Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Cost of Following Christ---Indeed
02/23/2010 - James White
I would like to thank Doug McMasters and the folks at TRC for getting me through morning rush hour traffic in London this morning to the studios of Premier Christian Radio for my two programs with Justin Brierley. These were my fourth and fifth appearances on the Unbelievable program, and I really enjoyed my time with Justin. The first program was with Adnan Rashid, and we discussed the Bible and the Qur'an, Surah 4:157, and as I knew what Adnan really wanted to argue about, the Gospel of Thomas. Adnan interrupted me regularly, so it was not quite your normal episode of Unbelievable, but Adnan has never realized that engaging in that kind of behavior (including the swipes and comments that he used in our debate in 2008, and again this morning) only detracts from his presentation. Then we had a few minutes break and went directly into an encounter with Sir Anthony Buzzard on the pre-existence of Christ. This was a very different discussion, since Sir Anthony is very genteel, and would normally respond with "thank you" even after I had said something akin to "Sir Anthony's position is rank heresy." So it was a very different exchange.
I do not know when the programs will air, but I would assume probably March 13th and 20th on Premier Radio. I subscribe to Justin's podcast, so when I have a better idea of the specific dates, I will try to post something.
My next engagement is Thursday evening on Revelation TV, doing an hour long discussion on the reliability of the New Testament. Those in London and the surrounding areas should be able to watch live, and, if I have my times right, you should be able to watch on the Internet at 4pm EST here. I hope, anyway.
As most of my readers know, my daring to expose the false statements of Ergun Caner wherein he accused me of engaging in "Jerry Springer" like behavior in my debates has brought out the worst in many Southern Baptist types. It seems that Dr. Caner can say anything, no matter how outrageously false, and he has full freedom to do so. He can impugn my character about the matter publicly, but if I dare point out the falsehood, I am supposed to repent of the heresy of questioning "the Lord's anointed." This kind of mentality is rampant in many circles. It is a sad thing to observe.
Tim Rogers provided us with a post that illustrated the "Caner can do no wrong, let's not talk about what he has really said" attitude just recently, as I noted in a previous blog entry. In the comments that followed we could discern quickly how this activity takes place in these very insulated circles. The process goes like this:
1) Do not even acknowledge the problem (specifically, the documentation that Dr. Caner uttered a clear and plain falsehood on national radio, one that is easily documentable). Ignore it completely.
2) Attack anyone personally with untruths and ad-hominem who would point out the problem with the anointed leader you wish to defend (seen by Peter Lumpkins' first comment).
3) Sound the call to circle the wagons and do everything in your power to make sure the real issue---the matter of truthfulness and integrity---is drowned out by the shrieks and cries of the defenders of the anointed one.
Rational and reasonable people observe this for a while, maybe even attempting to point out the obvious disrespect for truth being displayed by these people, but eventually they give up, recognizing that no rational thought is taking place in the midst of the venting of the emotions of blind loyalty. And once again the real issue is ignored and covered over, the anointed one being allowed to get away, once again, with irresponsible behavior.
One of the saddest things about Pastor Rogers' article was its title: "The Cost of Following Christ." Pastor Rogers is so far removed from the reality of the situation that he can actually interpret the factual, fair, honest, and necessary refutation of a falsehood uttered on the part of Ergun Caner as an instance of Ergun Caner's suffering for following Christ. This is where blind partisanship becomes very dangerous indeed. The history of denominationalism in the United States is littered with the wreckage of churches that succumbed to this kind of partisanship, this willingness to let the superstars do what they wish without restraint or rule. When Ergun Caner chose, freely, to launch a public, national attack upon my character through the use of simple falsehood, he did so evidently thinking there would be no consequences, no responsibility, for his once again making things up as he goes along. I hold men like Tim Rogers and Peter Lumpkins responsible for creating the kind of atmosphere around men like Ergun Caner that allows them to continue to get away with this "make it up as you go along" behavior. They not only do not themselves hold him accountable for his statements, they will then willingly aid and abet him by attacking anyone who would call him to account.
Pastor Rogers dismissed me with a couple of Bible passages. Peter Lumpkins dredged up an eight year old article by a Mormon opponent attacking my work with Columbia Evangelical Seminary and posted it. I could only chuckle for many reasons, not the least of which is that the very LDS author, the last time I had contact with him, was working for a non-accredited distance learning school. I recognize that Peter Lumpkins has no interest in the truth of these matters---his bias is well documented. I would, however, challenge him: since I completed my Th.D. at Columbia twelve years ago in apologetics, I have done the only thing that anyone, no matter where they went for their training, possibly could do to validate their education: I've produced consistent, accurate scholarship in my field (apologetics). I have produced it in written form in books such as The God Who Justifies and Scripture Alone, as well as in moderated, public debates against numerous and varied opponents of the Christian faith, the majority of whom have fully accredited Ph.D.'s in their fields, including John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, and Bart Ehrman. To quote the ever wise Forrest Gump, scholarship is as scholarship does (he did say that, didn't he?). Some, like Peter Lumpkins, seem to believe that you buy that degree and then you can say anything you want with impunity. I practice the view that says that you prove your scholarship by what you produce in your field, and by demonstrating an ability to not only research and expand your knowledge in your field (all of my Islamic studies have been post-graduation, including my studies of Qur'anic textual history, Islamic theology, and Arabic) but to teach that material to others in a way that shows a firm and deep grasp of the subject. I know Peter Lumpkins has never taken a moment to consider my body of work and whether that, more than the approval of ATS (something, I note, that Ergun Caner avoided by doing his doctoral work overseas where this isn't an issue), what you do as a scholar is more important than where you went to school. His recent post was nothing but a venting of his anger toward me. But for those who think about these things, it is relevant.
