Archive for the ‘John H Armstrong’ Category

Response to John H. Armstrong regarding Roman Catholicism

September 7, 2010

John H. Armsrong writes:

First, it utterly amazes me that there are evangelicals (more likely they are fundamentalists if this distinction is properly nuanced) who still think Catholics are not members of the Christian church. Some even think Roman Catholicism is a massive cult or “the synagogue of Satan.” This was not the view of the magisterial Reformers. And it most certainly was not the view of many Protestants since the 16th century; e.g. Lutherans, Anglicans, Reformed, etc.

This could hardly be more out of touch with reality.

Take this example of Calvin’s writings:

This is why the Church is called the mother of believers. And certainly, he who refuses to be a son of the Church desires in vain to have God as his Father. For it is only through the ministry of the Church that God begets sons for Himself and brings them up until they pass through adolescence and reach manhood. This is a title of wonderful and highest honour. But the Papists are foolish and worse than puerile when they plead this to annoy us. For their mother is an adulteress, who brings forth into death the children of the devil. How foolish is the demand that the children of God should surrender themselves to her to be cruelly slain! Could not the synagogue of Satan at that time have boasted with far more honest claim than Rome today? And yet we see how Paul strips her of every honourable distinction and assigns to her the lot of Hagar.

– John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, at Galatians 4:26

Or consider Westminster Confession of Faith 24:3:

III. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And, therefore, such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, Papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

Or if you want to check in on what Luther thought, check out the Smalcald Articles (discussed here).

I’m sorry to put it this bluntly, but Mr. Armstrong is as out of touch with with history as he is, by accepting those who maintain damnable heresies, out of touch with Scripture.

But what is worse than the idiocy of supposing that the view of “fundamentalism” (as Armstrong disparagingly refers to it) today is different from that of our Reformation ancestors, is Mr. Armstrong’s foolish notion that leaving Roman Catholics in Roman Catholicism is “love.” It’s exactly the opposite of love!

Love is sharing the good news with people. Love is warning people about their condition. Love is not letting an ill man think he is well, but rather love is persuading the sick man of his need for the Physician.

There’s probably more that could be said to correct the many errors in Mr. Armstrong’s article (for example, he writes that “Calvin and Luther make interesting reading here since they struggled against Rome yet still held some doctrinal beliefs that modern evangelicals remain uncomfortable with (views about Mary, etc.),” (see his article) yet Calvin did not hold “doctrinal believes” about Mary that modern evangelicals would “remain uncomfortable with” – see my discussion here). Nevertheless, the biggest error and most horrible error is Mr. Armstrong’s encouragement to those in Rome to stay in Rome under the guise that this is more loving than evangelizing them.


Response to John H. Armstrong on the Caner Situation

July 28, 2010

Mr. Armstrong writes:

The board of Liberty University, which no one would rightly suggest had any reason to cover up the facts if they found them worthy of letting him go, has retained Dr. Caner on the Liberty faculty. I think fair-minded and gracious Christians should leave it there. It is none of their business to engage in this dialog any further when proper channels of authority were followed and a process justly concluded that said the charges against Dr. Caner were not sufficient to warrant dismissal.

(source – link in original)

Since Mr. Armstrong seems to have a few misconceptions, I hope he will allow me to clarify matters.

1) I am certainly not calling for the dismissal of Ergun Caner. I am glad that he has not been dismissed from Liberty University. My objective is his restoration, not his punishment or condemnation. I realize not everyone who is critical of Caner shares my sentiments in this regard, but that’s fine.

2) In light of (1), I am willing to hope that those at Liberty who know Dr. Caner personally care even more about him than I do. As such, I don’t see why they would need to dismiss him in order to acknowledge the legitimacy of the criticisms leveled against him.

3) Stated more clearly, there’s more than one action that the Liberty Board could take if they found evidence that the charges against Dr. Caner were mostly true. It does not come down to simply firing Dr. Caner if the charges are true or retaining him if they are false.

4) As to (3), we have actually seen folks note this with respect to Dr. Caner’s removal as president. Some folks who are critical of Dr. Caner were quick to note that this negative action by the Board with respect to Dr. Caner proves that the Liberty board found culpable wrongdoing on Dr. Caner’s part. However, as Caner’s defenders were quick to reply, the Liberty board could be taking that action for other reasons, such as simply to avoid controversy or distraction.

