Monday, June 28, 2010

Lynchburg, We Have A Problem...

The train wreck that is Ergun Caner continues.

(Other posts on this subject: Like Watching a Train Wreck & The Caner File)

On Friday, May 21, 2010, I received an e-mail from Basyle Tchividjian, Assistant Professor of Law at the Liberty University School of Law regarding the investigation into Ergun Caner's multiple and contradictory biographical assertions. Professor Tchividjian worked as a prosecutor for 7 years in Florida. He then worked in a private law practice, also in Florida, before joining the faculty at Liberty University School of Law.

Mr. Clyatt:

A colleague and I have been asked by the LU administration to investigate the various claims against Ergun Caner. I have reviewed your site and found it extremely helpful as you link the primary source to each allegation. The purpose of this note is to inquire whether you or anyone else for that matter has;
  1. Made any contact with Jerry Tackett, the individual who allegedly led Ergun Caner to Christ. Do we know if he has verified Ergun’s conversion account?

  2. Made any contact with Ergun’s brother, Erdem, and verified anything about their upbringing?

  3. Confirmed Ergun’s claims regarding his post high school education?

  4. Talked with anyone who knew Ergun during high school, college, or post-secondary school prior to 9-11?

Mr. Clyatt, we would appreciate if you could keep this email and the enclosed inquiries confidential. It is our objective to seek and obtain the truth during this investigation. Our God is too holy to allow us to do anything short of that objective. Much thanks.


Basyle 'Boz' Tchividjian
Assistant Professor of Law
Liberty University School of Law

I sent the following reply to Professor Tchividjian on Saturday, May 22, 2010:

Mr. Tchividjian,

Thank you for your kind words regarding my blog; I tried to be accurate and thorough.

However, all I did was compile the research done by others. I’ve not attempted to contact Jerry Tackett or Mark Caner. Nor have I looked into Ergun Caner’s academic records. As you are no doubt aware, the bulk of the research was done by Jason Smathers and TurretinFan.

I will respect your wishes to keep this e-mail private until the investigation is complete. Know that I am praying for God to guard the integrity of all who are involved in this investigation, and for the truth to be honored.

God Bless,

Gene Clyatt Jr.
A Squirrel in Babylon

Well, it seems that Liberty University has concluded their investigation into the Ergun Caner situation. With that conclusion, my agreement to keep Professor Tchividjian's e-mail confidential is also concluded. I am grateful that Professor Tchividjian found my compilation of information helpful. I agree with him that "Our God is too holy to allow us to do anything short of... seek[ing] and obtain[ing] the truth." I have no doubt that Professor Tchividjian and his colleague did just that.

I also have no doubt that Dr. Ron Godwin and the committee that he formed know exactly what the truth is in this matter. What they have done with this knowledge still kind of boggles my mind a bit.

Ergun Caner has been removed from the office of President and Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He will, however, remain as a full professor, at least for the 2010/2011 school year.

Here's the full text of Liberty University's statement announcing their actions:
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.

Right away, we see that Liberty University is trying to minimize Dr. Caner's position at the school. The statement says, "Dr. Caner will no longer serve as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary." Yet the biography at LBTS's website listed Dr. Caner as "President and Dean of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School."

Then there is the phrase, "Dr. Caner has cooperated with the board committee and has apologized for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review." It sounds an awful lot like Caner's statement of February 25, 2010, in which he said, "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!"

This is nothing less than classically Clintonesque. “Misstatements” are things like saying “San Diego” when you meant to say “San Bernardino,” and “discrepancies” are saying something happened at 10 o’clock in the morning to one group and saying that the same event happened at 3 o’clock in the afternoon to another group. In other words, normal mistakes that any public speaker could make, and all public speakers do make, sooner or later. Dr. Caner's actions are something on a different order all together.

