Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Quick Response to Tim C. Guthrie
03/31/2010 - Tur8infanOver at the "SBC Today" blog, Tim C. Guthrie is expressing his strong negative emotions regarding the disclosures that are being made about Ergun Caner's autobiographical embellishments (link). Among a lot of other things, TCG wrote: "There is absolutely nothing new being brought to light concerning Dr. Ergun Caner." and "How sad is the person who thinks that by doing some internet research that is old news is now out of nowhere NEW?" and again "This is not a major issue accept for the fact that the history of the school has been questioned and Mr. White obviously fails to understand that Dr. Caner had to undergo a major screening to fill the position he now has."
Is TCG claiming that people, particularly the leadership of Liberty University, have known for years that Caner has been embellishing his autobiography? Such a claim would raise issues of integrity for the leadership of Liberty University, who I would otherwise assume are blameless. If TCG is correct, we would be right to ask why Liberty University's biography of Ergun Caner lists him as immigrating to the U.S. in 1979 when, in fact, he immigrated nearly a decade earlier than that? (link to biography - as of March 31, 2010, it states: "Ergun was born in Stockholm, Sweden to turkish parents and in 1979 immigrated to the United States with his parents, grandmother, and two brothers. Ergun became an American citizen in 1984 and currently resides in Lynchburg, VA with his wife and two sons.") I hope TCG is wrong, and that Liberty University's leadership was unaware of Ergun Caner's autobiographical embellishments. Either way, one can apparently check to see if Jerry Fallwell is turning over in his grave (link to Fallwell GraveCam - compare the Vatican's John Paul II GraveCam)
Theology Matters: Again
03/22/2010 - James WhiteWhat happens when a monotheistic religion that rejects 1) the revelation of God in Christ and 2) lacks the heart-changing power of the gospel gains power over a culture? History gives us many examples. Today you can read about the atrocities of such combinations of false religion and political power on a daily basis, especially coming from the Islamic world. Here are two recent ones that illustrate the point:
A student has died after being beaten to death by pro-Taliban radicals at a Pakistani university.
The beating, which occurred earlier in the week, culminated in the death of Anan Khan, who attended the University of Engineering & Technology in Peshawar.
He was severely beaten with several other students at the university by members of a student wing of the hard-line Jamiat-e Islami party.
Witnesses have said the IJT attacked Adnan for playing music.
Members of the IJT have a record of breaking up music appreciation functions and dance parties on the campus.
And much worse:
Arshed Masih is fighting for his life after he was nearly burned to death by Muslim militant leaders backed by police, sources tell BosNewsLife.
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN - A Christian man was fighting for his life in Pakistan's Punjab province Saturday, March 20, after Muslim leaders backed by police burned him alive for refusing to convert to Islam, while his wife was raped by police officers, Christian and hospital sources familiar with the case told BosNewsLife.
My Muslim friends should consider well why it is that Islam produces this kind of behavior on the part of its most devoted followers prior to engaging in the knee-jerk reaction so often heard, "Yeah, well, look at the Inquisition!" The fact is that the more closely one follows the teachings of Jesus the farther away from this kind of behavior you will be; but such is not the case for the Muslim, who finds all sorts of basis in Muhammad's actions and teachings for this kind of hatred of the "kafir." Theology matters.
Egun Caner, Pat Robertson, and the Satanic Verses
03/08/2010 - James WhiteI was looking over the transcript of an interview between Pat Robertson and Ergun Caner from April 2, 2002 (that is the posting date; evidently the program would have been recorded earlier, perhaps in 2001). I have been sent many links of late from folks who have been digging into the elephant-like memory of the Internet. I ran across the transcript of the interview and, given that it is relatively early in Ergun Caner's post-Butch era (it seems he went mainly by "Butch" until after 9/11, when his "former devout Muslim" persona began to become front and center) I found it particularly interesting. I had not remembered later claims that he was beaten up by the "Youth Jihad" when he announced his conversion at the mosque (one wonders if he had not heard about Sahih Al-Bukhari 9:57 as a devout Muslim youth?). Once again the chronology is all mixed up, as in this interview he claims that on the same day of his conversion his father disowned him "but both of my brothers accepted Christ." Given that elsewhere he puts a year in between these events, once again we can, at best, conclude Dr. Caner is not big on accuracy in his story telling. Then we have the following exchange. Now, note that Caner's anti-Reformed bias is deep, and early, and, as has been documented too many times to recount, inaccurate. But my real concern here is the discussion of the Satanic Verses. Here is a brief description I posted in 2007, and I highly recommend David Wood's debate with Adnan Rashid on this topic, found here.
