Saturday, May 29, 2010

Turkey, Many Wives, and Many Half-Brothers and Sisters

Lecture: "Don't Mess with the Book" (mp3) dated 1/5/2009 according to SermonAudio.com

The recording of the sermon starts off with Ergun Caner making more claims about watching TV in Turkey (no Dukes of Hazzard mentioned as in other lectures). When the congregation laughs at his claim that all of America was like Mayberry he says, "it's true" and when gets to the part about watching Georgia Wrestling he says, "this is a little embarrassing, but it's true" and goes on to claim that he would get this wrestling show every two weeks in Istanbul for two hours. He even specifies the channel as "BEER-oo-key."

Like a number of other countries, Turkey's television channels were originally numbered channels. TRT 1 is the first channel, TRT 2 is the second channel, and so forth. More recently, with a proliferation of television, there have been additional channels. However, it appears that until 1986, it was just TRT 1 (TRT 2 began transmission in 1986)(TRT 3 began transmission in 1989)(TRT 4 began transmission in 1990)(and so forth).

My familiarity with Turkish is obviously limited, but the Turkish word for "one" is bir (apparently pronounced "beer") and the Turkish word for "first" is birinci (apparently pronounced "beer-EEN-jee"). There is apparently a separate word, ilk, for the one-and-only, first-of-a-kind. So, it occurs to me that it is questionable whether there was a channel "BEER-oo-key" in Turkey before 1982 and whether or not Dr. Caner is simply mispronouncing birinci to try to provide some gravitas to the presentation of what otherwise appears to be a false story of growing up in Turkey.

This sermon is also one where Caner makes his infamous joke about women being behind the pulpit. He says something to the effect of that when people ask him about whether women should be behind the pulpit, he responds "how else are they going to vacuum back there." The joke get the hoots and hollers of the crowd, although Caner goes on in the next line to point out that the feminists who advocate for women in the pulpit will not only learn his view on the subject, but will also refuse to talk to him about this for a while, which he views as a good thing. Some people have suggested that this is a "sexist" joke, but I don't buy into that - he's poking fun at feminism and feminists, not at women as women. I'm not saying it is a wise joke to tell from the pulpit, but it's hardly a matter of major significance, compared to the other things we've seen.

In an interesting twist, in this same sermon, Caner suggests that the pastor who lead him to Christ, Clarence Miller, was a KJVO pastor. Caner even claims that Miller taught them to sing: "The B-I-B-L-E, and the version is the K-J-V, I'm going to heaven with the 1611, the B-I-B-L-E!" and then Caner followed that song up with another like it: "I dreamed I went to heaven, and I dreamed I went to hell, because you wouldn't witness to me, I walked along the lake of fire and read the N-I-V."

Later in the sermon, Caner states: "In my family, my father had many wives. I had many half-brothers and sisters." (around 21:29 into the sermon) The only children that Acar Caner mentions in his will, however, are Caner's two half sisters who were both the daughters of Acar Caner's second and surviving wife (link to copy of will). At least, we cannot find any record of Acar Caner having any other wives except Ergun's mom and the woman who married Ergun's father after Ergun's father and mother got divorced.

One interesting thing is Caner's comment (around 43 minutes in) that "my grandma didn't have 81 types of medicine, she had Bactine, Merthiolate, monkey blood, y'all know what I'm talkin' about?" The comments suggests Caner was raised by his grandmother, although the rest of his references were to "mama" so perhaps it was just a misstatement by Caner.

- TurretinFan


UPDATE: In a lecture called The Gospel According to Oprah (mp3) dated 2/8/2010 according to SermonAudio.com, Caner makes similar comments around 30 minutes in suggesting that he was raised by (and even received corporeal discipline from) his grandmother in addition to his mother. Perhaps it is just a coincidence but he mentions them as being the ones who disciplined him.

N.B. It seems that some of materials I have been linking to have been disappearing from the sites where they are hosted. The same thing may happen to this sermon, but SermonAudio.com permits you to download this sermon at the link I've provided above.

UPDATE: to replace Mathylaid (sp?) with Merthiolate, thanks to John Bugay.

Early Testimonies of the Caners - 2002

In the following, I've tried to identify the relatively early post-9/11 testimonies of the Caners, as reported in the press:

A high school buddy invited Caner to a small church revival in Columbus, Ohio. His friend was not intimidated by Caner's Muslim clothes or flawed English. And no one in the congregation ridiculed him with epithets of "towel head" or "camel jockey," as he had heard at school.
(April 17, 2002, AP)
Born in Stockholm to a Swedish mother and Turkish father, Caner lived in Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt before coming to America as a missionary. His father was a muezzin, the official at a mosque who gives the call to prayer.
(April 17, 2002, AP)
When the Caner boys came into the world, their Turkish-born father, Acar, the man who called the faithful to prayer at the mosque, whispered in their ears the words they were to live by: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah."

But they were living in Columbus, Ohio, far from Acar's Sunni Muslim origins. After their parents separated, others were soon whispering in the Caner boys' ears.

Ergun Caner, the oldest of Acar's three boys, was the first to convert. He was 15 when he accepted a friend's invitation to a weeklong church revival.

To him, his relationship with Allah was impersonal, ritualistic. The message he got at Stelzer Baptist Church was something completely different.

"Christ died for man. That was one thing for me to hear. It was quite another thing for me to hear that Christ died for me. Ha. Then it becomes personal," says Ergun, now 35. "I thought this was good news for all Muslims."

Instead of welcoming the news, Acar Caner told his son he no longer wanted to see him. When younger brothers Emir and Erdem (who now goes by Mark) went for visitation with their father, there was no talk of Ergun; their elder brother's face had been cut from family photographs. Despite that, the two younger brothers soon followed Ergun's path, with the same results.
(July 2, 2002, AP)
The Caners are convinced otherwise. As boys growing up in Ohio, the two converted to Christianity after being invited to a Baptist church in their neighborhood when they were teenagers. Their conversion cost them the love of their father, who disowned them for more than a decade.

