Saturday, August 07, 2010

Synthesizing Light and Darkness

Christopher Benson has a new post called, "The Future of the Science and Religion Debate." (link to post - not recommended) Benson argues that, "Christians can achieve a “synthetic middle ground” in the debate if they get a better handle on the vocations of science and religion and a more robust doctrine of creation." But Benson, in a quotation from Giberson, defines this synthetic middle ground as a position "where one might simultaneously embrace a science shorn of its over-reaching scientism and a faith freed from a simplistic biblical literalism."

Why on earth would I want to compromise Biblical literalism? What good is a synthesis of truth (that God created the world in six days) and error (anything else)?

According to Benson, the apparent reason would be to avoid negative perception from unbelievers: "A Pew Forum poll conducted in 2007 showed that only 25% of evangelicals believe in evolution and 10% in evolution through natural selection––a statistic that puts them at odds with the scientific consensus, reinforcing the cultural perception of Christian anti-intellectualism. The New Atheists have emerged, defining the terms of engagement in the debate on science and religion. And the Intelligent Design crowd has lost its stamina, becoming a scientific embarrassment."

Guess what, there are some other things that are contrary to the scientific consensus:

1) Noah's Flood

2) The Plagues on Egypt

3) The Crossing of the Red Sea

4) Manna from Heaven

5) The Crossing of the Jordan

6) The Battle of Jericho


7) The Virgin Birth

8) The Resurrection of Lazarus

9) The Resurrection of Jesus


I could list many more. The scientific consensus is that there are no miracles. It's not there are miracles only about things less amazing than creating the world in six days. It's worse than stupid to compromise the truth of Scripture for the sake of being more well-liked by unbelievers.

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.


Ergun Caner's So-Called Apology (Part 2)

I previously blogged on the subject of Ergun Caner's so-called apology (link to my post). Recently, someone directed me to DeMarcus Sullivan's blog post (link) on the topic. He writes:
But ladies and gentlemen, here is the official statement of apology made by Dr. Ergun Caner back in FEBRUARY when he first addressed these allegations as I mentioned in a previous post. So, for the internet blogging mob that are demanding a public apology from Dr. it and shut up.
Keep in mind that Sullivan is a recent graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, with his degree being in Theology and Apologetics, as his blogger profile proudly trumpets.

Look, however, at the shallowness of his defense of Dr. Caner! He encourages folks to "read it and shut up." We have to wonder why Sullivan thinks that Caner's so-called apology would suffice?

I. What is Denied in the so-called Apology?

The so-called Apology explicitly denies having intentionally misled anyone. Caner says specifically: "I have never intentionally misled anyone." My understanding of this is that Caner is denying that he lied to people. If he had lied to someone, he would have intentionally misled them, right? So, as I understand what Caner is saying, he did not lie.

II. What is Admitted in the so-called Apology?

The so-called Apology admits the following: "I am sure I have made many mistakes in the pulpit in the past 20-plus years, and I am sure I will make some in the future. For those times where I misspoke, said it wrong, scrambled words, or was just outright confusing, I apologize and will strive to do better."

- misspoke
- said it wrong
- scrambled words
- was just outright confusing

It also admits one other thing: "Finally, there is a legitimate complaint which I must address, namely, referencing a Muslim scholar that I have never met. Listening to the audio, I honestly have no idea who I was referencing, but it certainly could not have been the man I referenced. For this unintentional but nevertheless horrible mistake, I repent for saying his name, and I ask the forgiveness of all those who heard it. Sin is sin, and if I am dumb enough to say something like that, I should be man enough to deal with it and aim to never make such a grievous error again. This applies to any time when I wrongly used names. I shall be more careful."

- unintentional[ly] referencing a Muslims scholar that [he] never met
- saying his name
- wrongly used names
- [not being] more careful

We can see what Caner thinks he is apologizing for most clearly in his final section: "Criticism is many times helpful. In this particular instance, it has enabled me to correct the careless mistakes I addressed above. "

- careless mistakes

III. Is the Apology Accurate?

The apology makes three sentences of autobiographical claims in an opening section:
  1. I was born in Sweden, with a Turkish father and our mother who was a Turkish citizen.
  2. I was born and raised a Sunni Muslim, just like my brothers.
  3. I was led to Christ at the Stelzer Road Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, just like my brothers.
As to (1), I cannot confirm whether Caner's mother was a Turkish citizen. Apparently, it is presently possible for a foreign woman to gain Turkish citizenship by marrying a Turkish man (link to source - note that the same source observes that monogamy is a requirement of Turkish law). I do not know, however, whether that was possible in 1966, when Caner's parents married, nor do I know whether Caner's mother elected to be a Turkish citizen.

