Why Dr. Caner thinks he is predestined never to be a Calvinist

As is commonly known, Dr. Ergun Caner preached last Sunday night at Thomas Road Baptist Church (edit: click on April 9, 2006 sermon) in Lynchburg, Virginia on “Why I am Predestined Never to Be a Calvinist (or Hyper-Calvinist). I watched a video of the message once and, to borrow a line from Spurgeon, have not sinned sufficiently to warrant having to watch it a second time. James White plans to go over his sermon in today’s Dividing Line. It ought to be enlightening.

Among the assertions that Dr. Caner makes, the following are most interesting.

  • Calvinism is the hottest topic on seminary and Bible College campuses in America.
  • Questions about Calvinism are being raised with Sunday School teachers all across the nation.
  • “There is now a famous preacher in my age group who’s begun teaching that it is a sin to give an invitation because it is an insult to the sovereignty of God.”
  • Modern Calvinists are like the Charismatics of the 1970s, some of whom split churches, giving the whole movement a bad name. Dr. Caner announced that he has an article about this in an upcoming National Liberty Journal.
  • John Gill redefined the word “all” in the Bible.
  • Romans 2:15 teaches that there are 3 kinds of life: unconscious, conscious, self-conscious. The first includes plant life. The third is comprised of people who have reached the age of accountability. The second is made up of animals and humans who have not reached the age of accountability. To illustrate this point, Dr. Caner referred to his sixteen month old son, Drake, whom he said (and I quote), “is like a dog.” He is like a dog “theolgoically.” [I am not making this up!] His son learns to obey the same way a dog does, through behavior modification. [This piece of Liberty Seminary theology comes right at the 1 hour mark of the video]
  • The age of accountability is not technically in the Bible “but Romans 2:15 calls it the age of consciousness.” It is the moment that a person understands that something is right or wrong not because of reward or punishment but because it is intrinsically so.

His text was 1 Timothy 2:1-8 and he used it to give 4 reasons why he will never be a (hyper-) Calvinist.

  1. He rejects it spiritually because hyper-Calvinists cannot trust in the love of God.
  2. He rejects it evangelistically because they cannot believe that God wants all me to be saved.
  3. He rejects it theologically because they don’t believe Christ died for the whole world.
  4. He rejects it missiologically because they do not see missions as an obsession.

I will not go into the details of his complete historical misrepresentation of William Carey’s experience with the Northampton Association as he appealed to them to send the Gospel to “the heathen.” Suffice it to say, his dates were wrong; his context was wrong; and his setting was wrong. Unfortunately, he did not let the facts ruin what turned out to be a very evocative story. Some call this distortion of facts a “preacher’s license.” But preachers are truth brokers. And when someone who represents the God of truth distorts the truth in any area, history, science, art–whatever, then it undermines his credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of honest people.

Dr. Caner says some good things in his message–things with which evangelical Calvinists have never disagreed. It is unfortunate that his rants are directed against straw men. I genuinely would love to see him engage true Calvinism. As long as he is allowed to get away with caricatures, he will be able to continue to pose as a champion of free will who demolishes Calvinism at every point. His arguments remind me of the boy who broke a light bulb with a stick and went around bragging that he had put out the sun. It is profoundly sad to see such gifts and obvious passion for the things of the Lord given to such misrepresentation of those with whom he disagrees.

I am not going to give a pointed refutation of Dr. Caner’s message. A simple and accurate reporting of serves as a formidable critique in itself.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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