Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Ergun Caner Debacle and the Gullibility of Evangelicals

Phil Johnson over at Pyromaniacs has written a timely piece on the Ergun Caner scandal titled, "Evangelical Bunko Artists: How I learned the Hard Way that Pious Gullibility is No Virtue."

Given what has occurred with the ongoing saga surrounding Dr. Ergun Caner, former president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, I, as an elder of a small church in Greensboro, NC am weary of hearing about the lies and deception that occur in broader Evangelicalism. For the uninitiated, I'll recap Dr. Ergun Caner's scandal in one sentence: it involves fabricating an entire portion of his life that never happened and repeating that lie over and over and over again behind dozens of pulpits and in other apologetic contexts in order to give chutzpah to his current apologetic "ministry". Scandals, cover-ups, and perpetual liars like this are one of the many reasons why I and other pastors like me have no desire to be associated with present-day broader evangelicalism. Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptists might be a small group, but at least we strive to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth and if we do have a habitual, unrepentant liar in our midst, we follow Scripture in dealing with him or her. But of course, disciplining unrepentant, habitual liars doesn't do well in building huge congregations; which explains why our churches typically average less than 100 congregants (including children and visitors) on any given Sunday. When you follow Biblical protocols for handling unrepentant sin, it doesn't leave much room in the congregation for professing Christians living in habitual, unrepentant sin.

As Johnson points out in his article, evangelicalism and fundamentalism has a sordid history of "snake oil peddlers" including Linda Davidson Stafford, John Todd, Mike Warnke, Alberto Rivera, Bob Larson, and Ted Haggard and even though these folks have been publicly discredited as deceivers, people still follow them. But why do people continue to follow them? 2 Timothy 4:3-4 answers this question:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Timothy says that for whatever reason, some people want to turn aside to myth-makers because it fits with their own desires. Men that ought to know better will even go so far as to"exhonerate" liars and even post an endorsement sheet that further confirms the liar in his sin and undermines the credibility of the person(s) "exonerating" them. After all, if acclaimed apologists are willing to conveniently ignore critical information in order to protect a "brother's" reputation, yet they would be quick to condemn the same behavior in an opponent of Christianity and possibly even use it to further support their apologetic arguments against an unbeliever, why then should an unbeliever take seriously anything they have to say in defense of the faith?

I've seen this kind of thing many times while explaining the false prophecies of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society to a Jehovah's Witness. Many of them have admitted when showing them photocopies of their own documents that they have studied the same documents in their Kingdom Hall libraries. They come up with every rescuing device in the world to explain how such blatant false prophecies don't undermine "the organization". It's a shame when evangelical apologists do the same thing. We ought to do more for the truth than what the cults are willing to do for a lie.

Sadly, the gullible and self-deceived follow liars that arise "from among our own selves" (Acts 20:30) because they want the myth-makers to tell them something exciting, sensational, and mysterious, especially if the deceiver can play a tune on their heart strings. Worse, they'd rather have an unrepentant sinner for a spiritual leader rather than a godly man because the sinner makes them feel justified in their own sin. After all, if Ted Haggard can have a homosexual affair and he's been "exhonerated" in some sense, then why can't I? I'm sad to say that Ergun Caner is simply another snake-oil myth maker and people are buying and promoting his "goods" in spite of the fact that he has been publicly discredited.

In spite of the documented fabrication about his past Jihadi training as a child in his own words, Ergun Caner, has been "exhonerated" by the likes of apologists Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. John Ankerberg even though he was asked to step down from his position as Dean of Liberty Seminary. I'm not up for crucifying anyone, but given his blatant lies, it is my opinion that Dr. Caner should have been fired on the spot and his church should publicly call for his repentance per Matthew 18:15-17. All Drs. Geisler and Ankerberg are doing is further confirming and enabling Caner in his sin and discrediting their own work by supporting an unrepentant liar.

With its emphasis on decisional regeneration combined with a shopping mall/market-driven pragmatism of "doing church", modern evangelicalism has created this mess because it has filled the pews and pulpits with false converts. Yes, I just clearly suggested what other men have been cautious to say, Dr. Ergun Caner's lack of repentance is the mark of a false convert. If any reader of this blog wants to challenge me on that statement, then go ahead. However, if you want to contend that he's a Christian brother given his perpetual lying combined with his lack of repentance in light of his unwillingness to answer clear, unambiguous questions that have been asked of him, then I leave you to your opinion. It's not as if he hasn't been given space to repent after the issues have been clearly laid out before him. So go ahead; defend the defenseless. And yes, I do hope that I'm wrong about Caner's spiritual condition. Believe me, I do not enjoy writing about such things; but given the current state of this scandal, what am I left to think, especially light of what God says about men that continually behave this way? (1 John 3:8-10)

So, when you see the debacles, scandals, scams, and snake-oil peddlers; just remember that pseudo-Christian cults aren't the only unpaid bills of the church.


