Thursday, July 08, 2010

Zola Levitt - Has Anyone Let Him Know? (Answer: Too Late)

On June 22, 2010 (according to iTunes), Zola Levitt released a podcast (ZL 338 - Signs of the End 2001: "Now A Christian" with Ergun Caner). You can get the mp3 here (link to mp3). It's important to realize that these are claims that were apparently recorded back in 2001 before Dr. Caner joined Liberty University. Why are they still being played? Perhaps no one has bothered to tell Zola Levitt about the issue with Dr. Caner's autobiography.

(UPDATE: As one alert reader noted, it's a little late - Zola Levitt has gone to his grave. Substitute the name of whoever is running his podcast these days.)

Dr. Caner states:
  1. (1:25) "We came to America in 1978"

  2. (1:29) "Exposed to Christianity for the first time here in America."

  3. (2:00) "Everything that I had been taught about Christianity and about Christians specifically, just didn't bear out when we came to America. We were taught that you hated us. And coming to America - perhaps in Europe it is a little bit different - it certainly was for me - but coming to America they weren't hateful, they were loving."

  4. (2:27) "I had lived in fear of the scales for so long, you know the Injeel on both shoulders, writing down the good and the bad ... "

  5. (2:48) "I was disowned in 1982 - disowned by my father." Zola: "Really? Formally?" Caner: "Oh, Yes yes - just like in the Jewish faith - where there's a funeral service."

  6. (8:35) "As a young man, I was in the Islamic Youth Jihad - as was my brother - both of my brothers. We were in youth groups that were taught these verses of the Hadith."

  7. (9:07) "Hadith 9:50 says 'no one can be killed for killing an infidel' Hadith 9:57 says 'if a man changes his Islamic religion, kill him.' That's not ambiguous."

  8. (22:41) "Fine, you don't like what I say, you don't like what I say about Mohamed, you don't like the fact that I speak in Arabic and translate the Qur'an for you -- you know - one of their lines is, 'oh, you don't know - you're just speaking in English.' Well, fine. Bring me the Arabic Qur'an and I'll read it with you. And they don't like that."
As to (1), we have a sworn affidavit from Dr. Caner's mother which seems to demonstrate that Dr. Caner was in the United States prior to 1978 (link to affidavit).

As to (2), if Caner came to America at age 3, how much Christianity could he have been meaningfully exposed to before he came. Combined with (1), it's hard to see how (2) could not be misleading if what Dr. Caner's mother swears is true, is in fact true.

As to (3), see above about (1) and (2). If Caner came at age 3, how is statement (3) not misleading?

As to (4), Injeel is not the Arabic word for "angel" it is the Arabic word for "Gospel." It's possible he was just nervous, but this is not the only time that Dr. Caner made that error. Here's another example. When this example was brought to my attention, I basically just wrote it off - I even tried to defend Dr. Caner about it (see my attempted defense here - and here). Now that I've seen a second example, I think it just goes to show that Dr. Caner isn't that familiar with Arabic.


As to (5), I question whether Dr. Caner's father held a fake funeral service for him - but I lack any proof that Dr. Caner's father did not do that. Perhaps Dr. Caner is telling the truth about this. Perhaps someone who knew the Caners can confirm this?

As to (6), check out the context of the "Islamic Youth Jihad" statement - does it convey the idea that the boys were trained as terrorists? or does it convey some other meaning?

As to (7), while there may not be any one "official" way to cite the hadith, this particular citation format leaves out the name of the collection making these citations similar to the citation "Bible 10:3." (see more discussion here)

As to (8), it's possible that Dr. Caner can sound out the Qur'an phonetically in Arabic, but it's hard to believe his claim to be able to translate it, particularly in view of item (4). It's also unclear how Dr. Geisler can claim, as he has, "He only claims to be able to speak Arabic the way most non-Arabic Muslims do. Although he was raised in Sweden by a Swedish mother, Ergun learned enough Arabic (as most Muslims do) to read the Qur’an and speak it in prayer."

I should note that "raised in Sweden" is kind of a strange description if Dr. Caner actually came to America in 1969 at age 3. That would make it sound more like he was raised in America. But, it is not completely clear whether Dr. Geisler has endorsed the 1969 date.

