An Open Letter to Dr. John Ankerberg
Dear Dr. Ankerberg:
Back in 2010 an entire spectrum of information came to light demonstrating that the self-promoting claims of Dr. Ergun Caner, then of Liberty Seminary, now of Arlington Baptist College, were in large measure fraudulent. The list of errors and falsehoods promoted by Caner was amazingly long. Sadly, Dr. Caner and his representatives then began a wide ranging effort to have all of the sermons, in audio and video format, that documented his lies, deleted from the web, an amazing undertaking for someone who refuses to confess and repent of his misdeeds. In any case, the evidence was, and remains, overwhelming, and Caner, and his supporters, have continuously refused to answer the most important questions, instead offering absolutely ridiculous, refuted, incoherent excuses for Caner’s behavior. The following video has been posted on YouTube and viewed, as of this writing, 19,713 times over the past 2 and a half years:
And this video documents some of the sadly obvious errors of Caner in regards to his false claim to be able to speak the Arabic language—it has been viewed 14,543 times:
Of course, Dr. Caner and his surrogates have consistently ignored these materials, let alone the many articles posted at www.aomin.org between February and August of 2010 documenting the many, many falsehoods promoted by Ergun Caner. Let’s review just a brief list of some of these errors:
1) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner was born in Istanbul, Turkey, as he claimed.
2) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner always lived in “majority Muslim countries” as he repeatedly told audiences during sermons.
3) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner studied jihad in a madrassa in Istanbul.
4) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner studied jihad in a madrassa in Beirut.
5) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner studied jihad in a madrassa in Cairo.
6) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner is able to speak Arabic.
7) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner has debated imams in mosques in Arabic (as his own website advertised).
8) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner has engaged in more than sixty debates (he claimed in 2006 75 such debates) with Muslim leaders.
9) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner’s father was surrounded by “caliphs” when he died (there are no caliphs today).
10) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner’s father brought multiple wives with him to America.
11) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner came to the United States in 1978 or 1979 (as his biography on the Liberty website claimed until 2010).
12) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner learned English by watching US television programs in Turkey.
And so on and so forth. The entirety of his persona was a made up fiction without a solid foundation. The fact is he was born in Sweden, came to the US before his third birthday, and grew up as a regular kid in the Ohio school system. Until 9/11 he was known as “Butch” Caner—but then transformed himself into an “expert” on Islam. In the process he produced audio and video materials that Muslims have been able to collate into a collection of embarrassing errors and misstatements, such as his claim that Ramadan is 40 days long (any Muslim who ever celebrated it knows it is a lunar month, and lunar months are never 40 days long). He presented himself as a faithful Muslim, even wearing Muslim garb in high school, and praying in the bathrooms of the high school. The fact is he was just a regular kid, not an Islamic zealot, let alone a jihadi. It’s all a myth, a fiction.
The worst thing is, Dr. Ankerberg, he kept working on growing the myth over the course of nine years (2001 to 2010). In 2007 he claimed, twice, on radio, to have debated Shabir Ally, the famous Islamic apologist. The fact is he has never debated Shabir Ally, let alone even met Shabir Ally. Ironically, at the same time, on video, he claimed Shabir Ally was dead—he confused him with Ahmed Deedat. He likewise claimed to have debated Abdul Saleeb. Abdul Saleeb is a Christian, a former Muslim, who has co-authored books with Norman Geisler and R.C. Sproul. Caner was simply stringing together Arabic sounding names to boost his persona.
These were not mere misstatements, Dr. Ankerberg. It was a concerted, consistent effort to create a person who never existed. I would like to raise two issues relating to Dr. Caner’s deceptive claims, Dr. Ankerberg. First, the danger of deception; second, the damage to Christian apologetics.
<img src=”http://mp3.aomin.org/images/jpeg/caner1.jpg” style=”margin-left:10px;” align=”right” title=”” border=”2″>First, the danger of deception can be seen rather clearly in this picture, Dr. Ankerberg. Here Ergun Caner stands in front of a room full of US military personnel (Marines, I believe), lecturing them on the mindset of jihad. Why was he invited? Because he claimed to have been raised in a Muslim land as a Muslim trained in jihad. That, of course, is a lie. Does anyone need to expand upon the danger such deception presents?
Second, the damage to Christian apologetics done by Ergun Caner’s deceptions is far reaching. I have spoken to Muslims and, when mentioning someone who came to Christ out of Islam, they have smiled, laughed, and said, “Oh, like Ergun Caner?” He is a watchword amongst them for deception and dishonesty. Further, his shallow approach to this vital subject has become a laughingstock amongst Muslim apologists, and for good reason. Sadly, for reasons that are completely political in nature, men like Norman Geisler have defended Caner, and in the process posted publicly materials that will forever mark them out as having a willingness to accept shallow and ridiculous reasoning in defense of falsehood. Strong words? Let’s look at an example from the very documents you referred people to, the two articles posted at Norman Geisler’s website, written, it seems, by Emir Caner (the originating Word documents indicated they were written at Truett-McConnell College, where Emir is President, see <a href=”http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=4997″>here</a>). I have raised this issue for more than two years now, and Dr. Geisler, Dr. Caner, and all of his supporters, have been incapable of providing a meaningful response.
