Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Rebutting Norman Geisler

Norman Geisler has still not given up on defending Dr. Ergun Caner (link to his further defense), stating that "a number of unjustified attacks have come to my attention." He has responded with 7 points to the 9 numbered points in my previous post (link to my previous post), collapsing four of my numbered points into two of his and ignoring the last (unnumbered) point about the fact that Dr. Ergun Caner's answer on Ramadan cannot match the facts.

Dr. Geisler also states: "Not one of these charges is substantial, involving any major doctrinal or moral issue." Is speaking the truth a moral issue? If not, then I fully agree with Dr. Geisler. Who has alleged any "major doctrinal" issue?

I appreciate the fact that Dr. Geisler has taken the time to respond to my post. I offer the following comments matching the numbers of his post:

1) Dr. Caner's Claim to Have Been Born in Istanbul, Turkey

Dr. Geisler somehow thinks that a person can understandably misstate their birthplace from their actual birth country (Sweden) to the homeland of their ancestors (Turkey). Dr. Geisler's justification is that "Since both Ergun and his father were Turkish citizens, he strongly identified with that ancestry."

How many people so strongly identify with their father that they claim to have been born where their father was, even if their father was born over a thousand miles away from where they were born? Is this normal behavior in Dr. Norman Geisler's book?

2) Dr. Caner's Claim to Have Lived in Ankara and along the Iraqi Border

Dr. Geisler alleges that the accusation relating to Dr. Caner claiming to live in Ankara and then along the Iraqi border is - well - here are his words: "This allegation against him is a mere assumption without evidence which illustrates the desire to defame Ergun by his critics." (grammar and/or syntax errors are from Geisler's page)

In fact, however, there is evidence. Here is the mp3 (link to mp3). When you get about 10 minutes into the mp3, tell me whether you hear this:
Coming to America, the only thing that I understood, I was fifteen when we came, the only thing - or - thirteen when we came, the only thing that I understood about American culture, I got from American television. And the only television that we were allowed to watch was the television that was - that passed the conscriptions of the censors in Turkey. I lived in Ankara, but then I lived toward the east for the most fpart of my life, on the Iraqi border.
Dr. Geisler specu
lates thus:
Ergun traveled with his father to Turkey several times. Later, he was along the Iraqi border as he said he was. It should not be deemed strange that Ergun has spent time in Turkey. After all, he has a Turkish father and was a Turkish citizen who came to America on a Turkish passport.
Please tell me whether that matches what Dr. Caner said. Leave aside for the moment the papers from the divorce decree that (on paper) prevented Dr. Caner from traveling ("In no event and under no circumstances shall either party hereto cause or allow any of the minor children of the parties to leave or be taken from the Continental Borders of the United States of America." [1978]). After all, maybe the parties ignored that, or maybe the alleged travel to Turkey took place before that.

Instead focus on what Dr. Caner said: "
I lived in Ankara, but then I lived toward the east for the most part of my life, on the Iraqi border." How would visits to Turkey, even if they happened, be the same thing as living in Ankara or living along the Iraqi border?

And even if such visits could somehow count for that, how could they be considered a legitimate justification for saying: "for the most part of my life"?

My friend Dr. White (who strongly identifies with his Scottish ancestry) sometimes travels to Scotland and England. If he said in public, "I lived in London, but then I lived toward the north for the most part of my life, on the border of Scotland and England," (based on one or more of his trips) would that be the truth? Do normal people talk that way? Or would that be an embellishment aimed at making Dr. White sound more Scottish than he actually is? It's easy to apply common sense and answer those questions.

Now, apply common sense to Dr. Caner's statement and see whether Dr. Geisler's answer holds any water.

3) Dr. Caner's Claim to have Received Misconceptions about the USA from Turkish Television Prior to Immigration to the USA

Dr. Geisler claims that the statements about watching the Dukes of Hazzard in Turkey and getting a misconception about America from them was just a joke and was always taken as such. Listen to that same mp3, for which I provided a link above. The Dukes of Hazzard bit comes right after the comment about living "for the most part of" his life in Turkey. Was the part about growing up in Turkey also supposed to be a joke? Or did the two statements that appear to be untrue statements serve to work together to create a false impression that Caner came to America at 15 (or 13) rather than at 3?

