I 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.