Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Category

When Can We Expect Our Apology?

June 28, 2010

Elmer Towns of Liberty University, prior to conducting an investigation of the facts surrounding the Ergun Caner scandal, alleged: “The arguments of the bloggers would not stand up in court.” (source) The outcome of the investigation was that the committee found: “found discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence” (source) – exactly the sorts of discrepancies that had been argued by bloggers.

When can we bloggers expect an apology from Elmer Towns of Liberty University?

Ergun Caner, Rick and Bubba, and Daisy Duke: How LBTS Does Apologetics

April 20, 2010

Ergun Caner was on the nationally broadcast “Rick and Bubba Show.” The name may sound a little backwoods to my urban readers, but Ergun Caner’s own web page makes a big deal about this show (link to discussion). This is touted on that link as being an example of how LU does apologetics: “As you can see at LBTS, we don’t just talk apologetics, we do apologetics.”

You can imagine our disappointment then at listening to the show, particularly the linked five and a half minute segment (the entire show apparently stretched to 90 minutes, this appears to be the first segment of the show) and finding the following comments (link to clip from start of show):

1) “I was raised in – I’m Turkish – 21 generations”

This may be technically true, because he changed his sentence halfway through, but he is giving the false impression he came from Turkey. Instead, he came from Sweden.

2) “Came to America when I was 13 years old.”

As far as we can tell he was 4 years old, or so, when he came to America from Sweden.

3) “My father wasn’t the imam but he was the ‘ulema’ one of the scholars in the mosque.”

Elsewhere in Caner’s discussion of his father, his father takes on various roles in the mosque. As best we can gather from the conflicting evidence, his father occasionally served as a “مؤذن mu’aḏḏin” which is not a kind of scholar, but rather someone who leads the prayers (something like a worship leader).

4) “This was the 70’s, ’78.”

Caner was born in 1966, so Caner wasn’t 13 until 1979. Moreover, Caner came to America around 1970. (UPDATE: I say “around 1970” because all we know for sure is that it was between 1968 when Ergun’s brother Erdem was born and 1970 when Ergun’s brother Emir was born.)

5) “Lost my family, lost everything”

He was disowned by his non-custodial father. It is a sad loss to be disowned by one’s father, but it is not quite the same as being disowned by one’s entire family and losing everything.

6) “That’s the only television I saw – the only American television, the only American television in Turkey, was whatever got approved, and so we got the Dukes of Hazzard … “

a) Ergun didn’t live in Turkey.

b) We’re supposed to believe that Islamic Turkish censors approved the Dukes of Hazzard?

c) The Dukes of Hazzard didn’t start until January 26, 1979

You might think that “Dukes of Hazzard” was just a slip of the tongue. But on another occasion, Ergun Caner made the same claim and further embellished it: “The second television we received was a thing called, ‘The Dukes of Hazzard.’ Man- whew – I know we in church and everything, but I wanted to marry Daisy. I wanted to go to the Boar’s Nest – I wanted to drive a car like this …” (link to clip).

7) “… every two weeks we would get out of Georgia, from TBS, Gordon Solie Georgia Championship Wrestling.”

TBS was launched December 17, 1976, which is also when the show (with TBS as a station) hit satellite. As noted above, Caner came to America with his family from Sweden in 1970. (UPDATE: as noted above, 1970 is the latest date, based on the fact that Emir was born in the U.S.)

Was the remainder of the 90 minutes better than the first five? I hope so. I’m sure Dr. Caner has a lot of good things to say. I’ve heard him say some pretty intelligent things. Nevertheless, may I suggest that this is not what LBTS wants to list as being an example of how LBTS does apologetics.


New Biography for Caner

April 15, 2010

There is a new biography of Ergun Caner posted at Liberty University’s website. It is only five sentences long, but two of the five sentences in the biography are troubling. The first troubling sentence is this: “Raised as a devout Sunni Muslim and the son of an Islamic leader, Caner came to faith in Jesus Christ in 1982, and was subsequently disowned by his family.” It’s troubling because its wording is misleading.