Pat Robertson: What about the concept of kismet? It is fate. Isn't that deeply involved in the Muslim religion?
Ergun Caner: Absolutely. I always say to my students that Islam is hyper Calvinist. Islam believes that if you are a believer in Islam, a believer in Allah, great. If not, it is our job to kill you and send you to hell faster. If you kill us, we go to paradise. Its the only eternal security that a Muslim has.
Pat Robertson: That's it? In other words, if you live your life and you die, you have no knowledge of where you are going to go eternally?
Ergun Caner: Muhammad even said, 'I don't even know where I will go.' He said, 'Only Allah knows.' The founder of the faith in which I was raised had no assurance of his own salvation.
Pat Robertson: What about the satanic verses? Salman Rushdie said that in the Koran Muhammad admitted that certain of it came from Satan. I have not read the Koran and certainly not in Arabic. Is that true?
Ergun Caner: He started to have seizures at the age of 40 and his wife assured him it was from god and not demonic. What Salman Rushdie did was he switched it. He asked, What if the seizures and the visions that Muhammad received were from Satan? That's why it is called the 'Satanic Verses'.
Pat Robertson: I was under the impression that Rushdie found something where Muhammad was questioning if it was from Satan.
Ergun Caner: He did. Muhammad did question that. His wife said it was from god. She is the one who told him, 'God is trying to reveal something new to you.' Muslims who become Christians who speak Arabic, they don't even use the word Allah. When they speak of God, they call him 'Khoda,' a Persian word, because we are so terrified of confusing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with Allah, the false god that we served as Muslims.
It is hard not to get the impression that Pat Robertson knew more about the real "Satanic Verses" incident than Ergun Caner did! Caner kept going back to the original experience of Muhammad in the cave, and Khadijah's response to it, rather than to the real "Satanic Verses" incident in reference to Surah 53. He did not seem (at this point in 2001/2 anyway) to be aware of the background. Now, of course, most Muslims don't know much about this incident, either. Few have read Ibn Ishaq or any other early source. But one would expect that given Caner's claims for himself, he would at least have a student's knowledge of the incident.
Immediately after this transcript I read a Baptist Press story covering Caner's speaking at First Baptist of Dallas on September 24, 2001. Once again the story begins with how devout Caner was as a Muslim. Since this is a newspaper account, we cannot expect close attention to detail. However, some of the same problems appear here, such as the lack of specificity as to "Hadith 9:57" and the like. But what did catch my attention, all the way back in 2001, was this line: "Caner, who serves as assistant professor of theology and church history at Criswell College, has spoken in mosques and debated Muslim scholars." Evidently, this isn't a claim that grew over time, it was present from the start in his post 9/11 rise to stardom. Possibly the numbers grew over the years, but the claim to "debate Muslim scholars" (even in the context of a mosque!) is part and parcel of his personal claims for himself.
On Reading in Context and Questions for the LU Board of Trustees
03/05/2010 - James WhiteI've been hearing rumblings on the net since I posted the "you don't do Muslim prayers in bathrooms" article that, "Oh, but you can!" It is truly amazing the lengths to which folks are willing to go. I have seen people saying you can do so in your prison cell, for example. Wonderful. Ergun Caner was not in prison (no matter how much high school may, at times, seem like that to some). Others have said that if you fear for your life you can pray in a bathroom. Wonderful. But again, by his own words, Dr. Caner was not in fear of his life. He was a zealous Muslim. He was purposefully, willfully wearing self-identifying Muslim garb to school (and, I note, to the church in which we was eventually converted). So this exception is likewise utterly irrelevant.
