February 22, 2006

White Debating Caner?

Dr. James White has recently extended an invitation to debate Dr. Ergun Caner on Calvinism. I would definitely like to hear this debate. While at Criswell College, I took a class with Dr. Caner on Baptist history and theology. I was very disappointed by his inaccurate teaching and misrepresentations of both Calvinism and Roman Catholicism. I, a staunch advocate of the 5 Solas of the Reformation, found myself having to defend Roman Catholicism against constant misrepresentations. I completely reject official Roman Catholic teaching (I am an ex-Roman Catholic) in many areas, and yet I was grieved by Dr. Caner's many straw men. Needless to say, he does the same thing with Calvinism. I've heard these things during an entire semester. One student told me that he wanted to bring a little strawman to class and raise it up each time this sort of argument occurred, but he didn't ;-) I did it instead! Just kidding!

Dr. Caner is obviously a very passionate man with deep convictions. He's a former muslim, so I can't help but sympathize with his reactions against their idolatrous and anti-biblical beliefs. I am inclined to think that Dr. Caner is reacting against Islamic fatalism and anti-semitism in his adherence to Arminianism (he doesn't like what seems to be the fatalistic implications of Calvinism) and classical dispensationalism (he doesn't like the so called "replacement" theology of some Calvininsts). He also greatly sympathizes with what the so called "ana" baptists had to suffer from the Reformers. I don't mention these things to suggest that he doesn't have biblical concerns. He definitely has legitimate biblical concerns, but I still think the above issues are factors in his thinking, from my perspective.

Overall, I don't think Dr. Caner will move toward a Calvinistic soteriology as a result of debates, particulary in a debate with a very high Calvinist like James White. These men are polar opposites. Nevertheless, I think White will do a far better job in a debate on the specific issue of election. If they do debate the issue, I hope the format allows for good back and forth questioning. If they do not engage one another in a thorough cross-examination period, Caner will be allowed to continually misrepresent historic Calvinism on election. A "debate" that is really a side-by-side sermon comparison will profit no one.


Charles said...

Hello Tony!

James White is not yet ready to debate Caner. James still has a severe case of Rossphobia, or fear of Bob Ross, the owner of Pilgrim Publications and the publisher of C. H. Spurgeon's sermons.

Tony, you remember Bob Ross called James White out on defending John MacArthur when John was deep in the heresy of denying the eternal son doctrine. Then Bob called James out again after James stubbornly held to prefaith regeneration after Bob pointed out to James that this was in denial of historic Calvinist confessions.

Bob is an accomplished debater and was debating before James was a gleam in his daddy's eye. No wonder James ran like a scalded dog when Bob called him out!

YnottonY said...

Hi Charles,

First, some readers may be left confused when you say John MacArthur denied the "eternal Son doctrine." They may be left with the impression that he denied that the second person of the Godhead existed prior to his conception in Mary. What you really mean to say is that MacArthur held that the second person of the Trinity did not hold the title "Son" prior to the incarnation, even though he existed as the "Word of God." I agree that this position is false. Whether or not I would rank it as heresy is another matter. I think the early church (Athanasius) certainly deemed it so. My concern is for clear scriptural support to rank it as heresy. If the incarnational sonship view entails an inability to distinguish between the first and second persons of the Godhead, then I can see why one would call it heresy. Nevertheless, the argument has to be made, not merely asserted.

Secondly, when you fault "pre-faith regeneration," what do you mean by "pre-"? Do you mean it in the chronological sense? Do you mean it in the causal priority sense (logically prior)? Or both? Or some other sense? Would you say that you hold to post-regeneration faith? And if so, what would "post" mean in that view?

Would you say that faith preceeds justification? Or does justification preceed faith? In your view, can one have faith and yet not be justified? It seems to me that faith logically preceeds justification in scripture, but there's never a case when a person can have faith and yet not be justified. So, faith preceeds justification in terms of causal priority, but the two go hand-in-hand chronologically. One can preceed the other like the turning on the light switch preceeds the entrance of light. Could this also be the case or pattern with regeneration and faith?

It seems that Bob Ross is really against the view that regeneration can chronologically preceed faith, as if one can be in a regenerate state and yet not believe. I would also think that this is false, but the single instance of John the Baptist may be exceptional.

One last thing, Ross' terminology is confusing. Sometimes he seems to speak of faith as a created abstract substance. He speaks of faith being "brought into existence," and the Holy Spirit "creating faith." Do you think that kind of terminology can be misleading? Bob Ross is certainly not sympathetic to Roman Catholic teaching, but speaking about faith as a kind of created abstact substance can have that connotation.

What are your thoughts? Thanks...


D.R. said...


I wouldn't worry about Charles. He's been posting this junk about Dr. White all over the blogosphere -- and I mean everywhere. I have gone to 5 blogs tonight with the same basic comments from him. He is shameless in his tactics.

As for your post, I think that a formal debate would be profitable in that it would require Dr. Caner to stay on topic, disallowing red herrings and forcing Caner to actually issue forth exegesis, rather than strawmen (btw, love the pic) and make him deal with the Scriptures that he won't even quote full (you know how he loves to throw out "whosover will" without actually dealing with any context). So I am for the debate, as long as it is formal, wiht scheduled points of interaction. But really, it's not going to happen. It would undermine Caner's ability to just throw out blurbs and one liners, and he won't have that.

YnottonY said...


I was hoping that you would interact with my questions for yourself, rather than post more links. If you would like to answer the specific questions I put to you, then feel free to do so. I already have the Ross links, so there's no need to post those again. Thanks.

Hi D.R.,

Thanks for your comments.