Ex-Muslim President of Liberty University’s Baptist Theological Seminary Under Fire over Details of Biography

The president of Liberty University’s Baptist Theological Seminary, Ergun Caner, is currently facing serious scrutiny over his biography and Muslim past. A Christian blogger named Wade Burleson lays out the charges:

Dr. Caner has publicly stated that he came to the United States at age fifteen having been trained to be a jihadist. In reality, Caner came to Ohio at age four and lived a comfortable, American life.  Dr. Caner has also publicly stated that his first language was Arabic and he was trained in a madrassa in Turkey. Several International Mission Board missionaries who speak fluent Arabic have emailed me, horrified at what they have heard Dr. Caner try to pass off as his native Arabic during his audio and video sermons at SBC churches. They confirm what others have been saying–he is speaking complete gibberish. The myth Dr. Caner has created about himself seems now to be unraveling. He never came to America “via Beirut and Cairo.” He has never been trained as a fundamentalist Muslim. He has never had been a jihadist. He has never debated top Muslim scholars, in Nebraska or anywhere else.

…My friend, Mosab Hassan Yousef, has lived the life that Ergun seems to want Christians to believe Ergun has lived. People like Yousef see right through Ergun.

(I blogged on Yousef here)

Caner’s father was Turkish and his mother was Swedish, and by his own account  he moved to the USA with his parents as a teenager at the end of the 1970s. He says that his father was a devout Muslim who sought to raise him as a Muslim, but that after his parents divorced he converted to Christianity “in high school”. Caner is now a prominent conservative evangelical polemicist against Islam; he is the author Unveiling Islam and other books on the subject.

However, not everyone is convinced. A Muslim named Mohammad Khan (mokhan247 on Youtube) has delved into the subject in some depth, with a website here, but scepticism is also being expressed by some Christians, particularly from the Reformed tradition. An addition to Burleson, these include James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries, a blogger named Debbie Kaufman, and a site called Witnesses Unto Me. Further research has been provided by a blogger named Mirele, who does not state any religious affiliation but is sympathetic to Islam.

Mirele summarises the evidence, with links:

…The problem with his statements (and you have to read the posts to get the full impact) is that Ergun Caner has been in the USA since prior to his fourth birthday. His parents bought a house together in 1974, but had separated by 1975. As part of a 1978 separation agreement, custody of Ergun and his brothers went to his mother, but his father got the boys every other weekend, on three Muslim holidays and five weeks per year. (I have reviewed this document and I do not see an order by the judge saying that the boys were to be raised Muslim.) However, Ergun’s mother didn’t like any of this and filed an appeal. The appellate decision found that the district court didn’t (and couldn’t) dictate the children’s religion, but that each parent could teach the children when they had custody or visitation.

Caner’s response has not been  impressive: apparently he posted a statement in February apologising for any “unintentional misleading statements”, but then removed it, and he recently sent out a message via Dave Eppling, “Chief of Staff to the President, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary”. This message claims that Khan is running a “pay YouTube site”, obviously meant to insinuate that he is motivated by a wish to make money – but it’s not true; Khan’s videos, like all material on YouTube, is free-to-view. He then plays the victim, in passive-aggressive style:

 I never thought I would see the day when alleged “Christians” join with Muslims to attack converts. In fact, it has gotten so bad that they procured or hired someone to go to the courthouse in Columbus, Ohio, to get copies of our parents’ separation, divorce and appeal papers. The purpose of this was to “expose” us as frauds. They wanted to prove that we were not former Muslims. They have actually posted these documents online.

What they ended up doing was proving that we were, in fact, Muslims. The court papers showed that (1) we are immigrants, (2) we were Muslims, (3) our father was so devout that he demanded that the court order that we continue to be raised Muslim, (4) they he wanted visitation on the Eids (Muslim holy days], (5) that we were Turkish citizens and would become American citizens from our Turkish papers, and (6) that our father still had property, money and furniture back in Turkey.

…Regardless of how this ended up backfiring on them, you can imagine the horror of having your entire life up online, for the joy and derision of others, especially those who should know better.

Caner has made a career out of his life story, yet for other people to investigate public documents about his past is some sort of intrusion, apparently. White’s response is scathing:

…Let me say it again: I do not believe Ergun Caner is fake ex-Muslim. I believe he is a fake ex-DEVOUT Muslim. There is a difference. There is no question that Ergun Caner’s father was a Muslim. That he was, as Caner claims, a Muslim “leader” is another issue. Clearly Caner considered himself a Muslim. But Caner’s parents divorced when he was quite young, and the real problem is Caner’s attempt to re-form his past so that his devotion to Islam could be exaggerated for the purpose of creating a more stirring testimonial.

…no one is seeking to “attack converts.” This is absurd on a level that is hard to imagine… Ergun Caner is not being “attacked” by anyone: he is being challenged to tell the truth in the face of a mountain of documentation indicating he has been untruthful while standing behind the pulpit of many a church. To call such a necessary challenge an “attack” is to do nothing more than mock honesty and integrity itself while appealing to the emotions. What is more, in this situation, may I suggest it is Ergun Caner who has “attacked” converts? How so? By mythologizing his own conversion experience, he has cast doubt upon all those true conversions to Christ from Islam.

Caner has also edited his on-line bio; Burleson comments:

The new biography of Dr. Caner is set to go up this week. The old biography, filled with deceptive statements, remains down at Caner’s  website . The new one has been directly approved by Liberty Seminary’s Chancellor, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Jr… I’m not sure it has even crossed the Chancellor’s mind how odd it is to have to rewrite, reread, and repost a biography of his President.

