Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Cover-Up Piece That Misses the Point
07/09/2010 - James WhiteThis endorsement sheet was just posted to Norman Geisler's website, which seems to be the new clearing house for the defense of Ergun Caner (who has gone silent since his removal as Dean of LBTS). It is titled "In Support of Dr. Ergun Caner By Noted Christian Leaders." As if in fulfillment of the words of Phil Johnson this morning on his blog, wherein he documented the odd capacity of evangelicals to overlook charlatans in the camp (while pointing them out vociferously outside the camp), this is little more than the rooting section for the cover-up of Ergun Caner's myth-making in the pulpit. However, it contains errors and needs to be corrected. It also contains a lengthy statement from Emir Caner, and since Emir Caner has many questions outstanding that he has, so far, refused to answer, he needs to be encouraged to start doing the right thing as well.
The document begins by once again citing a document that Dr. Caner himself removed from his website in early March, the now famous apology for unnamed "misstatements," etc. I am sure many others find it just as strange as I do that a statement that appeared on Caner's website for a grand total of approximately two weeks, and is today nowhere to be found (will it suddenly re-appear?) would be re-cited as if Caner has been open and above board in his responses to the challenges that have been made to his stories!
Next, it is hard to believe that any rational person who has examined the consistent, years-long pattern of embellishment and myth-making on the part of Ergun Caner can pretend that this is a matter of the rare slip of the tongue, the scrambled brain while speaking excitedly. I'm sorry, but that flavor Kool-Aid should not be on the evangelical menu.
The first endorsement offered is by….Emir Caner, who, I would like to suggest, is not a disinterested party. In fact, as his silence in giving meaningful answers to the key issues (about which he has direct knowledge) grows longer and longer, he should be called to account for his documented errors (he is just as responsible for the "hadith" errors in their jointly published books as Ergun). Remember, Dr. Emir Caner is a radical anti-Calvinist (ask any Reformed person who applies to teach at Truett McConnell College). He likewise was willing to sign a document of agreement on our debate in 2006, only to throw his own signature under the bus in the process of derailing the debate. So again, he is right in the midst of this controversy, yet, he seems to feel the freedom to say only what he wants to say, avoiding the serious questions.
His statement begins with a falsehood. He writes, ""Over the past year or so, my brother has sustained an unprecedented and orchestrated barrage of attacks from extreme Muslims and extreme Calvinists. The attackers first attempted to prove that Ergun (and I) were never Muslims, a lie that was easily exposed." Note the joining together of "extreme Muslims" and "extreme Calvinists" (one is reminded of Ergun Caner's statement in 2006 that Calvinists are worse than Muslims). But having made that conjunction, Emir Caner then says that these "attackers" first attempted to prove that he and Ergun were never Muslims. This is, of course, false. He well knows that outside of Mohammad Khan (and possibly one blogger I can think of), the argument has never been that Ergun and Emir were never Muslims. It is obvious that Acar Caner was an active and committed Muslim. The questions have always been about where the Caners lived, when they came to the United States, why both Ergun and Emir Caner make basic level errors in their presentations about Islam, and why Ergun Caner has made numerous false statements about his "debates" with leading Islamic authorities (once even claiming to do so in Arabic in mosques!). So it is misleading at best to attribute this argument to myself or the vast majority of Ergun Caner's believing, committed critics.
Next Emir talks about "cheap shots" at Acar Caner. But, since he does not identify these, it is impossible to respond to them. We have pointed out that there has been a pattern of embellishment on the Caners part to make Acar Caner someone greater, in the Islamic scheme of things, than he was. Giving the call to prayer in the mosque does not make you an Islamic scholar, of course. And Emir Caner should look to himself and his brother for their ignorance of basic Islamic terminology in regards to their misuse of "ulema" rather than "aim." Perhaps this is what he is referring to, I cannot know. But his sense of outrage is patent---but it should be aimed properly, should it not? It is Ergun Caner who told an audience that Acar Caner was surrounded by "caliphats" at his death. It was Ergun Caner who tried to turn him into a good polygamist Muslim by telling audiences that he had "many wives," a phrase that was clearly meant to communicate polygamy, not a single remarriage after a divorce. So I would suggest Emir Caner pick up the phone and talk to the now silent Ergun about those matters.