Mr. Mohammad Khan has responded to that sentence this way:

the part about his father being an islamic leader is a lie too.

a mu’athin is merely somebody who gives the call to prayer. not an islamic leader.

even if you read his book – unveiling islam – you will read that his father only gave the call to prayer “on occasion” – he is not even worthy of being called a mu’athin. ergun is basically lying his way out of another lie.

Mr. Khan’s criticism is excessive, but makes some valid points. Caner’s father apparently occasionally (not constantly) served as müezzin (the Turkish equivalent to مؤذن mu’aḏḏin identified by Khan above). That person does lead the call to prayer, and consequently is (in some sense) a leader. Thus, it is not an outright lie. However, a müezzin is not a religious leader, in the sense that an imam is a leader or (in a Church) a pastor is a leader. The expression “Islamic leader” may not strictly speaking be a lie, but it is similar to calling someone who occasionally led congregational singing a “Christian leader.” It conveys an impression that is not accurate.

The statement “devout Sunni Muslim” is also troubling. Caner’s numerous embarrassing mistakes on details of Islam do not suggest that he was a particularly devout youth. Obviously, the claim “devout” is hard either to prove or disprove, so it is difficult for us to evaluate with any certainty whether this is true. It is a troubling claim because of the errors that Dr. Caner has made when speaking about Islam, errors that suggest (but don’t prove) that Caner was only a practicing Muslim, and not a particularly devout one.

Finally, the statement “disowned by his family” is troubling. It is clear from the records we have, both from Caner’s own statements and elsewhere, that only Caner’s father disowned him and not his whole family. Saying he was disowned by “his family” suggests that the entire family (or most of the family) disowned him, when – in fact – it was just his father. Furthermore, in Caner’s specific situation, namely that he was living with his mother who was divorced from his father, it is even more odd to characterize the situation as “disowned by his family” when only his non-custodial parent disowned him.

The second troubling sentence is this: “For the past twenty years, he has debated leaders in twelve major world religions, including Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Bahai, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and many others.” It’s also troubling because it appears that the wording is not simply misleading, but false.

Again, this word “leaders” is troubling. Does it simply mean people who have served in any official or semi-official capacity within those religions? Here’s a challenge for Liberty University: name and provide the leadership credentials of even one leader of each of the twelve religions that Dr. Caner has debated. That may be asking too much. Perhaps they could just one leader he’s debated for each of the six religions they listed.

Indeed, as has been previously noted, we’ve scoured the Internet looking for any evidence of any formal debates between Dr. Ergun Caner and anyone at all, much less any “leaders.” The Encyclopedia of Religious Debates doesn’t identify any debates, and the one “debate” that Dr. Caner himself has identified is simply an e-mail exchange with Nadir Ahmed, who is certainly an apologist for Islam, but is not necessarily a “leader.”

I should note that, by contrast, Dr. White actually debated Nadir Ahmed on the topic: “Can We Trust What the New Testament Says about Jesus and the Gospel?” on March 21, 2008, in Norfolk, VA – You can watch that debate here: (link). Sam Shamoun has also actually debated Nadir Ahmed – his topic was “Is Islam a religion of Peace?” and took place on November 3, 2007 at Hope International University, Fullerton, CA (you can watch it here). I’m not sure anyone would call Nadir a “leader of Islam” and I’m not sure whether an email exchange is really a “debate” but let’s be generous to Liberty University and permit them to count this as the “Islamic leader” for this category. So, all they have to do to meet the challenge of demonstrating the truthfulness of their claim is to identify the Buddhist, the Taoist, the Bahai, the Mormon, and the Jehovah’s Witness “leaders” that Caner has “debated.”

I have no doubt that people who are adherents of each of those religions has discussed religion with Dr. Caner. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Caner has tried to defend Christianity against college students who represented even more than a dozen world religions (as well as atheist and agnostic college students) and that’s great.

