Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Caner Scandal Becomes the Evangelical Cover-Up
07/02/2010 - James WhiteYes, I'm sick of this entire thing. I want it to go away. I want to be working on uplifting things, preparing for my fall debates, writing, researching…doing the things of ministry. But here I sit preparing to slam many more doors in my face. Why? Simple. Truth is costly. When I have told Christians and non Christians alike over the past twenty five years that I believe the Gospel is true and consistent and vital, I was actually speaking the truth. That's what I really believe. And I further believe that when you live in a day of compromise and apostasy you may have to invest a whole lot more to be consistent in matters of the truth than those who live in days of relative peace.
The apologetic task facing true believers in Christ in Western Society today is daunting. We are under assault from every angle. There has never been a time when we need to be more consistent, more committed, more heart-felt in our passionate love of the truth. We cannot live inconsistently with our profession. We cannot be hypocrites. If we tell the world we honor the truth, then we need to do so in all of our lives. We cannot pretend that truth is only important in apologetic issues, issues relating to the resurrection or the historicity of the Bible, while turning around and trampling on simple truthfulness in other aspects of our lives. Lovers of truth will love it in all of life, not just in parts.
We went farther and farther into the Evangelical Twilight Zone today with the release of further outlandish statements attributed to Norman Geisler. As some will recall, I have long asserted that Norman Geisler could not have written the error-riddled response to The Potter's Freedom that appeared as an appendix to the second edition of Chosen But Free. I simply did not believe that anyone with his reputation could produce something that rivals Gail Riplinger's worst. But Dr. Geisler's behavior in this matter is beginning to weaken my resolve on that issue. Here is the relevant portion of the CT article:
"They exonerated him on everything except some misstatements on nothing that was crucial," Geisler told CT on Wednesday. "No moral or doctrinal charges were established; no culpability was proven."
Geisler blames Muslims for inspiring the probe and "extreme Calvinists" for "shoving him under the bus." Geisler believes Liberty made a mistake in letting Caner go as president because it implies guilt.
"People who know Ergun know he is a man of honesty, integrity, and Christian commitment," Geisler says. "The charges that he intentionally lied and embellished are totally unfounded."
Let's examine Geisler's words in the light of the documented facts (those pesky things he, and those who join him in this cover-up, ignore). First, let's remember something here. Norman Geisler is associated with Veritas Seminary. So is Ergun Caner. He is not an unbiased observer here. He has direct political connections to Caner, and was quick to attack anyone who questioned Caner weeks ago. Secondly, Liberty's seven-sentence statement is not the result of an independent or unbiased investigation. Liberty has a great deal invested in this matter, and their non-statement, couched in political language, has done little to end this scandal. In fact, its obtuse, confusing, political language has provided the basis upon which a cover-up has now been launched in Caner's service.
Next, it is difficult to believe that anyone, let alone Norman Geisler, has taken as seven sentence statement from Liberty and turned it into an "exoneration" of Ergun Caner. Anyone even remotely familiar with the mountain of documentation in the form of audio and video recordings, court records, printed documents, etc., knows the Liberty statement was crafted to avoid giving specifics. They know what the questions are, they simply refuse to answer them. And Norman Geisler, by putting himself on the line in defense of Caner, now shoulders the moral, ethical, and more importantly, Christian, obligation to answer the questions Ergun Caner refuses to answer. This is even more so the case since Geisler is making claims that are documentably false. Let's start with the first claim:
"They exonerated him on everything except some misstatements on nothing that was crucial," Geisler told CT on Wednesday.
Really? Which misstatements that are not "crucial" was he not exonerated on? Geisler doesn't know, of course, since Liberty hasn't said. Or, if he does know, then he needs to be honest and forthright and tell the rest of the world. But his statements seem to be based upon the Liberty statement, and I see no evidence of his claiming any special knowledge, outside of claiming to have spoken to Caner himself. In any case, the Liberty statement acknowledged "discrepancies" relating to dates and places of residence. What would this refer to, if not his claim to have lived in Turkey, coming to the US in 1979 via Beirut and Cairo? Can someone seriously argue that Caner's entire mythology of being a Turkish born and bred Muslim, trained in the madrassa in jihad, is not "crucial" to his entire story? If you asked anyone amongst the many thousands to whom Ergun Caner has spoken since 9/11 if it was "crucial" that he was telling the truth about his upbringing, what would they say? How about those students, Dr. Geisler, that have come to Liberty, or Veritas, to learn from Ergun Caner, the converted Muslim from Turkey who came here to do what the terrorists of 9/11 did? Do you think they would find that element of his story "crucial"? The answer is obvious.
The fact is Liberty exonerated Caner on one specific allegation: that he was never a Muslim. The vast majority of Caner's critics have granted that from the start, and with the publication by Mr. Smathers of the legal documentation relating to the dissolution of the marriage of Ergun Caner's parents, that matter was put to rest for any rational person. But since that has not been the point for the vast majority of critics, to say that Liberty exonerated Caner on "everything" else is simply absurd. Can Dr. Geisler demonstrate that Liberty exonerated Ergun Caner:
About his debating Shabir Ally?
About his debating Abdul Saleeb?
About his debating sixty one Muslim leaders?
About his debating in mosques, or in thirteen countries, or thirty five states?
About his claiming to speak Arabic?
About his claim to have lived in Ankara, Turkey, or on the border of Iraq and Turkey?
About his claim to have thought Christians hated him, having lived in majority Muslim countries all his life?
About his claim to have broken English even at his conversion in 1982?
etc. and etc.