I note that the article now posted at Norman’s website is a shorter, less complete version of what was originally posted there from June of 2010 until just recently. Ironically, some of the worst excuses offered by Caner are now “missing,” as is the case with so many of the sermons and “misstatements” that were documented only a few years ago. One of those that has been removed, for obvious reasons, was the attempt to respond to this <a href=”http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=4050″>article</a>. You will note that I addressed here the repeated use of the citation methodology of “Hadith 9:57” or the like. Here is my discussion of the topic in light of the following incredible excuse offered by Dr. Geisler:
<blockquote><b>The Charge that no Knowledgeable Muslim Would Mis-cite the Hadith as Caner Did</b>.—It is charged that Caner often cites the Hadith without mentioning the actual name of the collection. But, as even Muslim scholars admit, there is no “official” way to cite the Hadith. It is often cited without reference to the collection.</blockquote>
The final question comes from Dr. Geisler’s attempted defense of the errors of Ergun and Emir Caner in their published writings and talks relating to the hadith literature of the Islamic religion. I would like to ask Dr. Geisler to answer the following question openly and honestly.
Let’s say a student at Veritas Seminary, where you are Provost, turns in a paper in an apologetics class, that is filled with references such as Bible 1:35, Bible 4:52, Scripture 9:93, New Testament 2:67 and the like? What would you do with such a paper? And what if, upon challenging the student about such citations, his response was to claim that there is no one, standardized way of citing the Bible, and that the Bible is often cited without reference to a specific book? Would you accept this kind of argumentation? Would you find it so compelling that you would then recommend that the student speak at conferences on the topic of his paper?
This is a direct parallel to your attempted response to the mis-citation of the hadith collections in the writings and talks of Ergun and Emir Caner. You claim that Muslim scholars admit that there is no “official” way of citing the hadith literature. Please name the Muslim scholars who cite the hadith without reference to the collection in the way the Caners do? You say it is “often cited without reference to the collection.” In the majority of references in Unveiling Islam the Caners do not provide any reference to the collection. Here is the list:
• “hadith 9.57” (pp. 19 and 187)
• “hadith 5.266” (p. 31)
• “hadith 2.460” (p. 32)
• “Hadith … (2.375)” (p. 32)
• “hadith 2.448” (p. 33)
• “hadith 7.619” (p. 33)
• “hadith 1.35” (p. 35)
• “Hadith … (52.42)” (p. 35)
• “hadith 7.590” (p. 37)
• “hadith 3.826” (p. 42)
• “Hadith … (8.419)” (p. 110)
• “hadith 6.60.336” (p. 114)
• “The Hadith illustrates … (2.486) … (2.498) … (2.514)” (p. 126)
• “hadith 3.826” (p. 134)
• “hadith 2.541” (p. 134)
• “hadith 1.268” (p. 135)
• “hadith 7.62.77” (p. 139)
• “Hadith 7.30, 33. Hadith chapter seven also includes … (7.133)” (p. 140)
• “Hadith 7.64” (p. 141)
• “hadith 8.76.481” (p. 144)
• “The Hadith expounds … (3.57)” (p. 146)
• “hadith 3.46.724” (p. 186)
• “hadith 5.716” (p. 188)
• “hadith 4.52.79” (p. 188)
• “hadith 4.53.412” (p. 189)
• “hadith 4.52.317” (p. 189)
• “hadith 5.58.240; repeated in 5.59.602” (p. 190)
• “hadith 5.59.599” (p. 191)
• “hadith 8.73.1” (p. 192)
• “Hadith 5.42.85” (p. 192)
• “hadith 9.50” (p. 192)
• “hadith 4.52.127” (p. 193)
• “hadith 4.52.85” (p. 194)
• “hadith 5.58.240; see also 4.42. This verse is repeated in 5.59.602” (p. 195)
• “hadith 9.93.549” (p. 195)
• “hadith 9.93.555” (p. 195)
• “Hadith volume 9, book 93” (p. 195)
• “hadith 9.93.519” (p. 196)
• “hadith 4.73” (p. 196)
So my question, Dr. Geisler is this: please quote for us Hadith 2425 and explain its relevance to the Qur’an. If you cannot do so, please explain your defense of Ergun and Emir Caner’s use of a citation system that cannot lead one to the proper citation, but instead would leave one to have to guess.
