Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Baptist Press on the Debate Cancellation

Tammi Ledbetter has written a very balanced article for Baptist Press (10/17/06) on the cancellation of the Baptists and Calvinism debate. As I read it, I was impressed with how difficult it must have been to sort through the thousands of words that have been written on this whole issue, beginning back in February. The article indicates that Mrs. Ledbetter did exactly that. She quotes from blog articles, comments, and published correspondence and does so while keeping the timeline straight! Inevitably, there are details that I wish had been included or highlighted that were not (such as the fact that the debaters had a written, signed agreement--not merely "Tom Ascol's proposal"--that was completely set aside by the moderator, Brett O'Donnell, 12 days before the debate), but no doubt the Caners feel the same way.

I commend this article not only for its helpful clarification of what happened and how it happened, but also as a great example of Christian journalism that seeks to deal honestly and accurately with even the most controversial of issues.


Matt Privett said...


I felt as you did, that she did an admirable job. But like you, I wish they would have included the fact that there was a signed agreement. I emailed Baptist Press to let them know that, but all in all, a good article (and to be honest better than I would have expected).

Andrew said...

Hey Tom! I just wanted to say that I'm looking forward to you speaking at my church on Sunday and I think I'll be one of two guys to come pick you up from the airport. See you then!

On topic: I also enjoyed the article... especially the fact that when you got a sampling of dialogue from both sides, you realized how terribly caustic the Caner side was compared to the White/Ascol side.

jigawatt said...

Thanks for the link to the article, Tom. I predict it will not remain available on much longer.

deacon said...

I also enjoyed the article and was quite suprised by how detailed and well researched the information was. Kudos to Baptist Press. I wonder how many, if any, state papers will pick up on it.

I have found that BP is really good about archiving and making availble all of their articles no matter how controversial.

eric said...

Off Topic,

May i ask folks what they thought of the radio interview between James and Liberty? Has it created any conversations among Liberty students?

deacon said...

That would be "available" not "availble."

Matt Privett said...

James White reports on his website that Liberty did not allow the interview to air, but he has a link to the audio on his site.

He also is not as pleased with the BP article as Tom, citing what I did in a previous comment, the lack of anything regarding the signed agreement.

scripturesearcher said...

She usually does a very fine job of reporting and this is why many of us enjoy her work.

irreverend fox said...


I felt the same way.

That James White character sure is cantankerous isn't he? lol, reading his blog made me laugh today!

Tom said...

In fairness, James makes very valid points in his critique of the article. The crucial issue in the cancellation of the debate is integrity. We had a signed agreement. They broke it. James and I were not willing to trust them after that point. James gave an interview with some Liberty students that was not allowed to be aired (I am not sure where or why) but is available on his site at:

Despite this omission, and other minor mistakes, I still think the article is balanced and helpful.

Bill Formella said...

Thought I posted on this an hour ago but it's not showing.

I'm wondering if any of the Liberty Students can let us know if word of the podcast interview is getting around campus or if it's pretty much ignored.

Jeff Fuller said...

Is it possible for you or Dr. white to scan a copy of the signed agreement and post it on one of your blogs? It might help settle that fact while preventing its absence in possible future articles. If it isn't legally possible for the entire agreement, perhaps simply an excerpt and the signed part will suffice.

Tom said...


James has done exactly that...twice in fact. Go to the Alpha and Omega website. You can see Emir's actual signature that was transmitted electronically. Emir was speaking for himself and his brother when he sent that email with his signature. I had asked him about it two days before and he promised to talk to Ergun and get back to me "within 48 hours." His signed email is that response. They agreed. Then they sat back and allowed the moderator the sabotage the debate by completely undermining the key elements of that agreement. Finally, they chose to "support" him in his unilateral changes, saying nothing of what that meant for the integrity of their commitment.

Douglas said...


"The four men negotiated details for a proposed debate, going from a two-hour format preferred by Ascol and White to agreeing in May to two and one-half hours. In July, they agreed to lengthen the time to three hours to allow for cross-examinations and a brief intermission. The agreement allowed an opponent to interrupt certain speeches with a brief question but provided that the speaker could decline the question."