5) The sum of (1)-(4) is that Liberty’s personnel decisions are not necessarily guided in any direct way by the strength of the charges against Dr. Caner. That principle applies to the favorable action of continuing to list Dr. Caner as a professor, although we cannot seem to locate any classes he will be teaching in the fall semester. That principle likewise applies the negative actions of not continuing to permit Dr. Caner to serve as president of the seminary, and not listing Dr. Caner as professor for any classes.

6) As to possible reasons why Liberty might cover up unfavorable facts, there are – of course – innumerable possibilities. The following are just possibilities, not facts or certainties. They are speculation, but Mr. Armstrong’s statements calls for speculation by stating: “… no one would rightly suggest [that the Liberty Board] had any reason to cover up the facts … .” Here are some possible reasons:

a) To save face

Elmer Towns (one of Liberty’s founders) made statements before the investigation to the effect that the charges against Dr. Caner would never stand up in court. It would be embarrassing to Towns for Liberty’s Board to highlight any true charges against Dr. Caner.

b) To avoid getting sued

I have no idea what Dr. Ergun Caner’s views on suing other Christians or Christian organizations is, so I’m not trying to suggest that Dr. Caner would actually take other Christians to court. However, as a general principle, when employers fire employees they have the risk that the fired employee will sue them. So, it’s certainly reasonable to imagine that Liberty, as an employer, would be cautious as a matter of organizational policy.

c) Out of love

Dr. Ergun Caner is a very likable guy. I know this from hearing him speak, listening to how churches and other crowds react to him, and seeing the blog responses from those who consider themselves his friends. One would hope that the Board of Liberty would have a personal relationship with the president of the seminary. If that’s the case, it would be hard on them to publicly release findings of the investigation that are negative with respect to such a nice guy as Dr. Caner. Out of love (whether misplaced or not), it is easy to imagine Liberty’s board covering sins of one of their friends. Christians serve a merciful God, and it is easy to imagine a Christian board showing mercy.

7) Further to (6), the Liberty Board did not actually release the results of the investigation. They did not make the negative facts that came to their attention known beyond extremely general characterizations. Whether their reason was one of the reasons in (6) or some other reason, we may never know. Because …

8) Further to (7), Liberty’s Board is refusing to discuss this matter further. So, they are continuing to conceal any information that they may have received during the investigation. I’m not suggesting that they are not entitled to do this. They are free to conduct their own investigation of their employee however they like. However, it is clear that Liberty’s Board is not being transparent with the public regarding the investigation. That lack of transparency should limit the scope of inferences that we draw from their extremely brief comments on the matter.

For the final points, recall that Armstrong wrote: “a process justly concluded that said the charges against Dr. Caner were not sufficient to warrant dismissal” (link in original)

9) Processes don’t do things, people do things. The Board took action, reached conclusions, and so forth. It may seem a little pedantic for me to point this out, but the reason for doing so is to highlight that this is not an impartial machine at work, but living, breathing folks who (as far as we can reasonable determine) have worked with and know Dr. Caner personally.

10) Whether or not the conclusion of the process is just (whether there was procedural justice), is something that Mr. Armstrong cannot know without some sort of inside information. I don’t believe that Mr. Armstrong is claiming to have inside information. Without such information, however, we cannot know whether the process used by the board was a just process or one that was unjust. There is, as I noted above, no transparency to Liberty’s decision. That is a two-edged sword, by the way. Without Liberty releasing the details of its investigation, we can no more say that Caner was justly removed from being president than we can say that Caner was justly retained as professor.

11) The Board did not officially state that there were “not sufficient reasons to warrant dismissal.” The Board’s action was not immediately dismissal, but the Board did not explain its decisions. As noted above, the Board’s actions were not transparent, and there is no expectation that they will clarified.

With all due respect to Mr. Armstrong, Liberty’s decision did not settle the matter either for or against Dr. Caner. Those who wish to be fair minded both to Dr. Caner and to those who have criticized Dr. Caner should consider the facts, investigate the evidence for themselves, and not rely on second-hand reports – whether from bloggers or boards.


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