Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Final Response to Dr. Caner on Falwell.com
06/09/2006 - James WhiteFinally, this definition of "Neo-Calvinist" concludes,
Calvinism is the only Gospel. Simply put, when a person holds this narrow view, they become exclusivists. They believe that Calvinism, and only Calvinism, is the preaching of the Gospel. One historian wrote, "Calvinism is just another name for Christianity."1 If that is true, what does that say about the myriad of preachers throughout Church history who were not Calvinists? Were they even saved?
The "historian" to which Caner refers is Dr. John Gerstner. Sadly, Dr. Caner did not read Dr. Gerstner directly. No, take a look at the footnote. He's giving us a secondary source. And his actual source? A paragon of fairness and accurate research perhaps? No, it's Dave Hunt. Oft-refuted, never willing to debate, let's cite the NWT--OK, no, let's say this meaning isn't in the lexicons--no, wait, OK, let's say it was originally written in Hebrew--ack, no, never mind, didn't really mean that--Oh, look, Spurgeon denied limited atonement unequivocally--uh, I mean he contradicted himself, Dave Hunt.
I wonder. Does Dr. Caner believe his version of synergism is, or is not, the gospel? If he believes it is the gospel, doesn't he have to answer the same questions about Calvinists that he asks us to answer about others? Should someone actually preach a message they do not believe is the most accurate representation of the gospel itself? I've never understood this objection outside of the fact that if a person cannot think clearly they may be emotionally impacted by it. Is that the reason to offer it? I certainly hope not. Gerstner was saying nothing more than what Spurgeon said:
And I have my own private opinion that there is no such a thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism. I have my own ideas, and those I always state boldly. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in his dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering, love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the peculiar redemption which Christ made for his elect and chosen people; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having believed. Such a gospel I abhor. The gospel of the Bible is not such a gospel as that (2/11/1855).
(I note parenthetically that I have been informed Dr. Caner teaches his classes that Spurgeon was an Amyraldian, a "four-pointer." I would love to hear his response to this text and its plain promotion of 'particular redemption.')
11) Dr. Caner comments regarding the phrase, "the doctrines of grace":
They may believe in the "Doctrines of Grace" for themselves, but they hold to the "Doctrines of Damnation" for most people, unless they view the damnation of souls to hell as a work of grace.
No, it isn't a work of grace. But that is hardly the point, is it? Damnation is a work of justice. We all deserve justice. Some get grace. Who decides? Is God's grace freely given by His sovereign choice, or can it be demanded by sinful man? That is the issue. I wonder, would Dr. Caner lodge the same objection to the glorification of the grace of God in the eternal state? When the redeemed stand around the throne, would he likewise say, "Well, you can sing about the grace of God all you want, and call it glorious, but look at all those who are damned! It's not grace for them!" Would this be a meaningful argument? Hardly. "Oh, but they were offered that grace, and refused it!" Of course they refused it. The only thing we differ on is whether it makes any sense to say freedom was "offered" to corpses, grace was "offered" to slaves.
12) Magisterial Reformers persecuted "Anabaptists." For a great film depicting this, see one of my favorites, The Radicals, now out on DVD. That is quite true. What is also quite true is that it is simplistic, and inaccurate, to ignore the complex religious and political situation of the time so as to either unjustly condemn some, and excuse others, and pretend one can draw a direct lineal descent to today's situation. The term "anabaptist" was used of a tremendously wide variety of viewpoints in those days, and may I be so bold as to point out that this is nigh unto irrelevant to the fact that this debate is one based upon divine scripture, not your pet interpretations of history? How telling it is that you can't get the leaders of the anti-Reformed movement to sit down in front of their own students with an open Greek text and labor diligently to exegete the primary texts, but you can find them investing lots of time talking about the persecution of Anabaptists?
13) Caner concludes:
However, the implications of this struggle are vast. As churches and seminaries become more enamored with these teachings, many leaders have stood by silently, or simply grumbled under their breath. Following the lead of Chancellor Falwell, I felt someone needed to challenge the assumptions of this new breed. So, let it be known: I believe Jesus Christ died to save mankind and offers salvation to every living soul. I believe in the "whosoever will." I believe that His love and salvation are extended to every person who will repent of sin and trust in Him.
And so we see that the newly minted President of Liberty Seminary views himself as taking the lead in "challenging" "Neo-Calvinism." It is an inauspicious start, citing Hunt, using red herrings and a backpack full of caricatures. But a start it is. Ironically, every Calvinist would agree with the last sentence of his paragraph. God's love and salvation are, in fact, extended to every person who will repent of sin and trust in Him. That's exactly right. And who will repent of sin and trust in Christ? Jesus told us:
John 6:37, 44 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out....No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.Who will repent and turn? The elect. Do all possess the ability to raise themselves to spiritual life and do what is pleasing in God's sight? Most certainly not. There's the issue. Dr. Caner is a Neo-Erasmian. He stands with Erasmus against Luther. He puts the final control of salvation firmly in the hands of the rebel creature. And isn't it very odd that while he can make this clear statement of faith on Falwell.com, he cannot, and will not, agree to our thesis statement that is just as plain and fully consistent with his own words here? Remember, here is the thesis I have offered and Caner has rejected:
Resolved: God Seeks to Save Every Person Equally and Without Distinction
Isn't that what he just said? Sure looks like it. How very odd.