On May 16th Emir Caner, President of Truett-McConnell College, tweeted, “The military discovered a large stash of pornography in bin Laden’s compound. I was unaware that Islam had its own Acts 29 Network.”
This tweet created quite a storm on Twitter with many calling for Caner to apologize for slandering other brothers in Christ (including Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition blog).
Dr. Caner has removed the tweet and made this statement about it, “I have come to realize over the past few days that Driscoll’s vulgarity is far too serious an issue to simply put out a satirical tweet. While it is easy to find Driscoll crossing the line (see articles by John MacArthur and Cathy Mickels) it should not be likewise with me, and for that I apologize.”
I have known Dr. Caner for a long time. I love him and have learned from him, but sadly, I found Dr. Caner’s tweet shameful and his apology inadequate, as it did not address the real issue on the table.
There are many possible items to discuss with regard to this situation but space will not allow them. Chief among my complaints would be that the Acts 29 Network is a growing and diverse body of churches that is by no means monolithic. To smear Acts 29 because you feel like one pastor or church in that Network has done something you disagree with is like condemning all Southern Baptists because one SBC pastor has an affair.
My intention with this post is not to stir up more controversy or dissect Caner’s apology, but rather I want to simply reflect on this fiasco and what it’s taught me about life and ministry in the SBC.
1. Will the SBC continue to divide sins into lists of respectable and unrespectable?
We like to hold our double-standards. Talking too bluntly (vulgarly?) about sex in a sermon is over-the-line and needs to be called out publicly, but deceptive “hyperbole” in a sermon can go without being called out? Is unrepentant, prideful judgmentalism a sin that we are happy to overlook, but vulgarity is not?
My prayer is that we will not look with disdain on sins that we see in others while continuing to give ourselves passes for the sins we struggle with…and that leads to my second reflection.
2. When will the SBC view confession and repentance the way that God views it?
Why is it that we want to continue to attack someone for a past fault when they have repented of that fault publicly and made steps to rectify them?
Caner wants to criticize Driscoll’s vulgarity. Driscoll has admitted publicly that there are times that he’s crossed the line. He has repented, and he has taken content down.
“…I received two emails from an older pastor whom I respect very much. In love, he brought to my attention a piece of content from me online that some of my critics have picked up on. It was a message I did out of the country a few years back on the more controversial sections of the Song of Songs…Allegedly, some of my critics were concerned by the older content, and I think there is wisdom in some of their concerns. So we have pulled that content…I want to thank my critics for teaching me that I have multiple audiences and that in addition to the room I speak to I am often also speaking to the world and need to keep repenting, learning, and growing in this skill for the sake of the gospel. In that way, my critics are helpful, and for them I am grateful.”
Baptist21 was started in part because we want to see gospel-centrality permeate the SBC. Part of gospel-centrality is recognizing that we are all in need of the grace of the gospel not just for justification, but also for sanctification. The Christian pilgrim makes progress down the road of holiness through confession and repentance.
Our prayer for the SBC is that we will look upon humble repentance, contrition and confession in the way God does and forgive it. Our prayer for the SBC is that it will be a convention of churches where we are all humble enough to be open to correction and willing to repent when faced with our sin.
That is mainly what I hope to take away from this. I am an arrogant sinner who easily gravitates towards judgmentalism, arrogance, pride and more. When I am confronted with a sin, even when it is done lovingly, I bow up and harden my heart. My prayer is that God will give me the grace to respond to correction with contrition and also to extend grace to the contrite.
I am grateful for every example of that kind of life, even when it comes from a pastor outside of the SBC.