Friday, December 20, 2013

"Rip the Roof Off" - Ergun Caner 2010

Some time in 2010, Dr. Caner preached a sermon titled "Rip the Roof Off," at Bell Shoals. One interesting thing about this sermon is that it appears to be more like the cleaned up testimony we will see in some of the post-2010 sermons, but the description posted with the video still reflects the pre-2010 testimony. The description currently states:
Raised as the son of a Muslim leader in Turkey, Ergun Caner became a Christian shortly before entering college. Today, he serves as president of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He has debated Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and other religious leaders in 13 countries and 35 states. Ergun lives in Lynchburg with his wife, Jill, and two sons.
We have searched hard but haven't found actual debates. Dr. Caner was raised, as far as we can tell, in Ohio, not Turkey.

(3:15) "Seven miles down the road, they called Steven Rummage. I've had the blessing of following him, of seeing God use him, and let me say it publicly - and you're recording - stealing every sermon he has ever preached. Unashamedly. I even use the illustrations and pretend they're mine."

I assume Caner was joking in the above, but it does seem a little troubling, in view of some of the illustrations we've considered in his sermons

(4:00) "I'm a Turkish, immigrant, and I discovered that I'm a Yankee - because that's what her daddy told me, with an adjective. Jill's daddy - neighboring county - his people are from Johnston County, NC, specifically he's from Possum Kill, NC. So, you can imagine how thrilled he was, when the towelhead showed up at the door to date his daughter. My full name is Ergun Mehmet Caner."

Caner has listed his "full name" a number of different ways, but "Michael" seems to be his legal middle name, based on what we've seen in official records.

(6:00) "I didn't get saved until later in life. I wasn't raised in church. I wasn't raised with AWANA, RAs, GAs, WMU - didn't know none of that. Didn't have Sunday school; didn't have vacation bible school. None of it. Didn't go to church camp until after my conversion. And so, I got saved in Columbus, OH. My family had moved to America, and from America to central Ohio, Gahanna specifically, where I graduated Gahanna Lincoln High School, 1984. I learned English, there. Couldn't find a college, because I got called to preach, lost my family, lost everyone, lost everything I had. Sent a letter to all these colleges, because I wanted to study the Bible. Didn't know that I was called to ministry, didn't quite understand that concept. All I knew, is that I wanted to study the Bible. And I wanted to go to Bible school, but I didn't have a cent to my name. Finally, found a school in Kentucky, Williamsburg, KY, that would have me. And so I found myself about a year, eight months, after my conversion, in Kentucky, where I had to re-learn English."

I suppose Caner did learn English here in America - considering he learned to talk in America.

Caner claims to have "lost my family, lost everyone, lost everything I had." On the other hand, it seems that perhaps Caner was simply disowned by his non-custodial father. That's a pretty big deal and very sad for Caner, but if that's all that happened, then that's not "everyone" and "everything."

(32:20) "You know the reason I'm here is because one kid was my warrior. I came to America as a Muslim, moved to Columbus, OH, as a Muslim, my father built mosques, until the day he died, as an architect. I'm the oldest of three sons. I should be doing what my father did. But one boy - one boy - for four years - one boy - one high school kid wouldn't shut up."

I have no idea why Caner is so insistent on making it "four years." He graduated (as he stated above) in 1984. He apparently professed faith some time in 1982 or so. Indeed, that 1982 date seems consistent with claim to be going off to college about one year and eight months later.

Also, saying he "came as a Muslim" seems a little strange, since most 2-3 year olds are too young even to say the Shahada, much less be meaningfully Muslim.

(33:00) "He nagged me, he begged me, he pleaded with me, he did everything he could until finally I decided I was going to give in. And I said, 'You know what? I'll go with you to church if you come with me to the mosque.' And he came. Who's got that kind of guts. Most of us, if we were trained in any way, we knock on the door, if they slam the door in our face, we go, 'Huh- he must not be elect.' And we mark him off our list."

Do people really do that? That looks like a caricature of Calvinists, but not like anyone I've ever run into.

(35:50) "In 1995, my grandmama got saved. Age of 93, at Wood Baptist Church in Wood, NC, where she is buried. This little woman, who never learned English, is buried around a bunch of people who can't speak it. But do you know why she's buried there? Because that's where she met her Lord. Because that's where somebody shared the gospel with her. That's where sweet old ladies would blow up versions of Scripture so she could read it in her tongue. Where they loved on her."