Incidentally, Dr. Caner’s new autobiography on his personal website is less troubling. The only questionable item I observed there was his claim to have been raised a “devout Sunni Muslim” when, in fact, “devout” may be a little strong.


P.S. Thomas Twitchell has stronger words about the situation (link) and is the place where I found Mr. Khan’s criticism (in the comment box there).

Unity, Liberty, and Charity – Who said it first?

April 28, 2008


I happened to be reading LP Cruz’s blog today, and noticed an article in which he ascribed to “a 17th century Lutheran pastor” the famous saying, “In the essentials, unity, in the non-essentials, liberty, and in all things, Charity,” or something to that effect.

It seems like sound-thinking and appeals to our softer side; but who said it first? LP Cruz’s post sparked my interest to dig deeper into the subject.


Ramage’s “Beautiful thoughts from Latin Authors,” ascribes the maxim to Melancthon, and notes that it has been carved in stone above his garden gate. (link) Cox too seems to maintain Melancthon as the originator, posting that quotation prominently on the title page of his biography of that reformer (link). Matthes likewise seems to be of the same view in his life and works of Melancthon (link), though my German and ability to read the older scripts is not good enough for me to be definitive. Hoefer also seems to be willing to attribute the saying to Melancthon (link).


Belton thinks that the origin of the phrase is “really unknown,” though he seems to have found it in a few 17th century writers (link). This is perhaps the most honest and direct conclusion we could give, but it is our part as scholars to dig, guess, and delve. To that end, we cannot be satisfied with Belton’s willing agnosticism on the matter.


Remarkably, the earliest I was able to find a reference (published 1719) to this famous maxim was in the works of the unworthy son of Francis Turretin, Jean Alphonse, who provides the saying with the addition of Prudence to the final line of the saying (link). J.A. Turretin appears to ascribe the phrase to Witsius. Cunningham (and others) agree that Witsius adopted this as his favorite motto (link).

Meldenius – not Augustine
Stanley ascribes the quotation to Rupertus Meldenius, and notes that it had for a time been falsely ascribed to Augustine (link). Jones notes the dubious ascription to Augustine here as well (link). Hamerton appears to have bought the Augustine line (link).

Narrowing it down Further

Hoyt lists both Meldenius (his preference) and Melancthon (link) (much the same thought here, as well).


Augustine was a rather obvious misattribution, his weighty name getting the credit for anything good in Latin among many Protestants. Ironically, the saying eventually came to be approved by a pope, as this thoughtful web page noted (link) and seems to have become taken essentially as dogma in other Catholic writings (e.g.). This may perhaps have been due to its misattribution to Augustine, though the pope seemed to have been aware of the dubious origin of the maxim.

Witsius probably did help popularize the expression, but does not seem to have taken credit for its origin. Furthermore, the 1626 date of Meldenius’ publication is slightly before Witsius’ birth, which naturally seals Witsius off from further consideration.

Melancthon (1497-1560) is old enough to antedate Meldenius’ publication, and would even be old enough to cast Meldenius’ originality into question, but it seems that the garden gate of Melancthon’s garden may simply not date to Melancthon’s time (which would hardly be surprising), and there appears to be no other record of Melancthon having heard of the saying.

At the end of the day, Meldenius has the edge on the others, given that his usage was the first to appear in print – that we have been able to recover (though I have not even been able to recover that). Here’s an interesting brief discussion of Meldenius for those who may be interested (link). In short, L.P. Cruz appears to be justified in attributing the famous phrase to “Peter Medeirlin, a Lutheran pastor of the 17th Century.” If you explore the final link above, you will find some reasonable speculation that Meldenius is a pseudonym (yes folks, people did publish pseudonymously before the Internet) for Medeirlin, based on a rearrangement of letters.

Regardless of who originated the saying let us follow the modified form published by J.A. Turretin, in which we maintain unity among Christians on the essentials (the gospel), liberty among Christians on the non-essentials (other doctrines), and both charity and prudence in all things.


P.S. Thanks to Albert for catching an error in the original version of this post.

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