Conclusion

I'm not sure why Zola Levitt is still using this show as a re-run. Perhaps no one has mentioned the Ergun Caner situation to him, or perhaps he really believes that the statements above are all true, justifiable, or excusable.

-TurretinFan

Crushing Rebuttal from Caner's Defense Team

From the folks who seem to think that Dr. Caner's comments about his past were really no big deal, comes this clear rebuttal of all the charges, without an ounce of petty, ad hominem nonsense (link). Dave Armstrong would be proud of them!

(Note well: Despite the use of the A&O Ministries trademark and despite the prominent display of a supposed copyright claim by James White, the video is, as far as I know, the work of an unregenerate unkind SBC pastor.)

- TurretinFan

"Living Dead" Themed Movies

My previous post included a video clip of Ergun Caner talking about an alleged experience as a teenager and new arrival to America, watching a film with the theme of the "living dead."

An alert reader pointed out to me that the video shows materials related to the film, "Return of the Living Dead," which came out in 1985. That's not when Dr. Caner came to America, even according to any of his own accounts.

There is, however, another film that did come out with the same theme, closer to when Dr. Caner came to America: "Night of the Living Dead," which came out in 1968. For those who think that Dr. Caner came to America from Turkey in the late 1970's, there's alternatively "Dawn of the Dead," which came out when Dr. Caner was nearly a teenager, in 1978.

As far as I know, Dr. Caner was not involved in producing the video clips, beyond recording himself talking. So, I'm certainly not claiming that Dr. Caner suggested the graphic art for his video or that Dr. Caner himself said he watched "Return of the Living Dead" as a new arrival.

Intead, the troubling part of the video seems to be his statement, at the very beginning:

"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 video can still be seen at TrueLife.org (link to page).

Was Dr. Caner a teenage boy when he first came to America? The sworn affidavit of Dr. Caner's mother strongly suggests a negative answer to that question. That affidavit is an affidavit dated 31 July 1975, when Dr. Ergun Caner was about eight years old. If that affidavit is true, Ergun was not living in Ankara or along the Iraqi border at that time. If that affidavit is true, Ergun was not getting misconceptions about the USA by watching TV in Turkey at that time. If that affidavit is true, though, how can Dr. Geisler continue to defend Ergun Caner's remarks? Who knows!

-TurretinFan

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 SermonAudio.com. 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 TrueLife.org 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.
(source)

By the way, who told the folks at TrueLife.org 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: TrueLife.org seems to have disabled both direct access to the video and embedding for the video. You can still view the video on TrueLife.org'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 TrueLife.org (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
"Keffiyeh"

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 SermonAudio.com

(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"?

Conclusion

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

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Biologos is Not "One of Us"

Hast thou not known?
Hast thou not heard,
That the everlasting God,
The LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Fainteth not, neither is weary?
There is no searching of his understanding.
(Isaiah 40:28)


Lest there be any uncertainty, groups like the Biologos forum that deny the central Christian tenet of Creation are not "one of us." Their message is not the Christian message, indeed their message is contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture and is a direct attack on the fundamentals of the faith.

I realize that there can be saved people who are, for a time, deluded by various false teachers, and the men who are promoting theistic evolution at the Biologos forum are false teachers, teaching the traditions of men rather than the Word of God.

To those who do truly believe and accept the Word of God, hear this and depart from among the men of the Biologos forum!

Our gospel begins thus:

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Our Bible begins thus:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Our God declares:

Isaiah 45:12 I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.

Isaiah 42:5 Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:

Our God made us this way:

Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Genesis 2:22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

We labor under this curse:

Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Ecclesiastes 3:20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

We pray to God with prayers like these:

Hebrew 1:10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:

Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

He hears our Prayers:

Psalm 103:14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

1 Peter 4:19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

Our fourth Commandment states:

Exodus 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Exodus 31:17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

And we preach this coming Judgment:

Revelation 10:6 And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

To those at Biologos who have abandoned the truths of Scripture, be warned! The judgment of Romans 1 is at your doorstep.