Emir Caner said the break came at dinner one day when he was 12 years old. "I told him I could not pray to Allah anymore. I found Jesus Christ as my savior," Caner recalled. "He said, 'You either choose between me or your religion.'"

(Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2002)
But at 16, Ergun attended Stelzer Road Baptist Church in Columbus and says he found salvation through Jesus Christ. When he told his father, Acar made him choose. Ergun lost his earthly father, he says, by choosing his heavenly Father.

"My father thought what he was doing was an act of mercy by disowning me," he says, pointing out that his father could have sent him to Turkey to immerse him in Islam. In other places in the world, he says, people who leave the Islamic faith are to be put to death.

"This was hard for me," he says. "My father was my hero. My father was everything to me."

Ergun's two brothers would follow suit within 18 months. And just as he had done with his oldest son, Acar Caner broke ties with his young sons. Emir and another brother would go live full-time with their mother, who later converted to Christianity. The sons wouldn't see the father again until days before his death.
(Dallas Morning News, September 14, 2002)
In 1999, they received a surprise call from a stepsister whom they had never met when their father was dying from cancer. They flew to Ohio not knowing whether he would want to see them, and they thanked God when he did.

"It was, of course, awkward," Ergun says, noting that men from the mosque were also present. "We tried to share the gospel with him. He tried to share Islam with us, trying to get us back."
(Dallas Morning News, September 14, 2002)
Some people have suggested that the earlier testimonies are more accurate than the later ones. It may be possible that Caner's family lived very briefly in "Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt" before coming to the U.S. However, Caner himself was apparently two or three years old when the Caners arrived in America.

I do wonder whether the "15 years old" information is correct. That report is inconsistent with the November 4, 1982, date that is sometimes given, but it is consistent with the idea that Emir Caner came to faith on November 4, 1982, and that Ergun Caner was saved about a year earlier.

The "15 years old" information would be consistent with Emir's "12 years old" information and a gap of one year between their conversions. However, it is not consistent with the "16 years old" and the "18 months" gap suggested by the final story quoted above.

In short, even if we go with only the Caner testimonies that are presented in the press in 2002, we already see a set of seemingly impossible to reconcile differences emerging.

UPDATE: Fredericka in the comment box has identified an article apparently from Connection Magazine, September 2002 (link to article).

That article says Ergun was 17 (which is even more inconsistent with the accounts above), "But he was raised in a strict Muslim home in Ohio and was a devout worshiper of Allah until age 17, when he was led to Christ through the witness of one of his high school friends."

The article also indicates that Ergun lead Emir to Christ: "Caner in turn led to Christ his own brother, Emir, who today is a professor of church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina."

The article even quotes Caner thus:
"For the first 17 years of my life, I assumed that I was to be at war" with Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims, Caner recalls. He adds that according to a conservative U.S. State Department estimate, there are currently 300,000 Muslims worldwide with that identical driving ideal - the doctrine of jihad.
Caner is also quoted claiming to have worn Muslim robes:
"It wasn't through the eloquence of a preacher, or the beauty of a building that I came to Christ," Caner explains. "It was through the simple witness of a high school boy who did not care that I wore my [Muslim] robes, and looked different, and spoke different, and had poor English. He did not care that I hung out with other Muslims because everyone else was an open enemy according to my faith. All he knew was that Jesus Christ had died for him and had died for me, and he was saved and he wanted me to get saved, too."

That high school boy invited Caner to a four-day revival campaign at a local Baptist church in Columbus, Ohio, where Caner experienced the love of God for the first time. "That church loved me to the cross of Jesus Christ," Caner recalls. "They were nice to me in spite of my open hatred toward them as Christians."

For four days, Caner heard the good news that Jesus Christ was more than just a prophet of Allah as he had always been taught. He was God who came in the flesh to die for the sins of all people. By the fourth night, the 17-year-old devout Muslim was ready to become a new creature in Christ. Caner recalls that the pastor explained God's mercy and grace in the simplest possible terms.


-TurretinFan

Friday, May 28, 2010

Haram Koran Handling?

The July 2, 2002, Associated Press article about the Caner brothers provides a very touching portion that shows the love of Acar for his sons, despite their departure from Islam (Republication of Article here).
Sitting in his office on the picturesque Southeastern campus at Wake Forest, Emir Caner flips open the cover of a thick blue book. It is the Quran his father, Acar, presented him from his deathbed in 1999.

"To my son Emir," reads the inscription on the first page. "This is yours. Please take the time and read each word for you and for me. Your father."
Let me anticipate one objection. Someone may say that this shows that Acar Caner did not completely disown his sons, because he still refers to Emir as "my son" and calls himself "Your father." To me, that's a trivial objection. All it shows to me is that he still loved his sons.

But there are two other things that cause me to raise my eyebrows. Acar Caner has been presented as an exceptionally devout Muslim. Perhaps one of my Muslim readers will be able to tell me whether (1) giving a Koran to a non-Muslim is permitted and (2) writing in a Koran is permitted.

I don't claim to be a Islamic scholar, but both of those things strike me as inconsistent with the strictest and most devout forms of Islam. The rituals associated both with handling and reciting the Koran involve a large amount of outward purity. Giving the book to a non-Muslim (particularly an apostate Muslim) or writing in the book, just intuitively seem to be at odds with the kind of precautions Muslims are supposed to take with respect to the Koran (see some examples here). Perhaps one or more of my Muslim readers will be able to clarify this for me.

-TurretinFan

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dr. Caner's Testimony Before 11 September 2001


Dr. Caner's testimony before 2001 is something that his critics and allies alike would like to see, but finding a copy of it is proving elusive. (Photo at left, circa 2001, is hosted by middlecreekbible.org, I'm just linking to it.)