  1. Thanks for your insights here. Yes, I think Ergun has got some repenting to do. He is missing some Jesus values which, if he is truly converted, the Lord will be working into his life from this point surely. We all need to pray for him.

  2. The endorsement page Geisler posted is the most disheartening turn that this whole affair has taken thus far.

    I can grit my teeth and press forward in the face of yet another charlatan, but to see this small host of men fall on their swords in that way is truly disturbing.

  3. You said what had to be said.

    Having unrepented sin may not necessarily mean that someone is not saved, except that we must assume so. If Dr. Caner remains unrepentant and still claims assurance, then that assurance is false. For fellowship in the Body of Christ, we must have evidence of true repentance.

  4. Freewillism is a False Gospel --->

  5. Speaking of "false converts", have you heard of Robert Morey?


    I've heard some unusual stories about him, but you never know what to believe when it comes to internet rumors.

  6. I agree...perpetual lying is fruit of an unregenerate heart. Rather its contrary to sound doctrine and all liars really do go to Hell (1Tim. 1:9-10; Rev. 21:8 )

    2Co 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.

    Pragmatism leads to lying by professing Christians because they don't really believe in the power of the Gospel to save (Rom. 1:16).

    1John 2:21.. NO LIE IS OF THE TRUTH.

  7. Can we step back from the bombast and blanket statements please? As Christians, we all badly need humility.

  8. "we all badly need humility."

    Actually a True Christian does not need humility, a True Christian always overcomes, deals with it and moves on, as I have come to learn, mercy is for the weak, and weakness will never be tolerated. I have always found this strange as I have always needed mercy from God, and I was totally ashamed of needing mercy from God at the same time. a true Christian should not need anything ever no mater what. It really is a strange gospel, it really is.

  9. Something else to consider is the way Ergun Caner has been so bold in his talks. How can he be taken seriously going forward in his talks when he boldly challenges others?

    For example, irony lurks among Dr. Caner's own words and given his current non-response. In this talk Caner speaks very boldly. Just listen to the first 10 minutes about how he calls people out by name and is all about truth, etc.

    In another talk, "Mighty Men of Valor" he challenges his listeners to not wait to speak in the face of conflict. Not waiting for others to lead and or to wait for a announcement. And also being willing to speak up if your job is at stake.

    The consistency also fades when considering his definition of debating in light of Liberty having a nationally known debate school.

    I just wonder what the purposes were for all of these statements for the past nine years. In context of all of his talks the intent seems clear. It seems like he was trying to present a certain persona of himself.

    If he wasn't trying to build a certain persona then what was his intent for all of his statements for the past nine years?

  10. As I tell my boys, one of the worst things you could do to someone else (and yourself) is to lie to them. One untruth undoes 99 truths every time and will always destroy trust. Also the difficult thing about lying is that you have to remember them and you often end up telling more lies to make the original one believable.

    As to Ergun's motives I can only guess. Perhaps the effect of a single embellishment was profound and that led to more. Then before you know it here we are. I am often bewildered by the embellishments in Christian's bios. Speaking to a crowd on one overseas missions trip becomes, "______ has preached to crowds all over the world." In our success and celebrity driven churches these types of embellishments are no real surprise. And unfortunately people are all too often hired to full-time church positions based on the strength of their resumes and their supposed organizational and relational strengths.

    As to Geisler's defense of Ergun one must remember that Ergun is a featured speaker of his Veritas Evangelical Seminary and any admission to the contrary on Geisler's part will affect his organization's ... um.. what's the word...oh yea....veritas.

  11. "One untruth undoes 99 truths every time and will always destroy trust."

    Good thought. But it didn't, and doesn't seem to apply to Bill Clinton.

    I don't think lying is as bad, as having one's agenda go forth.

  12. Donsands,

    It may not destroy trust completely but it will always leave one questioning. I think it does apply to Clinton. I wonder if even the most ardent liberal and his most ardent defender trusts him 100%. In his case and in Ergun's case, defenses always end up with redefinitions and caveats as travelling companions.

    This is definitely a lesson to me as the temptation to embellish is pretty much constant. Even as Christians we seldom want to come across as mundane and average in our Christian walks.

  13. "Even as Christians we seldom want to come across as mundane and average in our Christian walks."

    Good thought Warren.

    The flesh is weak, but the spirit is willing.
    I do have to fight the temptation to impress.
    As long as we hate that are flesh is weak, we can know our election and calling are sure, and the Lord will be faithful of course.

    I long for the day when sin is no more, and righteousness is 100% pure.
    What a life that will be for all who have trusted Christ, an eternity of no more impressing, but simply love and joy in Jesus Christ.