Friday, October 13, 2006

The "Calvinist Jihad"

If you have not followed the story of the demise of the debate on Baptists and Calvinism between Ergun with Emir Caner and James White with Tom Ascol, I would encourage you not to do so. Although it's rather instructive, in that you'll learn a great deal about four individuals and their sharply contrasting spirits and veracity, it's also rather frustrating and likely not wise stewardship of your time.

Here's the point that seems relevant to me: I've quite frequently heard 5-point Calvinists publicly admonish and rebuke the "CalviNazis," as one of them put it—arrogant, obnoxious young Calvinists or hyper-Calvinists (yes, there is a difference) whose spirit and life contradicts the glory of God that they claim to exalt. I'm grateful for those admonitions. On the other hand, I've not heard any of the anti-Calvinists rebuke people like Ergun Caner, who posted this on his website:

A: Yes, absolutely. For a small portion of these people, just daring to question the Bezian movement is heresy. They will blog and e-mail incessantly. I call it a “Calvinist Jihad,” because just like Muslims, they believe they are defending the honor of their view. They can discuss nothing else. I have even had a few call for my head! Dr. Falwell and I have laughed about it, because they are so insistent, and they miss the point completely. There are plenty of schools to which the neo-Calvinists can go, but Liberty will be a lighthouse for missions and evangelism to the “whosoever wills.” Period.

The difference is, Muslims know when to quit - for these guys, it is the only topic about which they can talk.
I'll not link to Caner's post. You can find it quite easily if you must. For those of you who know young people interested in attending a Christian university or a Baptist seminary, you might want to find out where this individual is employed. I must admit that I find great irony in the failure of reasonable anti-Calvinists to rebuke the radicals, just as the allegedly peaceful Muslims fail to stand against the terrorist Muslim sects.


tjp said...

I never grew up among the priss and "tone" crowed. In fact, I grew up on the "hard side" of town. Maybe that's why I don't see the evil in the White/Caner situation. I'm a hardened, I know. After all, I actually read "Calvin's Calvinism" without repenting for having enjoyed the vicious ravings of a carnal man who showed no more grace than an outraged devil.

Perhaps in the interest of tone and civility, we should ban the writings of the Reformers altogether and then bring that same bowdlerizing spirit against the apostle Paul for suggesting the castration of his enemies. I'm not ready to label the White\Caner situation as either unchristian or unusual unless we're willing to tag Calvin and the Reformers as reprobates and roustabouts.

Personally, I don't think it strange that passionate men act passionately, or even oddly, at times. And I think this is the case with the White\Caner fiasco.

Bruce McKanna said...

Believing that God is sovereign over human response to the call of repentance and faith does not mean that predestinarians cannot also "be a lighthouse for missions and evangelism to the 'whosoever wills.'"

See 2 Chronicles 30:1-12 for a passage that cannot be accommodated by Arminianism or hyper-Calvinism. In order to be biblically faithful (as a Calvinist or whatever else you like to call yourself), one must be able to see the compatibility of verses 6-9 (which say over and over "if you respond this way, God will do this instead of that") with verses 10-12 (which include a variety of human responses and a clear statement of the LORD giving to some a "heart to do" what was asked of them).

We must be able to affirm both of these dynamics in preaching, evangelism, etc., and not ignore either of them.

Anonymous said...

Where Tracy's reference to the Reformers seems to break down is that they believed they were combatting Antichrists and unregenerates. One would hope this was not the case with Caner/White (though reading, one is forced to wonder).

Josh said...

I'm struck by the juvenile tone of the whole fiasco. I'm not sure White/Ascol are very good ambassadors for the Reformed movement in the SBC.

Did anyone catch Mohler's radio program a few weeks ago when, just as he was going to a break, a caller asked Mohler if he was affiliated with the Founders' movement? Mohler gave him a hurried brush-off while the bumper music rolled. After reading some of the petty comments over at the Founders blog, I understand why. I'm repelled by their love of controversy. Yuck.

