This is a post I had hoped never to have to write. Instead of looking up dates and rereading emails and phone logs, I had hoped to be spending this week finishing up preparation for the debate in which Emir Caner, Ergun Caner, James White and I had months ago agreed to engage. Instead, I now find myself compelled to set forth the facts of what actually happened to sabotage our agreement and thus the debate.
Before giving my perspective on all this I want to direct you to several places where others have helpfully or humorously (which, these days is also very helpful!) commented on the debate. For a very accurate rendition of the facts of the case, read James White’s explanations found here. Timmy Brister also has a helpful review of the events, including many helpful links including one to this hilarious “pre-debate video” put together by Josh Chavers . Timmy also put together some comments by some Liberty students.
Those who have been reading this blog for the last 8 months, or who have been industrious enough to do a little research, will know that the genesis of the debate is found in various comments that Ergun and Emir Caner left on a post I wrote about Johnny Hunt’s announced candidacy for the SBC presidency. They were offended by remarks made by some commenters who disparaged Hunt and others, and took it upon themselves to respond with inflammatory and bombastic accusations. In the mix of all of the responses, a challenge to debate was issued by James White to Ergun Caner to debate issues surrounding the doctrines of grace. That exchange that this challenge provoked ultimately was taken off the blog and into email exchanges. After a few weeks, Ergun agreed to a debate with the stipulation that he be joined by Emir and James be joined by someone, preferably a Southern Baptist. James asked me to participate and I accepted.
After several more weeks of attempting to get details of the debate (thesis, length, date, etc.) arranged, things once again grew so heated that at the end of June I bowed out, unwilling to participate in the kind of mudfest that seemed to be shaping up. James agreed to plan on debating both brothers by himself. Ergun agreed, and that is how things remained for several more weeks. On July 13, in what was surely a remarkable providence, I was in the middle of composing a private email to Ergun when I received one from him. His was about a writing project and was very gracious in tone. My email was an effort to promote understanding and to express real sorrow over the way things had degenerated regarding the debate. I had absolutely no interest in being involved in the debate at that time. My interest was primarily to repent over my sin in some statements made and to ask for forgiveness.
This led to a phone conversations between Ergun and me on July 18. We profitably discussed many issues, including the debate. He indicated that he and Emir genuinely wanted me to participate and that they sincerely were looking forward to it. A few days later he emailed James and asked if Emir could contact me to discuss my participation in the debate. James agreed, Emir contacted me and we spoke by phone on July 26. He asked what would be necessary for me to get back into the debate. I said we would need to negotiate 3 things: length, format, and thesis. After much discussion we agreed to the following:
- Length: 3 hours of actual debate
- Format: modified parliamentary (only one interrupting question per speech, and that limited to 15 seconds; and ample cross examination)
- Topic: Baptists and Calvinism: an Open Debate
This agreement represented compromise on both parts. I wanted a more focused thesis. I wanted a different format. Emir wanted less time, the parliamentary format and an unrestricted thesis/topic. We compromised and agreed on the compromise. Both James and Ergun signed off on this agreement. I also proposed a public statement that the four of us could issue. I wrote such a statement, incorporated suggested changes, and published it August 3 on this blog with the announcement of the newly negotiated agreement regarding length, format and topic.
This agreement was left undiscussed until September 13, when I sent another email to all four participants.
to be continued tomorrow