Who changed the truth of God into a lie,
and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator,
who is blessed for ever.
Amen.
(Romans 1:25)

-TurretinFan

Dearborn Evangelism Outrage Update

David Wood has a message for the Chief of Police in Dearborn, MI, where Christian evangelists were allegedly persecuted for evangelizing (link to message). I don't mean this link as an endorsement of anything or anyone. I think it is important for folks who may only have heard the Muslim side of the story to hear the side of the arrested evangelists. If the allegations are true, there is a serious problem in Dearborn.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Some Things that Dr. Geisler Overlooked

Dr. Geisler provided a number of items of response in his "defense" of Dr. Ergun Caner. I'd like to highlight a few additional items that Dr. Geisler seems to have overlooked. These are some troubling issues in addition to the many that Dr. Geisler identified. I don't know whether Dr. Geisler's "defense" of Dr. Caner intentionally omitted these, or he dealt with them and I missed it, or whether he accidentally omitted them. I suspect that the latter is the case.

I wonder whether Dr. Geisler would care to let us know how Dr. Caner is innocent of wrong-doing with respect to the following issues. Please note that I'm not trying to say that these are things that have been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. I'm saying that these are concerns that have been raised, and I haven't seen a clear answer that vindicates Dr. Caner from himself or any of his supporters with respect to any of these.

For ease of reference for those who are replying, I've avoided restarting the number of the troubling issues within each of the major sections.


I. Birth, Place, and Manner in which He Grew Up

1. Claimed to have been Born in Istanbul?

As documented here (link to documentation), Dr. Caner claimed to have been born in Istanbul. Most of the rest of the evidence that anyone has brought forward shows that Dr. Caner was born in (or around) Stockholm, Sweden. How is the statement regarding Istanbul a true statement or an honest mistake?

2. Lived in Ankara and Along Iraqi Border?

As documented here (link to documentation), Dr. Caner has claimed that he lived in Ankara and along the Iraqi border. Are those an honest mistake for some other place that Dr. Caner lived? If so, which place was he thinking of?

3. Watched Dukes of Hazzard and longed to marry Daisy Duke while growing up in Turkey?

As documented here (link to documentation) (second instance), Dr. Caner has claimed that while he was living in Turkey he got misconceptions about America by watching the Dukes of Hazzard. How is that somehow an honest mistake or simple misstatement? Please bear in mind that it is not possible that he watched the show, "The Dukes of Hazzard" before it began to show in 1979 (link to documentation).

4. Citizenship in 1978?

Dr. Geisler claims (he does not identify the source of his data) that Dr. Caner became a citizen in 1978. Why is it that at least one seemingly official biography of Caner indicates he became a citizen in 1984 - link to bio with colorful photo of Caner and Dr. Caner himself has claimed to have gained his citizenship in 1982 - see his article "Hatriotism." Which of the three stories, if any, is the truth?

Or is the citizenship-in-1978 claim just an excuse for apparently untrue comments like this one: "In 1978, his family moved to the United States so his father, an architect, could build a Mosque in Columbus, Ohio." (which STILL appears on Dr. Caner's blog as of 5 July 2010 - note that this comment appears to be an English translation of an article originally written in Korean, thus it has some really bizarre comments like: "His father was somewhat similar to an Islamic priest, a scholar of an Islamic sect called Ulima.")

5. Claims to have worn "a keffiyeh"

As documented here (first example)(second example), Dr. Caner has claimed that before his conversion he wore a "keffiyeh." The photo evidence we have of him, however, almost always shows him bareheaded (link to an amusing exception). Did he hide the keffiyeh when photos were being taken? (this example does not count)


II. Date of Conversion and Connection to Brothers' Conversions

6. November 4, 1982?

Dr. Ergun Caner has identified the date of his conversion as November 4, 1982 (example). However, his book, Unveiling Islam, gives that as the date for Emir Caner's conversion and indicates that Emir was saved "the following year" after Ergun. (Unveiling Islam, p. 19) How is this possible?

7. Relationship to Brothers' Conversions

Dr. Caner seems to have stated several accounts regarding the relationship of his conversion to that of his brothers. One account is: "that day my father disowned me, but both of my brothers accepted Christ" another is that Erdem was saved in the basement of "their home" and that "the following year" Ergun invited Emir to a revival service at which Emir was saved. Another account is that "a year later" than his own conversion, his brothers came to Christ. (link to documentation of these) In another account, his brothers get saved when Caner preaches his first sermon (see documentation here) How are these honest mistakes or somehow all reconcilable truths?


