Ergun Caner writes,
The truth is, several evangelical apologists employ the “formal” debate template and are very effective in their presentations. Norman Geisler, Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig come to mind. Nevertheless, I will continue to do exactly as I have done. In fact, in order to attempt a measure of peace, I am more than happy to call my engagements “interviews,” or even “dialogues.”
However, I would caution all evangelicals that no single method meets consensus. Nor is there only one exclusively biblical model. Certainly there is much good to be found in formal debates, and I also believe that there is enough room for all types of interaction. In fact I believe there is great value to be found in all forms, including conversational and informal methods. [Ergun Caner Statement 2/25/10]
It never ceases to amaze me how the zeitgeist of postmodern relativism has soaked to the bones of our society, even with those who supposedly loathe postmodern relativism. This is most noticeable in the use of language. The meaning and context for words begin to lose their precision. Such is plainly evident in these comments by Ergun Caner as he attempts to defend his chosen definition for the word “debate.”
Dr. Caner has made the claim on numerous occasions that he has “debated” individuals from many different religious groups: Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. He further boasts that he isn’t afraid to debate any one, any where. Dr. Caner has recently been challenged as to the legitimacy of that claim. In other words, if he has debated these individuals from various religious groups, we would like to hear the audio or watch the video of those encounters. None is available, however, because Dr. Caner seems to define “debate” with the widest possible definition so as to mean any dialogue or discussion with an opponent of a differing point of view. Plus, those “debates” can take place in any location, like an airport lounge, on an email discussion group, in the university cafeteria.
Granted, the word “debate” can mean any exchange between individuals of opposing view points. But the context also adds clarity and precision to a word. In the case of Dr. Caner, he is the President of Liberty Theological Seminary. Moreover, he is the professor of theology, church history, and apologetics. His role as a seminary president and theological professor help narrow down the definition of the word “debate” when he employs it to describe the extent of his ministry in the secular world.
Let me illustrate what I mean: I have had a presence on the internet since I had a personal email account and access to the web at my current work place. It’s been around 10-12 years or so. During the decade or more, I have participated on theological internet forums, on email discussion groups, and in the comments of many blogs. I can confidently say I have “debated” many different kinds of heretics, non-Christians, and secularists. I have “debated” JWs, Mormons, Church of Christ, Oneness Pentecostals, Socinians, Universialists, Muslims, and atheists, on such countless subjects as baptism, the Deity of Christ, KJV-onlyism, evolution, the nature of spiritual gifts, election, the existence of God and the list could go on.
Now, suppose out of God’s providence, I was invited to join the faculty of a theological seminary. When I submitted my resume for review, how honest would I be in listing a few memorable email exchanges I had with some progressive creationist, an Arminian guy, a KJV-onlyist gadfly, and a couple of post threads on some internet forums with a charismatic and an atheist and describe them all as having participated in “debates”? In that academic context, how would my reviewers define the concept of “debate”?
Hopefully you can see my point as to why there is a deeper matter of integrity and commitment with Dr. Caner’s precision of language and his claims of debating.