Dr. Geisler also claims that Dr. Caner has been using this anecdote for "more than a decade." I cannot speak to the truth or falsehood of Dr. Geisler's claim in this regard. He provides no evidence of Dr. Caner using this anecdote more than a decade ago, and I cannot seem to find any evidence of Dr. Caner using this anecdote before Dr. Caner started referring to himself as "Ergun Mehmet Caner" (is that his real name or is that more of Dr. Caner strongly identifying with his ancestry?). Please keep in mind that "more than a decade" would mean that Dr. Caner used this anecdote before July 6, 2000. Can Dr. Geisler substantiate this claim?

Was the context of the anecdote the same back then? Perhaps we will never know. It may be very hard to find any recordings of Dr. Caner from back then using this same anecdote.

As for whether it was meant to be taken literally, compare the lead-off story in this presentation:

"Don't Mess with the Book" (mp3) dated 1/5/2009 according to Listen for when the audience begins laughing at his claim regarding getting the Andy Griffith show in Turkey and thinking that all of America was like Mayberry. What does he say - does he say "it's true"? And when he gets to the part about watching Georgia Wrestling in Istanbul, does he say, "this is a little embarrassing, but it's true" and then does he go on to claim that he would get this wrestling show every two weeks in Istanbul for two hours, even specifying the channel?

That particular version of the story about watching TV in Turkey doesn't include the Dukes of Hazzard - so it is harder (probably next to impossible) to prove that the story is not true. But does Dr. Geisler believe it? Is it a credible story? (in light of what Dr. Caner seems to now admit)

4) The Three Possible Dates of Caner's Citizenship (1978, 1982, or 1984)

On the issue of when Dr. Caner became a citizen, Dr. Geisler simply asserts "
It is well known that Caner became a US citizen in 1978." Dr. Geisler, however, provides no documentation to support the claim that Dr. Caner became a citizen then.

Dr. Geisler does not explain why the biography of Dr. Caner at states:
Ergun was born in Stockholm, Sweden to turkish parents and in 1979 immigrated to the United States with his parents, grandmother, and two brothers. Ergun became an American citizen in 1984 and currently resides in Lynchburg, VA with his wife and two sons.

By the way, who told the folks at that Caner's parents, plural, were Turkish? Who told them that Caner immigrated in 1979?

There are many possibilities about where the data on that bio may have come from. It may have come from someone who was unaware of the "well known" data that Dr. Geisler relies upon without providing us with any documentation. Another possibility is that it came from the man in this video:

(UPDATE: seems to have disabled both direct access to the video and embedding for the video. You can still view the video on's website for now.)I'm talking about the man who in the video above says, "When I - uh - When I first came to America - I went to see a movie - I was a teenage boy - and I went to see a movie that had - uh - living dead as its theme ... ." And yes, that's a video one can find at (link to page).

Dr. Geisler, please tell us: was Dr. Caner telling the truth in that clip or not?

Dr. Geisler further states: "
No intent to deceive existed, nor has it been established by this conflation of dates." Dr. Geisler is, of course, entitled to his opinion about what the evidence of the misstatement(s?) proves.

Dr. Geisler further writes: "
Since it is well known by Bible scholars that this kind of thing is found in the Scriptures (which are without error), then any Christian pressing this charge would, by the same logic, have to impugn the Bible as well (see The Bible Knowledge Commentary, vol. 2, p. 40)." The gumption involved in comparing to Caner to Scripture is shocking. In any event, the Holy Spirit who inspired Scripture did not get confused about dates and did not engage in conflation. Sorry, Dr. Geisler. Dr. Caner is not comparable to the Bible on this. I hope that Dr. Geisler has a better answer to alleged Biblical contradictions than he gives with respect to the Caner scandal.