First, here are some post-9/11 testimonies.

Testimony on the 700 Club

According to a transcript, in one appearance on the 700 Club, Caner appeared to indicate that he was led to Christ, then his brothers, then his mother, and finally his grandmother.
What's wonderful is that day my father disowned me, but both of my brothers accepted Christ. My younger brother teaches at a seminary, I teach at a Christian College, my middle brother is a strong Christian and a member of a church, our mother accepted the Lord and is married to a church planter, and my grandmother accepted the Lord right before she died.
(Source)

Testimony in Unveiling Islam

The Caner brothers' book, Unveiling Islam states that Jerry Tackett was "an active member at Steltzer Road Baptist Church." Jerry invited Ergun Caner to revival services there. (Unveiling Islam, p. 18) Unveiling Islam goes on to state that on some unspecified day, which was a Thursday, Ergun came to Christ. Then, at a later unspecified date, Erdem came to Christ in the basement of "their home." Next, "the following year," Ergun invited Emir to a revival service. It states, "On November 4, 1982, Emir was born again." The book goes on to state that "In 1982, Ergun surrendered to the gospel ministry. It was the last time he saw [his] father for seventeen years. Acar disowned his sons ... ." (Unveiling Islam, p. 19) Unveiling Islam later states that it was Jerry Tackett who led Ergun to Christ and that it was Clarence Miller, the pastor of the Steltzer Road Baptist Church, who led Emir to Christ (Unveiling Islam, p. 21).

Testimony on the John Ankerburg Show

On the John Ankerburg show, Ergun Caner states that "a year later" than his own conversion, both his brothers accepted Christ (link to clip).

Testimony in Sermon "Church House to Jailhouse"

On the "Living with Joy" Radio interview, Ergun stated:
Finally he invited me to a revival. And so I walked in to Stelzer Road Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio in full gear with a coat on. ... I stepped out of the second pew, walked to the front. Clarence was preaching and he had his eyes closed. "What?" I said, "Isa bin Allah. I believe Jesus is God. I want saved." And he said, "Could you wait for the invitation?" I said, "No." He led me to Christ standing in front of the whole church. ... I went home and told my father. I said, "Abi, I am born again. I'm saved." It was November 4, 1982 and it was the last day I saw my father. ... A year later both my brothers got saved.
(transcript here)

Testimony of Tim G.

Tim G. has claimed to have some inside knowledge of the Caner situation. He states:
The man who led him to Christ is still alive. Clarence Miller. He has attended all his inaugurations and graduations. If he or Emir were two white boys lying about being devout Muslims, do you really think he would abide that?
(source)

Interestingly, Tim G. also claims that Ergun Caner's mother was adopted, that she was not Swedish, and that the name of Ergun's grandmother is "Maria Eleonora Lindberg" the woman to whom Unveiling Islam is dedicated. Other things that Tim G. says (such as the reference to Ergun's two half-sisters) appear to be accurate. (Wade Burleson identifies Tim G. as Tim Guthrie, later in the comment box.)

Before 11 September 2001

However, before 11 September 2001, what was Ergun's testimony? It is hard to say. The image below (which I'm linking to ... it's hosted at archive.org) states that "Ergun Caner is the son of a Muslim clergyman. He was led to Christ by his grandmother and is currently completing his Ph.D. at the University of South Africa." The accompanying April 2001 newsletter states: "As you will see in the brochure, Dr. Caner is the son of a Muslim clergyman. His grandmother led him to Christ, after which his father disowned him." (source)


There are some inaccuracies in the poster for the conference. For example, Dr. Caner was at that time apparently studying for a Th.D. not Ph.D, and his father was not a Muslim clergyman, as far as we can tell.

-TurretinFan

Caner's Old Biography Photos

One of the troubling things that Dr. Caner has done was to post the following three photos, with the captions set forth below each.(source)

Caption: "Dr. Caner Reading in Mosque"


Caption: "Dr. Caner in the Mosque with his father."


Caption: "Dr. Caner in the Mosque youth group holding a rifle."


There are a few problems with these photos. First, in the top picture one can clearly see that the boy is wearing shoes. Normally Muslims remove their shows on entering a mosque. Second, in the middle picture, the man shown is not Acar Caner, the father of Ergun Caner. Also, again notice that each of the boys is wearing shoes. It's less clear whether shoes are being worn in the third image - the boy on the left does appear to be wearing shoes. Finally, the "rifle" in the bottom picture appears to be a BB gun, such as one of the models shown in this advertisement:
Returning again to the third picture, note that there is no obvious safe backdrop for a real rifle to be used. However, if you look very closely, you will see above the elbow of the boy's left arm an unusual shadow that could be the shadow of the horizontal portion of a small shelf or stand, or it could be a shadow of a paper target held in the boy's hand - or any number of things. It's really not clear. Such a target or stand would be consistent with playing some sort of shooting/target practice game, although the target and the support for the target is more or less completely obscured by the boy at left. Perhaps someone with sharper eyes than mine can make it out.

- TurretinFan

(Please note that I'm not hosting the photos here, just linking to them at archive.org - they don't appear to be under copyright, but if someone has a claim, please be advised that the hosting site is archive.org - I think that the use here is still "fair use" in most jurisdictions)

The Credentials Issue

Essentially, some folks have raised the spectre of Dr. Caner claiming a false PhD and/or DMin degree. Considering that Dr. Caner did earn a ThD, I'm not sure how serious this charge is, but I've tried to identify the relevant evidence below.

