I’ve been neck-deep in studying the theological method of Tim Keller for my class, but there is one recent controversy I’d like to talk about and think over with you. I don’t spend much time commenting on blogs, but I do spend many hours of the day reading. Usually with some wrestling or star trek in the background. I’m a geek like that. Bazinga.
The Ergun Caner controversy. I just want to say that I feel that I should have blogged about this earlier. The controversy has somewhat abated now that the truth has come out and it has been revealed that Ergun Caner has bamboozled people for years. And this is not like Obama or Biden making a one-time gaffe on how many states are in the United States or how we shouldn’t travel on buses because of the swine flu, but continually lying about your past and your testimony in order to deceive people into thinking you are who you are not.
My own college, Northwestern College, went through a similar controversy also involving our president, Dr. Alan Cureton. I won’t go into details, but the links to the evidence are at the bottom of this post. Northwestern College has removed all their responses from their website. It seems that both sides of the controversy at Northwestern College want to move on. One can only throw shoes at a brick wall so long before you just give up and move on. I’m sure, this is how both sides feel.
Gene Clyatt (better known as Babylonian Squirrel) has put together a helpful timeline of the events of Ergun Caner and the controversy. Essentially it boils down to this. He lied about his testimony (not in the sense of salvation, but he constructed a fictional past in order to pump up his conversion). He lied about his background. He deceived people. Not just once, but countless times. Purposefully, not accidentally. The (now former) President and (now former) Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He still remains there as a professor through 2010-2011.
Now, let me get personal. I met Ergun Caner. I listened to a message he preached while I was on Cruise for a Cause (an outreach/cruise to the Bahamas). I even complimented him afterward for a fine testimony and presentation. As I think back to that short conversation and handshake, I feel frustrated, sad, and angry.
I am frustrated because I know that for every evangelical poser that is found out, there are countless others who remain in power because of the weak knees of the church congregation, the student population, and the leaders who work for the liar.
I am angry that the Southern Baptists (and frankly it seems that Christian culture in general) were all too happy to look the other way. This is an age of charismatic men who can produce material for the Christian to consume. Character has been replaced by Charisma and real apologists suffer a poor stereotype.
I am sad because these hucksters taint the accomplishments of students at these colleges. It’s a sad reality that the students will be hurt most. Not by my or anyone’s accusations, but by plain and simple deception.
My thoughts are simple. The only way for healing to begin is if Ergun Caner makes a statement similar to what I found by a blogger named Dex Cisco.
“I, Ergun Michael Caner, have sinned. I have lied about my background, my place of birth, my nationality, my coming to America. I lied about the extent of my involvment in Islam, my ability to speak fluent Arabic. I lied in professing my innocence and tried to cover my sin with more lies and with silence. I allowed other men to come to my defense and ruin their reputations to cover my sin. I have sinned against God, the church, the Muslim community, and anyone else who has heard me speak these lies. What I have done is not befitting a Christian and I humbly ask for forgiveness.”
But instead of doing this. Ergun has gone underground. He hasn’t posted anything on his blog since April 9th. He hasn’t tweeted anything since June 25th. Ergun or someone on his behalf (according to Daniel Spratlin’s research) has contacted an Indian company and paid for reputation repair services. I would say that is the strangest thing in all this controversy pizza.
Caner’s defenders have literally stuck their heads in the sand in responding to all the controversy. I don’t have the time to detail their delusional responses, but Daniel Spratlin does aptly in this series of posts. If nothing more it makes for a fascinating case study.
The truth of the matter is that if not for the wise archiving of what he has said and done in response to this, it would appear as though Ergun had never publicly responded when he actually had (here is the full text of his response).
And if not for 1.) careful archiving by Christian bloggers and 2.) careful organizing of these resources, it would be impossible to find out the truth. Scrubbing history has never been easier than in this age. The age of the internet where the delete key is easier than ever to hit.
I quote from James White who wrote this in a post deconstructing the Norman Geisler’s insane ramblings about what had happened with Ergun Caner. James has been through more with dealing with Caner’s staunch defenders than anyone can even possibly imagine. He has fought hard for truth and suffered much for it. (the emphasis in the below quote is mine)
Yes, I’m sick of this entire thing. I want it to go away. I want to be working on uplifting things, preparing for my fall debates, writing, researching…doing the things of ministry. But here I sit preparing to slam many more doors in my face. Why? Simple. Truth is costly. When I have told Christians and non Christians alike over the past twenty five years that I believe the Gospel is true and consistent and vital, I was actually speaking the truth. That’s what I really believe. And I further believe that when you live in a day of compromise and apostasy you may have to invest a whole lot more to be consistent in matters of the truth than those who live in days of relative peace.
The apologetic task facing true believers in Christ in Western Society today is daunting. We are under assault from every angle. There has never been a time when we need to be more consistent, more committed, more heart-felt in our passionate love of the truth. We cannot live inconsistently with our profession. We cannot be hypocrites. If we tell the world we honor the truth, then we need to do so in all of our lives. We cannot pretend that truth is only important in apologetic issues, issues relating to the resurrection or the historicity of the Bible, while turning around and trampling on simple truthfulness in other aspects of our lives. Lovers of truth will love it in all of life, not just in parts.
