Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Caner File

Note: Many of these links are now broken. For example, Dr. Caner's messages from 2007 are no longer available at the Ohio State Association of Free Will Baptist website. According to the Associated Press, "Since questions arose about contradictory statements, he changed the biographical information on his website and asked friendly organizations to remove damning clips from their websites. But the questions didn't go away, leading to the Liberty investigation." ~Squirrel

This is the timeline that I’ve put together regarding the questions about Dr. Ergun Caner’s claims together with the evidence refuting them. I did this for my own edification, I’m posting it because I thought that others would find it useful. While it is rather lengthy, this is in no way an exhaustive treatment of the evidence available and I’ve tried to keep it very much in the spirit of Sgt. Joe Friday, “Just the facts, Squirrel.” Much of the information comes from the fine investigative work done by Jason Smathers, Turretinfan, and My Friend in Ireland. I have tried to link to everything I could find, but some links are broken, and some archived pages are no longer available.

November 3, 1966 – Ergun Caner is born in Stockholm, Sweden, to Acar and Monica Caner, who had been married on April 1st that same year. (Source: Acar’s and Monica’s separation agreement, Ergun Caner’s Facebook page (now a dead link))

July 16, 1968 – Ergun’s younger brother, Erdem (Mark), is born in Stockholm, Sweden. (No internet source)

Sometime in 1969 – The Caner family moves from Stockholm, Sweden, to Columbus, Ohio. (Source: Monica Caner’s sworn affidavit dated July 31, 1975.)

August 25, 1970 – Emir Caner is born in Columbus, Ohio. (Source: Emir Caner’s Official Biography.)

1975 – Ergun Caner’s parents separate. According to his brother, Emir, their mom had adopted the lifestyle of a hippy. The brothers live primarily with their mother. (Source: separation agreement, Monica Caner’s sworn affidavit dated July 31, 1975, Emir Caner sermon from September 20, 2009)

1978 – Acar and Monica Caner’s divorce is granted. Ergun and his brothers continue to live primarily with their mother. (Source: divorce decree)

1979 – The Dukes of Hazard goes on the air. (Source: International Movie Database)

1981 or 1982 – Ergun Caner professes Christ at Stelzer Road Baptist Church at 2235 Stelzer Road
Columbus, Ohio. (There is some confusion as to the exact date of Ergun’s profession of faith. In Unveiling Islam November 4, 1982 is listed as the date of Emir’s profession of faith, and it say that it was a year after Ergun’s, but Ergun claims November of 1982 as the date of his conversion in several lectures, like this one in Ohio in 2007.)

Between 1982 and 1999, Ergun Caner pursues his education and serves as pastor of several churches.

1999 – Baptist Press reports on “E. Michael Caner, senior pastor of Central Baptist Church, Aurora, Colo.” and his work in the wake of the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton Colorado. (Source: Baptist Press)

2000 – Ergun Caner writes for Baptist Press under the byline “E. Michael Caner” (Source: Baptist Press)

After September 11, 2001, Dr. Caner, now using the name “Ergun Mehmet Caner,” begins to speak about his Muslim past, making claims that are in clear contradiction to many of the facts documented above. Following are some examples. (Again, this is not an exhaustive list.)

2001 – Ergun Caner speaks at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. (Source: Focus on the Family’s April 23, 2010 broadcast “From Jihad to Jesus”)
Claims made:
  • Came to America in 1978

  • Father was an Islamic Cleric

  • Ergun spoke broken English in 1982

  • Wore a turban in high school

2002 - Caner tells the Associated Press "...that he was born in Sweden to a Turkish father and Swedish mother, who brought the family to Ohio in 1969, when he was about 3 years old. He said he accepted Christ as a teenager at a Baptist church in Columbus, and then pursued ministry, getting a degree from Criswell College, a Baptist school in Dallas." (Source: Associated Press article dated May 17, 2010)

May 2002 - SBC Life reviews Islam Unveiled. Review contains this paragraph with debate claims: (Source: www.sbclife.org)
The heightened interest in Islam has drawn each of the Caner brothers into additional debate settings at mosques and universities, speaking in English, French, and Arabic with Muslim scholars. And they have been interviewed by the BBC, CNN, Moody Broadcasting Network, Salem Radio Network, and USA Radio. Talk show invitations have come from Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Marlon Maddux, and Zola Levitt.

2004 – Biography from erguncaner.com: (Source: www.archive.org)
He has been called the “Intellectual Pit Bull of the evangelical world” by the national media. He debated Michael Moore in a nationally syndicated column entitled “Hatriotism.”
He has spoken on over fifty university and college campuses, debating Hindi, Buddhist, Muslim and Bah’ai scholars. He has been interviewed on virtually every national media outlet, and has been castigated by the Washington Post and the LA Times. He has addressed the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference twice, and has given keynote addresses at seven major denominational meetings. He has spoken to over fifty thousand college and high school students in major concerts. Recently, he was called the “leading young voice for cultural apologetics and world religions” by the PAX network.