The glaring irony here is that Geisler would defend Caner, who has claimed in public to have debated Norman Geisler's co-author, Abdul Saleeb! What did they debate about, who was going to pay for the last meal they had together? Is Geisler even aware of Caner's having made that claim? We have no way of knowing, since Geisler refuses, despite being an evidentialist apologist, to actually deal with any evidence at all! Once again, one side deals with facts and documentation, one side deals with politically oriented speech leading to a major evangelical cover-up.
Next Dr. Geisler claims, "No moral or doctrinal charges were established; no culpability was proven." How does he know this? Does he have access to the Liberty investigation? Is lying a non-moral issue? The only issue I have raised doctrinally relates to Dr. Caner's horrific response to a simple question asked of him by a Oneness Pentecostal pastor, a question he should have been able to answer without any difficulty at all (his response was incomprehensible and embarrassing). But to say that there is nothing immoral about lying to thousands about your entire background while linking those lies directly to the gospel is again astounding. And how can Dr. Geisler explain the fact that at the very same time Ergun Caner was telling audiences of thousands that he came to the US in 1979 as a Turkish born jihadi with broken English learned from watching the (as yet to be aired) Dukes of Hazzard, he was telling at least one AP reporter the truth, that he had come here in 1969 and grown up in Ohio? If that does not establish culpability--knowing dishonesty on his part---what, exactly, would? Dr. Geisler needs to answer these questions, since he has decided to take up the silent Caner's banner.
Next we read, "Geisler blames Muslims for inspiring the probe and 'extreme Calvinists' for 'shoving him under the bus.'" We all know what Norman Geisler means by "extreme Calvinists," that is, real Calvinists as opposed to Arminians, like himself. That has been established for quite some time. This is nothing less than finger pointing as an attempt to direct attention elsewhere. No one has thrown Dr. Caner under the bus: Dr. Caner threw integrity and trustworthiness under the bus in the pursuit of position and power, knowingly and freely, and now he is being aided, sadly, by others who likewise do not esteem the pulpit and the integrity of ministry properly.
In passing I should note the repeated attempt to insert the Reformed/anti-Reformed polemic into this situation. Thankfully, I know non-Reformed men and women who see very, very clearly that Ergun Caner is guilty of myth-making in the pulpit. They do not have to hold to Reformed soteriology to see the facts right before their eyes. And as to the implicit assertion, begun by Ergun himself, that this is all just some Muslim conspiracy, I remind everyone that Muslims can speak truthfully while Christians lie. Such should not be the case, but it can happen, and it is happening, right here, right now. (See my comments on who can speak the truth here).
"Geisler believes Liberty made a mistake in letting Caner go as president because it implies guilt." So which is it? Did they exonerate him, or imply his guilt? I am reminded of others of Caner's defenders who will, on the one hand, repeatedly cry that "He has repented! What do you want?" and then, sometimes within a few sentences, proclaim him utterly innocent of all charges. So which is it? It seems that in the defense of the indefensible, any and all defenses, even those that are mutually contradictory, are acceptable.
"People who know Ergun know he is a man of honesty, integrity, and Christian commitment," Geisler says. I have a simple question for Dr. Geisler: when did he come to know Ergun Caner? Did he know him prior to his conversion in 1982? Did he run into him and attempt to talk to him in his broken Dukes of Hazzard English say, in 1980, fresh from Turkey via Cairo and Beirut? If he did not, then how can he address, on a personal basis, the real issues in this situation, which all have to do with the documented self-contradictory statements Ergun has made, most often from behind a pulpit? How does a person prove he is a man of honesty, except by being consistently honest? How does a man demonstrate he has integrity outside of openly and transparently dealing with questions that are asked of him? Dr. Geisler is here putting himself firmly in opposition to the facts that stand uncontested and clear before all who have eyes to see.
"The charges that he intentionally lied and embellished are totally unfounded." This is, without a doubt, the most amazing part of Geisler's statement. The facts are indisputable. This is not a debatable point. Anyone can scan down the information found here (compiled by Baptist pastor Gene Clyatt) and here by blogger TurretinFan, taking note of how there is a concerted effort going on now to pull as much of the recorded information as possible from the Internet (if Caner has not lied, why pull evidence of lying from the Internet?), and recognize that Norman Geisler 1) has here uttered gross dishonesty or 2) he is completely out of touch with the reality of the situation. I would like to think it is the latter, but given that there is no conceivable reason for such ignorance of the facts, I am left deeply troubled by his willingness to throw his credibility to the wind and fall upon his sword in this matter.
There is much that has been said, and should be said, about what this situation says about evangelicalism in the United States today. That loud sound you hear as you read this entry is made by the doors slamming in my face for even daring to point out that such a venerable name as Norman Geisler could engage in an activity that can only honestly and accurately be identified as cronyism. But that is what is happening. It is beyond obvious that he has offered no rebuttal to the mountain of documentation that contradicts his position. Instead, he seems to hope to use his name, his "weight" in evangelical circles, to cover for an associate, a friend, who has brought disrepute upon the Christian ministry in general and apologetics in particular by his purposeful deception and myth-making. For many, that will be sufficient not only to allow them to continue to listen to Ergun Caner without calling him to repentance, but (to borrow from Geisler's own language) throw me under the bus for having dared to point these things out.
I well know that the cost is escalating here, but again, I have no choice. Yes, the world is watching, and I hope they see that some evangelicals are still willing to pay a price for truth and consistency without retreating into pious platitudes. Yes, the Muslim apologetic community is watching, and at least some well know the truth of this situation. And ironically, may I point out that heaven itself is watching, and it is in that Court of Final Arbitration that I place my final appeal and trust. What will history say about all of this? I don't know, but I cannot stand before any audience and proclaim myself a follower of truth if I can so easily sell my commitment to it for the price of popularity and political ease. May the Lord of truth, the King of righteousness, send forth His Spirit to convict of sin, to bring true confession, and to bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ.