Using Kids as Pawns in Theological Battle


The title sucks, I know. It’s long and dry – not the kind of click-bait social media craves and gets from Upworthy – but it’s what I want to talk about.

Every once in a while you’ll find someone online who has a special thing for criticizing a single person. It’s not always bad or negative. Sometimes the critic is going after an unscrupulous leader who seems to be untouchable. So the critic comes against the leader time and again in an effort to show people the truth. On Twitter you can see people do this against Fundamental Baptist leaders. I’ve had an occasional Tweet or dozen about Mark Driscoll under #DriscollSchoolofEthics

But in most of the cases I’ve seen, those of us who try to call attention to the dealings of people in power talk about the people themselves.

We don’t use their kids to attack them.

Unfortunately, we’ve just seen this very thing happen.

JD Hall has a special fixation on bringing to light the errors and misdeeds of Ergun Caner. I’m not an expert on the matter. I don’t personally know either man. Caner certainly seems suspect in some of his claims. From an outsider’s perspective, though, it seems Mr. Hall’s fixation goes beyond revealing Mr. Caner’s behavior – Hall is determined to ruin Caner.

Then yesterday it took an terrible turn.

When called on pulling Caner’s son into the fray, Hall defended himself with:

The problem as I see it is that Hall wasn’t calling out poor behavior in a young man for the sake of rebuking the young man or correcting his behavior. The only reason Hall for bringing a minor into the picture was as a launching pad to further his argument against Ergun Caner.

In a blog post defending himself, Hall writes:

Furthermore, there was no “attack.” There was no “going after.” Much of the vitriol was in response to the characterization of my tweet as an “attack” or “going after” a “child.” Again, consult the Twitter feed. There was no such thing. I pointed out public error – error that Caner himself should have pointed out to his son a long, long time ago.

Yet I doubt that Hall points out public error in all young men who do stupid things on social media. Rather, these remarks were directed towards the man he is intent on bringing down. The specificity of the error pointed out speak to the truth – that Hall is utilizing the actions of a minor as a springboard to further his attack on the father.

Hall claims 1 Timothy 3:4-5 as biblical grounds for using the son to attack the father:

4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (ESV)

But Paul doesn’t really go into great detail about what this kind of parenting looks like or how to handle good, godly men and women who have children who behave poorly. No matter what we do as parents, children will ultimately walk their own path. Too often I have seen this very passage used to batter Christian parents.

It is poor justification for bringing the teen into the mess. The astounding immorality he refers to simply isn’t. The boy’s Twitter feed might have been scrubbed, but from what I see it is not astounding immorality. Hall is making mountains of molehills.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not a defense of Ergun Caner – this is a critique of JD Hall’s methods.

This should not have happened.

What do you think?

17 thoughts on “Using Kids as Pawns in Theological Battle

  1. The astounding immorality he refers to simply isn’t.

    Exactly. And the reason for that is…

    The boy’s Twitter feed might have been scrubbed

    Correction: was, “might have been.”

    but from what I see it is not astounding immorality.

    And that’s because what you now see is no longer what was there.

    Hall is making mountains of molehills.

    You aren’t in a position to know that based on what you see now.

    • While the comments may have been scrubbed, the photo was still up. The photo was not worthy of reprimanding the father. Also, a minor using profanity is not a valid excuse for launching into an attack on the father (certainly not under the auspices of the Timothy passage).

      Hall was STILL wrong to use the boy as a launching pad to attack the father.

      • The photo was not worthy of reprimanding the father.

        Where did I say that it is?

        a minor using profanity is not a valid excuse for launching into an attack on the father

        Where did I claim otherwise? And I didn’t say anything about the rightness or wrongness of Hall’s actions, either. Come on, man–you’re shadowboxing. You’re better than that.

        My point remains that it makes no sense for you to minimize the reaction of others toward specific language and photos when you didn’t see the feed until after it was sanitized.

      • I did not see the profanity. I saw the picture. I saw Hall badgering the minor. Hall already apologized for his behavior, so clearly there is something to what I am saying…

  2. I think you’re wrong. That’s what I think.

    I don’t know this battle you speak of. However if this Hall has been trying to point out the failings of this Caner, and is trying to show him unfit for church leadership, which is what we’re lead to assume is happening, then the misdeeds of Caner’s child seem to be just a few in an apparently long list of misdeeds that make Caner unfit for leadership. Based on biblical principles and biblical commands. Therefore Hall, and in fact Caner’s own congregation, should point them out.

    All of them.

    It’s their duty as Christians.

    For the sake of those who are being lead by someone who is unfit to lead.

    This supposes Caner is a leader, and not just some average Joe in the pew.

    If Caner is indeed a church leader, then he is called to be above reproach. The deeds pointed out by Hall should speak for themselves. And the church should take note, lest the blind continue to lead the blind.

    Local churches erode from the inside, not the outside. Christ’s true church will not be beaten by any outside attack. People fail to read the Bible and pray daily. Instead they put their faith in blind guides.

    Let Hall, or any other man talk, let Caner or any other man be judged fit to lead on the merits of their own biblical adherence. If Caner’s deeds find him fit, then Hall’s accusations show his own failings.

    The actions of Caner’s child relate directly to Caner’s fitness as a leader of the church.

    The one thing we should not do–is continue to remain silent.

    • You are wrong – Caner’s child choosing to use some coarse language does not reflect on the character of the father but on the character of the son. Kids will say and do stupid things – that should not be an excuse to launch an attack against the parent.

      • Let me reiterate, why you are wrong.

        This is based solely on information gathered from your article, and biblical precepts gathered from the Bible. Maybe you left out pertinent information, or maybe your writing wasn’t quite clear. As I said before, I know nothing of the battle between these two individuals.

        This also assumes, as gathered from your article, that Caner is in church leadership. Note that if he isn’t a church leader, and is instead just some “Joe in the pew,” then my position is actually quite different.

        Hall is trying to point out biblical reasons why Caner is unfit to be in church leadership. Apparently there are many reasons. (You apparently agree that Hall has a case against Caner. Or that at the very least Caner is “suspect.”)

        Hall has pointed out, in the past, many reasons why Caner does not meet the criteria for church leadership. Criteria which is clearly spelled out in the Bible. Criteria with many facets that must be adhered to. One of which is the ability to manage the family and to have the respect of the family members.

        In an attempt to strengthen his case, Hall points also to the misdeeds of Caner’s son as evidence for an ill-managed household; just one of many reasons why Caner is unfit for church leadership. Deeds that were posted on the internet. Deeds that probably persisted long before they ended up on the internet. And deeds that were probably accepted by the father (Caner), or at best ignored by the father, otherwise they would have been hidden and not posted on the internet. It’s possible that Caner didn’t know anything about his son’s deeds, but I don’t think that helps his case any.

        It appears that you believe the “mistake” made by the child, is that the pictures and profanity were posted on the internet. The mistake, however, is that the son is engaged in these activities in the first place. Activities that should have been corrected by the father. Activities that if Caner cannot manage, point directly to Caner’s inability to manage his church.

        You say that Hall was not interested in correcting the son, and he doesn’t care to go around rebuking and correcting other youths. Yes, it would be irresponsible of him to rebuke and correct random youths. Your assertion shows that you’re missing Hall’s point. It’s not about the actions of Caner’s son. It’s about Caner and his inability to control the actions of his son. Which, if they cannot be managed, make Caner unfit for church leadership.

        Hall is showing Caner’s unfitness for church leadership. He is trying to make it as plain as day for those who, to Hall, seem to be blind.

        With regards to Paul’s not being specific as to how to handle a leader who does not fit leadership criteria, it seems only logical that a person who does not fit leadership criteria should not be a leader. Paul doesn’t have to say what to do with such a person. It’s apparent–remove them from leadership.

        My position on this discussion does not judge Caner as unfit, or Hall’s argument as valid. My position is simply that Hall is justified in his tactic of pointing to the actions of Caner’s son in an attempt to show one more example of why Caner is unfit for leadership.

        Ummm…if 1 Timothy 3:4-5 wasn’t important, it wouldn’t be in there…is the Bible wrong?

      • The Bible is not wrong – just not specific. Paul doesn’t go into detail about what is or isn’t allowed from children, so placing our own values of what a parent should or shouldn’t be doing is going too far when evaluating someone’s ability to lead.

        Is there no room for growth and change? Is there no room for, “He’s a kid and kids do stupid things even if they have good and Godly parents”?

  3. I think that the evidence and video is so damning and indefensible that it wasn’t necessary to go at it from this angle, even though it may be relevant. Ultimately I think it’s a distraction from the recent developments of Caner being forced to pay 34000 in legal fees because the judge rules his lawsuit against two Christian pastors as frivolous and essentially idiotic.

    That being said, the whole brouhaha has brought up other issues that are worth considering. For example, people have said that its a sin and morally reprehensible to correct any professing Christian child/young man/adult under the age of 18 for immorality and theological deviancy- that it’s the parents job and if you try to correct that young person, you are usurping the father’s role and responsibility. That’s nothing but superstition and is worthy of chapter and verse.

    • My issue was that Hall was not trying to correct the young man – he was using the young man to attack the father. It wasn’t about rebuke and reconciliation but about furthering his own argument against Caner.

  4. Braxton was entitled to the same rights as any other Christian: to be approached directly, first, and then with one or two witnesses, and then before elders, and then before the congregation. The fact that somebody ignored all this and put a 15 year old boy on national display for his wrongs indicates that the accuser was not interested in humbly restoring Braxton Caner.

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