I’d been watching the story pick up steam for several months in the blogosphere, and, two weeks ago, after finally writing about it myself, I received a request from John W. Kennedy of Christianity Today for an interview, which I granted. As you can imagine, I’m not at all accustomed to getting calls from the press, but my interview with Mr. Kennedy was quite pleasant and professional.
Well, yesterday, Mr. Kennedy’s article for Christianity Today’s was posted on line. I’ve read it carefully, and I have a few thoughts and a few questions.
First, he did quote me accurately & I thank him. I stand by what I said. But I must say that I find the whole focus of the article to be very much “off target,” beginning with the title itself.
The article is titled “Bloggers Target Seminary President” when it really should be “Seminary President’s Dishonesty Exposed”. The actions of bloggers in uncovering Caner’s… um… embellishments, while interesting, is totally secondary. It might have made a good sidebar to the main article, but it isn’t the main thing here. The whole tone of the article – “Well, look at that! People are asking questions! I wonder why?” – is off the mark.
CT’s article also makes it sound as if a bunch of Calvinists were going after Caner because he opposes Calvinist doctrine. This is an attempt to deflect away from the real issue, which is Caner's record of dishonesty. If the charges are true, the theological position of the person bringing the charges is irrelevant. It is just a red herring. In regards to myself, sure I disagree with Caner's stance on Calvinism, but there are a lot of other publically known pastors, preachers, and teachers, with whom I have theological differences, but whose integrity I have absolutely no reason to question. The real story should be about Dr. Caner’s nine-year penchant for bending the truth about his past.
Mr. Kennedy completely fails to deal with any of the evidence which has been gathered and documented that shows Dr. Caner’s pattern of falsehood. I know that Mr. Kennedy spoke with Jason Smathers; both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Smathers told me so. Why is none of the evidence that Mr. Smathers collected discussed in the piece? It’s not like these are wild, unsubstantiated rumors, Mr. Smathers has gathered court records and other documents that directly contradict the timeline presented in Dr. Caner's readily available speeches on audio and video.
As the left-wing atheistic People for the American Way put it, “These are no vague or reckless charges, but carefully documented exposés that draw from Caner’s sermons, speeches, and online videos, and other public records.” If worldlings (c.f. 1 John 2:15)can understand what this story is really about, why doesn’t Christianity Today “get it?”
While both Ergun & Emir Caner declined to speak to Christianity Today (maybe the first time ever that Ergun Caner has turned down a request for an interview by a national media outlet), we now have official statements from Liberty University, in the person of Dr. Elmer Towns.
Dr. Towns, age 77, was co-founder, along with Jerry Falwell, of Liberty University back in 1971, and now serves as Vice President of Liberty University & Dean of Liberty’s School of Religion. According to Christianity Today, Dr. Towns and the Board of Directors of Liberty University “are satisfied that Caner has done nothing theologically inappropriate.” Theologically inappropriate? What in tarnation does that mean?
"It's not an ethical issue, it's not a moral issue," Christianity Today quotes Dr. Towns as saying. "We give faculty a certain amount of theological leverage. The arguments of the bloggers would not stand up in court." Repeatedly lying over a period of nine years is not an ethical or moral issue? A pattern of distorting the truth is simply “theological leverage?” Wow! I shudder to think how far someone might have to go before Dr. Towns would classify his actions as unethical or immoral!
And, as far as the evidence that has been gathered “not stand(ing) up in court,” I think that it fully accords to established rules of evidence and easily meets the standard of “preponderance of the evidence” required in civil court, and would, in my decidedly unlawyerly opinion, also meet the standard of “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” required in criminal cases.
Further, Christianity Today reports that Dr. Towns believes that these are just attacks against Caner because of his opposition to the “Camel Method” of evangelizing Muslims. That doesn’t stand up to even the most cursory of examinations. Dr. Caner made his publicized remarks about the “Camel Method” in February of this year, yet James White was asking for help locating recordings of Ergun Caner’s debates over four months prior, back in October of 2009. Also, Dr. White has stated that he pretty much agrees with Dr. Caner’s opinion of the “Camel Method.”
Dr. Town’s statements, as reported by Christianity Today, raise new questions as to just how in touch Liberty University’s leadership really is with what is going on, and Liberty University’s academic integrity is now even more in doubt.
I have no doubt that Dr. Caner and Liberty University want this to just all go away. Who wouldn’t? But it isn’t going to go away. The situation continues, and needs to be dealt with honestly, forthrightly, and soon.
Because it was mentioned in the article, I want to briefly discuss the proposed resolution to the Southern Baptist Convention that I brought up quoted here. I exchanged e-mails with the author of the proposed draft resolution. He told me that he has been advised by good and Godly leaders in the SBC, not necessarily friends of Ergun Caner's, not to pursue such a resolution. As the CT article stated, "But in recent years, the SBC Committee on Resolutions has ruled as out of order nearly all efforts against individuals." So, don't look for anything to come to the floor at the Convention regarding this matter. (And I just caught this... I didn't tell CT that a blogger had written the draft, that is an assumption on Mr. Kennedy's part.)
James White, Fred Butler, & Tom Chantry all weighed in on the Christianity Today article yesterday.