In February, Dr. Caner said, "I have never intentionally misled anyone." No, what Dr. Caner, did is called lying. He has deliberately, repeatedly, & knowingly told audiences things about himself & his upbringing that he knew were untrue. Whether he lied for financial gain or in an effort to obtain some sort of ego gratification is immaterial. Why he lied really does not matter. He lied, and the powers at Liberty University know that he lied. To say, "I have never intentionally misled anyone," is just another lie.

Instead of addressing Caner's lies head on, Liberty University has chosen to, once again, try to sweep the whole mess under the rug. Knowing that the evidence is too overwhelming to ignore completely, Liberty University has made a token gesture in an attempt to appease their critics. There doesn't seem to be any consideration at all among Liberty's leadership about trying to please a Holy God.

Let me address Liberty's leadership directly for a moment. Why all the obfuscation, Liberty University? Vague hints at “factual statements that are self-contradictory,” and unspecific references to clandestine apologies "for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review" in the face of the overwhelming mountain of documentation of Ergun Caner's interminable pattern of dishonesty before multiple church audiences over a period of almost 9 years seems inadequate. If you're trying to save face, it is backfiring. As James White said, "While I am thankful that Liberty has at least confessed that there is, in fact, an elephant in the room, when are they going to get around to explaining how he got there?"

And why extend Dr. Caner a professorship for a year? You can't have liars lead the school, but you think that it is okay for them to teach there? Is there a different standard of integrity for administrators then for faculty members? Or for students? Back in 2001, Notre Dame fired George O'Leary as football coach for falsifying his resume, and, just recently, Texas A&M senior vice president for administration Alexander Kemos resigned when his claims to have been a US Navy SEAL were shown to be false. Are your moral, ethical, and academic standards less then theirs? As I tweeted last Friday, “Retaining @ErgunCaner in a professorship damages LU's academic integrity (what they've got left...) What's he gonna teach? Lying 101?”

God’s standard is to do what is right, without favoritism or partiality. Deuteronomy 1:16-17 says, "Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, 'Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God's. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.'” Has Liberty’s judgment is this matter been righteous or impartial?

A lot of people have asked me, "What do you want to see happen?" That’s a good question, and it deserves an honest answer. The short answer is that I want to see “fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)

Here’s the long answer:
    I would like to see:
  1. A public statement from Dr. Caner in which he admits, without any prevarication, that he intentionally and repeatedly lied in order to inflate his testimony and embellish his conversion story (& an apology for the same.)

  2. His immediate resignation from the faculty of Liberty University as a sign of contrition for having intentionally and repeatedly lied in order to inflate his testimony and embellish his conversion story.

  3. A tour of all the churches to which he intentionally and repeatedly lied in order to inflate his testimony and embellish his conversion story to make public restitution by telling them the unvarnished truth this time.

  4. An honest and forthright version of his testimony and the story of his upbringing in Ohio in a broken home. (The truth is actually a very compelling story, from what I’ve been able to put together from the bits and pieces I can find.)

  5. I would like to see a statement from Ergun Caner's brother Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell College, explaining his role in aiding and abetting Ergun Caner's lies. (Over the years, they spoke at many of the same events. There is no way that Emir was ignorant of Ergun's penchant for lying.)

At this point, I think that it is highly unlikely that we will ever see any of that. There are two possibilities that I do see happening.

  1. Dr. Caner, Liberty University, & everyone else involved completely refuse to say anything more on the subject. Liberty University’s academic integrity continues to erode, and Liberty University fades into insignificance as pastors stop recommending it and parents stop sending their children there to be educated.

  2. Or

  3. The public discussion of Dr. Caner’s lack of integrity and Liberty University’s lack of male anatomy in dealing with Dr. Caner’s lack of integrity continues, and the continued pressure that results causes Dr. Caner to resign for undisclosed "personal reasons” and Liberty University tries to ignore the whole thing.

I would like nothing better than to stop talking about Ergun Caner and Liberty University. I've listened to more Ergun Caner sermons than I ever wanted to, believe me! And I'm more than tired of the accusations of ulterior motives being ascribed to myself and others as to the "real reasons" we're "going after" Ergun Caner. Yes, I'd love to be done with it all, but, unfortunately, I don't think this train wreck is over just yet.