Two and a half years have passed, Dr. Ankerberg, and Dr. Geisler has ignored this challenge. He is, of course, well aware of it. Dr. Caner is as well. When someone came to one of his talks wearing a t-shirt that asked, “What is Hadith 2425?” on it, Caner exploded, calling him a “godless pagan” and having him ushered away by security. So they are well aware of the question, and they are well aware of the vacuous nature of the excuse they have offered in defense of this obvious error. It is even more vacuous than the amazing excuse offered for the fact that Caner’s father was not, in fact, a polygamist, and did not, in fact, have multiple wives: well, we were told, he did divorce his first wife, and then remarried, so, he did have multiple wives! Given Caner claimed his father brought multiple wives with him to America, this kind of excuse is beneath contempt, let alone belief.
I would like to address your own open letter now, Dr. Ankerberg. Of course, the vast majority of the real issues relating to the Caners were not addressed in your open letter. You wrote,
<blockquote>Some have questioned our invitation to Dr. Ergun Caner in light of attacks from extreme Muslims and others who spread rumors and accusations in 2010 claiming he was not a devout Muslim and challenging some of his spoken statements about his background.</blockquote>
What is your definition of an “extreme Muslim,” Dr. Ankerberg? Who are these “others”? The materials that have been posted were not rumors, they were, more often than not, the actual statements, in audio and video format, of Ergun Caner himself. They were about far more than the level of devotion indicated in Ergun’s story (though that does seem to have been fully overblown in his story telling). We did not merely challenge his spoken statements about his background, we demonstrated, beyond all question, that the statements were false. We demonstrated that his claims about coming to the US in 1979, as found on his own websites, were false. We challenged his claim to have engaged in more than sixty debates with Muslims, and found the claim wanting. Etc. and etc.
You then tell your audience that these accusations “were addressed by an independent committee at Liberty University.” Really, Dr. Ankerberg? Independent? Unbiased, perhaps? Is that why none of the actual charges were addressed in the brief statement made by this allegedly “independent” committee? And can you, or anyone else, for that matter, tell us what the phrase “factual statements that are self-contradictory” actually means? Could you explain the difference between that and “lies” for us? You see, Dr. Ankerberg, we have documented that when Ergun Caner assumed his audience could not check his facts, he was willing to present the most extreme exaggerations. But when being interviewed by a Turkish newspaper, for example, he would moderate his claims, knowing they could easily detect the falsehoods he was, at the very same time, speaking from behind pulpits across the land. How do you explain this, Dr. Ankerberg? How do you explain Ergun Caner claiming, at the same time, to both speak, and not speak, Arabic? Isn’t one of the basic tools we use when examining, for example, the claims of Joseph Smith, Jr., the tool of self-consistency in testimony? Is this not how we detect the development over time of the First Vision story in Mormonism’s early history? How can we use this tool in examining Smith and rejecting him as a false prophet yet, when it comes to Ergun Caner, we eschew it?
You then cite two fully biased sources that again fail to engage any of the relevant issues, Norman Geisler and the Caner’s publisher, Kregel. Again, none of the relevant facts of Caner’s dishonesty are at all addressed by any of these blanket commendations.
Dr. Ankerberg, one of your ministry assistants, Cathy Sims, has said in an e-mail to someone who inquired about this topic,
<blockquote> Ergun Caner did not lie, while he was speaking he mistakenly misstated the facts. (He was not trying to deceive anyone, he just did not remember correctly.) Have you ever said something and realized later that it was wrong? It doesn’t mean that you are a liar, it means you forgot the information. When you realize that the amount of public speaking that Ergun has done, it would be easy to make a few statements and realize later that you were mistaken. </blockquote>
I am sure Ms. Sims believes these words, but has she, or anyone from your ministry, actually examined the mountain of documentation that has been produced relating the regularity of Caner’s “misstatements”? Could you and Ms. Sims review these videos and explain the repetition of these “misstatements”?
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And so we have to ask you, Dr. Ankerberg—can you give answers to the serious questions that have been dodged by the Caner brothers, and ridiculed but not answered, by their supporters, for nearly three years now? Do you not have an obligation, as the one who is presenting their testimony as truthful and representative of the proper Christian dedication to truth and honesty, to provide significantly more meaningful responses than the incredibly shallow excuses posted on Norman Geisler’s website? Given that the Muslims who are involved in apologetics are fully aware of the cover-up that has been undertaken by the Caners, their supporters, Norman Geisler and Veritas Seminary, will you help to begin to repair the damage that has been done to the Christian witness to Muslims by standing up and using your position to demand of the Caners meaningful answers to the questions they repeatedly refuse to address? Will you demonstrate that your commitment to Christ and His truth is more important than any relationships we might forge through ministry, the authoring of books, etc.? Please do not assist in the Great Evangelical Cover-Up. We all await your response.