Interesting that Caner does not mention that her tongue was Swedish.

(all times are approximate)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mohler/Caner Panel at SBTS

Someone recently pointed me to audio from a panel at SBTS from several years ago - apparently November 14, 2003, where Mohler and Ergun Caner were speaking about Islam.

Unfortunately, it seems that some of the audio may be missing, as some of the files end a little abruptly. Here are the links: (part 1)(part 2)(part 3)(part 4)

In part 2, Caner speaks. His comments include:

"I was a Muslim for 20 years." (If he was converted in 1982, as he has said, he was either 15 or 16 when he became a Christian.)

"My father was an ulema - a scholar, a hadithic scholar, more particularly." (Elsewhere, he claims his father was an architect. Moreover, "ulema" is a plural noun.)

"Everywhere I lived, before we came to America, we were the majority. I come to America, and I have to explain to you, from the Islamic mindset, it is tough, moving to your culture. Because we go from being a majority to all of a sudden becoming a minority and you guys have some annoying commercials and annoying practices. Every time I turned on the television it was another Christmas commercial another thing - I constantly wondered, under this aegis of Christian communication, what did a rabbit have to do with Easter? and what did trees have to do with Christmas? ... " (According to the most recent press release, Caner was 2 or 3 years old when he came to America, having been born in Sweden.)

"I have never, ever - in 41 debates - ever heard one Muslim ever make this statement. As a matter of fact, at a debate at the University of North Texas, I was getting hammered - I was getting beat up like a husband at a Beth Moore conference or something, because question after question after question, coming at me, and the media was hammering me with this - about come back to this group hug kind of thing - and finally I turned to the imam who was with me and I said, 'Abi, may I ask you a question,' he said 'of course,' 'do you believe Allah and Jehovah are the same God,' he said, 'Oh, of course not, this is ridiculous.'" (We cannot find any record of this debate (or the 40 other alleged debates), despite the alleged presence of media. We cannot find this imam. Moreover, the Koran claims that Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same god.)

"It's not the same god, guys. In fact, any time I come to this moment in this debate where they say it is, I say 'great, so Allah is triune?'" (Which debate was this? We have been looking and have not found any such debate.)

In part 4, Caner speaks again. His comments include:

"Everything I learned about our country - everything I ever learned about America - I learned by American television, before I came here. For instance, Andy Griffith. I would watch everything on Andy Griffith - so I thought all of America was Mayberry. And I moved to Brooklyn, NY." (Again, remember that according to most recent press release, Caner came to America when he was 2-3 years old.)

"I don't wear my laundry on my head. We are not dark. My first job was not a convenience store."

"I believed you guys hated me."

"Shabir Ally, when he and I do debate, he will say, 'you will speak very kindly about Mohammed,' and I said, 'as long as you do so about Jesus. You attack Jesus, I'm going after Mohammed.' And so he said, that's what I did, and as soon as he did [some describes his gestures as "stone cold Steve Austin"]." (There is no record of Caner debating Shabir Ally, and when Dr. White asked Shabir about this, he is reported to have responded that he had not even met Caner.)

"We were taught as children that the Jews drank the blood of our little Palestinian children. I mean - we were told - we were raised with a tangible, visceral hatred for Israel."

"This idea of coexisting peacefully with Israel is a silly notion for anyone who knows Arabic. When Arafat in Arabic on Al-Jazeera, he will say '[apparently some faux Arabic gibberish] we will push them into the Mediterranean,' and then turns around in English and he says, 'We want peace.'" (I would be interested in any Arabic speakers confirming whether the apparent gibberish is really gibberish, or actually something in Arabic. It seems far too short to be the equivalent of "we will push them into the Mediterranean."

"As far as the translation of the Koran, they believe, and we were taught, that you must know Arabic to understand the Koran completely, however, they work against us by translating the Koran into every language. The one I use up here is by Yusuf Ali, which the Saudi Government paid for back in the 1940's and they still use it. It's like the Ryrie Study Bible, so to speak, because it comes with all these prodigious notes at the bottom." (It's interesting to see that Caner acknowledges relying on a translation of the Koran here.)

"You gather together, for the recitation of the first Surah of the Koran, five times a day. Either you have your prayer rug in your closet, or you have it in your locker at school, or in our case, you would go to the mosque if you lived close enough." (Interesting to see the locker story mentioned here.)