Jim from said...

Pretty disturbing remarks from Ergun Caner.

Here's a related post called:

Picturing The Absurd: "Worse Than Muslims"?

Ben said...


For what it's worth, in my interaction with you I've never experienced anything remotely like what's happened here, regardless of which side of town you're from. I think you do yourself a disservice to associate yourself with this debacle.

I simply think believers have a fundamental obligation to the truth, but what I've read in the debate discussion is a lot of rhetoric. Or rather, one side has rhetoric. The other has documentation.

Ben said...


I did catch that comment from Mohler. I wouldn't want to speculate on Mohler's motives for not associating with Founders, but it would be easy to see where it would not be politically expedient for him to do so as the leader of an institution that serves a broad constituency doesn't want too much of a reformed stigma.

Perhaps I'm reading this a bit differently from you, but Ascol, IMO, has acquitted himself quite well. He's the one person who has been humble enough to admit his own shortcomings in handling the situation, despite the fact that he's certainly the most even-keeled of the four. Perhaps his real mistake was in his optimism that the exercise could be profitable. But I can appreciate that.

By the way, I'm fairly confident that White's church is neither Southern Baptist nor associated with the Founders movement.

Nephos said...

I'm personally disgusted with the entire situation.

However, can you explain to me the difference between Caner saying Calvinist are like Muslims because "just like Muslims, they believe they are defending the honor of their view. They can discuss nothing else," and your saying anti-Calvinist are like Muslims because they fail to rebuke the radicals?,

Both are comparisons based upon one particular thread of similarity. Neither state that they are alike in every aspect. You might disagree with the comparison, but why the outrage over it being made?

Personally, I would be just as outraged by being called a "CalviNazi". Is that a better comparison than Jihad?

I don't like the manner Mr. Caner has behaved, and his rhetoric is over the top, but I think all the outrage over this comment is much ado about nothing.

tjp said...


I believe the Reformers were horrible in their deportment and too often gave the impression they were either Pharisaical or unregenerate. Their combative and pugnacious spirit was more than an attitude, it was a way of life that translated into the persecution of others.

Perhaps I do myself a disservice in associating with Caner, but, then again, given Calvinism's tack record, perhaps I do myself a disservice in associating with Calvinists, too. But it's a disservice I'm willing to bear.

Again, my sense is that these are good men who have engaged a first-order argument. If the Calvinists are correct (and I do not think they are), the very gospel is at stake. Thus the issue is nothing less than an Acts 15 redux. I would expect, therefore, that an economy of temper and words are not at a premium.

Ben said...


The difference is that Caner is judging motivations. This judgment is wholly subjective, and he really has no way to judge motives. My point of comparison is grounded in actions--fact, not opinion. I'm not speculating on motives. I'm analyzing actions.

By the way, you'll notice that I didn't say that the reasonable anti-Calvinists who refuse to rebuke their radical allies are worse than Muslims.

Ben said...


The irony, however, is that you say if the Calvinists are right, then it's a first-order doctrine. But it's the anti-Calvinists who are on the rampage.

Nephos said...

I appreciate your gracious tone, and it is not my desire to be contentious. Because of the title of your article, I was focusing on Caner's statement "I call it a 'Calvinist Jihad,' because just like Muslims, they believe they are defending the honor of their view. They can discuss nothing else." To me the first statement is true (probably of all flavors of theologians)and the last statement is only a mild generalization.

I agree that saying Calvinists are worse than Muslims is uncalled for and detracts from the point he seems to be making, but the basic analogy is no more insulting the comparisons I referred to.

IMO, Mr. Caner has a way of making outrageous statements to garner attention. Then when he has it, what he actually says is not as controversial as his "headline" or "sound-bite". Perhaps his need for attention helps explain his current occupational association.

Of course, that is just my opinion.

For His Glory