Monday, April 19, 2010

Like Watching a Train Wreck…

Truthful lips will be established forever, But a lying tongue is only for a moment.
(Proverbs 12:19 NASB)

It’s ugly, and it’s only going to get uglier. You know it’s not something that you really want to see, but you just can’t look away. You keep wondering what’s going to happen next.

I’m speaking of the fact that, for many years now, Dr. Ergun Caner, President of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia, has been “embellishing” his “testimony” at various and sundry venues at which he has spoken. Dr. Caner’s untruthfulness is so widespread, and so well documented, that it is undeniable. It seems that, shortly after September 11, 2001, Dr. Caner began to tell audiences things about his background that were less then truthful. In all likelihood, Dr. Caner, responding to a growing interest in all things Muslim in a post 9/11 world, began stressing his Islamic background and distorting his personal history in what can only be described as a quest for self-promotion, celebrity, and ego gratification. It appears that, for Dr. Caner, image often trumps truth.

I understand dishonesty, as it is a sin I have battled often. I understand the temptation to lie in order to make one’s self seem something more. I, too, have felt the desire to “improve” upon a story, to exaggerate a claim, or otherwise bolster something that might be considered lack-luster. And, if you’re honest with yourself, you know you’ve felt that temptation yourself upon occasion. It is part of our fallen nature, and I’d bet a pile of premium walnuts that everyone who is reading these words has told somebody, somewhere, something that they knew wasn’t true. We’re all guilty of lying, that’s not the point.

The point is that a very public person in the Christian community has been caught lying repeatedly, in speech and in print. It cannot just be ignored, as the entire situation brings reproach on the cause of Christ.

Shortly after questions about Dr. Caner’s false statements were made public, Dr. Caner issued a statement. I’d love to tell you what exactly it said, but, less than a month after it was posted, it was removed from his website. His biography was also removed at the time that the statement was issued.

After weeks of “404 – file not found”, a new & much stripped down biography of Dr. Ergun Caner has been posted at his website. Long gone are demonstrably false statements like, “ Caner has debated Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and other religious leaders in thirteen countries and thirty-five states,” to be replaced by a brief bare-bones factual account that contains none of the self-serving aggrandizements of the former biography.

Here is the old bio from 2009: “Ergun Mehmet Caner (B.A., M.A., M.Div., Th.M., D.Min., Ph.D.) is president of the Liberty Theological Seminary at the Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Raised as the son of a Muslim leader in Turkey, Caner became a Christian shortly before entering college. Serving under his Chancellor and President, Jerry Falwell Jr., Caner led the Seminary to triple in growth since his installation in 2005. A public speaker and apologist, Caner has debated Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and other religious leaders in thirteen countries and thirty-five states. The author of seventeen books, Caner lives in Lynchburg with his wife Jill and two sons, Braxton and Drake.”

The new bio reads: “Ergun Caner is the President and Dean of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School in Lynchburg, Virginia. Raised as a devout Sunni Muslim along with his two brothers, Caner converted in high school. After his conversion, he pursued his call to the ministry and education. He has a Masters degree from The Criswell College, a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Theology from the University of South Africa. He has written numerous books with his brother, Dr. Emir Caner, who is the President of Truett-McConnell College, a Baptist college in Georgia”

Notice that the list of degrees has changed, mention of being “Raised as the son of a Muslim leader in Turkey” has been deleted (Caner, we now know, was born in Sweden and raised in Ohio since the age of four,) and that any mention of debates has been removed. There are also many recordings, both audio and video, of Dr. Caner, often speaking with a pronounced accent, claiming to have grown up in majority Muslim countries (Sweden and Ohio, I suppose,) having been trained as a Jihadist, etc. etc.

Dr. Caner’s response to all this seems to be ostrich-like. Likewise, Liberty University seems to be trying to ignore the whole thing, too. But sticking their heads in the sand and hoping this all just goes away, in addition to not being the proper Biblical response, doesn’t seem to be working. I’ve already been made aware of possible resolutions being brought to the floor at June’s meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention calling for the removal of fellowship with Dr. Caner & Liberty University by Southern Baptists until and unless there is public repentance. And Liberty University’s academic integrity should require Dr. Caner’s resignation from office, whether he repents publicly or not.

There have been some who have rushed to Dr. Caner’s defense. They say the attacks are "personal," that people are “out to get” Ergun Caner for this or that reason. But the evidence exists, and it does not favor the defense. The “circle the wagons” response we’ve been seeing in this situation will end up damaging all involved.

Those who follow Christ, who said of Himself, “I am the… Truth” (John 14:6), should be known for being truthful and standing for the truth. Scripture calls the body of Christ, “the pillar and support of the truth.” How can we, the body of Christ, stand for the truth, while enduring such dishonesty?

Dr. Caner, please, repent and resign.

