Greetings from Great Falls, Montana! I really wish the wind was whipping and it was like 20 degrees, but alas, it is a gorgeous day in the 60s. Oh well!
So while traveling yesterday I started a little firestorm by asking a simple question: why does Ergun Caner claim to be a leading apologetic figure when he doesn’t do apologetics? More to the point, if you make particular claims about what you have done in the field, shouldn’t you be willing to back up what you claim about yourself? Seems pretty obvious to me, and I’d think everyone in the Christian community would agree that there needs to be some level of transparency on the part of folks in leadership, and whether you like it or not, Caner is the President of Liberty Seminary. I’m sorry folks don’t like it, but when you claim to head up a program of “Global Apologetics,” seek to get folks to study under you, etc., then you should be able to back up your self-promoting claims, should you not?
Folks, over the years I have gotten myself into a lot of trouble by seeking to be consistent. It would be easy to play the “everything is wrong on your side of the fence, but nothing is wrong on mine” game. Lots of people do it, and that is how you “get along.” I could have ignored Dave Hunt’s ignorance of Reformed theology and gotten a lot more invitations to churches as a result. I could have ignored Norm Geisler’s Chosen but Free, and I could have ignored Chuck Smith’s attacks just recently, too. But when I stand in front of a group of Muslims, or Catholics, or whoever, I want to have a clean conscience. If I say to a Catholic debater, “You are wrong because of your inconsistent exegesis of the text, and here is why,” I don’t want him to be able to come back, “Yeah, well what about all the folks on your side of things who do the same things? Why don’t you ever point that out?” I do point that out, which is why I am rarely invited to the “Big Circuit” of conferences and get-togethers.
So when I first responded to Dr. Caner on “Reformation” of doctrine vs. “Revolution” in soul winning, I was simply addressing an important problem in synergistic evangelicalism today (and Caner, if he’s anything, is a synergist). But when I saw his own self-promotion on his website, I simply had to ask a basic question: where’s the proof? And when I asked Dr. Caner directly via Twitter, things went silent. Then I found out why. When you ask him to show you all these debates, in forty states, eleven countries, with leaders of all these religions (especially Muslims), this is what you get in response:
Given that the last tweet shown here, “Pray for bitter Christians but do NOT get infected by them. Remember: Mules cannot kick & pull at the same time” was the first one posted after my questioning of him, some have assumed that is all the answer I will get, and that, together with the action he took to block my following his tweets, would seem to indicate that this is the case.
Which leaves us with Dr. Caner’s claims. I was just directed to a newspaper article on Caner in which it is reported that he claims to have done 61 debates with Muslims (this was in early 2006). That is very impressive. Since Dr. Caner will not answer the question for some odd reason, could the Muslims who have debated Dr. Caner contact me and provide me with details as to how I can obtain these debates? I know a large portion of the currently active Islamic apologists in the US, and not a one of them has ever mentioned debating Ergun Caner. In fact, I could not help but chuckle this morning as I watched a video link that was sent to me wherein Dr. Caner was giving his testimony as a former Muslim (who converted, it seems as a young teenager). The person who created the video was not fair to Dr. Caner, that is for certain. But, he did point out numerous mistakes in Caner’s presentation (including confusing the opening lines of Surah Al-Fatiha with the Shahada), and right at the end Caner referred to one of “our leaders,” Shabir Ally, “before he died.” Shabir Ally isn’t dead—if he is, someone is writing e-mails in his name since I’ve been in correspondence with him over the past month. Clearly, Caner was confusing Shabir Ally with Ahmed Deedat.
Now, the fact remains that Ergun Caner claims to have done many, many debates–at least 61 with Muslims alone–but when asked to provide any of these debates, what do we get? A smattering of “interviews” (none of which were with Muslims), and a few folks insisting that “debate” is a very vague word anyway, so that maybe he is just including every discussion he has ever had with a Muslim (if that is so, who goes around keeping track of exactly how many times they said “Howdy” to a Muslim?).
So why should anyone care about this? Well, let me tell you why I care. I labor in this field. I invest my life in apologetics, and I am working very hard to be a good student of Islam, and a good representative of the Christian faith to Muslims. So I have to be consistent. If there is someone running about the apologetic landscape making claims about his activities that simply do not stand scrutiny, then someone needs to speak up about it. The things that Ergun Caner says in his interviews and videos are often intended to create outrage. Speaking of “towel heads” and using the other kind of mocking language he does is hardly helpful. But here’s the simple conclusion of it all: I have no reason to believe Ergun Caner has ever engaged in a formal, meaningful debate with any leading Islamic apologists, and I’ll be perfectly honest with you: I hope he doesn’t. I do not believe it would be beneficial. But at least I can look a Muslim in the eye and honestly say, “I have called for Dr. Caner to be open and above board about his actual history in debating your representatives, and he has flatly turned my requests for information on that topic down. I do not believe anyone should claim to have done such things when they cannot back up their claims, or when they have to so alter the meanings of words that every conversation they have ever had on a plane somewhere becomes a debate.”
So, for all those who think that I’m a terrible, horrible, mean, nasty man for daring to challenge Ergun Caner to back up his own PR, you go right ahead and think that way. I happen to believe that it is far more important to be transparently honest in seeking to give a sound, consistent reason for the hope that is within us to the Muslim people than it is to cover over a professing Christian’s as yet unsubstantiated claims.