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Archive for May, 2010

As regular readers of this blog will remember, early last year I made several posts in the midst of the controversy over Mark Driscoll that had ensued after Baptist Press published an article that was critical of certain aspects of Driscoll’s ministry.

With the exception of some admittedly overheated and perhaps hasty blog comments that I posted at the outset, for a number of reasons I have kept my distance from the current Caner controversy.  However, as I have observed it from afar, it seems to me that the way the Baptist Identity bloggers are defending Ergun Caner is quite similar to how the Southern Baptist “young leaders” and other bloggers defended Mark Driscoll early last year.

Here are some of the similarities:

1.  Those attacking our man have an agenda, are simply out to get him and are opposed to what we stand for. Questions and concerns are deflected by pointing out the perceived agenda and evil motives of the critics.  The substance of the concerns as well as the substantiating evidence are often never acknowledged at all.

2.  Our man has apologized, so shut up already. The other side notes that the apology was vague and insufficient.

Thus these two camps or movements, which have been sparring with each other in the blogosphere for several years, pretty much operate in the same way when one of their own is being criticized.  There is no doubt that at times such criticism is indeed agenda driven, but that doesn’t necessarily render it completely invalid.

Several years ago I heard an old preacher warn against being carried away by movements after having seen their effect on his ministry and that of others.  His main concern was that too often a ministry will ride a hobby horse and will focus on one narrow spectrum of truth to the exclusion of the whole counsel of God.  A related problem that we see in this case is that when a leader that is greatly admired by a particular group and is considered to be integral to (if not the embodiment of) the movement is accused of some wrongdoing, there is the tendency to react as I have enumerated above.

Yesterday Mark (hereiblog) posted the Vindication of popular ministers.  I commend the entire post to your reading, but I wish to quote some relevant excerpts here:

It seems we all must be careful in defending someone for their namesake instead of for Christ’s namesake. Men fall. This can be read all throughout the Bible. It can be seen through the past and in the present. When we defend our favorite preachers without question we may be doing them more harm than good if they are in unrepentant sin.

It can be difficult to objectively address the sin of people we respect or have some sort of relationship with. In the same manner it can be difficult to objectively address our own sin. We find excuses to let our own sin go such as pointing to someone else’s sin or even actions we don’t like. Someone may even sinfully point out our own sin, yet that does not give us a right to ignore personal repentance. Just as one popular minister does not get a pass on sin because another popular (or even unpopular) minister points it out in a manner some find unkind. In other words, one sin does not excuse another regardless of who you are.

Of course, the greater the popularity the greater responsibility. The more someone promotes and markets themselves the more scrutiny they will come under. When someone seeks attention and is successful they will surely get both positive and negative reactions. People often get back a bit of what they dish out too.

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I’ve been tied up with other issues offline (or IRL it used to be termed) and haven’t been able to blog much lately, although I do have several posts that I’m working on that I hope to publish soon.

Many who read this post may be aware that there has been a controversy brewing for some time over Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary President Ergun Caner.  Dr. Caner is a former Muslim, and at issue are claims he has made over the past decade about his background and activities prior to his conversion, namely that the claims seem to be at odds with the facts.  Liberty University has finally announced that they are opening an investigation into these matters.

The legwork on this controversy has been done by several bloggers, most notably by Christian apologist James White.  It appears to have been perpetuated by a Muslim who claims that Ergun Caner and his brother Emir are “fake former Muslims,” a claim that does not appear to be the case.  Liberty initially stated that they don’t respond to allegations made by bloggers.  One wonders if this is because the bloggers were considered to be hostile to Liberty and toward Dr. Caner in particular due to their being either Muslim or Calvinist in most if not all cases.  But now that largely liberal and/or mainstream sources have picked up the story, usually simply recounting what the bloggers have reported, Liberty has decided to act.

While I haven’t read every pertinent blog post on this controversy, here are perhaps the best two series of posts on this issue that I’ve seen to date:

Pastor Tom Chantry on “Stephen Ambrose, Ergun Caner, and the Credibility of the Gospel.”  This is a long series, but it is worth it in that it puts the issue in context and highlights what is at stake.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

“The Squirrel,” Gene Clyatt, has posted a timeline today that will bring you up to speed on the discrepancies between statements that Ergun Caner has made about himself in the past and documented facts.  Squirrel links many other resources that go into more detail.

It saddens me that it has taken the mainstream media reporting on this story for Liberty to take action.  I hope Liberty (as well as the church where Ergun Caner holds membership, presumably Thomas Road Baptist Church) does a thorough investigation and then acts appropriately.  It is important not only for their academic integrity, but it is also important for the witness of the body of Christ as a whole.  Whatever one may think of Ergun Caner or Liberty University and Seminary, we must remember that the world looks at this as a Christian issue, and not merely as a Southern Baptist issue, a Liberty University issue or a Calvinist or non-Calvinist issue.

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About a year or so ago, a group calling itself the Nicene Council (made up largely of partial preterists) issued a statement under the name The Ninety-Five Theses Against Dispensationalism.  While their aim is true in some cases, overall the statement merely reiterates the myths and misunderstandings about dispensationalism that Dr. Michael Vlach dispelled in his little book that I reviewed last year.

Dispensationalism has always been a despised system, and it appears to be at a low ebb today among academics and younger pastors.  This is at least in part due to the resurgence of Calvinism that we have seen over the past fifty years, and especially in the past few decades.  (Overall I regard this as a welcome phenomenon.)  No doubt the antics of some popular dispensationalists haven’t helped matters.  As I had noted previously, it seems that some have simply dismissed dispensational and premillennial views in general on that basis alone.  This is often coupled with the perception that dispensational views made a relatively late appearance in church history.

Dr. Paul Henebury is attempting to remedy this, although he admits to being a somewhat reluctant defender of normative or classical dispensationalism.  (With that I can identify!  I’m not sure whether I’m a dispensationalist at all at this point, or at any rate don’t find the name to be particularly helpful.)  Dr. Henebury has just concluded a series of posts Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism that I believe will be of interest to both friends and foes of dispensationalism.

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