Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dr. Ergun Caner's Debates, Discussions, and Dialog

The weakest defenders of Dr. Caner have focused their attention on attacking Dr. Caner's critics. While they were wasting their time and destroying their credibility, I was busy searching for the debates that Dr. Caner has claimed to do, so that I could exonerate him of the charges of claiming debates he has not done. I found Dr. Caner making reference to his debates in a public address at an evangelism conference. Dr. Caner indicated that he uploads these debates to iTunes(R) and so I looked there. Within iTunes(R) one must go to the store and then to the Podcasts. I've managed to find the following debates, dialogs, or discussions from Dr. Ergun Caner in three categories.

The first category are items listed under the collection "Dialog, Debate, and Discussion"

1) Introduction to 3D (No opponents)

This segment is a general introduction. He states around 6 minutes, 30 second in:
I will get e-mails you know through the website and they will say, 'Where are your debates?' And my debates are all here, they're all free. And here are some of the rules that go with it. Even though I've done 'em for 20 years, I don't believe debate is only formal. As a matter of fact, I believe you are severely limiting yourself if the only exposure you have to other world religions is through formal debate. I believe the most effective means of sharing the truth of Jesus Christ the exclusive nature of salvation through Christ can only be found through conversation. ... I became dissatisfied with formal debate and quite frankly disgusted with some of the practitioners in that passive-aggressive methods of shaking their head and making noises, embarrassing themselves by acting petulant. And so, like I said, about five, six years ago, I became convinced that there had to be another way. What we've done is we've established 3D, which stands for debate, dialog, and discussion, where we sit around the table and I interview, for instance in this first season a Unitarian Universalist, a Druid, etc. and it's free form. I even tell them ahead of time, "I will never provoke you. I annot ask you trick questions and this isn't the Jerry Springer show. In other words there's not going to be a moment where you have to lurch out of your chair to defend yourself."
This discussion helps to highlight that Dr. Caner is aware of the fact that these interviews are not formal debates. While he might like to call them 3D, he seems to be aware that there is no "debating" going on in the conventional sense of the term. Unfortunately, without that context, claims of "debating" the following people would seem to be misleading.

2) Presidents Thornock and Ralls (Mormon)

President Michael Thornock is apparently Mission President of the West Virginia Charleston Mission. President Walter E. Ralls Jr. is Stake President of the Buena Vista Virginia Stake. These are mid-level officers in the Mormon bureaucracy.

3) Bob Riggs and James Williams (Baha'i practitioners)

Robert Riggs is a Baha'i author. It's unclear what, if any, leadership role either of the men have in Baha'i.

4) Rev. Paul Boothby (Unitarian Universalists)

Boothby is a local (Lynchburg) Unitarian pastor.

5) Fr. Richard Mooney (Roman Catholic) (There were three parts)

Mooney is a local (Lynchburg area) Roman Catholic Priest.

6) Rabbi Yosef Zylberberg (Reform) (There were two parts)

Zylberg is a Reform (not Reformed) rabbi, apparently from Phoenix, AZ.

7) Rev Kaz Nakata (Shin Buddhist)

Nakata is a Buddhist priest (the head of a seemingly small temple in Virginia).

8) Senior Druid Emeritas Nancy [McAndrew?] ("A Druid Fellowship")

Nancy holds a seemingly minor clerical rank in the local neo-pagan organization associated with "A Druid Fellowship, Inc."

9) Dr. Mel White (Metropolitan Community Church)

Mel White is apparently a clergyman in the MCC. The MCC is apparently supportive of non-heterosexual fornication (perhaps they also support heterosexual fornication as well, it's not clear to me).

10) Lonnie Murray (Unitarian Univeralist & Neo-Pagan)

Murray is apparently a congregant at a Unitarian Universalist church but also a Neo-Pagan who organizes a "Nature Spirit Worship" group in Charlottesville, VA.

