The length of this blog is longer than normal, but this is what happens when believers behave in a way that even the world would view as vile.
When I saw the link above my heart broke for the Caner family. Let me be honest and say upfront that I have more issues with Dr. Caner with regard to everything from his theology to practice... but that can be said of other men, and can be said by other men about me. Let me also state that while I may agree with some of the adversaries of Dr. Caner theologically, I would not align myself in their camp in practice.
Here is the problem:
When professing believers go to such a public source as the internet to blog and attack, while both believers and unbelievers watch things play out, it does damage not only to the Kingdom but to families. There is a desire for many people to call on opinions to just cease about the Caner family following this tragedy but in truth, that is a desire to avoid the obvious. This 15 year old boy who committed suicide has been attacked by bloggers posting things on twitter, he watched his Dad be attacked and attempted to be destroyed by bloggers, and if you have the ignorance to believe that these things did not contribute to the psychological damage of this child, you live in the Land of Oz.
Let me be clear, I do not agree or condone Dr. Caner, I do believe there are some “issues,” but it is of no benefit in the Kingdom to carry on vitriol and arguments in a public forum. When I look at Matthew 18 I do not see the Universal Church nor the World involved in correction. Dr. Caner says he is a believer so I must then treat him as such and at the very least, go to him as a brother. Nothing in the Word of God states that if he doesn’t listen, I then go to the internet to allow a hell bound world to watch as we disagree. Many of the people who have blogged on him would be more welcome to fill my pulpit than Dr. Caner simply because of doctrinal stance, but that is my prerogative as a Pastor, however there is no place under any circumstance for us to litter the street with our disagreements for a lost world to watch this play out. Let’s think for a moment what Paul would have done with someone such as Dr. Caner. I think he may have dealt with this issue in Philippians 1:15-18:
There were some men preaching with wrong motives, and some with right motives. Some had questionable integrity, and some exposed questionable desires of the heart in their actions. In these situations, Paul didn’t let that side track him and he didn’t call them out publically. Why? Because they preached Christ. Dr. Caner has attacked, been somewhat divisive and antagonistic at times when he should not have been. But in truth, I have too. I have been inconsistent, I have been antagonistic at times and, unless you are totally blind to your heart…you have been too. Here’s the point, there is nothing wrong with confronting error, there is nothing wrong with calling out someone on a lie. There is absolutely nothing wrong when we speak with grace and truth and this should be done. But the "how" is just as important as what you are saying and the reasons why you desire to say it. I grew up in a Bible preaching church that was not afraid to preach Matthew 18, but like most churches there were some in leadership that were a bit apprehensive about actually practicing it. I am currently the Pastor of a church that stands out as a "three headed creature" in our community because we actually do practice it, but even in our fellowship when something is confronted the first question we ask is “Who has a relationship with this person?” The reason we ask that? No one has ever been brought to repentance by someone on a blog calling them to turn in repentance. Even if every word is true, is it really helpful? Is it really Biblical? Is it being a talebearer? Am I going after another brother? I am from Georgia, both of Caner brothers are Presidents of Baptist Colleges in Georgia (one is my alma matter), if I were a Georgia Pastor today I would send my young men out of state before I sent them to either of those schools. However, to go after these men who, while theologically different from me they are not heretics, is wrong. There are men who are not preaching a true gospel to whom we turn a blind eye, there are men in Georgia who have brought in groups who baptize the same teenager three times in three nights because he wants a different group of the Power Team to baptize him. In the SBC we have Pastors who have inflated, manipulated and shown little to no integrity with numbers, who we are totally silent on and who would never be confronted over that. But in our cowardly society we feel bold when we get keyboard courage and, through the anonymity of a blog we tear down other people. What is the motive? When you call out a teenage boy, when you tear down his Dad, when you harass him like a poodle nipping at his heals and you see the family damaged forever, have you done your job? Have you accomplished your goal? Do the Caners preach a false gospel? Is it a works salvation? Do they preach the god of the Mormons? Preachers, Christians, brethren - I think we would rather devour each other and make sure we "expose someone" than do something Kingdom worthy. There are more churches in the Bible belt, more churches in our county that preach a weak or distorted gospel than probably anywhere in the world. While a blog explaining the difference between a true gospel and false gospel might educate some or answer questions for those who are curious enough to look, there is no benefit to dragging a man or family into a public forum like the internet for a modern day verbal stoning. My job is to deal with the small area of God’s Kingdom I have been appointed to and ground them in truth.
I have heard it said by someone “The internet is the great equalizer” and that is true, but here is the issue…all men’s opinions are not equal. Some of these bloggers, in their Mom’s basement being verbal snipers, when they publically begin to talk with their wild eyed hatred and envy are exposed as what they are…mean spirited kooks. So, it puts the guy who sits stringing sentences together with hatred and venom (you know, the one who if you saw him in real life you would realize he is NOT someone to put a lot of "stock" in) in the same forum with the folks who desire to grow, educate and help . If you do have credibility and fall into this second category, then try asking what your real goal is? By saying this/blogging this, is it slander? Is it tale bearing? Can it in fact damage the gospel more than if I saying nothing. If I believe in the sovereignty of God and the sufficiency of Scripture, then I am going to handle things biblically and when I am out of Biblical options, then I stop. Do bloggers, haters, vicious attacks share the blame for the brokenness the Canners are going through right now? I would say by observations and experience, sadly it is resounding yes. I don’t intend that mean spirited. I do however, mean it to say that if as a blogger you can post “the blaming and finger pointing need to stop now” my question is why "now"? Truth is truth even when tragedy strikes. If "in the name of decency" you are calling a stop to it now, why should it not have stopped before this tragedy? Is decency not required until harm is done? Let's make a commitment to be decent and just stop.