Wasn't the two hour format preferred by the Caners? Wasn't it the Caners who opposed the three hour format? Were there not people from all over America planning to attend the debate and that a two hour debate would not have even scratched the surface of the issues?

It seems to me that there was a deliberate stonewalling and sabotaging of the debate by those at Liberty Mountain from day one. I believe they did not want to have their errors exposed and reproved for the whole world to see.

"3) The Caners refuse to allow for a three hour debate, though they could do so, and have admitted as much. They wanted only two hours, and compromised on a mere 2.5 hours. Ask them." ~ Let the People of God Judge


My sources at Liberty report that Falwell and the president of his seminary are SPINNING the debate cancellation in their favor - as was expected by all who know the truth about these unreliable men.

Thanks for taking the "high road" and speaking the truth in love for all to understand the facts.

Mike said...

I think there is a lot of spinning going on, but those who aren't already following Caner around Liberty Mountain with their tongues hanging out have a pretty good idea of what really happened. We have 3 Freshmen from our church at LU, and I've been corresponding with them. This fiasco has definitley caused many LU students to view Caner in a different light. One interesting fact of note: The Convocation that everyone has read about where Liberty won another debate championship and in which White and Ascol were once again lied about was not videotapted. Our 3 Freshmen tell me that this is the first time they have seen one of these where the cameras were not even out. I found that quite interesting. I just posted on MY BLOG about Caner's latest post in which he once again butchers Romans 9 and then completely takes Spurgeon out of context as well. I have emailed each of my latest posts to Dr. Caner in hopes of starting a dialogue but haven't received any response. I will say, however, there are a lot of hits on my website over the past week from Liberty at least in those instances, the truth is getting out onto Campus. In any case, it grieves me to see someone act in this way, avoiding debate, avoiding truth and thumbing their nose at the doctrines of grace, even going so far as calling those who espouse them "worse than Islamic Jihadists." This is irresponsible at best, and at worst a sinister, sinister spirit at work. We need to pray for Dr. Caner and all on Liberty Mountain.


philness said...

Alright already. Turn the other cheek and get back on that horse and start the negotiations for the next debate date. How long must the lamentings go on?

Shepherd's Walk said...

Calvin Akbar!

Since 9/11 Americans have become all too familiar with the shout Allah Akbar!. It is Arabic for “God is great,” and is often uttered shortly before an Islamic terrorist crashes an airplane into a building or pulls the fuse on a bomb-vest killing himself and dozens of innocent victims. While the phrase is regularly uttered during a faithful Muslim’s daily prayers, the exclamation of praise to their god has taken on an evil infamy. Sadly, most Westerners have only become familiar with the term as a battle-cry of Muslim terrorists.

According to Ergun Caner, however, there are some new and more terrifying Jihadists among us. Their battle-cry is Calvin Akbar – “Calvin is great!” Ergun, President of Liberty Theological Seminary, and himself a former Muslim who converted to Christianity at the age of 13, has recently engaged in a war-of-words with James White over the Doctrines of Grace, more commonly known as Calvinism. James White is the founder of Alpha and Omega Ministries and a Christian apologist. The two, including Ergun’s brother Emil and Tom Ascol, Executive Director of the Founder’s Ministry (a ministry devoted to teaching and promoting the Doctrines of Grace among Southern Baptists), were scheduled to deliberate the topic on October 16, 2006 at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg , VA. in a long-anticipated and what was sure to be a closely-watched debate. The debate never took place. Rather than go into all the reasons here, I’ll leave it to the reader to Google for answers and drawn their own conclusions.

In response to the ‘great debate that wasn’t’ Caner wrote on his blog that “Calvinists are worse than Muslims,” and referred to Southern Baptist Calvinists as “Calvinist Jihadists.” In the on-gong debate concerning Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Caner has now – very openly and very publicly -- accused the Calvinists within the convention of spiritual terrorism. This kind of vitriolic diatribe is uncalled for does little to foster honest intellectual and theological debate among Southern Baptists. Frankly, I resent such outlandish accusations!