One of Caner’s associates is the prominent minister and Christian author John F. Ankerberg. Ankerberg has not commented on the controversy, although he has found time to complain to YouTube about some of Khan’s videos, which he claims are “copyright infringement” of his TV show.

(Thanks to a reader for making me aware of this story)

14 Responses

  1. Thanks for the info. It is indeed quite unbecoming for otherwise respectable people to puff up their “creds”. If James White, whose doctorate is quite questionable, can criticize you for being misleading about your past, that’s really saying something!

    • Yes, I suspect that James White, a Calvanist apologist who hates Muslims almost as much as he hates Catholics, is even discussing this is because Caner has attacked Clavinist theology.

      The funny thing is that White has a debating companion, Nabeel Qureishi, who converted to Christianity from Qadayinism but insists that he is a former Muslim. Yet we hear nothing about this from White……

  2. It’s OK to lie if you have the greater good in mind. God gives his warriors a blank moral check to do what they want for His will.

    • huh, blank check to tell untrues,what denomination are you, if i can trust what u are saying. I am humbled by God’s opportunities to me and He hasn’t told me to lie. ru a mormon?

  3. Not surprised at all. Ayan Hersi taught me a lot of lessons from her gibberish books about her life in Somalia.

  4. Wow Great Article!

    How can this man still be in his job when he has clearly lied about his past in order to make him self famous?

    Since 2001 he has claimed to come to America when he was around the age of 14 and until then he was trained to be a terrorist when in reality he came to America when he was 4 lol thats unbeliveable.

    This man needs to be taken to court

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  9. 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 and listening to audio tapes of sermons proves that he has 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 was trained to do what the terrorists did on 9/11. He was not.
    I was in the Islamic Youth Jihad until age 15. He was 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 and how 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, another falsehood.

    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 into the mind of the Muslim terrorists and on indoctrination. He didn’t have to lie. That is what is so sad.

    But the more I think about this, he did have to lie. His understanding and presentation of the basics of Islam is woefully inadequate. In order to become an expert on Islam, he had to enhance his Muslim identity. But his attempts at explaining Islam would be akin to an ex-Christian making the following statements about Christianity:

    A key verse for Christians is Bible 3:15.
    The Lord’s Prayer, “The Lord is my shepherd,” was foundational to my prayer life.
    The Eucharist is a depiction of how a believer is baptized into the body of Christ.
    Before we listened to the sermon, we sang verses.
    The Lord’s lunch is celebrated weekly or monthly in the churches.

    Ergun does not know what he is talking about. If an ex-Christian stated the above, he would be laughed at. If he presented himself as an expert in Christianity, he would be soundly ridiculed. So the more I think about it, Ergun Caner had to lie in light of his abysmal knowledge of basic Islam. So there is a fourth area in which he lied – what he knew about Islam. Sad.

  10. Here is something about Ergun Caner that a non Muslim might pick up.

    To ‘prove’ that he is Muslim, he uses a ‘witness’ by the name of Jamal Jivanjee. Jamal says he was a ‘devoute Shi’a Muslim. Ergun claims to have been a ‘devout Sunn’i Muslim.

    I am Sunn’i Muslim. I have some Shi’a Muslimah friends on the internet (there are no Shi’a Muslims where I live in real life) However, Sunn’i and Shi’a do not worship together in the same Masjid.

    So…the witness Jamal Jivanjee is either lying about being Shi’a, since he says that he and Mr Caner worshiped together, or one, or both of them arent Muslim.

    I do not know enough about Shi’a Islam to judge whether Jamal Jivanjee was ever devout, but I do not belive that Mr Caner was ever Muslim in practice.

  11. Ankerberg claims that Caner’s testimony is completely true.
    Ankerberg claims that Caner’s character has been maligned without any substantiation.
    Ankerberg claims that Caner’s selfless sacrifice is being attacked.
    Ankerberg claims that those who are attacking Caner are unchristian and unbiblical.

    Does Ankerberg’s statement call into question his own integrity?

    Caner’s testimony is mostly lies, but Ankerberg thinks it is completely true. What does this say about other topics and guests Ankerberg has had on his show? Can we trust the veracity of anything that Ankerberg presents if he can state that Caner’s testimony is completely true?

    The evidence from Caner himself, that he has lied about who he is and what he knows, is overwhelming. Using only Caner’s words, videos, books, and recordings, it is beyond doubt that Caner has a problem with telling the truth. Caner contradicts Caner. The evidence is substantiated. He has convicted himself. How can any one trust Ankerberg’s judgment on any other issue if he thinks that Caner has been maligned without any substantiation when the substantiation comes from Caner himself?

    Ankerberg’s ability to analyze the facts and use logic and reason are also called into question. He claims that Caner’s self sacrifice is being attacked. Nothing could be further from the truth. Caner’s self sacrifice is not being attacked. In fact, Caner is not being attacked at all. His contradictory statements about his background and his mistakes about basic Islam are being revealed and he is being asked to explain the discrepancies and mistakes. This hardly constitutes an attack. But those who point out the discrepancies are themselves being attacked. Ankerberg calls them unchristian and unbiblical. What does this say about Ankerberg’s discernment and wisdom? What does it say about Ankerberg’s desire for truth and justice? How can he label those who are calling for explanations, unchristian and unbiblical?

    What are we to make of this? It would seem to me that John Ankerberg has seriously damaged his credibility.

  12. I am a graduate seminary student that have attended classes with Dr. Caner and at no moment he was said the things they are attributed to him as lies. On the other hand, the facts are true and he has told us about them in the classroom (2004). They are as follow:

    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.

    These, I have heard him say about himself, the others, I never heard.

    Rev. Luis Diaz-Benitez
    Dallas, Texas

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