The following were classified under "Sects and Cults Podcast" (apparently recorded during Theology 678)

1) Interview with Mormons (Mormons)

Two "elders" are interviewed. The discussion mentions that the questions that they will be answering is given to them in advance, except for the audience question.

2) Interview with Fr. Alban Waggener (Antiochian Orthodox)

Dr. Waggener is the priest of the local parish of an Antiochian Orthodox church.

3) Interview with Rev. Shirley Paulson (Christian Science) (there were two parts)

Paulson is a Christian Science lecturer.

4) Interview with Mel White (Metropolitan Community Church) (there were two parts)

(see above for the discussion of White)

5) Interview with Dr. Kenley Mays (Baha'i International) (there were two parts)

Dr. Mays is apparently a Baha'i practitioner that happens to live in Virginia.

The following were classified under "Apologetics 570 - Far Eastern Religions"

1) Taoism (there were two parts here)

Two practicing and "devout" Taoists are interviewed. One is apparently a leader at a local Taoist study center in Virginia, and other is from Seattle.

2) Oneness Pentecostal (I think this was tagged incorrectly.)

A local Oneness pastor was interviewed. This is the discussion of which a portion was recently discussed on the DL, with reference to the description of the Trinity that Dr. Caner provided.

3) Tibetan Buddhist

A Tibetan Buddhist is interviewed.


I checked the items in the list above, listening to the introduction and random portions from each. From what I could tell, in every case the format was roughly the same: the visitor was interviewed with a series of questions designed to learn more about the religion. Sometimes the questions are pointed questions. Sometimes there are some questions back to Dr. Caner. However, the interviews appear to be mostly designed to inform the students about the religious group whose representative was interviewed. There doesn't seem to be any argument, which would seem to be a necessary component of debate. If this is it - if this is really "all" his debates, as his intro to 3D suggests - then it doesn't seem that Dr. Caner has done many, if any, debates.

Perhaps there is something I've overlooked. If so, I invite my readers to draw my attention to it.


UPDATE: An alert reader named Tim has pointed out that Dr. Caner may also have engaged in one or more e-mail debates. The only one I've seen is this one with Nadir Ahmed (link to official version at Ergun Caner's own website). It's worth noting the following exchange:

Dr. Caner's first email states:
If, however, you would like to DEBATE the issues of Christianity versus Islam, then I believe we might have an interesting opportunity. Here is what I propose:
THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE: Take the money OFF the table - I do not do this for money. I am interested, however, in a debate via e-mail.
Nadir Ahmed's first email responds:
Therefore, just like our response to Craig Winn ... Ergun Caner, you have conducted probably one of the most intense media propaganda campaigns against Islam appearing on countless radio and television shows beamed into the homes of millions upon millions of people, but ... when knowledgeable Muslims calls your views into question, you restrict him to some email exchange? I'm sorry, but we will have to decline your offer. As I mentioned, neither the Muslims nor the Christians will settle for this, so it's really out of my hands. Rather we request a face to face public debate in front of a live audience. There is no substitute for this. Just like how you encourage our young Americans to be brave ... face the enemy head on in Iraq, you should also show the same courage, and face in a fair, moderated debate in which we discuss the *truth* claims of Islam and Christianity in a respectful dignified manor ... and do it for them. The ball is in your court Caner.

Considering that you have spoken at thousands of churches or Christian organizations, then perhaps that would be a good venue for the debate? If not, then I have several MSAs and different colleges where I debated at and Mosques who would gladly sponsor the debate, just let me know. Also, in the spirit of fair debate, we will provide you with all our material and arguments before hand so you can be prepared.
(links removed ... ellipses in original)

Notice how Nadir Ahmed indicates that he does not consider the email exchange a "debate." That's my reason for not including it.

Tim mentioned that he thinks he has seen other email debates as well. I have not seen them, but I welcome my readers to point them out to me.


Anonymous said...

"....As a matter of fact, I believe you are severely limiting yourself if the only exposure you have to other world religions is through formal debate. ....".

