Liberty University investigates its seminary president, ‘former Muslim’, Falwell protege Ergun Cane
Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia—the world’s largest Christian university–announced recently that they have formed a committee to investigate the background of their seminary president Ergun Caner, the Washington Post reported.
The investigating committee will be headed by Liberty university administrator Ron Godwin.
Findings will be released by June 30. Ergun Caner distinguished himself as a Muslim expert and is a popular speaker in the university lecture circuit.
Since he became president, he has tripled enrolment in the school that was owned by the late Jerry Falwell, Sr., according to Christianity Today (CT).
The CT said that among the claims that Caner made which have been brought to question are:
- That he grew up in Turkey (when he actually grew up in Ohio).
- That he was raised in a devout Sunni Muslim home (rather than a nominal one).
- That he had been involved in Islamic jihad.
- That he has debated dozens of Muslims about the Islamic faith. (There is no video or audio evidence).
Caner’s reputation came to task when Mohammed Khan, a 22 year old London based Muslim, posted 17 of Caner’s speeches on YouTube. Khan interjected portions of the speeches with his own commentary. Among others, Khan said that several times when Caner claimed to be reciting the Shehada, (part of the Islamic creed), he was actually quoting a prayer from the Qur’an, which Khan said is very different. Khan disputed Caner’s claim to be an Islamic expert.
This set off a rash of bloggers who commented on the issue. Christianity Today quoted several bloggers including the following:
Debbie Kaufman, an Enid, Oklahoma Southern Baptist laywoman, who said, “This matters because we are to win people to Christ.”
Gene Clyatt, a Southern Baptist pastor in Superior, Montana, questioned Caner’s claim that he was trained as a jihadist until the age of 15. In Ergun’s book, Unveiling Islam which he co-wrote with his brother Emir, he said that his parents married in Sweden and the family moved to Ohio when he was a young boy.
In the book the brothers said they recited daily prayers, visited the mosque weekly, and read the Qur’an and Hadith regularly. They said they were raised to be devout, serious Muslims.
James R. White, director of the Phoenix-based Alpha & Omega Ministries, said “The president of a large theological seminary has created a myth concerning his background that is incredibly self-contradictory.” White teaches Islam at golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
Some bloggers however expressed sympathy for Caner.
Hussein Wario, also a former Sunni Muslim who converted to Christianity, noted that while Caner had co-authored 17 books, it is only now that he is being criticized because of Khan’s videos.
Wario also said in his blog, Cracks in the Crescent, “I am a Reformed Christian and I am utterly ashamed of Dr. White. In my opinion, he is a disgrace to the Reformed faith—sola scriptura—because of his meddling in this matter and his disregard of the scripture. He is tacitly helping Muslims with their war against Muslim converts to Christianity.”
Roy J. Oksnevad, director of Muslim Ministries at Wheaton College said that the American church tends to pressure ex-Muslims to talk very negatively about their former faith.
Tom Chantry, on the Christ Reformed Baptist Church blog, suggested repentance on the part of Caner and Liberty University. Chantry said in his blog that while it is difficult to make restitution in cases of deceit, it can be done, and that Caner can apologize and seek forgiveness.
However Liberty University must do the same, Chantry said, noting that the institution had benefitted from the celebrity culture of Evangelical Christianity and if they had instead put their focus on the Word of God, this may have been prevented.