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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Update on the President of Liberty Baptist Seminary's Case

Last month I reported on the strange case of Ergun Caner, the President of Liberty Baptist Seminary (founded by the late Jerry Falwell) in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was being investigated by the Board of the Seminary for making false statements about his background. It seems that after 9/11, he became a popular speaker on the Bible conference circuit claiming to have been a Muslim until his late teenage years and having trained as a Islamic Jihadist in Europe where he lived. It turns out that his Muslim father and Christian mother divorced when he was 4 years old and she moved him and his brother with her to the USA. He was definitely "stretching the truth," apparently to make his "testimony" more interesting and to sell books and get speaking engagements. Several people on the internet began researching his story and found the falsehoods. It turns out he has also lied about having debated certain Muslim scholars.

Well, on Friday the 25th, the Seminary board announced their findings:

After a thorough and exhaustive review of Dr. Ergun Caner’s public statements, a committee consisting of four members of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees has concluded that Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory.

However, the committee found no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager, but, instead, found discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence.

Dr. Caner has cooperated with the board committee and has apologized for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review.

Dr. Caner’s current contractual term as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary expires on June, 30, 2010.

Dr. Caner will no longer serve as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

The university has offered, and Dr. Caner has accepted, an employment contract for the 2010-2011 academic year. Dr. Caner will remain on the faculty of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary as a professor.
("LU won’t renew Caner’s contract as dean of seminary").

Here is the report done by the local TV station in Lynchburg:

Longtime critic of Caner, James White, himself a Christian apologist, was not satisfied with the statement issued by Liberty University. On his blog on Friday, he wrote this response:
1) When was the issue ever whether Caner had been a Muslim? How many times does this canard have to be put down?

2) Factual statements that are self-contradictory. Is that the same as a "lie"? If I said to my kids (when they were young), "Did you lie to me?" and they responded, "No, we gave factual statements that are self-contradictory," would that save them from discipline? It seems the folks at SBC Today think so, since they say Caner has now been exonerated.

Seriously, I can't make that kind of thing up. In other breaking news, Nixon was not a crook, and "is" actually has 48 meanings, just as Bill Clinton said.

3) "Discrepancies about dates, names and places of residence" is the PC way of saying, "Ergun Caner lied to everyone and their second cousin about being a jihadi from Turkey, and we all bought it, hook, line, and sinker, until...THOSE people pointed out the obvious."

4) If Dr. Caner has cooperated, then I call upon the Board of Liberty University to release the entirety of its findings, not a short statement, including providing answers to the questions I sent to them in my open letter of May, 2010.

5) Dr. Caner has apologized for exactly what? For lying about his past, making up an entire persona that catapulted him to national prominence and gave him the position he enjoys, claiming to have done debates in at least eleven countries and 35 states against Muslim clerics and others? Is that what he apologized for? These questions must be answered, and Liberty cannot afford to be silent.

6) All Liberty teaching contracts end on June 30th. This is merely a non-renewal of the contract, replacing it with a lesser contract to teach. But to teach what? Apologetics? Upon what basis? Will he honestly tell his students that he has lied about his experiential expertise in that field for nearly a decade? Or is Liberty hoping their students do not surf the net very often?

Aside from the "we really have no touch with reality" responses of Ergun Caner's supporters, we are still left with a non-statement here. I have said for months: Liberty must answer the real questions, the questions about integrity (not just Caner's, but now, their own) openly, fully, and honestly. A seven sentence statement is not enough. Answers must be given. Honesty and Christian integrity demands it, and the ministry of the gospel to Muslims demands it as well.

It is interesting to see how church and school officials will often "spin" the facts in order to minimize the PR damage to their institution. I can understand this with regard to secular organizations but how can a Christian insitution which claims to be concerned about the truth justify not being completly open and honest? We saw the same thing with the rape case in the NH church and frankly these two examples are merely the tip of the iceberg. If you care to see more of this kind of cover-up, go to Jeri Massi's blog or Christa Brown's website.


  1. Factual statements that are self-contradictory. Is that the same as a "lie"?

    It isn't lying when you do it for Jesus.

  2. Cipher,

    I guess not. Note too what the trustees said: Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory.

    What kind of double talk is that? How can one make factual statements that are self-contradictory?

  3. I’m reading a very interesting book, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, by Stephen Batchelor. He’s become something of an anathema in Buddhist circles for questioning seriously the supernatural aspects of Buddhism, particularly the doctrines concerning karma and rebirth (the Western practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism especially dislike him, as they’re far more invested in all of that than are the Vipassana and Zen practitioners).

    He begins the book by telling a story – when he was a young monk in one of the Tibetan lineages, he attended a teaching given by the Dalai Lama. It appeared as though rain was imminent, so one of the lamas performed a ritual to ward it off. Well, it did begin to rain, so the lama increased his efforts, after which the rain stopped (although Batchelor isn’t claiming the lama was responsible). Afterward, Batchelor and a group of Western acolytes began talking about the miraculous event, and how it had poured all around them, but had left the teaching area untouched. The problem was that it didn’t happen that way. Batchelor says something that I think is relevant not only here, but to a great many of the arguments over Christianity’s truth claims:

    Even as I was speaking, I knew I was not telling the truth. I had heard no rain on the roofs behind me. Not a drop. Yet to be convinced that the lama had prevented the rain with his ritual and spells, I had to believe that he had created a magical umbrella to shield the crown from the storm. Otherwise, what had happened would not have been that remarkable. Who has not witnessed rain falling a short distance away from where one is standing on dry ground? Perhaps it was nothing more than a brief mountain shower on the nearby hillside. None of us would have dared to admit this possibility. That would have brought us perilously close to questioning the lama’s prowess and, by implication, the whole elaborate belief system of Tibetan Buddhism.