Just as I learned a lot back in 2004 when I responded to Mark Seifrid on the topic of justification, I am learning a lot now, too. Evangelicalism is soaked in emotionally-driven, post-modern thinking that accepts, wholesale, the ever popular social dictum, "Of all the commandments, this is the greatest: never question someone who says Jesus three times fast." So once again I stand convicted of the grave sin of offense. "You are on a crusade!" "How dare you attack a Christian brother!" "Get off it, move on!" And so on. It doesn't seem to matter to these folks that there are matters of ministerial integrity on the table. Offend God? Offend the gospel? Offend the entire apologetic outreach to major world religions by demonstrating that Christians circle the wagons rather than seek consistency and honesty? Do those things really matter? It seems that to many, they do not. But for me, there is no choice in this matter: the question is now before the broader Christian community, and Liberty University in particular: which is more important? Integrity in the proclamation of the gospel, or popularity and enrollment? The tragedy of this situation is just this: the documented examples of either direct falsehood or gross exaggeration are almost always connected directly to vitally important truths of the gospel. It is as if the power of the message is not enough, it has to be "amplified" by adding the "Convert Exaggeration Syndrome" issues related to how pious and truly Muslim Caner was. And if it does not bother you that the proclamation of Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life has been directly connected to half-truths and exaggerations (and defended by many as well!), then you need to do some serious self-examination.
Last evening someone in channel related what they claimed was a message from the head of Liberty University. He couldn't verify it, but what he posted said this:
Marcus, I saw your wall post. In fact, I recently read all of James White's accusations and I just returned home from our bi-annual LU Board of Trustees meeting. I brought this matter up and it was discussed in detail. The board will meet again tomorrow. Are you a seminary student? Jerry
Let's say for the sake of discussion this FB wall post is genuine. If the Board of Trustees is aware of this situation, then I need to make sure they know what questions truly need to be answered. In the process, I can clarify some issues as well.
First, I do not agree with Mr. Khan, the producer of the videos that have, in large part, raised these issues, when he concludes that Ergun Caner's entire story is a fabrication. I have never suggested this. But there are many serious problems with the Caner story, and for the sake of truth, and ministry to Muslims, these questions need to be answered. I have already raised a number of these issues personally. Mr. Khan and one of my bloggers, TurretinFan, have been exchanging posts on those, and other related issues. (Here is TurretinFan's most recent, which has links to all that went before). There is no question in my mind that Ergun Caner's father was a Muslim from Turkey, that at some point the family moved from Sweden to the United States, settling eventually in Ohio. I do not question that Ergun Caner was converted at some point in 1981 or 1982 or so, his two brothers at a later point, resulting in a complete disruption of their relationship with their father, who died as a Muslim. I don't believe these matters can be contested, though the fact that the published and spoken statements of both Ergun and Emir Caner provide wildly conflicting dates, resulting in as much as a ten year discrepancy in really figuring out when the family moved to the US, at what age Caner converted, etc. I believe Ergun Caner was a Muslim. However, that is where the story becomes muddled due to Caner's own statements. I currently believe, in light of the information I have examined (and given Ergun's unwillingness to openly address these issues, he leaves the rest to speculation), that he was not a devout Muslim at all. His knowledge of Islam is not that of a former devout Muslim, or his conversion was at a much younger age (I had once calculated it, on the basis of his own statements, at 13) than he now claims, which would also explain his ignorance of basic level liturgical/confessional terminology. While I am not a former Muslim, and have only been studying the religion to any depth since late 2005, I would not make the same errors Caner makes with regularity regarding the Shahada, Surah Al Fatiha, the proper names of the Pillars of Islam, etc. At this point in time I am convinced that Ergun Caner is guilty of exaggerating his connection to Islam for the purposes of self-promotion. Prior to 9/11 "Butch" Caner did not seem to be marketing himself as a celebrity convert from Islam. But given the general ignorance of the vast majority of Evangelicals, it seems he discovered he could get away with not only using highly questionable language about his ethnic heritage (though he is only half Turkish) but he could set himself apart from the "crowd" so to speak, eventually resulting in his landing high profile positions. And if he had just avoided putting his vaunted claims of apologetic activity on the web, along with his specific claims to have debated men like Shabir Ally, he'd probably have gotten away with it.