III. Claims About His Family

8. "Many Wives" of his father vs. Two Wives of his father

As documented here (link to documentation) Dr. Caner has claimed that his father had "many wives" when the evidence suggests that his father had two wives, one at a time.

9. "Half-brothers" that can't be found

As documented here (link to documentation - second source) Dr. Caner has claimed that he has half-brothers, sons presumably of those "many wives" that his father had. We can find record of two half-sisters by the the one second wife we can locate, but no half-brothers.


Conclusion

These are just a few of the issues that Dr. Geisler did not address, at least I couldn't find them addressed, in his recent "defense" of Dr. Caner. May I respectfully suggest that Dr. Geisler is simply not familiar with the troubling evidence. In view of this apparently new evidence that has come to light, is Dr. Geisler willing to say, "Upon further consideration, I have come to the conclusion that Ergun Caner did indeed embellish his autobiography," or will Dr. Geisler come up with some new justification for these documented states made either by Caner himself or by seemingly official websites?

Finally, as a tenth troubling issue, let me highlight the issue of Ramadan being "forty days" long according to Dr. Caner on multiple occasions (link to documentation). Dr. Geisler has tried to say that Dr. Caner has some justification of this. I suspect that what Dr. Geisler has read is similar to the material that the "Fake Ex-Muslims" site attributes to Dr. Caner here (link to site). That documentation alleges that there are some tiny groups of Islam that do fast for 40 days. Let's take that explanation as completely 100% true without actually investigating it. Does that being true justify this comment:

"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." (link to documentation)

Does that claim about a couple tiny sects of Islam fasting for 40 days justify the claim that the "lunar month" of Ramadan is forty days as documented in this video clip?


Or is the attempt to find a few tiny branches of Islam an attempt to cover up the glaring error of saying that Ramadan is 40 days long, when it is actually a lunar month of 29 or 30 days long?

I'm asking the questions, because I would like to believe that the issue is simply that Dr. Geisler is only familiar with the charges and Dr. Caner's private responses to the charges, and that Dr. Geisler is not familiar with the evidence itself or with a variety of the charges for which it would appear that Dr. Caner and his supporters have no good answer. Will Dr. Geisler respond? Who knows! I would encourage my friends to give Dr. Geisler some time to consider the evidence and respond before assuming that he will simply do what other of Dr. Caner's supporters have done and attack the messenger.

-TurretinFan

Caner Petition?

An alert reader drew my attention to an on-line petition that has apparently been created to protest, as inadequate, the investigation that Liberty University undertook (link to petition). I'm not a big fan of petitions - I'm not sure what they accomplish - but I think it is interesting that someone has started one. I'm not sure if it will get many signatures, as of my posting of this, it had only one signature. (UPDATE: It's up to about 10 signatures now, many obviously joke signatures.)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sungenis: Defending Purgatory By Attacking Limited Atonement

In my previous post (link to post) I highlighted Sungenis' admission that Roman Catholicism cannot answer with any certainty even such a basic question about Purgatory as whether it is a place or state. In the same oddly titled article (link to article), Sungenis purports to respond to Dr. White's criticism of the Roman view of Purgatory with respect to the Atonement.

The bulk of the discussion, however, is simply an attack on Limited Atonement. It includes one of the typical misrepresentations of the Reformed position (the allegation that we or Calvin held that "Christ went to hell for [the elect]." In his Institutes, Calvin explicitly ties the credal expression "descended into hell" to Christ's suffering on the cross, rejecting the idea that it refers to somewhere he went after his death and even responding to the objection that it would lead to the creed expressing the phrase out of order:
Those who — on the ground that it is absurd to put after his burial what preceded it — say that the order is reversed in this way are making a very trifling and ridiculous objection. f441 The point is that the Creed sets forth what Christ suffered in the sight of men, and then appositely speaks of that invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he underwent in the sight of God in order that we might know not only that Christ’s body was given as the price of our redemption, but that he paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man.
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.10

The Continental Reformed likewise teach:
Question 44. Why is there added, "he descended into hell"?

Answer: That in my greatest temptations, I may be assured, and wholly comfort myself in this, that my Lord Jesus Christ, by his inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors, and hellish agonies, in which he was plunged during all his sufferings, (a) but especially on the cross, has delivered me from the anguish and torments of hell. (b)

(a) Ps.18:5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. Ps.18:6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. Ps.116:3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Matt.26:38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. Heb.5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Isa.53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Matt.27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (b) Isa.53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
- Heidelberg Catechism, Question/Answer 44

While the Scottish Reformed teach:
Question 50: Wherein consisted Christ's humiliation after his death?

