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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