For the leadership of Liberty University, the questions that need to be answered: ...
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Doing Salah in the Bathroom
03/04/2010 - James WhiteIt does not take a Muslim scholar to figure out that saying any of the daily prayers in a bathroom would be forbidden. When I mentioned the idea to my wife yesterday, she immediately said, "What? Surely that isn't allowed!" Given that my wife has never studied Islam, I can only assume it is a given that Islam would not allow Salah to be offered in an unclean place such as a bathroom.
It is not surprising then that it is fairly easy to establish that from written sources. The Hadith of Al-Tirmidhi, 242, reads: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) prohibited the observance of prayers in seven places: on a dung hill, in a slaughterhouse, in a graveyard, in the middle of the road, in a bathroom, in the watering place where camels drink and sit, and upon the roof of the House of Allah. Likewise, we read in Fiqh-us-Sunnah 4.53a, "...they cite the Prophet's hadith: "The entire earth is a mosque except for a graveyard and a bathroom." Anyone even slightly familiar with the materials that make up the body of hadith literature knows that ritual purity, and especially issues in reference to urination and defecation, are prevalent in Muhammad's speech and thought.
Why discuss something like this? I mentioned briefly at the beginning of the Dividing Line today that I had been informed that a clip would soon be posted wherein Dr. Ergun Caner, President of Liberty Theological Seminary, speaks of his conversion. And in the midst of this presentation he actually says he said his prayers in a bathroom at high school. About twenty minutes into the DL the YouTube video containing this clip was posted, and I was able to listen to it after the program. Here it is:
1) To me the important element of this is the claim by Dr. Caner that he would take his prayer rug "and roll it out in the high school bathrooms." Why? You only roll out your prayer rug to...pray, of course. But, any Muslim knows you do not offer Salah in a bathroom! Was he hiding from the other kids? That makes no sense, because he claims to have worn the traditional garb, even saying in one of his testimonies that when the pastor opened his eyes while preaching he saw Ergun standing in front of him "wearing a dress" (i.e., Islamic garb). Who wears the Islamic dress to school and then hides in a bathroom to do the prayers, in direct contradiction to Islamic practice and law?
Why is this important? Listen to the clip again. Hear the passion? The emotion? Hear the amens in the audience? He's wound up. He's on fire. Sweatin' and spittin and preachin' up a storm, he's headed for the invitation, and it's time to close the deal. This is when Caner gets in trouble. This is when he starts making things up on the fly. This is when it is dangerous to be a former anything. This is when Convert Exaggeration Syndrome strikes, and once it hits you, and you succumb to it, it gets easier and easier to just go with the flow. If you get away with it for years on end, your resistance to it disappears...until you are so caught up in a web of exaggerations you can't escape. Caner is trying to make a point: be diligent in witness, don't give up. Great point. He was making a point about the centrality of Christ's death to redemption when he decided to string together some Arabic sounding names, like, Shabir Ally, Abdul Saleeb, and Nadir Ahmed. All for a good cause, right? But truth is never adorned by the clothing of falsehood.
2) His comment about roller skating in sand is meant to continue the "I'm from Turkey, we have lots of sand" persona. I think, however, they do, in fact, have some sand in Sweden...which is where he was born. I imagine there are some roller skates there, too. Snow is more of an issue than sand. ...
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When Islam Reigns Supreme
03/03/2010 - James White
Islamabad (AsiaNews) - A court in Kasur district, Punjab, convicted a Christian couple, Munir Masih and Ruqqiya Bibi, to 25 years in prison. According to the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), judge Ajmal Hussein convicted the couple for touching the Qur'an without washing their hands.
Munir Masih and Ruqqiya Bibi were released on bail last January, but were re-arrested after the judge ruled against them. The husband was locked up in Kasur's district prison; the wife was sent to the women's prison in Multan. Both have started serving 25 years behind bars.