Then we have this odd statement, "Documentation including court records once again illustrated their lies." What lies did this documentation illustrate? The documentation showed that the bio of Ergun Caner, based upon his own statements, made repeatedly over the course of years, was itself filled with lies. Emir Caner knows this! He knows he was born in Ohio. He knows the family did not come here in 1979, as the Liberty bio of his brother said (until it was removed and edited just a few months ago). To refuse to honestly address this issue as he is doing is reprehensible! Note that for Dr. Emir Caner, you can lump all your critics into one group, ignore the distinctions of intention and purpose that are clearly present (my motivations here are not the motivations of Muslims, or even of some Christian critics), misrepresent the primary arguments, and then conclude that they are telling "lies," yet, when video, audio, and written documentation, comprising a small mountain of data, is presented about Ergun Caner's myth-making, all we have then are innocent "misstatements." The double standard glows in the dark.
Then Emir Caner says, "Finally, they are now attacking my brother's character, alleging a few incorrect statements are the equivalent of embellishment and intentional deceit." For the Caners, "a few incorrect statements" means "consistent untruths repeated over and over again for nine years," while at the same time, two wives (not had concurrently) for Acar Caner is the same as "many wives." One is again left wondering at the thought process. Emir Caner is here spinning the reality, for anyone who has honestly examined the facts knows this is not a matter of a "few incorrect statements." Once again, Dr. Caner, answer the question! Why did your brother tell an AP reporter your family moved to Ohio in 1969 while, at the very same time (both before and after) he was telling audiences in churches that he came here in 1979 having lived his entire life in "majority Muslim countries" like Turkey? Until Ergun Caner, and Emir Caner, and Norman Geisler, stop playing games with language and answer these kinds of questions, they will stand convicted in the eyes of all honest observers.
This statement by Emir Caner is very disturbing. The man knows the truth of the issues, and yet he chooses to vilify anyone who would seek the truth in the matter. He spins the facts, and then goes for the emotional play, knowing, as his brother clearly knows, that once you get evangelicals emotionally involved, you can say pretty much anything you want to, as their critical thinking faculties will be on vacation. There is exactly one person responsible for the Ergun Caner Scandal: Ergun Caner. It is a common political ploy to turn the responsible party into a martyr, a "victim," and it seems Dr. Caner and his defenders have been studying deeply at the well of modern American politics.
We then have the amazing reiteration of the idea that the announcement of Liberty's demotion of Ergun Caner, and their finding of self-contradiction in his statements, is in fact an "exoneration." Once again, for those involved in this defense of Ergun Caner, words have no meaning, logic is a casualty of war, and the ends surely justify the means.
The statements of "support" that have "flooded" in are not overly relevant to the situation. Lots of folks think Ergun Caner is a really nice guy. I'm sure he is fun to be around at a lock-in, at a pizza party, or especially at a WWE wrestling match (where he can give you the vital statistics and history of everyone in the ring). But the issue here is integrity in Christian ministry, truthfulness behind the pulpit, honesty in apologetics to the Islamic world. Paige Patterson's statement is a wonder of "say nice things, don't say a word about the actual issues" accuracy. John Ankerberg's statement was published on his website before the Liberty investigation and has not changed since then. It is a self-refuting statement in that it denies the existence of the mountain of evidence in video and audio recordings and legal documents that exists on the matter. And Dr. Holden's comments are nothing more than a, "Yeah, atta boy Norm!" that, in light of the rather easy, and full, rebuttal of Geisler's shallow excuses that we have provided (normally on the same day Geisler has posted his articles) only shows how biased and prejudiced Holden is (remember, Caner teaches for Veritas, and Holden has just as much personal reason to defend Caner as Liberty has).