By the way, I don't doubt that Dr. Caner has naturalized and become a U.S. citizen. I don't even doubt that there is somewhere a certificate to that effect. However, I do suspect (this is just a guess on my part) that the certificate does not say "Ergun Mehmet Caner." Does Dr. Geisler think that the name on the certificate is that name? Or does Dr. Geisler think the name on the certificate is "Ergun Michael Caner"?

5) Dr. Caner's Claim to have Worn

Dr. Geisler provides a very low resolution photo allegedly of Dr. Caner, as a boy, wearing some sort of hat at some sort of event. It's so low resolution that it is hard to make out a face, but it could be the same boy shown in these pictures (link). Saying that this hat, of whatever kind it is, is a "keffiyeh" (see also here) is about as accurate as saying it is a "kippah." After all, both are names of hats, and both seem - on their face - to have etymological connection to a linguistic root relating to the concept of covering (the former in Arabic, the latter in Hebrew).

Regardless, the hat in the photo that Dr. Geisler has provided (allegedly via Emir Caner) does not show what would appear to qualify as a keffiyeh. Furthermore, of course, one wonders whether - even if Dr. Caner had worn a keffiyeh at a party once whether he was 10 (or so) - that would justify his comments.

Let me provide some examples of the comments I'm talking about.

"Church House or Jail House?" North Alabama Bible Conference-2005 (Dr. Ergun Caner speaking) afternoon of January 12, 2005 (link to audio).

Here are a few of the claims from that address:
  1. at about 5:50 "came to this country in my teens"
  2. at about 6:50 "I did wear keffiyeh"
  3. at about 7:30 "We wore keffiyeh; we wore robes"
  4. at 49:30 "I always lived in majority-Muslim countries and then I came to America"
  5. at 49:42 "He [Caner's father] had many wives"
In that context, would Dr. Caner be vindicated if it turned out he did once wear keffiyeh? Listen to Dr. Caner's comments in context and determine whether in context, that would mean his statement conveyed truth to the listeners. (I address numbers 1, 4, and 5 in other sections of this post.)

Another example:

"The Greatest Day in Church" apparently preached Calvary Chapel Old Bridge (Old Bridge, NJ), on January 25, 2009 (sermon available for sale or free for streaming here).

(23:35) We wore keffiyeh, we spoke Arabic and Turkish, we read the Koran, we fasted 40 days during Ramadan, we lived by the rules of halal and haram and mushbu, the dietary restrictions.

Again, would wearing keffiyeh once at a party justify that kind of comment? or does that kind of comment suggest to the reader that wearing keffiyeh was the normal, ordinary dress of Caner and his family?

6) Date of Caner's Conversion and Date of Emir's Conversion

With respect to November 4, 1982, being the alleged conversion date, Dr. Geisler states: "There is some confusion about the exact year." No kidding!

Dr. Geisler argues, "Given that Ergun was converted in 1982 (as he claims) ... " but why should we take that as a given? Why not "Given that Emir was converted in 1982 as both Ergun and Emir said in their book, Unveiling Islam?"

One other question: Dr. Caner allegedly was called to the ministry in 1982. Is that supposed to be sometime between November 4, 1982, and December 31, 1982? I note that in Dr. Geisler's response he explains away the 1982 citizenship date on the basis that: "The other date [referring to 1982] is from the period of his call to the ministry and is sometimes lumped together with the earlier date in his testimony." Anything is possible, I guess!

