Emir Caner, Acts 29, And How To Disagree Without Sinning . . .

May 17, 2011 at 10:18 pm

So, yesterday, Emir Caner, President of Truett-McConnell College, in Georgia, brother of Ergun Caner, posted an unfortunate “tweet” on Twitter.

In case you didn’t see it or look at the picture at the top of this blog post, Emir’s tweet read: “The military discovered a large stash of pornography in bin Laden’s compound. I was unaware that Islam had its own Acts 29 Network.”

Later in the evening, I posted the following to Facebook:

“Is this Tweet real? Is Emir Caner really this idiotic or is someone setting him up?”

A little while later, I was “de-friended” by Caner on Facebook (yes, I was “friends” with him on Facebook, but I primarily use Facebook for networking rather than actual friendships, but I don’t see how that’s really the point here at all . . . ).

Anyway, the whole incident got me to thinking about how to biblically disagree with people. I could be wrong here, and I’m sure that some of you are more than willing to let me know that you think so, but it seems to me that Caner’s thoughts fall more along the lines of slander than they do genuine, biblical disagreement.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am in the Acts 29 Network. I know lots of Acts 29 pastors, candidates and applicants and I don’t know a single one of them who would advocate the use or promotion of pornography. Now, it could be that my exposure to the Acts 29 Network is limited. But, then again, it could be that Caner’s assertions are not factual. And, if they are not factual (which I argue they are not), then we must conclude that, either: 1) he knowingly promoted falsehoods about Christian brothers or 2) he unknowingly promoted falsehoods about Christian brothers.

Let’s start with the latter. Let’s say that, for some reason, Caner has a different perspective on the Acts 29 Network than I do, which is fair enough. But, his perspective isn’t just that we are wrong doctrinally or methodologically but that, somehow, we use, advocate and possibly even promote pornography.

I don’t know Caner personally, but, for a president of a college, I would imagine that it would be easy enough to contact people within the Acts 29 Network ala Matthew 18:15-20. But, regardless of whether or not Caner has been in touch with any of the Acts 29 people, it seems to me that something like Ephesians 4:29 (“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear”) or 1 Corinthians 13:7 (‘Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”) should come into play.

I have deep reservations about the Caner brothers, but I don’t publicly accuse them of pornography. And this seems to be the issue. For some reason, Caner has come to the conclusion that the Acts 29 Network allows and perhaps even advocates the use of pornography and then decided that this was an appropriate thing to “tweet” to his 2,000 something followers. This doesn’t seem to me to be either edifying or believing the best about those with whom he might otherwise disagree.

If, indeed, he has differences with those of us in Acts 29, that’s not only fine, it’s probably good for the larger Body of Christ that everyone does not think or act the same way. Caner will likely reach people for Christ that I will not. But, I don’t publicly accuse him of sin simply because we differ on theology or practice.

Which leads us to the first possiblity: Caner knowingly promoted falsehoods about Christians brothers. I don’t even want to think that this is true, so I’ll allow an out – perhaps he thinks it’s true, when in fact, it’s not. But doesn’t that lead us once again back to Matthew 18, Ephesians 4:29 and 1 Corinthians 13:7? If he indeed thinks that this is true, should he approach Mark Driscoll, Scott Thomas, Jeff Vandersteldt or others on the board of Acts 29? Or at least believe the best?

I personally can’t see any way in which Caner’s tweet is helpful or edifying, which leads me to wonder aloud how to publicly disagree with someone. If there are specific issues, we should address them in light of Scripture. If there is not sufficient Scripture, then we should openly state that the difference is a matter of opinion. But, we should always err on the side of love (Matthew 5:44Phillipians 2:3, 1 John 3:14, etc.).

What troubles me the most about Caner’s comment is that I see so much of my own tendency to villify those with whom I disagree in it. I rarely think the best about those with whom I disagree. So, if for anything, I want to thank Caner for the push to examine my own heart and attitude in public disagreements. I have a tendency to speak before I think and I am thankful for this opportunity to think out loud about how things ought to be handled.

No, I didn’t personally go to Caner before posting this. He “de-friended” me on Facebook, remember? I took that as a sign that he didn’t want my input.

  • Read Justin Taylor’s input here.
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