In 2003, when Ergun Caner was moving from Criswell College to Liberty University, the Baptist Press reported the following:
After receiving a B.A. from Cumberland College, Caner received the M.A. from The Criswell College, M.Div. and Th.M. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and completed a D.Min. at Emmanuel Baptist University and a D. Theol. at the University of South Africa.
(source)

In 2005, Caner's personal website stated:
Caner has three Masters Degrees and two Doctorates, the Doctor of Theology coming from the University of South Africa.
(source)

In 2005, when Ergun Caner was made dean at Liberty University, the Baptist Press reported:
Caner holds a doctor of theology degree from the University of South Africa in Johannesburg; master of divinity and master of theology degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; and a bachelor of arts from Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Ky.
(source)

At the same time, World Net Daily ran an article by Jerry Fallwell that stated:
In the years that followed, Dr. Caner surrendered to the Gospel ministry and continued his education. He received his Bachelor of Arts in biblical studies and languages in 1989 from Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Ky. In 1992, he received his Master of Arts in history from The Criswell College in Dallas, Texas. In 1994, he received his Masters of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and in 1995, he completed his Masters of Theology at Southeastern. In 2000, Dr. Caner received his Doctor of Theology from the University of South Africa in residence in Johannesburg.
(source)

B.A. Biblical Studies and Languages, Cumberland College: Williamsburg, KY (1989)
M.A. History, The Criswell College: Dallas, TX (1992)
M.Div., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: Wake Forest, NC (1994)
Th.M., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: Wake Forest, NC (1995)
Th.D., University of South Africa: Johannesburg (2000) (Dissertation: "Bellum Sacrum vs. Bellum Justum" - Source for title of dissertation, which dates the degree to 2001)

You will notice that the later sources I've identified above omit reference to a second doctorate. The first source above, however, identifies as a second doctorate:

D.Min., Emmanuel Baptist University

In this screenshot (link to screenshot) one can see Dr. Caner's web page claiming a Ph.D. (if you don't the screenshot, visit Amazon.com and read the author profile for "When Worldviews Collide")

Dr. Caner's answers in 2009 seem to admit that this D.Min. was honorary:
In the world of evangelical ministry, honorary degrees abound. The founder of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell, received a number of them. In fact most public speakers get them. I have two- a Doctor of Ministry from one school, and a Doctor of Sacred Theology I received last year.
However, note that the list does not include any PhDs or any explanation of claims for a PhD.

"I've dedicated my life to education. The only reason I went to college is because I didn't know nothin' about the Bible after I got saved. So I went down to Williamsburg, KY, to a little college there, and just kept going. I got a B.A., an M.A., an M.Div. a Th.M, a D.Min. and a Ph.D and guess what, God ain't impressed." (around 46 minutes, 25 seconds into this sermon)

- TurretinFan

N.B. Mirele has studied this issue as well.

Ergun Caner's ThD Thesis / Dissertation

I understand that at the University of South Africa they call it a "thesis" rather than a "dissertation." Nevertheless, in investigating Dr. Caner's educational claims, I was able to locate evidence of publication of the thesis, though not under the precise name Dr. Caner had provided: Bellum sacrum: the development of the Holy War of the first crusade in light of Augustine's Just War criteria. (source) It is 416 pages (208 double-sided leaves) and was published in 2003, under the name Ergun Mehmet Caner by the University of South Africa. I did verify that it is available in the library at the Main Campus (apparently) in Praetoria and that it was given with respect to a doctorate in theology (source). If any of my South African readers have the occasion to stop by that library and confirm that the Internet data is correct, I'd be most appreciative.

-TurretinFan

UPDATE: Peter Lumpkins has posted this image purporting to be the title page of Dr. Caner's thesis:



Note the 2003 date, which makes me think this is the published version of the thesis that I had previously mentioned, as opposed to whatever version he provided in 2001 when he supposedly matriculated.

Ergun Caner on the Pastor's Perspective Show Compared to Other Testimonies and Evidence

On January 22, 2010, the Pastor's Perspective aired the show that can be found at the following link (source)(found among the other Pastor's Perspective shows here). This is the source of Dr. Caner's infamous comparison of the Jerry Springer Show with formal debates (link to Dr. White's response to that comparison).

  • "Twenty-seven years later I'm still amazed at His grace." (around 1:50) (suggests conversion took place somewhere between 1/23/1982 and 1/22/1983)
(compare his claim to have been saved at 18 => November 3, 1966 + 18 => November 3, 1984)

  • "I am neither Persian nor Arab - I'm Turkish, so we're Anatolian" (around 2:50)
Confirming:

Lecture: The Gospel According to Oprah (mp3) dated 2/8/2010 according to SermonAudio.com

"In Turkey, we have Persian, Arab, and Anatolian, I'm Anatolian, and in the Anatolian world the man is not in the birth room, the man is in another room." (around 12:15 into the sermon)

Compare:
The vast majority of the e-mails, numbering over six hundred, were from grateful Americans, many soldiers, who felt that their voices were not being heard. Mothers and fathers of soldiers who felt grateful that an article would run, supporting our troops from someone like me, a Persian Turkish immigrant and former Muslim.
(source - Article by Ergun Caner)

(Also compare this Zola Levitt Episode titled, “Dr. Ergun Caner: An Arab-Christian,”)
  • "They won't dilute. Islam is Islam - and that was me coming to America: a fiery young man - all three of us, the three sons from our mother - all three of us devout Muslims - our father just this hero to us and when I converted - disowned by my family - completely disowned - father cut me out of the pictures - a year later both of my brothers became believers." (around 10:10)
(Compare with the evidence that Caner came to America as a toddler.)

  • "We decided that we would write under our own name." (around 10:40)
Compare this discussion (link). I think, though, that Caner's point is just that he didn't hide from the Muslim persecutors. In this regard, his courage is to be praised. I would classify this as a simple misstatement, if "Mehmet" is not his real name.

  • "After I lost, you know I lost my family, what else can you lose? I lost my family, my culture, my language, my people, I knew nothing." (around 12:45)
As far as we can tell, Dr. Caner lost only his non-custodial father (see appeals court decision of 2/6/1979 mentioning the custody issue). While this is a significant and tragic loss, it appears that Dr. Caner is exaggerating.