Yes, with those kind of rules of debate, one can understand why the formal debate rules are not central to the m.o. when you are "severely limited" in your knowledge of the debate issues a formal debate would be expected to present during a formal debate.

Unknown said...

In the message from EC you quote, he mentions 'debates' for 20 years, and also says he moved to this 3d format 6 years ago.

When you then say that 'is this is everything', he makes it clear this in not everything.

I have seen several email debates on his website in the past, and one is still up.

Ex N1hilo said...

Let's not forget Dr. Caner's debates with Shabir Ali and Abdul Saleeb.

Also, he debated Muhammad Ali in the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" dialog in Zaire. Followed by less well known debates with Joe Frazer and George Foreman.

Coram Deo said...

By broadening Caner's definition just a wee bit I could easily claim to have "debated" hundreds of people from other religions, non-religions, and even several heads of state including current and former presidents of the USA.

I wonder how far the man's pride and embellishments go; just how deep is that rabbit hole?

Methinks this issue isn't going away anytime soon. Time to fess up Ergun.

In Christ,

Turretinfan said...


There are two ways to interpret what he says. One way to interpret it is that he has been doing formal debates for 20 years, followed by informal discussions for 5-6 years.

Another way to interpret it is that he has been doing informal discussions for 20 years, and he has been using the "3D" format of interviewing for the last 5-6 years.

Listen to the "Intro to 3D episode" yourself and see if you think he is claiming to have done formal debates. If so, where are they? What happened to them?

- TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...


As far as email debates go, I have updated my post. Thank you for reminding me to address the topic of the email interaction with Nadir Ahmed.

- TurretinFan

Strong Tower said...

Whose Tim?

If it is Tim G., this is just another desparate grab at evidence that isn't.

Anonymous said...

What seems remarkable to me in light of the word "all" is just how many debates or whatever they are classified as that you have found and posted hereon.

I recall Dr. Caner saying "all" his material, over twenty years worth of work, whether debates, discussions or dialogs, is on line and freely available for review or research purposes.

Doesn't seem to add up to me?

I too, over the last few days, did some searching on the net and could only find that one debate from his website, the debate with Mr. Nadir Ahmed. I skimmed over it and found some of the same charges being made against him by Mr. Ahmed as we have covered here in this blog and at other blogs of recent past. He calls him a liar too.

Something in my guts is churning and it doesn't feel so good. I am saddened sincerely by this whole thing. When once you have been filled to overflowing with the Spirit of Grace and Truth, you find it hard to fathom the scope of what is apparent with this whole fiasco. It is regrettable.

It really stems from the realization of the position Liberty University has gotten themself to. It's one thing that God would change Dr. Caner's heart and we would see clean repentance and restoration that brings about Hope. But, sadly, for me, at least, it just seems way to difficult to conceive an entire University's leadership stepping to the plate and finding corporate repentance? It isn't like that has never happened before or could happen with Liberty. We do have examples of the nation of Israel repenting. Or during Jonah's day, Nineveh. However, later on God did destroy Nineveh and Israel leaving just a remnant.

What intensely strange times the Church awakens too these days?

Here's my consolation:

Act 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.


Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Anonymous said...

TF, by the way. I notice that there are eight comments in here but on the outside it numbers "7". And after I post this comment the numbers move up by one.

Why is that?

Turretinfan said...

I do not know why there is that discrepancy.

Anonymous said...


I don't know either. All I know is for a couple of days I noticed it and oddly just after posting the inquiry asking you why the discrepancy everything went back to normal.


Lightwalker said...

It is interesting that you post this.

I came upon this whole controversy about three or four months ago because I Googled "Ergun Caner Debates".

I am currently (but will not be much longer due to this controversy) a Liberty Seminary Distance Education student. I was in APOL 500 and the class had several 7-10 minutes lectures (iTunesU RSS: by Caner. Completely unimpressed and, quite frankly, disappointed by the content of the "lectures" I decided to see these alleged debates because, I was convinced, the dude had to have gotten absolutely slaughtered in a real debate.