"The Imam gives a brief Tawhid, um Talib, the Talib is the sermon, but sometimes its just a basic lecture." (The name for the sermon at the mosque is the Khutbah, which is delivered by the khatib.

"He is usually trained somewhere else, in a madrassa, he has an ulema, umm - err - he has many ulema, uh ulim, he has a couple of muezzin who do the call to prayer ..." (As mentioned above, "ulema" is plural, and the singular of that is "alim.")

"I would venture to say that a large number of Muslims living in America were shocked by 9-11. I say that because we know the doctrines especially those of us that are first generation immigrants, but here in America that's precisely what they remained. Jihad - the concepts of Jihad - remained doctrine, theology, Khitab-ology, if you may use the term. For those of us from the other world, it's more than just doctrine, it's ethic. We learn to live with jihad. You see a bombing at 8 a.m. and by 2 p.m. you're back to work." (Caner was raised in America, as mentioned above.)

"I've spent the last 17 years of my life totally devoted to systematic theology and studying church history, but I would go around to churches and speak and talk about reaching Muslims with the gospel. And for the most part, churches were very gracious, very accepting. They would pat me on the head and send me out the door and say, 'isn't that interesting.' And then four planes fly, and then thousands of people get in the backs of pick up trucks and drive to Baghdad from Aman Jordan for the singular honor of dying in the cause against America. And people listen." (It is interesting to see what we can find about Caner's pre-9/11 testimony, which was discussed at this link.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chris Pinto vs. James White - Debate Summarized

The Chris Pinto vs. James White debate on whether Codex Sinaiticus is a modern forgery can be boiled down to a few considerations.

1) Constantine Simonides claimed that he wrote the document based on collating pre-existing manuscripts, and that his uncle corrected the document.

Both sides agree that he so claimed. Dr. White demonstrated that these claims are essentially impossible, as explained below.

2) The most sympathetic source for Simonides says that Simonides was not a truthful person.

Dr. White raised this point, and Pinto did not dispute it except to say that this source was not the only supportive source and that the source himself says Simonides did not always lie.

3) There are no known examplars that could have been the source for Codex Sinaiticus.

Dr. White raised this point, Pinto's response was to point out that the source(s) could be as-yet-unknown manuscripts on Mt. Athos.

4) Codex Sinaiticus was written by several different, distinguishable scribes (as evidenced by different handwriting, different style of abbreviations, and different accuracy of work).

Dr. White raised this point, Pinto did not respond to it.

5) Codex Sinaiticus has corrections by multiple different correctors.

Dr. White raised this point, Pinto did not respond to it except to say that two other men (a monk and a scribe) may have been involved in the corrections.

6) The amount of time necessary for collating multiple manuscripts of the entire Bible (plus some apocrypha) would have been prohibitive in the timeline proposed by Simonides.

Dr. White raised this point, and Pinto responded that possibly his uncle started on the project years before Simonides began.

Additional notes:

1. Regarding the Mt. Athos manuscripts, there is an on-going digitization project (link). At one point, Mr. Pinto alleges that the one way to resolve the mystery was to explore the Mt. Athos library for manuscripts corresponding to Simonides' claims. He won't be able to stand behind that argument from ignorance forever.

2. Simonides himself states that the collation began after Simonides himself joined the project, as demonstrated by Dr. White. So, although the uncle allegedly had corrected the other manuscripts in advance, the collation project had not been done in advance, according to the primary source for Mr. Pinto's theory.


The fact that the manuscript was written by several different scribes and was corrected by numerous additional hands makes it impossible for Simonides' story to be true. The necessary hypothesis would be that Simonides deliberately altered his handwriting several different times during the writing of the manuscript to give the impression of different scribes. Such a hypothesis is simply implausible - there is no reason for Simonides to do this for the purpose of creating a text for the Tsar (as he claimed).

The fact that collation of documents takes an enormous amount of time, especially when one of the documents is not in the base language (allegedly one of the manuscripts was a Syriac manuscript), also weighs against Simonides claim. While it might be conceivable that such a collation could take place, the necessary time and training for such a collation to be undertaken are simply not there.

The fact that the supposed exemplars of Sinaiticus do not produce the unique readings of Sinaiticus and the fact that some of these unique readings are found in later discovered papyri also weighs against Simonides' claim.

In view of these facts, it's hard to see how anyone could come to any other conclusion than that Simonides was not the scribe of Sinaiticus, whether or not Simonides actually did create a manuscript intended for the Tsar.