  • Question to Ergun: "Now how was it that your brothers came to faith? Was it through your witness to them or ..."

    Ergun: "No, it was through the work of others. It was through the work of others. I was disowned. And I find out that my brothers had become Christians - I'm in college. And so it is what I hammer a lot, about the anonymous, the silent, behind-the-scenes, in the shadows kind of Christians who literally do the work that guys like ourselves cannot do. They speak to the hearts of people. And both my brothers had their own issues with Islam." (around 13:05)
Confirming this:

"A year later I'm in college, I find out both my brothers got saved." (2009 Value Voters Summit, around 16:11 - scroll down to the correct video)

But Compare:
Ergun's brothers, however, listened. Erdem accepted Christ in the basement of their home. Ergun then invited Emir to a revival service the following year. There, for the first time in his life, Emir heard that God loved him and desired to have a personal relationship with him. Though he had been to church before, this was the first time he could recall hearing a preacher speak openly and honestly about the exclusivity of the gospel. Only through the blood of Jesus, spilt on the cross, can someone be saved. Yet the preacher also spoke compassionately about God's desire to save everyone. Although there was only one way, the path was open for all who would believe. On November 4, 1982, Emir was born again.

In 1982, Ergun surrendered to the gospel ministry. It was the last time he saw our father for seventeen years. Acar disowned his sons, although it could have been worse: according to hadith 9.57, all three of brothers should have been killed.
(Unveiling Islam, page 19)

And again:
You guys ever hear a first sermon? I went up there with about that many notes, about 4 hours of preparation and lasted seven minutes. You know. I was like, "Jesus - uh - the Devil - uh - lets sing 842 verses of 'Just as I am.'" But you see, at the invitation, both of my younger brothers stepped out. Both my younger brothers got saved.
(Prestonwood Sermon at around 18 minutes 30 seconds)

- TurretinFan

H.T. Thanks to BruinEric for bringing this mp3 to my attention.

One of Myriad Little Details - the Toledo Mosque

The big picture, that Ergun Caner is a real ex-Muslim is true, but Dr. Caner has muddied that issue with what appear to be a myriad of details that are inconsistent and difficult or impossible to reconcile with one another. One is left wondering where the fiction ends and the fact begins. Here's an example.

"I drove up that highway to go to the mosque in Toledo every Sunday." (40 minutes, 50 seconds into the testimony here)(Note that, according to Google Maps, it is a two hour, thirty minute drive from Gahanna, OH, to Toledo, OH, today. Marion, OH - Emir Caner's Birthplace, is about a one hour, forty minute drive to Toledo, OH)

Entering high school, Ergun was a typical young man, except that he was a devout Muslim. Even through the divorce, our parents had maintained our rearing in the Mosque. Each weekend, we would travel to Broad Street in Columbus, Ohio, where our father had helped found the Islamic Foundation. The mosque in Toledo was too far a drive, so the Foundation Center was established. Father did the call to prayer on occasion.

(Unveiling Islam, p. 17)

And further compare:
Since 1970, the Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio (IFCO) has been serving the educational, social and religious needs of the Muslim families of Central Ohio in the United States of America.
(source)

And based on the portions of "One Faith, One Heart" that I've read, it seems to be the case that Acar Caner was involved in the founding of the Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio in 1970. (article available here)

But there is another twist:
The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo is the 3rd Mosque ever bult in America. It has been around since the early 50s and since 1981 has been located off of I-75 in its current iteration. ... It was not until 1954 that Toledo's first Islamic Center was built on East Bancroft Street, near downtown, fulfilling the needs of the Muslim Community. With the influx of many more Muslims to the Greater Toledo area in the late sixties and early seventies, the Bancroft Street Center could not meet the religious and social needs of its members. After much deliberation and soul searching, it was decided to build a bigger and better facility in order to meet the ever increasing needs of our members. The present new Center in Perrysburg Township had been in the planning for over a decade. ... In 1978, forty-eight acres of land was purchased in Perrysburg Township. The foundation of the Center was laid in October 1980, while the actual construction did not begin until September 1982. The building was officially opened on October 22, 1983. Two wings were added in 1991 to accommodate increased enrollment in the weekend school and to expand the social hall facility.
(source)

But then in the same sermon that started this post he says:
We came to America in '78 when Ayatollah Khomeini said, "We will not stop until America is an Islamic nation."
(at 41 minutes 15 seconds in this sermon)

One is simply left wondering what to think. Not all of those things can be true, as far as I can see. And it is hard for Caner to mistakenly think he came in 1978 instead of 1970 or earlier. It is hard for Caner to accidentally think that Toledo was too far to drive, or vice versa to think he drove there every week.

- TurretinFan

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ergun Caner's Middle Name is What?


Ergun Caner's father's middle name is "Mehmet." Is that Ergun Caner's middle name? It's not clear if it is or ever was his real middle name. I've tried to track down references to Dr. Ergun Caner before 11 September 2001. In his high school yearbooks (1981-1984) he is listed simply as Ergun Caner, no middle name provided (UPDATE 5/26/2010: There is one exception. His middle name "Michael" is provided in his senior yearbook). In a publication of the Southeastern BTS (circa 1993-95) (shown at left), Caner's middle name is listed as "Michael."

The following are the other datable instances of his name that I've been able to track down.

UPDATE 2/11/2014: (June 8, 1989, The Mt. Vernon Signal Thursday) Mentions that "Three students were recognized as Presidential Scholars. They were Ergun Michael "Butch" Caner of Gahanna, Ohio; ..." referring to an award received during the 1989 commencement exercises at Cumberland College. (source) (he was still referred to by the "Butch" nickname when referenced in an Cumberlands alumni magazine in Spring 2007 - source).