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[There are a many others who have commented on this situation, some that I think are worthy of your attention are; James White, Carla Rolfe, Rosemarie, & Daniel Spratlin.]


Victoria Lynch said...

Spot on Squirrel!
Of the two possibilities of what may happen at Liberty at the end of your post I think number 2 is very likely-but I still can't understand why those leaders refuse to do it God's way. How very sad!

Richard said...

Excellent summary of the situation. I would also like to see some confrontation of the political tactic of name calling by LU and her defenders using the term "bloggers" in reference to their critics. A great many of the men who they broad brush with this term are highly respected Pastors and Teachers in the Christian church. To paint them with a label that makes them appear like pasty faced pencil necked teenagers behind a keyboard is dishonest in and of itself.

Bennett Willis said...

While we are predicting--LU's plan seems to be to say no more. They did not want to say anything to start with, they have said the very least possible, and they will do their best to say no more.

EC's plan is to say no more. To paraphrase from the February "apology", 'This is of no interest to me. I will not participate in it any more.'

I do not know if both of them will be able to keep quiet. I think that if I were an LU alum that I would be writing the school an unhappy note--something along the line of "you have compromised the integrity of the whole school in favor of an undeserving individual." And if I were a parent or new student I might be looking at the other schools who sent letters of acceptance.

I think it is "wise" to not attempt to defend that which has no defense. When you do that, you have "removed all doubt" about your judgment and logical facilities. So in that sense, they should let their actions speak for them.

There is some possibility that the one year contract may be the typical way that colleges (and high schools) deal with the person they are easing out the door. If it turns out to be the case, then my respect for LU's decision will increase--get above zero, at least. Their unwillingness to investigate this case on the obvious and well documented merits dug a very deep hole.

Mark | hereiblog said...


Very interesting email exchange. And a good analysis of these sad events.

It is interesting to look back at the first CT article. It states that as bloggers raise doubts about Caner's account of his childhood as a Muslim. (Emphasis mine)

The article even goes on to list a few examples of the accounts in question. Yet, the primary report upon investigation is whether or not EC was actually a Muslim.

That's not the whole story!

Bennett Willis said...

"The article even goes on to list a few examples of the accounts in question. Yet, the primary report upon investigation is whether or not EC was actually a Muslim."

The LU committee had the same problem as all the EC defenders. They could not find anything that could be defended except the original charge from M. Kahn. So they used it.

Personally, I have actually come around to Mr. Kahn's opinion. I cannot trust ANYTHING that EC says about his Muslim background--other than his Father and his Father's wishes. It is a variation on the old comment, "If you were charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

BibleWheel said...

Excellent synopsis of the situation.

Here's my take on it:

A Christian University? Liberty is neither.

Lydia said...

Excellent post. Thank you for standing up for the truth and how this should be handled. I totally agree.

I am a bit shocked a blogger was contacted for information by one of the investigators considering their earlier statement about bloggers.

Dan said...

Nicely stated.

Roy said...

Well said, Squirrel. I actually wrote something on this subject today as well, though I am not as well spoken as you.!/note.php?note_id=409677149780

Thanks for all of the time and effort you've put into this, and the Christian spirit in which you have done it.

In Christ,

Tom said...

Yes God is a just & holy God, but he is a God of the second chance. Since Baptists are autonomous and Thomas Road Baptist Church is the "mother church" of Liberty, how do self appointed guardians of the faith, know that TRBC hasn't followed through with church discipline? If they have, it's none of your business.

Bartolucci said...

I rarely read blogs, but you have written one worthy of reading. We need to pray for Dr. Caner, that he come clean and make his calling and election sure.

The Squirrel said...

Tom wrote:

“Yes God is a just & holy God, but he is a God of the second chance. Since Baptists are autonomous and Thomas Road Baptist Church is the "mother church" of Liberty, how do self appointed guardians of the faith, know that TRBC hasn't followed through with church discipline? If they have, it's none of your business.”