In the war on terror, he understands both sides...because he has been on both sides. Dr. Ergun Mehmet Caner is Full Professor of Theology and Church History at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Dr. Caner was raised the son of an Islamic leader. In 1982, he converted to the Christian faith after emigrating to this country. As a consequence of this conversion, he was disowned by his family. Caner has three Masters Degrees and two Doctorates, the Doctor of Theology coming from the University of South Africa. Along with his brother, Dr. Emir Caner (Professor of History and Anabaptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) Ergun is author of eleven books, including the new best seller CHRISTIAN JIHAD (Kregel 2004). CHRISTIAN JIHAD has been endorsed by Beth Moore and Ann Coulter, and examines the recent war in light of thirteen hundred years of Islamic-Christian conflict. His previous books on Islam have sold almost 200,000 copies. UNVEILING ISLAM won the Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Since the September 11th bombing, Caner has appeared on such national television shows as Fox News, various CNN shows, MSNBC, the 700 Club, Zola Levitt, John Ankerberg and others. He and his wife, Jill, have two sons.

2005, May 8th - The Washington Post publishes a profile of Ergun Caner, which says, in part, "Caner's star rocketed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when he became a controversial in-house expert on Islam for the evangelical Christian community" & "Caner said he believes that his popularity among Christians is largely attributable to his Islamic heritage" & "Caner was raised in Turkey and Sweden in an Islamic family before moving as a teenager to Ohio..."

2006 – Ergun Caner speaks at an unidentified conference in the Seattle area.
Claims made:
  • Does debates with Muslims on college campuses

  • Grew up in Turkey, near the Turkish-Iraqi border

  • Learned about America by watching The Dukes of Hazard on Turkish television

  • Came to the United States in 1978

  • Wore typically Arabic clothing in high school

  • Has done 48 debates with Muslims, Hindu, & Bah’ai

February 2007 – Ergun Caner speaks to the Ohio State Association of Free Will Baptists Men’s Retreat:
Claims made:
  • Has a Ph.D

  • Came to America in 1978

  • Wore Islamic clothing in high school

2009 – Biography from erguncaner.com: (Source: www.archive.org)
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.

October 15, 2009 – Dr. James White asks for help in locating examples of Dr. Caner’s debates. This caused some people to take a closer look at Dr. Ergun Caner’s claims. More questions begin to be asked.

February 25, 2010 – Dr. Caner releases the following statement: (Source: SBC Today
Recently a concerted effort has been made by a small group of professing believers, joined with a particular Muslim that posts videos, questioning my conversion, and the conversion of my brothers. And, what saddens my heart immensely is, this small band of professing Christians have now cited the Muslim’s videos as reason to attack my testimony as well. Indeed, the Muslims have used clips that attempt to show that through two decades of ministry and hundreds of sermons there exist discrepancies in my testimony. In all honesty, I probably could have saved them a lot of time and trouble. The truth is, I would be surprised if no discrepancies were discovered, given the hundreds of messages I have given during all that time!

Nonetheless, while normally it is wise to ignore these types of attacks, the Muslim’s videos- now surprisingly being cited by professing Christians- have sadly produced such ardor that I feel the need to speak to the issue. This has been done repeatedly to Muslim converts, but in this instance, I bear some responsibility to clarify.

I was born in Sweden, with a Turkish father and our mother who was a Turkish citizen.
I was born and raised a Sunni Muslim, just like my brothers.
I was led to Christ at the Stelzer Road Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, just like my brothers.

Now, on to the other issues:
Every minister has made pulpit mistakes. Being called a “liar,” however, is a serious charge, especially when it is made by Christians. That would indicate that (1) the accusers can know the motives of the accused person’s heart, and (2) the accused person intentionally misled people.

I have never intentionally misled anyone. I am sure I have made many mistakes in the pulpit in the past 20-plus years, and I am sure I will make some in the future. For those times where I misspoke, said it wrong, scrambled words, or was just outright confusing, I apologize and will strive to do better.

A second question raised concerns debates. One gentleman believes it is misleading to call my interaction with people from other faiths and world religions “debates.” Since his definition of debate is limited to moderated, formal debates, that is his prerogative. He can call them whatever he wishes. My podcasts are readily available online through this website. If he finds them less than satisfying or helpful, then he does not have to listen to them. I do not offer them for his approval or his attention. Please feel free to look elsewhere. God has been gracious to call many Christians to practice evangelism and apologetics in a variety of ways.

The truth is, several evangelical apologists employ the “formal” debate template and are very effective in their presentations. Norman Geisler, Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig come to mind. Nevertheless, I will continue to do exactly as I have done. In fact, in order to attempt a measure of peace, I am more than happy to call my engagements “interviews,” or even “dialogues.” Since this is historically my method of choice, I shall continue to offer these podcasts here, for the edification of those who care to listen.