But I would like to close by looking at Ron Rhodes' comments on this matter. He asks where the "grace" has been. He says "He (Ergun Caner) has always spoken words of grace to others." I think that is a bit of a flowery and overly optimistic conclusion, in light of my own experience with Ergun Caner. I am reminded of this faux book cover Caner posted back in 2006. But in any case, the call for grace is always proper. Grace is unmerited favor, and God shows His grace to…whom? When we speak of the need for truthfulness in the pulpit, for integrity and honesty in apologetics, how should we do this in light of the need for "grace"? When Peter immediately "set up" Sapphira in Acts 5, directly asking her about the price of the land, was he lacking in "grace"? When God struck Uzzah down for touching the Ark, was there a distinct lack of "grace" in God's actions? Grace leads us to repentance, does it not? When someone refuses to confess and repent, what is the role of grace? When talking about leaders in the church, elders and teachers, are we to be "gracious" toward dishonesty and myth-making? Is grace antithetical to holiness, honesty, and integrity? Or is grace something that should be shown to those who confess, and repent (abandon their falsehoods)? By asking for grace to be shown to a man who refuses to confess, refuses to repent, but is (as this article demonstrates) busy seeking others to defend his actions and make excuses for his lies, we make a mockery of grace itself. This should not be the attitude of Christian apologists.
And so we see the Great Evangelical Cover-Up continuing on apace, led by the leadership of Veritas seminary, Norman Geisler himself placing the full weight of his credibility behind Ergun Caner's myth-making. To point out the shame of the situation is to speak the obvious: Norman Geisler, and others, have done fine work in other areas, and by ignoring the facts that sit right in front of him now he is throwing doubt upon all the truth he has spoken in the past. We have all profited from Geisler's work, so to see him so blind to the truth is truly painful.
In closing I wanted to reflect on Phil Johnson's wisdom in his article, "Evangelical Bunko Artists: How I Learned the Hard Way that Pious Gullibility Is No Virtue," found here. I admit I never heard of "Crying Wind." Somehow I missed that best seller. But his story of how this woman made up her entire story, and yet, over time, even after being exposed, she continued to "ply her trade" amongst gullible evangelicals made me think. I had seen that Ted Haggard has started a "Bible Study" in his home, for example. And now I am watching the concerted, obvious, unashamed effort at covering up the Caner Scandal with a thin tapestry of shallow and, to be honest, laughable excuses and arguments, and I'm seeing it happening all over again. And so Phil observes,
However, the pathetic track record of evangelicals' consistent failure in dealing with frauds and bunko artists in our midst leads me to be pessimistic about any real resolution in the Caner scandal. The Liberty investigation most definitely did not "exonerate" Caner, but he remains on the Liberty faculty. Caner himself is stonewalling while a handful of his most outspoken supporters are doing their best to demonize his critics. If Liberty continues officially to offer sanctuary to Caner, he will eventually be able to weather the controversy without ever actually admitting any specific wrongdoing. Evangelicals—who have no stomach for protracted controversies and a 40-year habit of offering unconditional restoration to fallen leaders whether they truly repent or not—will soon turn against Caner's critics.
What if Geisler succeeds, and evangelicals show themselves significantly more impressed with personality than truth? What if the very men and women who pride themselves on preaching truth, defending truth, criticizing cults and -isms, sit silently by and let Caner "slide" on the authority of Geisler? That would surely make a mockery of the regularly used phrase "discernment ministries." But what if it happens? What then?
Well, speaking personally, I will continue to teach and preach and pursue consistency in the pulpit and in ministry. I may live in a day when God allows great error and apathy all around me, but my call remains the same: service to the Lord Jesus Christ, honoring of His Word. I cannot become bitter, for ultimately, the Lord is still on His throne, and He is working out His eternal purpose. I have to be willing to pay the price (and it can be a steep price) of consistency, but that is what He has called us all to do.