(June 7, 1991, Little Rock, AR) Mentions that "Ergun Caner, an associate pastor from Indiana," was discussing the Bible with a protester. (offline, News and Observer)

(November 2, 1991 - Richmond, VA) Quotes "Ergun Caner" as Paige Patterson's assistant regarding the ouster of Paige Patterson from The Criswell College (in the wake of the Darrel Gilyard scandal). (source)

(November 9, 1991 - St. Petersburg, FL) Cites "Ergun Caner, a master of divinity student and Patterson's assistant" as suggesting that Patterson's ouster may lead to student's leaving the college. (source)

(June 17, 1994) E. Michael Caner writes an article regarding another minister's testimony for the Baptist Press (link to article)

(March 19, 1995 - Durham, NC) "Rev. Butch Caner" indicated as officiant for funeral service. (offline - The Herald-Sun)

(June 30, 1995) E. Michael Caner writes an article regarding another minister's testimony for the Baptist Press (link to article)

(1995 - NC?) "Hills and Hearts of Gold" by "Ergun Michael Caner" (source)(Updated 2/11/2014: E. Michael Caner at another source)

(1995 - Wake Forest, NC) "Expeditio crucis: an examination of the motivation, justification, and implications of the summons to the First Crusade (1096- 1099)" (Issue 6790 of Publication (Historical Commission, Southern Baptist Convention) by "Ergun Michael Caner" (source)

(May 4, 1996 - Covington, KY) Mentions that "E. Michael 'Butch' Caner" is an experienced skydiver and guest evangelist. (source)

(March 21, 1997 - Durham, NC) Mentions that "Rev. Butch Caner" conducted a funeral service with another minister (offline - The Herald Sun - see also here)

(May 9, 1997 - Raleigh, NC) Mentions that "Rev. Butch Caner" of "Wood Baptist Church" will be conducting a funeral service. (offline - News and Observer)

(June 19, 1997 - Raleigh, NC) "'Mickey Mouse is innocent; lesbianism isn't,' said Butch Caner of Wood, N.C. 'And you can't have bile and poison next to fresh milk.'" (offline, News and Observer)

UPDATED on 5/26/2010: (April 23, 1999) "E. Michael 'Butch' Caner" and his role in counseling at the Littleton, CO massacre is discussed (source)(photo on right is apparently dated to around this time, and is hosted at baptistrecorder.org)

(SBC Convention 1999) "E. Michael Caner, pastor of Central Baptist Church, Aurora, Colo." (source)

(August 12, 1999 - Lynchburg, VA) "E. Michael Caner, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Aurora, Colorado and lead minister on the scene of the Columbine High massacre" (offline, AP - state and local wire)

UPDATED on 2/11/2014: (October 1999) "Glover recently hosted a luncheon that was keynoted by Dr. E. Michael Caner, Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Aurora, Colorado. Dr. Caner spoke about his experience as the lead minister on the scene of the Columbine High School shooting in April."

(April 17, 2000 - Littleton, CO) "E. Michael Caner, senior pastor of Central Baptist Church, Aurora, Colo., and one of the first counselors on scene April 20, 1999, when 12 students and a teacher were killed and numerous others wounded by two classmates who then killed themselves" (source)

(April 27, 2000) "E. Michael Caner" comments on the Littleton massacre and shares some wisdom from his grandmother (source)

(Summer 2000 - Williamsburg, KY) "Ergun Michael Caner (‘89) is an assistant professor of Systematic Theology and Church History at Criswell College in Dallas, TX." (source)

(November 15, 2000 - Fort Collins, CO) "Butch Caner, senior pastor of Central Baptist Church, Aurora" (source)

(Spring 2001 - SBTS) "Dr. & Mrs. E. Michael Caner" (as among those alumni who contributed between $100-$499 and as Board Member Donor Families)(source)

UPDATE: See this comparison of the Criswell College Faculty page from 2001 to 2002 (link)

In addition to the above, even to this day in court records (available via this link) Dr. Caner's name is always listed as Ergun Michael Caner (on various minor traffic tickets and a concealed weapons permit). Did Dr. Caner change his name at some point? If so, there should be a legal record of the name change somewhere. Furthermore, since giving a false name on one's motor vehicle registration is a misdemeanor crime in Virginia (same for a false name on a driver's license application), it seems reasonable to assume that "Ergun Michael Caner" is Dr. Caner's real name today.

The question then is this: why does Dr. Caner use the name "Mehmet" in his post-9/11 writings and self-promotion? Is it his birth name? Is it simply an alias?

- TurretinFan

N.B. There is always the possibility that the correct answer is that Caner's name is "Ergun Michael Mehmet Giovanni Caner" as he claimed here (link) (also claimed here).

P.S. The Caner Brothers' book, "The Sacred Trust," was apparently published in 2003. In Lifeway's June 2003 brochure, it was advertised under the name Ergun Michael Caner (link to brochure).

Caner's Autobiography

Caner's Autobiography

"My full name is Ergun Michael Mehmet Giovanni Caner. I know, go ahead and laugh. I was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and raised in Europe, and came to America ... ." (1:35) (UPDATE: partial clip from this can be found here)

"Until I was 15 years old, I was in the Islamic Youth Jihad. So, until I came to America, until I found Jesus Christ as Lord, I was trained to do that which was done on 11 September, as were thousands and as are to this day, thousands." (beginning around 13:00 in the clip below)