(go to his post for the full critique)
There is much that has been said, and should be said, about what this situation says about evangelicalism in the United States today. That loud sound you hear as you read this entry is made by the doors slamming in my face for even daring to point out that such a venerable name as Norman Geisler could engage in an activity that can only honestly and accurately be identified as cronyism. But that is what is happening. It is beyond obvious that he has offered no rebuttal to the mountain of documentation that contradicts his position. Instead, he seems to hope to use his name, his “weight” in evangelical circles, to cover for an associate, a friend, who has brought disrepute upon the Christian ministry in general and apologetics in particular by his purposeful deception and myth-making. For many, that will be sufficient not only to allow them to continue to listen to Ergun Caner without calling him to repentance, but (to borrow from Geisler’s own language) throw me under the bus for having dared to point these things out.
I well know that the cost is escalating here, but again, I have no choice. Yes, the world is watching, and I hope they see that some evangelicals are still willing to pay a price for truth and consistency without retreating into pious platitudes. Yes, the Muslim apologetic community is watching, and at least some well know the truth of this situation. And ironically, may I point out that heaven itself is watching, and it is in that Court of Final Arbitration that I place my final appeal and trust. What will history say about all of this? I don’t know, but I cannot stand before any audience and proclaim myself a follower of truth if I can so easily sell my commitment to it for the price of popularity and political ease. May the Lord of truth, the King of righteousness, send forth His Spirit to convict of sin, to bring true confession, and to bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ.
When it comes down to it, maybe you wonder why I even care about this.
Because I believe truth is worth fighting over.
Further Recommended Reading on Northwestern College Controversy
Further Recommended Reading on the Ergun Caner Controversy
To perfectly honest, I would recommend reading all of the content below, but I’ve highlighted a few of the most engaging posts.
Addendum - A few thoughts after watching the first video of Ergun Caner.
He is remarkably similar in his preaching style to what I remember. I recall him being more laid-back when he was talking to mainly college students. If only he had claimed to be just a cultural observer. If only he had told the truth. Instead the presentation is so mixed with possible facts and obvious fiction that it is impossible to make heads or tails out of what is true. I heard that he went to teach a briefing in Fort Hood. Is it possible that he taught a class in which the Major Hasan, the shooter at Fort Hood was present? This is only speculation and I have no evidence for it, but a scary possibility nonetheless. Ergun has dozens of stories, who knows if they are true or made up? No one. He has modified what the word “debate” should mean in the context of being an Apologist (regardless of worldview). A debate is not a conversation, interview, or informal talk. It is formal, it has a moderator, it is before an audience, and it is usually recorded. His style of debate is downright atrocious. Essentially he believes in yelling over the Muslim he is “debating” because it is culturally the right thing to do. He ends his presentation pitch-perfect with another story. He reminds me of the man Paul Washer always talked about, “He can tell you stories about grandmothers that will make you laugh and puppy dogs that will make you cry.” He is a story-teller. He does preach the gospel for that much I am thankful, just like Paul in Phillipians.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Second Addendum: A few thoughts after watching the second video of Ergun Caner.
It is impossible to come away from this message thinking that this man moved from Sweden to Ohio when he was two and went to an American high-school in Ohio. His presentation only leads to one conclusion. That he was born a Muslim in the Middle East, he grew up Muslim in the Middle East, and immigrated to America when he was a teenager or young adult. This is all a purposeful deception. Not a mistake or an accident. His flow between the hilarious and the serious reminds me of a Paul Washer sermon, “Some men will preach sermons with stories of grandmothers that will make you laugh and puppy dogs that will make you cry, but I am not one of those men.” (paraphrased) Ergun plays these stories like a good gambler plays cards. Constantly, efficiently, intentionally, and wisely.
Third Addendum: I stumbled upon this video of Ergun Caner speaking at a conference in 2006.
It appears at times he has conviction about the bold-faced lies about his past, his testimony, and his experiences. Or it could be good oratory, who is to know except him and God?
Fourth Addendum: Well it’s been a few months since I last edited this draft, but this update is significant.
The level of unrepentance in this article leads me to the same conclusion that Triablogue has come to. Though I can’t say, for sure, I am inclined to believe that the man has had a horrible false conversion in which his beliefs have no relation to what he actually does and says. This is the essence of a false conversion, I know because I’ve had one before God saved me. May God regenerate him if he is a false convert and if he is born again, may the Spirit radically awaken him from his horrible backsliding that has affected so many.
Well, the recovery is finally complete for Ergun Caner, as he is today preaching and giving his testimony at the FBC Jacksonville Pastor’s Conference. This is the same church that outed the FBCjax Watchdog by illicit means will serve as this man’s comeback is beyond belief.