Answer: Christ's humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which has been otherwise expressed in these words, he descended into hell.
- Westminster Larger Catechism, Question/Answer 50

(see also Pastor Danny Hyde's historical discussion)

Thus, it is misrepresentation of the Reformed position (either in General or as "Calvinistic" in particular) to say that we teach that Jesus "went to hell" for our sins. As to his humanity, he suffered on the cross and he remained under the power of death for three days. That's our view, not the typical misrepresentation.

After all the criticism of the Reformed view of the atonement is complete, Sungenis remarkably offers only general characterizations of what his own view of the atonement is and no link at all between that view of the atonement and Purgatory:
The Catholic doctrine of the Atonement is the only one that answers ALL of the relevant Scripture passages. I go through them all in my book Not By Bread Alone. God predestinated, but not without man’s free will. God desires all men to be saved even though not all men will be saved. Christ’s atonement was given to the whole world, and from it all men have the potential to be saved. Christ did not go to hell to pay for man’s or the elect’s sins; rather, Christ propitiated the Father and made salvation possible for all men. All of these are taught in Scripture, and we arrive at these truths by combining ALL of what Scripture teaches.
Notice how, even in this brief paragraph, Sungenis again manages to insert his misrepresentation of the Reformed position on the atonement as a contrast to what he calls the "Catholic doctrine of the Atonement."

While I understand that he is referring to the reader to his book (where one would hope to find a more detailed explanation), it's worth noting that he simply offers a series of assertions, none of which really address the issues that Dr. White (and other Reformed critics) raise against Purgatory.

Also note the claim: "we arrive at these truths by combining ALL of what Scripture teaches." This is a comment that is obviously tailored toward a "Protestant" audience. But is it true? Does Sungenis arrive at his view of the atonement by combining all of what Scripture teaches? It seems unlikely that this is really how Sungenis arrives at his view - though it may be how the more "Arminian" listeners in the audience may have arrived at their view of the atonement.

It's easy to look at the explanation that Sungenis has provided and think that his goal is to trick Arminian hearers into thinking that the Roman Catholic view of the Atonement is essentially the same as their view of the Atonement by emphasizing certain differences between Roman theology and Reformed theology (as lampooned). I hope that's not his intention, but it is certainly a danger in his approach.

Because he has not actually presented a full and relevant discussion of the Roman Catholic view of Christ's work and its relation to the forgiveness and remission of the guilt and punishment of sins, Sungenis has not begun to answer the criticisms to which he purports to be responding in the article. In short, the article falls short of a rebuttal. Instead, some stones are thrown at a misrepresentation of the Reformed position.

-TurretinFan

Dr. White's Responses to Dr. Geisler

Unbeknown to me, Dr. White was similarly providing a detailed response to Dr. Geisler's comments. They may found in three parts here: (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4). It looks like we said fairly similar things at a number of points, and highlighted different issues at other points. I would normally say, "Enjoy," but there's nothing particularly enjoyable about watching this saga unfold.

- TurretinFan

Wrapping Up Geisler's Defense of Caner

In a first post, I introduced Dr. Geisler's latest error of judgment with respect to the Caner scandal (link to post). In a second post, I addressed the first group of "misspeaks" that Geisler identified (link to post). In a third post, I addressed the list of various charges and responses that Geisler aimed to address (link to post). In this post, I'll respond to Dr. Norman Geisler's "Concluding Thoughts" on the subject.

Dr. Geisler begins:
Reviewing these allegations reminds me of the numerous similar statements I have made in the past. I could easily be proven a liar on similar ground. For example, when ask where I was born, I have given at least three different answers over the years: In Detroit, in Warren, and in Van Dyke, Michigan. All are true. It was metropolitan Detroit (literally a half mile into the northeastern suburb). It was in a place once called Van Dyke and now called Warren.
The comparison to Dr. Caner is almost comical. While those three answers are all different, there is a real sense in which they are the same. There's no way that the answer "Stockholm, Sweden" is the same as the answer "Istanbul, Turkey" (see the documentation here). That's not similar to saying Detroit, or Warren, or Van Dyke. It's not like Stockholm is a suburb of Istanbul. Now, if the two answers were Istanbul and Constantinople, ok (see discussion here). But Stockholm vs. Istanbul is not comparable.