Well, what I found out was that he interviews people. He talks loudly and carries a small stick.......actually it's probably more like a decomposing foam pool noodle.


Anonymous said...

Lightwalker, I see what you mean. i followed the link you provided, downloaded the lecture and watched as much as I could (3+ minutes). It is pathetic. Caner talks about his theological heroes, himself, and makes various chatty comments about Christianity. Very little theology, no scripture. Yet the title of it is the Deity and Authority of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

The last two comments underscores the Wisdom of the ages:

Pro 25:14 Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.

Go Share Your Faith said...

"actually it's probably more like a decomposing foam pool noodle."

Huge belly laugh on that one!

Michael said...

I just listened to all of the interviews in the "Sects and Cults" podcast that you can access via iTunes. What I heard was an opportunity for non-Christians to have an un-opposed, open platform to espouse their views, evangelize the audience with their pat answers that didn't touch deeply on ANY of the truly controversial issues, and there was NO countering of their statements by MR Caner. [aside: has anyone contacted the University of South Africa to verify his PhD?]

I REALLY hope there was classroom followup on these talks to address their claims and positions, because what I heard would make me very concerned about wanting to make sure that young people lacking in discernment might not see the presentations for what they were.

Turretinfan said...

His degree from the University of South Africa is a ThD. I have confirmed that his dissertation is published, so that seems good enough.

Michael said...

Is his dissertation available online anywhere? I've done some Googling but with the recent kafuffle there's quite a lot of results on his name.

The interesting thing about his debates and him claiming "they're all online" is that there is zero evidence of this in any online historical web page results. I would think that someone of that level of prominence would have some record on sites other than just "", referring to the debates, linking to them (old links die hard!), discussing them, critiquing them ... but nothing.

Now, I was born in Australia, left when I was one year old, lived in the USA and Mexico for a year, then Papua New Guinea for a couple of years, then back in USA from five years old to 10 years old. Then I lived in Papua New Guinea from 11 to 18, with two individual years in Australia in that whole time, and now I live in Australia.

Sometimes I say I grew up in the USA, sometimes I say I grew up in Papua New Guinea, depending on who I'm talking to and what the context is. If we get into a more detailed conversation I might take the time to explain the whole story but usually it's easier not to.

What I don't do is claim I've lived places I haven't, or spent longer in a place than I did. My background is a matter of intense interest to the people who I've had to get government security clearances from, and I assure you there are no grey areas!

The point I'm making is that I'm around the same age as Ergun Caner, and it was pretty easy for me to track down every single address and time period for the numerous countries I passed through with my parents, and the numerous places we lived, and for exactly how long. Travel information, especially for immigrants, and even going back that long, are a matter of permanent record, not necessarily public, but permanent, and could be subpoenaed I assume if it came down to a matter of fraud or criminal false representation (if there is such a thing).

As a Christian and permanent student of the Bible, I find it offensive that someone can seem to behave in this way and still be in a position of leadership over the pastors of the next generation. I remember vividly when Mike Warnke was exposed, and how devastated I was after listening to most of his material and feeling like I had got so much blessing from him.

I sincerely hope the students at Liberty see the truth, and either vote with their feet (and their dollars) or see a corporate repentance as described above that will give them confidence in the leadership of the institition that's supposed to be teaching them how to be men and women of GOD!

Turretinfan said...


Not really, but see this post (link).

- TurretinFan

Craig Daliessio said...

So I get to the comment section of this and I want to vomit. You bunch of petty, pathetic arrogant nobodies.
This smacks of such envy and jealousy. Why are all worthless eggheads the argue about whether someone argues correctly. What kind of BS is this. You want to tell me Christ was brutalized for this? That martyrs endured such horrific deaths so you could hover over your keyboard and criticize "what "is" is"? debate, not debate, argument...whatever. Me thinks thous ALL doest protest too much!

Turretinfan said...

what a worthless comment

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