Two interesting items from the news today. First, Christianity Today picked up a set of quotes from yours truly that appeared in the local Lynchburg paper. Under the title “Liberty University cuts Caner as seminary dean” the CT article summarizes the actions Liberty took (and only announced at the end of business late Friday afternoon–a classic political move designed to minimize press coverage and hence damage to the institution) and provides quotes from only one person:
A news article in the Lynchburg News and Advance, quotes apologist and vocal Caner critic James White: “Simply removing him as dean and allowing him to continue teaching the same subjects he was teaching before really isn’t going to lead to a conclusion of the controversy.” The university’s statement “raises all sorts of questions about what did [Caner] apologize for,” White said. “The students … deserve an open response.”
Exactly. I think the brief snippets summarize well what I said to the News and Advance reporter yesterday. I said before Liberty announced its investigation that nothing less than a full, open, honest and complete response to the most fundamental issues and questions must be provided, and as it stands right now it seems that neither Ergun Caner nor Liberty University has any intention of providing that kind of closure. Damage control, not biblical repentance or restoration—preservation of political capital, is the watchword in the inner sanctum of the leadership of Liberty University. And the students? How could anyone argue that they are not owed a full and complete accounting of the lies they have been told by Ergun Caner? Will they get such an accounting? We can only hope.
The political orientation of Liberty’s leadership was expressed as well by a comment made by Jerry Falwell, Jr., being interviewed by Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck, a confused convert to Mormonism, and hence a follower of a religion that, to my knowledge, is the most polytheistic religion ever devised by man, was invited to address Liberty’s most recent graduation ceremony, leading to a number of public exchanges between Beck and Falwell, Jr. In the above linked article, however, we encounter this statement from Falwell: “And there are bigger issues now, we can argue about theology later after we save the country.”
I worry about folks who think they have been called to “save the country” first of all. What if God intends to punish a nation that is filled with hatred of His ways and His truth? I thought Christians were called to be salt and light and to proclaim the gospel to all people. If God chooses to use the gospel to save any nation, that is His business. But it seems Falwell has bought into the same “America = Christianity” mindset that has infected so many others, leading to rank confusion. But the set of priorities revealed by the above statement, uttered to a Mormon in the context of the conflict between Mormonism and Christianity, sheds a good bit of light on how Liberty has handled the Ergun Caner situation as well. Theology? Eh, we can debate that some other time. It’s secondary. Gotta save the country first! Only logical conclusion: theology has nothing to do with how you save a country, hence, saving a country is a political endeavor, not a theological one.
One of the main differences in the two “sides” of the Caner controversy has been the obvious disconnect in the standards each side uses. One side demands biblical standards of Christian leadership, integrity, and truthfulness. We think the pulpit is a sacred place, and that speaking in the name of Christ carries with it certain responsibilities. But the other side is quite pragmatic in their approach. Their standards are downright political in nature. So what if someone exaggerates behind the pulpit? Did it “get results”? Is “our side” bigger than it was before? If it works, well, then it’s good! We see this as well in the handling of the investigation into Caner’s claims: politically motivated and oriented, and the statement released at the end of business on a Friday (talk about politically motivated!) is classic political rhetoric, including incoherent lines like “factual statements that are self-contradictory” (a politically correct attempt to talk about lies uttered by a Christian leader, repeatedly, knowingly, most often in the context of the pulpit and alleged “preaching”). There seems to be quite a consistent theme here that helps us to understand why Liberty is acting like the world, protecting its own interests, at the cost of full disclosure, rather than acting like a Christian institution with Christian standards and morals. Evidently, having to admit that its former dean would be drummed out of Liberty for violating its own honesty standards IF they were consistent and held their leadership to the same standard they hold their students to was just a bit much to be expressed in clear language. But I have a feeling a large group of Liberty students are plenty insightful enough to get the double standard.