Convention leaders need to just as openly and just as publicly distance themselves from Dr. Caner’s remarks.

Does Ergun really mean to imply that pastors and laymen in the Southern Baptist Convention would actually resort to a violent take-over of the SBC? Isn’t that what Jihadists do? Does he really mean to imply that our loyalty is to our theology and not our Theos? I can only hope that Dr. Caner is being his typical bombastic self when he makes these kinds of statements.

aj said...

as someone who's not saved and just reading stuff about God and info about the church.. maybe im in the more neutral position of casting a vote on these two groups,they both look crazy haha

whats a debate prove other then one group won? its not going to prove God agrees,just that there more cleverer then the other group surely,would a Christian go oh man im changing my views now, arn't is views on more solid ground then one persons brighter then another?...ive been to j whites site and the other guys and they debate a lot why? for Gods glory or there own the latter i think
talk about fiddling while rome burnt ;-)

aj said...

oh ps as a (doubting) revert to Islam to be fair to ergun a jihad isn't just about force/war its also about a state of mind,spirit, clear he was talking about Calvinist trait of being entrenched like Muslims are, not that there violent like "some" muslims..hahah but that god hates fags guy doesn't do to bad ;-)

Mike said...

AJ, I think you misunderstand the point of scholarly, theological debate. It is not about "winning and losing," but about clarifying the Scripture which is central to Christianity itself. If there are misunderstandings about Scripture, misrepresentations of Scripture, this is one way to clear things up. In the end it serves to "build up" the church and glorify God. To assume that Dr. White is doing such for his own glory is just that: an assumption. Ultimately, whether or not we look crazy to anyone has no bearing on the matter. What matters is that the truth of God's word is proclaimed and portrayed accurately. Scholarly debates are one avenue which helps accomplish this.

aj said...

Hi Mike hmmmmmmm yes it should be but is this one? ive read the to and fro of the people involved and there "followers" the vague insults and fan worship of each doctrine..seems to a lot of people its very important who "wins" not for knowledge but for bragging rights..

to me it seems ur trying to prove infinate in a finate world didnt God himself say he's the I am? therefore he as no past no future so predestination is mute point its just a finate word to discrbe God knows all..God doesnt know history from point A to B he knows A & B all at onces

aj said...

ps Mike as a non christian what i think of this should be relevent shouldnt it?,after all isnt it God who commissioned u to tell me and to show him in a good light?

trust me outside of christianity u look like a bunch of people who like to shoot ur bullets in a circle..

Mike said...

While the aftermath of what has taken place via the cancellation of the debate has not favored Christianity, and therefore has been a poor representation of what being Christian really is, the debate in and of itself is what you were attacking (for lack of a better word.) In that regard, you are mistaken. The debate itself is/would not have been a bad thing. Again, it is one of those avenues that help bring clarity to the Scriptures. However as someone who is admittedly not a Christian, I wouldn't necessarily expect you to understand that or agree with it. What we know of God is revealed in Scripture. Thus it is of the utmost importance to clearly and consistently represent what God has said in His word. Where there is misunderstanding, we should strive for understanding. Where there is misrepresentation we should strive for clarity.
As far as "fan worship" of the doctrines....the reaction you have seen is not to the material of the debate, since it never happened, but in the harsh rhetoric of the aftermath. Certainly people are upset. Shouldn't they be? Do you get upset when someone lies to and about you...misrepresents your point of view and then has a Bully Pulpit to proclaim such? These are things that tend to upset people. I will say again, whether a non-Christian thinks a debate like this should take place really doesn't mean a whole lot....however, the reactions in the aftermath are definitely a poor representation of the One who has called us, saved us and transformed us. If you're saying we just "shouldn't disagree" about anything, then I would answer that what we believe about the Bible is worth fighting for when it is misrepresented. The only relevance I'm concerned about is already contained in the Gospel. We should not, and I will not, change it to adapt it to someone's whims to make it more palatable.

aj said...