7) Dr. Caner's Claim that His Father had "Many Wives" and that Dr. Caner had/has "half-brothers"

Dr. Geisler claims:
Ergun’s father did have two wives, having divorced the first one. He had three sons by his first wife (Ergun and his two brothers). So, Ergun has two full brothers and two step-sisters (from his father’s second wife). While speaking quickly on one occasion, he mistakenly called his brothers his “half” brothers. This is hardly evidence of an attempt to embellish or deceive. After all, he had the right number of each sibling, and he didn’t claim to have ten brothers or sisters!
Dr. Geisler does not address how two wives is supposed to be "many." Also, Dr. Geisler is not painting a complete picture when he says, "While speaking quickly on one occasion, he mistakenly called his brothers his 'half' brothers. " I don't know what one occasion Dr. Geisler is thinking about. Here are two occasions where Dr. Caner referred to his "half-brothers" and let's see whether Dr. Caner means his actual brothers:

"Don't Mess with the Book" (mp3) dated 1/5/2009 according to

(around 21:26 into the sermon) "In my family, my father had many wives. My father had many half-brother and sis--- I have many half-brothers and sisters. Our family very rarely got together."

Again - is "two" considered "many"?

Another example:

"The Greatest Day in Church" apparently preached Calvary Chapel Old Bridge (Old Bridge, NJ), on January 25, 2009 (sermon available for sale or free for streaming here).

(around 43:10 into the sermon) "My father had other wives. My father died in '99, never accepted Jesus. I have half-brothers and sisters who don't know Jesus."

Now, are those two instances both instances where Dr. Caner was just speaking quickly and called his brothers half-brothers? How could that be? Dr. Caner surely doesn't deny that his brothers know Jesus. And furthermore, in the first instance, Dr. Caner was correcting himself.

And what about the claim to "other wives"? Even if "many" can mean "two" (a very unusual use, I think you'll agree) how can one other wife equal "other wives"?


It's very saddening for me to see Dr. Geisler continue to try to defend Dr. Caner. My opinion is that Dr. Geisler is just digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself. His opinion is that Dr. Caner "is a devout zealous believer who lives a life in obedience to Christ and who works diligently to extend his kingdom." That may well be true - I don't recall denying that, and yet Dr. Caner may have made a significant number of statements about his autobiography that are not completely true and that, taken together, paint a picture of his past that is not completely accurate. Was this done intentionally? People will have an opinion about that, based on drawing inferences from the number of misstatements, the theme of the misstatements, and the frequency of the misstatements.

There's one other small issue I'd like to address. Dr. Geisler writes: "a blogger-critic refuses to give his real name, using a pseudonym. This violates a moral and legal rule that one has a right to face his accusers." Dr. Geisler is misapplying this principle.

Dr. Caner has a right to confront the witnesses against him. I'm not one of the witnesses. I don't claim any special knowledge, and I have provided folks with documentation for what I have said. Everything I say without giving documentation for it should be disregarded. All of my opinions should be considered as having absolutely no weight in this matter.

Consider instead the documentation. What reasonable opinion is formed based on consideration of the evidence? Is it an opinion that Dr. Caner embellished or is it an opinion that Dr. Caner fully honored the truth on every occasion?

- TurretinFan


gary dilworth said...

Check this one, from Pyromaniacs

And please note Geislers take on a different mythmaker.

How I Learned the Hard Way that Pious Gullibility Is No Virtue
by Phil Johnson

Fredericka said...

In the talk in Seattle where he starts by talking about the coffee, he says something weird at 27:28: "A Muslim does not dare bring a request to Allah. Your piety is measured by the number of repetitions, you know, the down, then the forehead to the ground, then the back up, in the prayers. You may even recite Sura 112 which is considered the greatest Sura. But you never bring a request, because Allah, who is he to listen to you?"

There is much to criticize in the rote mandatory Muslim prayers, endlessly repeated, often offered in a language the speaker does not understand, but can he seriously mean "you never bring a request"? That's contrary to fact.

Coram Deo said...

I thought I'd be pleased to see Norm embracing presuppositional apologetics in favor of evidential, but this is not what I was hoping for.

Presupposing the veracity of E.C.'s nativity story and then lurching into a bizarre, alternative reality defense of his indefensible confidence-man job is both perplexing and maddening.

I can only conclude that the chancellor of Veritas desires clout and cash; nickels and noses, more than he desires veritas.

How sadly ironic.

In Christ,