As to (2), aside from his brother, I am not aware of anyone who has stepped forward to confirm the idea that he was "raised a Sunni Muslim." I don't doubt that his father tried to influence him for Sunni Islam.

As to (3), in their book (Unveiling Islam, page 19) the Caner brothers state that Erdem Caner was saved "in the basement of their home." And Kregel Publications claims to have done their own investigation and somehow confirmed the facts as presented in Unveiling Islam (link to evidence). In fact, Kregel writes: "Kregel Publications has found no credible evidence that contradicts the biography as presented in Dr. Caner’s books." (source) So, if Kregel is right, then in this very apology for misstatements about his past, Dr. Caner has made another misstatement about his past. Alternatively, Kregel hasn't done a very careful investigation.

IV. Is the Apology (so-called) Enough?

If Ergun Caner lied about being born in Turkey, living in Ankara and along the Iraqi border most of his life, being trained at madrassahs in Istanbul in Cairo, coming to the United States in 1978, getting misconceptions about America by watching U.S. TV in Turkey, having a polygamist father, and so forth, then how could the apology possibly be enough?

If, on the other hand, all the untrue statements that Ergun Caner made are nothing more than times when he
  • misspoke
  • said it wrong
  • scrambled words
  • was just outright confusing
or were otherwise careless mistakes, then yes, the apology was fine and people should shut up and stop asking Dr. Caner to apologize for something he's already apologized for. There would be no reason to ask him to apologize for speaking carelessly. But are Caner's critics simply accusing him of speaking carelessly? Or are they accusing him of lying?

V. An Important Post-Script

Dr. Caner originally posted this so-called apology on his own website. He subsequently withdrew it from there. He did not explain why. Also, Dr. Caner apparently apologized (in some form) to the students of Liberty University at a meeting of "Campus Church" there.

Dr. Caner also apparently apologized to the board of Liberty University. Dr. Caner may further have apologized in private to many other people at many other times. And, of course, we don't know whether Dr. Caner has repented to God for more than what he has publicly apologized for.

Those critics who are demanding a public apology from Dr. Caner for lying, should be clear that this is what specifically they want. Not that they just want "an apology" (since "an apology" has been offered) nor even that just want a "a public apology," since Dr. Caner's so-called apology may meet that very broad description.

Instead, if the critics believe that Dr. Caner was lying, they should be asking for Dr. Caner to publicly repent of the public lies that they believe Dr. Caner has committed. Dr. Caner pointed out, in his so-called apology: "Every minister has made pulpit mistakes. Being called a “liar,” however, is a serious charge, especially when it is made by Christians. That would indicate that (1) the accusers can know the motives of the accused person’s heart, and (2) the accused person intentionally misled people."

While Dr. Caner may have bias on this matter, his analysis is correct. It is a serious charge to say that someone is lying, and one is claiming to discern the intent of the person speaking. That does not mean that we can never call people liars, but it does mean that we should be slow to assume that untrue statements are lies, particularly when an ordained man is involved. We should hold an ordained man to a higher standard of integrity, but we should also not be hasty to conclude that such a person is sinning by lying.

After all, lying is a particularly heinous sin:

1 Timothy 1:8-11
But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

Revelation 21:7-8
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Revelation 22:15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

Notice that being a liar is grouped in there with sodomy, fornication with a prostitute, engaging in sorcery, and murdering. It's a very serious sin. If Dr. Ergun Caner has (or had) a problem with that sin, I would first of all encourage him to repent of that and seek the mercy of Christ, which mercy is shown toward all who repent. Secondly, if that is indeed the issue, I would encourage those who are relying on Dr. Caner's so-called apology to stop relying on it. It denies that lying took place, and consequently shows no confession of the sin of lying, or any remorse for it. If Caner wasn't lying, then many of Dr. Caner's critics owe Dr. Caner an apology.

Either way, I don't think the very shallow attempt by LBTS master of theology and apologetics, Sullivan, is helpful. Either Caner should be apologizing for lying, or his critics who have accused him of lying should be apologizing for their accusation. Either way, the answer is not to "shut up," but to move forward toward repentance and restoration.


Friday, August 06, 2010

Shoot the Messenger Tactics - Literally

I have criticized some folks who have attempted to defend Ergun Caner by attacking his critics. Sadly, yesterday I read of the story of a New Jersey man who decided to do something similar, but both literally and figuratively (link to story).

The man worked for a beer distributor, and he had been stealing and reselling beer. He went on a killing spree, for which he confessed before apparently committing suicide. In the moments after his killing spree, but before the police attempted to capture him, the man called 911 (and his mother) and tried to blame his killing spree on racial harassment. However, by remarkable coincidence, he had just been at a meeting where he was given a choice to resign or be fired based on his theft of beer, and where he had apparently signed a resignation form.