"Until I was 15 years old, I thought every single one of you hated me. See, I'd been taught my entire life that Christians were hateful, vengeful - that you'd have nothing from me but death - and that we were at war. We came to America through Brooklyn, NY, that's where I learned English. (laughter from crowd) Yup yup. Settled in Columbus, OH. Do you know how I found Jesus? I found Jesus while I was still a devout Muslim - devout Muslim - I was a PK [preacher's kid] for lack of a better term. I had a "drug" problem: my father drug me to the mosque every time the doors were open. I followed the five pillars of Islam. But do you know that the Muslims who follow the five pillars of Islam here in Jacksonville are still taught that if you die at the end of your life with more bad deeds than good deeds, you still go to hell. It doesn't matter how many rakats you say. It doesn't matter how many times you face Mecca and say "Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim hamdullah al-Rahman al-Rahim." It doesn't matter how many times you fasted during Ramadan. Because if the angel on your left hand shoulder writes down more bad than the angel on your right should writes down good, you still go to hell. Hear this. Only one thing erases the bad: martyrdom in jihad. Do you see the irony? Those men flying those planes thought that they would purchase forgiveness by shedding their own blood. Now let me tell you how I met Christ. It wasn't through the eloquence of a preacher and it wasn't through the beauty of a sanctuary. It was through a high school friend who invited me to church. He invited me to revival. He didn't care that I was wearing my כִּיפּוֹת (sp?), my hat. He didn't care that I spoke a different language and that my English was poor. He didn't care the fact that I looked differently [sic] or sounded differently or ate different foods than him. All he knew is that Jesus saves and that I needed salvation. He invited me to revival. I thought he said "re-Bible" and so I wanted a Bible and so I went. And I walked into that little country church and they loved me to the cross. They didn't look at me because I was different. They didn't mock me because I didn't know the songs. They didn't call me Towelhead or Sand-nigger. That's what I got outside the church. But in that church they loved me the way Christ loved them. For while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. And on Thursday night of that revival when I head that grace would erase the scales - that Jesus would pay a debt that he didn't owe - for me 'cause I couldn't pay - man, I found Jesus. I tackled my preacher. I said, "I want to get saved!" You know what he did? He said, "Weel, brother Arrogant," he never could say my name, he said "Brother Ergun, pray right here," and I received Jesus Christ. That night we went to an Afterglow. Afterglow is when we go to Denny's. Do you know what my first act was as a new believer in Jesus? I had me the biggest piece of ham they offered on that menu! Yes sir! I'm a ham-eatin' man, baby. I went home, I told my mother and father, "Mama, Papa, I'm saved, I don't have to fear the scales!" On Friday, I went back to the mosque, assuming that they needed to know about that grace too. They did not receive that message. My father disowned me that day, November the 4th, 1982. A year later, though my English was poor, though I could not speak as clearly as others, I surrendered to the ministry - I felt God calling me to preach. Now, I don't know how you do it here, Dr. Vines, but in our little country church, my little pastor said, "Well bless God, brother Arrogant comes forward this morning to surrender to preach, he'll be preaching his first sermon tonight." It lasted seven minutes. Heaven, Hell, Jesus, Devil, lets sing 642 verses of "Just as I Am," but let me tell you something - both of my younger brothers found Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Yes sir! My Lord! Now my youngest brother teaches at Southeastern Seminary, my middle brother is a lay deacon in his church in Indianapolis, Indiana, I get to teach at Griswell College in Dallas, TX, somebody stuck around! 1991 my mama called me on the phone and on Easter Sunday she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. And my little church let me baptize her. They flew me all the way out to Columbus, OH, and I got to baptize my mother as a sister in Jesus and in 1995, at almost the age of 100, my grandmother - not speaking any English - stood with her walker and professed Jesus as Lord! Why? Because somebody stuck around." (from 18:40 to 24:33 in the clip below)

"My brother or my sister, if you in this room, within the sound of my voice, I tell you, that though I was in jihad, you were at war as well. Cause you are either at war with God or God wants to win, not kill, but you convert you." (29:10 in the clip below)


video

(UPDATE: I'm not sure what's going on with the video above. Obviously, it was working when I watched it, but it seems to be gone now.)

"The definition of a fraud is somebody that looks like something but is actually something else." (introductory words in clip linked below)

source

Acar Caner's Prominence in the Muslim Community

Dr. Ergun Caner is fond of ascribing various roles of importance within the mosque to his father. I have found nothing to corroborate his testimony in that regard. However, I have found some evidence that Ergun's father, Acar Caner, was prominent within the Turkish community. For example, I found that Acar Caner was President of the Turkish American Association of Central Ohio from 1983-84 and 1993-94 (source - including grainy photo). One is reminded as well of Jamal Jivanjee's carefully worded comment (discussed at greater length and with more context here) that "Mr. Acar Caner, was a very prominent leader within the Islamic community that we associated with and was very involved with this mosque." Technically, this prominence took place after Dr. Caner's conversion (the latest date for Dr. Caner's conversion is 1982). However, one would not expect Mr. Caner to rise to president in the first year or two of being involved in the group, so this evidence helps to confirm (and perhaps to clarify) some of Jamal's testimony regarding Acar Caner.

- TurretinFan

Monday, May 24, 2010

List of Things Necessary to Salvation

One objection that is occasionally addressed to the Reformed doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture, and also sometimes to the doctrine of the sufficiency, formal and material, of Scripture, is a request that we provide an exhaustive list of the doctrines that are necessary to salvation.

After all, we claim that all the things that are necessary to be known for salvation are clearly taught in Scripture. Some folks think this is an incredible claim unless we can provide a list of the necessary things. There are several rebuttals to this objection.

1) No one thinks the list itself is necessary to salvation

In other words, while one may need to know the essential doctrines, there is no requirement that one be able to distinguish the essential doctrines from the unessential doctrines. So, even if the Bible does somehow tell us which doctrines are essential, that list is not something that falls within the realm of the doctrine of perspicuity. Furthermore, if we reach the conclusion that the Scriptures do not provide such a list, the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture would simply confirm that such a list is not necessary to the rule of faith.

2) We derive the doctrine of perspicuity from Scripture deductively

In other words, we reason from the fact that the Scriptures are able to make the simple wise and specifically in order to make a person wise unto salvation, that they consequently teach with sufficient clarity all that must be known for salvation.

