Learning from the Ergun Caner Controversy

I’ve followed the Ergun Caner controversy the last weeks. Let me say that I have a great respect for Liberty Theological Seminary and Graduate School. They have a great program and do a fine job preparing future ministers and ministry leaders. I also have respect for the job that Dr. Caner has done at Liberty. He has led the organization through phenomenal growth. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of this controversy, these are undeniable givens.

I do find the call for Caner’s resignation and/or termination premature, inappropriate, and even extreme. The overt suggestion of such shadows the perception of an “axe-to-grind” mentality by its proponents. Allow Liberty to conduct their own unbiased investigation, report appropriate findings, and make their own recommendation and decision. The notion of a resolution pertaining to this matter being submitted at the Southern Baptist Convention or the ongoing perceived stalking only further divides rather than resolves. Regardless of the outcome, there are some lessons or reminders the rest of us can glean from claims made in this controversy.

For people who speak for a living, integrity in speech is essential. The stories you tell, the illustrations you use, and the facts you supply must be authentic, genuine, and verifiable. We must be truthful with the stories that surround the message of Truth. Great care must be exhibited in the sharing appropriate and truthful information. It’s too easy to take liberty in embellishment to prove a point or to drive a principle home. Anything less than truth compromises the vehicle delivering the Gospel. If it’s not truth, it’s a lie. How many times have you heard the tag, “Preacher’s Story” or “Ministerially Speaking”? It seems that we give license to error and untruth or at least expect it at some point from our messengers. Maybe our call should be to live above the cultural expectations of the churched. Even if your ministry is itinerant, that is all the more reason to exhibit integrity and truthfulness in speech.

Another lesson is reflected through verifiable online research. Public speakers have to be careful with stories, illustrations, or other online material. In this communication age, many of the things we read online are filtered through prejudice, gossip, and disregard for facts. When we “pick-up” someone else’s story, we need to be careful to verify it before retelling it. If it can’t be verified, don’t use it. Unverified illustrations can negate the effectiveness of the talk, speech, or sermon. Take care in speaking with integrity. You don’t have to sensationalize a message in order to influence; integrity has a greater impact.

Regardless of the validity of the claims or the perceptions of readers and bloggers, the events surrounding the Ergun Caner controversy have become a significant reminder to every teacher, preacher, and speaker to share with integrity, truthfulness, and fact. If we’re giving a message of hope, let’s give hope based on truth rather than false embellishment. The Details do matter!

6 thoughts on “Learning from the Ergun Caner Controversy

  1. Anonymous

    Very well written and too the point. However, as time goes on the evidence of a lack of integrity is growing. It is a sad situation which should cause all believers to pray for Liberty and Dr. Caner to do the right thing. Then, we must be redemptive.

  2. S. Day

    Your comments are hitting the nail on the head. Knowing Dr. Caner, and having him speak in our pulpit annually, I have found him to be a man with a passion for Christ. At the same time, one can feel the pride emanating from him, and perhaps that is the bottom line that God is dealing with, so that Dr. Caner can be the influence he should be. I wrote him over a year ago, begging him to lay aside his theological differences with Calvinists, as debates on Calvinism per se are not going to win souls to the Kingdom of our God–but rather, have the possible effect of driving someone away from ‘those argumentative Christians.’ I asked him to use his unique energies and open doors persuading the Muslim world of the relationship we can have with Christ, and not “causing strife among the brethren.” Because I am a grandmother, not a theologian, of course I never heard from him–or even know he read my email. But none of this has lessened my respect for him or his position, but rather has increased my sensitivity to his need for intercessory prayer, that satan would not have a field day in the Christian community because of the example. When he comes through this ordeal–probably a much more humble man–he will be a more effective proclaimer of the Gospel and hopefully will have learned what true humility is.

  3. starrstruck

    I am truly disappointed in Dr. Caner and LU’s initial response. Elmer Towns is an embarrassment to the university for stating that Dr. Caner did not do anything immoral or unethical.

    Dr. Caner did apologize on the internet, but then nullified it by saying he never intentionally misled anyone.

    But the evidence from his own mouth says differently. Watching him speak from the videos on the internet proves that he said the following:

    I was born in Istanbul, Turkey. He was not.
    I was raised near the Turkey/Iran border. He was not.
    I came to America in 1978. He did not.
    I came to America through Brooklyn at age 13. He did not.
    I learned English by watching the Dukes of Hazard. He did not.
    I spoke broken English. He did not.
    I debated a specific Muslim in Nebraska. He did not.
    I have debated Muslim leaders. He has not.
    I have debated religious leaders of other religions. He has not.

    His falsehoods revolve around three areas: when he came to America, where he was raised, and who he debated. This is not complicated. He has intentionally misled others in these three areas. The true facts are as follows:

    He was born in Sweden in 1966.
    He came to America before 1970.
    He was raised in Columbus, Ohio.
    He was educated in America.
    He spoke fluent English.
    His mother was Lutheran.
    His father was Muslim.
    His parents divorced when he was nine.
    He was raised Muslim.
    His father was active in a mosque.
    He came to Christ around age 15.
    His father disowned him.
    He attended evangelical colleges and seminaries.
    He had evangelistic encounters with people from other religions.

    LU has taken action. They have corrected Ergun Caner’s bio. They have removed the inaccuracies. They removed when he came to America, mention of Turkey, and mention of his numerous debates in 40 states and 13 countries. They are investigating his background. But their previous statement by Towns is more embarrassing then Caner’s falsehoods.

    Dr. Caner at the very least needs to apologize. He needs to state clearly and unequivocally that he misrepresented his background. We may assume that he did so to capitalize on his Muslim background in the wake of 9/11. The evidence is that E. Michael Caner became Ergun Mehmet Caner after 9/11.

    The sad truth is that his actual testimony was sufficient enough. He could have said that being raised by a devout Sunni Muslim father gave him a unique perspective on the mind of the Muslim terrorists and indoctrination. He didn’t have to lie. That is what is so sad.

  4. Brad Hoffmann

    Thanks for the post. I think we are all waiting to learn of the findings by the LU Committee investigating this matter.

    This matter is being observed by Christian and non-Christian alike. How will Christians bring resolution to this issue? I for one operate from a grace bias. I’m not one to throw out the baby with the bath water. I, for one, have given significant energy to redeeming and restoring fallen leaders. I’m concerned with how we redeem this circumstance. The very message we proclaim regarding grace is the very behavior which must be demonstrated. Imperfect people are observing the religious and making their determination on faith regarding our behaviors. If we mishandle this situation, we will once again miss a significant moment by which to demonstrate the (true) heart of the church.

    I really desire to this scenario bring glory to Christ. That should be our goal. Okay, enough for preaching… I’ll save that stuff for tomorrow. Again, thanks for the post.

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