Instead of confessing that he was a thief who had been busted for stealing, the shooter attempted to smear those who were critical of his theft. Now, his supporters (such as his alleged "girlfriend of nine years") are suggesting that it was really supposed racial harassment that was the cause.

Furthermore, the gunman was part of a union. He had filed a complaint with the union about insufficient training (which shows he knew how to file a complaint), but according to the union he had never filed any claims for racial harassment.

Do I need to go on? The real reason for the criticism of the shooter's company is that he didn't like having to deal with the consequences of his sin. Instead, he viewed those who confronted him with his sin as basically haters who were out to get him. Sound familiar?


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

On God's Covenant to Save His People from Idolatry

Matthew Lankford has posted a series of videos from J. Virgil Dunbar on the topic of the unlawful use of images, "On God's Covenant to Save His People From Idolatry."

0. Introduction
Dunbar explains the general thrust of the series.

1. What does God's covenant law say about images made to represent Him?
Dunbar explains that the point of the second commandment is different from the first commandment. The second commandment is related to making images of the true God. It does not forbid images in general. Dunbar explains how God is jealous of such images.

2. How do we know that the world is not God?
Dunbar explains the error of monism and its relation to the second commandment. The second commandment is one way that we know that world is not God.

3. What symbols do you use for God?
Dunbar explains the difference between visual representation symbols and the types and symbols of the Old Testament.

4. What symbols can we use for God?
Dunbar notes that the Old Testament period has passed, but what do we have now? Dunbar explains that we have the Bible and the Sacraments.

5. What did the early church believe about images made to represent God?
Dunbar explains that the early church followed the teaching and practice of the Apostles and did not worship using images.

6. Why does the Roman Catholic Church require its people to use images to represent the Lord?
Dunbar explains that Roman Catholic teaching is a complete reversal of the Scriptural teaching on the subject.

7. What did the Reformers believe about images made to represent the Lord?
Dunbar explains that the Reformed believers did not use images to represent the Lord and considered such to be idolatry, even as early as Huss.

8. How has the Protestant Church changed, so that they now use images to represent the Lord?
Dunbar explains a variety of influences that have led to the present practice, including Dispensationalism.

9. What is the testimony of those who saw God?
Dunbar observes how men ranging from Moses to Isaiah both saw God and opposed the use of images of God.

10. On Islam punishing the image-using church
Dunbar suggests that the iconoclastic movement may be tied to Christian recognition of the judgment of God, by the sword of Islam, against those who worship God with images.

J. Virgil Dunbar's writings can be accessed here.



Monday, August 02, 2010

Actually Bearing False Witness

Peter Lumpkins (whose relentless "shoot the messenger" tactics have been documented here) has a new video that bears false witness against Dr. James White (link to video - obviously, not recommended).

Whatever merit or lack of merit may be attributed to the production skills used in the video, and leaving aside the mocking spirit employed in the video, the video is premised on lies. The lies include the idea that Dr. White claims that only Calvinists are Christians or that only Calvinists are elect.

Dr. White does not claim that only Calvinists are Christians. In fact, Dr. White views that position as hyper-Calvinism, and Dr. White criticizes it as an improper view.

The second lie, that Dr. White only believes that Calvinists are elect is even less intelligent than the first lie. Election is from all eternity, and people become Calvinists in time. Thus, even if Dr. White held to the position that he himself has condemned as a form of hyper-Calvinism, Dr. White would not say that if you're not Calvinist you're not elect.

When you meet someone who is not saved, you don't know whether they are elect or not. That's why we Calvinists evangelize the lost indiscriminately, preaching the gospel to all men without distinction, calling them to repent of their sins and trust in Christ.

And since I know Mr. Lumpkins will read this, I'd like to again call him personally to repent of his sins and to trust in Christ. I'm calling him to repent, not because he's not a Calvinist, but because he's a liar.

Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Pray for Mr. Lumpkins.

And separately, let's help Mr. Lumpkins read John 3:16, all of the verse:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

How is God's love for the world expressed, according to the verse?

It is expressed by God giving his Son that "whosoever believeth in him" will be saved. In English, that sounds in indefinite - because we use "whosoever" to speak indefinitely. The Greek is more clear: "πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν " literally meaning all the [people] believing in him. That's the group also known as the elect. It includes those are are now believing on Christ, those who believed in Christ in prior generations, and those who will some day believe in Christ.

We don't know who they are by name - but we know that they all have this in common: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those are the ones whom Christ was sent to save. Whether we read the word "world" broadly as a statement about the world in general or not, the expression of God's love for the world was to send Jesus Christ to save the elect.