NOTE: THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED AND MODIFIED as of 6:20 PM Pacific Standard Time, August 22.
All the Duluthian antagonists have declined to publicly debate this important gospel related issue. What does this mean, and what does it say about their position? We will flesh this out a bit further down.
Lou Martuneac said he wouldn’t host a debate at his church at all. He even went so far as to say that he might leave a church that held a debate. He says, “If the pastor of my church were to announce such an event for my church, I would meet with him and the deacons and strongly object to it. If they went ahead, I would not attend and would likely be looking for a new church.
Lou Martuneac furthermore stated this argument:
Why would any pastor want to host a preacher in his own church knowing that his flock is going to be exposed to what he (the host pastor) believes is false teaching?
This is why I would never agree to host a debate/open forum on the interpretation of the Gospel being debated in recent months.
I don’t think it is wise to subject a congregation made up of believers at various levels of spiritual and doctrinal growth to what you may be convinced is false teaching.
Jeff read Lou’s remarks and stated, “"If… you truly feel that it is your obligation to think for your flock, then I would agree that declining an invitation for open debate is the way to go.
" (emphasis his)
Jeff expressed my sentiments exactly.
If Lou Martuneac, Greg Schliesmann, Tom Stegall, and Dennis Rokser's positions are true, then this will come out in a debate. Their arguments will be more persuasive, compelling, and biblically accurate. Furthermore, Dennis has taught this church for many years and inculcated his doctrines into it. He additionally could teach afterwards, critiquing from his own pulpit what had been said by his opponents.
Lou must think his position is not so persuasive. Why else would one seek to shrink away from a moderated, equitable, fair and balanced debate?
If the debate was only Bob speaking at Duluth or any other 'majority' FG church, I can see Lou's concern. But since the debate would be two sided, and his side would have the opportunity to champion their position and declare its stronger biblical evidence and support, his point is completely canceled.Aren't people able to weigh and consider two points of view presented at the same time and make determinations for themselves without Lou's 'babysitting' concerns
? Or do they need Lou's superior wisdom to dictate to them the truth?Lou's objections are but a poor attempt to find justification for the declining of an invitation to an equitable and moderated debate.
Furthermore, let me express this. The debate does not have to be at Duluth
. The reason Bob probably proposed that one should be at Duluth in the first place, as well as his national conference, was so that Dennis wouldn’t feel as if it would only be on Bob Wilkin’s turf. Bob surely
wanted to propose a fair debate, in that, one of them would be on Dennis Rokser’s home field, where he could have the advantage.
If Pastor Rokser has the same concerns as Lou, why don’t we just hold two sessions of debates at the GES conference? Since GES conference goers will be hearing Bob Wilkin's position through much of the convention, why not have Dennis come and give the other side? Surely he may be able to persuade some with the truth who have not yet made up their mind! Surely he could show himself as bold in person in the same way as he is making his objections to Free Grace Theology in writing.
If it is a case that he doesn’t want his flock to come into contact with GES theology, let him then commit to a debate at the Grace Evangelical Society national conference.
As a quick note, some think that a debate would not be profitable, but should continue in writing (as if both could not occur?). Glenn W. stated this, “Because when writing a paper a person can usually reign in their emotions and advance important points without those emotions clouding the issue.
” But he notes how emotional the writings on the web are getting in the same comment! He said, “The emotions I am seeing on the web make me believe that nothing positive is going to be accomplished on the web.
” I don’t know how Glenn can say that writing keeps people from emotionalism. He mentions that it should be writing without comments, such as in a journal. But did that keep Tom Stegall from using the emotionally charged and pejorative “crossless” designation THIRTY ONE (31) TIMES in the span of only EIGHT (8) pages?
Public, moderated, equitable, and fair debates have much to offer. It presents what people actually believe, rather than caricatures from the other side. It keeps people accountable for what they have said. It gives the opportunity to present issues side by side for consideration. Public debates can be used the same way as testimony in a courtroom. There is time for statements, questions, cross-examinations, rebuttals, and so forth. By this medium, men get at the truth; issues become condensed and the distinctions become clearer. Glenn talks about emotion as if debates encourage them. Passion is a good trait for debates, but when one becomes emotional, that is when he loses! Good debates spurn emotionalism! I have listened to at least 4 debates that Bob Wilkin did. He did so with Christian character and gentlemanly conduct.
From what I read, the Duluthian antagonists have much to hold the Grace Evangelical Society accountable for. Why would they not want to take advantage of an opportunity to do so at one of their conferences? They would have a platform to warn unsuspecting GES conference goers of the dangers of its theology. They would have ample opportunity to make a case and persuade those who may be sitting on the fence, or who haven’t thought about these issues yet.
To me it is duplicity. Dennis Rokser, Tom Stegall, Lou Martuneac, and Greg Schliesmann want to scold and reprimand the Grace Evnagelical Society in public but only
in written form. When the opportunity comes to discuss these things in a personal and public forum, the boldness shrinks away. Why can’t they do both? Who said that they have to do only one so as to leave the other undone?
They should be happy to come to the GES convention and shut the mouths of the Free Grace heretics, showing them the error of their ways with their more persuasive and biblical arguments.
But indeed, such an unwillingness to debate where real consequences can be at stake, manifests itself in the way that these outspoken antagonists are shrinking back into recreant discomposure. They are scared to death to debate.
So they will continue to publish their bitter rants and tirades, in the safety and solace of the written page; leaving us all wondering how we are to take such men seriously when they feel no moral compunction to stand their ground and defend their attacks against those whom they shame.
In the 80s during the Lordship controversy between MacArthur and Hodges, at least 3 formal debates were in the works. John MacArthur backed out of them all. He later stated that he would rather have a "private" debate, like the one Dennis proposed. But even when the time for this came, John backed out.
What does this say about MacArthur? The first impression it leaves in the mouth is that he ran scared from debating the scholarly Zane Hodges. Isn't it easier to attack straw men than the real thing? You may continue in caricatures in writing, but in the public forum of an equitable, fair, and moderated debate, you do not have the luxury of doing so.
There is a strong and compelling correspondence between the Duluthian antagonists and John MacArthur. When asked to put up, they back down.