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20 comments:

Mike Miller said...

One wonders where his brother, Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell College, has been all this time. His bio, at http://www.emircaner.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=93&Itemid=123 , quite clearly states that he grew up in a Sunni Muslim family in Ohio, "the son of an Islamic leader." Hard to tell if it's been edited recently, but if Ergun has been misleading the public, why hasn't Emir said something? And if he knew Ergun has been lying but didn't say anything, shouldn't he be put on the spot as well?

Fred Butler said...

Well done analysis.
He is, as I wrote in a post, the Mike Warnke of this generation.

I sure hope someone has the backbone to raise that resolution at the SBC conference.

The Squirrel said...

Mike:

Clearly, Emir must be aware of his brother's... embellishments. I agree, why has he not called him down? Just because "blood is thicker then water" is no reason to tolerate chronic dishonesty.

Fred:

Link troll :o)

Squirrel

The Squirrel said...

Here is an early draft of the proposed resolution as it was relayed to me:

"ON THE CONTINUED FELLOWSHIP WITH DR. ERGUN CANER

"WHEREAS, Dr. Ergun Caner has become a public figure, president and dean of Liberty University; and

"WHEREAS, Liberty University is funded by cooperative program dollars from the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia; and

"WHEREAS, Dr. Ergun Caner has become known as a liar; and

"WHEREAS, Dr. Ergun Caner's lies have taken place in public and are verifiable through audio and video recording; and

"WHEREAS, Dr. Ergun Caner remains unrepentant; and

"WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention's association with Dr. Ergun Caner reduces the credibility of the Southern Baptist Convention and is a hindrance to the corporate witness of all churches in fellowship with the Southern Baptist Convention; and

"WHEREAS, God commands the use of church discipline with unrepentant sinners whom appear to be a part of the body; and

"WHEREAS, Dr. Ergun Caner's church has failed to use Biblical church discipline and has ignored Dr. Ergun Caner's public and unrepentant sins; and

"WHEREAS, Liberty University has attempted to cover up the public sins of Dr. Ergun Caner; now therefore be it

"RESOLVED, That fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention and all Southern Baptist entities, member churches and regional associations shall remove themselves from fellowship with Dr. Ergun Caner; and be it further

"RESOLVED, That fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention will be removed from any local church that maintains Dr. Ergun Caner while remaining unrepentant for his public sin; and be it finally

"RESOLVED, That fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention and member churches be removed from any Southern Baptist church, regional, or state convention whom continues to provide funding to Liberty University while Liberty University continues to employ Dr. Ergun Caner while Dr. Ergun Caner remains an unrepentant sinner."

Squirrel

Justin C said...

Where is the source for the Southern Baptist resolution against Ergun Caner? I would like to be able to show people. Thanks :D

The Squirrel said...

Justin:

It was sent to me (& others) by the author looking for feedback. I have his permission to quote it, but this is not the final version, it is a rough 1st draft, and he is not yet ready to submit it.

When he does (and I hope that he does) submit it, I'm sure his name will be among the initial sponsors of it at the convention. At this point, I must respect his wishes.

I do know that, if I were a messenger at the convention, and if the situation at that time remains what it is now, I would vote in favor of such a resolution.

Squirrel

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

I'm in favor of such a resolution.

I've said before, that if we don't bring such a resolution to the floor of the SBC, then we all owe Mark Driscoll one huge apology.

Fred Butler said...

I would tone down the accusation of "lies" and present it as giving him some benefit of the doubt at this moment. Especially now that this issue has been raised to a national level. Maybe along the lines of him making "conflicting statements that bring into question his integrity as a public minister of the gospel."

The guy needs to be called out by all means, but we can exercise a bit of graciousness while pounding him.

In fact, I have a post about it HERE.

Just kidding.

The Squirrel said...

Fred:

I have no problem with the strong wording. We're not talking about mistakes and misstatements, like saying "San Diego" when you meant "San Francisco." No, we're talking about saying things like, "I was trained as a terrorist," & "I grew up in majority-Muslim countries." Actions of intentional dishonesty.

The benefit of the doubt expired a while back. While the public outcry is still growing, the time to repent was 6 weeks ago, when he issued his non-apologetic excuse of a statement, which has since been removed from his website.

Squirrel

The Squirrel said...

Turretinfan has compiled more evidence of Dr. Caner's habitual dishonesty.

Squirrel

vickilovesboxers said...

Spot on Squirrel! Thanks.

E.J. said...

In all fairness, since there is inadequate verification in many cases, then, Ergun Caner's rebuttal and refutation should be placed on this blog also, and here is the link to it.

http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3862

The Squirrel said...

"inadequate verification" EJ? Really?

I listened today to a speech Caner gave in Seattle in 2006, in which he talks about growing up on the Turkish-Iranian border & watching "The Dukes of Hazard" on Turkish television.