3) An analogy to Medicine

The field of medicine provides an analogy. Suppose you have a drug that you realize cures some particular ailment, such as malaria. There is no reason you need to know which ingredients in the medicine cure you, you just need to eat the medicine. By analogy, you do not need to know which doctrines of Scripture are essential. You just need to believe what the Scripture teaches. If you do so, that should lead you to repent of your sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation.

Conclusion

Christians are required to believe all of the Bible. The canonical Scriptures are our rule of faith, and only the canonical Scriptures are our rule of faith. Adherence to the rule of faith is not the way that people are saved, but it is a Christian duty. It is through believing the gospel that the Bible proclaims that sinners are justified. Our inability to identify those points that are essential should simply prod us to study Scripture more intensively and seek by prayer and study to understand it more fully.

- TurretinFan

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Response to Norman Geisler on Ergun Caner

Dr. Norman Geisler's alleged comments on the Caner scandal may be found here (link). The following is a detailed response.

A. Odd Rhetorical Structure

Geisler's remarks have an odd rhetorical structure. In this structure there appear to be three motifs.

1. The Innocent Caner Motif

One of several motifs in Geisler's open letter is the idea that Caner is innocent. Geisler describes the accusations against Caner as “slanderous” and “libelous” and states that “Dr. Caner has done nothing heretical, immoral, or illegal.” Additionally, Geisler states: “He ... to my knowledge has done nothing unorthodox or malicious.”

2. The Somewhat Guilty Caner Motif

A surprising overlay on the Innocent Caner Motif is the idea that Caner is somewhat guilty. Geisler describes the facts as “whatever ambiguous or misstatement that may have been made” and sums up the situation as “Christians have a bad habit of shooting their wounded. Let’s pray for and encourage our brother.”

3. The Judgment Withheld Motif

One might think that innocent and somewhat guilty would exhaust the possible contradictory motifs. Geisler manages to include one more where he encourages people to withhold judgment. Geisler states: “I urge all to consider him innocent unless proven guilty. He has welcomed an inquiry from the Liberty authorities. Let’s await their findings.”

B. Deficient Substantive Content

The three motifs above share as their common thread an attempt to negate the idea that it has been shown that Caner did anything seriously wrong. However, there is little substantive content to Geisler's remarks, and the little content that exists is illuminating.

1. Familiarity with the Charges

Geisler states: “I am familiar with the slanderous charges that have been made against Dr. Ergun Caner generated by some Muslim groups and other extremists.” There are two interesting things about this comment, Geisler does not identify even one of the charges with any specificity and Geisler does not accurately identify any of the critics. Mr. Mohammad Khan is one source of some of the charges. He is a Muslim, but not a Muslim group. I'm confident that Geisler cannot name a Muslim group (let alone two) that have been generating charges. Geisler also mentions “other extremists.” This is odd for two reasons. First, it seems to assume that the referenced “Muslim groups” are themselves extremists. Second, it seems to suggest that the other vocal critics are extremists. But who could Geisler possibly have in mind? Geisler's notorious book, “Chosen But Free,” used the pathetic rhetorical ploy of referring to five-point Calvinists as “extreme Calvinists.” Could that be what Geisler intended? After all, some of the people bringing the accusations are Calvinists. In any event, the folks who have been making the accusations public include a wide range of people. Geisler appears to be unfamiliar with the broad range of folks bringing the charges.

2. Familiarity with the Evidence

Geisler describes his investigation of the charges. Geisler states: “I have looked into the matter, talking with Ergun and other principal parties at Liberty ... .” We would hope that both Caner and other “principal parties” would be candid with Geisler. Geisler, however, seems to be unaware of the fact that those who have criticized Caner have also criticized the words attributed to Elmer Towns co-founder of Liberty University and dean of the School of Religion, who was recently quoted as saying “It’s not an ethical issue, it’s not a moral issue,” and “We give faculty a certain amount of theological leverage. The arguments of the bloggers would not stand up in court.” Likewise, Ergun Caner had stated: “The truth is, I would be surprised if no discrepancies were discovered, given the hundreds of messages I have given during all that time!” And further: “I have never intentionally misled anyone.” (see discussion here) If Geisler were familiar with the actual evidence presented, he would realize that these sort of blanket assertions don't address the evidence.

3. Straw Men

Geisler seems to present a few straw man positions. Geisler states “Dr. Caner has done nothing heretical, immoral, or illegal” and “He ... has done nothing unorthodox or malicious.” While there have been some minor comments about illegal activity (speeding tickets and the like) and doctrine (Caner's apparently erroneous view of Incarnational Sonship) the real charges of immorality do not include things like saying that Caner has committed sexual immorality but are limited to untruthfulness. Since his alleged lies are about himself, it would not be obvious for them to be malicious.

C. To the Man (ad hominem)

Geisler's comments employ ad hominem both positively and negatively. Negatively, the comments call Caner's critics “extremists.” Positively, the comments simply amount to Geisler stating his final judgment of the matter. Geisler does not tell us what charges he examined, what evidence he considered with respect to those charges, and why he reached his conclusions in view of the charges and evidence. Instead it simply appears to be an attempt to appeal to folks who have high regard for Geisler's opinions in general.

Conclusion

Geisler's article ends up backfiring on him. His failure to demonstrate any serious investigation of the facts or consideration of the charges suggests that his opinion is based more on his personal esteem for Dr. Caner (Geisler states: “I stand with him against these vicious attacks. He has taken a strong stand on important issues that stir up controversy ... .”) than on any valid criteria. As such, Geisler's comments are just hand-waving, and may be readily set aside. Geisler hangs his comments on his own credibility, but he undermines his credibility by appearing to demonstrate a lack of familiarity with the issues. I hope Geisler will reconsider this idea as more and more facts come to light.

-TurretinFan