Geisler continues:
When asked what my father’s name was, I have said Fonse (which is what most people called him, or Alphonse, or more formally Alphonso). If one’s motives are to discredit, it would not be hard to discredit me or almost anyone with the kinds of arguments used by Caner’s critics.
I doubt Dr. Geisler has gone around claiming that he watched a show years before it came out in a country in which he never lived. (compare the discussion documented here) It's not hard to see how someone could view him negatively for making that kind of claim - it does not take "motives ... to discredit" in order to get to a negative result. I myself entered the discussion trying to discredit the Muslim critic's claims, but there are simply so many (as they have been called) self-contradictory statements of a factual nature.

Geisler continues:
If, on the other hand, one wants to be fair, then there are no real grounds to support the allegations of Caner’s critics that he is a liar and a fraud who repeatedly embellished things to support his own claims. No group authorized to investigate his statements have proclaimed any such conclusion. Nor did the Board committee at Liberty University that examined him. Rather, they said, “After a thorough and exhaustive review of Dr. Caner’s public statements, a committee consisting of four members of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees has concluded that Dr. Caner has some factual statements that are self-contradictory [as we have discussed above]. However, the committee found no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager…. [as his critics had charged]. Hence, 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.”
No grounds? Seriously? What level of a pattern of wrong claims about his past would be necessary to be "some grounds" if the current evidence is "no grounds"? More likely, however, Dr. Geisler is simply unfamiliar with all of the evidence. He hasn't had to sit down and listen to Caner speaking for hour on end, hearing the different stories in their relevant context. Perhaps I'm wrong about that, but if I am - I have to wonder how Dr. Geisler could say what he says in good conscience.

As far as "No group authorized to investigate his statements have proclaimed any such conclusion" goes, I'm not sure we will actually ever know. Do we know who the investigative committee at Liberty was? Was their report, which was given to the committee of Liberty trustees, ever released to the public? Will it be released to the public? Does Dr. Geisler have access to it? Have any other groups except that one been authorized to investigate his statements? Did Dr. Geisler's school authorize an investigation in parallel to Liberty's investigation?
Clearly, Liberty found no moral culpability or doctrinal deviation or else they would not have kept him on the faculty. One can only speculate as to why his contract as Dean was not renewed. Certainly, it could not have been because Liberty is an institution that has eschews controversy. For it could be said that the founder Jerry Falwell, whom I have greatly admired and praised, had “controversy” as his middle name! My own guess, having taught at Liberty University and knowing many of its leaders and workings quite well, is that the decision was more institutional in nature.
What does "institutional" mean? Was Dr. Caner unfairly relieved of his position at Liberty? If he was, and if someone can show that to me, I will be his most vocal advocate to get that position back.

Or does Dr. Geisler think this was just a coincidence? It's a little hard to buy that.

But if it was fair decision, doesn't it suggest some form of moral culpability was the perception of the trustees? Or was the reason a question of competence? Or something else?

The trustees certainly did not say that they found no evidence of wrong-doing on Dr. Caner's part, something we would hope to see in any announcement that also announced that Dr. Caner was not continuing as Dean, if that's what the trustees wanted to convey.

Perhaps we will never know - and we can speculate all day about what motivated the Liberty trustees. To all appearances, the Liberty trustees are not talking about this any more than they already have. All we can see is that they found that statements were made that were not true (self-contradictory), and they took negative action with respect to Dr. Caner. They confirmed what we already knew: that Dr. Caner was a Muslim who converted as a teenager.

If only Geisler were as cautious as the Liberty trustees, he would not be faced with putting himself in the position he now finds himself, as he digs himself deeper and deeper in his attempt to defend Dr. Caner. While I can certainly appreciate his obvious loyalty, I think he's making a mistake here.

Then again, perhaps there are appropriate answers to the responses I have provided above. I would like nothing better than to be shown that Dr. Ergun Caner is completely innocent of all the charges that have been placed against him. If Dr. Geisler or anyone else can do that, may God give them speed to do it quickly!

-TurretinFan