Did Caner "misspeak?" Did he mean to say "The Ohio-Kentucky border?" No, wait, that'd be Cincinnati, and he grew up in Columbus...

Squirrel

E.J. said...

Yes, "inadequate verification." On blogs people can post anything they wish. I certainly hope such statements that Dr. Caner aren't true. Please note, I left that open. But on the same token, I haven't seen anything in print, or in voice or anything else from credible sources. I go to other blogs and they post purported "quotes" from Dr. Caner without referencing dates and places (Seattle, where in Seattle, at conference, a church, where? B/c if it's a conference, or a church, we can all get a copy of such proceedings, etc., and if he's wrong, I'd be interested to know, and present them) where he said such things. But I'm not seeing such things. Could it be that he has family over there, and visits them often? I have family in one area of the state, but spent my summers in another area of the state and feel like I'm more from the other area than the one I was born in. Why is there no rebuttal of the rebuttal - instead of mentioning another "example"? These are the inconsistencies of which I speak, and which trouble me. If there is cause, then yes, by all means. But it's time to come clean on all sides- get this behind us, and preach the word to those who do not know, for it is that which should ultimately concern us.

The Squirrel said...

EJ:

At his blog, Witnesses Unto Me, Jason Smathers has compiled, from public records for which he provided links, the timeline of when Ergun Caner moved to Ohio. It seems, again from public records, that the Caner children were under court order, as part of their parents divorce, not to leave the Continental United States. I have read the source material that Mr. Smathers linked to.

Also, here is the link to the 2006 conference in Seattle. I do not know the exact dates, nor the venue where it took place.

(By the way, both of these sources are linked to in the main article. The sources are out there, just go look.)

Squirrel

Fred Butler said...

E.J., whose profile is conveniently unavailable, I for one am someone who does not have it in for Ergun Caner. I use to respect the man and even recommended his books early on after 9/11. But these embellishments are serious and brings damaging harm upon the Church as the body of Christ who said he was the way, the TRUTH, and the life. We cannot allow this to go unchallenged and the fact that he has gone silent and Liberty U. has gone silent, shows me they understand how serious this is. If I was being charged as a liar and what I had said I knew to be the truth and could prove it, I would be on the front page of every major blog explaining myself. Why isn't Ergun doing this?

Now Christianity Today is doing an investigative article about it? This is going to be the undoing of him as a minister and that apologetic school at Liberty.

E.J. said...

Mr. Butler, I log in under my G-mail account. If you want to attack the issue at hand, please do. But do not take a cheap shot at me for wanting a level of privacy and to protect my identity, and for questioning the matter at hand - this is what educated people do Christ never had to stoop to that level in his argumentation Mr. Butler.

E.J. said...

Squirrel, Thank you for answering my questions. I shall check these examples. As I said, I hope it isnt true, but we do need to know if it is, and it seems to be that you understand that I am sincerely asking questions, because that's what we do in a free society. And thank you for addressing the issue and not the person.

The Squirrel said...

E.J.-

I wouldn't take Fred's notice of your "profile not found" status personally. Many knee-jerk "defenders" use such anonymous profiles to hide behind. You kinda get used to it in this business...

Here are some more links to Caner info used in preparing my blog post. As they used to say on the "X Files", "The truth is out there."

Squirrel

Doug Hibbard said...

I'd like to see a widening of the resolution to include something akin to:
Resolved: that the Lord Jesus Christ be the only celebrity allowed in the Southern Baptist Convention, rather than exalting a half-dozen flavor of the month people to sell books and speak at conferences while they are supposedly either leading organizations or pastoring churches that they are never at to fulfill their duties since they're being celebrities.

As long as we maintain this environment of celebrity culture in our convention/denomination, we're inviting people to exaggerate, inflate, or lie to rise to the top. Meanwhile, the hierarchy that promotes the celebrities becomes so invested in the current people that there's never due diligence about people until it's too late.

Then it gets done in the blogs, which leads to the bickering about evil criticizing bloggers, and then entrenchment, and then more bickering, and we wonder why we need a resurgence towards the Great Commission.

It's gotten beyond aggravating. This coming from someone who, as a teen, went with his youth group to Mike Warnke concerts and as a young minister heard not a few preachers that have since disgraced themselves and the Lord God. It's building a cynicism that I don't need any help building.

On Caner himself, I don't remember where I saw this question from someone else, but it's worth considering: do we not, as Southern Baptists, have hundreds of missionaries that have served in Muslim countries that could help us understand Islam? Why did we need a celebrity there? And if you faked your resume, you need to own up to it and take whatever corrective action is necessary. If Liberty still wants you, then that's their choice, but people should have the truth.

Just my 2 cents worth, because I've had it up to here with our SBC Celebrity Corps and how quick the establishment mobilizes to protect them.

Doug