I should add in passing that I am thankful to see a number of fine schools arise over the past ten years that are turning out sound, godly and excellent scholars---schools that follow the same educational method as Columbia Evangelical. Once again, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Princeton is fully accredited…and it produced Bart Ehrman. Accreditation is fine, but it does not guarantee the production of Christian scholarship. I will gladly put the scholarship I have produced up against anyone claiming a Th.D. in apologetics, and let the honest and unbiased judge.
Next, I would like to refute the oft-repeated falsehood floating about amongst the "touch not the Lord's anointed" crowd today: I had hardly given Ergun Caner a thought over the past few years. I have no interest in this fight right now. I have work to do, chapters and books to write, debates to prepare for. Outside of noting an odd statement by Caner on Twitter last summer sometime, I have had little interest in his activities. Rogers and Lumpkins have both falsely attributed to me intentions and desires I do not have. They seem to think I absolutely MUST debate Ergun Caner. I would surely like to do so---but only for the benefit of those who have been misled by Caner in the area of the freedom of God in salvation. But I already know of so many who have seen through his bluster on the topic and come to embrace God's kingly freedom in the gospel that if such an encounter never happened, I would continue to rejoice in the Lord's kind providence. Ironically, right as this current situation began to evolve, I was contacted by folks in Lynchburg asking me to come there in the fall sometime to speak on the atonement and, as a part of the trip, invite Ergun Caner to debate. I would still love to see that happen, as would many, many others (the cancellation of that debate, which was documented to be the result of the dishonest behavior of the Caner brothers, disappointed many), but even here, I have been contacted by others and asked to participate. I was not the one even looking for such an opportunity. So it is dishonest of Pastor Rogers and Peter Lumpkins to attribute to me some over-arching desire to debate Ergun Caner. Ergun has known since 2006 that if he really wanted to debate Reformed theology, he knew who to call. That's nothing new.
What, then, has brought about this current interest? Simple: Ergun Caner claims to do what I do in reality. He claims to be a leading figure in Islamic apologetics. He claims to have debated "leaders" in a wide spectrum of religious beliefs in more than a dozen countries and more than half of the United States. But the fact is, I haven't been able to find a single Muslim apologist or leader who has ever debated the man. He has redefined the term "debate" so that he can include every conversation he has ever had with anyone who is not a Christian. Why redefine the language? Because he needs to bring students to his school, evidently, and so his self-promotional language has caught him in a number of falsehoods. But my involvement here, as repulsive as I find it to be (I detest politics and would much rather be working on my next article on the Qur'an's view of "three" and the Trinity) is forced upon me by the fact that simple integrity demands it. Unlike Ergun Caner, I actually have interaction with Shabir Ally and the wide range of Islamic apologists active in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and elsewhere. I have to look them in the eye when I shake hands with them after a debate. And I therefore have to answer to a higher standard of truth than the "Circle the Wagons" mentality of Pastor Tim Rogers and Peter Lumpkins. I have to be consistent. I have sharply, and rightly, criticized "former Christians" who have become Muslims for their obvious ignorance of the Christian faith (Yusuf Estes, for example). So if a self-proclaimed former Muslim makes false claims about his activities (claiming to debate people he has never met, for example), am I to keep my mouth shut out of "team loyalty"? How can I do this? It is hypocrisy, plain and simple.
I have been in brief correspondence with the young Muslim here in London who posted the clips from Ergun Caner. He contacted me when he saw me asking, back in October/November, for help in finding any of these dozens of debates (61 with Muslims alone according to one 2006 newspaper interview). Up to that time I had not even considered the possibility that there was a wider problem with Ergun Caner's claims. This young Muslim has been the object of unmitigated hatred by many self-proclaimed "Christians" of late, and for what? He didn't make up Ergun Caner's self-contradictory claims. He did not force Ergun to tell one group of people he was born in Istanbul, a "sand monkey" (a grossly offensive term unworthy of anyone standing in a pulpit) and another group he was born in Sweden. He did not force Ergun to confuse Shabir Ally with Ahmed Deedat nor did he make Ergun confuse the shahada with the opening words of Surah Al Fatiha. Nor did he make Ergun claim the Muslims believe in a prophet they've never heard of, and then have the tapes edited to remove the mistake. To blame this young man for Ergun Caner's errors is absolutely, positively reprehensible for anyone who names the name of Jesus Christ, who identified Himself as the very embodiment of truth itself. So let me ask all those warriors who have launched their Christian version of jihad in defense of their Evangelical Superstar: do you have any idea how many obstacles you have placed in the way of this young Muslim ever hearing the gospel in honesty? Did that thought ever once cross your mind before you in your abject ignorance blithely accused him of falsehood? Where is all your vaunted concern for evangelism now, I wonder?
Finally, a word to my friends. The insults born out of pride, anger, and ignorance, are flying all over the blogosphere, Twitter, web-boards, etc. Some men will gladly repeat anything without the first interest in verification or accuracy, and the temptation is to respond in kind. May I kindly but firmly exhort my friends and supporters to take the high road. When men like Rogers or Lumpkins go ad-hominem the only people impressed are those who, like them, are deeply entrenched in their mentality, and those folks are not going to listen to reason anyway. Pray for them, model a concern for truth, rebuke them in love when they tell people to blindly follow "the Lord's anointed," but always look to yourself and your own heart first and foremost. What really matters today is what will still be relevant fifty years from now. Pray that our proclamation of the gospel will be free of hypocrisy, and that the Lord will bless it to the salvation of His people.
And always, always pray for the persecuted church. The world's hatred of the gospel is unabated.