope this poster helps you publicize this event.

2. Everyone Welcome” means: “Every one is welcome.” In an effort to help the reader understand what everyone means, I have employed the use a thesaurus: Everyone – All people – Each and every person – The whole world [it really does say this is my thesaurus. Apparently the author would not side with Beza on this particular issue :) ]. Since the debate is being held in the south, I probably could have said “All ya’ll Welcome.” But either way, We view our church doors like Christ does “open to all who wish to come inside.”

3. To my brother timmy – the poster was never altered. What you saw was a slide we made to go on the screens at TRBC so that it can be read more easily when sent through a projector, taking in to account the different resolutions and design needs. The wonderful person who posted the image to LTS’ website posted the slide picture (one without the church) because it was 35 megs smaller and therefore easier to compress. I asked her to change it to the poster since you showed such interest in the church picture being on our site. I hope that this clears up any questions you may have had and I apologize for any confusion/lack of sleep this may have caused.

4. The church picture is a stock photo from somewhere in Europe of an abandoned old church. I picked it because I love the photography work and thought it fit the classic theme we were going for. As far as subliminal messages are concerned, I as the designer feel that this fight has brought nothing but destruction and division to the church, so if there is a hidden message, it would be that. I do consider it a very high compliment that you thought a Dr. Caner or Dr. Falwell had something to do with it, although I must confess it was just little old me trying to make a sweet looking poster.

Now, as flattering as it is to be talked about, I hope this has answered any questions that have been vexing you, and the time spent discussing this matter can now be better spent ... doing... anything else.

Chris said...

Juan said: "As far as subliminal messages are concerned, I as the designer feel that this fight has brought nothing but destruction and division to the church, so if there is a hidden message, it would be that."

Well said. And thanks for confirming the intent behind the image. I am relieved to hear that you believe it is the "fight" that has brought "destruction and division" and not Calvinism itself.

Tom said...


Thanks for taking the time to clear this up...although you have brought to an end much of our fun! The poster is very sharp looking and you are to be congratulated for your creativity. Thanks also for clarifying who is invited. But, most importantly, thanks for your good spirit that comes through in your post.

The Lord bless and strengthen you!

Etaoin Shrdlu said...

The "Great Debates of the Reformation" are still occurring!

Is there such a thing as a "hyper-fightin' fundamentalist"?

Seriously, will there be a podcast or an mp3 available for download?

Just speak the truth in love.

AspiringTheologian said...

I know you guys will do a great job in this debate - it is important to act godly even if the other team does not; but I have no doubts that you will be a great representation of Calvinistic beliefs.

Bookborn said...

Hey, why did God choose to type everything in cyberspace? Forget HyperCalvinism, God decreed HyperTextMarkupLanguage (HTML)in Eternity. Tom, please don't apologize for your (God's) metaphor in your E-xchange with the Caners. This was pre-decreed in Eternity. All things that come to pass are/were decreed of and by God in eternity past (Westminister/Philadelphian Confessions). God is actually typing this right now in eternity. "Look, Ma! No Free will!" Hmmm... Now, why did God choose to type that? The same reason He chose to type the email exchanges between the Caners and yourself. (The mystery of His good counsel/will I reckon?) So, this debate is between God and Himself.
You mean to imply that you actually typed something that was contrary to the Sovereign's will? You acted independent of the will of the Sovereign Lord? You ol' Arminian, you!!
Hey, why did God just call you an Arminian? Yet another mystery. (I apologize on God's behalf for any typos from eternity in this message). What did I just type? (Don't know what just came over me. God overthrew my nonexistent will and will hold me accountable for His actions...)
Very sincerely excited about the debate. I hope God preorchestrated a good seat for my missing rib and I to watch God engage in debate with Himself. Wonder who God pre-decreed will win (to the praise of His glorious grace) or lose (to the praise of His glorious justice)? Himself or Himself?
Under the Savior of all men's easy yoke (1 Tim. 4:10; 1 John 2:2),

Bookborn said...

Is the debate cancelled?

Tim said...

Dr. James White says it has been cancelled:


I grieve for the Liberty students that could have been exposed to the truth of the doctrines of grace.