However, I would caution all evangelicals that no single method meets consensus. Nor is there only one exclusively biblical model. Certainly there is much good to be found in formal debates, and I also believe that there is enough room for all types of interaction. In fact I believe there is great value to be found in all forms, including conversational and informal methods.

Finally, there is a legitimate complaint which I must address, namely, referencing a Muslim scholar that I have never met. Listening to the audio, I honestly have no idea who I was referencing, but it certainly could not have been the man I referenced. For this unintentional but nevertheless horrible mistake, I repent for saying his name, and I ask the forgiveness of all those who heard it. Sin is sin, and if I am dumb enough to say something like that, I should be man enough to deal with it and aim to never make such a grievous error again. This applies to any time when I wrongly used names. I shall be more careful.

As for the countless other volleys aimed at discrediting the work I do, I am unsure how to respond. If my pronunciation of Arabic phrases is not correct, then I apologize. The language of my lineage is Turkish, not Arabic. Even Arabic dialects differ regionally, such as Jordanian and Egyptian. Indeed, 80% of the Muslim world does not speak Arabic, so I doubt anyone will be fully satisfied at this juncture. I must add, however, the misguided attempt by Muslim apologists to discredit converts to Christianity is not limited to me; in fact it seems to be standard operating procedure. I do not believe I can do anything to stop these attacks. All I can do is continue to teach as I have for years, and continue to serve the Lord with the best I can give.

Criticism is many times helpful. In this particular instance, it has enabled me to correct the careless mistakes I addressed above. Nonetheless, I want to be clear about this current situation. This constant stream of criticism, blogging and berating is not acceptable between believers. I am as guilty as anyone else in instigating such things over the years, but these personal attacks are too much. I shall not participate in this anymore. This is absolutely of no interest to me.

So, may the Lord judge between us.

To all who are reading this, I want you to know– I am a clear example of a person who is constantly in need of God’s grace. Because Jesus Christ died on the Cross for the world, that includes all of us. He died to forgive my sin, and resurrected to give me life. He did the same for you. When I repented of my sin, and put my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, He gave me new life. He can do the same for you. We are all sinners, and in need of forgiveness. If you will trust Jesus Christ and turn from your sin, you can find forgiveness and freedom from all the guilt that is upon you. Jesus loves you.
-Ergun Caner

February 26, 2010 - Fred Butler makes the first comparison between Ergun Caner and Mike Warnke that I'm aware of.

February 26, 2010 - @ErgunCaner blocks @Shinar_Squirrel from following him on Twitter.

March 12, 2010 – The February 25, 2010 statement is removed from erguncaner.com (Source: James White’s blog.)

March 29, 2010 – Jason Smathers publishes Ergun Caner’s Secret Biography, & provides the hard evidence about when Ergun Caner came to America.

April 14, 2010 – the following biography goes up at erguncaner.com: (Source: erguncaner.com)
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

April 19, 2010 – A Squirrel in Babylon publishes Like Watching a Train Wreck; @XIANITY tweets a link to it, bringing a great deal of attention to this blog.

April 23, 2010 – A Squirrel in Babylon is interviewed by Christianity Today for an upcoming article about Ergun Caner’s embellishment of his life’s story.

April 28, 2010 – People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch publishes an article about Ergun Caner.

May 3, 2010 – Christianity Today publishes their article on Ergun Caner.

May 4, 2010 – A Squirrel in Babylon publishes a response to the Christianity Today article.

May 5, 2010 – Associated Baptist Press publishes an article on Ergun Caner.

May 10, 2010 – Liberty University announces that a committee is being formed to investigate allegations of dishonesty and wrongdoing on the part of Dr. Ergun Caner, President of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

It is now in the hands of Dr. Ron Godwin and the committee that he has formed. Please join me in prayer that they will follow the evidence wherever it leads them and that they may reach an unbiased and fair conclusion. Let us pray also for Dr. Caner, that he may come to repentance, and for God’s Grace upon Dr. Caner and his family.

UPDATE - June 25, 2010 - Ergun Caner removed from office of President and Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary but retains full professorship for the 2010/2011 school year. Liberty University issues the following statement (Source: The Lynchburg News & Advance):
After a thorough and exhaustive review of Dr. Ergun Caner’s public statements, a committee consisting of four members of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees has concluded that Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory.

However, the committee found no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager, but, instead, found discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence.

Dr. Caner has cooperated with the board committee and has apologized for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review.

Dr. Caner’s current contractual term as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary expires on June, 30, 2010.

Dr. Caner will no longer serve as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

The university has offered, and Dr. Caner has accepted, an employment contract for the 2010-2011 academic year. Dr. Caner will remain on the faculty of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary as a professor.

Further your arboreal rodent sayeth naught.

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