Hi thks again,
you said ((( it is one of those avenues that help bring clarity to the Scriptures. )))))
haha it would appear God says two things to two people huh??it is a very interesting discussion but one which would seem impossible to prove,i guess its all down to intepretation...
also u said
(((Certainly people are upset. Shouldn't they be? Do you get upset when someone lies to and about you))))
yes i agree completely both party seem to of acted badly which is a shame..i was reading Eguns site and J White they both seem to be guilty of what there accusing the other of lol..

anyways thks for ur replies sorry this isnt the place for me spouting off

jim said...


1 Cor. 2:14

Enough said


aj said...

awww so endearing jim,did u have family in salem a few years back?

aj said...

haha anyhow I'd prefer to stay a fool then elitist like u jim..

how odd whenever i come across calvinist i'm reminded of

Mat 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
Mat 23:16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides

i'm out of here

jim said...


I'll pray for you.


Mike said...

AJ said:haha it would appear God says two things to two people huh??it is a very interesting discussion but one which would seem impossible to prove,i guess its all down to intepretation...
also u said
(((Certainly people are upset. Shouldn't they be? Do you get upset when someone lies to and about you))))
yes i agree completely both party seem to of acted badly which is a shame..i was reading Eguns site and J White they both seem to be guilty of what there accusing the other of lol..

Well, that would be the point of the debate, wouldn't it AJ? God hasn't "told two different things to two different people." There may be different interpretations, but God intended it one way. When there are conflicts over what His word means, then a debate like this helps to bring clarity, as I've stated twice now. As far as accusations, I'm not sure what accusations Caner has made toward White, other than "backing out of the debate" as though White was the one who spurred all of this on...which, by the way, is patently false. All the other accusations that Caner has leveled would have been cleared up at the debate (because they were misrepresentations of White's stated and easy-to-find viewpoint). As far as the ridiculous Salem analogy. It is just that...ridiculous. And the Matthew verses....even funnier...I, too, will pray for you, AJ.
Jim, 1 Corinthians 2:14??? Agreed...


bristopoly said...

1. Actually you are a strong believer, just not in Christianity. So please don't come here and act like you are objective. You have a view of what Christianity SHOULD BE like. Where did you get it? You have a view that anyone who quotes a Scripture you don't like is a Pharisee. Where did you get that concept? I actually preached on the Matt passage you quoted today. It has absolutely nothing to do with what you are talking about. The passage condemns the Pharisees for being a group that claims to know God and yet they set aside weighty matters of the Scriptures (like this issue that you are dismissively setting aside) because they don't want to live by them and be changed by them. All of their "good" then is seen to be worthless because it does not stem from a true salvific relationship with God.
2. Jihad historically is almost exclusively used to refer to the literal, physical conquering of the infidel. Please read the Koran and stop listening to liberal Muslims who are more secular humanists than real Muslims.
3. You also assume a position of belief when you say God knows everything so the debate is irrelevant. Actually that is not the point. The question is how He knows everything? Because the world turns on its own without His doing and He simply looks into it, or because He causes all things to occur? Does He know because He makes it happen as One who is intimately involved in His creation or is He passive as One who is minutely involved or even not involved at all in the decisions of men?
4. Your statement of Calvinists, or rather your ad hominem attack, displays a rebellion to learn. If you're not a Christian, at least learn what historic orthodox Christianity teaches (it is Augustinianism, which is Calvinism). If Orthodox Christianity to you is Pharisaical, that's fine. But you have to ask yourself why a person such as yourself, who the Bible says is in rebellion against the true God and His Scriptures, hates the orthodox teaching of Christianity. You say it's because you're objective. The Bible says it's because your biased toward the exaltation of yourself and your own "free will." You might want to also ask why you had such a hostile reaction to Jim simply quoting a Scripture written by an apostle who was accepted by the Lord and through whom the Lord spoke these words, not an unbelieving hypocritical Pharisee? Is it not because the very Scripture he quoted to you has been proven true by your very words and reactions here? Just something to think about for you.