    For several years, I continued to peddle this lie. It was my favorite (and only) example of my firsthand experience of the supernatural powers of Tibetan lamas. But, strangely, whenever I told it, it didn’t feel like a lie… I suspect my lie did not feel like a lie because it served to affirm what I believed to be a greater truth. My words were a heartfelt and spontaneous utterance of our passionately shared convictions. In a weirdly unnerving way, I did not feel that “I” had said them. It was as though something far larger than all of us had caused them to issue from my lips. Moreover, the greater truth, in whose service my lie was employed, was imparted to us by men of unimpeachable moral and intellectual character. These kind, learned, enlightened monks would not deceive us. They repeatedly said to accept what they taught only after testing it as carefully as a goldsmith would assay a piece of gold. Since they themselves must have subjected these teachings to that kind of rigorous scrutiny during their years of study and meditation, then surely they were not speaking out of blind conviction, but from their own direct knowledge and experience? Ergo: Yeshe Dorje stopped the rain with his thighbone, bell, mustard seeds and incantations.

    I think this speaks volumes about the psychology behind this phenomenon - group identification, the need to believe, etc. Tragically, if any of your Christian guests read this, their response will be, “Well, that may be the way it works in other religions, but we know Christianity to be the truth, so it doesn’t apply to us.”

  4. A few corrections. Both of Ergun Caner's parents (and he) moved to the US (from Sweden not Turkey or some other Muslim majority country as he has sometimes claimed) when he was about 4 (not a teenager as he also has sometimes claimed). They divorced when he was about 8 with his mother having custody and his father having visitation rights. He did apparently have some education in Islam though not much or it didn't take as he has demonstrated ignorance of very basic principles.

  5. A factually self-contradictory statement could be either a lie or a mistake. A mistake is admitted and corrected when it is first pointed out. A lie is repeated and defended until it is so thoroughly debunked that it can no longer be maintained with a straight face, at which point it is claimed to have merely been a mistake.

  6. Thank you for the link to my site, Ken. I have posted a single article on the Caner scandal that includes a link to the full Liberty statement, but because my focus is on the sexual abuse of children that runs so rampantly through Christian Fundamentalism and is also swept under the rug by its leaders, I probably won't say much more on Caner. But I do have this question: I mean, he actually did swindle publishers by telling a false story published as truth, and by posing as an expert with real experience as a terrorist in training. So, isn't he liable for being sued?

  7. "how can a Christian insitution which claims to be concerned about the truth...."

    I claim to be the Queen of Romania with equal sincerity.

  8. Jeri,

    I don't know I will leave that to the lawyers who read my site to tell us. What amazes me is that Liberty Univ. is going to retain him as a Professor. However, given the way fundamentalists cover up wrongdoing as seen in the Bob Gray case in Jax (thanks for reporting on this) and the rape case in NH, I shouldn't be surprised. It seems as Cipher points out above, that people, regardless of their religion, are inclined to "spin" things (even lie) in order to protect the cause of their religion.

  9. What amazes me is that Liberty Univ. is going to retain him as a Professor.

    I suspect it doesn't really amaze you!

  10. I am sure caner can bring down others at liberty and that is why he has been treated so leniency . The same advantage saved both jack hyles and bob gray. I'm sure it would work for any high placed fundy. It Isn't love, or even the closed-mouth unity of thieves that unites them, but fear. everybody in the ring has the key to every other person's security and prosperity.

  11. He probably has tenure and would be able to show in a lawsuit that other professors were not fired after it was found out that they had fudged their resumes.

  12. It's interesting that he doesn't come out and say, "you know what, I just lied and I am really sorry." Instead, he uses euphemisms and excuses. It is no different than the recent hullabaloo in Connecticut over Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who was running for US Senate and claimed that he had served in Vietnam. When he was caught in the lie, he said he mispoke . I expect that from politicians but shouldn't we expect more from "Christian leaders"? BTW, whether one served in Vietnam is not something that would be easy to make a mistake about, neither would be where you were born and reared and whether or not you had debated a certain Muslim scholar. It is just a blatant lie and should be called such.

  13. I am with you on this one Ken. As a Christian it really, really saddened me to see Liberty's response. Pure politicking, hardly any integrity. Thanks for calling them up on this.

  14. "What kind of double talk is that? How can one make factual statements that are self-contradictory? "

    Hi Ken.

    You state them as facts but they are self contrdictory.It sure is double speak but it serves to covince some easily fooled followers,that maybe things are fine and it was mostly all about a misunderstanding or something.

    This double speak is a favorite amongst many faithful.Specially in many debates.And the same thing happens, unthoughtful faithful use it to help convince themselves a good point has been made.

    Lieing it seems is often considered fine as long as it furthers the faith.Yet if the faithful cant be seen as very honest today,what reason do we have to suspect they were anymore honest back in biblical times?.

  15. Liberty University professors don't have tenure; they have one year contracts. However, Ergun Caner is apparently very popular and has been credited with increasing enrollment substantially.

    The site
    gives some idea why he is popular (easy grader, spins good stories). I especially liked the student evaluation from 2005 "Funny when he comes to class and complains that he doesn't get enough hot votes from this site."

  16. "Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory."

    It works for the NT why shouldn't it work for its practitioners?

    Compare the geneologies, the 4 contradictory last supper stories. Acts 7 alone has over 20 glaring factual mistakes.