Dr. Caner has not repented publicly of his very public pattern of deception. Tom, you ask why any of this is any of my business. It has long been accepted that private repentance is sufficient for sins committed in private. The circle of repentance should not exceed the circle of offense. The circle of Dr. Caner’s deception lies far outside of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, and Liberty University. Dr. Caner has spread his lies throughout the Southern Baptist Convention and, by books, podcasts, radio broadcasts, and the like, throughout the wider evangelical Christian community.

Indeed, the circle of his offense exceeds the Christian Church at large, as he has trained members of the American armed forces about Islam and the Islamic concept of Jihad.

As a Southern Baptist, I am inside the circle of Dr. Caner’s offenses. As a Christian, I am inside the circle of Dr. Caner’s offenses. As an American, I am inside the circle of Dr. Caner’s offenses. So, yes, Tom, it is my business (& yours, too).


Denae's Blog said...

Excellent post, Squirrel!

When I read it I thought about a loved one who was abandoned by her spouse --a "youth pastor"-- at 19 years old. The church told her to let it go, while letting him continue to lead the youth. >:-[

It is bad enough that we don't call sin for what it is. But to let an unrepentant man be in a position of guarding or teaching or guiding the flock?? That is infuriating.

May God watch over our leaders and the flock and grant us repentance.


doulosofChrist said...

Well done!

God has begun to judge LU for the arrogant refusal to investigate Caner early on and remove him. Should Caner remain on staff, many parents will pursue other alternatives.

After laying a firm foundation for 17 years it would be folly to entrust sons or daughters to a place that rewards those who cheat to get ahead in life, and whose testimony is just as questionable as the padded resume.

In Christ,

Paulo Freire said...

It looks like Emir [brother and fellow college president] is going to be de-railed as well.
It is hard to imagine why a man who has reached such academic levels and human accolades would find that the amount of grace needed to save his soul is not enough and that somehow, his story of redemption had to be more radical, his soul more depraved and lost, his condition more dire. How unfortunate that what God did bless him with as a child is discarded as not sensational enough.
It shows the depth of the struggle against the flesh.

Had he a true sense of the depth of his sin he would not feel that he would have had to embellish what the Lord saved him from and would have marveled at the common and saving grace God has extended to him.

Lying 101 is all he can teach. But even in that class, as a student teacher only. After all, he got caught.
I'm teaching a course of pastoral basics for urban lay-pastors. Maybe Canor should enroll and audit the course.

I try not to bring Calvinism into every discussion but honestly, had he a biblically reformed theology, he would not have been so prone to embellish his testimony. I suggest that his embellishment simply points to himself and the great and wise decision he made to flee from his past of Islamic teaching and to the arms of God. What a brave and determined man, we would conclude. What a man of wisdom, shrewdness and innocence. A man of great fortitude despite the severe odd. A man God obviously can use in His kingdom. Had he seen God's eternal election he would have known that his lack luster testimony was actually the sovereign grace of God protecting him and leading him to Christ even as a child. And for that he would rejoice!

Yemi Ogunbase said...

I rarely follow the news, so I'm getting to this party a bit late.
(Only here because I checked my LU webmail and discovered the announcement about the new Dean and President of LBTS)

Ugh...this is frustrating, because I've had a good experience in my past 2 years as an LU student.

However, I cannot ignore the lack of academic integrity.

As you stated Squirrel, George O'Leary was fired as FOOTBALL COACH from Notre Dame because of lies on his resume.

In addition to that, each LU student and faculty member has to sign the honor code.

The administration's refusal to firmly and swiftly deal with this has compromised not only their own individual integrity, but also the integrity of the university. If they aren't willing to uphold the standards THEY set in the honor code, then it is broken.

The integrity is not only lost, but this student will be withdrawing from LU and transferring to another institution of higher learning on Monday, Nov. 1.

This not only cost them the funds for my own tuition, but I have 5 sons who I was looking to enroll in their K-12 academy. No longer.

So sad.